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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 23:1 The word of Yahweh came again to me saying- The metaphors used to describe the anger of God with Israel are pretty awful. Her children to be slain with thirst, she was to be stripped naked by her husband (Hosea 2), gang raped by her lovers, having her nose cut off and left a battered, bleeding mess in the scrubland (Ez. 16,23), to have her skirt pulled up over her head and her nakedness revealed (Jer. 13:20-27), wishing to pluck off her own breasts for shame (Ez. 23:34). Jerusalem is to be raped, violated and humiliated, according to Ezekiel. Indeed, Ezekiel’s images verge at times on what some would consider pornographic. He speaks of the woman Israel’s pubic hair, breasts, menstrual cycle (Ez. 16:7,10); the gang rape by her enemies which God would bring about, leaving her mutilated and humiliated (Ez. 16:37; 23:22-49); about the size of her lovers’ sexual organs and coital emissions, and how she let them fondle her breasts (Ez. 23:8,20). This is shocking language, which perhaps we skip over in our Bible reading from sheer embarrassment- and we are modern readers brutalized by exposure to this kind of stuff in the media. For early Israel, it would all have been even more shocking. It all seemed out of proportion to having ‘merely’ made a few political alliances with Egypt and Assyria. Was that really like a wife letting other men fondle her breasts and have sex with her, admiring their bodies as she did so? Did it all have to end in such brutality and vulgarity? Today, sex and violence are what attract attention. From lyrics of songs to advertising and movies, that’s clear enough. And the prophets are using the same tactics to arrest Israel’s attention, all the more so because nudity and sex were things simply not up for public discussion. There’s an anxiety which any talk about sex seems to arouse in us, and it was the prophets’ intention to make us likewise get on the edge of our seats, anxious, rapt, sensitive for the next word… realizing that really and truly, this is what human sin does to God. The outrageous sex talk was to bring out how outrageous and obscene are our sins and unfaithfulness to the covenant we cut with God in baptism.

Ezekiel 23:2 Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother-
Unlike the similar lurid passage in Ez. 16, this appears to be a private revelation to Ezekiel, addressed personally as "son of man". Perhaps he still struggled to realize that the priesthood and society he had come from were really as bad as God saw them to be. The Jews considered the Israelites of the ten tribes to have been so far worse than themselves that they had gone into captivity in Assyria. One purpose of this allegory was to remind them that Israel were not worse than Judah; in fact the opposite was the case, and they were all the same sisters.

Ezekiel 23:3 And they played the prostitute in Egypt; they played the prostitute in their youth; there were their breasts pressed, and there were fondled the breasts of their virginity-
The people of Israel worshipped idols in Egypt, and there lost their virginity. It was by grace that God took them on as His wife when they were already not virgins. The language of pressing the breasts means groping. They were raped, but raped as prostitutes are raped, half willingly so, in Egypt.

Ezekiel 23:4 Their names were Oholah the elder, and Oholibah her sister: and they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters-
God's grace is here noted, that He married such defiled women; and by grace, they had children, when prostitutes were stereotypically perceived as barren.

As for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem Oholibah- "Oholah" is "her tent", a reference to the false sanctuary created by Jeroboam for the ten tribes; and "Oholibah" 'my tent is in her', reflecting how indeed God's true sanctuary was in Jerusalem and not Samaria. But the allegory will continue to reveal that this didn't make her superior but rather even more responsible for the profanity performed in that sanctuary. So the assumption of Judah that they were somehow more righteous because they had the true sanctuary amongst them is thereby subverted.

Ezekiel 23:5 Oholah played the prostitute when she was Mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours-
Those lovers turned on her and destroyed her. She was taken captive to Assyria, the people whose gods she had so loved. "Doted" is literally 'to breathe after', the language of a woman in heat. This is how God presents her attraction to the Assyrian idols. And the word and extreme image is repeatedly used here (:7,9,12,16,20).

Ezekiel 23:6 Who were clothed with blue, governors and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses-
It was as horsemen that the young men of Assyria came as soldiers to destroy Samaria and lead her into captivity. Her rulers were attractive because Israel thought that they had power to protect and save them instead of their God. And there again is a timeless warning. What they found so attractive turned to be their destruction. It was God's Kingdom which should have been "desirable" to Israel (s.w. Is. 27:2; 32:12), but the passing visual attraction of the world was more "desirable".

Ezekiel 23:7 She bestowed her prostitution on them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them; and on whoever she doted, with all their idols she defiled herself-
Idolatry is presented as prostitution. But she "bestowed her prostitution on them", rather than them coming to her. For "doted" see on :5. Every relationship with the idols of our age is likewise prostitution against the God who has so loved us. "Choicest men" is used of soldiers (Dan. 11:15; Jer. 48:15; Ex. 15:4). It was the protection of Assyria's handsome soldiers which was so attractive to Israel; and therefore they agreed to serve their idols to have their protection. And it was those same soldiers who were to turn and destroy them.

Ezekiel 23:8 Neither has she left her prostitution since the days of Egypt; for in her youth they lay with her, and they fondled the breasts of her virginity; and they poured out their prostitution on her-
Israel is presented as having been sexually unstable from her youth; her subsequent encounter with Yahweh, her marriage to Him and His pouring out His love upon her... didn't change her basic mentality. She was not serious, light minded, and went to whatever her eyes and flesh were attracted to. This is our tendency as humans. She didn't leave her prostitution "for" or because she had lost her virginity in Egypt, before she met Yahweh. The long term effect of her idolatry there, just like the long term effect of sexual promiscuity in youth, was that she never settled down to a stable monogamous relationship, even though she had the best ever husband.

Ezekiel 23:9 Therefore I delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians on whom she doted-
For "doted" see on :5. It was appropriate that she should be delivered into the hand or power of the Assyrians, for they were the ones she had loved more than Yahweh.

Ezekiel 23:10 These uncovered her nakedness; they took her sons and her daughters and her they killed with the sword, and she became a byword among women; for they executed judgments on her-
The 'death' of the ten tribes must be compared to the insistence of all the restoration prophets that a revived Israel and Judah would together return to the land and form God's reestablished Kingdom. This has to imply that the slain Samaria would be as it were resurrected; which is what Ez. 37 predicts, a resurrection of the dry bones. The uncovering of nakedness implies shame, as does becoming a byword. This was a fate worse than death in their terms. The uncovering her nakedness means she was revealed for who she was- a worn out whore, self-ruined by her profligate life. What was uncovered by the Assyrians was her whoredom (:29). The Assyrians realized that Samaria had not been faithful to them as she had promised, but in fact had made similar agreements with other powers, and also worshipped their gods- as well as Yahweh. It was this discovery which made the Assyrians so angry with Samaria, just as the Babylonians were to be with Judah.

Ezekiel 23:11 Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet was she more corrupt in her doting than she, and in her prostitution which was more than the prostitution of her sister-
This repeats Jeremiah's message to the Jews still in the land (Jer. 3:7). For "doting" see on :5. The idea seems to be that Jerusalem was encouraged in her immorality by Samaria. The reasoning was that because the sanctuary was in Jerusalem, Judah were automatically more righteous than Israel, and could therefore sin more than her. This is where mere tokenism and externality leads in religious life- to spiritual and literal immorality. "Corrupt" is the word used about the situation before the flood, when the eretz was again "corrupt" and was "destroyed" (Gen. 6:11-13)- both are valid translations of the same Hebrew word. To be corrupt was to destroy oneself. The judgment was the sin.

Ezekiel 23:12 She doted on the Assyrians, governors and rulers, her neighbours, clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men-
For "doting" see on :5. She was infatuated by the Assyrian leadership and military, the very things which Judah found attractive as promising protection and stability, when instead she should have looked to Yahweh for this. 

Ezekiel 23:13 I saw that she was defiled; they both took one way-
Again it is stressed that Judah was not better than Israel, as she imagined; she took the same "way". "Defiled" means that she was no longer a virgin (s.w. Gen. 34:5,13,27). But she had lost her virginity in Egypt; it was there that she had been defiled by idolatry (Ez. 20:7). The idea therefore is that God recognized that this was how she had been from the beginning; He "saw" the iniquity in His people which earlier by grace He had not 'seen' because He imputed righteousness to them, as the object of His love (Num. 23:21). It was specifically the temple which was "defiled" (s.w. Jer. 32:34; Ez. 5:11; 43:7), and perhaps that is the location of "the wall" in :14.

Ezekiel 23:14 She increased her prostitution; for she saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion-
I suggested on :13 that the context is of the temple. It could be that Jews went to the land of the Chaldeans and were impressed with the friezes on their walls, coloured with bright red. For they loved anything foreign, rather than the things of Yahweh. But more likely were these friezes replicated on the walls of the temple. Instead of the motif of the protecting cherubim within the temple, there were friezes of Chaldean soldiers, her pinups, her heroes and preferred saviours. "The wall" in Ez. 8:10; 43:8 refers specifically to the wall dividing the holy and most holy place; there, perhaps on the inside of the most holy, there were the friezes of idols and Chaldean warriors, used in a  pornographic sense.

Ezekiel 23:15 Dressed with girdles on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them princes to look on, after the likeness of the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth-
See on :23. The men depicted on the wall (:14) were like the Babylonian soldiers depicted on the friezes in the palaces and cities of the Chaldeans. The Jews had visited these lands and in their love for anything foreign, had replicated such motifs and friezes upon the walls of the temple.

Ezekiel 23:16 As soon as she saw them she doted on them, and sent messengers to them into Chaldea-
For "doted" see on :5. She sent to Chaldea for these men to come to her, suggesting the pictures of the men were on the walls of the Jerusalem temple, and even within the holy places (see on :15). It is stereotypically men who respond to visual representations of females. Here it was men responding to the pictures of Chaldean men. It could be a reference to homosexual attraction, but the idea was that the lust was for the military protection of these soldiers; when the entire Angelic army symbolized by the cherubim was ready to protect Jerusalem. But they had removed the cherubim motif and replaced it with these images.

Ezekiel 23:17 The Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their prostitution, and she was polluted with them, and her soul was alienated from them-
Judah felt that she had not been given the protection and support from Babylon which she had expected.

Ezekiel 23:18 So she displayed her prostitution, and uncovered her nakedness: then My soul was alienated from her, like as My soul was alienated from her sister-
Jer.  6:8 and Ez. 23:18 speak of how God's soul "departed" (AV) from His people- but the same word is translated to hang / crucify (Num. 25:4; 2 Sam. 21:6,9,13). It's as if God was crucified in His pain for Israel. And in the death of His Son He went through that pain. And so never, ever, ever... can we nor Israel complain that our pain is greater than God's. Never. The pain of God at Israel's sin leads Him to exclaim (almost in the language of piercing and crucifixion): "Before me continually is grief and wounds" (Jer. 6:7). We can wound God by our sin, so sensitive is He to us. In the end, we read that God's "soul" departed from them, because "the Lord has rejected you" (Jer. 6:8,30). This is the same language used about Saul- God rejected him, and so His spirit departed from him (1 Sam. 15:23; 16:14). The implication was that God's very soul / spirit is "with" us, and therefore He can be so terribly wounded by us in His heart by the rebellions of those in covenant relationship with Him. For His heart / soul / spirit is so close to us His beloved people.

Ezekiel 23:19 Yet she multiplied her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth, in which she had played the prostitute in the land of Egypt-
Despite God's departure from her, perhaps symbolized by the visible departure of the cherubim and glory from the temple described earlier in Ezekiel, she instead repeated her prostitution and multiplied it, by trying to make treaties with the Egyptians and accepting their idols and gods.

Ezekiel 23:20 She doted on their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of donkeys, and whose issue is like the issue of horses-
For "doted" see on :5. The language here is crude, but it reflects the crude nature of Jerusalem's attraction towards the other nations simply on the basis of their external attributes. Donkeys or asses were famed for having large reproductive organs, and horses for having much sperm. And these characteristics of the men portrayed on the walls of the temple (see on :14) were so attractive to the Jews. The horse was used by the Egyptians as the hieroglyphic for a lustful person; and as just pointed out in :19, Judah was still influenced by Egyptian thought and idolatry.

Ezekiel 23:21 Thus you called to memory the lewdness of your youth, in the fondling of your bosom by the Egyptians for the breasts of your youth-
Under threat from the Babylonians, Judah returned to Egypt to make treaties with them, which involved accepting their idols into the Jerusalem temple. She was thus returning to her youth, acting as she had done then.

Ezekiel 23:22 Therefore, Oholibah, thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will raise up your lovers against you, from whom your soul is alienated, and I will bring them against you on every side-
This alienation refers to the falling out between Judah and her masters in Babylon. She fell out with all her lovers once they realized she had been making similar treaties with other nations ["lovers"] and therefore her temple in Jerusalem was filled with the idols of various nations. She was alienated from Yahweh (:18) and now was alienated from her lovers. She was pathetically and tragically alone- and this is the picture of the condemnation of all who reject Yahweh. A gnashing of teeth alone in the darkness.

Ezekiel 23:23 The Babylonians and all the Chaldeans-
The "Chaldeans" refer to a group of Aramean people who attacked and conquered Babylon in 625 BC. They came to establish the kingdom known as Babylon, but strictly the "Babylonians" at this stage referred to the local inhabitants of Babylon before the Chaldeans arrived there.

Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them; desirable young men, governors and rulers all of them, princes and men of renown, all of them riding on horses- These other nations are mentioned as exemplification of how Judah had been a whore in wanting relationship with so many different peoples. The names of these people all hint at the judgment upon Judah which they would bring: 'Punishment', 'Cry for help' and 'Shriek'. Judah befriended and 'loved' those who would later be their punishment, and force Judah to shriek urgently for help- which would then not be forthcoming.

Ezekiel 23:24 They shall come against you with weapons, chariots and wagons, and with a company of peoples; they shall set themselves against you with buckler and shield and helmet all around; and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments-
LXX "And they all shall come upon thee from the north, chariots and wheels". This is clearly an allusion to the cherubim, seen also from the north, with chariots and wheels. The armies of cherubic protection which they had rejected (see on :14) would turn against them in the form of the Babylonian invaders. God could have judged Jerusalem for her unfaithfulness to Him, but He allowed the other offended lovers to judge her for her unfaithfulness to them. In this sense He committed her judgment to them.

Ezekiel 23:25 I will set My jealousy against you, and they shall deal with you in fury-
As explained on :24, God too was jealous, as the betrayed husband and lover. But the other lovers were also jealous, and so He judged them through allowing those lovers to judge her in their own way.


They shall take away your nose and your ears; and your residue shall fall by the sword. They shall take your sons and your daughters; and your residue shall be devoured by the fire- Cutting off nose and ears was a Mesopotamian punishment rather than a Hebrew one. So the idea may be that God would allow the former lovers to judge Judah, rather than He Himself directly. And they would judge in their way. The nose rings and earrings she had adorned herself with would be taken away and left for the executioners to pick up; her actual nose and ears would be cut off and she would be stoned to death, through the Babylonian siege engines hurling rocks at Jerusalem. For this was how they judged unfaithful women.

Ezekiel 23:26 They shall also strip you of your clothes, and take away your beautiful jewels-
This alludes to the Mesopotamian custom (see on :25) of the executioner taking the clothes and jewels of the adulteress, and then leaving her dead body to be sexually used by any who wished. We note that Babylon was judging Judah for adultery against her; Judah had sworn total loyalty to Babylon as well as other nations, and when her whoredom / nakedness was discovered, when it was realized that the Jerusalem temple was full of the idols of all manner of gods; then Babylon judged Jerusalem as an adulterous wife. And God Himself of course wanted to do so, but as noted on :25, He allowed Babylon to do this for Him as it were.

Ezekiel 23:27 Thus will I make your lewdness to cease from you, and your prostitution brought from the land of Egypt; so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them, nor remember Egypt any more-
The emphasis upon Egypt is perhaps because it was Egypt who tempted Judah to trust in her strength and therefore break her agreements with Babylon and Assyria. The unfaithful woman Jerusalem would be stoned to death by her one time lovers; but here we get the impression she would somehow be revived, resurrected to a position where she would never again make the same mistakes. And this is the revival spoken of in the valley of dry bones prophecy in Ez. 37. But this spiritual revival didn't happen at the restoration; it is yet to come, when these prophecies shall come to their final term.

Ezekiel 23:28 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will deliver you into the hand of those whom you hate, into the hand of those from whom your soul is alienated-
Illicit love always turns to hatred. Never was this more true than in the case of Judah and her lovers. The true seed of Abraham were to dominate those who hated them (Gen. 24:60 s.w.). But Jerusalem was dominated by her haters. For she had broken the covenant.

Ezekiel 23:29 And they shall deal with you in hatred, and shall take away all your labour, and shall leave you naked and bare; and the nakedness of your prostitution shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your prostitution-
Their lovers hated them now, and so did God because of their deep unfaithfulness (Jer. 12:8; Hos. 9:15; Am. 5:21; 6:8 s.w.). Their prostitution was uncovered [the same word used of exiles being sent into captivity] in that all the nations came to realize what God already had experienced with Jerusalem- that she had made exclusive covenants with them all, and accepted their gods into the Jerusalem temple. But she

Ezekiel 23:30 These things shall be done to you because you have played the prostitute after the nations, and because you are polluted with their idols-
Jerusalem's prostitution involved idolatry in that as noted on :29, each of her lovers expected her to worship their idols as part of the covenant deal they made with her. The exposure of all this was when they each realized that they were being spoken with in just the same way as Jerusalem was dealing with various nations.

Ezekiel 23:31 You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore will I give her cup into your hand-
Again the point is made that Judah were so wrong to think that they were so intrinsically better than the ten tribes. To drink a cup from the Lord is a double symbol- either the cup of blessing which we bless at the communion service (1 Cor. 10:16), or the cup of condemnation, also given from the Lord. In this sense at the breaking of bread service we drink either blessing or condemnation to ourselves, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 11. Hence self examination at that time ought to be naturally elicited.

Ezekiel 23:32 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You will drink of your sister’s cup, which is deep and large; you will be ridiculed and held in derision; it contains much-
To be ridiculed and derided was a fate worse than death in the ancient world, and is often mentioned as Israel's fate. As with Job, the thing greatly feared comes upon those who are condemned; the nature of their condemnation will be appropriate to them. But the degree to which derision and ridicule is so painful to a person is directly related to their pride. It was Judah's pride which made these things so hard for them. If they had been humble, the derision would have been far less painful.

Ezekiel 23:33 You shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of your sister Samaria-
The physical desolation of the land during the exile was a reflection of this, and was one of the curses for breaking the covenant (Lev. 26:33). And yet there is archaeological evidence that agriculture didn't cease in the land during the exile, the poor of the land, the vast majority of the population, were left there; and they even brought grain offerings to the temple site (Jer. 41:5). So God ameliorated this absolutely deserved judgment, in His pity and grace. And this God is our God. The "astonishment" reflects how they had wilfully believed the words of the false prophets. They really thought they were better than Samaria. And it was this deep seated spiritual arrogance which was their worst problem, and which enabled their conscience to become so blunted.

Ezekiel 23:34 You shall even drink it and drain it out, and you shall gnaw the broken pieces of it, and shall tear off your breasts; for I have spoken it, says the Lord Yahweh-
This is the picture of absolute self hatred. Plucking off their own breasts is another way of describing the weeping and gnashing of teeth of the rejected in their self hatred. The Bible has a lot to say about condemnation. Yet God doesn't wish to condemn and takes no pleasure in it. This vast array of Biblical information is therefore given, I suggest, in order to help us appreciate what a great salvation we have received by grace in Christ; this is what we deserve, and yet we have been saved from it. Without that backdrop, the concepts of salvation, grace, redemption, rescue etc. all seem less wonderful.


Ezekiel 23:35 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because you have forgotten Me, and cast Me behind your back, therefore you also shall bear your lewdness and your prostitution-
They had committed awful "lewdness" but there is here the implication that they didn't have to 'bear' it, to take the judgment for that sin. But they cast Yahweh behind their back, and so they had to bear the consequences. They refused Ezekiel's urgent calls for repentance. They worshipped their idols with their backs to Yahweh's sanctuary (Ez. 8:16). They did not literally 'forget' Yahweh. But effectively they did, for He was not continually in their self awareness and conscience. And this again is a timeless warning to all who claim to be His people. To cast Yahweh behind the back meant worshipping other gods (1 Kings 14:9). And yet they claimed to be Yahweh worshippers. So the point is that if we do not put God first and solely in our lives, then we have cast Him behind our back. We cannot have Him as merely part of our devotions and religious life. Nehemiah had heard these words of Ezekiel, and interpreted them as meaning that they had cast God's law behind their backs (Neh. 9:26 cp. Ps. 50:17). God is His word; "the word was God". Our attitudes to His word are our attitudes to Him.

Ezekiel 23:36 Yahweh said moreover to me: Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations-
This could imply (as elsewhere) that Ezekiel struggled to really understand that his people, especially the priesthood he had come from, were really that bad. By declaring to the people what he had been privately shown in this chapter, he would thereby judge them. This is a parade example of knowledge of God's word bringing responsibility to judgment. If the word was declared to them and they refused to respond, then they had thereby their judgment.

Ezekiel 23:37 For they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands; and with their idols have they committed adultery-
This may appear a mere repetition of the obvious. But perhaps the stress is upon "they have...", because as noted on :26, Ezekiel was reluctant to accept they had in fact sinned this deeply.

And they have also caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to their idols to be devoured- Whilst all our children are born to God, the reference would be particularly to the firstborn, who were to be devoted to God in memory of the Passover deliverance. And instead, they offered their firstborn to idols. That their children should be carried away into captivity in these lands to serve their gods was therefore an appropriate judgment, seeing the Jews had offered their firstborn to those idols.

Ezekiel 23:38 Moreover this they have done to Me: they have defiled My sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned My Sabbaths-
God feels sin very deeply and personally; what they did was "done to Me". We marvel at His sensitivity, that so far from us and above us, yet He is so close and so deeply affected by our actions. We can likewise touch His heart so relatively easily by our devotion to Him. It seems Judah purposefully committed their worst sacrilege in the temple on the sabbath, "in the same day". The child sacrifices of :39 were committed on the sabbath. They had justified their perversions by claiming that they were in fact a form of Yahweh worship. That was the only way their consciences could be numbed to do as they did. This is the scenario of Jer. 7:7-10; they offered their children in nearby Gehenna and then came into the temple, reasoning that they were "delivered", saved from Egypt and from threatened judgment, in order to be able to sin without conscience. This was the Old Testament form of continuing in sin because grace abounded (Rom. 6:1).

Ezekiel 23:39 For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into My sanctuary to profane it; and behold, thus have they done in the midst of My house-
See on :38.
Excavations of the Elephantine community reveal that the Jews mixed Yahweh and Baal worship to such an extent that they believed that Yahweh , like Baal, had a consort called Anat. Inscriptions from Quntillet Ajrud show the names Yahweh and Baal mixed together, including one which appears to speak of “Yahweh and his asherah”.  Ez. 16:21 and Ez. 23:39 are quite specific about this anyway- Israel offered sacrifice to idols in Yahweh’s own temple.

Ezekiel 23:40 Furthermore you have sent for men who come from far, to whom a messenger was sent, and behold, they came; for whom you did wash yourself, paint your eyes, and decorate yourself with ornaments-
As explained on :16, this was in response to their beholding the images of these men carved on the friezes of the temple instead of the cherubim, symbols of God's protection. The painting of eyes recalls Jezebel, notorious queen of apostate Samaria. Judah were no better; that is the recurring message. For it was that sense of spiritual superiority which led them into so much of their grosser sin.

Ezekiel 23:41 And sat on a stately bed, with a table prepared before it, whereupon you set My incense and My oil-
The fornication committed involved elements of Yahweh worship. As noted on :38,39, this was the way in which they allowed their consciences to be so numbed. They justified their immorality as  Yahweh worship. The table was the altar, with the incense and oil of Yahweh worship upon it; and they had sex with the representatives of the Gentile nations right in front of that altar. This was typical paganic worship- to sleep with the cult prostitutes before the altar. And they did this right within Yahweh's sanctuary. We too have an altar, a table at which we eat as Christian believers (Heb. 13:10). And before that we surely cannot commit such adultery.

Ezekiel 23:42 The voice of a multitude being at ease was with her: and with men of the common sort were brought drunkards from the wilderness; and they put bracelets on both their hands, and beautiful crowns on their heads-
LXX "And they raised a sound of music, and that with men coming from the wilderness out of a multitude of men, and they put bracelets on their hands, and a crown of glory on their heads". I suggested on :41 that they committed religious and literal fornication before Yahweh's altar, as part of a ritual which they justified to themselves as Yahweh worship. I say "to themselves" because the later anger of their lovers was when the lovers realized that Jerusalem was not wholly devoted to them; her whoredom was revealed and uncovered to all when it was realized that she worshipped many gods, including Yahweh. The music therefore refers to the temple songs, and the crown for beauty to the high priestly crown. Hence in captivity they were mockingly asked to continue singing Yahweh's temple songs (Ps. 137:3).

Ezekiel 23:43 Then I said of her who was an adulteress of old, Now will they play the prostitute with her, and she with them-
The final section of the prophecy is a reflection upon the fact that right to the end, the two women had continued their immorality. The idea here may be 'Who would really want to use such an old worn out prostitute?'. But as she was in her youth, so she continued to old age. She had no attraction, reflecting the lack of benefit in forming any alliances with the failed state of Judah, but still she desperately tried to sell herself. There was no repentance right to the end.

Ezekiel 23:44 They went in to her, as they go in to a prostitute: so went they in to Oholah and to Oholibah, the lewd women-
Now both sisters are again mentioned; neither repented (see on :43), they were merely used, there was no love, no permanence. That alone was available in Yahweh their God and husband.

Ezekiel 23:45 Righteous men, they shall judge them with the judgment of adulteresses, and with the judgment of women who shed blood; because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands-
The judges were "righteous" in that they executed just judgment upon her; she was a "lawful captive" (Is. 49:24). The judgment of an adulteress and of a woman who sheds blood is apparently different. The latter may refer to a woman who slays her own children. The two charges were connected in that Jerusalem slew her children as part of her spiritual adultery with other gods.

Ezekiel 23:46 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will bring up a company against them, and will give them to be tossed back and forth and robbed-
This "company" equate with the crowd of witnesses who stoned an adulteress to death. And yet the figure implies she was both killed, and yet survived to be tossed back and forth and robbed- a description of Judah in exile. Does she survive this death, or not? This paradox is finally resolved in Ez. 37, when the dead bones of Judah are resurrected. Despite the awful sin of Judah, by God's grace He was not finished with her and would resurrect her to an intended further relationship with Him. That after all that she rejected Him and murdered His beloved Son is a tragedy beyond words. "Tossed back and forth" is literally "be removed", the word used for the punishment for breaking the covenant (Dt. 28:25). "Robbed" is s.w. 'to take for a prey'. Having repeatedly said that sinful Jerusalem would be given for a prey (Jer. 15:13; 17:3; Ez. 7:21; 23:46) we read that the latter day invasion of Israel comes as a great company (as in Ez. 23:46) to "take a prey" (Ez. 38:12,13); but that invasion is not to be successful, unlike the previous historical invasions which took Jerusalem for a prey. The implication therefore is that Jerusalem finally repents, and so shall not be given for a prey in the very last invasion.

Ezekiel 23:47 The company shall stone them with stones, and dispatch them with their swords; they shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire-
This sounds as if the prostitute was to be permanently killed as a prostitute would have been executed. But the marvel of the dry bones prophecy in Ez. 37 is that there would be revival and resurrection of this dead, shameful body; and God would enter again into relationship with her. Let’s remember that God’s own law was pretty clear about adultery. The adulterous woman was to be punished with death- for one act of adultery. Even if she repented. And in any case, it was a defiling abomination [according to the Mosaic Law] to remarry a divorced wife. But Hosea doesn’t keep the law. He lets his wife commit multiple acts of adultery, and he still loves her and pleads with her- even though he was a man in love with God’s law. And this reflects the turmoil of God in dealing with human sin, and His sinful people. Hosea outlines his plan in Hosea 2. He will hamper her movements so she can’t find her lovers; if she does find them, he will take away her food and clothing, so she appreciates his generosity to her; and if she still doesn’t return, he will expose her naked and shamed in front of her lovers. But there’s no evidence Hosea ever did that. He just… loved her, was angry with her as an expression of that love, loved her yet more, yet more… And this perhaps too reflects God’s mind- devising and declaring judgments for Israel, which are themselves far less than what He has earlier stated in His own law, and yet the power of His love means He somehow keeps bearing with His people. Even in the context of speaking of His marriage to Israel, God says that He will punish them "as women that break wedlock are judged" (Ez. 16:38; 23:45). And yet, He didn't. His love was too great, His passion for them too strong; and He even shamed Himself by doing what His own law forbad, the remarriage to a divorced and defiled wife. Perhaps all love involves a degree of paradox and self-contradiction; and a jealous, Almighty God in love was no different. This, to me, is why some Bible verses indicate God has forsaken Israel; and others imply He hasn’t and never will. Somehow, even right now, the Jews you meet… are loved still by their God. And he still fantasizes, in a way, over their return to Him. Imagine His utter joy when even one of them does in fact turn to Him! That alone motivates me to preach to Israel today.

Ezekiel 23:48 Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness-
Through such terrible judgments it was God's intention that a resurrected, revived Judah would not again commit such unfaithfulness, and "all women", the other nations, would likewise be taught God's ways. Both these things were potentially possible at the restoration. But they didn't happen. Judah again fell into unfaithfulness, and the Gentile world weren't preached to by a repentant Judah. And so these things have been rescheduled and reapplied to the last days.

Ezekiel 23:49 They shall recompense your lewdness on you, and you shall bear the sins of your idols; and you shall know that I am the Lord Yahweh
- As noted on :48, Judah were intended to bear the punishment for their idolatry and immorality. Although the punishment was total and shameful death, yet for her to 'know Yahweh' she would be revived, resurrected from the pile of dead, disgraced bones, as Ez. 37 states. But this didn't happen at the restoration as was potentially possible. Judah shall only know Yahweh ultimately through the application of these things in the last days.