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Dissertation Thirteenth.


Ezekiel 16:1

The allegory which runs through this chapter is by no means an unusual one in the Prophets. The beginning of Ezekiel 16:3 has occasioned some variety of remark. OEcolampadius takes מכורה, mekoreh, meaning “birth,” “origin,” for מגורה, megoreh, meaning “dwelling;” as Calvin translates it habitationes. Houbigant derives it from כרה, kereh, “to dig,” which Newcome prefers: it may come from מכר, meker, “to sell,” and thus means “dealings;” but this is not so appropriate here. Rosenmuller reviews these derivations, adding as another, viz. formationes; but approves of the sense “origin,” effossione, from כור, cor, “to dig.” This is clearly the best, the Jews having constantly before them the digging out of a rock — as in Isaiah 51:1. Both Theodoret and Jerome explain Ezekiel 16:3 with precision’ the former has — ἀραῖς γὰρ ὁ Χανααν ὑπεβλήθη κὰι δουλείαν ὑπὸ τοῦ προπάτορος Νῶε κατεδικάσθη; the latter writes — Cham quippe, pater Chanaan, princeps fuit gentis Aegvptiae... radicem Ierusalem terram AEgypti esse dicemus. In Ezekiel 16:4 the salting and swaddling the body is said to represent the Almighty’s care of the people when under Egyptian bondage. The custom of throwing the skirt over the female is alluded to by Theocritus Idyll. 18:19; and a fragment of Euripides preserved by Stobaeus. This cleansing from pollution is explained by the Chaldee paraphrast to mean the deliverance from Egypt. Those who are curious in the various articles of clothing in Ezekiel 16:10 to 14 may consult Schroeder de Vestitu Mul., chapter 14 page 221; Bochart Hieroz., part 1 lib. 3.; Jablonskii Opuscula, t. 1 p 290, etc.; and J. D. Michaelis in Suppl., page 1565. “The images of men,” (Ezekiel 16:17,) Jerome interprets of the idols of Bel, Chemosh, and Ashtoreth, which were made out of the sacred gold and silver of the temple. The passing through the fire, (Ezekiel 16:21,) the Vulgate renders consecrans illos; but Aquila, Synmachus, and Theodotion take the same view as Calvin. Theodoret interprets the 26th verse of the grossness of the Egyptian idolatry in worshipping the ibis, the cow and the crocodile. The punishment of the Jews (Ezekiel 16:36-43) is figuratively predicted by similar language, which Theodoret clearly illustrates — οὐ γυναῖκας τὰς γυναῖκας ὀνομάζει ἀλλὰ τροπικῶς τὰς πόλεις οὔτω καλεῖ ἐπαιδὴ καὶ αὐτὴν πόλιν οὖσαν δίκην γυναικὸς εἰς τὸ δικαστήριον εἰσάγει The comment of OEcolampadius on Ezekiel 16:20 and Ezekiel 16: 23 is copious and instructive.


Ezekiel 16:20

In commenting on this verse, Calvin draws a striking comparison between the Jews of Ezekiel’s day and the Romanists of his own. And as the controversy with Rome is at present a subject of absorbing interest, it is very important to ascertain the exact views of the Reformers as to that giant apostacy. The parallel between them seems to our Reformer most complete. He allows both to be true Churches, while he condemns them as breakers of God’s covenant. Both Israel and the Papacy are still said to be under covenant with God; so, had “our baptism requires no renewal” (Ezekiel 16:20,) yet still the devil reigns in the Papacy without quite extinguishing God’s grace. The Church is there amidst all its corruptions; otherwise Antichrist could not sit in God’s temple. The papal priests are said to imitate the Jewish in all things, even to the material of which the surplice is made. The priests of Rome are called “papales sacrifici“ — the language of the Realists; which is erroneous, bee,, use it admits too much. It asserts that they offer sacrifice: the Protestant denies the fact, and disallows the term. In the controversy with Rome, we should be more careful than even Calvin in the terms we employ. To allow the analogy here pointed out, is to allow too much. While we assert, that the pretense to sacrificial functions is a gross imposture, we must at the same time refuse their claim to be acknowledged as priests. We must instantly erect the standard of nominalism, showing that there is but one high Priest, but one sacrifice, and one altar in the religion of Christ. This is real — all the rest mere accommodation. On this ground, too, Calvin’s view of the covenant actually remaining among them, and of their being such a temple that Antichrist can be seated therein, is very questionable. It is necessary that the reader should see the consequences of allowing too much to the advocates of the papacy: there are many reasons, on which we cannot enter here, for believing that St. Paul did not refer in any way to Papal Rome by the phrase, “the temple of God“ and if this be conceded, then Calvin’s argument concerning Antichrist falls to the ground. It is very important to be aware of the tinge which the theological language of the sixteenth century gave to all the writings of that stirring age.


Ezekiel 16:27

Calvin expresses himself rather hastily when he says (Ezekiel 16:27,) this word נפש, nepesh, means “lust,” or desire, “appetite.” It occurs eighteen times in these twenty chapters of Ezekiel; and in every case except this, when our version reads “will,” it is properly translated “soul,” or “person.” As the word is in itself exceedingly important, and occurs some hundred times throughout the Old Testament, it is desirable to ascertain how far it admits of so many various meanings. We thought to lay it down as a general rule, that the usual sense of a word is not to be departed from without extreme necessity; and there seems none here for deviating from the ordinary meaning. Both Castell and Shindler, in their Lexx., give all the various uses of the word at full length; and both Gesenius and Lee fall into the error of stating too great a variety of meanings without giving the reasons for such discordant senses. Its original meaning is “breath;” and as “life” was supposed to reside in the breath, hence it expresses anything that has life, any living energy or mental activity, so that “the soul” is said to hunger and thirst, to fast and become cold. (See Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.) Schroeder de Vestitu Mulierum, and Gesenius, both give the sense of “fragrance” on Isaiah 3:20. The Rabbis distinguish three kinds of nepish in man, the vegetative, the brutal, and the intellectual. This description is philosophically correct, since it is now ascertained that “the life” of man strictly partakes of the elements of vegetable and animal vitality, together with the intellectual power and the moral sentiments, usually termed, ”soul” in modern divinity. Connecting this word with לב, leb, “heart,” we observe that Gesenius agrees with Calvin on Ezekiel 16:30, that it signifies “the seat of intelligence.” The Hebrews supposed that the human heart “was actually the seat of the affections;” these are now known to ‘act through the brain, and hence the old phraseology of “giving the heart to God” should be allowed to become obsolete. There is no proof that the word nephesh implied this immortal principle in man; the hunting souls, and slaying them, as in the thirteenth chapter, refer to the destruction of life. In the time of the translators, and in the distant counties of England at this day, the word “soul” is used where more refined speakers use the word “person.” For instance, in Ezekiel 18, “the soul that sinneth it shall die,” may be reduced to modern English by saying, “the person who sins shall die himself.” It is by no means necessary, in Ezekiel 16:27, to deviate, with Calvin and our translators, from the ordinary sense; it is readily rendered, “and delivered thee up to the persons who hate thee, viz., the daughters,” etc. Thus two English words only are required as the correct equivalent for nephesh throughout Ezekiel — a point on which we thought to insist, as giving certainty and definiteness to any version of the Prophet’s language.


Ezekiel 16:61

It is worthy of notice, that in Calvin’s time, as in our own, appeals were frequently made to the teaching of “the primitive Church.” The Reformers were especially anxious to ascertain what the primitive Church really taught, and to compare it with Holy Scripture they did not repose implicitly on its dicta, because they looked upon the phrase as an idea rather than a reality. Here again the necessary collision between realism and nominalism arises. There is no such thing as the primitive Church in the sense in which it was used in Calvin’s day, and has been revived in our own. The words stand for an abstract idea, comprehending many single churches, and stating what is held to be common to all. For instance, the Church at Antioch was in reality the primitive Gentile Church; its doctrines, discipline, and worship, were realities, and, could they be ascertained accurately, would present to our minds a destined and definite object; but any representation of doctrines and ceremonies said to be common to many Churches, and thus spoken of as appertaining to the primitive Church, is a mental deduction after the process of selection and assortment has been carried on. We have to guard against the erroneous view of the Realist, lest we should look to the primitive Church “to reveal what is to be believed, rather than to teach what has been revealed.” See an admirable letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rev. W. Maskell.

Although Calvin’s language throughout this chapter is precise and correct, yet he inadvertently falls now and then into that of the earliest. On Ezekiel 16:29 he uses the phrase “guttam pietatis in animis“ — the erroneous language of his Romanist adversaries. Piety, he knew well enough, was not a thing infused into man — righteousness infused is the doctrine of realism — righteousness imputed is nominalism: the former has of late been revived and systematized by Newman and Ward; while the latter has the inspired sanction of the Pauline Epistles. In his comments on this verse, our Reformer uses the word “testament” and “covenant” for the same idea. It is better to avoid this partial confusion. The word “testamentum“ should properly be applied to the record, which informs us of the “foedus.” Grotius has expressed the difference accurately: with him “testamentum“ is equivalent to “libri feoderis,” and, as accuracy in theological expressions is most desirable, it is wiser to translate διαθήκη in every instance by “covenant,” and to confine the word testament most strictly to the written record. This will aid us in keeping before our minds the covenant between the Almighty and his living Church; we shall appreciate our position as children of the New Covenant, and avoid the error of regarding the Old Testament, with it’s laws, and ceremonies, and sacrifices, as binding upon us, who are no longer “children of the bond woman, but of the free.”

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