Two Sisters

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, there were two women who were daughters of the same mother. 3 They engaged in prostitution in Egypt; in their youth they engaged in prostitution. Their breasts were squeezed there; lovers1 fondled their virgin nipples there. 4 Oholah was the name of the older and Oholibah2 the name of her younger sister. They became mine, and gave birth to sons and daughters.3 Oholah is Samaria and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

5Oholah engaged in prostitution while she was mine.4 She lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians5warriors6 6 clothed in blue, governors and officials, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. 7 She bestowed her sexual favors on them; all of them were the choicest young men of Assyria. She defiled herself with all whom she desired7with all their idols. 8 She did not abandon the prostitution she had practiced in Egypt; for in her youth men had sex with her, fondled her virgin breasts, and ravished her.8 9 Therefore I handed her over to her lovers, the Assyrians9 for whom she lusted. 10 They exposed her nakedness, seized her sons and daughters, and killed her with the sword. She became notorious10 among women, and they executed judgments against her.

11Her sister Oholibah watched this,11 but she became more corrupt in her lust than her sister had been, and her acts of prostitution were more numerous than those of her sister. 12 She lusted after the Assyrians – governors and officials, warriors in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. 13 I saw that she was defiled; both of them followed the same path. 14 But she increased her prostitution. She saw men carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans carved in bright red,12 15 wearing belts on their waists and flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, the image of Babylonians13 whose native land is Chaldea. 16 When she saw them,14 she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea.15 17 The Babylonians crawled into bed with her.16 They defiled her with their lust; after she was defiled by them, she17 became disgusted with them. 18 When she lustfully exposed her nakedness,18 I19 was disgusted with her, just as I20 had been disgusted with her sister. 19 Yet she increased her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth when she engaged in prostitution in the land of Egypt. 20 She lusted after their genitals – as large as those of donkeys,21 and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions. 21 This is how you assessed22 the obscene conduct of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled23 your nipples and squeezed24 your young breasts.

22Therefore, Oholibah, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here,25 I am about to stir up against you the lovers with whom you were disgusted; I will bring them against you from every side: 23 the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod,26 Shoa,27 and Koa,28 and all the Assyrians with them, desirable young men, all of them governors and officials, officers and nobles, all of them riding on horses. 24 They will attack29 you with weapons,30 chariots, wagons, and with a huge army;31 they will array themselves against you on every side with large shields, small shields, and helmets. I will assign them the task of judgment;32 they will punish you according to their laws. 25 I will direct33 my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in rage. They will cut off your nose and your ears,34 and your survivors will die35 by the sword. They will seize your sons and daughters, and your survivors will be consumed by fire. 26 They will strip your clothes off you and take away your beautiful jewelry. 27 So I will put an end to your obscene conduct and your prostitution which you have practiced in the land of Egypt.36 You will not seek their help37 or remember Egypt anymore.

28For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look here,38 I am about to deliver you over to39 those whom you hate, to those with whom you were disgusted. 29 They will treat you with hatred, take away all you have labored for,40 and leave you naked and bare. Your nakedness will be exposed, just as when you engaged in prostitution and obscene conduct.41 30 I will do these things to you42 because you engaged in prostitution with the nations, polluting yourself with their idols. 31 You have followed the ways of your sister, so I will place her cup of judgment43 in your hand. 32 This is what the sovereign Lord says: “You will drink your sister’s deep and wide cup;44 you will be scorned and derided, for it holds a great deal. 33 You will be overcome by45 drunkenness and sorrow. The cup of your sister Samaria is a cup of horror and desolation. 34 You will drain it dry,46 gnaw its pieces,47 and tear out your breasts,48 for I have spoken, declares the sovereign Lord.

35Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Because you have forgotten me and completely disregarded me,49 you must bear now the punishment50 for your obscene conduct and prostitution.”

36 The Lord said to me: “Son of man, are you willing to pronounce judgment51 on Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominable deeds! 37 For they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and their sons, whom they bore to me,52 they have passed through the fire as food to their idols.53 38 Moreover, they have done this to me: In the very same day54 they desecrated my sanctuary and profaned my Sabbaths. 39 On the same day they slaughtered their sons for their idols, they came to my sanctuary to desecrate it. This is what they have done in the middle of my house.

40They even sent for men from far away; when the messenger arrived, those men set out.55 For them you bathed,56 painted your eyes, and decorated yourself with jewelry. 41 You sat on a magnificent couch, with a table arranged in front of it where you placed my incense and my olive oil. 42 The sound of a carefree crowd accompanied her,57 including all kinds of men;58 even Sabeans59 were brought from the desert. The sisters60 put bracelets on their wrists and beautiful crowns on their heads. 43 Then I said about the one worn out by adultery, ‘Now they will commit immoral acts with her.’ 44 They had sex with her61 as one does with a prostitute. In this way they had sex with Oholah and Oholibah, promiscuous women. 45 But upright men will punish them appropriately for their adultery and bloodshed,62 because they are adulteresses and blood is on their hands.

46For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Bring up an army63 against them and subject them64 to terror and plunder. 47 That army will pelt them with stones and slash them with their swords; they will kill their sons and daughters and burn their houses.65 48 I will put an end to the obscene conduct in the land; all the women will learn a lesson from this and not engage in obscene conduct. 49 They will repay you for your obscene conduct, and you will be punished for idol worship.66 Then you will know that I am the sovereign Lord.”

123:3tn In the Hebrew text the subject is left unstated and must be supplied from the context. 223:4tn The names Oholah and Oholibah are both derived from the word meaning “tent.” The meaning of Oholah is “her tent,” while Oholibah means “my tent is in her.” 323:4sn In this allegory the Lord is depicted as being the husband of two wives. The OT law prohibited a man from marrying sisters (Lev 18:18), but the practice is attested in the OT (cf. Jacob). The metaphor is utilized here for illustrative purposes and does not mean that the Lord condoned such a practice or bigamy in general. 423:5tn Heb “while she was under me.” The expression indicates that Oholah is viewed as the Lord’s wife. See Num 5:19-20, Played the harlot refers to alliances with pagan nations in this context. In Ezek 16 harlotry described the sin of idolatry. 523:5tn Heb “Assyria.” 623:5tn The term apparently refers to Assyrian military officers; it is better construed with the description that follows. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:738. 723:7tn Heb “lusted after.” 823:8tn Heb “and poured out their harlotry on her.” 923:9tn Heb “I gave her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the sons of Assyria.” 1023:10tn Heb “name.” 1123:11tn The word “this” is not in the original text. 1223:14tn The only other occurrence of the Hebrew term is in Jer 22:14. 1323:15tn Heb “the sons of Babel.” 1423:16tn Heb “at the appearance of her eyes.” 1523:16sn The Chaldeans were prominent tribal groups of Babylonia. The imagery is reminiscent of events in the reigns of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 20:12-15) and Jehoiakim (2 Kgs 23:34-24:1). 1623:17tn Heb “The sons of Babel came to her on a bed of love.” 1723:17tn Heb “her soul.” 1823:18tn Heb “She exposed her harlotry and she exposed her nakedness.” 1923:18tn Heb “my soul.” 2023:18tn Heb “my soul.” 2123:20tn Heb “She lusted after their concubines (?) whose flesh was the flesh of donkeys.” The phrase “their concubines” is extremely problematic here. The pronoun is masculine plural, suggesting that the Egyptian men are in view, but how concubines would fit into the picture envisioned here is not clear. Some suggest that Ezekiel uses the term in an idiomatic sense of “paramour,” but this still fails to explain how the pronoun relates to the noun. It is more likely that the term refers here to the Egyptians’ genitals. The relative pronoun that follows introduces a more specific description of their genitals. 2223:21tn Or “you took note of.” The Hebrew verb פָּקַד (paqad) in the Qal implies evaluating something and then acting in light of that judgment; here the prophet depicts Judah as approving of her youthful unfaithfulness and then magnifying it at the present time. Some translations assume the verb should be repointed as a Niphal, rendering “you missed” or by extension “you longed for,” but such an extension of the Niphal “to be missing” is otherwise unattested. 2323:21tn Heb “when (they) did,” but the verb makes no sense here and is better emended to “when (they) fondled,” a verb used in vv. 3 and 8. See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:43. 2423:21tn Heb “for the sake of,” but the expression is awkward and is better emended to read “to squeeze.” See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:43. 2523:22tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb. 2623:23sn Pekod was the name of an Aramean tribe (known as Puqudu in Mesopotamian texts) that lived in the region of the Tigris River. 2723:23sn Shoa was the name of a nomadic people (the Sutu) that lived in Mesopotamia. 2823:23sn Koa was the name of another Mesopotamian people group (the Qutu). 2923:24tn Heb “come against.” 3023:24tn This is the only occurrence of this term in the OT. The precise meaning is uncertain. 3123:24tn Heb “an assembly of peoples.” 3223:24tn Heb “I will place before them judgment.” 3323:25tn Heb “give.” 3423:25tn Heb “they will remove.”sn This method of punishment is attested among ancient Egyptian and Hittite civilizations. See W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel (Hermeneia), 1:489. 3523:25tn Heb “fall.” 3623:27tn Heb “I will cause your obscene conduct to cease from you and your harlotry from the land of Egypt.” 3723:27tn Heb “lift your eyes to them.” 3823:28tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb. 3923:28tn Heb “I am giving you into the hand of.” 4023:29tn The Hebrew term means “labor,” but by extension it can also refer to that for which one works. 4123:29tn Heb “The nakedness of your prostitution will be exposed, and your obscene conduct and your harlotry.” 4223:30tn The infinitive absolute continues the sequence begun in v. 28: “Look here, I am about to deliver you.” See Joüon 2:430 §123.w. 4323:31tn Heb “her cup.” A cup of intoxicating strong drink is used, here and elsewhere, as a metaphor for judgment because both leave one confused and reeling. (See Jer 25:15, 17, 28; Hab 2:16.) The cup of wrath is a theme also found in the NT (Mark 14:36). 4423:32sn The image of a deep and wide cup suggests the degree of punishment; it will be extensive and leave the victim helpless. 4523:33tn Heb “filled with.” 4623:34tn Heb “You will drink it and drain (it).” 4723:34tn D. I. Block compares this to the idiom of “licking the plate” (Ezekiel [NICOT], 1:754, n. 137). The text is difficult as the word translated “gnaw” is rare. The noun is used of the shattered pieces of pottery and so could envision a broken cup. But the Piel verb form is used in only one other place (Num 24:8), where it is a denominative from the noun “bone” and seems to mean to “break (bones).” Why it would be collocated with “sherds” is not clear. For this reason some emend the phrase to read “consume its dregs” (see L. C. Allen, Ezekiel [WBC], 2:44) or emend the verb to read “swallow,” as if the intoxicated Oholibah breaks the cup and then eats the very sherds in an effort to get every last drop of the beverage that dampens them. 4823:34sn The severe action is more extreme than beating the breasts in anguish (Isa 32:12; Nah 2:7). It is also ironic for these are the very breasts she so blatantly offered to her lovers (vv. 3, 21). 4923:35tn Heb “and you cast me behind your back.” The expression pictures her rejection of the Lord (see 1 Kgs 14:9). 5023:35tn The word “punishment” is not in the Hebrew text but is demanded by the context. 5123:36tn Heb “will you judge.” Here the imperfect form of the verb is probably used with a desiderative nuance. Addressed to the prophet, “judge” means to warn of or pronounce God’s impending judgment. See 20:4; 22:2. 5223:37sn The Lord speaks here in the role of the husband of the sisters. 5323:37tn Heb “they have passed to them for food.” The verb is commonly taken to refer to passing children through fire, especially as an offering to the pagan god Molech. See Jer 32:35. 5423:38tn Heb “in that day.” 5523:40tn Heb “to whom a messenger was sent, and look, they came.” Foreign alliances are in view here. 5623:40tn The Hebrew verb form is feminine singular, indicating that Oholibah (Judah) is specifically addressed here. This address continues through verse 42a (note “her”), but then both sisters are described in verse 42b, where the feminine pronouns are again plural. 5723:42tn Heb “(was) in her.” 5823:42tn Heb “and men from the multitude of mankind.” 5923:42tn An alternate reading is “drunkards.” Sheba is located in the area of modern day Yemen. 6023:42tn Heb “they”; the referents (the sisters) have been specified in the translation for the sake of clarity. 6123:44tn Heb “and they came to her.” 6223:45tn Heb “and upright men will judge them (with) the judgment of adulteresses and the judgment of those who shed blood.” 6323:46tn Heb “assembly.” 6423:46tn Heb “give them to.” 6523:47tn The Hebrew text adds “with fire.” 6623:49tn Heb “and the sins of your idols you will bear.” By extension it can mean the punishment for the sins.