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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 23

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-49

Chapter Twenty-three

The Apostasy Of Israel And Judah

In this lengthy chapter God once more goes over the ground of His controversy with Israel and Judah, picturing them as two sisters whom He brought up out of the land of Egypt and charged to be faithful to Him, but who both turned away from Him, following idolatry in its vilest forms.

“The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother: and they played the harlot in Egypt; they played the harlot in their youth; there were their breasts pressed, and there was handled the bosom of their virginity. And the names of them were Oholah the elder, and Oholibah her sister: and they became Mine, and they bare sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem Oholibah”-vers. 1-4.

The word “Oholah” means “her tent”; whereas “Oholibah” means “My tent is in her.” “Tent” and “tabernacle” are of course the same thing, so that the meaning is clear. Jehovah never identified Himself with the worship which Jeroboam set up for the ten tribes. The sanctuary to which the people there went was simply their own tabernacle, but it was otherwise with Judah: God Himself had set up His tabernacle in the midst of her; He dwelt in Judah and linked His name with Jerusalem in a way He never did with the ten tribes after they revolted from subjection to the house of David. At last they went wholly over to the same type of idolatry as that which characterized Israel up to the time that they were carried away into Assyria.

As we have already seen, spiritual adultery is idolatry, turning away from the one true and living God to idols; and God uses the figure of an unchaste woman to represent both Israel and Judah in their grave sin of infidelity toward Him. People of fastidious taste and delicacy of sentiment naturally shrink from reading such verses as these, but we need to remember the words that describe sin are in themselves not unclean or unholy; it is the evils that are back of the words that are so vile in the sight of God and should be detested by every right-minded person.

“And Oholah played the harlot when she was Mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbors, who were clothed with blue, governors and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. And she bestowed her whoredoms upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them; and on whomsoever she doted, with all their idols she defiled herself. Neither hath she left her whoredoms since the days of Egypt; for in her youth they lay with her, and they handled the bosom of her virginity; and they poured out their whoredom upon her. Wherefore I delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted. These uncovered 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 upon her”-vers. 5-10.

Under the figure of harlotry God here sets forth the sin to which Israel in the north had given herself. She had followed after all the evil ways of her unclean idolatrous neighbors, and so eventually God Himself had forsaken her. One might have supposed that all this would have had a salutary effect upon the people of Judah and would have led them to abhor the sins that had brought ruin upon their neighbors to the north; but alas, alas, so prone is the heart of man to evil, and so true is it that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” that Judah soon went just as far into the same type of wickedness and spiritual lewdness as did her sister in the north. All this comes out clearly in verses 11 to 21.

“And her sister Oholibah saw this, yet was she more corrupt in her doting than she, and in her whoredoms which were more than the whoredoms of her sister. She doted upon the Assyrians, governors and rulers, her neighbors, clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. And I saw that she was defiled; they both took one way. And she increased her whoredoms; for she saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, with flowing turbans upon their heads, all of them princes to look upon, after the likeness of the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their nativity. And as soon as she saw them she doted upon them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea. 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. So she uncovered her whoredoms, and uncovered her nakedness: then My soul was alienated from her, like as My soul was alienated from her sister. Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, remembering the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. And she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses. Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in the handling of thy bosom by the Egyptians for the breasts of thy youth”-vers. 11-21.

Because of her vileness God, the Holy One, could no longer condone her offenses, and must deal with her as her sins deserved in accordance with His warnings.

“Therefore, O Oholibah, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy soul is alienated, and I will bring them against thee 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 men of renown, all of them riding upon horses. And they shall come against thee with weapons, chariots, and wagons, and with a company of peoples; they shall set themselves against thee with buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will commit the judgment unto them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments. And I will set My jealousy against thee, and they shall deal with thee in fury; they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy residue shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire. They shall also strip thee of thy clothes, and take away thy fair jewels. Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee, and thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt; so that thou shalt not lift up thine eyes unto them, nor remember Egypt any more. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy soul is alienated; and they shall deal with thee in hatred, and shall take away all thy labor, and shall leave thee naked and bare; and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be uncovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms”-vers. 22-29.

Such words as these require very little comment. They are too plain to need exposition. The language used is so clear that any reader will understand readily why God was thus dealing with His people. In spite of all His expostulations they had persisted in their unclean behavior and had laughed to scorn the admonitions of the prophets He sent to them.

“These things shall be done unto thee, for that thou hast played the harlot after the nations, and because thou art polluted with their idols. Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thy hand. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Thou shalt drink of thy sister’s cup, which is deep and large; thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision; it containeth much. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria. Thou shalt even drink it and drain it out, and thou shalt gnaw the sherds thereof, and shalt tear thy breasts; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because thou hast forgotten Me, and cast Me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms”-vers. 30-35.

God was about to give them up to the same kind of punishment that had been meted out already to Sa- maria, and they should learn in bitterness of soul what it meant to depart from the living God-from Him who would so gladly have cast all their sins behind His back if they had but turned to Him in contrition of heart.

He chides them because, having forgotten Him, they had cast His Word behind their backs and given themselves up to every type of idolatry.

“Jehovah said moreover unto me: Son of man, wilt thou judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare unto them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands; and with their idols have they committed adultery; and they have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto Me, to pass through the fire unto them to be devoured. Moreover this they have done unto Me: they have denied My sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned My sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into My sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of My house. And furthermore ye have sent for men that come from afar, unto whom a messenger was sent, and, lo, they came; for whom thou didst wash thyself, paint thine eyes, and deck thyself with ornaments, and sit upon a stately bed, with a table prepared before it, whereupon thou didst set Mine incense and Mine oil. And the voice of a multitude being at ease was with her: and with men of the common sort were brought drunkards from the wilderness; and they put bracelets upon the hands of them twain, and beautiful crowns upon their heads”-vers. 36-42.

Israel and Judah both had been warned of the peril involved in apostasy; yet both had deliberately turned away from the truth they had once known and given themselves over to following after the ways of the surrounding nations. They had defiled the sanctuary of Jehovah and profaned His sabbaths, doing for their idols what God never would have asked them to do for Him-sacrificing their own children at the behest of the demon-inspired priests of their high places. Like an unchaste woman who sought in every way to at- tract men to her, they had made every effort to incorporate into their own economy the ways of the heathen, both religious and political; and thus had so dishonored God that He could do no other than repudiate them and visit judgment upon their heads.

“Then said I of her that was old in adulteries, Now will they play the harlot with her, and she with them. And they went in unto her, as they go in unto a harlot: so went they in unto Oholah and unto Oholibah, the lewd women. And righteous men, they shall judge them with the judgment of adulteresses, and with the judgment of women that shed blood; because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will bring up a company against them, and will give them to be tossed to and fro and robbed. 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. Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness. And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols; and ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 43-49.

Solemn indeed are the words with which this section closes. How unspeakably sad the state into which Judah had fallen! She who had once been a bright gem in the diadem of Jehovah now had fallen to the very lowest depth, and God was about to cast her out of His sight, to send her down to Babylon-there to learn in bitterness of soul what a mistake she had made in rejecting Him and refusing to heed His Word and following after the strange gods of the nations, which, in reality, are no gods but simply demons seeking the destruction of those who sacrifice to them.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/ezekiel-23.html. 1914.
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