According to the narrative in Ezekiel 23 it is said Israel began her prostitution in Egypt whilst still a youth. She is symbolized as two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, which seems to refer to Jerusalem and Samaria:

Ezekiel 23:1-3 NIV

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, there were two women, daughters of the same mother. 3 They became prostitutes in Egypt, engaging in prostitution from their youth. In that land their breasts were fondled and their virgin bosoms caressed. 4 The older was named Oholah, and her sister was Oholibah. They were mine and gave birth to sons and daughters. Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 23:19 NIV

9 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt.

Ezekiel 23:27 NIV

27 So I will put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution you began in Egypt. You will not look on these things with longing or remember Egypt anymore.

But according to the book of Exodus when Israel was a youth she was serving in Egypt as a slave.

What were the acts of prostitution did she commit?

1 Answer 1


The 'prostitution' referenced by Ezekiel is in most senses a reference to idolatry:

"They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them." (Ezekiel 23:27)

In a secondary sense, it is also a reference to "lust[ing] after the nations" (Ezekiel 23:30b), which we see throughout Jeremiah and Ezekiel as Judah seeks aid from Egypt and other nations instead of help from YHWH. But the key sense highlighted throughout the prophets is idolatry. We see this emerge very quickly after leaving Egypt:

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Exodus 32:1-4

The Israelites had learned idolatry/prostitution in Egypt, where they had spent their whole lives serving other nations and other gods, to the extent that the people were not entirely clear who their God was:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13)

As far as I am aware the Bible is otherwise silent on exactly what the Israelites' relationship was to other idols and gods when they were in Egypt, but YHWH's assertion here in Ezekiel 23 was that they had begun this 'prostitution' before they had even left. Unfortunately we have no specific acts referenced, as the general emphasis of the Exodus narrative is more about YHWH's rescue of his people rather than the sins they committed prior to this point.

  • 1
    Good answer. We do have incidental evidence that they worshiped the Egyptian gods, because of the numerous incidents in the wilderness were they turned back to them. And that while in Egypt, their ‘toil’ and misery increased as they slowly ‘forgot’ their God, after once being in a favoured position.
    – Dave
    Mar 2, 2021 at 17:13

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