Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 23

Verse 2

Two women; Judah and Israel, the two kingdoms.

Daughters of one mother; sprung from Sarah; or, as some, daughters of the synagogue. They rose from one family; these two were daughters, that is parts, and the mother is the whole posterity of the twelve tribes.

Verse 3

They committed whoredoms in Egypt; when they came down into Egypt, and sojourned there: possibly they might commit bodily whoredoms, but spiritual whoredoms, i.e. idolatry, they did certainly commit, as appears Joshua 24:14 Ezekiel 20:7,8, which see; in a low condition, by converse with the idolatrous Egyptians they fell in with their idolatry.

In their youth; early; though it is no where said when they began, yet by this it appears that it was not long after their coming down into Egypt.

There were their breasts pressed: this and what follows is an allusion, which illustrates what was before spoken; while they were constant to God and his worship, they were as beautiful, chaste, and lovely virgins; when seduced to idolatry, they became as loathsome harlots or strumpets.

Verse 4

That we might know them, they are described.

Aholah; which, rendered in English, is, His own tabernacle; for Israel, falling off from the house of David, also fell off from the tabernacle or temple of God, so that all the temple and worship they had amongst them was of their own making.

The elder; greater for number of tribes, being ten of twelve; and greater for power, wealth, and multitudes of people.

Aholibah: this, rendered in English, is, My tabernacle in her: the two tribes had the temple and worship of God with them; God’s own tent was pitched there, and his solemn services.

They were mine, by solemn marriage covenant, Ezekiel 16:18.

They bare sons and daughters; were fruitful, and brought forth children to me, saith God; they increased in numbers of people, and among these, some there were that were children of God by faith, love, and obedience.

Samaria; the chief city of the apostate ten tribes.

Jerusalem; the chief city of the two tribes.

Verse 5

Aholah, the kingdom of Israel, or the ten tribes,

played the harlot; united in confederacy in civil concerns, and in idolatry as to religious concerns, with the Assyrians.

When she was mine; when under my government and protection, or in my presence, or before I had abdicated and cast her off.

Doted; were madly enamoured with the Assyrian idols, temples, and manner of worship.

Her lovers; whom she loved, not that I find they so much loved her.

The Assyrians; so often mentioned, nothing needs be said of them.

Her neighbours; so they were now by their seizing of Syria, and possessing it as their own 2 Kings 15:19.

Verse 6

Clothed with blue; richly apparelled, and, as the humour of that nation, in rich and beautiful blue, very magnificent to the eye.

Captains; daring, valiant men, and fit for wars, who might defend the Jews in time of danger.

Rulers; worthy of authority, and fit to govern in times of peace.

Desirable young men; young and vigorous, full of beauty and strength to commend them to the desire and choice.

Horsemen riding upon horses; skilful in riding, and well furnished with choice horses, on which these deluded apostatizing Israelites relied for help, as appears, Hosea 14:3.

Verse 7

Thus, by the eye and familiar converse, she fell to idolatry. Committed her whoredoms: see Ezekiel 23:3.

With all them; she embraced the friendship and religion of all of them, and relied on the Assyrian’s idols for deliverance and peace.

And with all, i.e. other nations with whom she had commerce and made leagues,

on whom she doted; like an adulterous wife, she was mad in her love to them, to their persons, customs, idols, and religion, with all which she polluted herself.

Verse 8

Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt; though she took in so many gods of the Assyrians, yet she did not renounce or cast off the gods of Egypt, but kept them too. It is plain the Israelites learnt idolatry in Egypt, carried it with them out of Egypt, and retained it to the last.

In her youth, & c. see Ezekiel 23:3.

Verse 9

Wherefore, for this boundless idolatry and lewdness

I have delivered her; long ago I have delivered the ten tribes: first, Pul put them under tribute, 2 Kings 15:19,20, about two hundred years before our prophet’s time; then Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29; and finally into Shalmaneser’s hand, who destroyed the kingdom, 2 Kings 17:6.

Into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted; punished them for their sins by those who were fellow sinners with her.

Verse 10

These used her as lewd women deserve, stripped her naked, and exposed her to shame, as Ezekiel 23:26. God her Husband had clothed her, and covered her nakedness, but she lightly esteemed her God, doted on idols, and idolaters strip her.

They took her sons and her daughters; made them captives, and carried them away as slaves, to serve the lusts of barbarous conquerors; so both sexes were used.

Slew her with the sword: as a person slain with the sword ceaseth to be, so this kingdom of Israel under Hoshea was by the sword of Shalmaneser utterly destroyed.

She became famous; her lewdness made her infamous, and God’s judgments for it made her more known in the world.

For they, the Assyrians, a proud, bitter, and violent enemy,

had executed judgment upon her; had executed their own malicious revenges, but God’s just displeasure, upon her.

Verse 11

Aholibah; Judah, yet two tribes.

Saw this; both the sins and punishments of the kingdom of Israel, which should have been her admonition.

She was more corrupt, ran more violently into both friendship, confederacies, and idolatries with the Assyrians,

than her sister, Samaria; Jerusalem had more idols in it, and more abominable idolatry, than any we read of in Samaria that, at present, I can remember.

Verse 12

This verse is the same with Ezekiel 23:6, which see; only the clothing of blue there is here clothing of beauty; i.e. most beautiful.

Verse 13

Then; when she took not warning, neither feared.

She was defiled; her heart was already on her idols. Both Samaria and Jerusalem took one way; chose the same idols and idolatry.

Verse 14

Increased her whoredoms; added to the number of her idolatries.

When she saw men portrayed upon the wall: wherever it was the Jews saw, there it was they doted on their persons and habits: it is probable enough they might see them in the idol temples, or in the house of the king of Judah, or of the great men, who promoted the friendships and leagues with these nations.

The images; the counterfeits of strangers, and such as were far off, as the Chaldeans were.

With vermilion; which, as it is a very glossy and shining colour, so, duly mixed with ceruse, doth lively express the colour of man’s flesh.

Verse 15

With girdles upon their loins; with soldiers’ belts about their loins, which includes the rest of the garb, dress, or habit of soldiers.

Exceeding in dyed attire; both rich, comely, large, and of divers colours, and those of the choicest that art or money could prepare.

Princes to look to; of princely aspect and majesty.

After the manner, agreeable to the garments, of the rich and proud Babylonians.

Of Chaldea; which probably was the most fruitful part of that kingdom, and most pleasant, and where the pride and luxury of the inhabitants exceeded others.

Verse 16

Saw them; the portraits of them.

She doted upon them; like an unsatiable and most impudent adulteress, she fell into most inordinate affection for their persons on sight of their pictures.

Sent messengers unto them; courted the love of those strangers, and wooed their embraces, sent to make alliances with them, prostituted herself to them.

Into Chaldea: though it was a long journey, troublesome and costly, all this hinders not this extravagant, lewd woman, she sends to these remote parts, and forgets her God.

Verse 17

The Babylonians came: the prophet prosecuteth the allegory; the adulteress sent, and invited, and here the Chaldeans comply with it, they came, ambassadors no doubt first to make a confederacy, and then free intercourse in trade, and religion too.

The bed of love; so the impudently lascivious call the polluted, forbidden bed, as the harlot, Proverbs 7:18. It is like with this commerce and confederacy the lustful Babylonians did spread that disease, the Jewish nation were too much inclined to corporal adulteries and fornications; but metaphorically it is a delightful communicating with them in their idolatry in their idol temples and feasts.

Defiled her; made her unclean and loathsome.

Whoredom; spiritual and corporal.

Polluted; greatly defiled, as the doubling the expression imports. Her mind was alienated from them; like an arrant adulteress, wearied, but not satisfied with her adulterers, she changeth mind and friendships, and seeks new ones. So did this people, weary of the Chaldeans, seek new confederates.

Verse 18

So, by this unsatiableness and change of lovers,

she discovered her whoredoms; made it appear to all, far and near, that she was a most notorious and infamous strumpet.

Her nakedness; her weakness, and her shame.

Then, when I saw the lewdness, impudence, and boundlessness of her adulteries,

my mind was alienated; turned from her with abhorrency, I could no longer endure it.

From her; Jerusalem, the land of Judea, the kingdom of the two tribes.

As from her sister; Samaria, the ten tribes; and I resolved to destroy them both alike by their lovers.

Verse 19

Yet, Heb. And.

Multiplied; added more and greater to her former sins of idolatry and whoredoms, and persisted in them.

In calling to remembrance: this may refer either to the Jewish nation remembering their idolatries in Egypt, their alliances with and reliance upon it in days past, which she now resolves to act over again; or it may refer to God, who, by these continued courses of Judah’s lewdness is provoked to remember and punish old perfidious and idolatrous practices.

The days of her youth: see Ezekiel 23:3.

Verse 20

Doted: see Ezekiel 23:5.

Upon their paramours; Egyptians, and the nations that were confederate with the Egyptians; looking on them as able to defend by their power, enrich by their trade, and make prosperous by their friendship.

Whose flesh, & c.: in these terms the prophet expresseth the vehement desire of the Jews to Egyptian idolatry, compared to whoredom, and may, for aught I know, tax the lustful impudence of some of the Jewish women in their corporal uncleannesses with the Egyptians, who were it seems (by report of authors) naturally disposed for that vice, and fittest for unsatiable, lustful women: see Ezekiel 16:26.

Verse 21

Calledst to remembrance: see Ezekiel 23:19.

The lewdness of thy youth: Ezekiel 23:3.

The paps of thy youth; the beauty and loveliness of them, when God had formed them, allured the Egyptians: this may be understood both politically, of the growing state of the Jewish commonwealth, or literally, of the beauty of their young women.

Verse 22

Thy lovers; thy confederates.

From whom thy mind is alienated; whom thou hast first loathed and forsaken, and thereby enraged them against thee.

Bring them against thee; be not only an exciter to stir them up against thee, but I will be a guide and conducter of them.

On every side; so no way left for thy escape.

Verse 23

The Babylonians and Chaldeans; these are known.

Pekod, & c.: some reckon these the titles of some of the great commanders in this army, which come against Jerusalem, but they are names of distinct countries or provinces under the Babylonish government; and so Pekod is the province between Tigris and Lycus rivers, in this was old Nineveh, and was the principal province of the kingdom; though some others think Pekod was Bactriana, now called Usbeck, and Corassan, fierce, thievish, and barbarous of old.

Shoa; either Sia in Armenia, or the Sohai, among which were the Adiabeni; and this contained the middle part of the kingdom of Babylon, and was Assyria Mediana.

Koa bordered on Media; the inhabitants were called Kohai, and dwelt about Arbel, or Arbelis, or Arbela, and comprehended Ganyamela, where a fortress Ganga looks like this Koa, being easily changed from Koa to Ganga by change of the original letters q into "G," and e into "G"; a people too like enough to be cruel and barbarous by their very situation.

And all; all these sons or subjects of the Assyrian monarchy, or confederates.

Desirable young men, & c.: most of these are already explained Ezekiel 23:6, where they were objects of love, now they are objects of terror; so God turns the occasions of men’s sins into occasions of greater terror and punishment.

Renowned, Heb. called, or invited, first by the Jews to sin with them, Ezekiel 23:16, now called of God to punish their fellow sinners.

Verse 24

They, mentioned before, Ezekiel 23:23,

shall come against thee, or upon thee, surprise thee with a speedy march, for they were swift in their course.

With chariots; the Hebrew is of larger sense, and more properly speaks all kind of arms for the war, a thorough furniture; so the Chaldee paraphrase, with instruments of war, or arms.

Wagons, Heb. chariots, and is oftener so rendered; for expedition, for ease of their commanders on their march, and for strength against the enemy in the battle.

Wheels; whether distinct from all other, or whether prepared lest in their march the carriage wheels should break, and they be at a stand, therefore beforehand store of these were provided.

An assembly; a mighty confluence of people, and a mixture, where the worst and cruellest are the most numerous.

Which shall set against thee buckler, and shield, and helmet; yet for their own defence well armed, and with armature fitted to defeat the arrows and offensive weapons of their enemy, and to maintain a siege, such as they should weary Jerusalem with.

I will set judgment before them; give them a power by their victory, and in right of conquest over their rebels, as well as mine; and I will give them a spirit of judgment to discern the greatness of this people’s sins.

They shall judge thee; plead with thee, convince, condemn, and execute sentence upon thee.

According to their judgments; to their will, power, wrath, and custom against rebels, for these are their rules of judgment; all which appeared when the chief of all the people were condemned to slavery, the wise counsellors and valiant commanders sentenced to die, Zedekiah’s children slain, his own eyes put out, and city and temple to be burnt.

Verse 25

I will set my jealousy against thee; as a jealous provoked husband, I will be as much against thee as they are, their fury shall avenge my quarrel.

They shall deal furiously with thee; their disposition naturally is to furious wrath, my jealousy shall enkindle it more.

They shall take away thy nose and thine ears; as thou hast prostituted thy beauty like a harlot, so they shall use thee as such, and mar thy beauty, and brand thee for ever, as thou deservest, and that thou mayst be as loathsome in thy deformity as ever thou wast thought lovely in thy beauty. This punishment of adulteresses is known to have been used, and is yet in use.

Thy remnant shall fall by the sword; or else, at last thy latter end shall be to fall by the sword, those that do not live under such reproach shall die by the sword of the enemy.

They shall take thy sons and thy daughters for captives and slaves for work, and somewhat a thousand times worse.

Thy residue; either the people who did hide themselves in vaults and cellars, and came not out; or else what remains of that the Chaldeans cannot carry away; all this shall be devoured by fire, as when the city was burnt.

Verse 26

Strip thee out of thy clothes; both as lewd, disgraced harlots and as captives are used: see Ezekiel 16:39.

Thy fair jewels; all thy rich, beautiful ornaments: see Ezekiel 16:17. They shall be prey and plunder to the enemy.

Verse 27

By these destroying judgments, which shall make thee cease to be a people, I will put an end to the lewdness thou wouldst never have put end to, thou shalt never have opportunity, if thou hadst heart, to do the like.

Thy whoredom, idolatries,

brought from the land of Egypt, when thou camest out under my hand.

Thou shalt not lift up thine eyes with desire and affection toward them, as once, when thou dotedst on them;

nor remember Egypt any more, with love, trust, imitation, and desire of commerce with her, but all thy remembrance of Egypt shall be with deep shame and loathing.

Verse 28

Deliver thee, give thee up,

into the hand, to the power and will,

of them whom thou hatest: those shall be the masters, and domineer over thee, whom of all men thou didst most desire might not. It is doubled for certainty of the thing, and to make deeper impression; they shall certainly lord it over thee, whom of all men thou dost most loathe.

Verse 29

Deal with thee, use thee, and ever demean themselves toward thee,

hatefully; in hatred; whatever drudgery hardship, base and vile employment, their spite and hatred can invent, they shall cast on thee.

Take away all thine labour; spoil thee of all thou hadst got in Judea, as they did when they conquered and plundered; and deprive thee of all the right and comfortable use of all thy labour, which they will exact of thee in captivity, and make thee know a slave hath no right to any thing.

Naked; both literally thou shalt not have clothes to cover thy nakedness; and figuratively, thou shalt be left in a most disgraced state, and the shame of all thy sins shall cover thee: all this, as this prophet usually doth, is doubled to affect the more.

Verse 30

This verse gives the same reason which hath been often given, why the Lord proceeds in this severity, because, as an obstinate, lewd, untractable adulteress abuseth the best husband, till none can forbear, so had the Jews dealt with God, and God will deal with them.

Verse 31

Thou, O Jerusalem and Judah,

hast walked; hast run into the same sinful enormities.

Thy sister; Samaria and the ten tribes, both great idolatresses.

Her cup of judgments and sorrow, expressed frequently by a cup, Psalms 75:8 Jeremiah 25:15: I will punish thee with punishments like hers, since thou hast made thyself in sins like her.

Verse 32

Thou shalt drink; thou shalt not put it by, and shift it off.

Deep; towards the dregs, where the bitterest poison of it lieth.

And large; in great quantity; thy punishment shall be most grievous who must drink so deep of this cup of astonishment.

Thou shalt be laughed to scorn; when sick as heart can hold, and needest pity and help to relieve, instead hereof thou shalt be derided and abused: these will be cruel mockings.

It, the cup,

containeth much; is large, and contains what will last many years, till the seventy years be expired; and of this cup thou shalt still drink, and be derided.

Verse 33

Thy afflictions shall be as great as thou canst hold, as a vessel filled with liquor. Thou shalt stagger with sorrows, that shall intoxicate and astonish. In the verse each part explains the other, sorrow explains drunkenness, astonishment explains sorrow, desolation explains astonishment, and the cup of Samaria, elsewhere called the line of Samaria, explains all: Samaria was made a heap, Micah 1:6; so shall Jerusalem be.

Verse 34

Thou shalt even drink it; nothing shall divert the punishment.

And suck it out; the dregs shalt thou drink, and multiply thine own sorrows.

Break the sherds; either out of indignation, or to suck out what was imbibed.

Pluck off thine own breasts; which tempted others, and undid thyself, for which cause thou now revengest thyself upon thyself.

Verse 35

Thou hast forgotten me, Ezekiel 22:12, which is here explained by what follows; it was a wilful forgetting of God, and voluntary despising his law, ordinances, worship, favour, and presence; so God is cast behind a sinner’s back.

Bear thou the guilt, I will impute it; the punishment, I will not pardon it; and the shame, for I will pour out contempt upon thee: bear both sorrow and reproach for thy sins.

Verse 36

Wilt thou judge, excuse or plead for such adultresses. so Ezekiel 22:2.

Declare unto them plainly, fully tell them, what they have been, and what they must expect for all their abominations.

Verse 37

They have committed adultery: this seems to refer to corporal uncleannesses.

Blood is in their hands; innocent blood of the murdered prophets and just men.

Committed adultery; spiritual adultery, i.e. idolatry.

Caused their sons to pass through the fire; most unheard of cruelty, and unnatural murders, under pretext of religion! thus Ezekiel 16:20.

To devour them; they destroyed, took away the life of their sons in a barbarous manner.

Verse 38

This; which is declared in the following words, it was some great injury or affront done to God.

Defiled my sanctuary; my holy things, house, altar, sacrifices, and oblations; one part of the temple put for all parts of the holy things of God.

In the same day; when they had newly polluted themselves with most horrid crimes, idolatry and murder, they thrust into the temple; whereas by the law, if they had been but unclean by touch of a dead body, they must have been cleansed by sacrifices before they ought to come into company with the Jews.

Profaned my sabbaths, by offering sacrifices to idols, and doing that on those days which God, nature, and all civil nations abhor, only the devil is pleased with, who is a murderer from the beginning, and promotes such bloody cruelties.

Verse 39

Slain their children: see Ezekiel 16:20.

To profane it; using my holy temple as if it were a common and unclean place.

Thus have they done in the midst of my house; nay, these things have been done in my house, they have offered to their idols in the house where my name alone should be called upon.

Verse 40

Sent for men: see Ezekiel 23:16.

From far; from Chaldea.

A messenger was sent; an embassy from the king of Judah, with advice of his princes, no doubt.

They came: see Ezekiel 23:17.

Wash thyself; after the manner of harlots, gottest all fine, clean, and delicate against thy paramours came; so idol temples built, altars beautified, sacrifices prepared, all to commend thyself to their alliance and help.

Paintedst thy eyes; like a decayed harlot, madest up thy defects with paint.

Deckedst thyself with ornaments; puttest on the rich clothing I gave thee, and with thy Husband’s bounty allured adulterers to thy bed; so Ezekiel 16:13,14: thus was God abused and provoked.

Verse 41

Safest; it is a table gesture, as appears, she was prepared to feast them.

Upon a stately bed; a magnificent, rich bed, on which women sat to feast, when men leant on their sides, which would not have been a comely posture to a woman.

Table prepared; table furnished with choicest provision, such as made for feasts, when solemn sacrifices were offered, or when vows were paid, as the harlot, Proverbs 7:14,15.

Set mine incense: this assures us that idolatrous worship was acted by her in compliance with the Chaldeans, offered to their idols, and then feasted the idolaters, with what God had given her, when they confirmed their leagues, and swore by false gods.

Verse 42

A voice of a multitude; a shout for joy, that there was a treaty of peace between the Jews and the Chaldeans, or songs of gladness for the peace made, and confirmed, not in God’s name, but in the name of the idols.

Being at ease; free now from the fears of any wars to disquiet them.

Was with her; about the altar first, where the peace was sworn; about her bed next, where she feasted her new allies, that were great princes and nobles.

And with the men; and to these worthy the name of men, or beside these great and famous ones. Et avec ces hommes, as the French version.

Were brought Sabeans; messengers were sent to, or received, or entertained and caressed, from the roaring Sabeans, who lived on robberies, and spoiling the merchants; these were brought to Jerusalem from the wilderness, deserts of Arabia, a rude, barbarous, and idolatrous scum of men, described by their ill properties in geographers: of these were they that destroyed Job’s servants: in the verse described by their ornaments, bracelets about necks and arms, and crowns on their heads, which some think they bestowed upon this harlot.

Verse 43

Then said I after the manner of man God seems to stand musing, or saying to himself, or it may be supposed that God speaks to the prophet, asking him.

Unto her; or rather, of her, concerning her.

Old in adulteries, such usually are out of request with adulterers; and now Samaria and Jerusalem had been long spiritual adulteresses, and one would think her lovers would be weary of her, if she were not weary of them.

Verse 44

This resolves the doubt of the former verse. In this metaphor the prophet expresseth the confederacy of the Jews, against God’s express command, with the nations round about them. The Jews enter league with these robbers, and admit their idols, and so commit whoredom with them; and these Sabeans probably admit some of the Jews’ idols too, and so commit whoredom with her, expressed in the last words of the 43rd verse.

Verse 45

Righteous men; men that kept the law of their God, for some such there were about Aholibah herself; or prophets, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and some few more: or else the Babylonians, who in the present controversy between Jerusalem and its king on the one part, and Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians on the other part, were comparatively the righteous men.

After the manner of adulteresses; which was, to be put to death by stoning, Leviticus 20:10; and murder was punished with death.

Verse 46

A company; the Babylonian army.

Upon them; against the Jews, the children of this Aholibah.

Give them; the inhabitants of Judea, the citizens of Jerusalem, with princes and royal family.

To be removed; to be carried away captive into the land of Chaldea.

And spoiled, by the rapine of the soldiers in their own land, and by the cruelty of their masters to whom they shall be slaves in a strange land: this is the plain sense of the verse, though possibly there may be an allusion to the solemn proceedings of a court of judicature couched in the proper import of many of the Hebrew words.

Verse 47

The company, Heb. congregation, the Babylonian army.

Stone them; the punishment of an adulteress; and this was in a manner done when the engines, which cast mighty stones into the besieged city, dashed out the brains of some, and when chimneys, or walls, or towers, beat down by those stones cast out of the engines, fell on others, and buried them alive.

Despatch them with their swords: some of them who escaped the stones fell under the sword of the Babylonian soldier.

Slay their sons; either in fight, or when they break into the city, or light on them wandering on mountains, or hiding in dens and caves.

And their daughters; either in sacking the city, when they regard no sex, or because they choose to die rather than yield to the lust of those vile ones.

Burn up their houses; as the cities, and houses abroad in the country; so the Babylonish army destroyed what they could not carry away with them, as Ezekiel 23:25.

Verse 48

Cause lewdness to cease: see Ezekiel 23:27. Hereafter in this land such-like abominations shall never be committed more, as indeed we do not read of any such after their return out of this captivity.

That all women, countries, kingdoms, and cities, may be warned by your examples of sorrows and destruction, to fear God, do justly, love mercy, and hate violence.

Verse 49

They; the Babylonians, and their confederates.

Shall recompense; as God’s ministers of just vengeance, shall judge you worthy, and execute on you what you are worthy of, all that may make you desolate, a derision, and scorn.

Shall bear the sins of your idols; the guilt of the sins you committed in worshipping of and relying upon idols; and you shall bar the punishment of idolaters, which by the law of God is death without mercy, Deuteronomy 13:6-10.

Ye shall know that I am the Lord God; by what you suffer you shall know that I am justly displeased with your sins, am true to my threats, and have made good my word: Deuteronomy 8:19,

If thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, & c.,

ye shall surely perish.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.