Ezekiel 23 – Oholah and Oholibah
A. The sins and judgment of Oholah (Samaria and the kingdom of Israel).
1. (1-4) Two symbolic sisters, Oholah and Oholibah.
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying:
“Son of man, there were two women,
The daughters of one mother.
They committed harlotry in Egypt,
They committed harlotry in their youth;
Their breasts were there embraced,
Their virgin bosom was there pressed.
Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister;
They were Mine,
And they bore sons and daughters.
As for their names,
Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah.
a. There were two women, the daughters of one mother: Ezekiel 23 presents two symbolic sisters, representing the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This story of the two sisters is not a perfect illustration of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel; the Lord did not have two wives. But the story of the two sisters is a powerful description of how Judah followed in the sinful steps of Israel.
i. There are many parallels between Ezekiel 16 and 23; both chapters confront Israel as an unfaithful wife to Yahweh. Yet there are also important differences. “The mood set by the opening lines contrasts sharply with Ezekiel 16:2–5, which had intentionally evoked great sympathy for the foundling in the minds of the hearers. The women introduced here are not to be pitied.” (Block)
b. They committed harlotry in Egypt: Ezekiel states a theme that will be repeated several times in this chapter. This is that Israel was unfaithful to Yahweh from the very start, worshipping idols in Egypt. Symbolically, their worship of Egyptian idols was like giving their bodies to those gods (their breasts were there embraced, their virgin bosom was there pressed).
i. While they were still in Egypt, God told Israel to forsake the Egyptian idols – and they did not (Ezekiel 20:5-8).
ii. As previously noted in Ezekiel 20, there were several evidences of Israel’s idolatry in Egypt:
· The worship of the golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6).
· The idolatry practiced in Egypt: Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! (Joshua 24:14)
· The choice of golden calves as objects of worship by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:26-33).
c. Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister: God gave these two symbolic sisters names. The elder was Oholah, which means Her Own Tabernacle, with the sense that she rejected God’s temple and the service that attended it. The younger was Oholibah, which means My Tabernacle is In Her, with the sense that she was home to God’s temple and its service.
i. “Both incorporate the word ohel, ‘tent,’ Oholah suggesting ‘her own tent,’ and Oholibah ‘my tent in her.’” (Block)
d. They were Mine, and they bore sons and daughters: These sisters belonged to Yahweh by the principles of election, redemption, and marriage covenant. They were “mothers” to many sons and daughters.
e. Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah: To avoid any misunderstanding, God stated it clearly. Oholah represented Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Oholibah represented Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah.
i. “The city of Samaria is called the elder because she preceded Judah in both defection and in captivity.” (Feinberg)
2. (5-8) The story of Oholah, the elder sister.
“Oholah played the harlot even though she was Mine;
And she lusted for her lovers, the neighboring Assyrians,
Who were clothed in purple,
Captains and rulers,
All of them desirable young men,
Horsemen riding on horses.
Thus she committed her harlotry with them,
All of them choice men of Assyria;
And with all for whom she lusted,
With all their idols, she defiled herself.
She has never given up her harlotry brought from Egypt,
For in her youth they had lain with her,
Pressed her virgin bosom,
And poured out their immorality upon her.
a. Oholah played the harlot: Once again God used the idea of harlotry to symbolically express the idolatry of Israel. In particular, the northern kingdom of Israel gave herself to idolatry from the start (1 Kings 12:26-33).
b. She lusted for her lovers, the neighboring Assyrians: Before the Assyrians conquered Israel she followed her attraction to their gods, their power, their protection, and their ways. This repeats an irony expressed before in Ezekiel; when God’s people reject Him and embrace the idols of the nations, He allows those nations to conquer His people.
i. We imagine the small kingdom of Israel looking with awe and envy upon the mighty empire of the Assyrians. Though they feared them, they also noticed their power and wealth, their influence and fame. Israel thought that by worshipping Assyria’s gods, adopting their morals, and embracing their customs they also could gain some of that power and fame. They foolishly rejected their covenant God and embraced idolatry.
ii. “Samaria had no true faith in the living God, so she looked to the Assyrians to help her. The picture here is that of a prostitute seeking a lover to care for her and the language is quite graphic. Samaria not only welcomed Assyria’s soldiers but also Assyria’s idols, and the religion of the Northern Kingdom became a strange mixture of Mosaic Law and Assyrian idolatry (2 Kings 17:6–15).” (Wiersbe)
iii. “The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III illustrates Jehu prostrating himself before the Assyrian king (the date would be about 840 BC, at the beginning of Jehu’s reign) and offering gifts, possibly with a view to buying support against Hazael of Damascus.” (Taylor)
iv. “2 Kings also describes the paying of tribute by Israel to Assyria in the reigns of Menahem (c. 745–738 BC) and Hoshea (c. 732–724 BC); see 2 Kings 15:19ff.; 17:3.” (Taylor)
c. Who were clothed in purple, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men: There was nothing holy or even spiritual in Israel’s attraction to the Assyrians and their gods. It was purely on a fleshly, materialistic basis.
i. “Horses and horsemen were mentioned because the Assyrians, as the Egyptians, used cavalry prominently.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The Hebrew had never found it easy to resist the temptations and allurements of more sophisticated civilizations than his own, whether they were the fleshpots of Egypt or the dashing gallants of the Assyrian cavalry regiments.” (Taylor)
iii. “Her total lack of restraint is emphasized by the threefold repetition of kol, ‘all,’ in Ezekiel 23:7.” (Block)
d. She has never given up her harlotry brought from Egypt: The idea from Ezekiel 23:3 is repeated specifically for Oholah, the kingdom of Israel. She started out by giving herself to Egyptian idols and continued giving herself to the idols of the nations.
3. (9-10) Judgment upon Oholah.
“Therefore I have delivered her
Into the hand of her lovers,
Into the hand of the Assyrians,
For whom she lusted.
They uncovered her nakedness,
Took away her sons and daughters,
And slew her with the sword;
She became a byword among women,
For they had executed judgment on her.
a. Therefore I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers: Because Israel gave herself to foreign gods and morals, God allowed them to be conquered by those foreign nations. It was God’s way of saying, “You reject Me and lust after these; now you must be conquered by them and live under them.”
i. “Throughout the Scriptures it may be discerned that divine retribution operates in such a way that the source of sinful pleasure becomes the source of punishment. Samaria’s lovers became her destroyers.” (Feinberg)
b. They uncovered her nakedness, took away her sons and daughters, and slew her with the sword: When the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 b.c. they did this. Assyria humiliated Samaria and Israel, took her sons and daughters captive, and killed many with the sword. This was well known to Ezekiel’s listeners and readers, having happened more than 100 years before. Samaria and Israel had become a byword for well-deserved judgment.
B. The sins and judgment of Oholibah (Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah).
1. (11-13) Oholibah (Jerusalem) imitates the sins of Oholah (Samaria).
“Now although her sister Oholibah saw this, she became more corrupt in her lust than she, and in her harlotry more corrupt than her sister’s harlotry.
“She lusted for the neighboring Assyrians,
Captains and rulers,
Clothed most gorgeously,
Horsemen riding on horses,
All of them desirable young men.
Then I saw that she was defiled;
Both took the same way.
a. Although her sister Oholibah saw this: There was at least one significant way that the sins of Jerusalem were much worse than the sins of Samaria. Jerusalem had the example of Samaria to take warning from and to learn by. They did not. They saw Samaria’s sin and the judgment that came upon her, yet followed in the same ways.
i. The focus is upon Jerusalem’s idolatry with the gods of Assyria and Babylon and Egypt, but that idolatry was often connected with real or hoped-for political alliances. They lusted after the gods of these great empires and their protection.
b. She became more corrupt in her lust than she: In the end, Jerusalem was more depraved than Samaria. Ezekiel will develop that theme starting at verse 16.
c. She lusted for the neighboring Assyrians: Even as the northern kingdom of Israel lusted after Assyrian power, wealth, fame, and influence, so did the southern kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem lusted for the material and fleshy emblems of that mighty empire the same way as Samaria (Ezekiel 23:5-6). They were both defiled; both took the same way.
i. King Ahaz of Judah gave gifts and made an alliance with the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:7-10). The prophet Isaiah spoke against this lust for the neighboring Assyrians (Isaiah 7:3-17).
ii. “He went up to Damascus to meet Tiglath–pileser, king of Assyria, and he saw there an altar he thought was the prettiest altar he’d ever seen. So he sent Urijah the priest to get the pattern of it in order to make one just like it (2 Kings 16:10–18).” (McGee)
2. (14-16) Oholibah (Jerusalem) surpasses the sins of Oholah (Samaria).
But she increased her harlotry;
She looked at men portrayed on the wall,
Images of Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion,
Girded with belts around their waists,
Flowing turbans on their heads,
All of them looking like captains,
In the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea,
The land of their nativity.
As soon as her eyes saw them,
She lusted for them
And sent messengers to them in Chaldea.
a. She increased her harlotry: It was bad enough that Jerusalem imitated the sins of Samaria; it was far worse that she increased her rejection and rebellion.
b. She looked at men portrayed on the wall: The media of that day gave the people of Jerusalem the enticements to go after the morals, customs, and idols of the Babylonians. The images of Chaldeans seduced them to follow their sins, even as they had previously done with the Assyrians (Ezekiel 23:12-13).
i. “Bas-reliefs were common decorations in Mesopotamian palaces and temples. Perhaps this statement was an allusion to some Judean envoys who were sent to Babylonia and saw the witness of her great power demonstrated on such walls.” (Alexander)
ii. “Rich clothes are oft but fine covers of the foulest shame. If every silken suit did cover a sanctified soul, it would be brave.” (Trapp)
c. The land of their nativity: This probably refers to the fact that according to Genesis 11:27-32, Abraham, the father of all the Jewish peoples, originally came from Chaldea (the region of Babylon). God called Abraham out of Babylonian idolatry; now his descendants returned to it.
d. Sent messengers to them in Chaldea: Long before the Babylonians conquered Judah, they sent receptive messengers to her. They pursued the Babylonians, and eventually the same Babylonians conquered the people of Judah.
i. “There is no direct reference elsewhere to overtures to Babylon, but foreign alliances produced foreign standards of life and religion (e.g. 2 Kings 16.10 f.; Isaiah 2.6; Jeremiah 7.18).” (Wright)
ii. As soon as her eyes saw them: “Here began the mischief…. many have died of the wound in the eye.” (Trapp)
3. (17-21) The disgusting idolatry and immorality of Jerusalem.
“Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love,
And they defiled her with their immorality;
So she was defiled by them, and alienated herself from them.
She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness.
Then I alienated Myself from her,
As I had alienated Myself from her sister.
“Yet she multiplied her harlotry
In calling to remembrance the days of her youth,
When she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
For she lusted for her paramours,
Whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys,
And whose issue is like the issue of horses.
Thus you called to remembrance the lewdness of your youth,
When the Egyptians pressed your bosom
Because of your youthful breasts.
a. The Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love: Ezekiel continues with the familiar theme using gross sexual promiscuity to illustrate Jerusalem’s idolatry. This was accurate as a spiritual illustration but was also connected to literal reality because many of the rites connected with the Babylonian idols were sexual in nature, especially sex with prostitutes representing the idol. Truly, they defiled her with their immorality.
i. “If a Christian choose worldly prosperity, or his own reputation, or any earthly object apart from God, it is through this that he will suffer. The things that he has loved will be raised up against him, just as Israel, that had dallied with Babylon, was carried into captivity to Babylon.” (Meyer)
b. I alienated Myself from her: A faithful husband would distance himself from a promiscuous wife; even so, God alienated Himself from Jerusalem as He had previously done in regard to Samaria (her sister).
c. She multiplied her harlotry: God disciplined Jerusalem by distancing Himself from her. Her response was to return to her roots, to the idolatry of her youth, when she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
d. She lusted for her paramours: Jerusalem ran after her idol-lovers in the most gross and disgusting ways. Ezekiel said she lusted after their potency, represented by large sexual organs (whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys) and large emissions of semen (whose issue is like the issue of horses). The idea was that potent, mighty people could protect Judah. Ezekiel used this shocking language to jolt his complacent and jaded listeners and readers.
i. “She lusted after the Egyptians who had a reputation for sexual potency, i.e., military power. She relived the ‘lewdness’ of her youth in Egypt, i.e., she revived Egyptian cults and customs long forgotten.” (Smith)
ii. Ezekiel’s language here is admittedly coarse, and apparently more so in the original Hebrew. Yet the modern preacher should note that he did not use the coarse terms to entertain his listeners and readers, nor to make himself seem contemporary and cool. The coarse language was used to shock, and to reflect God’s own disgust with Jerusalem’s sins. Furthermore, this coarse language stands out for its rarity, and its use should never be used to justify any kind of regular use in the pulpit or even everyday conversation.
iii. “In Egyptian hieroglyphics the horse represents a lustful person. Asses and horses are proverbially lustful (Jeremiah 2:24; 5:8; 13:27). Thus was described the return to her first degradation.” (Feinberg)
iv. “The original is still more rough than the translation; and surely there is no need of a comment to explain imagery that is but too generally understood.” (Clarke)
4. (22-27) Judgment on Oholibah.
“Therefore, Oholibah, thus says the Lord GOD:
‘Behold, I will stir up your lovers against you,
From whom you have alienated yourself,
And I will bring them against you from every side:
All the Chaldeans,
Pekod, Shoa, Koa,
All the Assyrians with them,
All of them desirable young men,
Governors and rulers,
Captains and men of renown,
All of them riding on horses.
And they shall come against you
With chariots, wagons, and war-horses,
With a horde of people.
They shall array against you
Buckler, shield, and helmet all around.
‘I will delegate judgment to them,
And they shall judge you according to their judgments.
I will set My jealousy against you,
And they shall deal furiously with you;
They shall remove your nose and your ears,
And your remnant shall fall by the sword;
They shall take your sons and your daughters,
And your remnant shall be devoured by fire.
They shall also strip you of your clothes
And take away your beautiful jewelry.
‘Thus I will make you cease your lewdness and your harlotry
Brought from the land of Egypt,
So that you will not lift your eyes to them,
Nor remember Egypt anymore.’
a. Therefore, Oholibah, thus says the Lord GOD: God’s judgment against Jerusalem was all the more deserved because they were Oholibah – meaning, My Tabernacle is In Her. The great blessing of the temple and priesthood in their midst made their accountability much greater.
b. I will stir up your lovers against you: Jerusalem and Judah would find that those they gave themselves to would not treat them well. They would come against Oholibah from every side, with officers and leaders from many nations. They would come with powerful weapons (buckler, shield, and helmet) and instruments of war (chariots, wagons, war-horses).
i. “Those who had previously come to her to make love, now come from all sides to make war.” (Block)
ii. “Pekod is a tribe east of the Tigris (Jeremiah 50.21), and Shoa and Koa have been identified with other tribes in the same area. ” (Wright)
iii. “The intention seems merely to accumulate familiar inimical names to designate the ‘host’ (Ezekiel 23:46) that will be summoned up to execute the Lord’s vengeance.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
c. They shall deal furiously with you: The armies assembled against Jerusalem would not treat her gently or like lovers. They would kill and maim her, strip her of her beautiful clothes and jewelry.
i. They shall deal furiously: Block quoted an excerpt from the annals of Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (883–859): “I felled with the sword 800 of their combat troops, I burnt 3,000 captives from them. I did not leave one of them alive as a hostage. I captured alive Hulaya their city ruler. I made a pile of their corpses. I burnt their adolescent boys (and) girls. I flayed Hulaya their city ruler (and) draped his skin over the wall of the city Damdammusa. I razed, destroyed, (and) burnt the city.… Moving on from the city Kinabu I approached the city Tela. The city was well fortified.… I felled 3,000 of their fighting men with the sword. I carried off prisoners, possessions, oxen (and) cattle from them. I burnt many captives from them. I captured many troops alive: I cut off of some their arms (and) hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears (and) extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living (and) one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city. I burnt their adolescent boys (and) girls. I razed, destroyed, burnt (and) consumed the city.”
d. Thus I will make you cease your lewdness and your harlotry: The severe judgment of the conquest of Jerusalem and the exile would be like strong medicine to the Jewish people. They would no longer run after their idol lovers as they did before. The last remnants of the sins brought from the land of Egypt would be purged and forgotten.
5. (28-31) Jerusalem delivered over to those who hate her.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will deliver you into the hand of those you hate, into the hand of those from whom you alienated yourself. They will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols. You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will put her cup in your hand.’
a. Surely I will deliver you into the hand of those you hate.… they will deal hatefully with you: Though Jerusalem went after the nations and their gods as if they were her lovers, there was never real love between them – they were never lovers that truly desired the best for each other. Jerusalem wanted what she could get from the nations and their idols, and they wanted the same from her. Jerusalem would suffer the terrible fate of being given over to the ones she hated.
i. “There is a profound psychological truth in verses 28 and 29 (cf. l7). Sex without love only too often ends in frustration and hatred (2 Samuel 13.15).” (Wright)
b. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered: Instead of love and glory, Jerusalem and Judah would find shame. They had not been benefited or blessed by their idolatry; they had become defiled by their idols.
i. “Using the image of punishing a prostitute, he described how the invaders would strip the nation, expose her lewdness, and mutilate her body. It isn’t a very beautiful picture.” (Wiersbe)
c. You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will put her cup in your hand: More than 100 years before, Samaria and Israel fell against the invading Assyrians. Now Jerusalem and Judah would suffer the same fate, drinking from the same cup of judgment.
i. Being Oholibah (having the temple) instead of Oholah (rejecting the temple) made no difference if it did not result in faithfulness to Yahweh and His covenant. If the people of Jerusalem thought having the temple would save them from judgment, or that God would never allow the Babylonians to destroy the temple, they needed to learn from the story of Oholah and Oholibah.
C. Drinking the cup of judgment, receiving the penalty of adultery.
1. (32-35) Drinking Samaria’s cup.
“Thus says the Lord GOD:
‘You shall drink of your sister’s cup,
The deep and wide one;
You shall be laughed to scorn
And held in derision;
It contains much.
You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow,
The cup of horror and desolation,
The cup of your sister Samaria.
You shall drink and drain it,
You shall break its shards,
And tear at your own breasts;
For I have spoken,’
Says the Lord GOD.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back,
Therefore you shall bear the penalty
Of your lewdness and your harlotry.’”
a. You shall drink of your sister’s cup: Jerusalem will not only hold Samaria’s cup of judgment (Ezekiel 23:31), they will surely drink it. The cup of judgment is the deep and wide one and it contains much. The on-looking nations will offer no sympathy; they will offer only scorn and derision.
b. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of horror and desolation: The cup Samaria drank was terrible, as the record of the city’s last days showed (2 Kings 17:1-23). Now Jerusalem would drink the same cup of judgment; they must drink and drain it. In their misery, they would harm themselves (tear at your own breasts).
i. “Drinking that cup would result in national ‘drunkenness,’ i.e., confusion, which in turn would lead to scorn and derision by other nations. That cup would produce sorrow, astonishment and desolation.” (Smith)
ii. “Judah would not only drink to the full the cup of God’s wrath, but she would even gnaw the shards of the cup. Ezekiel vividly portrayed the utter despair of the outcast who would drink herself to madness, tearing at her breasts.” (Feinberg)
iii. “She who had shamelessly craved the fondling of her breast by her lovers will tear them off in her inexpressible grief.” (Block)
c. Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back: This great penalty would come upon Jerusalem and Judah because they forgot God and wanted Him to disappear. Ignoring God and wanting to have nothing to do with Him is a great sin, and worthy of judgment.
2. (36-39) Some of the specific sins of Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem).
The LORD also said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them. Moreover they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For after they had slain their children for their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it; and indeed thus they have done in the midst of My house.
a. Declare to them their abominations: God has thus far mostly spoken in a symbolic way about the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem, using the figure of sexual immorality to illustrate their idolatry. Now God will speak directly and literally about their sins.
b. They have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands: They were unfaithful to their marriage covenants and unfaithful to their communities, committing adultery and practicing violence under the cover of law.
c. And even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me: They sacrificed their children in tribute to the terrible idol Molech, burning their infants to death.
d. They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths: They would offer their children to Molech on one of the Sabbaths and on the same day go to the temple to profane it.
i. “They dared to worship in the temple of God on the same day that they made their sacrifice of their children to Molech worship.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Note that both sisters are charged with the defilement of the Jerusalem sanctuary: a reminder that the separation of Israel from Jerusalem was still remembered with bitterness.” (Taylor)
3. (40-45) The comfortable harlotry of the lewd sisters.
“Furthermore you sent for men to come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and there they came. And you washed yourself for them, painted your eyes, and adorned yourself with ornaments. You sat on a stately couch, with a table prepared before it, on which you had set My incense and My oil. The sound of a carefree multitude was with her, and Sabeans were brought from the wilderness with men of the common sort, who put bracelets on their wrists and beautiful crowns on their heads. Then I said concerning her who had grown old in adulteries, ‘Will they commit harlotry with her now, and she with them?’ Yet they went in to her, as men go in to a woman who plays the harlot; thus they went in to Oholah and Oholibah, the lewd women. But righteous men will judge them after the manner of adulteresses, and after the manner of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses, and blood is on their hands.
a. Furthermore you sent for men to come from afar: After plainly stating the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem in the previous section, Ezekiel returned to the symbol of the harlot to represent their unfaithfulness to God.
b. You washed yourself for them, painted your eyes, and adorned yourself: They happily and carefully prepared themselves for their unfaithfulness to Yahweh. They worshipped idols in comfortable and ornate surroundings.
i. Painted your eyes: “Like a decayed harlot, madest up thy defects with paint.” (Poole)
c. On which you had set My incense and My oil: God had appointed sacred incense and oil for the service of the temple. Jerusalem was so corrupt that they took these sacred things and used them in idolatry.
i. “The irony was that she used the gifts which God had bestowed upon her to advance the cause of idolatry. She created a festive atmosphere, the sound of a multitude at ease. The harlot was not particular about who shared her table and her bed. Men of the common sort and even drunkards from the desert were all welcome.” (Smith)
d. The sound of a carefree multitude was with her: They loved their idolatry. Their rebellion against God made them feel carefree and popular with the multitude. Foreigners came and rewarded them for their idolatry.
i. “This seems to be an account of an idolatrous festival, where a riotous multitude was assembled, and fellows of the baser sort, with bracelets on their arms and chaplets on their heads, performed the religious rites.” (Clarke)
e. Then I said concerning her who had grown old in adulteries: All the while, they became like old, tired, worn-out prostitutes. Their young years of attractiveness and allure were a distant memory and they were merely lewd women. Their unfaithfulness to God made them age poorly.
i. “In Joshua 9:4–5 the verb bala is used of worn-out sacks, wineskins, sandals, and garments. Sarah uses the term in Genesis 18:12 to describe her own old age, specifically her having passed the age of childbearing. The prophet’s usage implies that Oholibah’s adulterous behavior has left her worn out.” (Block)
f. But righteous men will judge them after the manner of adulteresses: Their illusion of glamorous prostitution could never last. Any righteous man would perceive they were simply unfaithful adulteresses, and that blood is on their hands.
4. (46-49) The sisters are judged as adulteresses.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Bring up an assembly against them, give them up to trouble and plunder. The assembly shall stone them with stones and execute them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn their houses with fire. Thus I will cause lewdness to cease from the land, that all women may be taught not to practice your lewdness. They shall repay you for your lewdness, and you shall pay for your idolatrous sins. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.’”
a. Bring up an assembly against them, give them up to trouble and plunder: In a remarkably understated way, this refers to the literal invading armies that came against Samaria and Jerusalem.
b. The assembly shall stone them with stones and execute them: The punishment for adultery according to the Law of Moses was execution. This penalty had already been carried out against Samaria; it would soon be carried out regarding Jerusalem.
i. Shall stone them…and burn their houses with fire: “The punishment will be the common penalty for all adulteresses and shedders of blood: death by stoning, to which is added destruction of their property with fire (cf. Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 21:21).” (Taylor)
ii. “The similarity of this penalty with the state of siege of a city bombarded with sling-stones and incendiary missiles can scarcely have been coincidence. The shame of the guilty person’s end under Mosaic law will be exactly matched by the fate of Samaria and Jerusalem.” (Taylor)
c. Thus I will cause lewdness to cease from the land: As before stated in Ezekiel 23:27, the punishments of conquest and exile would have a cleansing effect upon Jerusalem and Judah. The particular sin of gross idolatry would never again be the same problem as it was before the exile.
d. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD: The severity of conquest and exile had a purpose greater than punishment. The ultimate purpose was to reveal God in both His holy judgments and gracious restorations.