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Ezekiel 23:1-49

Two Sisters

23:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 23:2 “Son of man, there were two women who were daughters of the same mother. 23:3 They engaged in prostitution in Egypt; in their youth they engaged in prostitution. Their breasts were squeezed there; lovers 1  fondled their virgin nipples there. 23:4 Oholah was the name of the older and Oholibah 2  the name of her younger sister. They became mine, and gave birth to sons and daughters. 3  Oholah is Samaria and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

23:5 “Oholah engaged in prostitution while she was mine. 4  She lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians 5  – warriors 6  23:6 clothed in blue, governors and officials, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. 23:7 She bestowed her sexual favors on them; all of them were the choicest young men of Assyria. She defiled herself with all whom she desired 7  – with all their idols. 23:8 She did not abandon the prostitution she had practiced in Egypt; for in her youth men had sex with her, fondled her virgin breasts, and ravished her. 8  23:9 Therefore I handed her over to her lovers, the Assyrians 9  for whom she lusted. 23:10 They exposed her nakedness, seized her sons and daughters, and killed her with the sword. She became notorious 10  among women, and they executed judgments against her.

23:11 “Her sister Oholibah watched this, 11  but she became more corrupt in her lust than her sister had been, and her acts of prostitution were more numerous than those of her sister. 23:12 She lusted after the Assyrians – governors and officials, warriors in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. 23:13 I saw that she was defiled; both of them followed the same path. 23:14 But she increased her prostitution. She saw men carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans carved in bright red, 12  23:15 wearing belts on their waists and flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, the image of Babylonians 13  whose native land is Chaldea. 23:16 When she saw them, 14  she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 15  23:17 The Babylonians crawled into bed with her. 16  They defiled her with their lust; after she was defiled by them, she 17  became disgusted with them. 23:18 When she lustfully exposed her nakedness, 18  I 19  was disgusted with her, just as I 20  had been disgusted with her sister. 23:19 Yet she increased her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth when she engaged in prostitution in the land of Egypt. 23:20 She lusted after their genitals – as large as those of donkeys, 21  and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions. 23:21 This is how you assessed 22  the obscene conduct of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled 23  your nipples and squeezed 24  your young breasts.

23:22 “Therefore, Oholibah, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here, 25  I am about to stir up against you the lovers with whom you were disgusted; I will bring them against you from every side: 23:23 the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, 26  Shoa, 27  and Koa, 28  and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, all of them governors and officials, officers and nobles, all of them riding on horses. 23:24 They will attack 29  you with weapons, 30  chariots, wagons, and with a huge army; 31  they will array themselves against you on every side with large shields, small shields, and helmets. I will assign them the task of judgment; 32  they will punish you according to their laws. 23:25 I will direct 33  my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in rage. They will cut off your nose and your ears, 34  and your survivors will die 35  by the sword. They will seize your sons and daughters, and your survivors will be consumed by fire. 23:26 They will strip your clothes off you and take away your beautiful jewelry. 23:27 So I will put an end to your obscene conduct and your prostitution which you have practiced in the land of Egypt. 36  You will not seek their help 37  or remember Egypt anymore.

23:28 “For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here, 38  I am about to deliver you over to 39  those whom you hate, to those with whom you were disgusted. 23:29 They will treat you with hatred, take away all you have labored for, 40  and leave you naked and bare. Your nakedness will be exposed, just as when you engaged in prostitution and obscene conduct. 41  23:30 I will do these things to you 42  because you engaged in prostitution with the nations, polluting yourself with their idols. 23:31 You have followed the ways of your sister, so I will place her cup of judgment 43  in your hand. 23:32 “This is what the sovereign Lord says: “You will drink your sister’s deep and wide cup; 44  you will be scorned and derided, for it holds a great deal. 23:33 You will be overcome by 45  drunkenness and sorrow. The cup of your sister Samaria is a cup of horror and desolation. 23:34 You will drain it dry, 46  gnaw its pieces, 47  and tear out your breasts, 48  for I have spoken, declares the sovereign Lord.

23:35 “Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Because you have forgotten me and completely disregarded me, 49  you must bear now the punishment 50  for your obscene conduct and prostitution.”

23:36 The Lord said to me: “Son of man, are you willing to pronounce judgment 51  on Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominable deeds! 23:37 For they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and their sons, whom they bore to me, 52  they have passed through the fire as food to their idols. 53  23:38 Moreover, they have done this to me: In the very same day 54  they desecrated my sanctuary and profaned my Sabbaths. 23:39 On the same day they slaughtered their sons for their idols, they came to my sanctuary to desecrate it. This is what they have done in the middle of my house.

23:40 “They even sent for men from far away; when the messenger arrived, those men set out. 55  For them you bathed, 56  painted your eyes, and decorated yourself with jewelry. 23:41 You sat on a magnificent couch, with a table arranged in front of it where you placed my incense and my olive oil. 23:42 The sound of a carefree crowd accompanied her, 57  including all kinds of men; 58  even Sabeans 59  were brought from the desert. The sisters 60  put bracelets on their wrists and beautiful crowns on their heads. 23:43 Then I said about the one worn out by adultery, ‘Now they will commit immoral acts with her.’ 23:44 They had sex with her 61  as one does with a prostitute. In this way they had sex with Oholah and Oholibah, promiscuous women. 23:45 But upright men will punish them appropriately for their adultery and bloodshed, 62  because they are adulteresses and blood is on their hands.

23:46 “For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Bring up an army 63  against them and subject them 64  to terror and plunder. 23:47 That army will pelt them with stones and slash them with their swords; they will kill their sons and daughters and burn their houses. 65  23:48 I will put an end to the obscene conduct in the land; all the women will learn a lesson from this and not engage in obscene conduct. 23:49 They will repay you for your obscene conduct, and you will be punished for idol worship. 66  Then you will know that I am the sovereign Lord.”

1 tn In the Hebrew text the subject is left unstated and must be supplied from the context.

2 tn The names Oholah and Oholibah are both derived from the word meaning “tent.” The meaning of Oholah is “her tent,” while Oholibah means “my tent is in her.”

3 sn In this allegory the Lord is depicted as being the husband of two wives. The OT law prohibited a man from marrying sisters (Lev 18:18), but the practice is attested in the OT (cf. Jacob). The metaphor is utilized here for illustrative purposes and does not mean that the Lord condoned such a practice or bigamy in general.

4 tn Heb “while she was under me.” The expression indicates that Oholah is viewed as the Lord’s wife. See Num 5:19-20, 29.

sn Played the harlot refers to alliances with pagan nations in this context. In Ezek 16 harlotry described the sin of idolatry.

5 tn Heb “Assyria.”

6 tn The term apparently refers to Assyrian military officers; it is better construed with the description that follows. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:738.

7 tn Heb “lusted after.”

8 tn Heb “and poured out their harlotry on her.”

9 tn Heb “I gave her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the sons of Assyria.”

10 tn Heb “name.”

11 tn The word “this” is not in the original text.

12 tn The only other occurrence of the Hebrew term is in Jer 22:14.

13 tn Heb “the sons of Babel.”

14 tn Heb “at the appearance of her eyes.”

15 sn The Chaldeans were prominent tribal groups of Babylonia. The imagery is reminiscent of events in the reigns of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 20:12-15) and Jehoiakim (2 Kgs 23:34-24:1).

16 tn Heb “The sons of Babel came to her on a bed of love.”

17 tn Heb “her soul.”

18 tn Heb “She exposed her harlotry and she exposed her nakedness.”

19 tn Heb “my soul.”

20 tn Heb “my soul.”

21 tn Heb “She lusted after their concubines (?) whose flesh was the flesh of donkeys.” The phrase “their concubines” is extremely problematic here. The pronoun is masculine plural, suggesting that the Egyptian men are in view, but how concubines would fit into the picture envisioned here is not clear. Some suggest that Ezekiel uses the term in an idiomatic sense of “paramour,” but this still fails to explain how the pronoun relates to the noun. It is more likely that the term refers here to the Egyptians’ genitals. The relative pronoun that follows introduces a more specific description of their genitals.

22 tn Or “you took note of.” The Hebrew verb פָּקַד (paqad) in the Qal implies evaluating something and then acting in light of that judgment; here the prophet depicts Judah as approving of her youthful unfaithfulness and then magnifying it at the present time. Some translations assume the verb should be repointed as a Niphal, rendering “you missed” or by extension “you longed for,” but such an extension of the Niphal “to be missing” is otherwise unattested.

23 tn Heb “when (they) did,” but the verb makes no sense here and is better emended to “when (they) fondled,” a verb used in vv. 3 and 8. See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:43.

24 tn Heb “for the sake of,” but the expression is awkward and is better emended to read “to squeeze.” See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:43.

25 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.

26 sn Pekod was the name of an Aramean tribe (known as Puqudu in Mesopotamian texts) that lived in the region of the Tigris River.

27 sn Shoa was the name of a nomadic people (the Sutu) that lived in Mesopotamia.

28 sn Koa was the name of another Mesopotamian people group (the Qutu).

29 tn Heb “come against.”

30 tn This is the only occurrence of this term in the OT. The precise meaning is uncertain.

31 tn Heb “an assembly of peoples.”

32 tn Heb “I will place before them judgment.”

33 tn Heb “give.”

34 tn Heb “they will remove.”

sn This method of punishment is attested among ancient Egyptian and Hittite civilizations. See W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel (Hermeneia), 1:489.

35 tn Heb “fall.”

36 tn Heb “I will cause your obscene conduct to cease from you and your harlotry from the land of Egypt.”

37 tn Heb “lift your eyes to them.”

38 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.

39 tn Heb “I am giving you into the hand of.”

40 tn The Hebrew term means “labor,” but by extension it can also refer to that for which one works.

41 tn Heb “The nakedness of your prostitution will be exposed, and your obscene conduct and your harlotry.”

42 tn The infinitive absolute continues the sequence begun in v. 28: “Look here, I am about to deliver you.” See Joüon 2:430 §123.w.

43 tn Heb “her cup.” A cup of intoxicating strong drink is used, here and elsewhere, as a metaphor for judgment because both leave one confused and reeling. (See Jer 25:15, 17, 28; Hab 2:16.) The cup of wrath is a theme also found in the NT (Mark 14:36).

44 sn The image of a deep and wide cup suggests the degree of punishment; it will be extensive and leave the victim helpless.

45 tn Heb “filled with.”

46 tn Heb “You will drink it and drain (it).”

47 tn D. I. Block compares this to the idiom of “licking the plate” (Ezekiel [NICOT], 1:754, n. 137). The text is difficult as the word translated “gnaw” is rare. The noun is used of the shattered pieces of pottery and so could envision a broken cup. But the Piel verb form is used in only one other place (Num 24:8), where it is a denominative from the noun “bone” and seems to mean to “break (bones).” Why it would be collocated with “sherds” is not clear. For this reason some emend the phrase to read “consume its dregs” (see L. C. Allen, Ezekiel [WBC], 2:44) or emend the verb to read “swallow,” as if the intoxicated Oholibah breaks the cup and then eats the very sherds in an effort to get every last drop of the beverage that dampens them.

48 sn The severe action is more extreme than beating the breasts in anguish (Isa 32:12; Nah 2:7). It is also ironic for these are the very breasts she so blatantly offered to her lovers (vv. 3, 21).

49 tn Heb “and you cast me behind your back.” The expression pictures her rejection of the Lord (see 1 Kgs 14:9).

50 tn The word “punishment” is not in the Hebrew text but is demanded by the context.

51 tn Heb “will you judge.” Here the imperfect form of the verb is probably used with a desiderative nuance. Addressed to the prophet, “judge” means to warn of or pronounce God’s impending judgment. See 20:4; 22:2.

52 sn The Lord speaks here in the role of the husband of the sisters.

53 tn Heb “they have passed to them for food.” The verb is commonly taken to refer to passing children through fire, especially as an offering to the pagan god Molech. See Jer 32:35.

54 tn Heb “in that day.”

55 tn Heb “to whom a messenger was sent, and look, they came.” Foreign alliances are in view here.

56 tn The Hebrew verb form is feminine singular, indicating that Oholibah (Judah) is specifically addressed here. This address continues through verse 42a (note “her”), but then both sisters are described in verse 42b, where the feminine pronouns are again plural.

57 tn Heb “(was) in her.”

58 tn Heb “and men from the multitude of mankind.”

59 tn An alternate reading is “drunkards.” Sheba is located in the area of modern day Yemen.

60 tn Heb “they”; the referents (the sisters) have been specified in the translation for the sake of clarity.

61 tn Heb “and they came to her.”

62 tn Heb “and upright men will judge them (with) the judgment of adulteresses and the judgment of those who shed blood.”

63 tn Heb “assembly.”

64 tn Heb “give them to.”

65 tn The Hebrew text adds “with fire.”

66 tn Heb “and the sins of your idols you will bear.” By extension it can mean the punishment for the sins.

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