Bible Insights

The Tale of Two Sisters

An Old Testament Parable Warning about the Perils of Prostitution and Idolatry

Ezekiel shares a story about two sisters. It’s an Old Testament parable. And it comes directly from God. The older sister is Oholah, and the younger sister is Oholibah.

Oholah is Samaria, the capital of Israel and represents the ten northern tribes. The younger sister Oholibah is Jerusalem, the capital of Judah and represents that entire tribe.

The Older Sister and Assyria

Oholah gives herself over to prostitution. Her husband—who represents God—gives her over to her lovers, the Assyrians. Metaphorically, they take her and abuse her. In the end Assyria captures Israel and deports its people.

The Younger Sister and Babylonia

The younger sister, Oholibah, sees this happen but doesn’t learn from her older sister’s mistake. She follows her sister’s example, only she is more depraved. She has her eyes for the Chaldeans, also known as the Babylonians.

God warns her that if she doesn’t change her ways—doesn’t repent of her wrongdoing—he will turn her over to her lovers as well. “Since you’ve turned from me,” God says, “you must bear the consequences of your lewd behavior and prostitution.”

The Message

On the surface, this story is about immorality, chasing other lovers, and prostitution. It’s a wise warning against adultery and promiscuity, to remain true to your spouse.

Yet the underlying message is about spiritual adultery and spiritual prostitution. It’s about idolatry, about chasing after other gods and turning our backs on the one true God as revealed in Scripture.

The story ends with the Old Testament truth that these two sisters will need to pay for their sins. There’s a penalty for their lewdness and consequences for their idolatry. God will punish them, and then they will know he is the Sovereign Lord.

Jesus’s Solution

Yet this is an Old Testament parable. Though we should heed its lesson about maintaining sexual purity and spiritual purity, we know from the New Testament that Jesus forgives our sins—all of them—when we follow him.

Through Jesus we receive mercy instead of judgment.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 23-24 and today’s post is on Ezekiel 23:49.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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