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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Ezekiel 23





This chapter closes the series of prophecies beginning with Ezekiel 20, and consists of an extended allegory. Its object, quite in connection with Ezekiel 21, 22, is to set forth the sinfulness of Judah. The allegory is much like that of Ezekiel 16, but differs from it on the one side by omitting the historical features so prominent there, and on the other by using as a basis here a comparison between the northern and southern kingdoms. The allegory is too plain to need any extended comment. It is almost entirely concerned with the southern kingdom, enough only being added in reference to the northern, which had long since passed away, to bring out the comparison.

Verse 3

(3) In Egypt.—The idolatries of Israel in Egypt have already been spoken of in the Note to Ezekiel 20:8. (See also Ezekiel 23:19 below.)

Verse 4

(4) Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.—Samaria, as the capital, is put for the northern kingdom, and is called Aholah = her own tabernacle, because she set up her own worship instead of resorting to the Temple; while the southern kingdom, represented by Jerusalem, is called Aholibah = my tabernacle is in her, because she still contained the sanctuary of the Lord. The word “elder” should be translated greater, as in Ezekiel 16:46. (See Note there.)

Verse 5

(5) The Assyrians her neighbours.—Or, the Assyrians drawing near. They are described in Ezekiel 23:40 as those who “come from far.” The nearness here spoken of is to be understood not locally, but spiritually, of sympathy in idolatry. Of the earlier connection between Israel and Assyria there is little remaining record. In 2 Kings 15:19-20, it is said that Pul exacted tribute of Menahem, and the mention seems to imply a still earlier intercourse. According to the Assyrian records, Jehu was tributary to Shalmaneser; Assyria, as representing the great northern power, in contrast to Egypt on the south, is probably used here in a sense broad enough to include also Syria.

Verse 6

(6) Horsemen.—The Assyrians, like the Egyptians, made large use of cavalry, as was necessary to a warlike nation; the multiplication of horses had on this account been forbidden to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 17:16).

Verse 7

(7) With all their idols.—The reality breaks through the figure, and leaves no doubt of the meaning of the allegory.

Verse 10

(10) She became famous.—A better word would be notorious. The conquest of Samaria and the captivity of the northern tribes had now been accomplished more than 130 years, and had made them a byword among the nations.

Verse 11

(11) She was more corrupt.—Enough having been said of Aholah to form the basis for a comparison, the prophet now turns to Aholibah. The idolatries of Judah not only comparatively but actually exceeded those of her sister kingdom. See, e.g., the account of Manaseeh’s reign (2 Kings 21:1-16; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9). In addition to her connection with Assyria, Judah also formed alliances with Chaldæa, and intrigued with Egypt and other nations.

Verse 12

(12) Her neighbours.—See Note on Ezekiel 23:5. In both places the warriors of Assyria are described in the most attractive way to carry out the figure; they are also spoken of as very powerful, to explain the political attraction to them. Israel was both fascinated by their splendour and overawed by their power.

Verse 14

(14) Men portrayed upon the wall.—Such portraitures, with evidence that they were once executed in brilliant colours, are characteristic both of Egypt and Assyria, where stone for sculpture abounded. From the close connection in race and customs between the Assyrians and Babylonians, it cannot be doubted that the same portraitures were also common upon the more perishable brick of the latter, of whom the prophet is now speaking. The monuments fully concur in representing the warriors of Assyria and Babylonia as delighting in extreme gorgeousness of apparel, but it is difficult to render into English with accuracy each particular of their dress. The exiles, whom Ezekiel immediately addressed, were familiar with these pictures, and his way of speaking of them was important in checking any disposition to fall into idolatries by means of them.

Verse 16

(16) Saw them with her eyes.—This is to be taken in a sense wide enough to include knowledge obtained in any way, as well as by actual sight. The intercourse between Judæa and Babylon was so close that many of the people had seen the Babylonians personally, while others knew of them through their report.

Sent messengers.—Ahaz “sent messengers” to Assyria (2 Kings 16:7), and Hezekiah entertained ambassadors from Babylon (2 Kings 20:13); but besides these, the whole history of the times implies that there must have been frequent embassies of which no special mention is made. One from Zedekiah is incidentally mentioned by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:3), of which there is no record in history.

Verse 17

(17) Her mind was alienated.—The original implies the disgust of satiety. Josiah had been the devoted friend of Babylon, and perished in his zeal on its behalf. Judah was then made a dependency of Egypt, and turned for aid to Babylon. Then receiving in turn the yoke of Babylon, she became impatient, and sought the aid of Egypt. This vacillating policy is described in Ezekiel 23:17-19, and at either, turn was so entirely wanting in sole reliance upon God as to produce the effect of Ezekiel 23:18 : “My mind was alienated from her.”

Verse 20

(20) Their paramours.—The word is masculine, as indicating the abominable sins copied by the Israelites from the heathen, and asses and horses are introduced to show the intensity of lust. (Comp. Jeremiah 5:8.)

Verse 22

(22) I will bring them against thee.—Here, as everywhere, the fitness of the punishment to the sin, the correlation between them, is strongly brought out. Israel had chosen the idolatries of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon, and these had drawn down upon her the vengeance of Him in whom alone was her refuge; she had sought strength in their political alliance, and they overwhelmed her with desolation.

Verse 23

(23) Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa.—These words were taken as proper names by our translators, and are still considered by some as indicating small Chaldæan tribes; but it is better, with the Vulg. and most modern commentators, to understand them as the names of officers, “rulers, lords, and nobles.” Shoa is translated “crying” in Isaiah 22:5, “liberal” in Isaiah 32:5, and “rich” in Job 34:19; while Pekod is rendered “visitation” in the margin of Jeremiah 50:21.

Verse 24

(24) With chariots, wagons, and wheels.—The word translated “chariots” occurs only here, and is thought to mean some weapon of war. It would be better to translate, with weapons, chariots, and wheels. The clause “I will set judgment before them,” is equivalent to I will entrust to them the judgment upon thee.

Verse 25

(25) Take away thy nose and thine ears.—The barbarous custom of mutilating prisoners prevailed in the East from the earliest times; it is here mentioned with especial reference to the destruction of the attractiveness of the adulteress Aholibah, and the particulars of Ezekiel 23:26 have the same purpose. (Comp. Ezekiel 16:39.) In Egypt adultery was punished by cutting off the nose and ears.

Verse 32

(32) It containeth much.—The cup of humiliation already drunk by Samaria was large, and filled with pain and sorrow, yet Jerusalem must drink it amid the derision of her neighbours.

Verse 36

(36) Wilt thou judge?—Rather, judge thou, as in Ezekiel 20:4; Ezekiel 22:2.

Verse 38

(38) In the same day.—This is explained more fully in Ezekiel 23:39. Emphasis is laid upon the fact that they worshipped in the sanctuary of Jehovah in the same day that they offered their children to their idols, because the passing directly from the one to the other showed an utter disregard of the commands of the Lord, and an entire want of appreciation of His character and holiness. The figure in this and the following verses is partly dropped to bring out better the reality.

Verse 40

(40) Paintedst thine eyes.—The figure is that of a lewd woman preparing herself for her paramour, and awaiting his arrival. Painting the eyes, or rather the lids and lashes, was an ancient custom, still preserved in the East. (Comp. 2 Kings 9:30.)

Verse 41

(41) A stately bed is rather the couch or divan used for reclining at a feast. “Mine incense and mine oil” (comp. Ezekiel 16:18) may be taken simply as the products of the land, the good gifts of God which Israel bestowed upon the heathen; but as both of these were especially used in sacrifices, it is better to connect with this the perversion to the worship of the idols of the heathen of what should have been Jehovah’s only.

Verse 42

(42) A voice of a multitude being at ease was with her.—The words “voice of a multitude,” wherever else they occur (1 Samuel 4:14; Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 33:3; Daniel 10:6), mean a loud tumult, and even the word here used for “multitude,” when alone, always means a boisterous multitude. Translate The voice of the tumult was stilled thereat: i.e., the tumult of the invading army was stilled by the gifts of Israel, a fact of which there is frequent record in the history. The phrase translated “with her” is rendered “thereby” in Genesis 24:14.

Men of the common sort is better rendered in the margin, the multitude of men; and “Sabeans” is not a proper name, but, as in the margin, drunkards. They are represented as from the wilderness, not as their home, but as the region through which they passed in marching to Judæa. The whole sense of the verse is that the conquerors attacking the land were satisfied with heavy tribute, and having received this, many of the warriors gave themselves up to drunkenness and debauchery, decking out their tributary with meretricious ornaments.

Verse 43

(43) Will they now commit?—This should not be made a question, nor should the opening of Ezekiel 23:44 be made adversative. The thought is that, after all means of reclamation had failed, God gave her up to her sins. Translate, Now shall her whoredom be committed, even this. And they went in, &c.

Verse 44

(44) Unto Aholah and unto Aholibah.—From Ezekiel 23:11-35 the discourse has been altogether of Aholibah, as the one now immediately concerned; but from Ezekiel 23:36-44, in the enumeration of their sins, both are included, though in the greater part of these verses the singular number is used, because Aholibah was most prominent in the prophet’s thoughts. In the denunciation of judgment, with which the prophecy closes (Ezekiel 23:45-49), both are again spoken of in the plural, because, although Aholah had long since suffered, it was important to show that common sin involved both in common punishment.

Verse 45

(45) The righteous men.—That is, men to whom the judgment of righteousness is committed.

Verse 47

(47) With stones . . . with swords.—The figure and the reality are here designedly mixed. Stoning was the legal punishment of adultery, but the actual overthrow of Jerusalem was by the sword.

Verse 48

(48) To cease.—By the removal of the sinners. “All women,” in accordance with the allegory, means all nations. The judgments upon Israel should be then, and for all time, a conspicuous monument of God’s righteous severity.

Verse 49

(49) Bear the sins of your idols—i.e., the punishment of the sins which you have committed in worshipping your idols.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 23:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

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