BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
THE SINS OF JERUSALEM
(The adultery of two sisters)
As Ezekiel continues on with his stern messages concerning the certainty of Judah’s judgment to the leaders and people of Jerusalem, we see three themes developing here in chapter 22 that further highlight the nation’s defilement and judgment. First of all we see in verses 1-16, a message from the LORD on how HE is ready to judge HIS once beloved Jerusalem, who had now tainted the whole nation of Judah with her public display of ungodly behavior and corruption, even inside the church.
In verses 1-3 the LORD asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, are you ready to judge Jerusalem? Are you ready to judge this city of murderers.” It is as if now GOD is charging Ezekiel with the responsibility of being a “prosecuting attorney”, or a “judge” against Israel. Here in this passage GOD arms his prophet with the facts of HIS case against Jerusalem, so that he could confront her with her serious violations of the “Mosiac Law”.
In verses 6-12 GOD cites several sins that directly and specifically violate HIS “Ten Commandments”. They are;
· Social injustice (v.7) – Fathers and mothers were contemptuously ignored (parental authority undermined). Resident foreigners were forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows were wronged and oppressed.
· Apostasy (v.8) – GOD’s holy things were despised inside the church, and HIS Sabbath day rests were also violated.
· Idolatry (v.9) – the church was filled with idol worship, false witnessing, and lewdness.
· Immorality (Vs.10-11) – adultery, incest, and rape was common.
· Greed (v.12) – loan sharks and extortionists were everywhere.
When people cease to care, religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith. Whenever the attitudes and behaviors that are detailed here in verses 7-12 begin to dominate society, it is a clear signal that that society is near the point of collapse.
The undermining of parental authority, government injustices that clearly take advantage of the poor and helpless among us, leadership that is indifferent to the best interest of those whom they are suppose to be serving, and an overwhelming indifference to the things of GOD, all stand as a clear indication that the end of GOD’s tolerance toward humanity is near.
We sorely need to apply the criteria presented to us here in the book of Ezekiel and decide for ourselves just where our own society stands at this point in our existence under GOD. Whenever we neglect GOD and move away from HIS spiritual foundation, our whole nation will automatically become corrupt and immoral, and just like other world dynasties of the past, ultimately we will fall.
In the second theme that is presented in this chapter, we see an analogy of a “refining furnace” (Vs.17-22). Here the LORD tells Ezekiel,
“Son of man, the people of Israel are the worthless slag that remains after silver is smelted. They are the dross that is left over—a useless mixture of copper, tin, iron, and lead. So tell them, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you are all worthless slag, I will bring you to my crucible in Jerusalem. Just as silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin are melted down in a furnace, I will melt you down in the heat of my fury. I will gather you together and blow the fire of my anger upon you, and you will melt like silver in fierce heat. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out my fury on you” (NLT).
This analogy suggests that GOD will turn Jerusalem into “a furnace of affliction” or a “smelting pot of judgment” that would melt away and separate all of the worthless slag, or “dross” from the valuable silver. Most of the people in Israel had become like “useless dross” to GOD, because of their sin against HIM. Here GOD says that, after HE separates the dross from the silver, HE will then melt down the useless dross (burn the useless sinners) with the heat of HIS wrath.
In the third and final theme, or message (Vs.23-31), GOD focuses Ezekiel’s attention on “the sins of the church leadership” and their terrible “mixing of the holy with the profane” in the church, something that the modern-day church is extremely guilty of doing also. Here GOD tells Ezekiel;
“Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: In the day of my indignation, you will be like a polluted land, a land without rain. Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. They make many widows in the land. Your priests have violated my instructions and defiled my holy things. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not. And they do not teach my people the difference between what is ceremonially clean and unclean. They disregard my Sabbath days so that I am dishonored among them. Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money! And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them. Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice.
“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
The recipients of GOD’s judgment in this passage are the princes, (or royal family, including Zedekiah) (v.25), the priests (the religious leaders) (Vs.26-27), and the prophets (false prophets, magicians, palm readers, etc) (v.28), who lead the people astray, and also those common folks (v.29) who mimic the oppressive acts and ways of their leadership against their own peers.
The royal family used their power to extract riches from the people, and they concocted unjust government schemes against the weak and the poor, to legally extort and take their money and possessions, sometimes even killing people in the process. They were like “lions”, plotting their conspiracies, while stalking their prey (vs.25).
The priests, who morally, were no better than Zedekiah and his royal family, used their power in the church, to pretty much do the same things that the royal family did. As church leaders, the priests violated GOD’s laws and defiled the church by “mixing the holy with the profane” things of this world. For example (modern-day), they could no longer see the difference between what is holy (i.e. praise dancing), and what is not (i.e. miming). In addition, they were not instructing, training, or teaching the people in the ways of GOD, and, in fact, they failed to even enforce the laws of GOD, period. Nor, did they keep HIS Sabbath days (v.26). And so the priests had become like “wolves”, who tear apart their victims (destroy the lives of the congregation) for the sake of money (v.27).
The false prophets in this passage were constantly announcing false visions that they claimed came from GOD, when GOD hadn’t told them anything at all, in fact, they didn’t even know GOD. They were the ones who were hired by the church leaders, and were used to “whitewash” over the “spiritual cracks” in the wall caused by their “mixing of the holy with the profane”, their idol worship, and other sins (v.28).
Over time, even the common people begin to further oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive the strangers among them of justice (v.29). GOD says HE searched high and low for a righteous person who could stand in the gap so that for that person’s sake, HE might spare Jerusalem, but none was to be found (Vs.30-31).
In Ezekiel 23 GOD uses the parable of “the two adulterous sisters”, “Oholah” and “Oholibah” to illustrate the unfaithfulness of Israel, and the certainty of HIS judgment against her. “Oholah”, which means “her tent”, and is probably in reference to the illicit worship centers that were set up in Dan and Bethel, represents “Samaria”, the capital of northern Israel. “Oholibah”, which means “MY tent is in her”, is more than likely a reference to the fact that GOD’s temple is in Jerusalem. She (Oholibah) represents “Jerusalem”, the capital of Judah, or southern Israel.
Even though GOD chose both of these sisters and made them HIS own, giving them many sons and daughters, they both still became “prostitutes” in Egypt, of their own free will, when they were very young (Vs.2-3). Then later, after GOD had retrieved them both, and returned them to HIS home (the “promised land”), Oholah, the older sister, begin to lust after her neighbor, the Assyrians. She became attracted to the young handsome men of that nation and began to prostitute herself to their idols, once again defiling herself, and proving that when she left Egypt, she did not leave the “spirit of prostitution” behind. Adultery was still in her spirit (Vs.5-8), and so GOD allowed her to be turned over to her lovers, and they stripped and killed her, and took all of her children and put them into slavery. Oholah’s name became known to every woman in the land as a sinner who received exactly what she deserved (Vs.9-10).
Even though Oholibah, the younger sister, had seen what her older sister’s sins had done to her, she still eagerly followed along in her footsteps anyway. In fact, she became even worse than her sister, totally abandoning herself to her own lust (v.11), not only defiling herself with the Assyrians (see King Ahaz - 2 kings 16 & Isaiah 7), but she also later became infatuated with the culture and idol gods of the Babylonians and began a relationship with them and invited them to her home (Vs.16-17) (see Hezekiah - 2 Kings 20:12-19). However she later became disgusted with them after she found out how brutal they were. As a lover they were extreme domestic batterers (physically abusive) (see 2 Kings 24).
Afterwards GOD became disgusted with Oholibah just as HE was with her older sister, because she had given herself to other gods and satisfied their lust (v.18). She even prostituted herself again in Egypt (King Zedekiah) remembering her sinful youth when she allowed herself to be fondled and caressed by them (Vs.18-21).
In verses 22-49 details GOD’s judgment on both Oholah and Oholibah, who had committed, both, adultery (by worshipping other gods) and murder under GOD (by sacrificing their children in the fires of Molech). In addition, they had defiled GOD’s temple by “mixing the holy with the profane” (worshiping GOD in ways that are pleasing to them, instead of pleasing GOD by following HIS directives for HIS Church), “making stuff up” from the “human ingenuity” of the world, thinking all the while, that it is pleasing to GOD. They also were terribly guilty of violating GOD’s Sabbath Days, which GOD says, “are intended as a sign to remind us that HE is the LORD our GOD” (Ezekiel 20:20).
Here in this passage GOD says that they will both “drink from the same cup of terror”, a cup that is large and deep, and in deep anguish, they would both drink of it to the very last drop. Then they will smash the cup and beat their own breasts in anger, and bear the full consequences of their lewdness and prostitution (Vs. 32-35).
This chapter concludes with GOD listing four purposes, or reasons, for judging HIS sinful people.
· To end wickedness in the land (v.48a)
· To instruct others of the consequences of sin (48b)
· To punish those who are guilty (v.49a)
· To bring to all people, to the saving knowledge of GOD (v.49b)
And GOD’s purpose for judgment in this world still holds true in this day. Stay tuned.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website