MTBible Studies banner

The Master's Touch small group Bible studies

an old rusted car

Not Worth Saving, Ezekiel 23

Recommended Procedure. Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading

Idea for the Bible teacher or discussion leader: Bring in something that is very rusted or mildewed (put it in a plastic bag so the mold spores do not spread in the air), or something that is badly torn or broken as an illustration.

When is something not worth saving? We usually throw something out when it is rusted out, moldy or mildewed, spoiled, torn or broken. Is there ever a time when people are not worth saving? Our first response might be, “No, every person has some value.” If a person were a murderer, an extortionist, adulterer, prostitute, child abuser, thief or a drunkard and they scorned all help, would this still be true? Today we will learn about such a case, but don’t worry, we will leave the reader with some hope.

Review. In Babylon the prophet Ezekiel shares heavenly visions, performs many signs, object lessons and dramatizations to get the attention of the Jewish exiles so that they might wake up to reality and repent, but to no avail. It was about 591 B.C. and once again the elders of Israel in Babylon gather to hear what the prophet Ezekiel has to say. They are looking for favors from God. However, he is very offended and refuses to give them an answer that they want to hear because, in addition to their other wickedness and idolatry, they are now offering their children as burnt offerings to the god Molech! Instead, Ezekiel is asked to take the place of a prosecutor in a courtroom. Like a prosecuting attorney he tracks the history of their crimes, their idolatry, and when he is done, God the judge renders his decision. His decision is to let the Babylonian nation come and destroy Jerusalem. The swords are made ready for the slaughter of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and through the smacking of his hand and thigh Ezekiel dramatizes the slashing of them. Still, it does not move the exiles to repentance. Shortly thereafter, Ezekiel returns to his position as a prosecuting attorney, cataloguing the sins of the leaders, the princes, the prophets, the priests, and the people of Israel. This provides evidence enough of why God wants to melt them (kill them) when the Babylonian army attacks and destroys them.

Since delivering Israel out of slavery in Egypt, God had expended nearly a thousand years trying to get her to repent from idolatry and evil behavior, but she would not. In Ezekiel 23 God presents a parable of two adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah. A parable is like an allegory, and it expresses moral or spiritual truths.

What can we learn about Oholah and Oholibah from Ezekiel 23:1-4?

Answer 1


According to verses 5-10 what happened to Oholah (Samaria)? For the probable interpretation also see 2Kings 10:32-34; 2Kings 15:19-20; 17:3-4, and 2Kings 17:5-6, 18-20).

Answer 2


Oholibah (Jerusalem) should have taken warning from what happened to her sister. Instead, what happened to her? verses 11-21 and for the probable interpretation see 2Kings 16:5-9; Isaiah 7; 2Kings 24:1)

Answer 3


The rest of chapter 23 deals with God's proclamation of judgment. What do verses 22-30 prophesy would happen to Oholibah (Judah) and for what reason?

Answer 4


How would Jerusalem respond? verses 31-35?

Answer 5


What else did Jerusalem do that was detestable in the sight of God? verses 36-44

Answer 6


What would be the judgment for the adulteries (idolatries) and murders committed by Oholah and Oholibah? verses 45-49

Answer 7


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)

Today's Bible memory verse:

Acts 3:19 "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," (NIV)

praying girl

Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to

Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson

Back to top of page
Back to Bible Study Menu
Go to Home page


(use browser arrow to return to previous spot in Bible study)

A1: Observations from Ezekiel 23:1-4

  • Oholah and Oholibah are prostitutes, i.e. in the allegorical fashion they are like prostitutes.
  • The first daughter is Samaria, the capital city that represents the northern kingdom of Israel; and Oholibah is Jerusalem, the capital city that represents the southern kingdom of Judah.
  • They were daughters of the same mother, which probably means their mother country was Israel when they were united and they shared the same ancestry.
  • God says they and their children were his. He claims them even though they live so wickedly.
  • They learned prostitution early in Egypt (prostitution is a typifies idolatry according to chapter 16 and the rest of this chapter).
  • The graphic nature of Ezekiel 23 shocks us but is meant to show the depths of Israel and Judah's depravity and their detestable behavior. It also demonstrates that God knows what is going on even in our most private lives. The exiles needed to be shocked to wake up to their need to repent. Unfortunately, they would not listen.
  • The name Oholah means "her tent" and probably refers to her going her own way in the days of King Jeroboam, son of Nebat. Oholibah means "my tent is in her" and probably refers to the tabernacle or temple being in Jerusalem (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, c.1985, p.1271).
  • Even after Israel became God's in a covenant relationship in the desert of Sinai, her two daughters, Samaria and Jerusalem continued in their prostitution (idolatry and also emphasized in this chapter - political alliances). Both of them went astray, but Oholah (Samaria) was first.

A2: Oholah (Samaria) did not give up the prostitution (idolatry) that she began in Egypt. Instead, she courted Assyria’s favors because it was the most powerful nation on the earth in its time (2Kings 10:32-34; 2Kings 15:19-20; 17:3-4). However, Assyria abused (attacked) her, killed her children and took the rest of her family captive (2Kings 17:5-6, 18-20).

A3: Instead, she became more depraved. She also had relationships (alliances) with Assyria (2Kings 16:5-9; Isaiah 7), then Egypt, and then Babylon (2Kings 24:1). She was disgusted with Babylon (during the reign of Jehoiakim), so she rebelled and returned to her first lover, Egypt, for help.

A4: Egypt would not help her. Instead, Babylon would come and abuse (attack) her and take her family into captivity. Babylon would leave her a powerless nation with a weak king to govern her as a vassal nation, but once again Oholibah (Jerusalem) would allure Egypt to help her. Oholibah’s rebellion against Babylon would cause the latter to starve her out and destroy her house (city). Other nations would loot Jerusalem and mock her in her day of calamity, and not help her.

A5: War would be brought against her from the nations she allied herself with (prostituted herself), she would be stripped bare, shamed, looted of her treasures (jewels), and her sons and daughters would be exiled, and the rest destroyed. These events would bring drunkenness and sorrow and derision. All of this was because of her lewd behavior (promiscuous idolatry and alliances with ungodly nations) instead of loving their LORD and depending upon him.

A6: They committed adultery (worshipped idols) and sacrificed their children to the god Molech, and then with hands still dripping with blood entered the temple of the LORD and defiled it. Then they invited the Sabeans to their banquet table using the incense and oils from the temple for their guests. The Sabeans were a wild nomadic people who may have acted like drunkards (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.1273). Samaria and Jerusalem acted like prostitutes and even attracted these lower order of people. They slept with them, seeking their favors. For their adulteries and sacrilegious practices they would be punished.

A7: Judgment for the adulteries (idolatry and alliances) and murder

  • "Righteous men will sentence them to the punishment of women who commit adultery and shed blood," (Ezekiel 23:45, NIV). Who are these righteous men? Most likely they were the numerous prophets, like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, who warned of judgment to come. They might serve like elders of the town who could pass sentence on one who committed fornication or adultery (Deuteronomy 22:13-21, John 8:3-5).
  • What is the punishment? They would be stoned, they would be cut down with the sword and their city would be burned. This is in accordance with the Jewish law in Deuteronomy 13:12-16
  • Thus would they learn that the LORD is Sovereign - he controls the actions and destinies of all nations, and God is just - punishing the guilty and forgiving the repentant. Have you received his forgiveness, peace and spiritual life? (more...)

Lessons to Live by:

  • Sometimes God has to shock people to get their attention
  • God sees even our most intimate private lives.
  • Those who do evil are punished, especially God's people who have turned from him.
  • God is Sovereign; we should not think we can get away with anything.
  • God offers forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life to those who are penitent (more...), but He will not save those who are not.

Use browser arrow to return to previous spot in Bible study


About Us

Contact Us

Bible Studies Menu

Forgiveness and Peace with God

Chronological Bible Studies

Scripture Links

Topical Bible Studies

Frequently Asked Questions





About Us | New Bible Studies | FAQ's | Web Links | mobile app Biblecross