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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 23


The abominations of Aholah and Aholibah. Aholibah is to be plagued by her lovers. The prophet reproveth the adulteries of them both, and sheweth their judgments.

Before Christ 592.

THE style of this chapter, like that of chap. 16:, is adapted to men among whom, at that time, no refinement subsisted. Large allowance must be made for language addressed to an ancient eastern people, in the worst period of their history; all whose ideas were sensual, and whose grand inducement to idolatry seems to have been the brutal impurities which it encouraged.

Verse 2

Ezekiel 23:2. There were two women, &c.— The Hebrews, derived from one source, born of Abraham and Sarah, made but one people, and continued united till the separation under Jeroboam. Then the ten tribes being separated from Judah and Benjamin, they formed as it were two people, governed by different kings. Aholah, the eldest of the two sisters, denotes the kingdom of Samaria, or the ten tribes; the word אהלה ahalah, signifies her tent or tabernacle: she is styled the elder, either on account of the greater number of tribes whereof this kingdom was composed, or because she was the first who forsook the Lord, and gave herself up to idolatry. אהליבה Aholibah, signifies my tent is in her; because of the Lord's temple in Jerusalem. This chapter is of the same design with the xvith, and should be compared with it. If a modern reader shall call the terms in it too coarse and indelicate, we can only refer to the time in which the author lived, and to the manners of his country, where perhaps descriptions of this kind did not carry those secondary ideas which they do with us; and it should be remembered that the prophet's intention is to raise the highest detestation possible of idolatry.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 23:4. Thus were their names And as to their names.

Verse 10

Ezekiel 23:10. And she became famous, &c.— And she became the common talk among the women, after judgment had been executed upon her. As she had formerly been renowned among the heathen for her beauty; so she was now everywhere mentioned as a remarkable instance of God's vengeance. Instead of She became famous, &c. Houbigant reads, She was then in the power of tyrants, who executed, &c.

Verse 11

Ezekiel 23:11. And when her sister And though, &c.

Verse 14

Ezekiel 23:14. Saw men pourtrayed upon the wall, &c.— "Before she had seen the Assyrians, upon the bare relation concerning them, or, upon the painting only which was made of them, her passion was inflamed towards them." Calmet. Some suppose that this may refer to the mystic cells, on the walls of which the images of their deities were pourtrayed. See on chap. Ezekiel 8:7, &c. Instead of, Exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, in the next verse, Houbigant reads, Having their heads bound with a dyed tiara, or turban. Ovid, speaking of these tiaras, says,

Tempora purpureis tentat velare tiaris.

METAM. lib. 9:*

* She tries to veil her temples with purple tiaras.

Verse 19

Ezekiel 23:19. Yet she multiplied, &c.— Instead of one calf they would have two; and so favourite a superstition were the calves of Dan and Beth-el, that they kept their ground against all those general reformations which divers of their better kings had made to purge the land from idolatry. See Div. Leg. vol. 3:

Verses 22-23

Ezekiel 23:22-23. I will raise up thy lovers, &c.— "I will execute my judgments upon thee by those very Babylonians of whose alliance and idolatries thou hall been so fond. Thou hast since indeed broken the league which thou madest with them, contracting a new one with Egypt, and thereby provoked them to avenge thy perfidy. These, with the other nations mentioned in the next verse, shall all come upon thee." Pekod, Shoa, and Koa, are understood by Grotius as proper names, agreeably to our translation. By Pekod he understands the Bactrians, by Shoa a people in Armenia, and by Koa the Medes. The Vulgate, however, translates the words as appellatives, noblemen, tyrants, and princes: and Jerome takes them to be titles of honour.

Verse 24

Ezekiel 23:24. They shall come against thee They shall bring against thee from the north chariots and wheels, &c. And I will give them the power of judgment, that they may execute judgment upon thee. Houbigant.

Verse 25

Ezekiel 23:25. I will set my jealousy against thee "They shall punish thee with that fury with which a man in the rage of jealousy shall treat a wife who has been unfaithful to him. The mutilations mentioned in this verse were common among the Chaldeans. St. Jerome assures us, that they frequently cut off the nose and the ears of adulterers; and Martial, to the same purpose, epist. 43: lib. 3: says,

Quis tibi persuasit nares abscindere maecho?

This was practised towards the women in Egypt.

Verse 27

Ezekiel 23:27. Thus will I make, &c.— "These severe judgments shall effectually deter thee from idolatry, and make thee to abhor the least approaches towards it." Accordingly, we find that after the captivity the Jews never returned to their idolatrous practices. See Lowth.

Verse 31

Ezekiel 23:31. Therefore will I give her cup, &c.— "Thou shalt suffer the same punishment as Samaria." See Ezekiel 23:33. The cup is often used as a metaphor to express chastisement. Comp. Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:23.

Verse 34

Ezekiel 23:34. And pluck off thine own breasts And shalt tear thy breasts. Houbigant.

Verse 36

Ezekiel 23:36. Wilt thou judge? &c.— Wilt thou not? &c.

Verse 40

Ezekiel 23:40. And furthermore— But when they had called in those men who came from far, and to whom they had sent messengers, lo! they came to her, who had washed herself, had painted her eyes [with stibium], and decked herself with ornaments. Ezekiel 23:41. She sat upon a stately bed, &c. Houbigant. See 2 Kings 9:30. This is spoken of Aholibah only, to whom the Assyrians came principally, after they had seduced Aholah. The times of Ahaz are alluded to, who called in the Assyrians to assist him against the kings of Assyria and Israel; for in those times Aholibah or Judah revolted to the gods of the Assyrians. By the stately bed and table placed before Aholibah, seems to be meant the altar which Ahaz raised after the similitude of that which he had seen at Damascus. See Houbigant's note.

Paintedst thy eyes See Bishop Lowth on Isaiah 3:16. The syrma is a black impalpable powder, and so volatile as to spread itself like down upon a small brass wire fixed in the cork of the bottle which contains it. The extremity of the wire is applied to the interior corner of the eye, resting itupon the eyelids, and drawing it softly towards the temples, in order to leave within the eyelids two black streaks.

Verse 42

Ezekiel 23:42. And a voice, &c.— And the voices of men singing harmoniously sounded with them, together with a multitude of Sabaeans, who came from the wilderness. Houbigant.

Verse 45

Ezekiel 23:45. And the righteous men, &c.— The Chaldeans are called righteous, because they came to inflict upon lewd women the punishments they had deserved; and not now to entice them to idolatry: righteous, because they inflicted righteous judgments. The following expressions allude to the common punishments of adulteresses under the law. See Lev. x, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Israel and Judah, sister kingdoms, the daughters of one mother, sprung from the same original stock, are here considered under the character of two infamous women, Aholah and Aholibah.

1. They were early debauched by idolatry; even in Egypt they began to transgress, and lost their virgin honour.
2. Though they were God's espoused ones, and he was pleased to take them for his own, and to raise them up a numerous offspring, yet they treacherously departed from him, and played the harlot. Aholah, which is Samaria, signifies her tabernacle, she having first forsook God's tabernacle, and set up her own worship at Dan and Beth-el. She is called the elder, or greater, the kingdom of Israel consisting of ten tribes. Though she had revolted from the royal house of David, God still termed her his; but her abominable idolatries soon made a fatal and entire separation. She doated on her lovers, particularly on her Assyrian neighbours; contracted alliances with them; admired their idols, their worship, and military forces, which were so richly dressed; and placed on them the dependence which she withdrew from God. Yet she persisted also in the worship of the gods of Egypt, the beginning of her apostacy, and served the calves in Beth-el and Dan, as well as the newly-introduced deities of the Assyrians. Note; Whatever we doat upon becomes our idol; and God will not with impunity suffer us to give the honour, love, and homage, due to him, unto another.

3. For their apostacy, Samaria and Israel were destroyed. God made those on whom they had doated, and whose idols they served, the instruments of his vengeance. They discovered her nakedness, stripped her of all her treasures, led her children captives, and utterly ruined the kingdom; executing God's judgments upon her; so that she became famous among women. Her crimes and her dreadful end were the general subject of conversation in the neighbouring lands, and afforded an awful warning not to imitate her sins, lest the same plagues should follow. Note; (1.) Those whom we have made our tempters, God in righteous judgment often makes our tormentors. (2.) They who render themselves famous by wickedness, will by God's vengeance be made monuments of wretchedness.

2nd, Far from taking warning by Samaria's fate, Jerusalem not only copied, but exceeded her abominations. She is called Aholibah, or, my tent or tabernacle is in her; God having chosen Zion for his peculiar abode; and this exceedingly aggravated the guilt of her apostacy.

1. She took the same way to defile herself which her sister had done, doting upon the Assyrians; admiring the dress and military appearance of their captains and soldiers; courting their alliance; depending on them for protection; increasing their idols beyond what Samaria had done; falling in love with the very pictures of their deified heroes, who were pourtrayed in rich attire on the walls of their temples, and sending messengers to Chaldea to form a league, and adopt their idols and worship. And no sooner had she taken the Babylonians to her adulterous bed, and defiled herself with their idols, than she was alienated from them, as lust and loathing often succeed each other. She rebelled under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, 2Ki 1:18 and cast off the alliance with Babylon; and, calling to mind with pleasure the idolatries of the Egyptians, returned to play the harlot with them, doting on these paramours, as better suiting her insatiable lewdness, openly discovering her whoredoms and her nakedness, as a brazen prostitute hardened against shame. Note; (1.) Inordinate appetites indulged only grow more fickle and craving. (2.) Long habit of sin gives effrontery to the lewd, and they dare avow and boast of what others blush to name, and tremble but to think of.

2. God saw and abhorred such shameless idolatry, and his mind was alienated from her, as it was from her sister. He cast off Judah also from her relation to him, and left her, as a wife divorced, to all the miseries which must ensue when his protection was withdrawn. Note; They who provoke God to cast them from his favour, have only themselves to blame for the miseries which follow.

3rdly, We have,
1. Judgment pronounced on Jerusalem for her crimes. Those lovers on whom she doted are appointed to be her destroyers: their armies, with a vast train of carriages, at God's command shall come up, besiege and destroy the cities, and lay waste the country. As a jealous husband, enraged with an adulterous wife, God will visit them in fury; the Chaldeans shall cut off their nose and ears, literally disfiguring them to render them loathsome, or destroying their king, princes, and priests, represented by these; and slay all the remnant of the people, except those who, stripped of all their ornaments, even to their clothes, shall be driven naked, as slaves, into a miserable captivity; and the few houses in Jerusalem which have stood the siege unhurt shall now be burnt with fire. Delivered into the hands of those they hated, and against whom they had rebelled, they must expect no favour or pity: they will deal hatefully with them; treat them with rigour and severity; plunder all their possessions; leave them naked and bare; and in the greatness of their punishment the greatness of their crimes will appear.

2. God's wrath, evidently seen in their ruin, will make their sufferings still more bitter. Though he employs the Chaldeans as instruments, he says, I will do these things unto thee; and most righteous will he appear in his judgments: their flagrant idolatries justify his severest strokes of vengeance. Since they walked in Samaria's ways, they deserve to drink of her cup full of fury, a cup of drunkenness, sorrow, astonishment, and desolation; the very dregs of which they must suck out; and, exposed to the scorn and derision of the nations around them, for madness and vexation at their wretched state, shall pluck off their own breasts, as men in a fit of rage and despair. Because they have forgotten God, which is the source of all their wickedness, and cast him behind their backs, despising his authority, and rejecting his government, he will lay upon them the punishment of their idolatries and lewdness, and make these to cease from among them; so that the remnant who are brought through this fiery furnace shall never return to idolatry again, as they never more did after the captivity. Note; (1.) They who share with the wicked in their sins may expect to share with them in their plagues. (2.) The cup of drunkenness will ever prove a cup of sorrow. (3.) They who by lewdness have made themselves vile, justly deserve to have their abominations discovered, and to be made the derision of every beholder.

4thly, After the account given of the wickedness of Judah and Israel, God appeals to the prophet, whether he ought any longer to plead for them, or whether he ought not in God's name to condemn them to the death that they had deserved.
1. He must declare unto them their abominations; and they were exceeding sinful.

[1.] Gross idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, the breach of the covenant between God and them.
[2.] The most unnatural murders, even the sacrificing of their own children to Moloch; so besotted were they, and mad upon their idols.
[3.] Horrid profanation of God's sanctuary. With the blood of innocents fresh upon them, that very day, with unhallowed feet and polluted lips, they dared appear before God in his temple, as if designing to affront him, or as if they thought with hypocritical services to impose upon him; and this they did in the midst of his house, setting up their idols even there, or without shame daring to appear among the foremost worshippers.

[4.] They profaned the sabbaths, not only by servile works, or taking their pleasures on that holy day; but by the worship of their idols, and the horrid sacrifices of their own children.
[5.] They courted the alliances of the heathen nations, the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans; received their ambassadors in great state and splendour, as a harlot attires and paints herself to meet her paramour; made them a noble entertainment; used the sacred incense to perfume the room, and the oil to anoint them, as a mark of peculiar honour; or perhaps, as some suspect, these were designed for the ambassador's use, to be employed in their idols' service. A great concourse of people also assembled to grace their public entrance; a multitude at ease, who flattered themselves that such great alliances must needs conduce to the security of the state.

And besides the Jewish populace, a number of Sabeans from the desert swelled the cavalcade; or of drunkards, as in the margin of our bibles, to drink healths, and huzza on this auspicious event; dressed up with bracelets on their hands, and crowns upon their heads, that they might make the most splendid appearance. God in vain admonished them of the folly, sin, and danger of such connections: they were grown old in adultery, and hardened against reproof. The alliance was concluded: Samaria first, and Jerusalem afterwards, as lewd and abandoned women, gladly received them, and joined in their idolatries. Note; (1.) The affectation of being on familiar terms with the great has been often a dangerous snare to men's souls. (2.) They who desert God for human confidences, however smiling their undertakings at first may appear, will find in the issue a lie in their right hand.

2. He must denounce against them God's wrath. The righteous men, they shall judge them; which some understand of the prophets of God, who foretold their doom, and passed sentence upon them; though others more probably apply it to the Babylonians, who were comparatively more righteous than they, and were appointed of God as the executioners of his righteous vengeance. Their crimes were capital, adulteries and murders manifold, and their punishment accordingly. A company at God's command, the Chaldean army, shall come, and seize and spoil them. Some shall be stoned, slain with the engines that battered the city; others dispatched with the sword; their sons and daughters murdered in their presence; their city and every house burnt with fire. Thus, by the utter ruin of the kingdom, the worship of idols should be utterly destroyed, and never more be restored; and all who beheld their ruin should be warned against their sins. With such wrath and destruction should their lewdness be recompensed, and the burden of their guilt and punishment be heavily laid upon them; so that if they will not be taught any other way, by their sufferings at least they shall be made to know that God is the Lord, true to his threatenings, and almighty to accomplish them. Note; (1.) The falls of others should be our warning. (2.) However sinners may flatter themselves, a day of recompence is near, when they will receive the wrath which they have provoked.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.