God had often spoken to Ezekiel, and by him to the people, to this effect, but now his word comes again; for God speaks the same thing once, yea, twice, yea, many a time, and all little enough, and too little, for man perceives it not. Note, To convince sinners of the evil of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, there is need of line upon line, so loth we are to know the worst of ourselves. The sinners that are here to be exposed are two women, two kingdoms, sister-kingdoms, Israel and Judah, daughters of one mother, having been for a long time but one people. Solomon’s kingdom was so large, so populous, that immediately after his death it divided into two. Observe, 1. Their character when they were one (Ezek. 23:3): They committed whoredoms in Egypt, for there they were guilty of idolatry, as we read before, Ezek. 20:8. The representing of those sins which are most provoking to God and most ruining to a people by the sin of whoredom plainly intimates what an exceedingly sinful sin uncleanness is, how offensive, how destructive. Doubtless it is itself one of the worst of sins, for the worst of other sins are compared to it here and often elsewhere, which should increase our detestation and dread of all manner of fleshly lusts, all appearances of them and approaches to them, as warring against the soul, infatuating sinners, bewitching them, alienating their minds from God and all that is good, debauching conscience, rendering them odious in the eyes of the pure and holy God, and drowning them at last in destruction and perdition. 2. Their names when they became two, Ezek. 23:4. The kingdom of Israel is called the elder sister, because that first made the breach, and separated from the family both of kings and priests that God had appointed—the greater sister (so the word is), for ten tribes belonged to that kingdom and only two to the other. God says of them both, They were mine, for they were the seed of Abraham his friend and of Jacob his chosen; they were in covenant with God, and carried about with them the sign of their circumcision, the seal of the covenant. They were mine; and therefore their apostasy was the highest injustice. It was alienating God’s property, it was the basest ingratitude to the best of benefactors, and a perfidious treacherous violation of the most sacred engagements. Note, Those who have been in profession the people of God, but have revolted from him, have a great deal to answer for more than those who never made any such profession. “They were mine; they were espoused tome, and to me they bore sons and daughters;” there were many among them that were devoted to God’s honour, and employed in his service, and were the strength and beauty of these kingdoms, as children are of the families they are born in. In this parable Samaria and the kingdom of Israel shall bear the name of Aholah—her own tabernacle, because the places of worship which that kingdom had were of their own devising, their own choosing, and the worship itself was their own invention; God never owned it. Her tabernacle to herself (so some render it); “let her take it to herself, and make her best of it.” Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah bear the name of Aholibah—my tabernacle is in her, because their temple was the place which God himself had chosen to put his name there. He acknowledged it to be his, and honoured them with the tokens of his presence in it. Note, Of those that stand in relation to God, and make profession of his name, some have greater privileges and advantages than others; and, as those who have greater are thereby rendered the more inexcusable if they revolt from God, so those who have less will not thereby be rendered inexcusable. 3. The treacherous departure of the kingdom of Israel from God (Ezek. 23:5): Aholah played the harlot when she was mine. Though the ten tribes had deserted the house of David, yet God owned them for his still; though Jeroboam, in setting up the golden calves, sinned, and made Israel to sin, yet, as long as they worshipped the God of Israel only, though by images, he did not quite cast them off. But they way of sin is down-hill. Aholah played the harlot, brought in the worship of Baal (1 Kgs. 16:31), set up that other god, that dunghill-god, in competition with Jehovah (1 Kgs. 18:21), as a vile adulteress dotes on her lovers, because they are well dressed and make a figure, because they are young and handsome (Ezek. 23:6), clothed with blue, captains and rulers, desirable young men, genteel, and that pass for men of honour, so she doted upon her neighbours, particularly the Assyrians, who had extended their conquests near them; she admired their idols and worshipped them, admired the pomp of their courts and their military strength and courted alliances with them upon any terms, as if her own God were not sufficient to be depended upon. We find one of the kings of Israel giving a thousand talents to the king of Assyria, to engage him in his interests, 2 Kgs. 15:19. She doted on the chosen men of Assyria, as worthy to be trusted and employed in the service of the state (Ezek. 23:7), and on all their idols with which she defiled herself. Note, Whatever creature we dote upon, pay homage to, and put a confidence in, we make an idol of that creature; and whatever we make an idol of we defile ourselves with. And now again the conviction looks back as far as the original of their nation: Neither left she her whoredoms which she brought from Egypt, Ezek. 23:8. Their being idolaters in Egypt was a thing never to be forgotten—that they should be in love with Egypt’s idols even when they were continually in fear of Egypt’s tyrants and task-masters! But (as some have observed) therefore, at that time, when Satan boasted of his having walked through the earth as all his own, to disprove his pretensions God did not say, Hast thou considered my people Israel in Egypt? (for they had become idolaters, and were not to be boasted of), but, Hast thou considered my servant Job in the land of Uz? And this corrupt disposition in them, when they were first formed into a people, is an emblem of that original corruption which is born with us and is woven into our constitution, a strong bias towards the world and the flesh, like that in the Israelites towards idolatry; it was bred in the bone with them, and was charged upon them long after, that they left not their whoredoms brought from Egypt. It would never out of the flesh, though Egypt had been a house of bondage to them. Thus the corrupt affections and inclinations which we brought into the world with us we have not lost, nor got clear of, but still retain them, though the iniquity we were born in was the source of all the calamities which human life is liable to. 4. The destruction of the kingdom of Israel for their apostasy from God (Ezek. 23:9, 10): I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers. God first justly gave her up to her lust (Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone), and then gave her up to her lovers. The neighbouring nations, whose idolatries she had conformed to and whose friendship she had confided in, and in both had affronted God, are now made use of as the instruments of her destruction. The Assyrians, on whom she doted, soon spied out the nakedness of the land, discovered her blind side, on which to attack her, stripped her of all her ornaments and all her defences, and so uncovered her, and made her naked and bare, carried her sons and daughters into captivity, slew her with the sword, and quite destroyed that kingdom and put an end to it. We have the story at large 2 Kgs. 17:6; where the cause of the ruin of that once flourishing kingdom by the Assyrians is shown to be their forsaking the God of Israel, fearing other gods, and walking in the statutes of the heathen; it was for this that God was very angry with them and removed them out of his sight, Ezek. 23:18. And that the Assyrians, whom they had been so fond of, should be employed in executing judgments upon them was very remarkable, and shows how God, in a way of righteous judgment, often makes that a scourge to sinners which they have inordinately set their hearts upon. The devil will for ever be a tormentor to those impenitent sinners who now hearken to him and comply with him as a tempter. Thus Samaria became famous among women, or infamous rather; she became a name (so the word is); not only she came to be the subject of discourse, and much talked of, as the desolations of cities and kingdoms fill the newspapers, but she was thus ruined for her idolatries in terrorem—for warning to all people to take heed of doing likewise; as the public execution of notorious malefactors makes them such a name, such an ill name, as may serve to frighten others from those wicked courses which have brought them to a miserable and shameful end. Deut. 21:21; All Israel shall hear and fear.
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