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Oholah and Oholibah, the Harlots Samaria and Jerusalem
Samaria and Jerusalem, as the capitals and representatives of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, are two sisters, who have practised whoredom from the days of Egypt onwards (Ezekiel 23:2-4). Samaria has carried on this whoredom with Assyria and Egypt, and has been given up by God into the power of the Assyrians as a consequent punishment (Ezekiel 23:5-10). But Jerusalem, instead of allowing this to serve as a warning, committed fornication still more grievously with Assyria and the Chaldeans, and, last of all, with Egypt again (Ezekiel 23:11-21). In consequence of this, the Lord will permit the Chaldeans to make war upon them, and to plunder and put them to shame, so that, as a punishment for their whoredom and their forgetfulness of God, they may, in the fullest measure, experience Samaria's fate (Ezekiel 23:22-35). In conclusion, both kingdoms are shown once more, and in still severer terms, the guilt of their idolatry (Ezekiel 23:36-44), whilst the infliction of the punishment for both adultery and murder is foretold (Ezekiel 23:45-49).
In its general character, therefore, this word of God is co-ordinate with the two preceding ones in Ezekiel 21 and 22, setting forth once more in a comprehensive way the sins and the punishment of Israel. But this is done in the form of an allegory, which closely resembles in its general features the allegorical description in Ezekiel 16; though, in the particular details, it possesses a character peculiarly its own, not only in certain original turns and figures, but still more in the arrangement and execution of the whole. The allegory in Ezekiel 16 depicts the attitude of Israel towards the Lord in the past, the present, and the future; but in the chapter before us, the guilt and punishment of Israel stand in the foreground of the picture throughout, so that a parallel is drawn between Jerusalem and Samaria, to show that the punishment of destruction, which Samaria has brought upon itself through its adulterous intercourse with the heathen, will inevitably fall upon Jerusalem and Judah also.
The Sisters Oholah and Oholibah
Ezekiel 23:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 23:2. Son of man, two women, daughters of one mother were they, Ezekiel 23:3. They committed whoredom in Egypt, in their youth they committed whoredom; there were their breasts pressed, and there men handled their virgin bosom. Ezekiel 23:4. Their names are Oholah, the greater, and Oholibah her sister; and they became mine, and bare sons and daughters. But their names are: Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah. - The name אהליבה is formed from אהלי בהּ , “my tent in her;” and, accordingly, אהלה is to be derived from אהלהּ , “her tent,” and not to be regarded as an abbreviation of אהלהּ בהּ , “her tent in her,” as Hitzig and Kliefoth maintain. There is no ground for this assumption, as “her tent,” in contrast with “my tent in her,” expresses the thought with sufficient clearness, that she had a tent of her own, and the place where her tent was does not come into consideration. The “tent” is the sanctuary: both tabernacle and temple. These names characterize the two kingdoms according to their attitude toward the Lord. Jerusalem had the sanctuary of Jehovah; Samaria, on the other hand, had her own sanctuary, i.e., one invented by herself. Samaria and Jerusalem, as the historical names of the two kingdoms, represent Israel of the ten tribes and Judah. Oholah and Oholibah are daughters of one mother, because they were the two halves of the one Israel; and they are called women, because Jehovah had married them (Ezekiel 23:4). Oholah is called הגּדולה , the great, i.e., the greater sister (not the elder, see the comm. on Ezekiel 16:46); because ten tribes, the greater portion of Israel, belonged to Samaria, whereas Judah had only two tribes. They committed whoredom even in Egypt in their youth, for even in Egypt the Israelites defiled themselves with Egyptian idolatry (see the comm. on Ezekiel 20:7). מיעך , to press, to crush: the Pual is used here to denote lewd handling. In a similar manner the Piel עשּׂה is used to signify tractare, contrectare mammas , in an obscene sense.
Samaria's Whoredom and Punishment
Ezekiel 23:5. And Oholibah played the harlot under me, and burned towards her lovers, even as far as Assyria, standing near; Ezekiel 23:6. Clothed in purple, governors and officers, all of them choice men of good deportment, horsemen riding upon horses. Ezekiel 23:7. And she directed her whoredom toward them, to the choice of the sons of Assyria all of them, and with all towards whom she burned, with all their idols she defiled herself. Ezekiel 23:8. Also her whoredom from Egypt she did not give up; for they had lain with her in her youth, and they had handled her virgin bosom, and had poured out their lust upon her. Ezekiel 23:9. Therefore I have given her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the sons of Assyria, towards whom she was inflamed. Ezekiel 23:10. They uncovered her nakedness, took away her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword, so that she became a legend among the women, and executed judgments upon her. - Coquetting and whoring with Assyria and Egypt denote religious and political leaning towards and connection with these nations and kingdoms, including idolatry and the formation of alliances with them, as in Ezekiel 16. תּחתּי is to be interpreted in accordance with תּחת אישׁהּ (Ezekiel 16:32). עגּב , which only occurs in Ezekiel and once in Jeremiah, denotes the eager desire kindled by passionate love towards any one. By the words אל־אשּׁוּר the lovers are more precisely defined. קרובים without an article is not an adjective, belonging to מאהביה , but in apposition, which is continued in the next verse. In these appositions the particular features, which excited the ardent passion towards the lovers, are pointed out. קרוב is not to be taken in an outward or local sense, but as signifying inward or spiritual nearness: standing near, equivalent to inwardly related, as in Psalms 38:12; Job 19:14. The description given of the Assyrians in Ezekiel 23:6 contains the thought that Israel, dazzled by Assyria's splendour, and overpowered by the might of that kingdom, had been drawn into intercourse with the Assyrians, which led her astray into idolatry. The predicate, clothed in purple, points to the splendour and glory of this imperial power; the other predicates, to the magnitude of its military force. פחות וּסגנים are rulers of higher and lower grades (cf. Jeremiah 51:57). “Here the expression is a general one, signifying the different classes of office-bearers in the kingdom” (Hävernick). With regard to פּחה , see my comm. on Haggai 1:1; and for סגן , see Delitzsch on Isaiah 41:25. “Riding upon horses” is added to פּרשׁים to denote the noblest horsemen, in contrast to riders upon asses and camels (cf. Isaiah 21:7). In Ezekiel 23:7 בּכּל־גּלּוּליהם hem is in apposition to בּכל אשׁר־עגבה , and defines more precisely the instigation to pollution: with all towards whom she burned in love, namely, with all their (the lovers') idols. The thought is as follows: it was not merely through her intercourse with the Assyrians that Israel defiled herself, but also through their idols. At the same time, Samaria did not give up the idolatry which it had derived from Egypt. It was from Egypt that the worship of God under the image of the golden calves had been imported. The words are much too strong for us to understand them as relating simply to political intercourse, as Hitzig has done. We have already observed at Ezekiel 20:7, that even in Egypt itself the Israelites had defiled themselves with Egyptian idolatry, as is also stated in Ezekiel 23:8. - Ezekiel 23:9, Ezekiel 23:10. As a punishment for this, God gave Samaria into the power of the Assyrians, so that they executed judgment upon the harlot. In Ezekiel 23:10 the prophecy passes from the figure to the fact. The uncovering of the nakedness consisted in the transportation of the sons and daughters, i.e., the population of Samaria, into exile by the Assyrians, who slew the woman herself with the sword; in other words, destroyed the kingdom of Samaria. Thus did Samaria become a name for women; that is to say, her name was circulated among the nations, her fate became an object of conversation and ridicule to the nations, not “a nickname for the nations,” as Hävernick supposes (vid., Ezekiel 36:3). שׁפוּטים , a later form for שׁפטים (cf. Ezekiel 16:41).
Whoredom of Judah
Ezekiel 23:11. And her sister Oholibah saw it, and carried on her coquetry still more wantonly than she had done, and her whoredom more than the whoredom of her sister. Ezekiel 23:12. She was inflamed with lust towards the sons of Asshur, governors and officers, standing near, clothed in perfect beauty, horsemen riding upon horses, choice men of good deportment. Ezekiel 23:13. And I saw that she had defiled herself; they both went one way. Ezekiel 23:14. And she carried her whoredom still further; she saw men engraved upon the wall, figures of Chaldeans engraved with red ochre, Ezekiel 23:15. Girded about the hips with girdles, with overhanging caps upon their heads, all of them knights in appearance, resembling the sons of Babel, the land of whose birth is Chaldea: Ezekiel 23:16. And she was inflamed with lust toward them, when her eyes saw them, and sent messengers to them to Chaldea. Ezekiel 23:17. Then the sons of Babylon came to her to the bed of love, and defiled her with their whoredom; and when she had defiled herself with them, her soul tore itself away from them. Ezekiel 23:18. And when she uncovered her whoredom, and uncovered her nakedness, my soul tore itself away from her, as my soul had torn itself away from her sister. Ezekiel 23:19. And she increased her whoredom, so that she remembered the days of her youth, when she played the harlot in the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 23:20. And she burned toward their paramours, who have members like asses and heat like horses. Ezekiel 23:21. Thou lookest after the lewdness of thy youth, when they of Egypt handled thy bosom because of thy virgin breasts. - The train of thought in these verses is the following: - Judah went much further than Samaria. It not only indulged in sinful intercourse with Assyria, which led on to idolatry as the latter had done, but it also allowed itself to be led astray by the splendour of Chaldea, to form alliances with that imperial power, and to defile itself with her idolatry. And when it became tired of the Chaldeans, it formed impure connections with the Egyptians, as it had done once before during its sojourn in Egypt. The description of the Assyrians in Ezekiel 23:12 coincides with that in Ezekiel 23:5 and Ezekiel 23:6, except that some of the predicates are placed in a different order, and לבשׁי is substituted for לבשׁי תכלת . The former expression, which occurs again in Ezekiel 38:4, must really mean the same as תכלת ' לב . But it does not follow from this that מכלול signifies purple, as Hitzig maintains. The true meaning is perfection; and when used of the clothing, it signifies perfect beauty. The Septuagint rendering, εὺπάρυφα , with a beautiful border - more especially a variegated one - merely expresses the sense, but not the actual meaning of מכלול . The Chaldee rendering is לבשׁי גמר , perfecte induti . - There is great obscurity in the statement in Ezekiel 23:14 as to the way in which Judah was seduced to cultivate intercourse with the Chaldeans. She saw men engraved or drawn upon the wall ( מחקּה , a participle Pual of חקק , engraved work, or sculpture). These figures were pictures of Chaldeans, engraved (drawn) with שׁשׁר , red ochre, a bright-red colour. חגורי , an adjective form חגור , wearing a girdle. טבוּלים , coloured cloth, from טבל , to colour; here, according to the context, variegated head-bands or turbans. סרוּח , the overhanging, used here of the cap. The reference is to the tiarae tinctae (Vulgate), the lofty turbans or caps, as they are to be seen upon the monuments of ancient Nineveh. שׁלישׁים , not chariot-warriors, but knights: “ tristatae , the name of the second grade after the regal dignity” (Jerome. See the comm. on Exodus 14:7 and 2 Samuel 23:8).
The description of these engravings answers perfectly to the sculptures upon the inner walls of the Assyrian palaces in the monuments of Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Kouyunjik (see Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, and Vaux, Nineveh and Persepolis). The pictures of the Chaldeans are not mythological figures (Hävernick), but sculptures depicting war-scenes, triumphal processions of Chaldean rulers and warriors, with which the Assyrian palaces were adorned. We have not to look for these sculptures in Jerusalem or Palestine. This cannot be inferred from Ezekiel 8:10, as Hävernick supposes; nor established by Hitzig's argument, that the woman must have been in circumstances to see such pictures. The intercourse between Palestine and Nineveh, which was carried on even in Jonah's time, was quite sufficient to render it possible for the pictures to be seen. When Israelites travelled to Nineveh, and saw the palaces there, they could easily make the people acquainted with the glory of Nineveh by the accounts they would give on their return. It is no reply to this, to state that the woman does not send ambassadors till afterwards (Ezekiel 23:16), as Hitzig argues; for Judah sent ambassadors to Chaldea not to view the glories of Assyria, but to form alliances with the Chaldeans, or to sue for their favour. Such an embassy, for example, was sent to Babylon by Zedekiah (Jeremiah 29:3); and there is no doubt that in v. 16 b Ezekiel has this in his mind. Others may have preceded this, concerning which the books of Kings and Chronicles are just as silent as they are concerning that of Zedekiah. The thought in these verses is therefore the following: - The acquaintance made by Israel (Judah) with the imperial splendour of the Chaldeans, as exhibited in the sculptures of their palaces, incited Judah to cultivate political and mercantile intercourse with this imperial power, which led to its becoming entangled in the heathen ways and idolatry of the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans themselves came and laid the foundation for an intercourse which led to the pollution of Judah with heathenism, and afterwards filled it with disgust, because it was brought thereby into dependence upon the Chaldeans. The consequence of all this was, that the Lord became tired of Judah (Ezekiel 23:17, Ezekiel 23:18). For instead of returning to the Lord, Judah turned to the other power of the world, namely, to Egypt; and in the time of Zedekiah renewed its ancient coquetry with that nation (Ezekiel 23:19-21 compared with Ezekiel 23:8). The form ותּעגּבה in Ezekiel 23:20, which the Keri also gives in Ezekiel 23:18, has taken ah as a feminine termination (not the cohortative ah), like תּרגּה in Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 8:1 (vid., Delitzsch, Comm. on Job, en loc.). פּלּגשׁים are scorta mascula (here (Kimchi) - a drastically sarcastic epithet applied to the sârisim , the eunuchs, or courtiers. The figurative epithet answers to the licentious character of the Egyptian idolatry. The sexual heat both of horses and asses is referred to by Aristotle, Hist. anim. vi. 22, and Columella, de re rust. vi. 27; and that of the horse has already been applied to the idolatry of the people by Jeremiah (vid., Jeremiah 5:8). בּשׂר , as in Ezekiel 16:26. פּקד (Ezekiel 23:21), to look about for anything, i.e., to search for it; not to miss it, as Hävernick imagines.
Punishment of the Harlot Jerusalem
Ezekiel 23:22. Therefore, Oholibah, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy soul has torn itself away, and cause them to come upon thee from every side; Ezekiel 23:23. The sons of Babel, and all the Chaldeans, rulers, lords, and nobles, all the sons of Assyria with them: chosen men of graceful deportment, governors and officers together, knights and counsellors, all riding upon horses. Ezekiel 23:24. And they will come upon thee with weapons, chariots, and wheels, and with a host of peoples; target and shield and helmet will they direct against thee round about: and I commit to them the judgment, that they may judge thee according to their rights. Ezekiel 23:25. And I direct my jealousy against thee, so that they shall deal with thee in wrath: nose and ears will they cut off from thee; and thy last one shall fall by the sword: they will take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy last one will be consumed by fire. Ezekiel 23:26. They will strip off thy clothes from thee, and take thy splendid jewellery. Ezekiel 23:27. I will abolish thy lewdness from thee, and thy whoredom from the land of Egypt: that thou mayest no more lift thine eyes to them, and no longer remember Egypt. Ezekiel 23:28. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I give thee into the hand of those whom thou hatest, into the hand of those from whom thy soul has torn itself away: Ezekiel 23:29. And they shall deal with thee in hatred, and take all thy gain, and leave thee naked and bare; that thy whorish shame may be uncovered, and thy lewdness and thy whoredom. Ezekiel 23:30. This shall happen to thee, because thou goest whoring after the nations, and on account of thy defiling thyself with their idols. Ezekiel 23:31. In the way of thy sister hast thou walked; therefore I give her cup into thy hand. Ezekiel 23:32. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The cup of thy sister thou shalt drink, the deep and broad one; it will be for laughter and for derision, because it contains so much. Ezekiel 23:33. Thou wilt become full of drunkenness and misery: a cup of desolation and devastation is the cup of thy sister Samaria. Ezekiel 23:34. Thou wilt drink it up and drain it, and gnaw its fragments, and tear thy breasts (therewith); for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 23:35. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou hast forgotten me, and hast cast me behind thy back, thou shalt also bear thy lewdness and thy whoredom. - As Jerusalem has given herself up to whoredom, like her sister Samaria, she shall also share her sister's fate. The paramours, of whom she has become tired, God will bring against her as enemies. The Chaldeans will come with all their might, and execute the judgment of destruction upon her. - For the purpose of depicting their great and powerful forces, Ezekiel enumerates in Ezekiel 23:23 and Ezekiel 23:24 the peoples and their military equipment: viz., the sons of Babel, i.e., the inhabitants of Babylonia, the Chaldeans - the ruling people of the empire at that time - and all the sons of Asshur, i.e., the inhabitants of the eastern portions of the empire, the former rulers of the world. There is some obscurity in the words פּקוד ושׁוע , which the older theologians have almost unanimously taken to be the names of different tribes in the Chaldean empire. Ewald also adopts this view, but it is certainly incorrect; for the words are in apposition to וכל־כּשׂדּים , as the omission of the copula ו before פּקוד is sufficient to show. This is confirmed by the fact that שׁוע is used, in Isaiah 32:5 and Job 34:19, in the sense of the man of high rank, distinguished for his prosperity, which is quite in harmony with the passage before us. Consequently פּקוד is not to be taken in the sense of visitation or punishment, after Jeremiah 50:21; but the meaning is to be sought in the verb פּקד , to exercise supervision, or lead; and the abstract oversight is used for overseer, or ruler, as an equivalent to פּקיד . Lastly, according to Rabbins, the Vulgate, and others, קוע signifies princes, or nobles. The predicates in Ezekiel 23:23 are repeated from Ezekiel 23:6 and Ezekiel 23:12, and קרוּאים alone is added. This is a word taken from the Pentateuch, where the heads of the tribes and families, as being members of the council of the whole congregation of Israel, are called קרוּאי or קרוּאי מועד , persons called or summoned to the meeting (Numbers 1:16; Numbers 16:2). As Michaelis has aptly observed, “he describes them sarcastically in the very same way in which he had previously described those upon whom she doted.”
There is a difficulty in explaining the ἁπ. λεγ. . הצן - for which many MSS read חצן - as regards not only its meaning, but its position in the sentence. The fact that it is associated with רכב וגלגּל would seem to indicate that הצן is also either an implement of war or some kind of weapon. At the same time, the words cannot be the subject to וּבאוּ ; but as the expression וּבקהל עמּים , which follows, clearly shows, they simply contain a subordinate definition of the manner in which, or the things with which, the peoples mentioned in Ezekiel 23:23, Ezekiel 23:24 will come, while they are governed by the verb in the freest way. The attempts which Ewald and Hitzig have made to remove the difficulty, by means of conjectures, are forced and extremely improbable. נתתּי לפּניהם , I give up to them (not, I place before them); נתן , as in 1 Kings 8:46, to deliver up, or give a thing into a person's hand or power. לפני is used in this sense in Genesis 13:9 and Genesis 24:51. - In Ezekiel 23:25, Ezekiel 23:26, the execution of the judgment is depicted in detail. The words, “they take away thy nose and ears,” are not to be interpreted, as the earlier expositors suppose, from the custom prevalent among the Egyptians and other nations of cutting off the nose of an adulteress; but depict, by one particular example, the mutilation of prisoners captured by their enemies. אחרית : not posterity, which by no means suits the last clause of the verse, and cannot be defended from the usage of the language (see the comm. on Amos 4:2); but the last, according to the figure employed in the first clause, the trunk; or, following the second clause, the last thing remaining in Jerusalem, after the taking away of the sons and daughters, i.e., after the slaying and the deportation of the inhabitants - viz. the empty houses. For Ezekiel 23:26, compare Ezekiel 16:39. - In Ezekiel 23:27, “from the land of Egypt” is not equivalent to “dating from Egypt;” for according to the parallel ממּך , from thee, this definition does not belong to זנוּתך , “thy whoredom,” but to השׁבּתּי , “I cause thy whoredom to cease from Egypt” (Hitzig). - For Ezekiel 23:28, compare Ezekiel 16:37; for Ezekiel 23:28, vid., Ezekiel 23:17 above; and for Ezekiel 23:29, see Ezekiel 23:25 and Ezekiel 23:26, and Ezekiel 16:39. - Ezekiel 23:31 looks back to Ezekiel 23:13; and Ezekiel 23:31 is still further expanded in Ezekiel 23:32-34. Judah shall drink the cup of the wrathful judgment of God, as Samaria has done. For the figure of the cup, compare Isaiah 51:17 and Jeremiah 25:15. This cup is described in Ezekiel 23:32 as deep and wide, i.e., very capacious, so that whoever exhausts all its contents must be thoroughly intoxicated. תּהיה is the third person; but the subject is מרבּה , and not כּוס . The greatness or breadth of the cup will be a subject of laughter and ridicule. It is very arbitrary to supply “ to thee,” so as to read: will be for laughter and ridicule to thee, which does not even yield a suitable meaning, since it is not Judah but the nations who laugh at the cup. Others regard תּהיה as the second person, thou wilt become; but apart from the anomaly in the gender, as the masculine would stand for the feminine, Hitzig has adduced the forcible objection, that according to this view the words would not only anticipate the explanation give of the figure in the next verse, but would announce the consequences of the שׁכּרון ויגון mentioned there. Hitzig therefore proposes to erase the words from תּהיה to וּללעג as a gloss, and to alter מרבּה into מרבּה : which contains much, is very capacious. But there is not sufficient reason to warrant such critical violence as this. Although the form מרבּה is ἁπ λεγ. ., it is not to be rejected as a nomen subst.; and if we take מרבּה להכיל , the magnitude to hold, as the subject of the sentence, it contains a still further description of the cup, which does not anticipate what follows, even though the cup will be an object of laughter and ridicule, not so much for its size, as because of its being destined to be drunk completely empty. In Ezekiel 23:33 the figure and the fact are combined - יגון , lamentation, misery, being added to שׁכּרון , drunkenness, and the cup being designated a cup of devastation. The figure of drinking is expanded in the boldest manner in Ezekiel 23:34 into the gnawing of the fragments of the cup, and the tearing of the breasts with the fragments. - In Ezekiel 23:35 the picture of the judgment is closed with a repetition of the description of the nation's guilt. For Ezekiel 23:35, compare Ezekiel 16:52 and Ezekiel 16:58.
Another Summary of the Sins and Punishment of the Two Women
Ezekiel 23:36. And Jehovah said to me, Son of man, wilt thou judge Oholah and Oholibah, then show them their abominations; Ezekiel 23:37. For they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands; and they have committed adultery with their idols; and their sons also whom they bare to me they have caused to pass through to them to be devoured. Ezekiel 23:38. Yea more, they have done this to me; they have defiled my sanctuary the same day, and have desecrated my Sabbaths. Ezekiel 23:39. When they slaughtered their sons to their idols, they came into my sanctuary the same day to desecrate it; and, behold, they have acted thus in the midst of my house. Ezekiel 23:40. Yea, they have even sent to men coming from afar; to them was a message sent, and, behold, they came, for whom thou didst bathe thyself, paint thine eyes, and put on ornaments, Ezekiel 23:41. And didst seat thyself upon a splendid cushion, and a table was spread before them, thou didst lay thereon my incense and my oil. Ezekiel 23:42. And the loud noise became still thereat, and to the men out of the multitude there were brought topers out of the desert, and they put armlets upon their hands, and glorious crowns upon their heads. Ezekiel 23:43. Then I said to her who was debilitated for adultery, Now will her whoredom itself go whoring, Ezekiel 23:44. And they will go in to her as they go in to a shore; so did they go in to Oholah and Oholibah, the lewd women. Ezekiel 23:45. But righteous men, these shall judge them according to the judgment of adulteresses and according to the judgment of murderesses; for they are adulteresses, and there is blood in their hands. Ezekiel 23:46. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will bring up against them an assembly, and deliver them up for maltreating and for booty. Ezekiel 23:47. And the assembly shall stone them, and cut them in pieces with their swords; their sons and their daughters shall they kill, and burn their houses with fire. Ezekiel 23:48. Thus will I eradicate lewdness from the land, that all women may take warning and not practise lewdness like you. Ezekiel 23:49. And they shall bring your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols, and shall learn that I am the Lord Jehovah. - The introductory words ' התשׁפּוט point back not only to Ezekiel 22:2, but also to Ezekiel 20:4, and show that this section is really a summary of the contents of the whole group (Ezekiel 20:23). The actual subject-matter of these verses is closely connected with Ezekiel 23:16, more especially in the designation of the sins as adultery and bloodshed (compare Ezekiel 23:37 and Ezekiel 23:45 with Ezekiel 16:38). נאף , to commit adultery with the idols, whereby the idols are placed on a par with Jehovah as the husband of Israel (compare Jeremiah 3:8 and Jeremiah 2:27). For the Moloch-worship in Ezekiel 23:37, compare Ezekiel 16:20-21, and Ezekiel 20:31. The desecration of the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 23:38) is more minutely defined in Ezekiel 23:39. בּיּום ההוּא in Ezekiel 23:38, which has so offended the lxx and Hitzig that it is omitted by the former, while the latter proposes to strike it out as a gloss, is added for the purpose of designating the profanation of the sanctuary as contemporaneous with the Moloch-worship of Ezekiel 23:37, as is evident from Ezekiel 23:39. For the fact itself, compare 2 Kings 21:4-5, 2 Kings 21:7. The desecration of the Sabbaths, as in Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:16. For Ezekiel 23:39, compare Ezekiel 16:21. The words are not to be understood as signifying that they sacrificed children to Moloch in the temple, but simply that immediately after they had sacrificed children to Moloch, they went into the temple of Jehovah, that there they might worship Jehovah also, and thus placed Jehovah upon a par with Moloch. This was a profanation ( חלּל ) of His sanctuary.
In Ezekiel 23:40-44 the allusion is not to actual idolatry, but to the ungodly alliance into which Judah had entered with Chaldea. Judah sent ambassadors to Chaldea, and for the purpose of receiving the Chaldeans, adorned herself as a woman would do for the reception of her paramours. She seated herself upon a splendid divan, and in front of this there was a table spread, upon which stood the incense and the oil that she ought to have offered to Jehovah. This is the explanation which Kliefoth has correctly given of Ezekiel 23:40 and Ezekiel 23:41. The emphatic ואף כּי in Ezekiel 23:40 is sufficient to show that the reference is to a new crime deserving of punishment. This cannot be idolatry, because the worship of Moloch has already been mentioned in Ezekiel 23:38 and Ezekiel 23:39 as the worst of all the idolatrous abominations. Moreover, sending for (or to) men who come from afar does not apply to idolatry in the literal sense of the word; for men to whom the harlot sent messengers to invite them to come to her could not be idols for which she sent to a distant land. The allusion is rather to Assyrians or Chaldeans, and, according to Ezekiel 23:42, it is the former who are referred to here (compare Isaiah 39:3). There is no force in Hitzig's objection, namely, that the one woman sent to these, and that their being sent for and coming have already been disposed of in Ezekiel 23:16. For the singulars in the last clause of Ezekiel 23:40 show that even here only one woman is said to have sent for the men. Again, תּשׁלחנה might even be the third person singular, as this form does sometimes take the termination נה (vid., Ewald, §191 c, and Ges. §47, Anm. 3). At the same time, there is nothing in the fact that the sending to Chaldea has already been mentioned in Ezekiel 23:16 to preclude another allusion to the same circumstance from a different point of view. The woman adorned herself that she might secure the favour of the men for whom she had sent. כּהל is the Arabic khl, to paint the eyes with stibium ( kohol). For the fact itself, see the remarks on 2 Kings 9:30. She then seated herself upon a cushion (not lay down upon a bed; for ישׁב does not mean to lie down), and in front of this there was a table, spread with different kinds of food, upon which she placed incense and oil. The suffix to עליה refers to שׁלחן , and is to be taken as a neuter, which suits the table as a thing, whilst שׁלחן generally takes the termination ות in the plural. In Ezekiel 23:41, Ewald and Hävernick detect a description of the lectisternia of the licentious worship of the Babylonian Mylitta. But neither the sitting ( ישׁב ) upon a cushion (divan), nor the position taken by the woman behind the table, harmonizes with this. As Hitzig has correctly observed, “if she has taken her seat upon a cushion, and has a table spread before her, she evidently intends to dine, and that with the men for whom she has adorned herself. The oil is meant for anointing at meal-time (Amos 6:6; Proverbs 21:17; cf. Psalms 23:5), and the incense for burning.” “My incense and my oil” are the incense and oil given to her by God, which she ought to have devoted to His service, but had squandered upon herself and her foreign friends (cf. Ezekiel 16:18; Hosea 2:10). The oil, as the produce of the land of Palestine, was the gift of Jehovah; and although incense was not a production of Palestine, yet as the money with which Judah purchased it, or the goods bartered for it, were the fists of God, Jehovah could also call it His incense.
Ezekiel 23:42 is very obscure. Such renderings of the first clause as et vox multitudinis exultantis in ea (Vulg)., and “the voice of a careless multitude within her” (Hävernick), can hardly be sustained. In every other passage in which קול occurs, it does not signify the voice of a multitude, but a loud tumult; compare Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 33:3; Daniel 10:6, and 1 Samuel 4:14, where קול ההמון is used as synonymous with קול . Even in cases where המון is used for a multitude, it denotes a noisy, boisterous, tumultuous crowd. Consequently שׁלו cannot be taken as an adjective connected with המון , because a quiet tumult is a contradiction, and שׁלו does not mean either exultans or recklessly breaking loose (Hävernick), but simply living in quiet, peaceful and contented. שׁלו must therefore be the predicate to קול המון ; the sound of the tumult or the loud noise was (or became) quiet, still. בהּ , thereat (neuter, like בהּ , thereby, Genesis 24:14). The words which follow, ' ואל אנשׁים וגו , are not to be taken with the preceding clause, as the connection would yield no sense. They belong to what follows. אנשׁים מרב אדם .swollof tah can only be the men who came from afar (Ezekiel 23:40). In addition to these, there were brought, i.e., induced to come, topers from the desert. The Chetib סובאים is no doubt a participle of סבא , drinkers, topers; and the Hophal מוּבאים is chosen instead of the Kal בּאים , for the sake of the paronomasia, with סובאים . The former, therefore, can only be the Assyrians ( בּני אשּׁוּר , Ezekiel 23:5 and Ezekiel 23:7), the latter (the topers) the Chaldeans ( בּני בבל( sn , Ezekiel 23:15). The epithet drinkers is a very appropriate one for the sons of Babylon; as Curtius (Ezekiel 23:1) describes the Babylonians as maxime in vinum et quae ebrietatem sequuntur effusi . The phrase “from the desert” cannot indicate the home of these men, although ממּדבּר corresponds to ממּרחק in Ezekiel 23:40, but simply the place from which they came to Judah, namely, from the desert of Syria and Arabia, which separated Palestine from Babylon. These peoples decorated the arms of the harlots with clasps, and their heads with splendid wreaths (crowns). The plural suffixes indicate that the words apply to both women, and this is confirmed by the fact that they are both named in Ezekiel 23:44. The subject to ויּתּנוּ is not merely the סובאים , but also the אנשׁים ממּרחק eht osla in Ezekiel 23:40. The thought is simply that Samaria and Judah had attained to wealth and earthly glory through their intercourse with these nations; the very gifts with which, according to Ezekiel 16:11., Jehovah Himself had adorned His people. The meaning of the verse, therefore, when taken in its connection, appears to be the following: - When the Assyrians began to form alliances with Israel, quiet was the immediate result. The Chaldeans were afterwards added to these, so that through their adulterous intercourse with both these nations Israel and Judah acquired both wealth and glory. The sentence which God pronounced upon this conduct was, that Judah had sunk so deeply into adultery that it would be impossible for it ever to desist from the sin.
This is the way in which we understand Ezekiel 23:43, connecting לבּלה with ואמר : “I said concerning her who was debilitated with whoredom.” בּלה , feminine of בּלה fo enini , used up, worn out; see, for example, Joshua 9:4-5, where it is applied to clothes; here it is transferred to persons decayed, debilitated, in which sense the verb occurs in Genesis 18:12. נאפּים , which is co-ordinated with בּלה , does not indicate the means by which the strength has been exhausted, but is an accusative of direction or reference, debilitated with regard to adultery, so as no longer to be capable of practising it.
(Note: The proposal of Ewald to take לבּלה נאפּים as an independent clause, “adultery to the devil,” cannot be defended by the usage of the language; and that of Hitzig, “the withered hag practises adultery,” is an unnatural invention, inasmuch as ל , if taken as nota dativi , would give this meaning: the hag has (possesses) adultery as her property - and there is nothing to indicate that it should be taken as a question.)
In the next clause עתּ , תּזנוּתיה is the subject to יזנה , and the Chetib is correct, the Keri being erroneous, and the result of false exposition. If תזנותיה were the object to יזנה , so that the woman would be the subject, we should have the feminine תּזנה . But if, on the other hand, תזנותיה is the subject, there is no necessity for this, whether we regard the word as a plural, from תּזנוּתים , or take it as a singular, as Ewald (§259 a) has done, inasmuch as in either case it is still an abstract, which might easily be preceded by the verb in the masculine form. והיא gives greater force, not only to the suffix, but also the noun - and that even she (her whoredom). The sin of whoredom is personified, or regarded as רוּח זנוּנים (Hosea 4:12), as a propensity to whoredom, which continues in all its force after the capacity of the woman herself is gone. - Ezekiel 23:44 contains the result of the foregoing description of the adulterous conduct of the two women, and this is followed in Ezekiel 23:45. by an account of the attitude assumed by God, and the punishment of the sinful women. ויּבוא , with an indefinite subject, they ( man, one) went to her. אליה , the one woman, Oholibah. It is only in the apodosis that what has to be said is extended to both women. This is the only interpretation of Ezekiel 23:44 which does justice both to the verb ויּבוא (imperfect with Vav consec. as the historical tense) and the perfect בּאוּ . The plural אשּׁת does not occur anywhere else. Hitzig would therefore alter it into the singular, as “unheard of,” and confine the attribute to Oholibah, who is the only one mentioned in the first clause of the verse, and also in Ezekiel 23:43, Ezekiel 23:40, and Ezekiel 23:41. The judgment upon the two sisters is to be executed by righteous men (Ezekiel 23:45). The Chaldeans are not designated as righteous in contrast to the Israelites, but as the instruments of the punitive righteousness of God in this particular instance, executing just judgment upon the sinners for adultery and bloodshed (vid., Ezekiel 16:38). The infinitives העלה and נתון in Ezekiel 23:46 stand for the third person future. For other points, compare the commentary on Ezekiel 16:40 and Ezekiel 16:41. The formula נתן לזעוה is derived from Deuteronomy 28:25, and has been explained in the exposition of that passage. וּברא is the inf. abs. Piel. For the meaning of the word, see the comm. on Ezekiel 21:24. From this judgment all women, i.e., all nations, are to take warning to desist from idolatry. נוּסּרוּ is a mixed form, compounded of the Niphal and Hithpael, for התוסּרוּ , like נכּפּר in Deuteronomy 21:8 (see the comm. in loc.). - For Ezekiel 23:49, vid., Ezekiel 16:58. - The punishment is announced to both the women, Israel and Judah, as still in the future, although Oholah (Samaria) had been overtaken by the judgment a considerable time before. The explanation of this is to be found in the allegory itself, in which both kingdoms are represented as being sisters of one mother; and it may also be defended on the ground that the approaching destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah affected the remnants of the kingdom of the ten tribes, which were still to be found in Palestine; whilst, on the other hand, the judgment was not restricted to the destruction of the two kingdoms, but also embraced the later judgments which fell upon the entire nation.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany