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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 23

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-21

The Spiritual Adultery of the two Kingdoms

v. 1. The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, in an inspired allegory setting forth the fact that both kingdoms were ripe for God's judgment,

v. 2. Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother, namely, Israel and Judah, one nation by descent;

v. 3. and they committed whoredoms in Egypt, being guilty of idolatry even at that time; they committed whoredoms, spiritual adultery, in their youth; there were their breasts pressed, and there they, the people with whom they sinned, bruised the teats of their virginity, both being immoral acts and a species of adultery.

v. 4. And the names of them were Aholah, the elder, the meaning, "Her tent," referring to the fact that the first worship of God in Israel was in a tent, or tabernacle, and Aholibah, her sister, this name for Judah, meaning, "My tent in her," indicating that God appointed His worship in the midst of Judah. And they were Mine, they belonged to the Lord in the most peculiar sense before the apostasy under Jeroboam; and they bare sons and daughters, for they were at that time still considered the Lord's brides. Thus were their names: Samaria is Aholah, called the elder, or rather, greater, on account of the larger size of her territory, and Jerusalem Aholibah.

v. 5. And Aholah played the harlot when she was Mine, forsaking the Lord in her idolatry; and she doted on her lovers, inflamed with her evil passion, on the Assyrians, her neighbors, with whom the people of the northern kingdom sought alliance and whose heathenish customs they aped,

v. 6. which were clothed with blue, the royal purple of ancient times, Israel being seduced by the splendor and pomp of Assyria, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses, making a bold show intended to impress passionate Samaria.

v. 7. Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, bestowing her wantonness upon them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria and with all on whom she doted, with the same passion for spiritual adultery; with all their idols she defiled herself, this being the essence of her transgression, shameless idolatry.

v. 8. Neither, in addition to this new transgression, left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt, since the calves set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel were copies of Egyptian idols, of the Apis statues; for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her, the full measure of their idolatrous wickedness.

v. 9. Wherefore, in just punishment, I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, who professed an affection for her which they were far from feeling, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted, with such foolishly passionate desire.

v. 10. These, in making sport of her wantonness, discovered her nakedness; they took her sons and her daughters, leading them into exile, and slew her with the sword, destroying the kingdom of which Samaria was the capital; and she became famous among women, the object of jeering speech and mockery; for they had executed judgment upon her, her shameful overthrow was notorious throughout the known world.

v. 11. And when her sister Aholibah saw this, having the evil example of Samaria before her eyes always, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, Judah going even beyond Samaria in the extent of her idolatry, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms, outranking the northern kingdom in the spiritual adultery practiced in Jerusalem.

v. 12. She doted upon the Assyrians, her neighbors, having conceived a sinful affection for the heathenish neighbors and seeking an alliance with them, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men, whose pomp and political splendor dazzled the Jews.

v. 13. Then I saw, the Lord says in a statement of the true situation, that she was defiled, that they, Samaria and Jerusalem, took both one way, the way of transgression and wickedness,

v. 14. and that she increased her whoredoms, becoming, with the passing of time, ever more shameless in her idolatry; for when she saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, probably in bas-reliefs colored in ocher,

v. 15. girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, with the flowing turbans which are so familiar from Assyrian sculpture, all of them princes to look to, appearing majestic amid imposing, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity, between the Black and the Caspian Sea;

v. 16. and as soon as she saw them with her eyes, probably when her merchants went to the East on business trips, or when Assyrian sculpture was brought to Jerusalem to adorn the palaces of the wealthy, she doted upon them, desiring entangling alliances which God had expressly forbidden, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea, soliciting the friendship of the mightier empire.

v. 17. And the Babylonians, gladly availing themselves of this opportunity, came to her into the bed of love, in the unholy alliance forbidden by the Lord, and they defiled her with their whoredom, with the excess of their idolatry, and she was polluted with them, as committing spiritual adultery, and her mind was alienated from them, for now the fickle Jews turned once more to the Egyptians.

v. 18. So she discovered her whoredoms, openly parading them before the whole world, and discovered her nakedness, her most shameful condition. Then My mind was alienated from her, so that He turned from her in disgust and loathing, like as My mind was alienated from her sister.

v. 19. Yet, in spite of this experience, which should have sobered her, she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, the lusts she had then practiced, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt, practicing idolatry even before the Exodus.

v. 20. For she doted upon their paramours, upon her lovers, the eunichs, princes, and courtiers who were instrumental in bringing about the alliance, whose flesh, the member concerned, is as the flesh of asses, said in bitter irony, and whose issue is like the issue of horses, said of carnal desire.

v. 21. Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising the teats by the Egyptians for the paps of thy youth, literally, "on account of thy youthful breasts. " In the early history there had at least been an explanation of Judah's conduct, namely, the inexperienced sensuousness and carnality of the people. But here, in their later history, they were acting against better knowledge, willfully prostituting themselves and their sacred honor upon the altar of idolatry.

Verses 22-49

The Lord's Punishment upon the two Kingdoms

v. 22. Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe, Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, the very allies upon whose constancy Jerusalem thought she could depend, from whom thy mind is alienated, as she turned from Assyria to Egypt, and I will bring them against thee on every side, in manifest enmity, with a desire to wreak their vengeance upon the fickle wanton:

v. 23. the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, at that time representing the world empire, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, words signifying leadership or supremacy, and probably standing for the leaders of the three branches of military forces in the Chaldean army, and all the Assyrians with them, all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses. The latter is said in bitter irony, for the same most desirable allies upon whom Judah had doted in foolish passion now became the instruments of God's wrath to chastise her.

v. 24. And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, scythe-armed battle-chariots, the size of whose wheels made them doubly formidable, and with an assembly of people, troops of the various provinces and countries under the Babylonian dominion, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about, using all the weapons of war to gain their ends; and I will set judgment before them, appointing them to carry out His sentence of punishment, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments, which, in agreement with their heathenish ideas, were barbarously severe.

v. 25. And I will set My jealousy against thee, which in this case took on the nature of a zeal for destruction, and they shall deal furiously with thee, with unbridled wrath; they shall take away thy nose and thine ears, an allusion to the Oriental custom of mutilating adulteresses, and thy remnant shall fall by the sword, the destruction of Judah thus being consummated; they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue, with reference to rich dresses and costly jewels by means of which lewd women seek to attract, shall be devoured by the fire.

v. 26. They shall also strip thee out of thy clothes, instruments of luxury and lewdness as they were, and take away thy fair jewels, the gaudy ornaments with which the spiritual adulteress bedecked herself.

v. 27. Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee, so that the Jews would learn to abhor idolatry, and thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt, which had persisted through all these centuries, so that thou shalt not lift up thine eyes unto them, namely, in reverence and adoration, nor remember Egypt any more.

v. 28. For thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou, after her recent transfer of affection, hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy mind is alienated;

v. 29. and they shall deal with thee hatefully, with the hatred of those who feel themselves spurned, and shall take away all thy labor, all that she had worked so hard to accumulate, and shall leave thee naked and bare, stripped of all her possessions; and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, laid bare before the eyes of the whole world, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms, so that men would speak of her spiritual adultery with loathing.

v. 30. I will do these things unto thee because thou last gone a-whoring after the heathen, becoming partaker of their idolatrous wickedness, and because thou art polluted with their idols.

v. 31. Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister, following the wicked example of Samaria; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand, namely, the cup of her punishment.

v. 32. Thus saith the Lord God, Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup deep and large, in full draughts; thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision, an object of mockery and contempt on every hand; it containeth much, for God is not lax and lenient in His punishment upon idolaters.

v. 33. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, her intoxication being caused by the Lord and followed by extreme misery, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria, rather, "a cup of wasting and desolation is the cup of thy sister Samaria. "

v. 34. Thou shalt even drink it and suck it out, so that she would feel the full effect of its bitterness, and thou shalt break the sherds thereof, gnawing them in a sort of passion to feel the fullness of God's anger, and pluck off thine own breasts, willfully mutilating them as the instruments of lewdness; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God.

v. 35. therefore, thus saith the Lord God, in once more summarizing His sentence upon Judah, Because thou hast forgotten Me, the Lord and Master of her youth, and cast Me behind thy back, in the height of contempt, therefore, in just retribution, bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms, namely, in their guilt and damnableness.

v. 36. The Lord said moreover unto me, Son of man, wilt thou judge, namely, in pronouncing judgment upon, Aholah and Aholibah? Yea, declare unto them their abominations, setting forth the individual acts of wickedness with which they are charged,

v. 37. that they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, the blood of unlawful sacrifices; and with their idols have they committed adultery, for the spiritual adultery of idol-worship was often connected with physical adultery and immorality of the worst kind, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto Me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them, in the hideous and repulsive Molech cult.

v. 38. Moreover, this they have done unto Me: they have defiled My Sanctuary in the same day, in the very day that they committed such shocking abominations, and have profaned My Sabbaths. Cf.Ezekiel 20:13.

v. 39. For when they had slain their children to their idols, sacrificing them to Molech, the abomination of the Moabites, then they came the same day, while the guilt of their wickedness was still on their hands, into My Sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of Mine house, without the slightest regard for the sanctity of the Lord's Temple.

v. 40. And furthermore, another point to be urged against the Jews in their apostasy, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent, the Jews going to much trouble in carrying out their purpose; and, lo, they came, for whom thou, like a lewd woman, didst wash thyself, paintedst thine eyes, staining the eyelashes to make the glance of the eye more brilliant, for that is the object of women of this type, who barter their soul by such means, and deckedst thyself with ornaments, all to make herself more attractive to men,

v. 41. and satest upon a stately bed, on an elaborately cushioned couch, and a table prepared before it, whereupon thou hast set Mine incense and Mine oil, gifts of the Lord and properly made as sacrifices to Him alone.

v. 42. And a voice of a multitude being at ease was with her, a loose and boisterous crowd taking advantage of the invitation of Jerusalem; and with the men of the common sort, the members of the mobs surging through the streets, were brought Sabeans from the wilderness, drunken revelers, which put bracelets upon their hands and beautiful crowns upon their heads, both of the lewd women being thus bedecked by their wicked lovers.

v. 43. Then said I unto her that was old in adulteries, well versed in adulteries, worn out by adulteries, Will they now commit whoredoms with her and she with them? Was their sense of shame so far gone as to cause them to desecrate the very city of God's holiness?

v. 44. Yet they went in unto her; as they go in unto a woman that playeth the harlot, so went they in unto Aholah and unto Aholibah, the lewd women. In spite of all the warnings of God they became guilty of gross idolatry, calmly ignoring the very sense of decency and shame.

v. 45. And the righteous men, in this case the Chaldeans, as the executioners of God's sentence of judgment, they shall judge them after the manner of adulteresses and after the manner of women that shed blood, such as are guilty of murder, because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands, they have been found guilty of the most flagrant crimes.

v. 46. For thus saith the Lord God, I will bring up a company upon them, a council of judges to pass sentence upon the criminals, and will give them to be removed and spoiled, to be exiled and plundered.

v. 47. And the company shall stone them with stones, the usual mode of execution in the case of adulteresses, and dispatch them with their swords, as though removing them out of their misery; they shall slay their Sons and their daughters, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, and burn up their houses with fire.

v. 48. Thus will I cause lewdness, every form of idolatry, to cease out of the land, that all women, in this case all nations, may be taught not to do after your lewdness.

v. 49. And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, paving them back in the proper coin, as they had deserved, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols, those committed with them, by means of them; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God. The very horror of the description makes the sin of Judah stand out all the more strongly, the effect intended by the Lord being that of making all men look upon similar transgressions with shuddering revulsion.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/ezekiel-23.html. 1921-23.
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