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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 23

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

Verses 1-49

CHAPTER 23.

THE STORY OF ISRAEL’S SIN AND PUNISHMENT PARABOLICALLY EXHIBITED UNDER THE NAMES OF AHOLAH AND AHOLIBAH.

Ezekiel 23:1 . And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 23:2 . Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother, o. And in Egypt they played the wanton; in their youth they wantoned; there were their breasts pressed, and there were the teats of their virginity bruised.

Ezekiel 23:4 . And their names were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister; and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters; and their names were Samaria-Aholah, and Jerusalem-Aholibah.

Ezekiel 23:5 . And Aholah, when under me (see on Ezekiel 16:32 ), played the wanton; and doted upon her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours. (There is no ground for doubting that קְרוֹבִים was used to express nearness of relation neighbours; either in respect to juxtaposition, or to closeness of connection, as friends. Psalms 38:11 alone proves this, and seems also favourable to the meaning neighbour in the ordinary sense, rather than to that of relationship. The Assyrians, who at the time referred to were extending their dominions on every side, might properly enough be called, even locally, the neighbours of Israel. On the north-east the one kingdom certainly bordered on the other. Ewald’s change of the text, and Hitzig’s fanciful analysis to establish the sense red, can yield no satisfaction.)

Ezekiel 23:6 . Clothed in purple, captains and governors, all of them desirable young men, knights riding upon horses.

Ezekiel 23:7 . And she bestowed her wantonness upon them, all the choice of the sons of Assyria; and with all on whom she doted, with all her idols she polluted herself.

Ezekiel 23:8 . And her whoredoms, which she brought from Egypt, she did not leave; for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredoms upon her.

Ezekiel 23:9 . Therefore did I give her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted.

Ezekiel 23:10 . These discovered her nakedness; took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword; and she became a warning (literally, a name) to women; and they executed judgment upon her.

11. And her sister Aholibah saw it, and did corruptly in inordinate love more than she, and in her whoredoms more than the whoredoms of her sister.

Ezekiel 23:12 . She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours, captains and governors, clothed most gorgeously, knights riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men.

Ezekiel 23:13 . And I saw that she was denied; they had both one way.

Ezekiel 23:14 . And she increased her whoredoms; and saw men portrayed upon the wall, the likenesses of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion;

Ezekiel 23:15 . Girded with girdles upon their loins, wearing long coloured turbans upon their heads, (Gesenius renders this clause, “redundant with mitres upon their heads,” that is, “wearing long turbans hanging down from their heads.” In this explanation he omits the idea of dyed or coloured usually connected with the טְבוּלִים , and, we think, without any sufficient reason; for the word is most naturally derived from טָבַל , to dip, whence dyed and coloured readily flow. It is also matter of historical certainty that the Assyrians delighted not only in loose and flowing, but also in richly coloured dresses. The recent discoveries amid the remains of Nineveh and Babylon have thrown fresh light upon this subject, and supply many illustrations of the description of Ezekiel in this chapter. In respect, generally, to the representations upon the monuments, we find that “the dresses furnish us with a proof of a state of great luxury. The robes of the Assyrians were generally ample and flowing, but differed in form from those of the Egyptians and the Persians. They consisted of tunics or robes varying in length, in mantles of divers shapes, of long fringed scarfs, and of embroidered girdles. Ornaments were scattered with profusion over these dresses, some of which appear to have been emblematic of certain dignities or employments. . . . Cyrus likewise is related by Xenophon to have given each of his superior officers and allies a dress of the Median fashion, i.e. long robes of a variety of the brightest colours, and richly embroidered with gold and silver,” etc. (Bonomi’s Nineveh, p. 319.) It is needless to adduce quotations in proof of the practice of engraving and painting the figures of men, and especially of war scenes, upon the walls of houses, as it is now familiarly known to all. In these sculptures also the remains have been found of colouring in red, blue, and black.) all of them having the appearance of leaders, with Chaldea for the land of their birth.

Ezekiel 23:16 . And she doted upon them as soon as her eyes be held them, and she sent messengers to them into Chaldea.

Ezekiel 23:17 . 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 satiated with them (or, loathed on account of them).

Ezekiel 23:18 . And she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness; and my soul did loathe in respect to her, like as my soul loathed respecting her sister.

Ezekiel 23:19 . And she multiplied her whoredoms, to call to remembrance the days of her youth, in which she played the wanton in the land of Egypt.

Ezekiel 23:20 . And she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue as the issue of horses.

Ezekiel 23:21 . And thou didst repeat (literally, visit, go back upon) the lewdness of thy youth in the bruising of thy teats by the Egyptians, because of thy youthful breasts.

22. Therefore, Aholibah, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will stir up thy lovers against thee, those with whom thou hast had loathing in thy soul, and they shall come against thee round about.

Ezekiel 23:23 . The Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, (The chief peculiarity in this part of the description is the accumulation of names respecting the Babylonians, at Ezekiel 23:23: “Sons of Babel, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa;” but it is one in regard to which little information can be given. The LXX. simply give the Hebrew words. That they are designations, in some respect, of the Babylonians generally, and not names of persons or tribes belonging to the empire, seems certain. By a series of transformations, Hitzig brings them to signify different ranks noble, and prince, and lord; good enough, certainly, if one could only get solid footing as to the ground on which liberties are taken with the particular words. Pekod is used by Jeremiah (Jer 1:21) as a designation of Babylon visitation, punishment, denoting it as peculiarly the land of judgment. Perhaps it is used here to indicate that it was to be punishment in a double sense first, actively against Judah, as well as afterwards passively in respect to herself. Shoa and Koa are explained by the ancient interpreters to mean much the same thing rich and noble, or powerful: designations of the Babylonians as possessed of great resources having all the world’s dignity and opulence at their command.) all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men all of them, captains and governors, leaders and men of renown, riding every one on horses.

Ezekiel 23:24 . And they shall come against thee with chariots, waggons, and wheel-work, and with an assembly of people; they shall set against thee buckler and shield, and helmet round about; and I set before them judgment, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments.

Ezekiel 23:25 . And I lay against thee my jealousy, and they shall deal with thee in fury; they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword; they shall take thy sons and thy daughters, and thy remnant shall be devoured by the fire.

Ezekiel 23:26 . And they shall strip thee of thy clothes, and take away thy beautiful jewels.

Ezekiel 23:27 . And I make thy lewdness to cease from thee, and thy whoredoms from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt not lift up thine eyes to them, nor remember Egypt any more.

Ezekiel 23:28 . For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I give thee into the hand of such as thou hatest, whom thy soul has loathed.

Ezekiel 23:29 . And they shall deal with thee in hatred; and they shall take away all thy labour, and shall leave thee naked and bare; and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, and thy lewdness, and thy wanton courses.

Ezekiel 23:30 . I will do these things to thee because thou hast gone a-whoring after the heathen, because thou art defiled with their idols.

Ezekiel 23:31 . In the way of thy sister hast thou gone, and her cup I put into thy hand.

Ezekiel 23:32 . Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Thou shalt drink of thy sister’s cup which is deep and large; thou shalt be for laughter and mockery, as much as possible (see note on Ezekiel 21:28 ).

Ezekiel 23:33 . Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow the cup of astonishment and desolation the cup of thy sister Samaria.

Ezekiel 23:34 . Thou shalt even drink and lick it, and its ware shalt thou break, and thy breasts shalt thou pluck off; (The meaning of this passage is, that she acted after receiving the cup of the Lord’s anger, like a person utterly devoid of sense and reason, breaking in pieces the vessel itself from which she had drunk, and tearing her very breasts. The image of the cup in Scripture, as given from the Lord to an enemy, always conveys the idea of utter prostration and helpless impotence. Comp. Jeremiah 51:7; Nahum 3:11; Obadiah 1:16; Habakkuk 2:15-16.) I have spoken it saith the Lord Jehovah.

Ezekiel 23:35 . Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou hast forgotten me, and hast cast me behind thy back, do thou also bear thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.

36. And Jehovah said to me, Son of man, wilt thou (not) judge Aholah and Aholibah? and declare to them their abominations?

Ezekiel 23:37 . For they have committed adultery; and blood is in their hands, and with their idols they have committed adultery; and also their children that they have borne to me they have made to pass through the fire to them.

Ezekiel 23:38 . This besides have they done to me, they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and profaned my sabbaths.

Ezekiel 23:39 . And when they had slain their children to their idols, they then came on the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and behold, thus did they do in the midst of my house.

Ezekiel 23:40 . And further, thou didst send for men coming from afar, to them was a messenger sent; and lo! they came, for whom thou didst wash thyself, paint thine eyes, and deck thyself with ornaments.

Ezekiel 23:41 . And thou satest upon a stately bed, with a table prepared before it, and my incense and my oil didst thou set upon it.

Ezekiel 23:42 . And there was a voice of a multitude in security with her; and with men from the mass, men that came from the wilderness, Sabeans; and they put bracelets upon their hands, and crowns of beauty upon their heads.

Ezekiel 23:43 . And I said to her worn out with adulteries, Will they now commit her whoredoms? and she?

Ezekiel 23:44 . And they went in unto her, as they go in to a harlot; so did they go in to Aholah and to Aholibah, the lewd women.

Ezekiel 23:45 . And the righteous men, they judged them with the judgment of an adulteress, and the judgment of those that shed blood; for they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands.

Ezekiel 23:46 . For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will bring up a company against them, and will give them to be removed and spoiled.

Ezekiel 23:47 . And the company shall stone them with stones, and despatch them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire.

Ezekiel 23:48 . And I will make lewdness to cease from the earth, and all women shall be instructed, and they shall not do after your lewdness.

Ezekiel 23:49 . And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.

THE figure employed, and the train of thought presented under it in this chapter, are so much akin to those already contained in Ezekiel 16:0, that I deem it unnecessary to give more than the briefest outline of the subject. The nature of the representation also forbids any minuteness of detail. It is the covenant-people in both its branches, Israel and Judah, and not the latter merely, as in Ezekiel 16:0, that the prophet here has in view. Hence there are two women, the daughters of one mother the name of the one Aholah (her tent, her being taken in the sense of her own) of the other Aholibah (my tent in her). The former represents, we are told, Samaria, or the portion of the covenant-people whose capital Samaria was, and the latter Jerusalem, or that other portion whose capital was there. The names of the two divisions respectively were evidently chosen for the purpose of expressing the relation in which each stood to God; the one, Samaria, having, at the very commencement of her separate existence, apostatized from Jehovah, and set up a tent or standard for herself; while the other, Jerusalem, still had in her the tabernacle of God, the true symbols of worship, and the divinely appointed means of obtaining God’s favour and blessing. This difference, however, vanishes in the sequel: at least, no further appears than in the precedence in guilt and punishment ascribed to Samaria, on which account also she is called the elder sister. Iniquity in her reached its maturity earlier, and sooner also received its deserved recompense; but without the effect of deterring the other sister from pursuing the same infatuated course; she was of a kindred spirit, and came in process of time to the same miserable end.

It is to be noted here also, in respect to the representation on both sides, that the breach of conjugal fidelity charged against the daughters has reference not so much to their idolatrous practices as to their worldly spirit their disposition to form alliances with heathen nations, and to look to them, instead of God, for their protection and safety. The one, no doubt, was very closely connected with the other, and was no more, indeed, than its natural outgoing and result. Hitzig plainly carries the matter too far, when he denies that there is any reference whatever here to the idols of the heathen, and that the heathen nations themselves are alone the idols. This obliges him to hold the last clause in Ezekiel 23:7, “with all their idols she defiled herself,” to be a corruption; and it also overlooks the inseparable connection between the two false directions. The spirit of heathenish idolatry, situated as Israel was, naturally led to the copying after heathenish manners, and the forming of heathenish alliances; and with every step taken in the one direction, the other was sure to follow. We cannot, therefore, suppose that the prophet should have entirely omitted any reference to the idolatrous spirit which formed the root of the evil. At the same time, it is undoubtedly the other direction which he has throughout chiefly in view; partly because the former one had already received very strong and repeated delineations (especially in Ezekiel 16:1 andEze 20:1.), and partly because the prophet wished to make the people understand how God had in righteous judgment resolved to turn their false confidences into the immediate instruments of their ruin. It was their crime to have sought after such lovers, and it was to be their punishment that these lovers should become their destroyers.

In the case of Aholah, or the kingdom of Israel, the apostatizing disposition is represented as discovering itself not only in the foulness they contracted in Egypt, and their still hankering after that when they were settled in Canaan, but also in that they became enamoured of the Assyrians. These Assyrians are called their neighbours (Ezekiel 23:5), as they are also of the other division of the covenant-people (Ezekiel 23:12); and are described as having the gallant appearance and the gay attire which were fitted to work upon such light and inconstant hearts. The meaning simply is, that they saw in that great neighbouring power all the elements of worldly rank and prosperity which they desired to possess themselves, and trusted to their connection with it, rather than their interest in God, for the strength they needed. The notices which the historical books contain respecting the commencement of this connection are so brief, that it would be improper to refer to them for complete information on the subject.

The first express mention of the Assyrians in connection with the kingdom of Israel, in the reign of Menahem, when Pul is said to have come against the land (2 Kings 15:19), has all the appearance of a notice depending upon something going before a prior connection, which gave him, as he thought, a right to interfere amid the troubles that then prevailed. The word of the prophet seems plainly to imply that the first movement in this direction was on the part of Israel that she herself courted the alliance; and there can be no doubt, as well from the history as from the word of the prophet, that the connection ended most disastrously for Israel; that she was indeed given up by God into the hands of that heathen power, to be humbled, and smitten, and brought to desolation.

In regard to the people of Judah, represented by Aholibah, the delineation is quite similar, only that their folly and guilt were aggravated by having before them the ruin which befell the kingdom of Israel. They are described as being captivated and allured by the Assyrians first, and then by the Babylonians, so that their heart departed from the Lord to lean upon an arm of flesh. The historical notices regarding this portion of Judah’s course, from the time of Ahaz downwards, which are much fuller than those given of the like period of Israel’s history, amply bear out the language of the prophet. And how completely the remaining part of the description was also verified, how intense a loathing was created between the two parties, and how utter a destruction was brought upon the people of Judah by those objects of their former confidence and admiration, it is needless at present to relate.

The closing part of the description represents the two women, and especially the one that personated the people of Judah, as persevering to the last in their wicked and profligate courses. Like persons in the final stages of abandonment, they went on rioting in the ways of evil, unchecked by all the troubles and humiliations they had experienced in the past; and now, therefore, as utterly reprobate and hardened and hopeless, they must be adjudged to the doom appointed against such incorrigible and shameless offenders. So the doleful story ends. The prophet looks only, from first to last, to the course of crime and its deserved recompense; and he allows the curtain to drop without one gleam of hope as to the future. He sees that the hammer of the law in its strongest form is needed to break the hard and stony heart of the people. So urgent was the call for a work of conviction, and so great the danger of that not being effectually wrought, that he would not drop a word which might lighten the impression of guilt upon their minds, or afford the least excuse for delay. His message was, Now or never. Judged by the sense of right and wrong current among men, your conduct to ward God calls for judgment without mercy. And if there be not immediately awakened the contrition of sincere repentance, you have nothing to expect but the most unsparing visitations of wrath.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 23". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/ezekiel-23.html.
 
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