Periodically I come across passages or whole chapters in the Bible that read like a Stephen King horror novel or a Nora Roberts romance. The prophecy of the Two Adulterous Sisters is a combo of the both. If you think the pages within the Bible consist of nothing more than a dull roll call of family lineage you’ll be flabbergasted to read this post.
Oholah engaged in prostitution while she was still mine; and she lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians—warriors clothed in blue, governors and commanders, all of them handsome young men, and mounted horsemen. She gave herself as a prostitute to all the elite of the Assyrians and defiled herself with all the idols of everyone she lusted after. She did not give up the prostitution she began in Egypt, when during her youth men slept with her, caressed her virgin bosom and poured out their lust on her. Ezekiel 23:5-8
You should know that Oholah is not a woman. Actually, Oholah is symbolic representation of Samaria around 600 B.C. Samaria was the capital of the kingdom of Israel, God’s chosen people and land. The Hebrew translation of Oholah is “tent,” which is meant to signify that the tent of God is Samaria. In this story, which was actually a prophecy of things to come – and they did – God graphically explains his perception of Samaria’s sin and what will happen to them as a result.
Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. They stripped her naked, took away her sons and daughters and killed her with the sword. She became a byword among women, and punishment was inflicted on her. Ezekiel 23:9-10
I’ll admit this does read a bit like Shakespeare, but here’s the gist. Israel, along with its capital, Samaria, was God’s personally chosen civilization: His bride. He protected her, loved her, and was merciful and gracious to her, as any good husband would be. But despite Samaria’s special treatment, she turned her back on God. The people idolized the neighboring empires, their wealth, their prestige, their power. Instead of trusting in God to provide everything they could ever possibly want – or imagine for that matter – they placed their hopes, dreams, security and safety into the hands of the leaders and people of Assyria and Egypt.
God had had enough. He told Ezekiel to tell the people of Samaria that their doom was imminent. Because of their idolatry, i.e., adultery, Samaria would fall into ruin and the people would be laid to waste. The Assyrians and Egyptians took advantage of Samaria: pillaging, raping and murdering. And because He was disgusted with His bride, God stood by and watched.
But Israel was not the only kingdom that God was disgusted with. The people of the of Judah, as well as those in its capital, Jerusalem, had made some stupid choices as well.
Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister. She too lusted after the Assyrians—governors and commanders, warriors in full dress, mounted horsemen, all handsome young men. I saw that she too defiled herself; both of them went the same way. Ezekiel 23:11-13
In Hebrew Oholibah means, “my (God’s) tent is therein.” At the time, the Temple was located in the center of Judea, on Zion. Oholibah (Jerusalem) is the symbolic representation of Oholah’s (Samaria’s) younger sister. In God’s eyes, Jerusalem was even more promiscuous than Samaria; Jerusalem fell into the arms of her enemies multiple times. She not only failed to learn from the mistakes of her older sister, but she also failed to learn from her own mistakes. By worshiping and giving themselves over to Egypt and Assyria, she allowed herself to be overtaken by these kingdoms, just as Samaria did. And later, she also gave herself to Chaldea (or Babylonia).
But she carried her prostitution still further. She saw men portrayed on a wall, figures of Chaldeans portrayed in red, with belts around their waists and flowing turbans on their heads; all of them looked like Babylonian chariot officers, natives of Chaldea. As soon as she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. Then the Babylonians came to her, to the bed of love, and in their lust they defiled her. After she had been defiled by them, she turned away from them in disgust. When she carried on her prostitution openly and exposed her naked body, I turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from her sister. Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled. Ezekiel 23:14-21
I must admit, I’m a bit embarrassed by the words used in these passages. Personally, I would never use them in my own writing, but these are God’s words, not mine, and I’ve just copied them into this post. They are graphic for a reason. The verbiage reads like venom, spat from the mouth of God. If it were possible to imagine the emotion and expression of God, I would say that it is in these passages that we are able to envision a burning fury, like that of a jealous husband who has been cheated on, multiple times by the woman whom he loved dearly and with all his heart.
Therefore, Oholibah, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will stir up your lovers against you…and I will bring them against you from every side— the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, the men of Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, handsome young men, all of them governors and commanders, chariot officers and men of high rank, all mounted on horses. They will come against you with weapons, chariots and wagons and with a throng of people; they will take up positions against you on every side with large and small shields and with helmets. I will turn you over to them for punishment, and they will punish you according to their standards. I will direct my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in fury. They will cut off your noses and your ears, and those of you who are left will fall by the sword. They will take away your sons and daughters, and those of you who are left will be consumed by fire. They will also strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry. So I will put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution you began in Egypt. You will not look on these things with longing or remember Egypt anymore. Ezekiel 23:22-27
What a horrific illustration of God’s bitter anger and jealously over His people’s idolatry. God says, “Fine. You want to cheat on me? I’ll allow your lover to rape you, over and over again. I’ll allow him to take your children away from you, torment and kill you by fire and strip the clothes off of you and allow you to walk naked down the streets in utter shame and humiliation. You thought you were beautiful and wanted, but you were being used, no more important than the most insignificant object possible. Then, and only then, will you know that you were wrong to desert me, to dismiss my kindness and compassion. All you had to do was be faithful. How do you like your life without me now?”
…They will leave you stark naked, and the shame of your prostitution will be exposed. Your lewdness and promiscuity have brought this on you, because you lusted after the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. You have gone the way of your sister; so I will put her cup into your hand.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
You will drink your sister’s cup,
a cup large and deep;
it will bring scorn and derision,
for it holds so much.
You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow,
the cup of ruin and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria.
You will drink it and drain it dry
and chew on its pieces—
and you will tear your breasts.
I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. Ezekiel 23:29-34
For goodness sakes, please be grateful that our Lord no longer destroys cities as He once did. Today we live under the arms of Jesus Christ Himself. In the eyes of God, Jesus’ blood literally washed away our sins. As my pastor said this past weekend, “There is no better laundry detergent than the blood of Jesus.” Swallow your pride and believe it. You and I are no better than the people who lived in Samaria and Jerusalem 2,600 years ago.
God says that at the climax of Samaria and Jerusalem’s pagan worship they “committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them. …At that same time they defiled my sanctuary and desecrated my Sabbaths. On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house.” Ezekiel 23:37-39
You and I can’t possibly fathom sacrificing our children to gods, but apparently that is what these people did. That said, we know all too well the reality of our world today. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent every year in an effort to protect our children from sexual predators, school shooters, cyberbullying, violent video games, pornography, the Internet and drugs. If you visit your local court office you can take a look at the list of child predators in your neighborhood alone.
We too worship the almighty dollar, our neighbor’s BMW and our colleague’s iPad Mini — just the other day I became the proud owner of one of these myself. We look forward to Sunday’s so that we can mow the grass rather than spend time reading scripture. We place our trust in a brighter tomorrow upon the path of our careers.
It’s time we learn from Oholah and Oholibah’s mistakes. Place your confidence in God and your assurance of salvation in Jesus. Keep yourself pure by seeking His will and asking for forgiveness for all the times you haven’t before it is too late.