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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 8

Verses 1-18


The Idolatry of Jerusalem

Various forms of idolatry, increasing in heinousness and rising to a climax, were seen practised in the precincts of the Temple. First there was the ’image of jealousy’ (Ezekiel 8:3-6), next a species of secret animal-worship (Ezekiel 8:7-12), then the lamentation of the women for Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:13-15), and lastly the worship of the sun (Ezekiel 8:16-18).

1. The sixth year.. the sixth month] August-September, 591 b.c. Mine house] to which Ezekiel’s prophetic activity was confined (Ezekiel 3:24). The elders of Judah] the leading men of the exiled community at Tel-abib. The hand of the Lord GOD fell] as in Ezekiel 1:3. The vision, with all its meaning, was the result of divine inspiration.

2. The same appearance as the enthroned Figure in Ezekiel 1. The living chariot is not mentioned here, but, as it appears afterwards without any special explanation, it was probably present in the vision from the first.

3. The form of an hand] the same reverent reserve as in Ezekiel 2:9. In the visions of God] Though Ezekiel’s transference is described in physical terms he was not taken to Jerusalem in body, but only in spirit. Inner gate] RV ’gate of the inner court.’ Solomon’s Temple had two courts: the great or outer court (2 Chronicles 4:9), and the inner court or court of the priests (1 Kings 6:36; 2 Chronicles 4:9). We know very littl e about the arrangement of the gates, but in Ezekiel’s time the inner court had probably three, one on every side except the W., and the outer court at least two, one on the N. and one on the E. The gate in this v. is the inner northern gate. We must distinguish between the gate or gateway, which was a block of buildings, and the doors by which the gateway was entered at either end. The image of jealousy] An idol figure, so called from the divine jealousy which it aroused. The reference is probably to the image set up by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:7) and removed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:6). The seat means the place where it had stood.

4. The glory.. was there] perhaps over the main Temple building, S. of the gate where Ezekiel was. In the next v. he turns and looks N. All the idolatries were thus enacted in God’s very presence.

5. Northward at] RV ’northward of.’

Gate of the altar] apparently still the northern inner gate. It is uncertain why it was so called. This image of jealousy] Ezekiel saw the image, which had not been there when he left Jerusalem, now restored to its old place. It was in the outer court, and Ezekiel, standing within the gateway, saw it through the entrance.

7. The door of the court] the opening of the gateway next the outer court.

8. A door] leading into one of the chambers of the gateway.

10. This animal-worship may have been borrowed from Egypt, where beetles, crocodiles, snakes, cats, jackals, and other animais were worshipped; or it may have been a survival and revival of ancient superstitions native to Palestine. Some think that Babylon is as likely as Egypt to have been the source of the practices.

11. Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan] Shaphan was a famous scribe who took part in Josiah’s reformation (2 Kings 22:8). Two of his sons, Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24) and Gemariah (Jeremiah 36:10, Jeremiah 36:25, were friendly to Jeremiah. If Jaazaniah was the son of this Shaphan he was of a different character from his father and brothers.

12. In the dark] Secrecy was a marked feature of this animal-worship. The Lord seeth us not, etc.] This was the excuse and perhaps the belief of these idolaters, though God’s glorious presence was even then manifest to Ezekiel’s eyes.

14. The door.. toward the north] probably the outer doorway of the outer northern gate. The women would thus be outside the Temple precincts altogether. Tammuz] a deity worshipped both in Babylonia and in Phœnicia—the same as the Greek Adonis. He appears to have been a god of the spring, and the myth regarding him told of his early death and of the descent of Istar his bride into the underworld in search of him. The death of Tammuz symbolised the destruction of the spring vegetation by the heat of summer, and it was celebrated annually by seven days of women’s mourning in the 4th month (June-July), which was called Tammuz. This superstition had been introduced into Jerusalem.

16. Between the porch and the altar] The altar of burnt offering was probably in the centre of the inner court, and the main Temple building faced it on the vv. The sun-worship now described was just in front of the sacred building: cp. Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51. With their backs, etc] This followed from their turning towards the rising sun. Their position implied the greatest contempt for the God of Israel, whose glory was at that moment visible to the prophet close to them. The worship of the sim and other heavenly bodies was introduced by the kings of Judah before Josiah’s day, and abolished during his reformation (2 Kings 23:5, 2 Kings 23:11). Sun-images are mentioned as early as the days of Asa (2 Chronicles 14:5 RV). Jeremiah describes the worship of the Queen of Heaven (probably the moon or the planet Venus) as prevalent in Jerusalem before the second captivity (Jeremiah 44:17).

17. The branch to their nose] usually explained as a ceremony connected with sun-worship. Persian sunworshippers held bunches of the twigs of certain trees before their mouths, that they might not contaminate the sun with their breath. Many scholars think we should read, ’they send a stench to my nostrils.’

Verses 1-25


§ 3. A Vision of Jerusalem’s Sin and Doom (Ezekiel 8-11)

Date, August-September, 591 b.c.

A year and two months after his call to be a prophet, Ezekiel was visited in his house by the elders of the Jewish colony at Tel-abib, and in their presence he fell into a trance, during which he was transported in spirit to Jerusalem, and witnessed, as in a dream, a remarkable drama being enacted there. The glory of God was present during this vision in the same symbolic form, and accompanied by the same living chariot, as in Ezekiel 1, but with this difference, that it sometimes left the chariot and took up its position elsewhere. Ezekiel witnessed first the idolatries practised in the Temple (Ezekiel 8), then the slaughter of all the idolaters in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9), and next the destruction of the city by the fire of God’s holiness (Ezekiel 10). He then heard a parable of judgment pronounced against the leaders of Jerusalem’s wicked policy, and a message of comfort addressed to the exiles who were despised by their countrymen at home. Finally he saw the glory of God departing from the Temple, and having come back in spirit to Babylonia he awoke from his trance and recounted his vision to the exiles there (Ezekiel 11). There is no reason to doubt that Ezekiel here describes an actual experience. He was not, of course, literally transported to Jerusalem, but only seemed to be taken thither, as one might in a dream. The idolatries he saw were those which he knew to be carried on in Jerusalem, and the persons mentioned in the vision were doubtless also known to him as prominent leaders in the sin of the city. Yet in his trance these persons and practices, and the whole scene, stood out before his mind’s eye with a vividness and reality which enabled him to describe them as actually seen. The truths presented in the symbols, and expressed in the messages, of judgment were really communicated to him by God.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/ezekiel-8.html. 1909.