The prophet Hosea, in his time, observed that the two tribes retained their integrity, in a great measure, when the ten tribes had apostatized (Hos. 11:12; Ephraim indeed compasses me about with lies, but Judah yet rules with God and is faithful with the saints; and this was justly expected from them: Hos. 4:15; Though thou Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend); but this lasted not long. By some unhappy matches made between the house of David and the house of Ahab the worship of Baal had been brought into the kingdom of Judah, but had been by the reforming kings worked out again; and at the time of the captivity of the ten tribes, which was in the reign of Hezekiah, things were in a good posture: but it lasted not long. In the reign of Manasseh, soon after the kingdom of Judah had seen the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, they became more corrupt than Israel had been in their inordinate love of idols, Ezek. 23:11. Instead of being made better by the warning which that destruction gave them, they were made worse by it, as if they were displeased because the Lord had made that breach upon Israel, and for that reason became disaffected to him and to his service. Instead of being made to stand in awe of him as a jealous God, they therefore grew strange to him, and liked those gods better that would admit of partners with them. Note, Those may justly expect God’s judgments upon themselves who do not take warning by his judgments upon others, who see in others what is the end of sin and yet continue to make a light matter of it. But it is bad indeed with those who are made worse by that which should make them better, and have their lusts irritated and exasperated by that which was designed to suppress and subdue them. Jerusalem grew worse in her whoredoms than her sister Samaria had been in her whoredoms. This was observed before (Ezek. 16:51), Neither has Samaria committed half of thy sins.
I. Jerusalem, that had been a faithful city, became a harlot, Isa. 1:21. She also doted upon the Assyrians (Ezek. 23:12), joined in league with them, joined in worship with them, grew to be in love with their captains and rulers, and cried them up as finer and more accomplished gentlemen than any that ever the land of Israel produced. “See how richly, how neatly, they are dressed, clothed most gorgeously; how well they sit a horse; they are horsemen riding on horses; how charmingly they look, all of them desirable young men.” And thus they grew to affect every thing that was foreign and to despise their own nation; and even the religion of it was mean and homely, and not to be compared with the curiosity and gaiety of the heathen temples. Thus she increased her whoredoms; she fell in love, fell in league, with the Chaldeans. Hezekiah himself was faulty this way when he was proud of the court which the king of Babylon made to him and complimented his ambassadors with the sight of all his treasures, Isa. 39:2. And the humour increased (Ezek. 23:14); she doted upon the pictures of the Babylonian captains (Ezek. 23:15, 16), joined in alliance with that kingdom, invited them to come and settle in Jerusalem, that they might refine the genius of the Jewish nation and make it more polite; nay, they sent for patterns of their images, altars, and temples, and made use of them in their worship. Thus was she polluted with her whoredoms (Ezek. 23:17), and thereby she discovered her own whoredom (Ezek. 23:18), her own strong inclination to idolatry. And when she had had enough of the Chaldeans, and grew tired of them and disposed to break her league with them, as Jehoiakim and Zedekiah did, her mind being alienated from them, she courted the Egyptians, doted upon their paramours (Ezek. 23:20), would come into an alliance with them, and, to strengthen the alliance, would join with them in their idolatries and then depend upon them to be their protectors from all other nations; for so wise, so rich, so strong, was the Egyptian nation, and came to such perfection in idolatry, that there was no nation now which they could take such satisfaction in as in Egypt. Thus they called to remembrance the days of their youth (Ezek. 23:19), the lewdness of their youth, Ezek. 23:21. 1. They pleased themselves with the remembrance of it. When they began to set their affections upon Egypt, they encouraged themselves to put a confidence in that kingdom, because of the old acquaintance they had with it, as if they still retained the gust and relish of the leeks and onions they ate there, or rather of the idolatrous worship they learned there, and brought up with them thence. When they began an acquaintance with Egypt they remembered how merrily their fathers worshipped the golden calf, what music and dancing they had at that sport, which they learned in Egypt; and they hoped they should now have a fair pretence to come to that again. Thus she multiplied her whoredoms, repeated her former whoredoms, and encouraged herself to close with present temptations, by calling to remembrance the days of her youth. Note, Those who, instead of reflecting upon their former sins with sorrow and shame, reflect upon them with pleasure and pride, contract new guilt thereby, strengthen their own corruptions, and in effect bid defiance to repentance. This is returning with the dog to his vomit. 2. They called it God’s remembrance, and provoked him to remember it against them. God had said indeed that he would reckon with them for the golden calf, that idol of Egypt (Exod. 32:34); but such was his patience that he seemed to have forgotten it till they, by their league now with the Egyptians against the Chaldeans, did, as it were, put him in mind of it; and in the day when he visits he will now, as he has said, visit for that. It is very observable how this adulteress changes her lovers: she dotes first on the Assyrians; then she thought the Chaldeans finer and courted them; after a while her mind was alienated from them, and she thought the Egyptians more powerful (Ezek. 23:20) and she must contract an intimacy with them. This shows the folly, (1.) Of fleshly lusts; when they are indulged they grow humoursome and fickle, are soon surfeited but never satisfied; they must have variety, and what is loved one day is loathed the next. Unius adulterium matrimonium vocant—One adultery is called marriage, as Seneca observes. (2.) Of idolatry. Those who think one God too little will not think a hundred sufficient, but will still be for trying more, as finding all insufficient. (3.) Of seeking to creatures for help; we go from one to another, but are disappointed in them all, and can never rest till we have made the God of Israel our help.
II. The faithful God justly gives a bill of divorce to this now faithless city, that has become a harlot. His jealousy soon discovered her lewdness (Ezek. 23:13): I saw that she was defiled, that she was debauched, and saw which way her inclination was, that the two sisters both took one way, and that Jerusalem grew worse than Samaria. For, if we stretch out our hand to a strange god, will not God search this out? No doubt he will; and when he has found it can he be pleased with it? No (Ezek. 23:18): Then my mind was alienated from her, as it was from her sister. How could the pure and holy God any longer take delight in such a lewd generation? Note, Sin alienates God’s mind from the sinner, and justly, for it is the alienation of the sinner’s mind from God; but woe, and a thousand woes, to those from whom God’s mind is alienated; for whom he turns from he will turn against.