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Ezekiel;- Oholah and Oholibah

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posted on May, 11 2018 @ 05:02 PM
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 eighteen months.
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)

posted on May, 11 2018 @ 05:03 PM
All this is expressed in the bluntest, most brutal language of sexual jealousy.
The Egyptians pressed the breasts of the two sisters and handled their virgin bosoms.
They and the Assyrians poured out their lusts upon them.
The Babylonians came to Oholibah in her bed of love and defiled her with their lust.
Later she doted on her old paramours in Egypt, “whose members were like those of asses and whose issue was like that of horses”.
The language of this diatribe is so forthright that this chapter (like ch16) cannot be read aloud in churches. The old Anglican lectionary, at least, omits it altogether.

This approach has an obvious purpose.
The Lord is addressing his people in language that they will understand.
These men understand sexual jealousy. They can at least imagine, and appreciate, what it feels like to have an unfaithful wife.
So the effect of this language is to help them realise that they are treating their God in much the same way, and committing the same kind of offence. Then they will understand why his judgement has been so severe.

It also makes nonsense, incidentally, of the usual objection to treating the Song of Solomon as a spiritual allegory- “It can’t have a spiritual meaning, because the language is too sensuous”.
It is true that the Song offers a more positive kind of sensuousness than the aggressive language found here, but we ought to remember that the couple in the Song are a loving husband and wife. The Bible does not regard the relation between husband and wife as unspiritual.
Nobody tries to deny that these chapters of Ezekiel are describing, in metaphor, the relationship between God and his people.
By the same token, we ought to be able to understand the Song of Solomon as portraying the affectionate and finally forgiving relationship between the same God and the same people. And certainly those who placed that book among the other sacred books of scripture must have thought so.

The unseen husband

edit on 11-5-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 11 2018 @ 05:30 PM
I hate reading that part. Those names are almost the same and I keep getting them messed up when I read it. I had to reread it around five times to figure it out, finally I just closed the book and hoped I would not have to open it back up to that page again.

posted on May, 11 2018 @ 05:35 PM
a reply to: rickymouse
They're twins.
They were probably dressed the same, as well.

posted on May, 11 2018 @ 10:48 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

In a convenient ATS package (meaning that I don't have to give myself over to traversing the web looking (oddly) for surprise answers to questions I didn't even know to ask), you seem to have a knack for sharply illuminating biblical passages that--to me--seemed impenetrable.

'Impenetrable' because such period-specific religiopolitics, wrapped in symbolism and then burnt black by the wrath of God (which still hurts to hear, to this day)...seems better off obscured.

Anyway, thanks. You have a rare talent. Are you/were you a teacher? And do you, as well, see yourself as that blank page between the Old Testament and the New?

posted on May, 11 2018 @ 11:24 PM

originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
They're twins.
They were probably dressed the same, as well.

I think the story has more to do with Israel and another city, maybe Samaria. I can't remember for sure. I am doubtful that the the two people are actually real. I think it was a story created to show how those two cities got out of whack. They had to create stories to show people how a society can go astray, they used people as an example. They used that kind of example lots of times in the bible to warn their people of upcoming doom if they went astray.

posted on May, 12 2018 @ 01:19 AM
a reply to: rickymouse
My comment was tongue-in-cheek (referring to the similarity of names that you complained about).
You will see from the second and third paragraphs of the OP that I agree with you about the real meaning.

edit on 12-5-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 12 2018 @ 01:29 AM
a reply to: TheTruthAtLast
You are very kind.
I am not a teacher, but I'm the son of two teachers and the grandson of another one. It is obviously an hereditary doom.
I see myself as one of the people described by Jesus in Matthew ch13 v52; a scribe instructed in the Kingdom, bringing old and new things out of the treasure chest.

This chapter is part of the Old Testament's work of telling us what God is like, in his relationship with his people.
This thread is one of a series on Ezekiel, which will continue until the end of the book.

edit on 12-5-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 12 2018 @ 08:54 AM

originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
My comment was tongue-in-cheek (referring to the similarity of names that you complained about).
You will see from the second and third paragraphs of the OP that I agree with you about the real meaning.

Yeah, my complaint is about the too close association of the names. I have to keep backtracking to find out which name is associated with each city. That is one of the more confusing parts of the bible.

posted on May, 13 2018 @ 02:06 PM
This thread continues the series which began with
Seeing visions of God

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