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Book of Ezekiel
Theme: Vision of the glory of God; the Temple destroyed because of defilement.
We now come to the second major section of the prophecy of Ezekiel. In this division of the book the complete captivity of Jerusalem and Israel will become a reality, and the glory of the LORD will depart from the Temple in Jerusalem.
In Chapter 8, Ezekiel has another vision of the glory of the LORD. This vision takes Ezekiel to Jerusalem, and GOD'S glory appears in the Temple at Jerusalem. Many ask: Was Ezekiel actually carried or conveyed to Jerusalem? (1) One answer to the question is that Ezekiel simply saw a vision and he saw it there by the river Chebar. (2) Ezekiel literally went to Jerusalem and walked around and saw all that he records here. (3) Ezekiel's experience was similar to the experiences that the apostles Paul and John had.
2 Cor. 12:1-4 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (KJV)
Revelation 4:1-11 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (KJV)
Was Ezekiel actually caught up as Paul and John were? Or was this another vision like in Chapter 1? Or did Ezekiel walk to Jerusalem, and see all that he records? . . . You choose!
I do not know the answer. I believe that this was another vision like the one he had in Chapter 1. IF God wanted us to know, He would have given us more information! However it happened, it was supernatural, for the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon Ezekiel.
EZEKIEL'S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (Ezekiel Chapters 8-11)
Ezekiel's prophecy in these four chapters form ONE connected whole prophecy.
See more on this in Special Comments at the end of this Chapter.
The prophet, in the visions of God, is carried to Jerusalem, to the northern gate of the Temple, which leads by the north side to the court of the priests. There he sees the glory of the LORD in the same manner as he did by the river Chebar. At one side he sees the image of jealousy. Going from there to the court of the people, he sees through an opening in the wall seventy elders of the people, who were worshipping all sorts of beasts and reptiles, which were painted on the wall. Being brought then to the gate of the door of the House, he saw women weeping for Tammuz or Adonis. As he returned to the court of the priests, between the porch and the altar, he saw twenty-five men with their backs to the sanctuary and their faces towards the east, worshipping the rising sun. This is the substance of the vision contained in Chapter 8.
God revealed to Ezekiel the abominations and detestable things that were going on INSIDE the confines of the Holy Temple. Some have mistakenly interpreted this chapter as a complex of all of the various idolatries practiced previously to the times of Ezekiel; but I think a much better understanding of it points to ALL of the abominations and detestable things taking pace in this vision were actually being practiced BOTH in the Temple and throughout all Israel right up until the very capture and destruction of the city.
There had been reforms under Josiah (2 Ki.23), but Jehoiakim had quickly restored all of the abominations of Manasseh's evil reign (2 Ki.23:37; Dan.1:2). It would frustrate the very purpose of this vision to apply it to Israel's past history and not the current conditions when the city fell.
Vision of the Glory (8:1-4)
Ezekiel 8:1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. (KJV)
And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month . . . sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (as in 1:2), the fifth year is stated. Ezekiel’s lying on his sides 390 and 40 days (4:5-6) had by this time been completed, at least in vision. That event was naturally an unforgettable time to the exiles; and the totaling of years from it was to humble the Jews, as well as to show their stubbornness in not having repented, even though they were so long and severely chastised. The fifth day of the month is thought to have been the Sabbath day, which seems probable by what follows; this was just a year and two months from the first vision (1:1).
As I sat in mine house . . . in Chaldea, by the river Chebar; where the prophet was now sitting, the time of lying on his side, both right and left, being now up, all 430 days. It was in the fifth year, and on the fifth of Tammuz (fourth month), that the first vision was; seven days the prophet sat with them of the captivity at Telabib (3:15); at the end of which he was ordered to lie on his side; first on his left side 390 days, and then on his right side 40 days: now estimating from the middle of Tammuz, to the fifth of Elul (sixth month) in the sixth year, were but, as Kimchi observes, 430 days; but this being, as another Jewish writer says an intercalated year, by the intercalation of a month, which consisted of thirty days, the whole number was completed, and the prophet was now sitting: or it may be this position is observed, because he was now teaching and instructing the people, which was often done sitting (Mat.5:1); and this in his own private house, being now in captivity, and having neither Temple nor Synagogue to teach in (33:30-31).
And the elders of Judah sat before me . . . to hear the Word of the LORD from His Mouth, the law explained, or any fresh prophecy delivered by Him; or to have His advice and counsel in their present circumstances. These were the elders of Judah that were carried captive along with Jehoiachin; although some think they were those that were at Jerusalem, and that all this was only in a visionary way; but the former sense seems most agreeable; seeing this was previous to the vision, and with what goes before describes the time, place, and witnesses of the vision;
That the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me . . . which the Targum interprets of the spirit of prophecy, which came with power upon him: it indicates the energy and efficiency of the Spirit of God in propelling him into a divine trance, and revealing to him the things he did; which are linked to the following verses.
*****God, having before given the prophet a clear foresight of the people's miseries that were hastening on, now the LORD will give Ezekiel a clear vision of the people's wickedness, by which wickedness, God’s holy and righteous wrath was incited to bring down those miseries upon them. The elders of Judah sat before me . . . it is plain from this that Ezekiel, as a priest, was now already known to be a prophet by the people. It also appears that he lived in his own house. Judah is not used in contradiction to Israel; but as the captives were primarily of the tribe of Judah, so their elders were known as the elders of Judah.
Ezekiel 8:2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. (KJV)
And then one beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire . . . some versions render it, behold the likeness of a man; which reads a man, for fire; this likeness may very well be understood of the likeness of a man; since his loins are mentioned in the next clause, and of his hand in verse 3; and the description agrees perfectly with the appearance of a man (1:26). It was a description for the Son of God, Who no doubt is meant here. It was the form of a fiery man that was seen, as He is further described.
From the appearance of his loins, even downward, fire . . . His lower parts, thighs, legs, and feet; express either the light of grace communicated from Christ to His people; or of His fervent love towards them, or the flaming zeal for God and His House; or maybe too, His wrath against an idolatrous people.
And from his loins, even upward, as the appearance of brightness . . . His upper parts, back, belly, breast, shoulders, arms and head, may mean His unbelievable majesty and glory; His glory being the glory of the only begotten (Jn.3:16), the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His Person (Heb.1:3).
As the colour of amber . . . polished brass, one version is, as the look of God (1:4, 27).
Revelation 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (KJV)
Ezekiel 1:27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. (KJV)
*****This is very similar to a part of Ezekiel's vision recorded in chapter 1. That tremendous vision of the glory of God is the foundation of every vision in the Book of Ezekiel, and I also think it is the foundation of the Book of Revelation.
Ezekiel 8:3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. (KJV)
And he put forth the form of an hand . . . meaning He that appeared in the likeness of fire, with so much glory and splendor, out of the midst of the fire and brightness which were all around Him, put forth the form of a hand, that looked like a man's hand . . . since this appearance was not real, but only in a vision; it seems to mean the Spirit of God sent forth by Christ Jesus, which is sometimes called the finger of God (Lk.11:20); as seems so by what follows:
And took me by a lock of mine head . . . without hurting him, showing His power over the prophet by raising him from his seat.
And the spirit lifted me up between the earth and heaven . . . took Ezekiel from his seat, out of his house, lifted him and carried him up in the air. Since this was not real, but only in the vision, it was in like manner as the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. Acts 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: (KJV)
And brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem . . . this was shown to Ezekiel in a TRUE vision, which was from God, NOT of Satan, that he was carried from Chaldea to Jerusalem; NOT that he really was, for he was still in Chaldea, for it was here in vision that he was brought again, and found himself to be when that vision was over (11:24) . . . it was only that things so appeared (seemed) to him, as if he was actually brought to Jerusalem by the power of the Spirit of God.
To the door of the inner gate . . . not the gate of Jerusalem, but the gate of the Temple, or rather the court, the inner court (10:3); so it should be really be: to the door of the gate of the inner court. The door of the inner gate faced the north, the direction in which he came from Chebar, also called the gate of the altar (8:5); which opened into the inner court, where the altar of burnt offering stood; the inner court (1 Ki.6:36), was that of the priests; the outer court (10:5), was that of the people, where they assembled.
That looketh toward the north . . . this gate looked to the north, for there were gates on every side.
Where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy . . . the seat was the pedestal of the image. Iimage of jealousy . . . Astarte, or Asheera (as the Hebrew for "grove" should be translated (2 Ki.21:3, 7; 23:4, 7), which was set up by Manasseh as a rival to Jehovah in His Temple, and attracted the attention of all worshippers as they entered; it was the Syrian Venus, worshipped with wicked and immoral rites; the queen of heaven, wife of Phoenician Baal. Some think all the idolatry scenes in the chapter are continuous portions of the festival held in honor of Tammuz or Adonis (8:14). Probably, though, the scenes are separate proofs of Jewish idolatry, instead of being restricted to one idol. Provoketh to jealousy . . . brought down the holy and righteous wrath of the jealous God, who refuses to give His Honor and Glory to any other (Ex.20:5). Some think this was a statue of Baal, which Josiah had overthrown and his successors had replaced (2 Kings 23).
*****Instead of encouraging the prophet to directly address the elders before him, the Spirit carried him away in vision (not in person bodily) to the Temple at Jerusalem; he proceeds to report to them what he witnessed: his message as a result falls into two parts:
(1) The abominations reported in Ezekiel 8:1-18.
(2) The transactions of judgment and mercy to be adopted towards the impenitent and penitent Israelites respectively Ezekiel 9:1-11:25).
The exiles looked hopefully towards Jerusalem and were far from believing that they were on the verge of ruin. They still expected a return in peace; while those left in Jerusalem eyed the exiles with contempt, as if cast away from the LORD, whereas they themselves were near God and ensured in the possessions of the land (11:15). So the vision here of what affected those in Jerusalem immediately, was a fitting message to the exiles away from it.
Ezekiel 8:4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain. (KJV)
And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there . . . in the Temple, between the cherubim, where the Shekinah or the glory of the divine Majesty dwelt; for as yet the LORD GOD had not removed it, although provoked to it, and as He afterwards did. The Temple was the place of the LORD GOD’S proper and special residence . . . and now, ungodly images and idols were set up in the confines of the Temple, and that provoked Him to jealousy (5:11).
According to the vision that I saw in the plain . . . it was the exact same Glorious Person that Ezekiel saw in the Temple whom he had before seen in the plain (3:22); and was the same Person that he had seen in the vision by the river Chebar (1:3). The Shekinah cloud of LORD’S glory, apart the provocation of the idol, still remains in the Temple, just like that which Ezekiel saw in the plain (3:22-23) . . . not until Ezekiel 10:4, 18, did it leave the Temple at Jerusalem, revealing the great patience of God, which certainly should have moved the Jews to repentance.
*****Now the prophet only says that he saw God’s glory as he had formerly had seen it on the plain (3:22) near the bank of the river. This was sort of a seal of his prophecy: so that the holy man might be so strengthened, that he would boldly restrain the ferocious rigidity and stubbornness of these rebellious people (2:3-5) . . . and it was because the prophet had to struggle with these rebellious hard heads, that the LORD GOD armed him with this new vision. The prophet knew that it was the glory of God. When the LORD gives one of His people a job to do, He fully equips them to do it!
Image of jealousy (8:5)
Ezekiel 8:5 Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. (KJV)
Then said he unto me, son of man . . . meaning the Glorious Person described above in this vision, the Glorious God of Israel, seen by the prophet in the Temple, spoke to him, calling him son of man; a name by which he often does in this prophecy, son of man is found 94 times in the Book of Ezekiel.
Lift up thine eyes now toward the north . . . the northern entrance was the one most used, partly because the royal palace and buildings lay to the south and east, and the west was enclosed by the buildings of the Temple itself. It was the north gate which Ezekiel had entered (8:3) and he is now commanded to stop and look back to the gate through which he had just come and then, once more consider just how terrible was the abomination that was placed within the sacred grounds that which the LORD GOD had expressly forbidden (Ex.20:2-5).
So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north . . . Ezekiel was obedient to the heavenly vision.
And behold northward at the gate of the altar . . . the gate of the altar was the main avenue to the altar of burnt offering; as to the northern position (2 Ki.16:14). Ahaz had removed the brazen altar from the front of the LORD'S House to the north of the altar which he had himself erected. The area of the abominable idol, was in front of GOD'S own altar, and it literally enhanced the utter, ungodly wickedness of their sin.
This image of jealousy in the entry . . . the image before mentioned (8:3), which provoked the LORD to jealousy . . . this abominable image stood at the entry of the northern gate, which led into the inner court, and to the altar.
*****There are probably as many guesses as to the identity of this idol as there are authors discussing it . . . but the fact is . . . that the identity of the idol is not important. ANY idol was offensive to God; and the placement of such an abomination within the sacred grounds of the Temple itself was an outrageous defilement and disrespect of Almighty GOD! The guess as to the idol's identity which is most popular is that it was an idol with an altar to the Ashera, Ashteroth, Astarte, or some other female fertility goddess of the ancient Canaanites. The worship of such idols was vile, licentious, immoral, depraved and disgusting . . . and the end result was the Holy Temple of God is blasphemed and defiled. The people are no longer worshiping the living and TRUE God but are breaking the first two commandments of God.
Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (KJV)
Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (KJV)
Announcement of Greater Sins (8:6-7)
Ezekiel 8:6 He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations. (KJV)
He said furthermore unto me, son of man . . . the LORD continued speaking to the prophet, saying:
Seest thou what they do? . . . the LORD asked Ezekiel, do you see what these Jews are doing? They have set up a graven image at the northern gate of the court, where the altar was, and are sacrificing to it!
Even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here . . . there is no need to call it greater: for the meaning is, that he would see other great abominations besides what he had already seen, but there could not be anything greater or worse than their setting up an abominable, repulsive idol where the LORD GOD Himself was, and a wicked, ungodly altar beside GOD’S altar, where the people sacrificed to Baal or any other idol and NOT to the LORD, or maybe to Baal along with the LORD.
That I should go far from my sanctuary? . . . the LORD would be forced to leave the Temple, for He could NOT bear such abominable and repulsive idolatries.
That I should go far off from my sanctuary . . . the LORD would be compelled, by their sin to go far off from His Temple (10:18) . . . which was indicating its destruction.
But turn thee yet again . . . from the north (8:5) to some other part of the Temple.
And thou shalt see greater abominations . . . more shameful idolatries.
*****the LORD petitions Ezekiel, as to whether this was not bad enough, and a sufficient ground for the LORD to cast off this people and abandon them to ruin. Could he, or anyone else, expect that God would NOT leave His Temple, when there were such abominations committed there? Wasn’t the LORD literally driven away from there by these rebellious wicked ones?
The things that they did, they did on purpose, and willingly, like the Gadarenes, who desired that He depart out of their coasts (Lk.8:37), and therefore He will depart; He would no more honor, glorify and protect His Temple, as He had done, but will give it up to reproach and ruin. But, although this was bad enough, and serves in abundance to vindicate God in all that He brings upon them, yet something will appear, that will be much worse: Ezekiel would be shocked to see greater abominations than these. Dear one, where there is one abomination . . . there are many more lurking. Sins do not go alone.
Ezekiel 8:7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. (KJV)
And he brought me to the door of the court. . . door of the inner court (8:3); the court of the priests and Levites, into which now others were admitted in violation of the law. Some say this was the east gate, and most common way of entrance; and in that gate the Sanhedrim used to sit in these times; and there the prophet sees their council chamber all painted with images.
And when I looked, behold a hole in the wall . . . of one of the chambers of the priests and Levites, where they lay. A hole in the wall . . . an opening or window in the wall of the priests' chambers, through which Ezekiel could see into the different compartments, in which was the idolatrous shrine. The hole was not large enough to see what was going on within; and the prophet is directed to dig, and make it larger (8:8).
*****Ezekiel is brought to another place. In Ezekiel’s time there were many different buildings on the space around the inner court which formed a court or courts, no doubt enclosed by a wall. The immoral idolatries he saw here, seemed to take place in secret, and it is more in agreement with the Temple arrangements to think that such chambers would belong to the outer court rather than the inner court. The prophet is now outside the wall of the court, by the door which leads from it out of the Temple boundary. By breaking through the wall he enters into a chamber which stands in the inner court against the wall near the gate.
Chamber of Imagery (8:8-11)
The Prophet is now brought to another place, where another kind of abomination is shown. Even if an idol had been erected in some recess of the Temple only, that in itself would be a mockery, but when joined with irreverent ridicule, it could NOT be tolerated by the LORD GOD. The people were utterly brazen, to contaminate ALL parts of the Temple with such abominable filth. For the prophet says, that he was led into a more secret place.
His digging the hole should be understood of a vision, because the prophet had brought nothing with him with which he could so dig a wall, and he could only then see that hidden abomination through a crack. God opened the wall.
The prophet says, there were painted birds, reptiles, and animals: then he adds, an abomination and all the idols of the house of Israel. We see that there was NOT only one idol, but a great number of them. Dear one . . . the truth is, that as soon as the TRUE worship of God is in any way neglected, people place no bounds on themselves! They are not content with one or two errors, but they heap to themselves numberless delusions, stack up sin after sin (Isa.30:1; Rom.2:5; 2 Tim.3:13). So the children of Israel fell away from one idol to a great multitude of them, but there was one idol which he has mentioned was detestable beyond all others. For it was not called an image of jealousy (8:5) without reason, since it inflamed God to intense jealousy. It is possible that this idol was held in greater adoration and worship, since these transgressors had greater and lesser gods.
Ezekiel 8:8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. (KJV)
Then said he unto me, son of man, dig now in the wall . . . dig to make the hole bigger; so he might have a more complete view of what was to be seen inside the wall.
And when I had digged in the wall, behold a door . . . when Ezekiel dug, (seemingly in the vision), he had a full view of what was in the chamber. All this was visionary, for in reality the prophet did not dig, nor could he, not having anything to dig with . . . but this is how things appeared or seemed to his mind in the vision . . . first a little hole, by which he could sense there was a room; then after digging, a large door appeared, at which there was an entrance into it. Behold a door . . . a secret door, by which they entered into their idol chapel. The vision is not of an actual scene, but is an ideal graphic representation of the Egyptian idolatries into which the covenant people had relapsed, practicing them in secret places where they shrank from the light of day (Jn.3:20). I think we must consider this as the literal introduction of idolatries into the Holy Temple of God (Eze.5:11; Jer.7:30; 32:34).
*****When hypocrites hide themselves behind the wall of an outward profession, and think that they conceal their wickedness from the eye of the world and Almighty GOD, and carry on their schemes successfully, it is hard for them to manage it, so that there is no hole in the wall to betray them . . . for there are those who are always looking diligently for a hole, NOT to see what they pretend to be . . . but to see what they truly are! When the hole in the wall was made bigger by Ezekiel, he saw some of the priests were doing; saw the wicked abominations that they did there. Dear one, the LORD is looking through the hole in your wall today. What does HE see?
Ezekiel 8:9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. (KJV)
And he said unto me, go in . . . in the vision, the LORD tells Ezekiel to go into the room or chamber the door opened into.
And behold the wicked abominations they do here . . . the prophet was to SEE all the idolatries committed there, ungodly and wicked in themselves, and utterly abominable to GOD. See the wicked abominations . . . there are no words BAD enough for sin. Solomon called it wickedness of folly, even foolishness of madness (Ecc.7:25); and mischievous madness (Ecc.10:13). Luke called mammon of unrighteousness (Lk.16:11), and Peter called it abominable idolatries (1 Pet.4:3).
*****IF we would discover the mystery of iniquity (2 Thes.2:7) in others, or in ourselves, we must complete a diligent search; for the devil has his tricks and procedures, which we should be aware of, and the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer.17:9); so when we examine it, we must be very thorough.
Ezekiel 8:10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. (KJV)
So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things . . . it is very possible that these images portrayed on the wall were the objects of Egyptian worship: the ox, the ape, the dog, the crocodile, the ibis, the scarabaeus or beetle, and various other things. It appears that these were privately worshipped by the Sanhedrin or great Jewish council, consisting of seventy or seventy-two persons, six chosen out of every tribe, as representatives of the people. The images were portrayed on the wall, were just as is found on those ancient idols, and are on the walls of the tombs of the kings and nobles of Egypt.
And abominable beasts . . . unclean ones; not only oxen, but dogs and cats, and other impure creatures (Lev.11:10-11; Deut.14:19), for such were the gods of the Egyptians, from whom the Jews took their deities.
And all the idols of the house of Israel . . . which were many, even as numerous as their cities.
Portrayed upon the wall round about . . . the pictures of these idols were drawn and placed around the wall of the room or chamber; and where they were worshipped by the priests and Levites, and members of the Sanhedrim; and this was not in one chamber only, but in many, as appears from verse 12. Round about . . . they surrounded themselves on every side with enticements to delusion.
*****All the idols of the house of Israel, they had borrowed from the neighboring nations, were portrayed on the wall, even the most vile of them, the forms of creeping things, which they worshipped, and beasts, even abominable ones, which are poisonous and venomous. This was a collection of all the idols together which they paid their respects to. Even though the second commandment forbids only graven images, yet painted images are as bad and as dangerous. There is clearly a reference to the idolatry of Egypt. Many underground chambers in rocks upon the shores of the Nile exhibit ornamentation and hieroglyphic characters, some of which are representative of the objects of idolatrous worship. Such chambers fitted them for the scene of the ideal picture by which Ezekiel represented Egyptian idolatry. The Egyptian worship of animals is well known.
Romans 1:22-23 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. (KJV)
This vision of so many elders offering incense to pagan gods is thought by some to represent the widespread guilt of the entire nation in their secret worship of pagan idols. All the same, it appears in this vision that the worship was taking place in the Temple. This means that Israel had sunk down to the level of the nations around her, and she is no longer a witness for the living and TRUE God. For this reason, He will destroy the Temple.
Ezekiel 8:11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. (KJV)
And there stood before them . . . standing before the pictures, as one version expresses it, praying, sacrificing and offering incense unto them.
Seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel . . . the entire Sanhedrim, or great court of the Jews, or at least there is a reference to that number, which were appointed in Moses' time to be officers over the people, and govern and direct them (Num.11:16); which shows how sadly depraved and corrupted their state was, not only the common people . . . but the public officials, the chief rulers and governors . . . ALL of them were set on idolatry . . . those that should have taught the people the right way, led them totally WRONG! And on top of all this, there was still a further worsening of their crime . . . that they should do this horrible thing in the Temple chambers of the priests and Levites, where they should not have been.
And in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan . . . who was either the prince of the Sanhedrim, or at least a person of great esteem; and shows the corruption to be general, from the least to the greatest. Shaphan was a scribe in Josiah's time, who had a son named Ahikam, perhaps the father of this person (2 Ki.22:3, 8-10).
With every man his censer in his hand . . . to offer incense to the idols portrayed on the wall; and which they did, for it follows:
And a thick cloud of incense went up . . . there were many that offered; and perhaps they offered a large quantity, being very liberal and profuse in this kind of devotion to their idols.
*****Ezekiel sees this chamber filled with seventy men of the elders of Israel offering incense to these painted idols. They were the seventy men of the great Sanhedrim, or chief council of the nation, who were bound, by the duty of their place, to restrain and punish idolatry and to destroy and abolish all superstitious images wherever they found them . . . yet these were the ones to worship these abominable idols in private.
Every man had in his hands his censer; so devoted they were of the idolatrous service that they all would be their own priests, and so unrestrained they were of their perfumes in honor of these images, that a thick cloud of incense went up, that filled the room. Oh! That the zeal of these idolaters might shame the worshippers of the true God out of their indifference to his service! The prophet took specific notice of one whom he knew, who stood in the midst of these idolaters, as chief among them, possibly being the most forward in this wickedness. No wonder the people were corrupt when the leaders were so.
Ezekiel 8:12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth. (KJV)
Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen . . . the LORD asks Ezekiel: have you seen the shocking abominations committed by these men? And the question is repeated,
Hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark . . . have you seen their deeds being so evil, that they cannot stand the light, of which they had good reason to be ashamed before men; and which they imagined they would NOT be seen by the LORD, even though the darkness and the light are both alike to him (Ps.139:12).
Every man in the chambers of his imagery? . . . some versions render it, in his hidden or his secret chamber; and the Targum is, in the chamber of the house of his bed; chambers of his imagery . . . the elders (ancients) are here the representatives of the people, these leaders of heathen delusions laughed at them secretly, while publicly professing them in order to keep the people in subjection. I think what may be meant is that the people generally addicted themselves to secret idolatry, led on by their elders; of which there is no doubt.
For they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth . . . this they gave as a reason of their idolatry, because the LORD took no notice of them, did not help them when in distress; but as they concluded, the LORD had forsaken them; therefore they took to themselves the gods of the Egyptians, Syrians, and other nations, to help and protect them. Others interpret this; for these elders of Israel were not so ignorant and stupid as to deny the general providence of God, they only distrusted His specific care of them. They infer this because God had left them to their miseries, without helping them, so they hunted for help from other gods. Instead of repenting, as they should have, they made things worse. The Lord seeth not: (Eze.9:9; Job 22:12-14; Ps.73:11; 94:7-9; Isa.29:15; 47:10). Dear one, the LORD does SEE what you do! And He keeps books on what you do (Rev.20:12-15).
*****They simply dismissed God! They told themselves that He was not watching them, so they would do what they wanted to do. And in today’s world, there are those who say that God is dead . . . they are really trying to say that God is not looking at them, so they are not responsible to Him, and they owe Him nothing and may do as they please. That is what Israel was doing. They were actually worshiping this ridiculous idol, and they were doing it in secret. They really had a secret lodge right there in the Holy Temple of God. No wonder it provoked the wrath of God!
Dear one, in this day the believer's body is God's Temple on earth (1 Cor.3;16; 6:19). Is He pleased by what He sees going on in our minds and hearts?
Ezekiel 8:13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. (KJV)
He said also unto me, turn thee yet again . . . turn again to the north, as before (8:6).
And thou shall see greater abominations that they do . . . the great abominations were worse than the creeping things, four footed beasts, and other idols, or dunghill (manure pile) gods, portrayed upon the walls, which the elders of Israel burnt incense to. Greater abominations in verse 6, we see the same expression is rendered great (not greater) abominations. We need not bring a long explanation to show where and how these latter sins are greater than the former ones mentioned, because ALL sins are very great. Thou shalt see greater abominations that they do . . . now they are doing these abominable things; instead of worshipping the TRUE God on the Sabbath, as He required from all His people, the leaders of these people are on the Sabbath Day of the LORD offering incense to detestable idols.
Women Weeping for Tammuz
Ezekiel 8:14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD'S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. (KJV)
Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house, which was towards the north . . . this no doubt means the Temple, which the Targum calls the house of the sanctuary of the Lord. That gate of the Temple (for the Temple had several gates) which was to the north was the gate called Teri or Tedi, and was very little used. It was in this part of the Temple where the sacrifices were offered; and therefore it was the greater abomination to commit idolatry where the LORD was more solemnly worshipped.
And, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz . . . these women were NOT in the court of the women, where they should have been; but at the northern gate, near the place of sacrifice, and they were sitting there, which NONE but the kings of the house of Judah, and of the family of David, were allowed in the Temple . . . but what the greatest abomination was, they were weeping for Tammuz. It is said that this image had eyes of lead, and when these women heated the image inwardly, its eyes being melted with the heat, seemed to weep; so (the women) said, it was asking for an offering.
For more on Tammuz, see Special Comments at the end of this chapter.
*****There is now a third kind of idolatry mentioned by which the Jews polluted the Temple; this idolatry was a kind of sin that was particular to females; and it seems that they were always more addicted to such wickedness. Satan always attracts men, with more than enough, but in women carelessness seemed to rule. These women had a devoted reverence in lamenting Thammuz. Who this Thammuz was is uncertain. Some translates it Adonis, and Adonis was beloved by Venus, and when torn to pieces by a boar, he was turned into a flower of sweetest aroma; and in honor of Venus women annually celebrated by lamenting the death of that beautiful youth; but it is not probable that this rite prevailed in Judaea, because we do not read that this lamentation was practiced in the neighboring regions, but in Greece and Asia Minor.
It seemed that these women also may have revealed their sexual parts to the idol, as if offering themselves to wickedness. If this were true, that would have been a most disgraceful spectacle. But when God’s Holy Temple was open to such pollutions of both men and women . . . we see the Jews so blinded by stupidity, and that that LORD GOD was already showing signs of His extreme wrath and vengeance, for He had endured so much from them up to this point.
Ezekiel 8:15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. (KJV)
Then said he unto me, hast thou seen this, O son of man? . . . the LORD asks Ezekiel: did you see this shocking idolatry, women weeping for Tammuz? In all the LORD’S doings, they shall find absolutely NO iniquity in Him that were sin (Hos.13:6-8).
Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these . . . the greater abominations besides these are NOT in respect to the idolatry, but in respect to the place and persons committing it.
*****Again, the greater abominations do not mean the idolatry, but the place and persons committing the abomination. The inner court was just before the door of the Temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, where ONLY the priests entered, and ONLY on special occasions. Twenty-five men (the leaders of the twenty-four courses or orders of the priests), with the high priest, representing the whole priesthood, as the seventy elders represented the people, stood with their backs turned on the Temple, with their faces towards the east, paying reverence to the rising sun. Sun-worship came from the Persians, who made the sun the eye of their god Ormuzd. It existed as early as Job (Job 31:26). Josiah only suspended it for the time of his reign (2 Ki.23:5). It was revived under his successors.
Ezekiel 8:16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. (KJV)
And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house . . . the court of the priests, where they offered sacrifice to the LORD GOD, and into which none might come except themselves.
And, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar . . . there was a large, beautiful porch with high and mighty brass pillars, Jachin and Boaz (1 Ki.7:15-22), that led into the Temple, and the brazen altar, the altar of burnt offerings, which was a very sacred place, and considered more holy than the court of the priests. The brazen altar for burnt-offerings, was placed in the court before the front of the Temple, and is here represented in its proper place (Ex.39:39). This is not contradictory to verse 5, which speaks of the place where Ahaz had wickedly placed the altar (2 Ki.16:14), but verse 16 speaks of the same altar, as supposing it to be where it should be, and as God commanded it should be, and where Solomon had placed it (2 Chron.8:12).
Were about five and twenty men . . . the number, more or less, not being exactly known; who they were, whether the priests or princes of the people, is not certain; maybe some of both.
With their backs towards the temple of the LORD . . . that is, the most holy place, which they were obliged to, in order to do what is afterwards affirmed of them; for the sanctuary was built to the west, that in their worship the Jews might not look to the east, as the Gentiles did; so these men, that they might imitate the Gentiles in their idolatry, turned their backs to the most holy place; which was an unbelievable aggravation of their irreverence; which cast the highest contempt on Almighty GOD, His honor and glory and His worship, and the place of it.
And their faces towards the east . . . when the sun rises, it rises in the east.
And they worshipped the sun towards the east . . . as many nations did, although forbidden by the Jews by an express law of God (Deut.4:19; 17:3); yet they did it in direct disobedience to the LORD GOD (2 Ki.21:3), and in contempt of the Almighty Creator.
*****Some think that the greatest of all the abominations was the worship of the sun. This was taking place right in the Holy Temple between the porch and the altar. They could sink no lower than this. These brazen idolaters turned their backs toward the Temple of the LORD, in utter contempt and disrespect of Almighty GOD and His worship. They worshipped the sun, imitating the Persians, Egyptians and other eastern idolaters. These Jews turned their backs on God who created the sun, and worshipped His Creation instead of Him as the CREATOR.
Ezekiel 8:17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. (KJV)
Then he said unto me, hast thou seen this, O son of man? . . . again, the LORD asks Ezekiel; O son of man, have you really taken notice of and considered this horrible idolatry which you have seen in this vision, these rebellious people turning their backs on God, facing the east and worshipping the sun, instead of its Creator?
Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? . . . it was nothing to the people of Judah to commit these hateful sins, coming right there into the Temple to do them, making Him all the more angry. They insulted the LORD GOD in the most offensive way possible!
For they have filled the land with violence . . . with rapine (violent seizure of someone's property) and oppression; doing great injury to the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, in all places in the land.
And have returned to provoke me to anger . . . by other instances of idolatry; they were not satisfied with doing all the disgusting forms of idolatry, they had to spread violence throughout the country; insulting the LORD in the most offensive ways.
And, lo, they put the branch to their nose . . . put the branch to their nose . . . meaning they turn up their nose in contempt. Also, a laurel, olive or vine branch, was carried by idolaters in their hands, and put to their nose, in honor of the idol they worshipped. The Targum is, and, lo, they bring shame (or confusion) to their faces. What they do turns to their own ruin and destruction.
Violence represents sin against man, and abominations represents sins against God. These went hand in hand in Jerusalem, by these rebellious people.
*****And, lo, they put the branch to their nose . . . there are many ways of interpreting this; Jewish commentators of the past have said that it speaks of shocking, low and degrading religious rites and rituals. Maybe it could be compared with a man thumbing his nose today. These people were extremely disrespectful to GOD, His honor and glory and His Temple.
Ezekiel 8:18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. (KJV)
Therefore will I also deal in fury . . . because He was provoked by such abominable idolatries, and such horrid insolence and disrespect, and most contemptuous treatment.
Mine eye shall not spare: neither will I have pity . . . see Eze.5:11; 7:4, 8-9; 9:5, 10. There will come a time when a cry to God for help will be too late (Isa.1:15; 59:2; Jer.11:11; 14:12; Pro.1:28). The symbolic meaning of this vision of Israel’s sin is clear. The prophet visited Jerusalem only in the visions of God (8:3). That these many, different abominable practices were really taking place in the Holy Temple of God is hard to believe. This vision may have been given to show Ezekiel and his countrymen in exile the hopeless condition of the hearts of the whole nation, elders, men, women, priests. In their hearts, the people were idolaters, grabbing hold of every ancient and modern form of ungodly belief and superstition. Their utter presence defiled the Temple and gives good reason for the LORD GOD’S leaving it (Eze.8:6; Lev.15:31; 20:3; Num. 19:13, 20).
And though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice. . . crying very urgently and earnestly for help, being in great distress.
Yet will I not hear them . . . because they turned their backs on Him, He will in return, turn a deaf ear to them, and not honor their cries. The Targum is, they shall pray before me, with a great voice, and I will not receive their prayer (Ps.18:48; Pro.1:28; Isa.1:15; Jer.11:11; 14:12).
*****Israel has stepped over the line, and now God will judge them. He passes sentence on them; they shall be utterly cut off. Because they were so furiously bent on sin, He will also deal furiously with them. They filled the land with their violence, now God will fill the land with the violence of their enemies; and He will NOT lend an encouraging ear to them. Although they cry in His Ears with a loud voice, He NOT hear them; because their sins cry louder for vengeance than their prayers cry for mercy. Then LORD GOD will now be as just as deaf to their prayers as their own idols were, to whom they cried, but in vain (1 Ki.18:26-29).
CONSIDER: We should pause over the sadness of this Chapter, of the contents in it, for it is most solemn and serious. We must really consider, the dreadful representation given here, of the human heart! It does not seem possible, that the whole nation was reeking with such total contempt and disrespect for Almighty God, by turning their backs on Him for their abominable idols. But the truth is, what is said about Israel here, we clearly read the history of all the world, and every heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (KJV)
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (KJV)
James 1:14-15 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (KJV)
Dear one. It is so very true, and so totally just, that before God, all the world is become guilty. No one can count the many indiscretions and transgressions which arise in one single heart, in one single day, against the sovereignty of Almighty God! No one can write down the multitude, which when combined, are found in that day, in a single town. No one can describe the patience and long suffering of God, whose all discerning eye sees all this huge amount of human sin, from the whole earth, coming up to Him every day, all the day, and day after day, a horrible accumulated cloud of daring disobedience and wrongdoing! This is something we should think about! We should fall down under a deep sense of sin, and humbly look up to Jesus.
We should look at all idolatries as being a dark chamber with not one speck of light. A person’s true worship is NOT that which he performs in public. True worship is that which he offers in that little private chapel (his heart) where nobody goes or knows but himself. True worship is where he hangs his happiness and his well-being, these are his gods, no matter what his outward profession is.
You can find out about yourself, if you will honestly ask yourself some questions.
<><><>What is it that I want most?
<><><>What is it that makes me happy?
<><><>Is there something that would make me fear, if I did not have it?
<><><>What do I think about most often?
<><><>Does the will of God win, or does your will win?
If the answer to none of these questions is God, then you are NOT a worshipper of God. Placing honor, glory, fame, wealth, power or any other worldly importance, above the honor and glory of God, dishonors and angers Him. GOD’S love alone should be first! We were made for God, and any time we turn our hopes, desires, affections and obedience to something other than the LORD GOD, we are guilty of idolatry and also irreverence.
EZEKIEL'S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (Ezekiel Chapters 8-11)
Ezekiel's prophecy in these four chapters form ONE connected whole prophecy.
<><><>Chapter 8 gives in detail the horrible defilement of God's Holy Temple by apostate Israel, which God forewarns will cause Him to remove His Presence from it (8:6).
<><><>The supernatural ministers of instruments of Israel's punishment appear in Ezekiel 9. <><><>The cherubim make preliminary movements to depart the Temple in Ezekiel 10.
<><><>The definite departure of God's Holy Presence from the Temple occurs in Ezekiel 11:22-25. The one topic here is the defilement of the Temple and God's removal from it.
Chapter 9 . . . About the same time as the departure of GOD’S Presence from the Temple, Ezekiel saw six men come from the higher gate with swords in their hands; and one among them had an inkhorn. It was then the Divine Presence left the cherubim, and took position at the entrance of the Temple, and gave orders to the man with the inkhorn to put a mark on the foreheads of those who sighed and prayed because of the abominations of the land; and then commanded the men with the swords to go forward, and slay every person who did not have this mark (Rev.14:9-11). The prophet, while they were slaying them, fell up his face, and made intercession for the people. The LORD gives him the reason of his conduct; that being that the iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness; and the man with the inkhorn returns, and reports to the LORD what was done. These are the general contents of the ninth chapter.
Chapter 10 . . . The LORD commands the same person to go in between the wheels of the cherubim, and take his hand full of live coals, and scatter them over the city. He went as commanded, and one of the cherubim gave him the coals; at the same time the glory of the LORD, that had removed to the threshold of the house, now returned, and stood over the cherubim. The cherubim, wheels, wings, etc., are here described as in Chapter 1. This is the bulk of the tenth chapter.
Chapter 11 . . . The prophet then finds himself transported to the east gate of the Temple, where he saw twenty-five men, and among them Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people, against whom the LORD commands him to prophesy, and to threaten them with the utmost calamities, because of their crimes. After this GOD Himself speaks, and shows that the Jews who would be left in the land, whould be driven out because of their iniquities, and that those who had been led captive, and who acknowledged their sins and repented of them, would be restored to their own land. Then the glory of the LORD arose out of the city, and rested for a time on one of the mountains on the east of Jerusalem, and the prophet being carried in vision by the Spirit to Chaldea, lost sight of the chariot of the Divine glory, and began to show to the captivity what the LORD GOD had shown to him. This is the substance of the eleventh chapter.
We may see from all this was what prompted the LORD to abandon His people, His city and His Temple; were the abominations of the people in public and in private. But because those carried away captives with Jeconiah acknowledged their sins, and their hearts turned to the LORD, GOD informs them that they shall be brought back and restored to a happy state both in temporal and spiritual matters, while the others, who had filled up the measure of their iniquities, would be quickly brought into a state of desolation and ruin. This is the sum and intent of the vision in these four chapters.
The Jewish calendar has the following months:
1. Nissan 30 days March-April
2. Iyar 29 days April-May
3. Sivan 30 days May-June
4. Tammuz 30 days June-July
5. Av 30 days July-August
6. Elul 29 days August-September
7. Tishri 30 days September-October
8. Cheshvan 29 or 30 days October-November
9. Kishlev 30 or 29 days November-December
10. Tevet 29 days December-January
11. Shevat 30 Days January-February
12. Adar I (leap years only) 30 days February-March
13. Adar (leap years only) 29 days February-March
Glory of God, Shekinah: (Eze.1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:19; 11:22-23; 39:21; 43:2, 4-5; 44:4)
More about TAMMUZ
The worship of this ancient god reaches back into antiquity as far as 3,000 B.C.; and it included numerous combinations, contradictions and uncertainties. The cult seemingly had its differences in several nations. The Greeks worshipped Adonis and Aphrodite; with the Egyptians it was the religion of Osiris and Isis; and in Babylon, it went under the names of Ishtar and Tammuz.
Tammuz, was a very attractive and beautiful shepherd who was killed by a wild boar; and he was introduced as the spouse of Ishtar, the sister of Ishtar, the son of Ishtar, or the lover of Ishtar. Upon his death, Ishtar (or Aphrodite, or whoever) went to the underworld to reclaim him from death. The period of mourning, was usually forty days, and ended with Tammuz’ triumphant return to life. The mythical basis of this tale was the death of vegetation in winter and its return in spring. The time of celebrating his return was usually observed at the time of the summer solstice (June 21). Because of this the fourth Babylonian month was named Tammuz, the name that was adopted into the Jewish calendar for their fourth month (June-July).
Women had a prominent part, especially in the corrupted worship of the Jews. They would weave hangings for the worship of Ashera (2 Kings 23:7), and they also burned incense to the Queen of Heaven (Jer.44:9; 15-19). This goddess was possibly Ashteroth (Judges 2:13; 10:6;
1 Sam.7:3-4; 12:10; 1 Ki.11:33: 2 Ki.23:13).
The mourning period, whether long or short, was always followed by a horribly immoral, wild and wicked celebration, which amounted to as vulgar an orgy as could possibly be imagined. Human sacrifice, sexual indulgence, etc. formed part of the rites. The weeping women, staring at the naked statue of Tammuz (or Adonis), in time worked themselves into a frenzy of passionate desire.
Book of Ezekiel
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