Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
As the crisis gets closer, the urgency of his prophecy becomes more intense.
He will shortly be announcing that the king of Babylon has formally invested the city of Jerusalem, as the beginning of a siege which will last
His final explanation of this event is the allegory of the two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah (ch23).
These are the names given to Samaria and Jerusalem, representing their two kingdoms.
The names mean “Her tent” and “My tent in her”. The natural interpretation, it seems to me, is that Jerusalem still holds the original Tent of
Meeting (“My tent”), while Samaria had been worshipping in her own way.
Oholah is called the elder sister. In fact Samaria the city, which was founded by Omri, was much younger than Jerusalem the city.
But the region
of Samaria, occupied by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, was dominating Israel long before David was born; “Joseph is
prince among his brothers” (Deuteronomy ch33 v16).
The northern kingdom was larger than Judah and always regarded themselves as the “real” Israel.
And since the fate of the northern kingdom had been settled first, and is going to be described first, it suits the plot of the story to treat her as
the elder sister.
This allegory presents a different version of the sexual jealousy theme that was employed in ch16.
That first version was addressed to Jerusalem, as a location, and took the story back to the time before Jerusalem was incorporated into Israel-
“Your mother was a Hittite”. She was compared unfavourably with her “sisters” in Samaria and Sodom, whose abominations and sins had been less
than half her own.
This version is addressed to the people of Israel in their two kingdoms, taking the story back to the time when the two “sisters” were still in
Egypt, and treating them as on a level in wickedness.
Both of them “played the harlot in Egypt”. That is, these tribes were idolaters, caught up in the worship of the Egyptian gods, in the time before
Moses called them out of the land. Exodus does not talk about this, but a previous chapter in this book charges them with resisting God’s commands
to give up their idolatry, even at this early stage.
When they later became the two sister kingdoms based on Samaria and Jerusalem, they followed the same line of conduct.
Oholah is the name given to Samaria, the kingdom of Israel. She “did not give up the harlotry which she had practised since her days in Egypt”,
but “played the harlot” with the Assyrians.
This echoes the complaint made by Hosea;
“Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria” (Hosea ch7 v11).
In the first instance, this is about looking for political alliance. That is why Oholah is portrayed as doting on the warriors and commanders of the
Assyrians, desirable young men riding horses.
The problem is that the price of alliance is religious conformity, seeking the protection of the same gods;
“She defiled herself with all the idols of everyone on whom she doted” (v7).
Therefore her abandoned husband delivered her into the hands of her lovers, who “uncovered her nakedness” by putting her people to the sword.
Oholibah, representing Jerusalem, saw what happened to her sister, but did not learn from her fate.
She “doted on the Assyrians” (by seeking their alliance) in just the same way.
Then she transferred her affections to the Babylonians, supposedly after seeing their portraits painted on a wall, in their fetching belts and
turbans, “all of them looking like officers”. Ezekiel may be thinking of Josiah’s time, when the Babylonians were part of the great coalition
which destroyed the Assyrian empire. Josiah’s contribution to this coalition had been to go up against the Egyptian army (which was rushing to help
the Assyrians) and get himself killed at Megiddo.
Once Oholibah had been “defiled” by the Babylonians, she turned away from them in disgust and turned back to her former lovers, the Egyptians.
“Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth”.
This metaphor is about the events that followed the battle of Megiddo. Pharaoh came up to Jerusalem, imposed Jehoiakim on the people as the new king
of Judah, and extracted a tribute from him.
A few years later, Nebuchadnezzar brought up his army and obliged the new king to change his allegiance. However, Jehoiakim privately preferred the
Egyptian alliance, and the city, for some reason, shared this preference. Their willingness to rebel against Babylon was sustained by their faith in
the might of Egyptian arms, which was an illusion. That was why the Babylonian army was already on its way to begin the final siege.
Thus Oholibah “carried on her harlotry openly and flaunted her nakedness”, just as her sister had done.
Therefore her husband was turning away from her, just as he had turned from her sister.
The adulteress would be punished, once again, by the agency of her lovers themselves.
“Behold, I will rouse up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side…
I will commit the judgement to them, and they will judge you according to their judgements”
They will treat her, metaphorically, as an unfaithful woman might sometimes be treated; they will cut off her nose and ears, strip her of her clothes
and fine jewels, and leave her naked and bare.
More literally, they will seize her sons and daughters, burn up their houses, and take away the fruits of their labour.
All this will happen “because you played the harlot with the nations and polluted yourself with their idols… because you have forgotten me and
cast me behind your back”.
Then the Lord sums up the case all over again, taking the two sisters together.
This time he highlights, once more, the horrible practice of the sacrifice of children. Since they are killing children on the sabbath and going to
the sanctuary afterwards, the sabbath and the sanctuary are being profaned at the same time.
They turn the event into a mass cultic festival, using the incense and the oils which the Lord has provided.
For that reason, the whole nation is to be judged in public as an adulterous woman is judged, and the invading host will carry out the judgement.
“And you shall know that I am the Lord God”.
edit on 11-5-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)