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.
2. two . . . of one mother--Israel and Judah, one nation by birth from the same ancestress, Sarah. 3. Even so early in their history as their Egyptian sojourn, they committed idolatries (see on Eze 20:6-8; Jos 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. 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. 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).
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). horsemen--cavaliers.
7. all their idols--There was nothing that she refused to her lovers. 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). 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]. 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. 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). 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.
13. one way--both alike forsaking God for heathen confidences.
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). 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. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. 21. calledst to remembrance--"didst repeat" [MAURER]. in bruising--in suffering . . . to be bruised. 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. 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. 24. with chariots--or, "with armaments"; so the Septuagint; "axes" [MAURER]; or, joining it with "wagons," translate, "with scythe-armed wagons," or "chariots" [GROTIUS]. weels--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). 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. 26. strip . . . of . . . clothes--whereby she attracted her paramours (Eze 16:39). 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 nineteen centuries of their dispersion, as foretold (Ho 3:4). 28. (Eze 23:17,18 16:37). 29. take away . . . thy labour--that is, the fruits of thy labor. leave thee naked--as captive females are treated. 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. 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. 35. forgotten me--(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). 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)? 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). 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. 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). 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. 43. Will they, &c.--Is it possible that paramours will desire any longer to commit whoredoms with so worn-out an old adulteress? 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). 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. 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). 48. (Eze 23:27). that all . . . may be taught not to do, &c.--(De 13:11). 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.