Oholah and Oholibah

Oholah and Oholibah

In the Hebrew Bible, Oholah (אהלה) and Oholibah (אהליבה) (or: Aholah and Aholibah) are pejorative names given by the prophet Ezekiel to the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, respectively. They appear in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 23.

There is a pun in these names in the Hebrew. Oholah means "her tent", and Oholibah means "my tent is in her". Ezekiel's rhetoric portrays Oholah and Oholibah, or Samaria and Jerusalem, as the daughters of one mother. Both are said to be "brides of God", and both are guilty of idolatry and of religious and political alliances with Gentile nations. These kingdoms are described as prostitutes and adulteresses, given up to the abominations and idolatries of the Egyptians and Assyrians. Because of Oholah's crimes, she was carried away captive, and ceased to be a kingdom. (Comp. Psalm 78:67-69; 1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Chr 11:13-16.)

The Hebrew prophets frequently compared the sin of idolatry to the sin of adultery, in a frequently reappearing rhetorical figure. Ezekiel's rhetoric directed against these two allegorical figures is more vivid than most:

There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
(Ezekiel 23:20-21)

A very similar and equally vivid allegory is directed at the city of Jerusalem itself in Ezekiel 16.

Another good example of this allegorical comparison is found in the Book of Hosea.

For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, "I will go after my lovers; they give me my bread and my water, my wool
and my flax, my oil and my drink. Hosea 2:5

Again, the language is vivid, but it strikingly directs the reader to the issue the prophet is calling attention to--namely the breaking of a covenantal relationship by repeatedly engaging in the sin of idolatry. The prophets Ezekiel and Hosea saw idol worship and ritual impurity as Israel's primary sin. [1]


  1. ^ Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, pg 317

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