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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 23

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


The Third and Fourth Cycles: The Third—Chapters 20-23

WE have here the third cycle. The prophet takes occasion for a new beginning, from the visit of men from the elders of the people. These are here, as in ch. Ezekiel 14:1, representatives, not of the totality of the exiles, but of the great mass of those only externally fearing God, but internally addicted to the spirit of the world and the age. The embassy had probably a special occasion in the circumstances of the time, in a favourable turn which the affairs of the coalition had taken. They wish to obtain confirmation of their joyful hopes from the mouth of the prophet. As long as he remains in the former position, things do not stand well with them. The prominent question is not about salvation in general, but whether there can be salvation without judgment and without repentance—salvation for the people as they now are. They do not consider that a total revolution must take place in them, if they are to be capable of salvation.

The direct answer to the embassy is contained in ch. Ezekiel 20; the further details are given in ch. Ezekiel 21:1 to Ezekiel 23:49. In ch. Ezekiel 20 the prophet sets their sins before Israel till Ezekiel 20:20. The description has four paragraphs: Israel in Egypt—the first station in the wilderness—the second station—Israel in Canaan. With a people so obstinately persevering in their sins, from their origin, through all times down to the present, God must hold a great reckoning, which is at the same time a purification ( Ezekiel 20:30-39). Yet the judgment will be followed by grace for those who are purified thereby ( Ezekiel 20:40-44).

Verses 1-4

Ezekiel 23. We have here the closing passage of ch. Ezekiel 20:1 to Ezekiel 23:49,—an extended survey of the whole historical development of Israel, the result of which is the inevitableness of the judgment from which the elders had sought deliverance. Israel and Judah appear, in keeping with ch. Ezekiel 16, under the figure of two harlots, to whose rebellious course an end must at length be put.

In Ezekiel 23:1-4 the introduction, which affords the preliminary acquaintance with the two evil characters. Ezekiel 23:1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2. Son of man, there were two women, daughters of one mother. 3. And they committed whoredom in Egypt; in their youth they committed whoredom: there were their breasts pressed, and there they handled their virgin bosoms. 4. And their names were Oholah the great, and Oholibah her sister; and they became mine, and bare sons and daughters: and their names were Samaria Oholah, and Jerusalem Oholibah.

The mother in Ezekiel 23:2 is the people in general. The prophet makes the bipartition of the people not to begin with the separation of the kingdoms, but to be already extant in Egypt, in harmony with the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49), in which the two tribes of Judah and Ephraim stand out absolutely before the others, and appear as two independent powers. In Ezekiel 23:3 we have the participation in Egyptian customs, in the idolatry and moral corruption of Egypt in the former times, which is attested in so many ways in the books of Moses. “In their youth:” this points to the corruption that manifested itself in the very beginning of their existence. “Their virgin bosoms:” at that time Israel was still unmarried: the marriage with Jehovah took place when the covenant was made at Sinai. But she was even at that time betrothed. This is proved by what God had done to the patriarchs, and by the circumcision to which they had submitted; and hence their unchaste conduct fell under the judgment of Deuteronomy 22:23 f. Their business was to prepare themselves as a pure virgin for marriage. The great, in Ezekiel 23:4, is the elder, according to the usage of the language. This refers to the precedence of Joseph in Egypt, who was crowned among his brethren ( Genesis 49:26); to that of Ephraim in the time of Joshua and the judges; and to that of Benjamin, belonging to the ten tribes, in the time of Saul. Judah attained the supremacy at a very late period in the time of David. These relations are treated of at full length in Psalms 78. The elder sister is called Oholah, her tent, that can call a tent her own, that has a house of her own, an independent existence. The tent, without further distinction, can only be the dwelling. Similar is the name of Esau’s wife, Oholibamah ( Genesis 36:2)—my tent is high, I have a high tent. The younger sister is called Oholibah, my tent is in her; Jehovah being speaker. The name refers to the advantage which Judah had on the separation of the kingdoms, in the possession of the true sanctuary. At the close of the introduction the well-known historical names are given, along with the significant names formed by the prophet.

Verses 5-10

Ezekiel 23:5-10 now treat of Oholah, her adultery with Assyria, and the punishment, the instrument of which was the same people which she had made the object of her impure love. Ezekiel 23:5. And Oholah played the harlot under me, and doted on her lovers. on Assyria, her neighbour, 6. Clothed in purple, captains and rulers, all of them comely young men, knights riding upon horses. 7. And she bestowed her whoredoms upon them, all of them the choice of the sons of Assyria; and with all on whom she doted, with all their abominations was she defiled. 8. And she left not her whoredoms with Egypt; for they lay with her in her youth, and handled her virgin bosom, and poured out their whoredoms upon her. 9. Wherefore I delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hands of the sons of Assyria, on whom she doted. 10. These uncovered her nakedness; they took her sons and daughters, and herself they slew with the sword, and she became a name among women; and they executed judgment upon her.

“Played the harlot under me” ( Ezekiel 23:5): this is to be explained by Hosea 4:12, where it is said directly of the people of the ten tribes, “And they have gone a whoring from under their God.” The woman is under the man ( Romans 7:2); and if she in this state have to do with another, she incurs the judgment. “Her neighbour;” that is, who or when they are come into her neighbourhood. [130] The neighbours recur in Ezekiel 23:12. The opposite we have in Ezekiel 23:14: there the far are cherished. We have here the ground which tempted Oholah to become unfaithful to her God. It lay in this, that the paramour Assyria came into her neighbourhood, and placed his grandeur before her. Therein lay the temptation to sue for his favour to ward off injury. The adultery has here not so much a religious as a political import. The paramour, on whose account Israel forsakes his God, is Assyria itself, not its god, though they endeavoured, no doubt from fear of the people, to make friends of its gods also. The historical situation, which the prophet has here before his eye, is thus represented in the Christology, i. p. 190, on the ground of the predictions of the Israelitish prophet Hosea: “The people, sorely oppressed by Assyria, seek now to obtain help from Egypt against Assyria, now to be on friendly terms with the latter.” Thus the situation is precisely described in Hosea 7:11, “They call to Egypt; they go to Assyria.” What threatened Israel was, according to Hosea 8:10, “the burden of the king of princes,” the king of Assyria ( Ezekiel 23:9). This they endeavoured to avert partly by their adulterous arts, partly by appealing to the king of Egypt. “Assyria alone is the king combatant, Hosea 5:13; Hosea 10:6.” This was the great sin of Israel, that in their political oppression they sought help in man, even in their oppressors, instead of turning with heartfelt confidence to their God, the only one to whom to surrender oneself unconditionally is not to degrade oneself. Ezekiel 23:6 describes with a touch of irony how Oholah fell into this unfortunate connection with Assyria. The thought is, that her eyes and heart were blinded and captivated by the power of Assyria. That, however, is named which strikes the eye of a worldly-minded woman. Ezekiel 23:7 points to this, that their idols are inseparable from the world-powers, as powers beyond and above them, but themselves made objective and quite incorporated with them, so that to defile herself with the Assyrians is at the same time to defile herself with their idols (comp. Ezekiel 23:30). Besides Assyria, Oholah played the harlot also with Egypt ( Ezekiel 23:8), that land into the shameful spiritual slavery of which she had already fallen in former times ( Ezekiel 23:3). With this compare 2 Kings 17:4, according to which Hoshea, the last king of Israel, brought on the final catastrophe by refusing the tribute to the king of Assyria, in reliance on Egypt. This was only one out of many acts which Ezekiel here includes. The uncovering of the nakedness ( Ezekiel 23:10) denotes the ignominious treatment which Israel must suffer from Assyria, as a punishment for her revolt to Egypt. Oholah is slain with the sword: the proper substance of the people, the men fit for service, fell in the war, while the weaker portion was carried into exile. “She became a name among women,” famous among the nations by the exemplary punishment which she suffered.

[130] קרובים takes the place of a whole sentence.

Verses 11-21

Ezekiel 23:11-35, Oholibah or Jerusalem. First, in Ezekiel 23:11-21, her guilt. 11. And her sister Oholibah saw (this), and she corrupted her lust still more than she, and her whoredoms more than the whoredoms of her sister. 12. She doted on the sons of Assyria, captains and rulers, her neighbours, clothed in splendour, knights riding on horses, all of them comely young men. 13. And I saw that she was defiled: one way was to both of them. 14. And she added to her whoredoms; and she saw men portrayed upon the wall, images of the Chaldeans, drawn in ruddle, 15. Girt with girdles on their loins, waving turbans on their heads, all of them looking like knights, the likeness of the sons of Babylon, the Chaldeans in the land of their birth. 16. And she doted on them for that which her eyes saw, and sent messengers unto them to Chaldea. 17. And the sons of Babylon came to her into a bed of love, and defiled her with their whoredom; and she was defiled with them, and her soul was estranged from them. 18. And she uncovered her whoredoms, and uncovered her nakedness: and my soul was estranged from her, as my soul was estranged from her sister. 19. And she multiplied her whoredoms, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the harlot in the land of Egypt. 20. And she doted upon her paramours, whose flesh is the flesh of asses, and their issue the issue of horses. 21. And thou didst visit the lewdness of thy youth, when a man of Egypt handled thy bosom, on account of the breasts of thy youth.

“And her sister saw” ( Ezekiel 23:11) the shameful course of Oholah, and the divine vengeance. Already should the first have filled her with deep loathing and abhorrence. Instead of this, she behaved still worse: according to what follows, her adultery was multiplied still more: she did not rest with those near, but sent also to those far away. The seeing of God ( Ezekiel 23:13) holds out a bad prospect. We expect that it will not fare better with Oholibah than with her sister, unless she repent in time. In Ezekiel 23:14 f. we have her impure intercourse with the Chaldeans. This passage is important for the history. That the Chaldeans, before they attained the supremacy, and while they were under the sway of Assyria, sought an alliance with Judah in the war against Assyria, is shown by the embassy of Merodach Baladan to Hezekiah (2 Kings 20, Isaiah 29; comp. Gesenius on the passage). According to our passage, however, attempts must have been made by Judah also to form a connection with the Chaldeans, and certainly at the time when the Assyrian monarchy still existed; and the initiative in regard to the whole relation must have been taken by Judah, and consequently before the embassy of Merodach Baladan. For the occasion for the adulterous intercourse is here stated to be this, that Oholibah sees Chaldeans portrayed on the wall. This implies that she had not yet seen living Chaldeans. In form it belongs only to the dress which Ezekiel takes from that which he observed among the Chaldeans around him. There such wall-pictures for the glorification of the people and their victories were found; whereas in Jerusalem they certainly were not in existence. The real meaning, however, can only be this, that Judah, in distinction from the relation to Assyria, which arose from the fact that Assyria came into the land ( Ezekiel 23:12), sought a connection with the Chaldeans, on the mere report of their military valour. The images on the walls are, in fact, the fancy forms, raised up by hearsay, of the Chaldeans, as a brave and aspiring power, in which help might be found against the old oppressor Assyria. The representation in Ezekiel 23:14 refers to the Chaldeans themselves, and not to their idols; as, according to that which history relates of Hezekiah, the Chaldeans themselves, and not their idols, were the object of idolatrous reliance. [131] “Drawn in ruddle:” red is the most suitable colour for men of war. The girdle ( Ezekiel 23:15) is the war-girdle ( Isaiah 5:27). “In the land of their birth” forms the contrast to the Assyrians, whom they had come to see in their own land. There seems to be an allusion to Genesis 11:28, where Ur of the Chaldees (to which Babylon of the Chaldeans here corresponds) is designated as the native land of Abraham’s family. The native land of the Chaldees is at the same time that of Israel. The original blood-relationship might perhaps have come to utterance in this political intercourse. The messengers ( Ezekiel 23:16) whom Jerusalem sent to Chaldea, were probably the occasion of the embassy sent from the Chaldeans, according to Isaiah and 2 Kings, who were to take a view of the resources of the power proposing an alliance. It is antecedently probable that not Babylon, but the weaker power, took the initiative. This visiting of the remote Chaldeans was a denial of the power and will of God to help His people. Had their eyes been open, they would have perceived, that if the proposal took effect, it could only end in a change of masters. In this view Isaiah had already anticipated our prophet. As the sending to Egypt, so the proposed treaty with the Chaldeans was the object of vehement prophetic rebuke. “And her soul was estranged from them” ( Ezekiel 23:17); properly, disjointed from those to whom she had grown, as it were, a limb; the opposite of the expression, “My soul is fast bound to your daughter” ( Genesis 34:8). Having attained the supremacy, the Chaldeans turned the rough side out, cast off the mask under which their selfishness had concealed itself, and now the vague desires of the deluded Jerusalem ceased. Estrangement—this is the usual end of impure love, of selfishness disguised in love. According to Ezekiel 23:18, the matter does not end with this, that she does not find the expected satisfaction in the adulterous intercourse with Chaldea of long continuance; by her shameless and disgraceful devotion to those unworthy associates, she has estranged from herself the only true Friend in heaven and on earth. But now, instead of returning with penitence and regret to the Friend of her youth, and entreating His forgiveness, she follows after new adulterers ( Ezekiel 23:19): when she became wearied of the Chaldeans, she turned again to the Egyptians, her former adulterers; comp. Ezekiel 23:3. The paramours ( Ezekiel 23:20)—a derisive term, as it is elsewhere used only of concubines—corresponds to the adulterers in Ezekiel 23:5. As there the adulterers are the Assyrians, so here the Egyptians, to whom the her refers. The nations with which Jerusalem enters into impure intercourse appear now as a unity, and again as a plurality. The real import of the words, “their flesh,” and so on, is the great propensity of the Egyptians to enter into impure political intercourse; so that Jerusalem may there expect full satisfaction for her adulterous lust. The falling power of Egypt sought to provide a prop for itself by diplomatic art. Asses and horses come into view as particularly lecherous animals. The flesh is named, because the lechery has its seat there. Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, all three met their downfall by conspiring with the Egyptians against the Chaldeans. The sudden transition to the address in Ezekiel 23:21 is explained by this, that the prophet has here before his eyes the actual state of affairs. “And thou didst visit the lewdness of thy youth:” the falling back into the old sin is, as it were, a visit which is paid to that which ought to be hated and avoided. The words, “when a man of Egypt handled,” and so on, refer to the attempt of the Egyptians to draw the people in their first beginnings into the Egyptian unity, and so to nationalize them,—an attempt to which the youth of the people furnished the occasion. That the attempt went before and along with the cruel measures of which history speaks, we cannot doubt. This lay in the nature of things. History also presents several traces of the more friendly disposition of the Egyptians; for ex., the conduct of the Egyptian king’s daughter to Moses, and the gifts of the Egyptians to the departing Israelites.

[131] The form כשׂ?דיים , instead of כשׂ?דים , which was usual in Palestine, is a Chaldaizing one: in Daniel the singular is כּ?ַ?שׂ?ְ?דּ?ַ?י , the plur. כשׂ?דאין . In Ezekiel 23:15 is the usual Heb. form, which the Masoretes wish to place here also. Similar changes occur elsewhere also in Ezekiel.

Verses 22-45

In Ezekiel 23:22-35, the transgression of Oholibah is followed by her punishment. Ezekiel 23:22. Therefore, Oholibah, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will awaken thy lovers against thee, from whom thy soul is estranged, and I will bring them upon thee from every side; 23. The sons of Babylon, and all the Chaldeans; Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, all the sons of Assyria with them: comely young men, captains and rulers all of them; knights and counsellors, riding on horses all of them. 24, And they shall come against thee with sabre, [132] chariot, and wheel, and with a multitude of nations; target, and shield, and helmet they shall set against thee round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee with their judgments. 25. And I will set my jealousy upon thee, and they shall deal with thee in fury: thy nose and thine ears they shall take away, and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters, and thy remnant shall be consumed with fire. 26. And they shall strip thee of thy clothes, and take away thy fair jewels. 27. And I will make thy lewdness to cease from thee, and thy whoredom from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt not lift up thine eyes to them, nor remember Egypt any more. 28. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deliver thee into the hands of those whom thou hatest, into the hand of those from whom thy soul is estranged. 29. And they shall deal with thee in hatred, and shall take away all thy earning, and leave thee naked and bare; and the nakedness of thy whoring, and thy lewdness, and thy whoredoms, shall be uncovered. 30. This shall be done unto thee for thy whoring after the heathen, because thou art polluted with their abominations. 31. In the way of thy sister thou hast walked, and I give her cup into thy hand. 32. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The cup of thy sister shalt thou drink, the deep and the wide: thou shalt be a scoff and a mockery of large measure. 33. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow; the cup of wasting and desolation shalt thou drink, the cup of thy sister Samaria. 34. And thou shalt drink it, and suck it out; and thou shalt break the sherds thereof, and pluck off thy breasts: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. 35. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back, [133] therefore take thou also upon thee thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.

[132] הצן , here only, is without doubt a designation, taken from the Chaldean military language, of the offensive weapons with which they fought from the chariot. The swords in ch. 38:4 correspond.

[133] גּ?ַ?ו , a later form for גּ?ֵ?ו Heb.

Ezekiel 23:22. “From whom thy soul is estranged”—the Chaldeans ( Ezekiel 23:17). Pekod (supremacy), Shoa (the chief [134] ), and Koa (of uncertain meaning), are titles of Chaldee dignitaries. There is a sarcasm in the use of these names. They were in all mouths formerly in the time of adultery. Now they would gladly be rid of Pekod and the rest. He has brought them into trouble. Along with the Chaldeans appear also the old lovers. the Assyrians again, now their vassals. These “comely young men,” formerly so beloved, shall now make the clear day dark to them. “I will set judgment before them” ( Ezekiel 23:24): God chooses them as judges in His cause, and entrusts them with the execution of justice. “Thy nose and thine ears they shall take away” ( Ezekiel 23:25): what nose and ears are for a woman, that for a people is their military strength, the bloom of the nation. When this is annihilated, a people has lost its beauty. That the words must refer to this, is shown by those immediately adjoining, and giving the explanation, “thy remnant shall fall by the sword.” Zion has various forms of existence, and therefore a manifold remnant. The first remnant refers to the fighting men, who, so to speak, shall fall by the sword to the last man—the falling of the remnant presupposes the falling of all the rest; the second remnant refers to Zion as a city, the houses, all of which shall be destroyed by fire. In Ezekiel 23:26, the plunder. The sin ceases ( Ezekiel 23:27) with the annihilation of the sinner. The whoredom ceases “from the land of Egypt,” to which hitherto her wanton course was directed. “The nakedness of thy whoring” ( Ezekiel 23:29): as long as all went well, this nakedness was covered. The shamefulness of her conduct did not come to the light. In that which she suffers, what she has done will be manifest to all the world. The cup in ver. Ezekiel 23:32 is the figure of the destiny. The “mockery of large measure” [135] corresponds to the cup of wide compass—the greatness of the mockery to the greatness of the calamity, that called forth the mockery so much the more, the greater the pretensions of the Jews, who conducted themselves as the people to whom was secured the universal supremacy, who had always in their mouth the saying, “My enemies shall fall, but I shall tread on their high places.” “The cup of wasting and desolation” ( Ezekiel 23:33): thy destiny will be to be waste and desolate. “And suck it out” ( Ezekiel 23:34): this means that she shall fully empty the cup, that her calamity shall be complete, that there shall be no cessation until she has come to the last drop. “Thou shalt break the sherds thereof,” as one who, having taken a very bad potion in ill-humour, shatters the vessel. “Pluck off thy breasts” thereon—on the sherds: the attempt, arising from the utmost abhorrence of her sad destiny, to deliver herself, only leads to new misfortune. We find a historical illustration of this in the treatment they gave Gedaliah, the Chaldean governor of those who were left in the country after the taking of the city, for which they were compelled to suffer (Jeremiah 41).

[134] In Job 34:19, in opposition to the small, דל Heb.

[135] Literally, greatness in regard to holding, capacious; comp. 21:33.

In the conclusion the prophet joins the two women together. First, in Ezekiel 23:36-45, the figure of their sin. Ezekiel 23:36. And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, wilt thou judge Oholah and Oholibah, and show them their abominations? 37. For they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their abominations they have committed adultery; and also their sons whom they bare unto me, they passed through for them for food. 38. This, moreover, they did to me: they defiled my sanctuary in that day, and profaned my sabbaths. 39. And when they sacrificed their sons to their abominations, they came in that day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of my house. 40. And also because they sent to men coming from afar, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came, for whom thou didst wash thyself, paint thine eyes, and put on ornaments. 41. And thou sattest upon a stately bed, and a table was laid before it; and mine incense and mine oil thou didst set upon it. 42. And the voice of a secure murmur is in her, and to men of the multitude of men are brought Sabean topers from the wilderness; and they put bracelets on their hands, and a beautiful crown upon their heads. 43. And I said, Are adulteries to the faded? Shall adulteries be still committed even with her? 44. And one comes to her, as one comes to a harlot: so come they to Oholah and to Oholibah, the women of lewdness. 45. And righteous men, they shall judge them with the judgment of adulteresses, and with the judgment of those who shed blood; for they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands.

“Wilt thou judge?” ( Ezekiel 23:36; comp. Ezekiel 20:4, Ezekiel 22:2.) The double transgression, adultery and murder, is first briefly stated in Ezekiel 23:37, and then further amplified: the adultery refers to the idolatry; the murder to the sacrifices of children, which they offered to their idols (comp. Ezekiel 20:31). The defiling of the sanctuary of God, which appears in Ezekiel 23:38 as a second crime, which they lay upon themselves, takes place, according to Ezekiel 23:39, in this way, that they enter it polluted with idolatrous abominations. In like manner follows also the profanation of the Sabbath. The idolater can keep no Sabbath; and if he keeps it externally, he profanes it. The essence of the Sabbath is to be wrapt up in God; and this cannot be where the heart clings to idols. “In that day:” this points to the unseemly coincidence of the two movements. Oholah also made herself guilty of defiling the sanctuary, when she gave up the external connection with the temple in Jerusalem. For she continues in the service of Jehovah, and in the claim to His grace. Ideally also they have recourse to the sanctuary of God. [136] But it is possible, too, that the prophet from Ezekiel 23:36 has in view only the time after the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, when the sanctuary in Jerusalem again became common to the whole nation. In Ezekiel 23:40 the prophet passes from religious to political adultery. He censures the forming of adulterous connections, even with the far distant, in opposition to the near ( Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:11), as the visiting of the Chaldeans, who are mentioned in Ezekiel 23:16, and of the Sabeans, Ezekiel 23:42. The washing, painting, and adorning signify that Jerusalem uses every means to make herself agreeable to her lovers, the world-powers. Already, in ch. Isaiah 57:9, Isaiah rebukes the faithless Zion: “And thou lookest to the king in oil (perfumed), and increasest thy scents, and sendest thy messengers far away, and sendest them down to hell;” without doubt referring specially to the mission to the Chaldeans against the Assyrians, as it, along with that to the Egyptians and Sabeans, took place at the instigation of the nobles in the time of Hezekiah. The prophet first addresses the two sisters; [137] then he passes to the singular, because the transgression here mentioned fell as a charge especially on Jerusalem. The board or the table, in Ezekiel 23:41, is furnished with meats and drinks. Eating and drinking play an important part in adultery, either in the usual or the spiritual sense. “Upon it:” this can only refer to the bed. [138] This is made fragrant by the incense and the oil. Religious ceremonies are not here spoken of. We find ourselves in the region of political idolatry, which in the latest times of the people, from the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah, far outweighed that of religion. The corresponding reality consists in the rich gifts by which Judah endeavoured to purchase the favour of the heathen sovereigns; comp. Isaiah 30:6. The secure murmur ( Ezekiel 23:42) arises from the noisy and self-confident intercourse of the adulterers with the adulteresses, from the festivals which were held for the scaling of political friendship. Among the adulterers are found, besides many others from ail the world (this refers to the great anti-Assyrian coalition in the time of Hezekiah), Sabean topers [139] also from the wilderness, loose barbarians, who are not too vile for her. “In her:” here the personification is abandoned. The bracelets and the golden crowns are the gifts which the adulterers from afar give; comp. Ezekiel 16:11, Genesis 24:22, where likewise gifts from the man to the woman are spoken of. The author refers to political connections with Ethiopia, whose capital was Seba or Meroe. In the time of Hezekiah, Tirhakah king of Kush, or Ethiopia, marched to raise the siege of Jerusalem when beleaguered by Sennacherib king of Assyria ( Isaiah 37:9; Isaiah 2 Kings 19:9); and Isaiah 45:14 also implies the seeking of help from the Sabeans or inhabitants of Meroe in the time of Isaiah: “Thus saith the Lord, The labour of Egypt, and the merchandise of Cush and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall go over unto thee, and be thine: they shall go after thee; in chains they shall go over, and they shall fall down unto thee to beseech thee; only in thee is God, and there is no God beside.” We have here the opposite of the ignominious dependence on Egypt and Ethiopia, which is connected with it, especially Meroe, as it existed in the time of the prophet. To such a subordinate relation Isaiah points also in ch. Isaiah 43:3: the future will show that Israel, through his God, stands higher than Egypt and Sheba, to whom he once ignominiously yielded. The object of Sennacherib’s expedition was, as M. v. Niebuhr ( History of Assyria and Babylon, p. 171 f.) has shown, the breaking up of a great coalition, which threatened the Assyrian dominion in Syria, and not merely the subjugation of the small kingdom of Judah. Trusting to this coalition, Hezekiah had rebelled against Assyria. The arrival of Tirhakah, remarks Niebuhr, at the bottom of which lay probably an alliance with the native Egyptian princes, is a movement that can only be explained by the seeking of aid on the part of Hezekiah. This seeking of aid from the Sabeans went hand in hand with that from the Chaldeans, which was before mentioned by the prophet. These were the two extreme ends of the coalition against Assyria. In regard to these relations we may compare also Isaiah 18. There the intelligence of the glorious deliverance which the Lord has secured to His people against Assyria is brought to Kush, in proof that this country was at that time connected with Judah by a close community of political interests. Judea had looked for aid to Ethiopia, instead of which Kush is taken into the community of the salvation secured to Judah by his God. “To the inveterate are adulteries?” ( Ezekiel 23:43): Shall her adulteries go on still further? “Shall adulteries be still committed even with her?” [140] The thought is, that the Lord cannot possibly suffer this, that He must at length make an end of such a course; comp. Ezekiel 23:45. It may seem strange that in Ezekiel 23:44 (as also in Ezekiel 23:45), along with Oholibah, Oholah also appears still in the present pursuing her adulterous course. The solution, however, is, that after the fall of the kingdom of the ten tribes, Oholah still continued to exist in close community with Oholibah. That Judah, to which no inconsiderable number of the citizens of the former kingdom of the ten tribes had attached themselves (comp. 2 Chronicles 35:18), thenceforward represents the collective nation, is shown by the name Israel which was now assumed by it. The righteous men in Ezekiel 23:45 are the Chaldeans. They are righteous, according to their mission as ministers of the divine vengeance; whereby it is not excluded that they, in regard to their motive, are evil, and themselves liable to the divine vengeance. The heathen tyrant also, in Isaiah 49:24, is designated as righteous. The blood refers to the sacrificing of children; comp. Ezekiel 23:37.

[136] Comp. Christol. on Amos 9:1.

[137] And (this also is of importance, or comes into consideration) “that they send,” for “and they even sent.” The future denotes the often repeated action in the past.

[138] שלחן is always, and so in our verse, masculine.

[139] The form is a mixed one, that signifies both Sabeans and topers: סוֹ?בָ?אִ?ים instead of סְ?בָ?אִ?ים , Isaiah 45:14, as the Masoretes wish to read.

[140] The reading of the text is יִ?זְ?נֶ?ה . The Masoretic reading יִ?זְ?נוּ? is a good interpretation. Comp. באו , Ezekiel 23:41.

Verses 46-49

In Ezekiel 23:46-49, the punishment to which the last verse of the foregoing section had conducted. Ezekiel 23:46. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Bring up against them a company, and give them to maltreatment and spoiling. 47. And the company shall cast stones upon them, and cleave them with their swords: they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn their houses with fire. 48. And I will cause lewdness to cease out of the land; and all women shall be warned, and shall not do after their lewdness. 49. And they shall requite your lewdness upon you, and the sins of your abominations ye shall take upon you: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

In Ezekiel 23:46 the prophet is first addressed. “What shall happen is, as it were, wrought by him, as the power which gave the prophecy produces also the fulfilment; in the prophecy also, ideally considered, the fulfilment is already present. The community denotes usually the congregation of Israel. As this has failed to do its duty, reacting against the crime, as once happened in the war against Benjamin (Judges 20), so stands here the community of the heathen, which God summons to execute His vengeance. The women in Ezekiel 23:48 are the nations to whom the execution decreed against Israel shall serve for a warning and deterring example. “The sins of your abominations” ( Ezekiel 23:49)—those committed in commerce with them.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-23.html.
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