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With this chapter Ezekiel begins a new series of messages which continue through chapter 11, but which are intimately linked with those that have preceded them. The date given is one year later than that of the visions and prophecies of chapters 1 to 7. Throughout this section God is still calling the people to repentance, as the judgment had not yet fallen. Ezekiel himself, as we know, was among the captives by the River Chebar; but in this eighth chapter he finds himself, in spirit, in the city of Jerusalem, in the temple of the Lord.
“And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord Jehovah fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and, lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins and downward, fire; and from his loins and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal. And he put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain”-vers. 1-4.
While in the midst of a group of elders of Judah, it is evident that the prophet became unconscious of all about him. During this ecstatic state he beheld a glorious personage, evidently an angel, who appeared in the form of a man but in the likeness of fire, reminding us again of the words of the Psalmist, “Who maketh His angels spirits (or winds), and His ministers a flame of fire” (Psalms 104:4; Hebrews 1:7). This glorious being put forth the form of a hand and took hold of the prophet by a lock of his hair. Ezekiel immediately found himself, in spirit, lifted up between earth and heaven; and, in the visions of God, he was brought to Jerusalem to the door of the gate of the inner court of the temple, the door toward the north. There he beheld a great idol, designated “the image of jealousy,” because it was written in the law, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
When we think of jealousy in connection with God we are not to confound it with the ignoble passion that so often works havoc in the hearts of carnal men. God is jealous because He knows that it is to our own hurt if we turn from Him to any other object of adoration. Even as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). James says that the spirit that dwelleth in us enviously desireth. God yearns to see us wholly occupied with the Lord Himself.
God had revealed Himself to Israel as to no other people: gracious, merciful, a covenant-keeping God; yet One whose holiness demanded that sin be dealt with in judgment. He had told them distinctly, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3); and had forbidden the making of any graven image before which they might fall down in worship. But they had cast His words behind their backs, and had turned to the idolatry of the nations surrounding Pales- tine, setting up their idols even in the very sanctuary of Jehovah.
As the prophet beheld, he saw again the glory of the God of Israel-that is, the vision of the chariot of the divine government which he had seen, as described in chapter 1. Nothing could be in greater contrast than the image of jealousy and the glory of Jehovah as here presented. The Lord spoke directly to the prophet, fixing his attention upon the idol thus set up in the temple.
“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 of the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. And he said unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel do commit here, that I should go far off from My sanctuary? But thou shalt again see yet other great abominations”-vers. 5, 6.
As Ezekiel gazed upon the idol, his own heart must have been stirred to its depth. He heard the voice of Jehovah say, “Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel do commit here, that I should go far off from My sanctuary?” One can sense the pathos of this. God had been as a Father unto Israel: He had brought them out of Egypt and cared for them all through the centuries since. And now this was the return they gave Him: they spurned His Word, and followed after other gods, even worshipping stocks, stones, and metallic images which could neither see, nor hear, nor in any way deliver them in the hour of trial.
But this, in itself, was not all. The prophet was to behold other great abominations.
“And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold, a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and see the wicked abominations that they do here. 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, portrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel; and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, every man with his censer in his hand; and the odor of the cloud of incense went up. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his chambers of imagery? for they say, Jehovah seeth us not; Jehovah hath forsaken the land. He said also unto me, Thou Shalt again see yet other great abominations which they do”-vers. 7-13.
The guiding angel brought Ezekiel to the door of the temple court, and there he beheld a hole in the wall, leading to a hidden door which opened into a secret room, which would not ordinarily be discovered by passers-by. Through this door Ezekiel was commanded to enter, and when he did so he beheld portrayed upon the walls roundabout, all kinds of creeping things, abominable beasts, and idols, such as one still finds upon the walls of Egyptian temples. Before these evidences of corrupt superstition and idolatrous wickedness there stood seventy venerable elders of the house of Israel, led by Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan. These were evidently priests, for each one held a censer in his hand, from which clouds of incense ascended before the delineations of false gods.
The angel spoke to Ezekiel, saying, “Son of man, hast thou seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his chambers of imagery?” Men love darkness rather than light when their deeds are evil; and so these elders were carrying on unholy worship in this dark room as they adored the picture images upon the walls. They imagined that they were so hidden that the eye of Jehovah could not see them; in fact, they told themselves He had forsaken their land. In reality, it was they who had forsaken Him. They had turned to these senseless idols only to learn, eventually, the folly of trusting in any other than the living God.
But this was not all. There were greater depths of iniquity still to be manifested, and so the guiding angel said, “Thou shalt again see yet other great abominations which they do.”
“Then he brought me to the door of the gate of Jehovah’s house which was toward the north; and behold, there sat the women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? thou shalt again see yet greater abominations than these”-vers. 14, 15.
Tammuz was a Babylonian god. He was considered by his followers to be the seed of the woman, spoken of in the book of Genesis (3:15). In the myths which were recited in connection with the Babylonian mysteries he was said to have been put to death in conflict with a giant bull; or, as others said, with a great dragon. But after some time he was supposed to have risen from the dead and to have power to free his subjects from their enemies. As the story of his death was recited in connection with the worship of Tammuz, priestesses sat about for the purpose of lifting up their voices in weird lamentations. It must have been a great shock to Ezekiel’s feelings to find the same thing close to the door of the gate of Jehovah’s house where Jewish women sat weeping because of the tribulation of this heathen god.
Again the word came, “Thou shalt again see yet greater abominations than these.”
“And he brought me into the inner court of Jehovah’s house; and behold, at the door of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east; and they were worshipping the sun toward the east. 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 turned again to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in wrath; 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”-vers. 16-18.
Still following his guide, Ezekiel was led into the inner court of Jehovah’s house, to the door of the holy place itself; and there he saw, between the porch and the altar, twenty-five men who had turned their backs upon the temple of Jehovah, and were prostrating themselves upon the ground as they faced the east, worshipping the rising sun. Thus they put the creature in the place of the Creator. It might seem almost unthinkable that a people who had been taught the fear of the Lord in the way that Israel had, and who had learned of the true God who created the heavens in which the sun has its place and the earth which is illumined with its glory, that they would ever for one moment think of adoring the heavenly luminary, and would turn their backs upon the temple where the Shekinah glory shone above the mercy-seat between the Cherubim. Yet to such depth of iniquity had they fallen; and as a result the land was filled with violence, and when the people refused subjection to God it seems that every corrupt passion of the heart was turned loose. They had provoked the Lord to anger. Even though He yearned over them and longed to deliver them, He could not do other than deal in judgment with those who had thus spurned His Word and broken His holy law.
Derisively, we are told, they put the branch to their nose-an expression which has occasioned not a little questioning among commentators, but clearly seems to refer to a gesture of contempt, and manifests their attitude toward the Holy One to whom they owed their fullest allegiance.
Because of their perversity God could deal with them only in His wrath, and He declared, “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.”
It is well to remember that if men despise the grace of God, they must know the fierceness of His indignation. They bring this upon themselves when they turn from the path of obedience and deliberately walk contrary to His revealed will.
There is a solemn lesson in all this for us as well as for Israel. God would have us learn from their wretched failure what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from Him and to take the path of self-will. Blessing is found in obedience; disobedience brings its own judgment with it. This is a lesson we are often slow to learn; but if we will not profit by the experiences of others, or by the direct declarations of the Word of God, we shall have to learn by bitter sufferings and disappointments, the folly of refusing subjection to His will.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20