In Ezekiel chapter 23, we find a stinging denunciation of God’s people for their unfaithfulness. In many ways, this chapter parallels chapter 16. Like that earlier message, chapter 23 uses the imagery of prostitution. Jerusalem is said to be the younger sister and Samaria, her older sister. Both chapters show how the younger sister came to follow the older one into prostitution but then exceeded her in wickedness and immorality. In chapter 23, Jehovah gives the two sisters’ names: Oholah is the older sister, Samaria, the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel; Oholibah is the younger sister, Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.*—Ezek. 23:1-4.
The two chapters have further parallels. Perhaps most significant are these: The prostitutes start as wives to Jehovah and then betray him. Also, there is promise of hope. Chapter 23 offers less explicit hope of redemption, but it does parallel chapter 16 when Jehovah says: “I will put an end to your obscene conduct and your prostitution.”—Ezek. 16:16, 20, 21, 37, 38, 41, 42; 23:4, 11, 22, 23, 27, 37.
Do They Prefigure Christendom?
In the past, our publications have said that the two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, are prophetic types of Christendom with its division between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. However, further prayerful thought and research have raised some probing questions. Was Christendom ever Jehovah’s wife in any sense? Was she ever in a covenant with him? Clearly not. Christendom did not even exist when Jesus mediated the “new covenant” with spiritual Israel; nor was Christendom ever a part of that spiritual nation of anointed Christians. (Jer. 31:31; Luke 22:20) Christendom did not arise until well after the death of the apostles. She began her existence in the fourth century C.E. as an apostate, corrupt organization made up of “the weeds”—imitation Christians—of Jesus’ prophecy about the wheat and the weeds.—Matt. 13:24-30.
Another key difference: Jehovah held out hope of redemption to unfaithful Jerusalem and Samaria. (Ezek. 16:41, 42, 53-55) Does the Bible hold out similar hope for Christendom? No! She has no more hope than does the rest of Babylon the Great.
So Oholah and Oholibah do not exist as prophetic types of Christendom. However, their existence does shed light on something even more important: how Jehovah feels about those who misrepresent his holy name and his standards of pure worship. Christendom bears a special load of guilt in this regard because her myriad churches claim to represent the God of the Bible. What is more, they claim Jehovah’s own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as their leader. But they belie that claim by representing Jesus as part of a triune godhead and by disobeying his clear command to remain “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) By her persistent involvement in idolatry and political intrigues, Christendom has proved to be very much a part of “the great prostitute.” (Rev. 17:1) Without question, she must share the fate that awaits the world empire of false religion!
The names are significant. Oholah means “Her Tent [of Worship]”—evidently an allusion to Israel’s course of setting up its own centers of worship instead of using Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Oholibah, on the other hand, means “My Tent [of Worship] Is in Her.” Jerusalem was the home of Jehovah’s house of worship.