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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 22–35
Verses 22–35

Jerusalem stands indicted by the name of Aholibah, for that she, as a false traitor to her sovereign Lord the God of heaven, not having his fear before her eyes, but moved by the instigation of the devil, had revolted from her allegiance to him, had compassed and imagined to shake off his government, had kept up a correspondence had joined in confederacy with his enemies, and the pretenders to a deity, in contempt of his crown and dignity. To this indictment she has pleaded, Not guilty: I am not polluted; I have not gone after Baalim. But it is found against her by the notorious evidence of the fact, and she stands convicted of it, nor has any thing material to offer why judgment should not be given and execution awarded according to law. In these verses, therefore, we have the sentence.

I. Her old confederates must be her executioners; and those whom she had courted to be her leaders in sin are now to be employed as instruments of her punishment (Ezek. 23:22): “I will raise up thy lovers against thee, the Chaldeans, whom formerly thou didst so much admire and covet an acquaintance with, but from whom thy mind is since alienated and with whom thou hast perfidiously broken covenant.” They are called thy lovers (Ezek. 23:22) and yet (Ezek. 23:28) those whom thou hatest. Note, It is common for sinful love soon to turn into hatred; as Amnon’s to Tamar. Those of headstrong and unreasonable passions are often very hot against those persons and things that a little before they were as hot for. Fools run into extremes; nay, and wise men may see cause to change their sentiments. And therefore, as we should rejoice and weep as if we rejoiced not and wept not, so we should love and hate as if we loved not and hated not. Ita ama tanquam osurus—Love as one who may have cause to feel aversion.

II. The execution to be done upon her is very terrible.

1. Her enemies shall come against her on every side (Ezek. 23:22), those of the several nations that constituted the Chaldean army (Ezek. 23:23), all of them great lords and renowned, whose pomp, and grandeur, and splendid appearance made them look the more amiable when they came as friends to protect and patronise Jerusalem, but the more formidable when they came to chastise its treachery and aimed at no less than its ruin. (1.) They shall come with a great deal of military force (Ezek. 23:24), with chariots and wagons furnished with all necessary provisions for a camp, with arms and ammunition, bag and baggage, with a vast army, and well armed. (2.) They shall have justice on their side: “I will set judgment before them” (they shall have right with them as well as might; for the king of Babylon had just cause to make war upon the king of Judah, because he had broken his league with him), “and therefore they shall judge thee, not only according to God’s judgments, as the instruments of his justice, to punish thee for the indignities done to him, but according to their judgments, according to the law of nations, to punish thee for thy perfidious dealings with them.” (3.) They shall prosecute the war with a great deal of fury and resentment. It being a war of revenge, they shall deal with thee hatefully, Ezek. 23:29. This will make the execution the more severe that their swords will be dipped in poison. Thou hatest them, and they shall deal hatefully with thee; those that hate will be hated and will be hatefully dealt with. (4.) God himself will lead them on, and his anger shall be mingled with theirs (Ezek. 23:25): I will set my jealousy against thee; that shall kindle this fire, and then they shall deal furiously with thee. If men deal ever so hatefully, ever so furiously, with us, yet, if we have God on our side, we need not fear them; they can do us no real hurt. But if men deal furiously with us, and God set his jealousy against us too, what will become of us?

2. The particulars of the sentence here passed upon this notorious adulteress are, (1.) That all she has shall be seized on. The clothes and the fair jewels, with which she had endeavoured to recommend herself to her lovers, these she shall be stripped of, Ezek. 23:26. All those things that were the ornaments of their state shall be taken away: “They shall take away all thy labour, all that thou hast gotten by thy labour, and shall leave thee naked and bare,” Ezek. 23:29. Both city and country shall be impoverished and all the wealth of both swept away. (2.) That her children shall go into captivity. “They shall take thy sons and thy daughters, and make slaves of them (Ezek. 23:25); for they are children of whoredoms, unworthy the dignities and privileges of Israelites,” Hos. 2:4. (3.) That she shall be stigmatized and deformed: “They shall take away thy nose and thy ears, shall mark thee for a harlot, and render thee for ever odious,” Ezek. 23:25. This intimates the many cruelties of the Chaldean soldiers towards the Jews that fell into their hands, whom, it is probable, they used barbarously. Some will have this to be understood figuratively; and by the nose they think is meant the kingly dignity, and by the ears that of the priesthood. (4.) That she shall be exposed to shame: Thy lewdness and thy whoredoms shall be discovered (Ezek. 23:29), as, when a malefactor is punished, all his crimes are ripped up, and repeated to his disgrace; what was secret then comes to light, and what was done long since is then called to mind. (5.) That she shall be quite cut off and ruined: “The remnant of thy people that have escaped the famine and pestilence shall fall by the sword; and the residue of thy houses that have not been battered down about thy ears shall be devoured by the fire,” Ezek. 23:25. And this shall be the end of Jerusalem.

III. Because she has trod in the steps of Samaria’s sins, she must expect no other than Samaria’s fate. It is common, in giving judgment, to have an eye to precedents; so has God in passing this sentence on Jerusalem (Ezek. 23:31): “Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister, notwithstanding the warning thou hast had given thee, by the fatal consequences of her wickedness; and therefore I will give her cup, her portion of miseries, into thy hand, the cup of the Lord’s fury, which will be to thee a cup of trembling.” Now, 1. This cup is said to be deep and large, and to contain much (Ezek. 23:32), abundance of God’s wrath and abundance of miseries, the fruits of that wrath. It is such a cup as that which we read of, Jer. 25:15, 16. The cup of divine vengeance holds a great deal, and so those will find into whose hand it shall be put. 2. They shall be made to drink the very dregs of this cup, as the wicked are said to do (Ps. 75:8): “Thou shalt drink it and suck it out, not because it is pleasant, but because it is forced upon thee (Ezek. 23:34); thou shalt break the shreds thereof, and pluck off thy own breasts, for indignation at the extreme bitterness of this cup, being full of the fury of the Lord (Isa. 51:20), as men in great anguish tear their hair, and throw every thing from them. Finding there is no remedy, but it must be drank (for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God), thou shalt have no manner of patience in the drinking of it.” 3. They shall be intoxicated by it, made sick, and be at their wits’ end, as men in drink are, staggering, and stumbling, and ready to fall (Ezek. 23:33): Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. Note, Drunkenness has sorrow attending it, to such a degree that the utmost confusion and astonishment are here represented by it. Who would think that that which is such a force upon nature, such a scandal to it, which deprives men of their reason, disorders them to the last degree, and is therefore expressive of the greatest misery, should yet be with many a beloved sin, that they should damn their own souls to distemper their own bodies? Who has woe and sorrow like them? Prov. 23:29. 4. Being so intoxicated, they shall become, as drunkards deserve to be, a laughing-stock to all about them (Ezek. 23:32): Thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision, as acting ridiculously in every thing thou goest about. When God is about to ruin a people he makes their judges fools and pours contempt on their princes, Job 12:17, 21.

IV. In all this God will be justified, and by all this they will be reformed; and so the issue even of this will be God’s glory and their good. 1. They have been bad, very bad, and that justifies God in all that is brought upon them (Ezek. 23:30): I will do these things unto thee because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and (Ezek. 23:35) because thou hast forgotten me and cast me behind thy back. Note, Forgetfulness of God, and a contempt of him, of his eye upon us and authority over us, are at the bottom of all our treacherous adulterous departures from him. Therefore men wander after idols, because they forget God, and their obligations to him; nor could they look with so much desire and delight upon the baits of sin if they did not first cast God behind their back, as not worthy to be regarded. And those who put such an affront upon God, how can they think but that it should turn upon themselves at last? Therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and thy whoredoms; that is, thou shalt suffer the punishment of them, and thou alone must bear the blame. Men need no more to sink them than the weight of their own sins; and those who will not part with their lewdness and their whoredoms must bear them. 2. They shall be better, much better, and this fire, though consuming to many, shall be refining to a remnant (Ezek. 23:27): Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee. The judgments which were brought upon them by their sins parted between them and their sins, and taught them at length to say, What have we to do any more with idols? Observe, (1.) How inveterate the disease was: Thy whoredoms were brought from the land of Egypt. Their disposition to idolatry was early and innate, their practice of it was ancient, and had gained a sort of prescription by long usage. (2.) How complete the cure was notwithstanding: “Though it has taken root, yet it shall be made to cease, so that thou shalt not so much as lift up thy eyes to the idols again, nor remember Egypt with pleasure any more.” They shall avoid the occasions of this sin, for they shall not so much as look upon an idol, lest their hearts should unawares walk after their eyes. And they shall abandon all inclinations to it: “They shall not remember Egypt; they shall not retain any of that affection for idols which they had from the very infancy of their nation.” They got it, through the corruption of nature, in their bondage in Egypt, and lost it, through the grace of God, in their captivity in Babylon, which this was the blessed fruit of, even the taking away of sin, of that sin; so that whereas, before the captivity, no nation (all things considered) was more impetuously bent upon idols and idolatry than they were, after that captivity no nation was more vehemently set against idols and idolatry than they were, insomuch that at this day the image-worship which is practised in the church of Rome confirms the Jews as much as any thing in their prejudices against the Christian religion.