22 Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will stir up against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: 23 the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and men of renown, all of them riding on horses. 24 And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples. They shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet; and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments. 25 And I will direct my jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cut off your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword. They shall seize your sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire. 26 They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewels. 27 Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your whoring begun in the land of Egypt, so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.
28 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust, 29 and they shall deal with you in hatred and take away all the fruit of your labor and leave you naked and bare, and the nakedness of your whoring shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and your whoring 30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. 31 You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand. 32 Thus says the Lord God:
“You shall drink your sister’s cup
that is deep and large;
you shall be laughed at and held in derision,
for it contains much;
33 you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.
A cup of horror and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria;
34 you shall drink it and drain it out,
and gnaw its shards,
and tear your breasts;
for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. 35 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.” – Ezekiel 23:22-35 ESV
Both Israel and Judah had developed the habit of reaching out to foreign powers when they found themselves in need of military assistance. Rather than relying upon their omnipotent God, they sought aid from the superpowers of their day. Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon were three of the most powerful nations on earth at the time and each of them lusted after the land of Canaan, viewing it as prime real estate to add to their growing empires.
God uses sardonic imagery to describe the southern kingdom of Judah as a love-struck woman fawning over the glamour shots of the handsome Babylonian soldiers in their impressive military uniforms.
“She saw men carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans carved in bright red, wearing belts on their waists and flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, the image of Babylonians whose native land is Chaldea. When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. The Babylonians crawled into bed with her. They defiled her with their lust…” – Ezekiel 23:14-17 NLT
While God portrays Judah as a love-struck, starry-eyed woman with lust on her mind, His assessment of the southern kingdom was spot-on. There had been a time when King Ahaz of Judah had reached out to the Assyrians in hopes that they could assist him in his ongoing conflict with the northern kingdom of Israel.
King Ahaz sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria with this message: “I am your servant and your vassal. Come up and rescue me from the attacking armies of Aram and Israel.” Then Ahaz took the silver and gold from the Temple of the Lord and the palace treasury and sent it as a payment to the Assyrian king. – 2 Kings 16:7-8 NLT
Both Judah and Israel were guilty of viewing these foreign powers as their preferred source of salvation. But God had used the prophet, Jeremiah, to remind them that these “love affairs” rarely produced the outcome they desired.
“What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt
and your covenants with Assyria?
What good to you are the streams of the Nile
or the waters of the Euphrates River?” – Jeremiah 2:18 NLT
Yet, they never seemed to learn from their mistakes. They would get in bed with these attractive-looking saviors, only to find out that their desires were driven by lust and not love.
“…after she was defiled by them, she became disgusted with them. When she lustfully exposed her nakedness, I was disgusted with her, just as I had been disgusted with her sister.” – Ezekiel 23:17-18 NLT
Once the thrill of the hunt was over, the attraction was quickly replaced by loathing. Regret would eventually set in, but it never seemed to diminish Judah’s lustful quest for power and protection from outside sources. So, God warns them that He is going to use their former lovers to destroy them.
“I am about to stir up against you the lovers with whom you were disgusted; I will bring them against you from every side: the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, all of them governors and officials, officers and nobles, all of them riding on horses.” – Ezekiel 23:22-23 NLT
At the time Ezekiel penned these words, the Assyrians had been subsumed by the more powerful Babylonian empire. Pekod, Shoa, and Koa are references to tribes that lived in what was formerly Assyrian territory but were now part of the rapidly expanding Babylonian empire. By this time, the northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians, and God is warning the rebellious northern kingdom of Judah that they are about to feel the full weight of His wrath in the form of the Babylonians.
“They will attack you with weapons, chariots, wagons, and with a huge army; they will array themselves against you on every side with large shields, small shields, and helmets. I will assign them the task of judgment; they will punish you according to their laws.” – Ezekiel 23:24 NLT
And God makes it clear that all of this will be His doing.
“I will direct my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in rage.” – Ezekiel 23:25 NLT
The Babylonians will become His instrument of judgment. The very nation that Judah turned to for hope and help would become their destroyer. Their former lover would turn on them and become their executioner. And the destruction would be devastating. God describes Judah as being defaced and deformed, having its former symbols of beauty and vitality violently marred.
“They will strip your clothes off you and take away your beautiful jewelry.” – Ezekiel 23:26 NLT
And the book of 2 Kings describes exactly what happened when that fateful day finally arrived.
As the Lord had said beforehand, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace. He stripped away all the gold objects that King Solomon of Israel had placed in the Temple. King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land. – 2 Kings 24:13-14 NLT
In this chapter, God has repeatedly referred to Judah by the name Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her.” The coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was going to leave God’s “tent” or temple completely destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar’s forces would tear it down stone by stone, leveling this once-magnificent edifice to rubble and leaving its former beauty unrecognizable.
On August 14 of that year, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard and an official of the Babylonian king, arrived in Jerusalem. He burned down the Temple of the Lord, the royal palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. He destroyed all the important buildings in the city. Then he supervised the entire Babylonian army as they tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side. Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took as exiles the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had declared their allegiance to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population. But the captain of the guard allowed some of the poorest people to stay behind to care for the vineyards and fields. – 2 Kings 25:8-12 NLT
The people of Judah thought the temple was their get-out-of-jail-free card. They truly believed it gave them carte blanche and allowed them to do as they pleased. The prophet Jeremiah accused them of boldly proclaiming, “The LORD’s Temple is here! The LORD’s Temple is here!” (Jeremiah 7:4 NLT). It was their ultimate security blanket. Yet, God had repeatedly warned them that the temple would not and could not save them.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, ‘We are safe!’—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the LORD, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 7:8-11 NLT
And the day would come when God’s warnings came to fruition. He would bring about the destruction of the house that bore His name, and He would destroy the very people who had repeatedly defamed His name before the nations.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.