For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

23:1.  “The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,”


23:2.  “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:”


The “one mother” is taken by most exegetes to have been Sarah, who is generally regarded as the mother from whom the nation is descended.


23:3.  “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.”


23:4.  “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.


The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states that “Samaria is called the elder because she preceded Judah in her apostasy and its punishment.”


Aholah, meaning her own tent; and Aholibah, my tent is in her, are used here as figures or types of Samaria and Judah respectively.  The association of their names with a tent speaks symbolically of the fact that they ought to have exhibited conduct becoming God’s people as pilgrims and strangers on the earth, but sadly what each did display instead was the reprehensible character of a harlot.


Aholibah’s name meaning my tent is in her is particularly appropriate to her as the symbolic representative of Judah, God’s tent (Temple) being in Jerusalem which was in Judah.


Aholah, meaning her own tent, is also appropriate to her as the symbolic representative of Samaria, in which Jeroboam had set up its own centers of worship with a golden calf in Bethel and another in Dan, see 1 Ki 12:28-30


“... and they are mine.”  In spite of what they had become, God still owned them as His own.  Their being “the daughters of one mother” may, as already suggested, refer to their descent from Sarah; or in the present context may be the symbolic announcement that they were the two parts into which the mother nation had been divided in the days of Jeroboam when he set up the idol calves at Dan and Bethel, and led the ten northern tribes to worship there, while Judah and Benjamin continued to worship in Jerusalem.


Their having been guilty of spiritual harlotry when they were bondslaves in Egypt, informs us that even then Israel had practiced idolatry; and their having borne sons and daughters tells us of their multiplication while in Egypt.

                                                                 23:5.  “And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on (was infatuated with) her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbors,”


23:6.  “Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses.”


This is the symbolic announcement of the fact that Samaria, instead of looking to God for protection, had foolishly turned her eyes toward Assyria, and had formed an alliance with that nation.  The meretricious grandeur ascribed here to those with whom Aholah was so enamored declares that Israel was blinded by the seeming greatness of Assyria, and forgetful of the omnipotence of her true Benefactor, Jehovah.


23:7.  “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.”


Israel’s alliance with Assyria led to her adoption of their gods, and her giving to their idols the worship that belonged only to Jehovah, thus defiling herself in His sight.


23:8.  “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 whoredoms upon her.”


Israel’s idolatry hadn’t begun with her Assyrian alliance: it went back to the days of her Egyptian enslavement, when she was, metaphorically speaking, a young girl.  It was then in the days of her national youth that she had manifested her proclivity for idolatry, giving herself with wanton abandon to all the sexual evil associated with it.


23:9.  “Wherefore I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, upon whom she doted.”


23:10.  “These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became famous (notorious) among women; for they had executed judgment upon her.


Because Israel had abandoned Him and put her trust in the Assyrians, God abandoned her to reap the results of her folly, with the result that the very nation she relied upon for protection became her destroyer, capturing her in 722 BC.


23:11.  “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.”


23:12.  “She doted upon (was infatuated with) the Assyrians her neighbors, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men.”


It might have been expected that Judah would have profited by the judgment that overtook Israel (the ten northern tribes) at the hand of Assyria, but she didn’t, and as a consequence was taken captive by Babylon in 586 BC, Harran, last stronghold of Assyria, having fallen to Babylon in 609 BC, bringing Assyria’s existence to an end.


23:13.  “Then I saw that she was defiled, that they took both one way,”


Israel and Judah had both pursued the same path of folly.  Having failed to walk with God in trusting obedience, they had aped the idolatrous ways of their heathen neighbors, thus defiling themselves, Israel making an alliance with Assyria; and Judah, with Babylon, only to become  captives of the very nations in whom they had trusted for protection.


23:14.  “And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion,”


23:15.  “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:”


23:16.  “And as soon as she saw them with her eyes, she doted upon (was infatuated with) them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea.”


Having seen pictures of the Chaldeans (Babylonians), and undoubtedly also having heard of their conquests, foolish Israel, awed by outward appearances, was just as infatuated with them as she had been with the Assyrians, and had hurried to seek an alliance with them. (Chaldea, incidentally, was the land of their origin; Babylon, the land of their then existing empire).


23:17.  “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.”


The Babylonians’ coming to Israel “into the bed of love” is a poetical way of saying that the early relations between the two were marked by seeming goodwill and friendship; and their defiling her “with their whoredom” is another way of saying that by worshiping the Babylonian gods Israel polluted (defiled) herself.  The alienation of her mind from them refers to Israel’s soon becoming aware that Babylon was not a lover, but a tyrannical taskmaster.


23:18.  “So she discovered (uncovered) her whoredoms, and discovered (uncovered) her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.”


The first clause of this verse means that Judah reveled in idolatry just as had Israel; and the second clause, that she was shameless relative to her spiritual harlotry, making no attempt to hide it.


Confronted with her brazen idolatry, God turned from her in disgust as He had from her sister Israel.


23:19.  “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.”


Not only did she worship the gods of her heathen neighbors, but she continued to worship the idols before which she had bowed in Egypt.


23:20.  “For she doted (was infatuated with) their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.”


This refers to the gross sexual indulgences that were part of Egypt’s idolatrous worship, the “paramours” being the male prostitutes (selected for their sexual prowess) available for hire in all the heathen temples.


23:21.  “Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising thy teats by the Egyptians for the paps of thy youth.”


Judah yearned for the gross immorality that was an integral part of Egypt’s idolatrous worship.


23:22.  “Therefore, O Aholibah (Judah), 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;”


Aholibah was Judah, and the lovers were the Babylonians with whom she had become disillusioned and disgusted, having found them to be tyrannous taskmasters rather than lovers.  God was going to bring them against her to destroy her.


23:23.  “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.”


Pekod, Shoa, and Koa are thought to have been Aramaens from an area near the mouth of the Tigris river, and are only a few of the many who would join Babylon in destroying Judah, all of them being those to whom foolish Judah had looked for protection instead of to Jehovah.


23:24.  “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.”


“... wheels” in the present context means “with whirling clouds of dust” created by the countless horses, chariots, and wagons; and buckler refers to a small shield carried on the arm, or, according to others, a pointed hook at the end of a staff.


What is said here concerning judgment means that God was leaving Judah’s attackers to judge her according to their own standard of judgment, thus matching the punishment with the crime.  As Judah had depended on them to protect her, so now would she have to submit to their judgment of her wickedness.


23:25.  “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.”


Having aroused God’s jealous anger, Judah must suffer the consequences.  The Babylonians were notoriously cruel, one of their barbarous practices being to cut off the noses and ears of their captives.  It was also the punishment they inflicted on an adulteress, her mutilation making her undesirable to anyone else, and both Israel and Judah were spiritual adulteresses; but God would see to it that no other nation would want to have anything to do with them.  Their taking Judah’s sons and daughters is generally understood to mean that they would take them as slaves; and with reference to the residue being devoured by the fire, it is unclear whether they would be burned to death by the Babylonians, or would perish in the flames of the burning city.


23:26.  “They shall also strip thee out of thy clothes, and take away thy fair jewels.”


Nakedness was another ignominy to be suffered by the captives in addition to their being despoiled of their jewels and ornaments.


23:27.  “Thus will I make thy lewdness (debauchery) 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.”


The terrible judgments they would suffer at the hand of the Babylonians would end the sexual immorality that accompanied their idolatrous worship; nor would they ever again be guilty of idolatry.  All the vile practices learnt in Egypt would cease, and it is instructive to consider that since the Babylonian captivity Israel has never been guilty of idolatry.


23:28.  “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:”


The Babylonians with whom Judah had once been infatuated, but now hated, were they into whose hand God was about to deliver her, two Babylonian deportations of Israelites having already occurred, one in 606 BC, the second in 598 BC, and the third about to take place in 586 BC.


23:29.  “And they shall deal with thee hatefully, and shall take away all thy labor, and shall leave thee naked and bare:”


Impelled by deep hatred of Judah’s treachery, Babylon would seize everything of value, and leave her destitute.


23:30.  “And the nakedness (shame) of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.  I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols.”


God would expose the shame of Judah’s idolatry, as well as all the vile sexual practices that accompanied that so-called worship, because she had run eagerly to ape the ways of her heathen neighbors, and had polluted (defiled) herself by worshiping their idols.


23:31.  “Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.”


Israel, Judah’s equally vile sister, in whose steps she had walked, was languishing in captivity in Assyria, to which she had been carried in 722 BC, and God was now about to inflict the same punishment upon Judah, using Babylon rather than the then fallen Assyria as His instrument.  She too would drink the “cup” of captivity in an alien land.


23:32.  “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.”


The same cup which God had caused Israel to drink, He would now compel her equally evil sister Judah to drain.  It was a dreadful cup, deep, wide, and overflowing with His fury, and the scorn and derision of the nations - and Judah, by her wicked folly was the one who herself had filled it!


And so is it still.  Every man is filling the cup he will one day have to drink from eternally: the unbeliever filling his cup with a measure of eternal punishment proportionate to the evil of his life, and to be drunk eternally in the torment of the lake of fire; the believer putting into his cup what will prove worthy of reward at the judgment seat of Christ, the regret of most of us being that we added to the contents with such a reluctant, niggardly hand.


23:33.  “Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria.”


The cup to be drunk eternally by that wicked generation of Judah would be one of horror, desolation, grief, ruin, pain, sorrow and consternation.  A similar cup will be drunk eternally by every man who dies without having trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.


23:34.  “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.”


God would compel them to drain that cup to the very last bitter drop, their misery being so great that metaphorically speaking, they would tear off their own breasts.


23:35.  “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.”


Because they had rejected God they must then suffer the consequences of their filthy living and idolatry.  Instead of being the recipients of His blessing, they were about to become the objects of His fierce anger, and suffer the punishment due to their wickedness.


23:36.  “The Lord said moreover unto me; Son of man, wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah? yea, declare unto them their abominations (filthy crimes).”


This is less a question of whether Ezekiel would pass judgment on Judah, than of the fact that he would pass judgment as he rehearsed in their ears all the filthy crimes they had committed in brazen defiance of God.


23:37.  “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.”


Participation in the vile sexual practices of their idolatry had not only consisted of literal adultery, but also of spiritual unfaithfulness to God; and the blood upon their hands was that of their own children whom they offered as food to their heathen God Milcom, their immolation of those children consisting of the horrible act of burning them alive.


23:38.  “Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths.”


23:39.  “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.”


On the very same day that they had burnt their children in sacrifice to their false gods, they had had the audacity to enter the Temple and go through the charade of also worshiping Jehovah, and then adding insult to injury by refusing to keep His sabbaths!


23:40.  “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,”


23:41.  “And satest upon a stately bed, and a table prepared before it, whereupon thou hast set mine incense and mine oil.”


It is generally believed that the men from far with whom Judah sought an alliance were the Sabeans, rough desert dwellers who mingled legitimate trading with raiding, and who were little to be trusted.  Yet Judah was willing to go to virtually any lengths to secure their friendship, while turning her back on the only real Friend she had: Jehovah.


The “stately bed” and “table prepared,” and “incense and mine (Jehovah’s) oil” indicate that figuratively Judah was willing to use every artifice of the common harlot to secure an alliance with the undependable Sabeans.


23:42.  “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.”


This indicates the godless rabble of the nations with whom Judah sought alliances, scholars being disagreed as to whether it was those nations who gave bracelets and crowns to Judah and Israel, or vice versa.


23:43.  “Then said I unto her that was old in adulteries, Will they now commit whoredoms with her, and she with them?”


It is generally agreed that “unto her” is better translated “of her,” as in the American Standard Version, “Then said I of her that was old in adulteries, Now will they play the harlot with her and she with them.”  In terms of human experience this is the expression of Divine wonder that Judah, after so many failed alliances, would still attempt to make new ones, instead of simply casting herself upon Him in repentant submission.


23:44.  “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.”


Israel and Judah had made themselves spiritual harlots by turning their backs of Jehovah, and entering into alliances with heathen nations, those nations making the alliances for their own benefit, not that of Israel and Judah.


23:45.  “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.”


Righteous men, generally assumed to have been the prophets, would declare them worthy of death as adulteresses and murderesses, the adultery being their turning from Jehovah to worship idols; and their murder being the immolation of their own children as burnt offerings to Molech.


23:46.  “For thus saith the Lord God; I will bring up a company upon them, and will give them to be removed and spoiled.”


Babylon was the company that God would use as His instrument to ravage Israel and Judah, and carry the guilty people off into captivity.


23:47.  “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.”


The stoning with stones is generally understood to have reference to the hurling of large stones into the city from machines designed for that purpose mounted on top of the earthen mounds which the Babylonians had piled up against the city walls.  The fate of the harlot city was to be similar to that of her literal counterpart.


23:48.  “Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness.”


The lewdness, as already discussed, referred to the vile sexual practices that were an integral part of idolatrous worship.


23:49.  “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.”


The recompense of their lewdness would be the appropriate punishment: death; and their bearing “the sins of your idols” means that they would suffer the consequences of their idolatry.


“... and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”  All the suffering they were to endure was so that they might be brought to know God, the tragedy of their fate being that it was the result of their having cast away as a worthless thing that knowledge which they had once possessed.

[Ezekiel 24]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough