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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 23

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3412. B.C. 592.

In this long chapter, as in chap. 16. and 20., we have a history of the apostacies of God’s professing people from him, and the aggravations of those apostacies, under the similitude of whoredom and adultery: the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, of the ten tribes, and the two, with their capital cities, Samaria and Jerusalem, are considered distinctly. We have,

(1,) The apostacy of Israel and Samaria from God, Ezekiel 23:1-8 : and their ruin for it, Ezekiel 23:9 , Ezekiel 23:10 .

(2,) The apostacy of Judah and Jerusalem from God, Ezekiel 23:11-21 : and sentence passed upon them, that they shall in like manner be destroyed for it, Ezekiel 23:22-35 .

(3,) The joint wickedness of them both together, Ezekiel 23:36-44 : and the joint ruin of them both, Ezekiel 23:45-49 .

Verses 2-3

Ezekiel 23:2-3. There were two women, daughters of one mother Judah and Israel, two kingdoms. “Countries are commonly represented as mothers of their people, and the inhabitants as their children: so the daughters of Syria signify the inhabitants of that country, Ezekiel 16:57. Thus Samaria and Jerusalem are described in this chapter as sisters, the offspring of the same land, or country.” And they committed whoredoms in Egypt The Israelites first learned idolatry in Egypt, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were wholly free from it. They committed whoredoms in their youth The time when the Israelites were in Egypt, or were lately departed out of it, is called their youth in the prophets, because that was the time when God first owned them for his people. There were their breasts pressed “There they served idols, and there they corrupted their ways,” as the Chaldee paraphrase expresses the sense. The reader must observe, “The style of this chapter, like that of chap. 16., is adapted to persons among whom, at that time, no refinement subsisted. Large allowance must be made for language addressed to an ancient eastern people, in the worst period of their history; all whose ideas were sensual; and whose grand inducement to idolatry seems to have been the brutal impurities which it encouraged.” Bishop Newcome. The Scripture commonly calls idolatrous churches and nations by the name of harlots: and in like manner honours those, who preserve their allegiance to God pure and undefiled, with the title of chaste wives, or virgins.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 23:4 . The names of them were Aholah and Aholibah “The word Aholah signifies, Her tent, or tabernacle: Aholibah denotes, My tent, or tabernacle, is in her. These two different appellations imply that Samaria had indeed a tabernacle, or place for public worship, but of her own devising; namely, the cities of Dan and Bethel, where the golden calves were set up; whereas God’s tabernacle first, and afterward his temple, was placed in Jerusalem. He placed his name there, or chose it for the place of his peculiar residence,” 1 Kings 8:29. Aholah, or Samaria, is here called the elder sister, as having the greatest dominion, power, wealth, and number of people belonging to her, ten tribes out of twelve being under her jurisdiction. And they were mine By a solemn marriage covenant. And they bare sons and daughters Were fruitful, and brought forth children to me: they increased in number of people, and among these there were some that were my spiritual children by adoption and grace, by faith, love, and obedience.

Verses 5-6

Ezekiel 23:5-6. And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine When she was under my government and protection. “After she had lived in covenant with me, and attended upon my service and worship all the time of the judges, and of David and Solomon, she fell off from my service, and was the first that established idolatry by a law, and consented to Jeroboam’s wicked device of setting up the golden calves.” In the Scripture language, the Jewish people are said to play the harlot with those whose religious ceremonies they imitated. And she doted on her lovers That is, her foreign allies, whose idolatries she was fond of, and hoped by that means to procure their friendship and assistance: see note on Ezekiel 16:33; Ezekiel 16:37. On the Assyrians her neighbours The king of Assyria was a very potent prince, and thereupon his alliance was courted both by the kings of Israel and Judah: see the margin. Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers “As women are apt to fall in love with comely young men, well mounted and richly clothed; so the Israelites were enamoured with the state and bravery of the Assyrians, and thought themselves secure if they could but procure their alliance and friendship, and in order to it embraced their idolatries. Horsemen riding upon horses Horses were scarce in Judea, which made the Jews apply themselves to the neighbouring counties for troops of horse, in the time of any hostile invasion.” Lowth.

Verses 7-10

Ezekiel 23:7-10. Thus she committed whoredoms with them She defiled herself with idols, as the sense is more plainly expressed at the end of the verse. Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt She added new idolatries to those she had formerly committed: see Ezekiel 23:3. Wherefore I delivered her into the hand of her lovers God made these very Assyrians the executioners of his judgments upon the ten tribes, many of them being carried away captive by Pul, king of Assyria, afterward by Tiglath-pileser, and at length the whole country was subdued and depopulated by Shalmaneser: see the margin. The kings of Babylon were likewise styled kings of Assyria, 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 33:11. Lovers mean the same with allies; those whose friendship and assistance the Jews courted, by complying with them in their idolatries, Ezekiel 16:37. These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters These stripped her of every thing, and carried her and her children away captive: see the margin, and Ezekiel 23:29. And slew her with the sword Those that were not led captive were slain in the field of battle, or in the siege of Samaria, 2 Kings 17:5. And she became famous among women The Hebrew reads, She became a nation among women: as she had been formerly renowned among the heathen for her beauty, (Ezekiel 16:14,) so now she was everywhere talked of as a remarkable instance of God’s vengeance, and set forth for an example to other cities and nations, to deter them from the like abominations.

Verses 11-12

Ezekiel 23:11-12. When her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt Jerusalem was so far from taking warning by the judgments inflicted on Samaria, that she advanced to greater degrees of idolatry. She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours Ahaz, king of Judah, entered into a confederacy with the king of Assyria, hoping for relief from his power and the bravery of his army, and worshipped the idols which the Assyrians worshipped, in order to ingratiate himself with them. See the margin.

Verses 13-16

Ezekiel 23:13-16. Then When she neither took warning nor feared; I saw that she was defiled That her heart was already set on her idols; that they both Samaria and Jerusalem; took one way That Judah fell into the same idolatrous practices as Israel. And that she increased her whoredoms Added to the number of her idolatries; for when she saw men portrayed, &c. These were probably the pictures of those deified heroes, whom the Chaldeans worshipped as gods; such were Bel, Nebo, and Merodach, mentioned Isaiah 46:1; Jeremiah 50:2. Calmet, however, understands the words in a different sense, paraphrasing them thus: “Before she had seen the Assyrians, upon the bare relation concerning them, or upon the painting only which was made of them, her passion was inflamed toward them.” Girded with girdles upon their loins A girdle was a mark of dignity, and worn as such by princes and men in authority. In died attire upon their heads Houbigant reads, Having their heads bound with a died tiara, or turban. The Chaldeans, and afterward the Persians, wore a sort of turban upon their heads, died of different colours, and with different degrees of ornaments, according to their different qualities. As soon as she saw them, she doted upon them These images pleased her so much, that she sent to Babylon to learn the manner how their idols were to be worshipped: see Ezekiel 23:40-41; Ezekiel 16:17. This, Lowth thinks, relates to those times when a correspondence was maintained between the cities of Babylon and Jerusalem, after that Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Judea, and made it a tributary kingdom, in the beginning of the fourth year of Jehoiakim.

Verses 17-20

Ezekiel 23:17-20. And the Babylonians came to her, &c. The metaphor of representing idolatry by the inordinate lust of adultery is still carried on. And her mind was alienated from them She quickly grew weary of these also, as lewd women are of their former gallants, and look out for new ones. She broke her league and covenant with them, as St. Jerome very well expresses the sense; meaning that covenant which Jehoiakim made with Nebuchadnezzar to be his tributary, and which was afterward renewed by Zedekiah. So she discovered, or, after she discovered, her whoredoms The sense being still continued with the foregoing verse. The meaning is, She was open and notorious in her lewd practices, and in the highest degree shameless. Then my mind was alienated from her As she, by her idolatries, had broken all the bonds of duty and allegiance whereby she was engaged to me, a sin often compared to a wife’s disloyalty toward her husband, so I withdrew my love and affection from her, and resolved to give her a bill of divorce, as the Prophet Jeremiah expresses it, and not own her any more as mine, as I had cast off her sister Samaria. Yet she multiplied, &c. Though she was fond of new idolatries, she did not forget her old ones, even those which she had learned in Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours Upon the idols of Egypt, and the impure rites which accompanied their idolatrous worship. This may relate to the time when Zedekiah entered into a new confederacy with Egypt, which made the people fond of admitting the Egyptian idolatries. Whose flesh, &c. These expressions seem to be made use of, to signify the excess of the Egyptian idolatry. They may likewise metaphorically express the great power and riches of the Egyptians, which made the Jewish people fond of courting their friendship and alliance.

Verses 22-24

Ezekiel 23:22-24. I will raise up thy lovers against thee, &c. I will execute my judgments upon thee, by those very Babylonians whose alliance and idolatries thou hast been so fond of, but since hast broken the league thou madest with them, contracting a new one with Egypt, and thereby hast provoked them to revenge thy perfidiousness. Pekod, and Koa, and Shoa, and all the Assyrians with them The inhabitants of the several provinces of the Babylonish monarchy; for most of the ancients understand these words as names of places. Pekod is mentioned as a province of Babylon, Jeremiah 50:21. St. Jerome, however, upon the place, understands these three words, Pekod, Shoa, and Koa, in an appellative sense, to denote so many titles, or degrees of honour; as much as to say, governors, princes, and great men. In which sense the two former words, Pekod (or Pakud) and Shoa, are confessedly taken in Scripture. All of them desirable young men, &c. As their riches and bravery made them appear amiable in your eyes when you first courted their alliance, so they shall appear in the same splendid equipage when they come to invade your country and to besiege your city; but then their gallant appearance shall strike a terror and a consternation into you. And they shall come against thee with chariots, &c. Chariots are mentioned, both by sacred and profane writers, as of principal use in the ancient way of fighting. And I will set judgment before them, &c. I will deliver thee into their power, as the ministers of my justice, who shall make thy punishments bear a correspondence with thy guilt.

Verses 25-27

Ezekiel 23:25-27. I will set my jealousy against thee, &c. I will be against thee, as a jealous man is against his wife; and they shall deal furiously And they, as the executioners of my wrath, shall act toward thee as persons provoked to great fury. And they shall take away thy nose, &c. A punishment of adultery which rage sometimes dictated. As husbands in that case render those women deformed whose beauty hath been too pleasing to strangers, so shall the Chaldeans deface all the glories and ornaments of Jerusalem, and after they have slain and carried captive its inhabitants, shall set the city on fire, and reduce it to a heap of ashes. The mutilations mentioned in this verse were common among the Chaldeans. St. Jerome assures us, that they frequently cut off the nose and the ears of adulterers. And this was practised toward adulteresses in Egypt. They shall also strip thee, &c. As lewd, disgraced harlots and captives were used chap. Ezekiel 16:39. And take away thy fair jewels All thy rich, beautiful ornaments, which shall be a prey to the enemy. Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease “These severe judgments shall effectually deter thee from idolatry, and make thee abhor the least approaches toward it. Accordingly we find that after the captivity the Jews never returned to their former idolatrous practices.” Lowth. And thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt Thy idolatries which thou broughtest with thee from Egypt, where thou didst first learn idolatry, and ever hast had an inclination to it.

Verses 28-30

Ezekiel 23:28-30. Behold, I will deliver thee, &c. I will give thee up into the power of the Chaldeans, whom thou wast formerly fond of, Ezekiel 23:22; but since thou hast broken thy league and friendship with them, thy love is turned into hatred: see Ezekiel 23:17. They shall deal with thee hatefully, &c. As thou hast changed thy friendship for them into enmity, so shall they deal with thee; their hatred against thee shall be greater than their former love toward thee. This shall prompt them to take a full revenge upon thy perfidiousness, to consume all the fruits of thy labours, and to take away all the wealth thou hast gathered by thine industry. Thy whoredoms shall be discovered All thy foul and shameful deeds shall be brought to light. I will do these things, because thou hast gone a whoring, &c. I will cause all these things to be done unto thee by the Babylonians, who are the executioners of my anger.

Verses 31-35

Ezekiel 23:31-35. Therefore will I give her cup, &c. I will make thee drink the same bitter draught, or experience the same calamity that has fallen upon her. God’s judgments are often compared to a cup of intoxicating liquors, because they astonish men, and bereave them of common judgment and discretion, and likewise expose them to the scorn and contempt of their enemies. Thou shalt even drink it and suck it out There shall be no punishment which thou shalt not partake of. Thou shalt drink of the cup of calamity even to the dregs; that which is the very worst and most bitter: see notes on Psalms 75:8. and Isaiah 51:17. Thou shalt break the sherds thereof People who are quite intoxicated, often in their drunken madness break the cups out of which they had drunk; therefore by this expression here is meant, that the Jewish people should be, as it were, driven to madness by the grievous judgments that should fall upon them. And pluck off thine own breasts “Thou shalt tear away thy breasts with the sharp pieces of the broken cup, through grief and madness.” Bishop Newcome. Or, Thou shalt be in a fury with thyself for having by thine own sins brought such grievous calamities upon thyself. Her breasts are mentioned as the parts which had a principal share in her guilt, according to the allegorical description here given of her idolatries. Because thou hast forgotten me Because thou hast not only forsaken my worship, but hast showed the utmost contempt of and aversion from me. Therefore bear thou also thy lewdness Therefore thou shalt suffer the punishment of thy wickedness and idolatry.

Verses 36-39

Ezekiel 23:36-39. Wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah That is, Samaria and Jerusalem? The meaning is, Wilt thou not judge, or, Wilt thou not condemn them? That they have committed adultery, and blood is, &c. That they have been guilty of the heinous sins of murder and adultery; and have also caused their sons, &c. Have caused their children, who of right belonged to me, and who ought to have been bred up to be my worshippers, to be burned in the fire, by way of sacrifice in honour to false gods. They have defiled my sanctuary in the same day They have also come directly from these idolatrous and abominable rites and sacrifices into my temple, as though they could worship me acceptably when they were thus horribly polluted. And have profaned my sabbaths Have spent the sabbaths, which I appointed to be observed to my honour alone, in the service and to the honour of idols. Or, they profaned them by coming into God’s courts to observe them, immediately after they had defiled themselves by their idolatrous and horrid ceremonies. For when they had slain their children to their idols To my great dishonour, and the reproach of the human nature; then they came into my sanctuary With their hands imbrued, and their clothes stained with their children’s blood, to present themselves before me; expecting acceptance with me notwithstanding their villanies, as if I either did not know their wickedness, or did not hate it. And lo, thus have they done in the midst of my house In the inward part of my temple. Some expound the words, of their setting up idols in the very temple, and worshipping them there.

Verses 40-42

Ezekiel 23:40-42. And furthermore, ye have sent for men to come from far, &c. Here the same thing which was spoken of in the former part of the chapter, is mentioned again in other words, namely, their courting the alliances of foreign nations, by complying with their idolatries: and this is set forth under the representation of the several arts which harlots used to recommend themselves to new lovers: compare Isaiah 57:7; Isaiah 57:9. For whom thou didst wash thyself A custom generally practised by women in those countries, before they entertained their lovers. Paintedst thy eyes It seems to have been their fashion in those days to draw strokes about their eyes, or to colour their eye-brows with black lead. And sattest upon a stately bed Here the custom of sitting or lying upon beds, at the feasts made in honour of idols, or false gods, seems to be particularly spoken of, as may be inferred from the following words: whereupon thou hast set mine incense and mine oil That is, whereupon thou hast offered up to idols that incense and oil which ought to have been offered up to me. It was usual, after a sacrifice to idols, for a table well spread to be placed before a couch, and a feast to be partaken of. The lectisternia of the Romans were borrowed from this eastern idolatrous rite, Livy, 5. 13. Houbigant thinks, that by the table here spoken of is meant the altar which Ahaz erected, after the similitude of that which he had seen at Damascus. And a voice of a multitude, &c. The noise of festivity, and of people assembled together in jollity, was heard all around. It seems their loose mirth, at their meetings in honour of some of their idols, is here particularly meant. And with the men of the common sort were brought Sabeans, &c. The prophet proceeds in comparing the idolatries of the Jews to the practices of lewd women, who prostitute themselves to all comers, even those of the meanest condition. Such were the Sabeans that came from the wilderness, that is, from Arabia, called the desert, where dwelt the posterity of Seba, mentioned Genesis 10:7. Which put bracelets upon their hands, &c. That is, upon the hands and heads of these two lewd women, Aholah and Aholibah. Bracelets and crowns were ornaments proper for brides, and were likewise presented by lovers to their mistresses: and therefore this may signify the compliance of the Jewish people with the grossest idolatries. Or the meaning may be, that Aholah and Aholibah, the inhabitants of Samaria and Jerusalem, put bracelets upon the hands, and beautiful crowns upon the heads, of such worthless idolaters as the Sabeans of the wilderness were; that is, courted their friendship and alliance with gifts.

Verses 43-44

Ezekiel 23:43-44. Then I said unto her that was grown old in adulteries Aholibah, who had been long idolatrous. The words import that experience might, before this time, have sufficiently convinced her of the folly of her ways. Will they now commit whoredoms with her? God is here represented as waiting to see whether that mutability, which is natural to the human race, would not occasion a difference between the Jewish people and their idolatrous allies, and make them grow weary of one another. Yet they went in unto her, &c. Both Samaria and Jerusalem continued to defile themselves with the idolatries of all the heathen round about them: compare Ezekiel 23:7; Ezekiel 23:17.

Verses 45-49

Ezekiel 23:45-49. And the righteous men, they shall judge them All just judges, yea, all men that have any sense of common honesty, will condemn their conduct, and pronounce them deserving of the punishment of adulteresses and murderers. Or, as others interpret the words, “As upright magistrates used to condemn and execute judgment upon adulterers and murderers, so did the prophets, in the name of God, denounce sentence against Jerusalem and Samaria; and even the heathen princes, who executed the sentence, were more righteous than the apostate sufferers.” Scott. I will bring a company upon them, &c. This is spoken of the Babylonians, who were to plunder and carry away a great part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And the company shall stone them with stones, and despatch them with swords Stoning was the punishment of adulterers, and putting to death with the sword that of murderers. The Babylonian army might be properly said to be the executioners of both these punishments upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as, without doubt, they killed many of them during the siege by the stones they cast from their engines, and slew many by the sword when they took the city by assault. Thus will I cause lewdness to cease, &c. Thus will I put an end to idolatry in the Jewish nation. That all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness That is, that all nations may dread defiling themselves with the guilt of your idolatries. For as the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are here described as two women, therefore, by all women here must be meant all nations. And ye shall bear the sins of your idols Ye shall bear the punishment due to your sins of idolatry. To bear sin, or iniquity, is an expression often used in the Scriptures to signify undergoing the punishment due to it.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezekiel-23.html. 1857.
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