Ezekiel 23:1–21 (NKJV)
23:1 The word of the Lord came again to me, saying:
2 “Son of man, there were two women,
The daughters of one mother.
3 They committed harlotry in Egypt,
They committed harlotry in their youth;
Their breasts were there embraced,
Their virgin bosom was there pressed.
4 Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister;
They were Mine,
And they bore sons and daughters.
As for their names,
Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah.
The Lord begins this discourse by telling a story of two wanton sisters prostituting themselves, and then identifies them as Israel and Judah. Israel, or Samaria, is called the elder sister. Some translations call her the bigger sister. Either one would be true. Israel was a nation for hundreds of years before they split into two nations, with Israel consisting of ten tribes and Judah being two tribes.
5 “Oholah played the harlot even though she was Mine;
And she lusted for her lovers, the neighboring Assyrians,
6 Who were clothed in purple,
Captains and rulers,
All of them desirable young men,
Horsemen riding on horses.
7 Thus she committed her harlotry with them,
All of them choice men of Assyria;
And with all for whom she lusted,
With all their idols, she defiled herself.
8 She has never given up her harlotry brought from Egypt,
For in her youth they had lain with her,
Pressed her virgin bosom,
And poured out their immorality upon her.
9 “Therefore I have delivered her
Into the hand of her lovers,
Into the hand of the Assyrians,
For whom she lusted.
10 They uncovered her nakedness,
Took away her sons and daughters,
And slew her with the sword;
She became a byword among women,
For they had executed judgment on her.
Oholah is accused of lusting for Assyria and having relations with them. She is then said to have been abused and shamed by Assyria. This was a result of her harlotry with Egypt in her younger days. The pattern was evident. She was then destroyed by the sword by her lovers.
11 “Now although her sister Oholibah saw this, she became more corrupt in her lust than she, and in her harlotry more corrupt than her sister’s harlotry.
12 “She lusted for the neighboring Assyrians,
Captains and rulers,
Clothed most gorgeously,
Horsemen riding on horses,
All of them desirable young men.
13 Then I saw that she was defiled;
Both took the same way.
14 But she increased her harlotry;
She looked at men portrayed on the wall,
Images of Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion,
15 Girded with belts around their waists,
Flowing turbans on their heads,
All of them looking like captains,
In the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea,
The land of their nativity.
16 As soon as her eyes saw them,
She lusted for them
And sent messengers to them in Chaldea.
17 “Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love,
And they defiled her with their immorality;
So she was defiled by them, and alienated herself from them.
18 She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness.
Then I alienated Myself from her,
As I had alienated Myself from her sister.
19 “Yet she multiplied her harlotry
In calling to remembrance the days of her youth,
When she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
20 For she lusted for her paramours,
Whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys,
And whose issue is like the issue of horses.
21 Thus you called to remembrance the lewdness of your youth,
When the Egyptians pressed your bosom
Because of your youthful breasts.
Oholibah, or Judah, seems to have taken the level of harlotry even further, being more extreme in her actions. She slept with the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and also was reminiscent of her harlotry in Egypt. These experiences, and the graphic descriptions of the men who had her, demonstrate the depth to which Judah had fallen.
What can this strange, uncomfortable discourse say to us today? First, don’t let you past determine your future. Just because you failed yesterday does not mean you must fail today. Rise above the mistakes of the past and be whole. Second, sinfulness–whether in the form of idolatry, adultery, etc.–will lead to destruction. Avoid sin with all your might. Run from its very appearance. Though you may think something is beautiful or alluring, do not let it draw you in to the point of failure. The pleasure does not match the punishment. Don’t be a harlot daughter.