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Bible: What Does Ezekiel 22-23 Teach Us About Spiritual Unfaithfulness?

Updated on September 9, 2016

Idolatry

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Bloodguiltiness and Idolatry

God's next speaking engagement for Ezekiel involves him with Jerusalem again.

This time He enlists the prophet to make known to her inhabitants the multitude of her sins (vv. 1-2; cf. 20:4).

Yahweh asks him to preach this word in a manner that suggests Ezekiel was reluctant to do so.

Bloodguiltiness and idolatry head the list of Jerusalem's abominations--abominations for which the rest of humanity will mock her (vv. 3-5).

He designates the princes of Israel as murderers (v. 6), as ones who dishonor parents, and as those who mistreat the underprivileged (v. 7).

Avarice Rampant Among Leaders

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Symbolic Portrayal of Cleansing


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Verses eight through twelve catalog Jerusalem's other sins:

(1) Disrespect for sacred objects and days (v. 8),

(2) Misuse of the tongue,

(3) Attendance at idolatrous feasts (v. 9),

(4) Improper sexual conduct of various kinds (vv. 9b-11), and

(5) Greedy financial dealings (v. 12)

The LORD expresses great displeasure ("I beat My fists") at these things (v. 13).

His promise to scatter them will surely transpire, and it will accomplish His purposes: to cleanse them, humble their pride, and make them know that Yahweh is God (vv. 14-16).

Verses 17-22 clarify what God means by cleansing Israel.

He employs the metal-refining process to portray what He will perform upon His people.

The intense heat of the furnace symbolizes His burning wrath, and dross represents Israel's impurities.

Ezekiel stresses the uncleanness of the national leaders and of all the people (vv. 23-31).

Denouncing their particular sins, Yahweh begins with the prophets' transgression: voracious greed (v. 25).

Religious profanity—the practice of regarding sacred things as ordinary—characterizes the priests (v. 26), and Jerusalem's princes, like her prophets, specialize in avarice and disregard for the lives of others (v. 27).

Spiritual Blindness

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The Blind Following the Blind

Verse 28 implicates both prophets and princes in false spiritual leadership (cf. 13:8-16).

The people naturally follow their leadership into many of the same practices (v. 29).

Because God's search for someone "to stand in the gap . . . on behalf of the land" turns up no one, He severely chastises them (vv. 30-31).

Assyrian Soldiers

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Oholah and Assyria

Ezekiel 23

This chapter is very similar to Ezekiel 16, both in subject matter and in length.

Yahweh portrays Samaria and Jerusalem's spiritual unfaithfulness in the rather graphic terms of physical prostitution.

[Expressing His relationship with Israel by this extended metaphor is certainly a colorful way of communication]!

The first four verses introduce the main characters—Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem)—and describe their sin of harlotry.

Oholah desired the handsome, young, Assyrian cavalrymen while still yoked to the LORD (vv. 5-7).

Having begun plying her "trade" in Egypt, Oholah never repented of it, and so continued her unfaithfulness with Assyria (v. 8).

As the result of this defilement, God allowed the latter to execute judgment upon her (vv. 9-10).

Jerusalem

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Babylon

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Oholibah's Corruption

Despite witnessing Oholah's poor example and fate, Oholibah's corruption exceeded that of her sister's (v. 11).

She also fell for the "knockout" Assyrians in their riding outfits (v. 12). But it was not a pure relationship; in God's eyes, it defiled her, too (v. 13).

Yet the Assyrians did not satisfy her appetite; Babylon followed on their heels, offering Jerusalem equally attractive consorts (vv. 14-16).

These lovers brought even more defilement and alienation, both horizontally and vertically (vv. 17-18).

The city called to remembrance the "lewdness of her youth;" her present illicit conduct reminded her of her "raunchy" past (vv. 19-21).

With such manifest evil God deals decisively, sending Jerusalem’s paramours against her not only in all their military regalia but also in their armed forces, to judge her "according to their judgments" (vv. 22-24; underscoring mine).

Yahweh allows Jerusalem to see His jealousy through Babylon’s punitive actions (vv. 25-26). By means of these horrors, He purposes to cure the city of her worldliness and her dependence upon Egypt (v. 27).

Yahweh reiterates His intention of giving the city over to those who hate her, so that they might thoroughly punish her for the defiling harlotry she copied from her "sister" (vv. 28-31).

Because she has forgotten Him, Jerusalem shall drink Samaria's cup of punishment, resulting in great shame, sorrow, and desolation (vv. 32-35).

Jerusalem's Chief Abominations


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God then poses to Ezekiel a similar question to the one He asked earlier (v. 36; cf. 22:2).

[Surely (or maybe not) the prophet was not unwilling to tell Samaria and Jerusalem their sins]!

Spiritual or religious adultery (idolatry and human sacrifice) and profanation (worshipping the LORD in unholiness and defilement) constitute the chief abominations here (vv. 37-39).

[They worshipped Milcom in the morning and the LORD in the afternoon].

God speaks as if Ezekiel shared in the perversity, but this is not credible.

[Note the pronouns they (vv. 37-39) and you (vv. 36, 40)].

Whoever "you" is, she decked herself out to receive visiting Sabean pagans (vv. 40-41) who further enhanced her wealth (v. 42).

[Apparently, Ezekiel considers Oholah and Oholibah as both "they" and "her."]

God seems to question whether this ostentation would result in adultery, even though Israel knew her wretched history (v. 43).

Nevertheless, this outcome is never in doubt (v. 44).

In the end, these women will receive righteous judgment for their adultery and murder (v. 45); an assembly will rise up and administer it, and it will prove that Yahweh's word is true (vv. 46-49).

© 2014 glynch1

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    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 3 years ago

      I suppose you've heard George Santayana's adage: "Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it." (I can't imagine there is anyone who has not heard it.) When I stop to think about it, spiritually dead people will not (and cannot) learn spiritual lessons from history. So, I am not surprised we are experiencing our current predicament.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I can't help but think history is repeating itself. The things of Ezekiel's day so often sound very familiar. Thanks for the write!

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 3 years ago

      Good commentary on this portion of scripture. There are so many ways in which we commit these very same sins in different ways. Ezekiel presents the adultery visualized in political relationships but on a personal level the scenario can be played just the same with our love for so many things not God in this time and culture.

      Interesting article