Chapter 16:44-58 (ESV) - “Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become an object of reproach for the daughters of Syria and all those around her, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you. You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the Lord.
Question to consider: What did God mean with the proverb, ‘Like mother, like daughter?’
After accusing the people of Jerusalem of having a Hittite mother and Amorite father, God doubled down by saying that they were just like their mother. Given the horrible influence that the Hittite wives had on Esau, and their sacrifice of infants to Molech, I’m sure there is a sense in which God could accuse those who aligned with them of loathing their husbands and children. However, I believe that God was talking in a more spiritual sense since He spent the first half of this chapter describing Himself as the husband who cared for Israel and entered into covenant with her. In this sense the people of Israel loathed Him by worshiping other gods. They also could be accused of loathing their children by persecuting and even killing the prophets whom God sent to them with a call to repentance.
What is translated as elder and younger sisters may be more appropriately translated greater and lesser. Samaria was the capital city of the Northern kingdom of Israel. It was overthrown by the Assyrians, and the king of Assyria resettled the region with people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24). Because God sent wild beasts against those who were resettled there, the king of Assyria, asked that a priest be brought in to teach the people the Law. Instead of rejecting the worship of their other gods, the people of Samaria incorporated the Law into their practices and were seen as wicked by the people in the kingdom of Judah. And yet God said that Samaria had not committed half of the sins of which He accused the people of Jerusalem. Although it is possible God was using hyperbolic language, we should also consider the fact that the people of Jerusalem defiled both the Law and the holy city and temple. The Samaritans just defiled the Law with their syncretism.
The lesser sister to the south was Sodom. Though Sodom was destroyed for their pride and abominations, they were not under the Law, and the only one they had to call out their behavior was Lot. Similarly, Jesus called out the Northern Kingdom city of Capernaum in this way, “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24) The reason Jesus gave for the greater judgment on Capernaum than Sodom was because Capernaum was the place where Jesus did most of His miracles and teaching. The more light someone has been given, the more they are accountable to be judged by that light.
Jerusalem had both the Law and the glory of God in her midst so her actions against God were far more egregious. The restoration of Samaria and Sodom ultimately points to the work of restoration done by Christ as the gospel would go out to the Samaritans and among the Gentiles. This would bring shame upon Jerusalem who rejected her Messiah and make her an object of reproach among the nations as its temple would be fully and finally destroyed in 70 AD.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for giving us Your word which has been a light to all nations. For our eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. Amen.