Bible Study: Ezekiel 23 – Idolatry of Jerusalem and Samaria

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The twenty-third chapter of Ezekiel is about the idolatry of Jerusalem and Samaria, and God’s judgment on them.

Parable of Two Women

Samaria falling to the Assyrians

Original artwork for illustration that appeared on pp12-13 of issue no 10 (9 May 1964) of The Bible Story depicting Samaria, fortress city of Israel, finally falling to the Assyrians.

In this parable, God is describing the idolatrous sins of Jerusalem and Judah. Hence, it is best to tabulate and look into the Scriptures to understand better.

Parable Reference / Explanation
Ezek 23:1-2 The word of the LORD came again to me, saying: Son of man, there were two women, The daughters of one mother. Ezek 23:4 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.
Ezek 23:3 They committed harlotry in Egypt, They committed harlotry in their youth; Their breasts were there embraced, Their virgin bosom was there pressed. Lev 18:3 ‘According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.
Ezek 23:5-7 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. 2Kgs 17:7-12 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”
Ezek 23:8 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. 1 Kgs 12:28-29 Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt! And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.
Ezek 23:9-10 “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. 2Kgs 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Let us  now look into the parable for Jerusalem

Ezek 23:11-21 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. 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. 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.

The kingdom of Judah became more corrupt than the kingdom of Israel under king Manasseh. We can read about it in 2 Kings (mentioned below).

2 Kgs 21:2-9 And he (Manasseh) did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers–only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them. But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.

But, what does it mean when God said, Jerusalem lustted for her paramours? What does it mean their flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and their issue is like those of horses? What does it mean when the Egyptians pressed her bosom?

Isa 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.

Jer 3:1 “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the LORD.

God is married to Israel. They didn’t just reject the Lord God. They are having the one true God as one of their gods to whom they worshiped. This is why God called the other gods as paramours for the children of Israel served other gods as well. God compares Israel serving other gods in idolatry to beasility.

Prov 5:19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.

Isa 62:5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

The Lord rejoices over His people as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride and He is satisfied by the love of His people.

Exod 34:14 for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

Yet, they provoked her Husband to jealousy and execute judgments on her.

Judgment on Jerusalem by Babylonians

Ezek 23:22-27 “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: The Babylonians, 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.

The clothing for Jerusalem are its walls which were in ruins as we see in the book of Ezra. The beautiful jewelry of Jerusalem is the temple.

Ezra 9:9 “For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

The Lord delegated judgment to the Babylonians and the nations conquered by Babylon.

Ezek 23:28-30 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.

It is important to note that God later judged Babylon, Edom and all nations around Israel for executing jugdment on His people and His Temple.

Jer 51:11 Make the arrows bright! Gather the shields! The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes. For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it, Because it is the vengeance of the LORD, The vengeance for His temple.

If we do not follow His commandments, God will delegate judgment on evil people who hate us. This does not mean He acknowledges everythiing they do. He delivers to evil people only to judge those evil people later.

Heb 10:30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”

Therefore, godly and righteous men must never take vengeance.

Samaria’s cup on Jerusalem’s hand

Ezek 23:31-35 ‘You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will put her cup in your hand.’ “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.’ 

Jerusalem is given the cup of Samaria as well. What does this mean?

  • Deep and wide
  • Laughed to scorn
  • Held in derision
  • Filled with drunkenness and sorrow
  • Horror and desolation

These seems to fit how the Jews were in the past 2000 years persecuted throughout Europe by the Catholic church and finally by the Nazis.

Based on the timelines there is an interesting thing worth mentioning: We know that the united kingdom was split immediately after the death of king Solomon, some 115 years since king Saul. The northern kingdom continued for some 271 years until it went into captivity to the Assyrians in 722 BC. Hence, Samaria was invovled in Idolatry for some 271 years.

Lev 26:18 ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.

Multiplying 7 times of 271 years of idolary gives 1897 years  of punishment. After the Jews were scattered and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, it was finally captured by the nation of Israel 1897 years after in 1967 AD.

Is blood on your hand?

Ezek 23:36-42 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. 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. 

If you call your self a Christian, yet support abortion, you have blood on your hands. There is no difference between the ancient israelites who gave their own children to be devoured by the fire as a sacrifice to idols and today’s evil generation who give the innocent unborn child to be crushed and devoured in the womb itself as a choice to themselves.

Gen 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

Judgment by God

Ezek 23:43-49 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. 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.’ 

Just as the righteous men who will judge her for her adultery and murder, God is executing judgment upon her by,

  1. Bringing an assembly
  2. To give trouble and to plunder
  3. To stone with stones
  4. To execute with swords
  5. To slay sons and daughters
  6. To burn the houses with fire
  7. To repay for lewdness and idolatorous sins.

God executed all these judgments on Israel and fulfilled His fury. Today, we have God’s mercy on Israel for He had given them their land. Just as God prophesied through Ezekiel, the Jews in the land of Israel today is no longer involved in idolatry, thus her lewdness is ceased. But had murder ceased? While Israel had ceased idolatry, murder in the name of abortion, just as the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children still sadly exists.