Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
Eze 23:1-49. Israel's and Judah's Sin and Punishment Are Parabolically Portrayed under the Names Aholah and Aholibah.
The imagery is similar to that in the sixteenth chapter; but here the reference is not as there so much to the breach of the spiritual marriage covenant with God by the people's idolatries, as by their worldly spirit, and their trusting to alliances with the heathen for safety, rather than to God.
Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:
2. two … of one mother—Israel and Judah, one nation by birth from the same ancestress, Sarah.
And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.
3. Even so early in their history as their Egyptian sojourn, they committed idolatries (see on Eze 20:6-8; Joshua 24. 14).
in their youth—an aggravation of their sin. It was at the very time of their receiving extraordinary favors from God (Eze 16:6, 22).
they bruised—namely, the Egyptians.
And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.
4. Aholah—that is, "Her tent" (put for worship, as the first worship of God in Israel was in a tent or tabernacle), as contrasted with Aholibah, that is, "My tent in her." The Beth-el worship of Samaria was of her own devising, not of God's appointment; the temple-worship of Jerusalem was expressly appointed by Jehovah, who "dwelt" there, "setting up His tabernacle among the people as His" (Ex 25:8; Le 26:11, 12; Jos 22:19; Ps 76:2).
the elder—Samaria is called "the elder" because she preceded Judah in her apostasy and its punishment.
they were mine—Previous to apostasy under Jeroboam, Samaria (Israel, or the ten tribes), equally with Judah, worshipped the true God. God therefore never renounced the right over Israel, but sent prophets, as Elijah and Elisha, to declare His will to them.
And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours,
5. when … mine—literally, "under Me," that is, subject to Me as her lawful husband.
neighbours—On the northeast the kingdom of Israel bordered on that of Assyria; for the latter had occupied much of Syria. Their neighborhood in locality was emblematical of their being near in corruption of morals and worship. The alliances of Israel with Assyria, which are the chief subject of reprobation here, tended to this (2Ki 15:19; 16:7, 9; 17:3; Ho 8:9).
Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses.
6. blue—rather, "purple" [Fairbairn]. As a lustful woman's passions are fired by showy dress and youthful appearance in men, so Israel was seduced by the pomp and power of Assyria (compare Isa 10:8).
Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria, and with all on whom she doted: with all their idols she defiled herself.
7. all their idols—There was nothing that she refused to her lovers.
Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her.
8. whoredoms brought from Egypt—the calves set up in Dan and Beth-el by Jeroboam, answering to the Egyptian bull-formed idol Apis. Her alliances with Egypt politically are also meant (Isa 30:2, 3; 31:1). The ten tribes probably resumed the Egyptian rites, in order to enlist the Egyptians against Judah (2Ch 12:2-4).
Wherefore I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted.
9. God, in righteous retribution, turned their objects of trust into the instruments of their punishment: Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Esar-haddon, and Shalmaneser (2Ki 15:19, 29; 17:3, 6, 24; Ezr 4:2, 10). "It was their sin to have sought after such lovers, and it was to be their punishment that these lovers should become their destroyers" [Fairbairn].
These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became famous among women; for they had executed judgment upon her.
10. became famous—literally, "she became a name," that is, as notorious by her punishment as she had been by her sins, so as to be quoted as a warning to others.
women—that is, neighboring peoples.
And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms.
11. Judah, the southern kingdom, though having the "warning" (see on Eze 23:10) of the northern kingdom before her eyes, instead of profiting by it, went to even greater lengths in corruption than Israel. Her greater spiritual privileges made her guilt the greater (Eze 16:47, 51; Jer 3:11).
She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men.
12. (Eze 23:6, 23).
most gorgeously—literally, "to perfection." Grotius translates, "wearing a crown," or "chaplet," such as lovers wore in visiting their mistresses.
Then I saw that she was defiled, that they took both one way,
13. one way—both alike forsaking God for heathen confidences.
And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men pourtrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans pourtrayed with vermilion,
14. vermilion—the peculiar color of the Chaldeans, as purple was of the Assyrians. In striking agreement with this verse is the fact that the Assyrian sculptures lately discovered have painted and colored bas-reliefs in red, blue, and black. The Jews (for instance Jehoiakim, Jer 22:14) copied these (compare Eze 8:10).
Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity:
15. exceeding in dyed attire—rather, "in ample dyed turbans"; literally, "redundant with dyed turbans." The Assyrians delighted in ample, flowing, and richly colored tunics, scarfs, girdles, and head-dresses or turbans, varying in ornaments according to the rank.
Chaldea, … land of their nativity—between the Black and Caspian Seas (see on Isa 23:13).
princes—literally, a first-rate military class that fought by threes in the chariots, one guiding the horses, the other two fighting.
And as soon as she saw them with her eyes, she doted upon them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea.
16. sent messengers … into Chaldea—(Eze 16:29). It was she that solicited the Chaldeans, not they her. Probably the occasion was when Judah sought to strengthen herself by a Chaldean alliance against a menaced attack by Egypt (compare 2Ki 23:29-35; 24:1-7). God made the object of their sinful desire the instrument of their punishment. Jehoiakim, probably by a stipulation of tribute, enlisted Nebuchadnezzar against Pharaoh, whose tributary he previously had been; failing to keep his stipulation, he brought on himself Nebuchadnezzar's vengeance.
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 mind was alienated from them.
17. alienated from them—namely, from the Chaldeans: turning again to the Egyptians (Eze 23:19), trying by their help to throw off her solemn engagements to Babylon (compare Jer 37:5, 7; 2Ki 24:7).
So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.
18. my mind was alienated from her—literally, "was broken off from her." Just retribution for "her mind being alienated (broken off) from the Chaldeans" (Eze 23:17), to whom she had sworn fealty (Eze 17:12-19). "Discovered" implies the open shamelessness of her apostasy.
Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
19. Israel first "called" her lusts, practised when in Egypt, "to her (fond) remembrance," and then actually returned to them. Mark the danger of suffering the memory to dwell on the pleasure felt in past sins.
For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.
20. their paramours—that is, her paramours among them (the Egyptians); she doted upon their persons as her paramours (Eze 23:5, 12, 16).
flesh—the membrum virile (very large in the ass). Compare Le 15:2, Margin; Eze 16:26.
issue of horses—the seminal issue. The horse was made by the Egyptians the hieroglyphic for a lustful person.
Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising thy teats by the Egyptians for the paps of thy youth.
21. calledst to remembrance—"didst repeat" [Maurer].
in bruising—in suffering … to be bruised.
Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side;
22. lovers … alienated—(Eze 23:17). Illicit love, soon or late, ends in open hatred (2Sa 13:15). The Babylonians, the objects formerly of their God-forgetting love, but now, with characteristic fickleness, objects of their hatred, shall be made by God the instruments of their punishment.
The Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, 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.
23. Pekod, &c.—(Jer 50:21). Not a geographical name, but descriptive of Babylon. "Visitation," peculiarly the land of "judgment"; in a double sense: actively, the inflicter of judgment on Judah; passively, as about to be afterwards herself the object of judgment.
Shoa … Koa—"rich … noble"; descriptive of Babylon in her prosperity, having all the world's wealth and dignity at her disposal. Maurer suggests that, as descriptive appellatives are subjoined to the proper name, "all the Assyrians" in the second hemistich of the verse (as the verse ought to be divided at "Koa"), so Pekod, Shoa, and Koa must be appellatives descriptive of "The Babylonians and … Chaldeans" in the first hemistich; "Pekod" meaning "prefects"; Shoa … Koa, "rich … princely."
desirable young men—strong irony. Alluding to Eze 23:12, these "desirable young men" whom thou didst so "dote upon" for their manly vigor of appearance, shall by that very vigor be the better able to chastise thee.
And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments.
24. with chariots—or, "with armaments"; so the Septuagint; "axes" [Maurer]; or, joining it with "wagons," translate, "with scythe-armed wagons," or "chariots" [Grotius].
wheels—The unusual height of these increased their formidable appearance (Eze 1:16-20).
their judgments—which awarded barbarously severe punishments (Jer 52:9; 29:22).
And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire.
25. take away thy nose … ears—Adulteresses were punished so among the Egyptians and Chaldeans. Oriental beauties wore ornaments in the ear and nose. How just the retribution, that the features most bejewelled should be mutilated! So, allegorically as to Judah, the spiritual adulteress.
They shall also strip thee out of thy clothes, and take away thy fair jewels.
26. strip … of … clothes—whereby she attracted her paramours (Eze 16:39).
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.
27. Thus … make … lewdness to cease—The captivity has made the Jews ever since abhor idolatry, not only on their return from Babylon, but for the last eighteen centuries of their dispersion, as foretold (Ho 3:4).
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy mind is alienated:
28. (Eze 23:17, 18; 16:37).
And they shall deal with thee hatefully, and shall take away all thy labour, and shall leave thee naked and bare: and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.
29. take away … thy labour—that is, the fruits of thy labor.
leave thee naked—as captive females are treated.
I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols.
Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.
31. her cup—of punishment (Ps 11:6; 75:8; Jer 25:15, &c.). Thy guilt and that of Israel being alike, your punishment shall be alike.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup 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 suck it out, and thou shalt break the sherds thereof, and pluck off thine own breasts: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
34. break … sherds—So greedily shalt thou suck out every drop like one drinking to madness (the effect invariably ascribed to drinking God's cup of wrath, Jer 51:7; Hab 2:16) that thou shalt crunch the very shreds of it; that is, there shall be no evil left which thou shalt not taste.
pluck off thine own breasts—enraged against them as the ministers to thine adultery.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.
35. forgotten me—the root of all sin (Jer 2:32; 13:25).
cast me behind thy back—(1Ki 14:9; Ne 9:26).
bear … thy lewdness—that is, its penal consequences (Pr 1:31).
The LORD said moreover unto me; Son of man, wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah? yea, declare unto them their abominations;
36-44. A summing up of the sins of the two sisters, especially those of Judah.
wilt thou judge—Wilt thou (not) judge (see on Eze 20:4)?
That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them.
Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths.
38. the same day—On the very day that they had burned their children to Molech in the valley of Gehenna, they shamelessly and hypocritically presented themselves as worshippers in Jehovah's temple (Jer 7:9, 10).
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 mine house.
And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments,
40. messenger was sent—namely, by Judah (Eze 23:16; Isa 57:9).
paintedst … eyes—(2Ki 9:30, Margin; Jer 4:30). Black paint was spread on the eyelids of beauties to make the white of the eye more attractive by the contrast, so Judah left no seductive art untried.
And satest upon a stately bed, and a table prepared before it, whereupon thou hast set mine incense and mine oil.
41. bed—divan. While men reclined at table, women sat, as it seemed indelicate for them to lie down (Am 6:4) [Grotius].
table—that is, the idolatrous altar.
mine incense—which I had given thee, and which thou oughtest to have offered to Me (Eze 16:18, 19; Ho 2:8; compare Pr 7:17).
And a voice of a multitude being at ease was with her: and with the men of the common sort were brought Sabeans from the wilderness, which put bracelets upon their hands, and beautiful crowns upon their heads.
42. Sabeans—Not content with the princely, handsome Assyrians, the sisters brought to themselves the rude robber hordes of Sabeans (Job 1:15). The Keri, or Margin, reads "drunkards."
upon their hands—upon the hands of the sisters, that is, they allured Samaria and Judah to worship their gods.
Then said I unto her that was old in adulteries, Will they now commit whoredoms with her, and she with them?
43. Will they, &c.—Is it possible that paramours will desire any longer to commit whoredoms with so worn-out an old adulteress?
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.
And the righteous men, they shall judge them after the manner of adulteresses, and after the manner of women that shed blood; because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands.
45. the righteous men—the Chaldeans; the executioners of God's righteous vengeance (Eze 16:38), not that they were "righteous" in themselves (Hab 1:3, 12, 13).
For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will bring up a company upon them, and will give them to be removed and spoiled.
46. a company—properly, "a council of judges" passing sentence on a criminal [Grotius]. The "removal" and "spoiling" by the Chaldean army is the execution of the judicial sentence of God.
And the company shall stone them with stones, and dispatch them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire.
47. stones—the legal penalty of the adulteress (Eze 16:40, 41; Joh 8:5). Answering to the stones hurled by the Babylonians from engines in besieging Jerusalem.
houses … fire—fulfilled (2Ch 36:17, 19).
Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness.
48. (Eze 23:27).
that all … may be taught not to do, &c.—(De 13:11).
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 GOD.
49. bear the sins of your idols—that is, the punishment of your idolatry.
know that I am the Lord God—that is, know it to your cost … by bitter suffering.