23 The word of the Eternal came to me with a parable about two sisters.
Eternal One: 2 Son of man, there were two women born of the same mother. 3 They became promiscuous in Egypt at a young age. Their breasts were fondled, and their virgin bodies were caressed. 4 The older sister was named Oholah, and her younger sister was named Oholibah. They married Me, and they gave birth to many sons and daughters.
Oholah is Samaria (the mother city of Israel), and Oholibah is Jerusalem (the mother city of Judah).
After King Solomon’s death, Israel splits into two kingdoms, the two sisters described in this parable. Israel is ruled from Samaria; Judah is ruled from Jerusalem. Both kingdoms are ruled autonomously until Assyria dominates Israel, forcing her to pay tribute. Eventually the Assyrians conquer Israel in 722 b.c. and annex her land. Throughout this struggle, the various kings of Israel turn for help to everyone they can—everyone, that is, except God. Israel’s last cry for help is raised to Egypt in the 730s b.c. by her last king, Hoshea (2 Kings 17:4). Unfortunately, surviving historical records are incomplete, and what happens next is unclear. But in the end, Egypt proves to be no help to Israel.
Eternal One: 5 Oholah played the whore while she was still Mine. She coveted many lovers, lusting after her neighbors, the Assyrians— 6 sharply dressed in handsome blue, governors and commanders—all attractive young men mounted on great horses. 7 She offered herself as a prostitute to all of the fine Assyrian men and anyone who desired her. She degraded herself with the idols of her lovers. 8 She didn’t stop the promiscuity she began in Egypt, for when she was young she slept with men who caressed her virgin breasts and poured out their lust on her. 9 So I handed her over to those she loved, the Assyrians whom she desired. 10 They stripped her naked, stole her children, and slaughtered her during the war. So among women, her name became synonymous with disgrace, when they saw the punishment she received.
Unfortunately Judah, the younger sister, repeats Israel’s mistakes. She turns to Egypt against a conquering Babylonian Empire; but this is a grave mistake, for soon she will be completely destroyed.
11 Her younger sister, Oholibah, witnessed all that happened; yet Oholibah became more corrupt than her sister. Her wanton lust and prostitution were even worse than her sister’s. 12 She was obsessed with the Assyrians, too, lusting after the elite—governors and commanders, sharply-dressed warriors—all attractive young men mounted atop great horses. 13 I saw how she degraded herself. Both she and her sister followed the same path, 14 but Oholibah’s path went further and she traveled longer. She added the Babylonians to her list of paramours. She was captivated by images of men painted on a wall: figures of Chaldeans dressed in red, 15 with expensive belts wrapped around their waists and flowing turbans adorning their heads. All of them looked highly distinguished, like Babylonian officers from the land of Chaldea. 16 As soon as her eyes met these portraits, she lusted after them. And so she sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17 And the Babylonians accepted her invitation and came into her bed of love, degrading her with their lust. When they had completely defiled her, she turned away from them in disgust. 18 Because she carried on her whoring so publicly and exposed herself to so many, I was repulsed by her just as I was her sister. 19 Yet she went deeper into prostitution when she remembered how she played the whore when she was young in the land of Egypt. 20 She lusted for lovers whose genitals were as large as a donkey’s and whose emissions were like a horse’s.
21 You, Judah, longed for the lewd promiscuity of your youth in Egypt,
when men fondled your breasts and caressed your virgin body.”[a]
22 Pay attention, Oholibah! I will turn your forgotten lovers against you,
the ones whom you turned away from in disgust.
I will bring them against you from every direction.
23 Babylonians and all the Chaldeans,
the people of Pekod, Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians,
All attractive young men, governors and commanders,
sharply-dressed officers and high-ranking officials mounted atop great horses.
24 They will come after you with lethal weapons[b] in hand,
shields in place, dressed in armor;
And troops will storm you from every side
in war chariots and wagons.
I will hand you over to their judgment,
and they will punish you according to their customs.
25 I will unleash My jealous fury against you.
They will slice off your nose and ears and kill the rest of your people in battle.
They will steal your children,
and they will burn any who survive in a fire.
26 They will strip you and take away your clothes;
they will rob you of your expensive jewelry.
27 This is how I will put a stop to the promiscuities
and prostitution you brought from the land of Egypt.
You will not admire or remember Egypt with yearning anymore.
28 Here is what the Eternal Lord has to say:
Eternal One: Pay attention! I am a moment away from handing you over to those whom you loathe, the ones whom you turned away from in disgust. 29 They will treat you with hatred and rob you of your lot. They will rip off your clothes in public and leave you naked. The marks of your prostitution—your lewd, promiscuous life—will be apparent. 30 You have brought this upon yourself because you played the whore with your neighboring nations, degraded yourself with profane images and breathless idols. 31 You have followed the same path as your sister; therefore, I will let you drink from her very own cup.
32 You will drink from your sister’s cup,
a cup deep and wide.
It will bring you shame and scorn
and a lot of it.
33 You will drink your fill of drunkenness and agony,
with tears of sorrow running down your cheeks.
This is the cup of ruination, of destruction—
the cup of your sister Samaria!
34 You will drink it down and drain it dry;
then you will smash the cup to pieces
And gnaw on its shattered remains;
you will tear at the breasts your enemies once fondled.
For I, the Eternal Lord, have spoken.
35 Because you have forgotten Me and tossed Me over your shoulder like a piece of trash, you must reap the consequences of your promiscuities and prostitution.
36 (to Ezekiel) Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? You must! Confront them about their shocking actions— 37 the adulterous liaisons they commit with bloody hands, even sacrificing their sons and daughters, My children, as burnt offerings to breathless idols. 38-39 Not only that, but they have also polluted My sanctuary and profaned My Sabbaths by sacrificing their children to the breathless idols on the same day they came into My house. This is what they did to Me and My house. This is how they profaned it. 40 They even sent a special invitation to men who lived far away. When they arrived, you had bathed in fragrant waters, painted around your eyes, dressed in seductive garments, and adorned your body with shiny jewelry for your honored guests. 41 You reclined on a silky couch in front of a table set for your visitors with the incense and oils that belonged to Me. 42 As for Oholibah, the mellowed crowd gathered around her—drunkards from the desert and noisy commoners. They adorned the arms of the sisters with bracelets I’d given them and placed ostentatious crowns on the heads of My queens. 43 Then I wondered about this woman who was exhausted from adulterous sex: “Will they still want to sleep with her, here and now?”[c] 44 Yes, they all went into her bed, one after another, and used her as a prostitute. This is what they did to both these wanton women: Oholah and Oholibah. 45 But righteous people will condemn these sisters to punishment befitting adulterous and murderous women! For they are indeed adulteresses and their hands are covered with innocent blood.
46 This is what the Eternal Lord has to say:
Eternal One: Bring a vast army against them! Overtake them with terror and plunder their goods! 47 Their enemies will crush them with large rocks and hack them down in battle. They will massacre their children—My children—and burn down their houses!
(to the sisters) 48 This is how I will put an end to the lewdness practiced in the land and make you an example to all women, that they may learn from your mistakes and never commit the wicked acts you did. 49 You will suffer the consequences of your promiscuity; you will bear the penalty for worshiping your idols. Then you will know that I am the Eternal Lord.
18 When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make an offering for sin.
19 So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. 20 He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. 21 Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.
The word translated “church” in English Bibles means literally “assembly of the called”; it implies that members have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives. We assemble because we are called into being by God Himself. Some people, for reasons only they know, choose to live their Christian faiths in isolation. When they do, they cut themselves off from the gifts, encouragement, and vitality of others. And perhaps, just as tragically, they deprive the church of the grace and life God has invested in them.
26 Now if we willfully persist in sin after receiving such knowledge of the truth, then there is no sacrifice left for those sins— 27 only the fearful prospect of judgment and a fierce fire that will consume God’s adversaries. 28 Remember that those who depart from the law of Moses are put to death without mercy based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.[a] 29 Just think how much more severe the punishment will be for those who have turned their backs on the Son of God, trampled on the blood of the covenant by which He made them holy, and outraged the Spirit of grace with their contempt. 30 For we know the God who said, “Vengeance belongs to Me—I will repay,”[b] also said, “The Eternal One will judge His people.”[c] 31 It is truly a frightening thing to be on the wrong side of the living God.
32 Instead, think back to the days after you were first enlightened and understood who Jesus was: when you endured all sorts of suffering in the name of the Lord, 33 when people held you up for public scorn and ridicule, or when they abused your partners and companions in the faith. 34 Remember how you had compassion for those in prison and how you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession. 35 Remember this, and do not abandon your confidence, which will lead to rich rewards. 36 Simply endure, for when you have done as God requires of you, you will receive the promise. 37 As the prophet Habakkuk said,
In a little while, only a little longer,
the One who is coming will come without delay.
38 But My righteous one must live by faith,
for if he gives up his commitment,
My soul will have no pleasure in him.[d]
39 My friends, we are not those who give up hope and so are lost; but we are of the company who live by faith and so are saved.
For the worship leader. A song of David.
1 O True God of my every praise, do not keep silent!
2 My enemies have opened their wicked, deceit-filled mouths and blown their foul breath on me.
They have slandered me with their twisted tongues
3 And unleashed loathsome words that swirl around me.
Though I have done nothing, they attack me.
4 Though I offer them love and keep them in my prayers, they accuse me;
5 Though I treat them well, they answer me with evil;
though I give them love, they reply with a gesture of hatred.
6 Here’s what they say: Find some evil scoundrel to go after him.
Let’s get some accuser to level charges against him.
7 At his trial, let’s make sure he is found guilty
so that even his prayers become evidence that convicts him.
8 Let his days be few, his life cut short;
let another take over his position.
9 Lay waste to his family—
let his children become orphans and his wife a widow.
10 Let his children wander the streets—his legacy, homeless beggars
scavenging for food,
[driven out of][a] the rubble and slums where they live.
11 Let the bankers take what is his;
strangers help themselves to what little is left of all he’s earned.
12 Let there be no one around to offer him compassion,
nor anyone to give his fatherless children warmth or kindness.
13 Let his family line come to an end—
no future generations to carry on his name!
14 Let the sins of his fathers be remembered before the Eternal,
and the sins of his mother never be erased.
15 Let their offenses always be before the Eternal
so that the memory of this family is long forgotten by all the people of the earth,
16 Because it never occurred to him to show compassion;
instead, he oppressed the poor, afflicted,
and brokenhearted and sent them to their death.
17 He loved to invoke a curse—so let his curses come back to him.
He preferred not to speak a blessing—so let all blessings be far from him.
18 He wrapped himself with cursing, draped around him like a cape;
may it flood his body like water
and seep into his bones like oil.
19 Let those curses wrap around him like a cloak on a cold night,
like a belt tightly knotted around him every day.
20 Let the Eternal so reward my accusers,
all those who speak and plot evil against me.
21 But You, my Master, the Eternal,
treat me with kindness for the sake of Your name, the good of Your reputation;
because Your unfailing love is so good, O deliver me!
22 You see, I am poor and needy,
and my heart is broken inside me.
23 My life is fading away like a shadow that vanishes in the evening;
I am like a locust easily brushed off the shoulder.
24 I can barely stand; my knees are weak from not eating;
I am haggard and drawn, just skin and bones.
25 I have become a person of contempt to my accusers;
whenever they see me, they taunt me, shaking their heads in disapproval.
26 Help me, Eternal One my God; come to my rescue!
Save me through Your unfailing love.
27 Let everyone know that You are the source of my salvation
that You, Eternal One, have done this mighty work.
28 Let them utter a curse, if they will, but You will speak a blessing;
[when they come to attack,][b] let them know utter shame.
Then Your servant will celebrate and praise You!
29 Let my enemies be clothed with disgrace and humiliation;
let them be dressed in a robe of their own shame.
30 I will continually give thanks to the Eternal
with the praises of my mouth;
I will praise Him in the company of many.
31 For He always stands in support of the afflicted and needy
to rescue their souls from those who judge and condemn them.
13 If someone guarantees a stranger’s debt, hold his garment as collateral;
if that guarantee is for the debt of a foreigner, make sure you get a deposit.