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Ezekiel 23



Oholah and Oholibah's Sin and its Consequences Two Harlot Sisters The Allegory of the Sisters, Oholah anad Oholibah The Sinful Sisters An Allegorical History of Jerusalem and Samaria
23:1-4 23:1-4 23:1-4 23:1-10 23:1-8
  The Older Sister, Samaria      
23:5-10 23:5-10 23:5-10    
  (5-8)     23:9-10
  The Younger Sister, Jerusalem      
23:11-21 23:11-21 23:11-21 23:11-13 23:11-20
  Judgment on Jerusalem   God's Judgment on the Younger Sister 23:21-34
23:22-35 23:22-31 23:22-35 23:22-27  
(32-34)   (32b-34) 23:32-34 (32b-34)
  (35) (35) 23:35  
  Both Sisters Judged   God's Judgment on Both Sisters 23:35-39
22:36-39 23:36-45 23:36-39 23:36-39  
22:40-42   23:40-42 23:40-45 23:40-45
23:43-45   23:43-45    
23:46-49 23:46-49 23:46-49 23:46-49 23:46-49

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Chapter 23 is a series of judgment oracles

1. similar in subject matter to chapter 16

2. similar in genre to "the sword oracles" of chapter 21


B. YHWH's reasons for judging His own people are laid out in the allegory of faithless sisters. This literary form is not meant to support

1. polygamy

2. marrying sisters

It is for shock value. It is designed to be disgusting. It is ironic tragedy, but with a hopeful outcome.

1. YHWH found and took special marvelous care of Israel

2. Israel was repeatedly unfaithful

3. YHWH will restore her (e.g., Hosea 1-3)


C. Verse 35 is theologically significant, as is the personal pronoun's repeated use in vv. 36-45.



 1The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 2"Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; 3and they played the harlot in Egypt. They played the harlot in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and there their virgin bosom was handled. 4Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah.

23:2 The NKJV sees most of the chapter as poetry.

1. vv. 2-4

2. vv. 5-8

3. vv. 9-10

4. vv. 12-16

5. vv. 17-18

6. vv. 19-21

7. vv. 22b-24e

8. vv. 24f-27

9. vv. 32-35

10. v. 35

Most other modern English translations only view vv. 32-34 as poetry. It is hard to distinguish elevated, emotional, figurative prose from poetry.

23:3 "bosom" This term (BDB 186) occurs uniquely in this chapter (i.e., vv. 3,8,21 [with emendation]) and possibly in Pro. 5:19. The other Hebrew word for "breasts" (BDB 994) is also found in vv. 3,21, and often in Song of Songs.

It seems unusual to have the term "virgin" (BDB 144) in this context because this refers to the wives of YHWH figuratively bearing His children (cf. vv. 4, 37). NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 782, says that this refers to "reputable" and not "wanton."

23:4 "Oholah and Oholibah" Their Hebrew names are a play on the Hebrew word for "tent" (BDB 14). This is an allegory similar to chapter 16 based on Israel's and Judah's infidelity to the covenant (i.e., marriage vow) with YHWH. Oholah (BDB 14, lit. "her tent," which may be an allusion to pagan tent-shrines or to false temples at Dan and Bethel) stands for the capital of Israel, Samaria, Oholibah (BDB 14, lit. "my tent is in her," i.e., temple) stands for the capital of Judah, Jerusalem.

Notice how their disobedience is characterized.

1. played the harlot in Egypt, v. 3

2. played the harlot in their youth

a. breasts pressed, v. 3

b. virgin bosom handled, v. 3

3. they were wed to YHWH and bore children, v. 4

Israel's idolatry in Egypt is a recurrent theme unique to Ezekiel, see 16:26; 20:4-17. The judgment of Egypt is described in 29:1-32:21.

 5"Oholah played the harlot while she was Mine; and she lusted after her lovers, after the Assyrians, her neighbors, 6who were clothed in purple, governors and officials, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. 7She bestowed her harlotries on them, all of whom were the choicest men of Assyria; and with all whom she lusted after, with all their idols she defiled herself. 8She did not forsake her harlotries from the time in Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her, and they handled her virgin bosom and poured out their lust on her. 9Therefore, I gave her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, after whom she lusted. 10They uncovered her nakedness; they took her sons and her daughters, but they slew her with the sword. Thus she became a byword among women, and they executed judgments on her."

23:5-8 This describes the acts of Oholah (Samaria).

1. played the harlot (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal imperfect) while married (lit. "under me" BDB 1065,1,c) to YHWH (cf. Isa. 54:5-6; Jer. 3:1,20; Hosea 2:2 and note 2:16), v. 5

2. lusted (BDB 721, KB 783, Qal imperfect) after other lovers, v. 5

3. lusted especially after Assyria, vv. 5,7,9

a. leader dressed in purple, v. 6

b. governor and officials, v. 6

c. desirable young men, v. 6

d. riding on horses, v. 6

e. the choicest men of Assyria, v. 7

4. accepted their gods (idols) and defiled herself (BDB 379, KB 375, Niphal perfect), v. 7

5. harlot from her youth (i.e., Egypt), v. 8 (see note at v. 4)

6. "they poured out their lusts," v. 8, cf. 16:15; this refers to the desire for political alliances, but these attempts at security involved the ritual acknowledgment of their national idols



LXX"her neighbors"
NKJV"the neighboring"
JPSOA, NIV"warriors"

This Hebrew term (BDB 898) usually means "come near," "approach" and can be used for bringing an offering. It is only in this context (i.e., vv. 5,12 [i.e., "the ones near"]) that it can mean "warlike" or "warrior" (from an Akkadian root). It is also possible that it refers to a governmental official (i.e., one who is near the king).

▣ "her lovers" In context this refers to political alliances, but this also involved the acknowledgment of their gods, which led to idolatrous practices with the fertility gods (cf. Hosea 11:7, 8:9; 12:1).

23:6 "governors and officials" These refer to Assyrian government leaders.

1. "governor" - BDB 808, NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 602, notes that this term referred to the chief local Assyrian official when Israel was a vassal region after the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c. by Shalmaneser V and Sargon II.

2. "officials" - BDB 688, cf. vv. 6,12, this would denote the chief local Assyrian official when Israel became a province in 841 b.c. under Shalmaneser III.


23:9-10 YHWH's response to His unfaithful wife Oholah.

1. I gave her into the hands of her lovers

2. They uncovered her nakedness

3. They took her children (i.e., exile)

4. They killed many inhabitants of Israel (i.e., invasion in 724 b.c., Samaria fell in 722 b.c.)

5. He made her a byword among women

6. Assyria became the "rod" (cf. Isa. 8:7; 10:5) of YHWH's anger and judgment


 11"Now her sister Oholibah saw this, yet she was more corrupt in her lust than she, and her harlotries were more than the harlotries of her sister. 12She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and officials, the ones near, magnificently dressed, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. 13I saw that she had defiled herself; they both took the same way. 14So she increased her harlotries. And she saw men portrayed on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, 15girded with belts on their loins, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, like the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth. 16When she saw them she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17The Babylonians came to her to the bed of love and defiled her with their harlotry. And when she had been defiled by them, she became disgusted with them. 18She uncovered her harlotries and uncovered her nakedness; then I became disgusted with her, as I had become disgusted with her sister. 19Yet she multiplied her harlotries, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the harlot in the land of Egypt. 20She lusted after their paramours, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose issue is like the issue of horses. 21Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom because of the breasts of your youth."

23:11-17 These verses describe the acts of Oholibah (Jerusalem).

1. more corrupt in her lusts than her sister, v. 11

2. more harlotries than her sister, v. 11

3. lusted after Assyrian (possibly related to II Kgs. 15:17-22; 17:1-6) officials, v. 12

a. governors, officials

(1) magnificently dressed

(2) riding on horses

(3) desirable young men

b. "The Assyrians were famous for their rich and costly apparel. The expression ‘Assyrian garments' became synonymous with elegant and expensive clothing," James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 307-308.

4. defiled herself, v. 13

a. Babylonian and/or Assyrian men portrayed on the wall, vv. 13-14

(1) girded with bells, v. 15

(2) flowing turbans

(3) looking like Babylonian officers, v. 15

b. sent messengers to Chaldea (Babylon, cf. II Kings 16; 20:11-19), v. 16

c. Babylon came, v. 17

(1) to her bed of love

(2) they defiled her with harlotry

(3) uncovered her nakedness

5. her soul became disgusted with them, vv. 17c,22,28, their rich and costly apparel.

"The expression 'Assyrian garments' became synonymous with elegant and expensive clothing." James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 307-308.

23:11 Judah should have learned from the excesses of her northern sister, but she did not. This description relates to the Syro-Ephraimatic War (cf. II Kings 16:8; Isa. 7:7-9).

23:14 "portrayed on the wall" These wall paintings, carvings, and inlays (BDB 348, KB 347, Pual participle) are the source of much of the historical and cultural information moderns possess about the culture of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ezekiel uses this verb to describe

1. the idolatry of the temple, 8:10

2. the glory of the Babylonian officers and soldiers, 23:14


▣ "with vermilion" This (BDB 1059, KB 1666) refers to a red pigment used for wall painting cf. Jer. 22:14, here of Babylonian soldiers. The pigment came from one of two sources.

1. a certain insect

2. Egyptian ochre from Sinopis




This term (BDB 1026) means "the third one" and refers to

1. the third person in a war chariot, cf. Exod. 14:7

a. one to drive

b. one to shield

c. one to fight

2. a high court official, cf. II Kgs. 7:2,17,19;10:25; 15:25

3. a military officer, cf. II Sam. 23:8; II Kgs. 9:25; Ezek. 23:15,23


23:18-21,22-35 YHWH's response to His unfaithful wife Oholibah.

1. YHWH became disgusted (BDB 429, KB 431, Qal imperfect) with her, as with her sister, v. 18, cf. Jer. 6:8

2. The repeated reasons for YHWH's disgust.

a. uncovered her harlotries, v. 18

b. uncovered her nakedness, v. 18

c. multiplied her harlotries, v. 19

d. remembered the days of her youth (i.e., idolatry in Egypt), v. 19

e. lusted after their Egyptian paramours, vv. 20-21 (this may refer to Judah seeking help from Egypt against Babylon, who was her supposed ally, cf. II Kgs. 24:1-7)

3. YHWH arouses (BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil participle) her lovers against her, v. 22

a. a large mercenary army of Babylon will attack them from every side, v. 23

b. description of their weaponry, v. 24

c. treat Jerusalem according to their customs (i.e., slaughter and exile), v. 24

4. YHWH sets His jealousy (BDB 888) against them, v. 25

5. YHWH sets His wrath (BDB 404) against them, v. 25

6. Wrath described in vivid terms, vv. 25-27

a. remove your nose

b. remove your ears

c. death by the sword

d. death by fire

e. take their wealth

(1) children

(2) clothes, cf. v. 29; 16:39

(3) jewels from Egypt, cf. 16:39

7. YHWH will deal with them in hatred (BDB 971), v. 29

a. take property (i.e., that which they have worked for all their lives, construct BDB 481, 388, cf. Deut. 28:33; Jer. 20:5) and leave them naked and bare, v. 29, cf. 16:39. Nakedness was part of the curses of Deuteronomy (cf. 28:48).

b. because of their idolatry, v. 30

c. because they walked in the way of their sister, v. 31

d. because they forgot YHWH and cast Him behind their back, they now face the judgment, v. 35 (i.e., lived as if there were no covenant and no YHWH)



TEV"oversexed men"
NIV Interlinear"genitals"
Peshitta"male organs"

The MT has "concubine" (BDB 811), which in context seems not to balance the second phrase well. Though it is crude to modern standards Ezekiel is suggesting

1. large penis

2. strong ejaculation

The NIV translation captures the sense well! These sexual metaphors are meant to shock and nauseate God's people about their idolatry (i.e., foreign alliances). Often the sexual metaphors are also literal because the fertility gods of the Ancient Near East are the national gods.

NASB, NKJV"issue of horses"
NRSV"emission of stallions"
NJB"ejaculating as violently as stallions"
LXX"members of horses"
Peshitta"whose privates are like those of horses"
JPSOA"whose organs were like those of stallions"

This term (BDB 281) refers either to a sexually ready male organ or a powerful ejaculation. It occurs only here in the Bible, but similar allusions are made to Israel acting in idolatrous ways as animals long for reproduction (i.e., Jer. 2:24; 14:6).

 22"Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord God, 'Behold I will arouse your lovers against you, from whom you were alienated, and I will bring them against you from every side: 23the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them; desirable young men, governors and officials all of them, officers and men of renown, all of them riding on horses. 24They will come against you with weapons, chariots and wagons, and with a company of peoples. They will set themselves against you on every side with buckler and shield and helmet; and I will commit the judgment to them, and they will judge you according to their customs. 25I will set My jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in wrath. They will remove your nose and your ears; and your survivors will fall by the sword. They will take your sons and your daughters; and your survivors will be consumed by the fire. 26They will also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewels. 27Thus I will make your lewdness and your harlotry brought from the land of Egypt to cease from you, so that you will not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.' 28For thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I will give you into the hand of those whom you hate, into the hand of those from whom you were alienated. 29They will deal with you in hatred, take all your property, and leave you naked and bare. And the nakedness of your harlotries will be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotries. 30These things will be done to you because you have played the harlot with the nations, because you have defiled yourself with their idols. 31You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand.' 32Thus says the Lord God,
 'You will drink your sister's cup,
 Which is deep and wide.
 You will be laughed at and held in derision;
 It contains much.
 33You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow,
 The cup of horror and desolation,
 The cup of your sister Samaria.
 34You will drink it and drain it.
 Then you will gnaw its fragments
 And tear your breasts;

for I have spoken,' declares the Lord God. 35Therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now the punishment of your lewdness and your harlotries.'"

23:22 "from whom you were alienated" This refers to v. 17c and is repeated in v. 28. This phrase (BDB 668, KB 722, Qal perfect and BDB 659) occurs only here and in v. 28 in the entire OT. A related phrase occurs in vv. 17,18. This refers to the emotional results of a faithless relationship. Judah was unfaithful (idolatry) throughout her history. Finally YHWH had enough and abrogated the covenant relationship! But He would restart it.

1. the post-exilic return (cf. Ezra-Nehemiah)

2. the new covenant (i.e., NT, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38)


23:23 Judah became a Babylonian vassal in 605 b.c., when General Nebuchadnezzar II (later king) invaded. This did not stop the rebellion so he invaded again in 597 and 586 (destruction of the temple and Jerusalem). At this point Judah became a province. Even then Nebuchadnezzar had to send an invasion in 582 because of the assassination of his appointed governor Gedaliah (cf. II Kgs. 25:22-24).

▣ "Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa" These refer to Armenian tribes in the eastern part of Babylon (cf. Jer. 50:21). This whole verse implies that the army was made up of mercenary troops including the remnant of the Assyrian army. The IVP Bible Background Commentary notes that these names meant "punishment," "war cry," and "shriek" (p. 709).

23:24 This is a list of all the military equipment arrayed against besieged Jerusalem.

1. mobile weaponry

a. NASB, "weapons"

NRSV, TEV, NJB, "from the north" (from LXX)

BDB 246, KB 254, meaning uncertain; it is future only here in the OT

b. "chariots," BDB 939, cf. Isa. 2:7; 22:18

c. "wagons" (lit. "wheels," BDB 165, possibly related to the vision of chaps. 1 and 10). Used in Isa. 5:28 and Jer. 47:3 for war chariot wheels

2. fully equipped infantry

a. "buckler," BDB 857 III, full body shield, cf. 26:8; 38:4; Jer. 46:3

b. "shield," BDB 171, small personal shield, cf. 38:4,5; 39:9; Jer. 46:3,9

c. "helmet," BDB 875, loan word used only twice in the OT, cf. 27:10; 38:5; I Sam. 17:38; Jer. 46:6

All of Assyria's arsenal of weaponry was arrayed against God's special city, now abandoned by Him!

23:25 "I will set My jealousy against you" The verb "set" or "direct" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal perfect) is a common verb (e.g., vv. 7,9,24,25,28,31,42,46,49).

"My jealousy" is a way of referring to the monotheistic character of YHWH (cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39; 5:7; 32:39; 33:26; I Sam. 2:2; II Sam. 7:22; Isa. 43:9-11; 45:21-22; 46:9; Jer. 2:11; 5:7,10; Rom. 3:30; I Cor. 8:4,6; I Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).

▣ "They will remove your nose and your ears" These were the places where women wore jewelry. This violent removal of jewelry was practiced in the Ancient Near East as punishment of adulteresses (i.e., Middle Assyrian Law Code).

23:31 "her cup into your hand" This is a biblical metaphor for one's destiny. It can be positive (cf. Ps. 23:5) or negative (cf. Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17-22; Jer. 25:15-29; Lam. 4:21; Hab. 2:16). In many ways Judah was more responsible for her sin because

1. she saw what happened to Samaria, but did not change

2. she had the temple, priests, and Davidic rulers


22:32-34 This is a poem about "the cup" (BDB 468) of judgment mentioned in v. 31.

1. description of the cup

a. your sister's cup, vv. 32,33

b. deep and wide

c. cup of horror and desolation, v. 33

e. contains much

2. description of its event

a. you will be laughed (BDB 850) at and held in derision (BDB 541)

b. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow

c. you will drink it and drain it (i.e., experience every last drop of YHWH's judgment)

d. you will gnaw its pieces and tear your breasts

This metaphor of a cup of judgment is recurrent in Scripture, see Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15,16, 27,28; also Matt. 20:22; 26:39,42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; II Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13.


NASB"then you will gnaw its fragments"
NKJV"you shall break its shards"
REB"you shall gnaw its shards"
TEV"with its broken pieces"
NJB"then will you break it in pieces"
LXX"I will take away her feasts and her new moons"
Peshitta, RSV"you shall cut off your hair"
NIV"you shall dash it to pieces"

It is obvious from the Septuagint and Peshitta that the ancient versions were confused by this line of poetry. In context it seems that one of two options seems logical.

1. the large cup of judgment is drunk to the last drop (i.e., full measure)

2. it is an idiom of regret, as is the next line, "tear your breasts," possibly the broken pieces are used to mutilate her erotic regions (cf. vv. 3,8,21)

The UBS Hebrew OT Project gives "and you will chew on its broken pieces" a "B" rating.

23:35 Amazingly the people of God have knowingly, purposefully turned away from Him (cf. Genesis 3). Oh, the tragedy.

1. forgotten Me, BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal perfect, cf. 22:12; Ps.106:21; Isa. 17:10; Jer. 3:21; Hosea 2:13; 8:14; 13:6

2. cast Me behind your back, BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil imperfect (i.e., modern idiom, "out of sight, out of mind"), cf. I Kgs. 14:9; Ps. 50:17; Jer. 2:27; 32:33

Notice the number of times in this context where phrases containing a pronoun denoting YHWH are used.

1. they have forgotten Me, v. 25

2. they have cast Me behind their back, v. 35

3. (killed children) whom they bore to Me, v. 37

4. they have done this to Me, v. 38

5. they have defiled My sanctuary, v. 38

6. they have profaned My sabbath, vv. 38,39

7. they practiced idolatry in My house, v. 39

8. they used His incense and oil to impress foreigners at a special meal, v. 41

Sin is rebellion against a personal God! This is a fulfillment of Deut. 31:16.

The goal of humanity is fellowship with our Creator. Nothing in the world can take His place. The essence of sin is "self." Salvation is freedom from the tyranny of self-focused living and the restoration of the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), which allows an intimate, daily fellowship with God.

Because humans turn away from God they bear (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative) the full consequences of their deeds.

23:36-45 The two sister's sins are enumerated again.

1. committed adultery, v. 37

2. committed murder, v. 37

3. committed idolatry, v. 37

4. defiled My sanctuary, v. 38

5. defiled My sabbaths, v. 38

6. sacrificed children, v. 39 (see Special Topic: Molech at 16:16-20)

7. played the harlot with foreigners (i.e., political alliances), vv. 40-44


 36Moreover, the Lord said to me, "Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. 37For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food. 38Again, they have done this to Me: they have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and have profaned My sabbaths. 39For when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered My sanctuary on the same day to profane it; and lo, thus they did within My house."

23:36 As Ezekiel was commanded to act as judge (BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperative, lit. "declare") in 20:4 (twice) and 22:2 (twice), now again (compare Jer. 1:10).

23:37 "their sons, whom they bore to me, to pass through the fire" This idiomatic language refers to the redemption of the firstborn found in Exodus 13. But these idolatrous Jerusalemites were sacrificing their children to Molech (cf. v. 39; 16:20,36), not presenting them to God.

23:38 The accusation against God's people acting inappropriately in their worship of God is recurrent.

1. defiled (BDB 379, KB 375, Piel perfect) His sanctuary, cf. 5:11; 7:20

2. profaned (BDB 320, KB 319, Piel perfect) His sabbaths, cf. 20:13,16,21,24; 22:8

YHWH took these actions personally as an attack on Himself (cf. v. 38a).

 40"Furthermore, they have even sent for men who come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and lo, they came—for whom you bathed, painted your eyes and decorated yourselves with ornaments; 41and you sat on a splendid couch with a table arranged before it on which you had set My incense and My oil. 42The sound of a carefree multitude was with her; and drunkards were brought from the wilderness with men of the common sort. And they put bracelets on the hands of the women and beautiful crowns on their heads."

23:40 Israel and Judah decorated themselves for the idolatrous meals (cf. v. 41) with foreign gods (i.e., political alliances).

1. bathed, BDB 934

2. painted their eyes, cf. II Kgs. 9:30; Jer. 4:30 (usually black or blue around the eyes to highlight them)

3. decorated themselves with ornaments, BDB 725, cf. 16:13-16; Isa. 3:18-23

Verse 42b seems to describe presents brought by the foreign officials.

1. bracelets, BDB 855, cf. 16:11,12; Gen. 24:22,30,47; Isa. 3:19

2. crowns, BDB 742, this action may be mimicking YHWH's actions in 16:9-14. The crown can refer to royalty or a wedding crown (cf. Song of Songs 3:11)


23:42-43 These verses are difficult to translate and, therefore, difficult to interpret. The context helps, but does not reveal the specifics related to the lovers of v. 42.

The adjective "worn out" (BDB 115) is meant to express that Judah is an experienced prostitute, as a matter of fact, a prostitute used so often that she has become unattractive.

The MT Hebrew text offers a suggested change (i.e., Qere, "what is read") to a verb (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal imperfect). The original unchanged text was "Will they commit adultery with her now, and she with them?" The emended text reads "Will they now commit adultery with her when she is thus?"


NASB, NRSV"drunkards"
NKJV, REB"Sabeans"
NJB, JPSOA"a crowd of men"
Peshitta"men who had come from Sheba"

The MT has "drunkards" (BDB 685, Qere [it is read] the noun; BDB 684, KB 738, Qal participle, Kethibh [it is written]), whose only occurrence is here, so some change it to Sabeans, which is spelled exactly the same, but without the letter waw. Sheba is an ancestor of the Sabeans (i.e., raiders, cf. Gen. 25:3), who lived in southwest Arabia.

 43"Then I said concerning her who was worn out by adulteries, 'Will they now commit adultery with her when she is thus?' 44But they went in to her as they would go in to a harlot. Thus they went in to Oholah and to Oholibah, the lewd women. 45But they, righteous men, will judge them with the judgment of adulteresses and with the judgment of women who shed blood, because they are adulteresses and blood is on their hands.

23:43 See note at 23:42-43.

23:44 "they went in to" This is a Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse (e.g., Gen. 6:4; 24:67; 38:2,8, 9,16,18; 39:14; Deut. 22:13).


NASB"But they, righteous men, will judge them"
NKJV"But righteous men will judge them"
NRSV"But righteous judges shall declare them"
TEV"Righteous men will condemn them"
NJB"All the same, there are upright men who will judge them"

This is the use of "righteous" (BDB 843) as "fair." This does not refer to people who know and follow YHWH. In context it refers to YHWH's instruments of judgment, Assyria and Babylon, and that His judgment on Israel and Judah was deserved!

 46"For thus says the Lord God, 'Bring up a company against them and give them over to terror and plunder. 47The company will stone them with stones and cut them down with their swords; they will slay their sons and their daughters and burn their houses with fire. 48Thus I will make lewdness cease from the land, that all women may be admonished and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49Your lewdness will be requited upon you, and you will bear the penalty of worshiping your idols; thus you will know that I am the Lord God.'"

23:46-49 These verses list the consequences of their acts.

1. invasion, v. 46

2. given over to terror (cf. Deut. 28:25) and plunder (in the sense of shame, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 632), v. 46

3. many/most killed, v. 47

a. by stones

b. by swords

c. by fire

4. idolaters cut off, v. 48

5. idolaters judged, v. 49


23:47 "stone them" This was the punishment for adultery (cf. Lev. 20:10; Deut. 21:21). It is also mentioned in Ezekiel's parallel allegory (cf. 16:40).

23:48 This verse uses "women" as a metaphor for all of God's people. "Admonish" (lit. "discipline," BDB 415, KB 418, Nithpael perfect) is often used of YHWH's judgment on the disobedience of His covenant people (cf. Lev. 26:18,28; Ps. 6:1; 38:1; 39:11; 118:18; Jer. 31:8).


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