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Chapter 23 A Parable Concerning Israel and Judah.
The final judgment of Jerusalem was fast approaching, and in this parable is provided the justification for it. It depicts in its intensity the depths to which God’s people had fallen and shows why they had to be judged. Yet it does not hide from the fact that they were like that from the very beginning. There had never been a long period when they had been worthy. However, God had been gracious to them in their unworthiness, but now their sinfulness has come to fruition. Their iniquity was now full. The chapter is difficult to commentate on in depth because it is so sordid, for it is seeking to bring out the disgusting state of the people. But where God has spoken we must seek to understand. (For the whole compare chapter 16 and Jeremiah 3:6-11).
The Two Daughters.
“The word of Yahweh came again to me saying, Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. And they committed whoredoms in Egypt. They committed whoredoms in their youth. There were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And the names of them were Oholah, the eldest, and Oholibah her sister. And they became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem Oholoibah.”
The theme of two daughters occurs simply because it was a fact of history. God’s people had divided into two nations after the death of Solomon. There is no need to seek any further antecedents to the idea. Israel was the mother, Samaria and Jerusalem, capital cities of north (Israel) and south (Judah) as representing the two nations that came from her, were the daughters.
Their nationhood had begun in Egypt, and it had been an unhappy beginning. The picture of Israel in Egypt was not a pleasant one. They had worshipped a selection of foreign gods, and that worship had led them into sexual perversion and evil living. They had allowed themselves to be manhandled by what was unworthy. They had fallen not only into slavery but into degradation and idolatry.
‘And they became mine, and they bore sons and daughters.’ Their deliverance is mentioned in the briefest of terms, but it is full of glory none-the-less. ‘They became Yahweh’s.’ He delivered them and as it were entered into a marriage covenant with them at Sinai. And from then on they were clean from their degradation because they were His and He had provided for their cleansing. The result was that ‘they bore sons and daughters’. This may refer to the fact that they multiplied and grew, or it may have reference to those of other nations who joined with them in their intimacy with Yahweh e.g. Exodus 12:38), or in fact to both. Things had begun to look promising for a wonderful family life.
The names Oholah and Oholibah mean ‘her tent’ and ‘my tent is in her’. Compare Esau’s wife Oholibamah, ‘tent of the high place’ (Genesis 36:2). Thus the tents are cultic. Samaria had established her own sanctuary, but Jerusalem’s contained the true Tabernacle of Yahweh. Yet both could have been acceptable if the people had proved worthy. (God had demonstrated this by sending prophets to both). The way ahead had seemed rosy.
-6 “And she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours, who were clothed with blue, governors and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. And she bestowed her whoredoms on them, the choicest men of Assyria, all of them. And on whoever she doted, she defiled herself with all their idols.”
This is to be seen as very much a potted summary of her history. Assyria were the most prominent of those whom she looked to, and were the ones who in the end brought about her downfall. She saw them, and was dazzled by them, and responded to them, welcoming their gods with open arms, as she had those before Assyria such as Baal Melkart. They were such as would be attractive to any woman, clothed in blue (possibly a sumptuous violet blue), people of authority (the terms are Akkadian loan words meaning district governors and satraps) , young and desirable, riding proudly on horseback. And she gave herself to them and doted on their idols.
History tells us how they subjected themselves to Assyria by paying tribute with its accompanying subjection. The Black Obelisk of Shamaneser III depicts Jehu prostrating himself before the king of Assyria and offering tribute (about 840 BC), seeking his assistance against his enemies. Adad Nirari III also speaks of receiving tribute ‘from the territory of Omri’, a synonym for Israel. (Omri had been a great Israelite king admired by Assyria). See also 2Ki 15:19-20 ; 2 Kings 17:3; Hosea 3:1; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 12:1.
So she who should have been gazing at Yahweh and should have been faithful to Him alone, rather turned her gaze on the splendour and power of the world outside and made them the object of her love, as Israel had previously done in Egypt, and that led on to rampant idolatry with all that that involved.
‘Her neighbours.’ Some have cavilled at the idea that Assyria could be called Israel’s ‘neighbour’ (qarob), one who is near. But by the time of Ezekiel the Mesopotamian world and the Egyptian world were the prominent friend/enemy (alternately) of the north and south, and would thus be seen as near in comparison with the further unknown world which was a mystery. They were near enough to be called on for military assistance.
Alternatives suggested have been to relate qarob to a late Hebrew word for ‘war’ (qerab), giving the meaning of ‘warrior’, a small emendation to the text to make the word mean ‘warriors’ based on the Assyrian quradu, or a connection with the qurbutu, an Assyrian officer close to the king and used in intelligence missions and discreet contact.
“Neither has she left her whoredoms since the days of Egypt, for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the teats of her virginity, and they poured out their whoredoms on her. This is why I delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians on whom she doted. These discovered her nakedness. They took her sons and her daughters, and her they slew with the sword and she became a byword among women , for they executed judgments on her.”
Since the days of Egypt Israel had never known a period of pure innocence. She had been sinful and unfaithful to God in Egypt, she was sinful and unfaithful in the wilderness, she continued sinful and unfaithful through the Book of Judges, and she had continued so to the end. She had constantly given herself to idolatry and all the evils that accompanied it, and that was why Yahweh had allowed her to become the plaything of the Assyrians. These treated her as badly as men treat low prostitutes. They took everything from her, her land, her people, her villages. She herself was put to the sword and she became the laughingstock of the nations because of what she suffered. Indeed her name became a byword.
The Fall of Oholibah, of Jerusalem.
“And her sister Oholibah saw this, yet she was more corrupt in her doting than she, and in her whoredoms which were more than the whoredoms of her sister.”
Jerusalem-Judah was even worse than her sister, for she sought not only to Assyria but to Babylon, and she did it by choice.
“She doted on the Assyrians, governors and rulers, her neighbours, clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. And I saw that she was defiled. They both took one way.”
Her first ‘affair’ was with the Assyrians. This probably has in mind the approach of Ahaz to Assyria for assistance (2 Kings 16:8), which necessarily resulted in having to pay tribute and make submission. Isaiah (Ezekiel 7:7-13) made clear that this approach was not necessary, and was indeed sinful, based on a lack of trust in Yahweh. Again the picture is of seeking the most desirable and prestigious of men, for which compare on Ezekiel 23:5-6. The result was that she was defiled (ravished).
‘They both took one way.’ Both Oholah and Oholibah behaved similarly.
“And she increased her whoredoms, for she saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, belted with belts on their loins, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them officers to look on, after the likeness of the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth.”
These gorgeous cultic pictures painted on Babylonian walls had become familiar to Ezekiel since coming to Babylonia, and may possibly have been reproduced in some small way, through Babylonian influence, in Jerusalem. They were a vivid means of portraying the way that Jerusalem had been seduced by Babylonian sophistication and had become wrapped up in Babylon, like young women falling in love with a photograph of a uniformed officer.
‘Vermilion (shashar).’ This refers to a lead or iron oxide yielding a bright red pigment suitable for wall painting.
“And as soon as she saw them she doted on them, and sent messages to them to Chaldea.”
This possibly has in mind the action of Hezekiah (Isaiah 39:1-8; 2 Kings 20:12-19), depicted in terms of a lovesick girl writing to someone whose photograph (depicted likeness) she has seen. But the idea is also more general. The flirtation was a continuous one.
“And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love. And they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her soul was alienated from them.”
The relationship had developed into an adulterous one. Jerusalem became wrapped up in Babylonian culture and religion and was thus further defiled. The point here is that Jerusalem had not been dragged screaming into dependence on Babylon but had openly embraced it. They had no one to blame but themselves. But the demands made also became excessive and resulted in alienation. It was a love-hate relationship. It was this alienation that would eventually destroy her.
“So she openly carried on her whoredoms and flaunted her nakedness. Then my soul was alienated from her in the same way as my soul was alienated from her sister.”
God was so disgusted at her behaviour that He turned from her like a disgusted husband, as He had previously done from Samaria. He had put up with as much as He could take. Both had chosen their own fate.
“Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, remembering the days of her youth in which she had played the harlot in Egypt, and she doted on their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.”
Through all the centuries Israel had not changed. She behaved now as she had in Egypt before God had delivered her. Israel’s heart had never really become free from idolatry, and the licentiousness and evil behaviour that went with it. She delighted in all that was offered to her by these sophisticated and depraved nations and took it to her heart, filled with admiration at what they could offer, and not recognising how it degraded her. Asses and horses were highly prized, and were proverbial for their strong sexual drive (compare Jeremiah 2:24; Jeremiah 5:8; Jeremiah 13:27), and the picture is one of admiration and appreciation.
The reference to Egypt may have had in mind the current attempts at alliance (Jeremiah 37:5), but is mainly to emphasise that Israel’s behaviour had an essential part of her from the beginning. The concentration, however, is on Babylon (Ezekiel 23:23). Babylon, and all the evil and worldliness that it represented, was in her heart.
It was a Babylonish garment which was one of the prized possessions that tempted Achan to sin (Joshua 7:21), and it was Babylon that was ‘the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride’ (Isaiah 13:19). It was Babel where man’s arrogance was displayed (Genesis 11:1-9). ‘Babylon the Great’ was the symbol of all that stood against God (Daniel 4:30; Revelation 17:5).
“Thus you called to mind the lewdness of your youth, in the bruising of your teats by the Egyptians because of your youthful breasts.”
They are pictured as looking back with longing to when their breasts were admired and were heavily fondled. They want this to happen again. Their concentration is on the sensual rather than the spiritual.
The Judgments of God on Oholibah (Jerusalem) Through Her Lovers Because of Her Evil Ways In Order To Purify Her.
‘Therefore, Oh Oholibah, thus says the Lord Yahweh, “I will raise up your lovers against you, from whom your soul is alienated, and I will bring them against you on every side, the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and rulers all of them, princes and those proclaimed, all of them riding on horses.”
Her loves had proved unfaithful and not lasting, for now she was alienated from them, for there is only pleasure in sin for a season. So these erstwhile lovers will now gather against her, their splendour now only making her realise the certainty of her fate.
Her lovers are listed. Babylonians and Chaldeans had become almost synonymous, but the distinction looks back to their earlier origins. The Chaldeans came from southern Babylonia, the result of Aramaean infiltration from the Syrian desert. Pekod, Shoa and Koa were also possibly the Aramaean tribes east of the River Tigris known in inscriptions as Puqudu, Sutu and Qutu. So the list reveals a knowledge of Babylonian background and describes a multiplicity of lovers. Note the inclusion of the Assyrians. They had been absorbed into the Babylonian empire and were remembered because of their past associations with Israel. They had destroyed Oholah and Ezekiel wants to include them in the destruction of Oholibah.
But they are to see that it is finally Yahweh Who has brought them against her. They are the instruments of divine judgment. In the final analysis all is from the hand of Yahweh.
“And they will come against you with weapons, chariots and wagons and a gathering of peoples. They will set themselves against you with buckler and shield and helmet on every side (‘round about’), and I will commit the judgment to them, and they will judge you according to their judgments.”
The meaning of the word translated here ‘weapons’ is unknown. LXX translates ‘from the north’. It is probably based on an Akkadian term and weapons is a reasonable possibility. ‘Wagons’ is literally ‘rolling things’. But the meaning of the overall verse is clear, they are to be surrounded with instruments and messengers of destruction, subjected to every instrument of death. They will be judged by Babylonian standards, for God will hand their judgment over to them. It was David who earlier said that this was the worst of all fates, to be handed over to the tender mercies of men (2 Samuel 24:14).
“And I will set my jealousy against you, and they will deal with you in fury. They will take away your nose and your ears, and your residue will fall by the sword. They will take away your sons and your daughters and your residue will be devoured by the fire. They will also strip you of your clothes, and take away your fair jewels.”
The punishment is portrayed as occurring because of Yahweh’s jealousy over their following other gods, but is dreadful, following Babylonian patterns (so its dreadfulness is by the design of men). As David said, they would have been better to have fallen directly into the hand of God. The cutting off of the nose and ears was a punishment for adulterous women, for they were the parts flaunted by her nose and ear rings, and also for captured prisoners of war, so that the picture is doubly applicable. It is apt. She had flaunted her beauty to her lovers, and now her lovers take it away from her. In other words she would lose her beauty. The taking away of sons and daughters was also a punishment that could happen to a disgraced woman. She loses all that is precious in life. But it was also a picture of the final exile of the people.
These two illustrations are then paralleled with their actual fulfilment in their falling by the sword and their suffering in the burning of their city (see 2 Kings 24:10-16; 2 Kings 25:11; Daniel 1:1; 2 Kings 25:18-21). That is, all who remain after the terrible things that will come on her. Ezekiel then returns to the parable picturing it all in terms of the stripping away of her beautiful clothing and her prized jewels. All the glories and luxuries she had enjoyed from Babylon, and the wealth that she had built up, would be stripped away. Her unfaithfulness will have brought her nothing. This may partly have in mind the loss of the Temple treasures (2 Kings 25:13-17; 2 Chronicles 36:18).
“Thus will I make your lewdness to cease from you, and your whoredom, brought with you from the land of Egypt, so that you will not lift up your eyes to them, nor remember Egypt any more.”
Yet God’s final purpose is merciful. It should be noted that after his depiction of severe judgments Ezekiel constantly comes back to future hope. Here the lessons learned will result in their putting aside idolatry and the influence of Egypt once and for all. They will cease their licentious behaviour and their following after strange and corrupt gods. Their minds will no longer hanker back to Egypt. The root which was in her from her earliest days in Egypt will be removed for ever. They will look only to Yahweh.
“And her prophets have daubed for them with untempered mortar, seeing vanity and divining lies to them, saying ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh’ when Yahweh has not spoken.”
As with the royal masters, so with the aristocrats, the prophets had become their tools. They had ‘covered them with whitewash’ to hide their deficiencies, using unfit mortar to repair what was broken down, so that it finished up no better than it was. They had used false means and ‘revealed’ what was in fact vain, indeed whatever vanity their aristocratic masters desired. By divination they had falsely divined what was untrue. And they have had the presumption to put their words into the mouth of Yahweh, even though Yahweh had not spoken them. Popular false teachers and preachers are plentiful in every age.
Oholibah (Jerusalem) Will Drink of The Cup of Suffering and Desolation.
‘For thus says the Lord Yahweh, “Behold I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hand of those from whom your soul is alienated. And they will deal with you in hatred, and will take away all your labour, and will leave you naked and bare. And the nakedness of your whoredoms will be discovered, both your lewdness and your whoredoms.”
Now the relationship between her and her ex-lovers is one of unadulterated hatred. All that she had hoped to gain from it will be lost, for she will be stripped of all that she has. What she has worked and toiled for, the fruit of her labour, will be taken away. But most of all she will be openly revealed as what she is in the multiplicity of her sins. She will be an object of disgust and contempt.
When those who have once professed to know and serve God turn away from Him at the enticement of other things, their way is far worse even than that of those who have never known. They lose on every count.
“The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery, yes they have vexed the poor and needy, and have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.”
The ‘worthy citizens’ of the land had been no better. In their turn they had oppressed and swindled those beneath them. The people of the land were the landed gentry, and the full citizens, men of worth and repute. But they deserved to be called neither for they took advantage of the poor and needy, grabbed their land, made them bondsmen, and took advantage of aliens in their midst.
Under all these pressures life was hard for those at the bottom of the ladder, princes no doubt oppressed nobles, and nobles some of the landed gentry, but the poor suffered under them all. And God had noted it and was angry.
“These things will be done to you, for you have gone a-whoring after the heathen, and because you are polluted with their idols.”
And all this was to come on her because she had turned her back on her faithful Protector and had looked to other less worthy objects of desire, and given them her love and devotion. They had become polluted with their idols.
“You have walked in the way of your sister, therefore I will give her cup into your hand.”
All could remember the stories of that terrible day when Samaria had been ravaged and her people taken away by the Assyrians into captivity. It was a lesson deeply imprinted on their minds. But it was an unlearned lesson, for their behaviour had paralleled that of Samaria. And now it was to happen to them in the same way. They must drink of the same cup, put into their hands by the hand of Yahweh.
The picture of hard human experience as the drinking of a cup is a fairly common one. See Psalms 11:6; Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15-29; Jeremiah 49:12-13; Jeremiah 51:7; Lamentations 4:21; Habakkuk 2:16; Zechariah 12:2. Compare also the cup of scorn in the Ugaritic literature. Men were used to seeing the effects of heavy drinking of wine, the reeling, the light-headedness, the vomiting, the uncontrolled behaviour, the collapse. To ‘drink’ was to experience fully, to receive to the full until they were sated.
“Thus says the Lord Yahweh:
Your sister’s cup you will drink,
Deep and large,
You will be laughed at and derided,
It contains much.
Drunkenness and sorrow you will be filled with,
A cup of waste and desolation,
The cup of your sister Samaria,
You will drink and drain it,
You will gnaw at its broken pieces,
And will tear at your breasts.
For I have spoken, the word of the Lord Yahweh.”
This vivid poem in a three-two metre brings home God’s message to Jerusalem and its awful consequences. She is likened to someone drinking deeply from a large cup so that she loses all control over herself. And the wine she drinks is of sorrow, waste and desolation. All will laugh at her drunken behaviour once she has drunk, and when she has broken the cup she will gnaw at the broken pieces in her drunkenness, it is all that is now left to her, and she will tear at her breasts in anguish. And the cup she will drink will be the same as that drunk by her sister Samaria. She is to share the same fate. And it is doubly stressed that this is the word of Yahweh. She, as it were, drinks the cup at His hand.
As ever we must not overpress the parable. The stress of the song is on the fact that she will drink, not on who gave her the cup. The point of the song is that she is drinking what she has brought on herself, and drinking deeply to the derision of others, and will thus end up in pathetic need and despair. her end will be in desperation. Those who keep bad company will reap the consequences.
A Final Verdict.
“Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh. Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, therefore bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution.”
Here is God’s final verdict. Jerusalem has turned its back on God in order to enjoy illicit pleasure with others. It must therefore now bear the consequences of its extreme behaviour. It is true for all. What we sow we will in the end reap.
God’s Charge to Ezekiel to Press on Samaria and Jerusalem Their Sins.
This whole passage is impressionable because it seeks to bring out God’s deep emotion at the behaviour of His people Israel, both of Samaria and Jerusalem. It reveals that God sees history as one whole. It begins with Him calling on Ezekiel to bring charges against both cities, and then, as though He is so angry that He cannot restrain Himself, it continues with Him speaking directly to Samaria and Jerusalem about their unforgivable behaviour. Then He returns to speaking to Ezekiel.
The Charges Ezekiel is to Bring against Samaria and Jerusalem.
‘Moreover Yahweh said to me, “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations, for they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and they have committed adultery with their idols. And they have also caused their sons, whom they bore to me, to pass through the fire to them to be devoured.” ’
The question was not really intended to give Ezekiel an option. Rather it was a way of introducing the charges. Four main charges were to be laid against both Samaria and Jerusalem by Ezekiel. Sexual misbehaviour, violence, idolatry and child sacrifice. Spiritual adultery was also included in the idea. It should be noted that the first two sins of practical adultery and violence, a result of their ignoring Yahweh’s covenant and following idols, are paralleled in the second two sins, spiritual adultery and spiritual violence. They were behaving as they thought the gods behaved, and doing what they thought the gods expected. Misbehaviour regularly follows wrong belief.
‘Their sons, whom they bore to me.’ They are doubly guilty in that they offered to these gods what was essentially Yahweh’s. Their sons had been dedicated to Yahweh and to the covenant by circumcision and sacrifice. Now they offered them to Molech. So this added spiritual theft to their crimes.
“Moreover they have done this to me. They have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, they then came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it. And lo, thus have they done in the midst of my house.”
Guilt piled on guilt. Not only had they offered their children to Molech, they had done it on the sabbath and had then gone to God’s sanctuary as though they had done nothing wrong, indeed no doubt feeling how holy they had been. This was syncretism with a vengeance, for they were so far wrong that they no doubt expected Yahweh to be pleased with what they had done. So can superstition destroy true religion. But God was far from pleased. He was furiously angry. All that He had patiently taught them had been thrown aside. Northern Israel was involved in the defiling of the sanctuary because what remained of them had now found refuge in Judah and they were equally guilty.
In His Anger God Then Speaks Directly to Samaria and Jerusalem.
“And furthermore you sent for men who came from far, to whom a messenger was sent, and lo, they came. For whom you washed yourself, and painted your eyes, and decked yourselves with ornaments, and sat on a stately bed with a table prepared before it, on which you set my incense and my oil.”
Their actions had been deliberate and voluntary. In the first case these ‘men’ had not come unwanted, they had been invited. They had sent messengers to them, like a prostitute might send messages to her lovers, as they entered into alliances with other nations. It had begun with Solomon in his later years, for the number of his wives indicated matches made for treaty purposes (1 Kings 11:1-8). It continued when Asa sought aid from the king of Syria (1 Kings 15:18-20), and when Ahab entered into marriage treaty with Zidon (1 Kings 16:31-33). We know from the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III that Jehu of Israel was tributary to Assyria, and 2 Kings 16:7; 2 Chronicles 28:16 also describe the first contact of Ahaz of Judah with Assyria, when he sought Assyria’s assistance. From then on Judah was officially tributary to Assyria. Hezekiah also foolishly accepted the messengers from Babylon (2 Kings 20:12-13), whether he had sought them we do not know, but it is likely. They would not have come without some invitation. So their invitations had voluntarily gone out.
These earlier involvements then resulted in necessary later treaties. Manasseh’s behaviour suggests treaty obligation to Assyria (2 Kings 21:3-5). Jehoiakin made a treaty with Pharaoh and Egypt (2 Kings 23:35), and then with Babylon (2 Kings 24:1). And all these treaties also resulted in involvement with those nation’s gods ( 1Ki 11:4-5 ; 1 Kings 16:32; 2 Kings 16:10-15; 2 Kings 21:3-5). (For other treaty situations see also 2Ki 15:19 ; 2 Kings 16:5; 2 Kings 17:3-4).
And they had prepared themselves so that they would appear attractive and desirable, with the offer of gifts and pleasure to those who came. They had taken what was God’s and dispensed it to them and to their idols. The incense and oil of the sanctuary were especially sacred but they had been offered to other gods. All done because they were seeking their aid and their friendship when they should have looked to God. They had prostituted themselves to the nations.
The sudden change from plural ‘you’ to the singular indicates that God is now speaking to each ‘woman’ as individual (a return to the plural occurs in Ezekiel 23:42; Ezekiel 23:44) to emphasise that each chose their own way.
“And the voice of a partying crowd (a multitude being at ease) was with her, and with men of a common sort were brought drunkards from the wilderness. And they put bracelets on their hands and beautiful crown on their heads.”
Treaties were not only made with the larger nations. Necessity produced strange bedfellows, and they both proved willing to ally themselves with any who they felt could help them. Their companions had slowly sunk from the desirable young men of Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 23:12; Ezekiel 23:23 to common men and desert-dwellers, and wilderness drunkards, such as Arabians, Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites. But these too were willing to bring them gifts and pamper them. Their downward descent reflects what was often the lot of the prostitute as she lost her beauty, bedfellows who were less and less pleasant.
“Then I said of her who was old in adulteries, ‘Now will they commit whoredoms with her, and she with them’. And they went in to her as they go into a prostitute, so they went in to Oholah and Oholibah, the lewd women.
The sad picture of an aged prostitute depicts the depths to which Samaria and Jerusalem had fallen. But they had still refused to turn back to God, indeed they had become more and more involved in widespread idolatry as we have seen earlier (see for example chapter 8).
“And righteous men, they will judge them with the judgment of adulteresses and with the judgment of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses and blood is in their hands.”
God now appeals to all who are righteous to pass judgment on them. All who think truly will join with Him in condemning them as guilty of adultery and blood guiltiness, for they have clearly shown themselves to be guilty. Some see this as referring to the righteous remnant of Israel, but it may equally apply to all righteous men, of all truly moral men.
Their Final Fate Is Sealed.
‘For thus says the Lord Yahweh, “I will bring up a gathering (of men) against them and give them to be tossed to and fro and spoiled.”
Men can be very unpleasant when they get together in drunken mood and egg each other on, and the picture here is of the fallen women being tossed about and humiliated and degraded in a gathering of drunkards. It is the final depiction of their degradation which will be followed by their punishment.
“And the gathering (of men) will stone them with stones, and despatch them with swords. They will slay their sons and their daughters and burn their houses with fire.”
The gathering of men turn out to be the approaching enemy. Their end is near. There is a multiple implication here. Stoning with stones was the fate decreed for an adulteress (Deuteronomy 22:21-24). and for an idolater (Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 17:5; Leviticus 20:2; Numbers 14:10). It was also the means by which a besieged city was attacked with missiles. All three applied to Samaria and Jerusalem. The despatching with swords then follows the missile attacks, followed by slaughter and destructive fire. The ‘sons and daughters’ refer to the people of Jerusalem and Samaria and the attached villages. It had already happened to Samaria, now it would happen to Jerusalem.
“Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness.”
This destruction will be a lesson to all women not to indulge in immoral practises. It will also rid the land of such behaviour once and for all. As the next verse demonstrates this suggestion of lewdness also includes idolatry, but it must not simply be seen as referring to that, as the reference to its applicability especially to women makes clear. It refers to all lewd behaviour. However lewdness and idolatry often went together.
“And they will recompense your lewdness on you, and you will bear the sins of your idols. And you will know that I am the Lord Yahweh.”
The enemy will carry out God’s judgment. They will punish Jerusalem and Samaria for their behaviour. And God’s erstwhile people will receive the punishment that they deserve for their idolatry. Thus will they be made to recognise Who and What Yahweh really is, that He is the covenant God and requires full obedience to His covenant.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent