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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

This eighth chapter begins a new stage of Ezekiel's prophecies, and continues to the end of the eleventh chapter. The connected visions from Ezekiel 3:12 to the end of Ezekiel 7:1-27 comprehended Judah and Israel; but the visions Ezekiel 8:1-18; Ezekiel 9:1-11; Ezekiel 10:1-22; Ezekiel 11:1-25 refer immediately to Jerusalem and the remnant of Judah under Zedekiah, as distinguished from the Babylonian exiles.

In the sixth year - namely, of the captivity of Jehoiachin, as in Ezekiel 1:2 the "fifth year" is specified. The lying on his sides 390 and 40 days (Ezekiel 4:5-6) had by this time been completed at least in vision. That event was naturally a memorable epoch to the exiles; and the computation of years from it was to humble the Jews, as well as to show their perversity in not having repented, though so long and severely chastened.

The elders of Judah - namely, those carried away with Jehoiachin, and now at the Chebar.

Sat before me - to hear the word of God from me, in the absence of the temple and other public places, of Sabbath worship, during the exile (Ezekiel 33:30-31). It was so ordered that they were present at the giving of the prophecy, and so left without an excuse.

The hand of the Lord God fell there upon me - God's mighty operation fell, like a thunderbolt, upon me (in Ezekiel 1:3 it is less forcible: "The hand of the Lord was upon him"); whatever, therefore, he is to utter is not his own, because he has put off the mere man, while the power of God reigns in him (Calvin).

Verse 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.

A likeness - understand, 'of a man,' - i:e., of Messiah, the Angel of the Covenant, in the person of whom alone God manifests Himself (Ezekiel 1:26; John 1:18).

As the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire. The "fire" from "His loins downward," betokens the vengeance of God kindled against the wicked Jews, while searching and purifying the remnant to be spared.

From his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness. The "brightness" upward betokens His unapproachable majesty (1 Timothy 6:16). For Hebrew [ 'eesh (H784)], fire, the Septuagint, etc., read [ 'iysh (H376)], a man.

As the colour of amber - as the glitter of chasmal (Fairbairn). (Note, Ezekiel 1:4, 'polished brass.')

Verse 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 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.

The spirit lifted me up ... and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem. Instead of prompting him to address directly the elders before him, the spirit carried him away in vision (not in person bodily) to the temple at Jerusalem. He proceeds to resort to them what he witnessed. His message thus falls into two parts:

(1) The abominations reported in Ezekiel 8:1-18;

(2) The dealings of judgment and mercy to be adopted toward the impenitent and penitent Israelites respectively, (Ezekiel 9:1-11; Ezekiel 10:1-22; Ezekiel 11:1-25.)

The exiles looked hopefully toward Jerusalem, and, so far from believing things there to be on the verge of ruin, 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 "possession" of the land (Ezekiel 11:15). Hence, the vision here of what affected those in Jerusalem immediately was a seasonable communication to the exiles away from it.

To the door of the inner gate - facing the north, the direction in which he came from Chebar, called the 'altar-gate' (Ezekiel 8:5); it opened into the inner court, wherein stood the altar of burnt offering; the inner court (1 Kings 6:36) was that of the priests; the outer court (Ezekiel 10:5), that of the people, where they assembled.

Where was the seat - the pedestal of the image.

Of the image of jealously - Astarte, or Asheera (as the Hebrew for "grove" ought to be translated, 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:7), set up by Manasseh as a rival to Yahweh in His temple, and arresting the attention of all worshippers as they entered. It was the Syrian Venus, worshipped with licentious rites; the "queen of heaven," wife of Phoenician Baal. Havernick thinks all the scenes of idolatry in the chapter are successive portions of the festival held in honour of Tammuz or Adonis (Ezekiel 8:14). More probably the scenes are separate proofs of Jewish idolatry, rather than restricted to one idol.

Which provoketh to jealousy - calleth for a visitation in wrath of the "jealous God," who will not give His honour to another (cf. the second commandment, Exodus 20:5). Jerome refers this verse to a statue of Baal, which Josiah had overthrown and his successors had replaced.

Verse 4

And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain.

Behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there. The Shechinah cloud of Yahweh's glory, notwithstanding the provocation of the idol, still remains in the temple, like that which Ezekiel saw "in the plain" (Ezekiel 3:22-23); not until Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18 did it leave the temple at Jerusalem: showing the long-suffering of God, which ought to move the Jews to repentance.

Verse 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.

Behold, northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy - the principal avenue to the altar of Burnt offering; as to the northern position, see 2 Kings 16:14. Ahaz had removed the brasen altar from the front of the Lord's house to the north of the altar which he had himself erected. The locality of the idol enhances the heinousness of the sin, directly in front of God's own altar.

Verse 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.

Seest thou what they do? even the great abominations ... that I should (be compelled by their sin to) go far off from my sanctuary - which the Lord at last does, as recorded in Ezekiel 10:18, the sure precursor of destruction.

Verse 7

And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.

He brought me to the door of the court - i:e., of the inner court (Ezekiel 8:3); the court of the priests and Levites, into which now others were admitted, in violation of the law (Grotius).

Behold, a hole in the wall - i:e., an aperture or window in the wall of the priests' chambers, through which he could see into the various apartments, wherein was the idolatrous shrine.

Verse 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.

Son of man, dig now in the wall - for it had been blocked up during Josiah's reformation. Or, rather, the vision is not of an actual scene, but an ideal pictorial 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 (Fairbairn). (John 3:20.) But cf. as to the literal introduction of idolatries into the temple, Ezekiel 5:11; Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 32:34.

Verse 9

And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Behold, every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts - worshipped in Egypt; still found pourtrayed on their chamber walls; so among the Troglodytoe there were cavern temples with mystic cells, of which the chamber walls were covered with imagery.

Pourtrayed upon the wall round about - on every side they surrounded themselves with incentives to superstition.

Verse 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. Seventy men - the 70 members composing the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, the origination of which we find in the 70 elders, representatives of the congregation, who went up with Moses to the mount to behold the glory of Yahweh, and to witness the secret transactions relating to the establishment of the covenant; also, in the 70 elders appointed to share the Burden of the people with Moses. How awfully it aggravates the national sin, that the 70, once admitted to the Lord's secret council (Psalms 25:14), should now, "in the dark," enter "the secret" of the wicked (Genesis 49:6), those judicially bound to suppress idolatry being the ringleaders of it!

In the midst of them stood Jaazaniah - perhaps chief of the 70: son of Shaphan, the scribe who read to Josiah the Book of the law; the spiritual privileges of the son (2 Kings 22:10-14) increased his guilt. The very name means "Yahweh hears," giving the lie to the unbelief which virtually said (Ezekiel 9:9), "The Lord seeth us not," etc. (cf. Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:14; Psalms 50:21; Psalms 94:7; Psalms 94:9.) The offering of incense belonged not to the elders, But to the priests; this usurpation added to the guilt of the former.

A thick cloud of incense went up - they spared no expense for their idols. Oh that there were the same liberality in the cause of God!

Verse 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.

Hast thou seen what the ancients of ... Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery?

The elders ("ancients") are here the representatives of the people, rather than to be regarded literally. Mostly, the leaders of pagan superstitions laughed at them secretly while publicly professing them, in order to keep the people in subjection. Here what is meant is, that the people generally addicted themselves to secret idolatry, led on by their elders: there is no doubt, also, allusion to the mysteries, as in the worship of Isis in Egypt, the Eleusinian in Greece, etc., to which the initiated alone were admitted. "The chambers of imagery" are their own perverse imaginations, answering to the priests' chambers in the vision, whereon the pictures were pourtrayed (Ezekiel 8:10).

The Lord hath forsaken the earth. They infer this because God has left them to their miseries, without succouring them, so that they seek help from other gods. Instead of repenting, as they ought, they bite the curb (Calvin).

Verse 13

He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house ... toward the north. From the secret abominations of the chambers of imagery, the prophet's eye is turned to the outer court at the north door; within the outer court women were not admitted, but only to the door.

Behold, there sat women - the attitude of mourners (Job 2:13; Isaiah 3:26).

Tammuz - [perhaps contracted for Tamªzuwz, from a Hebrew root, 'to melt down;' taamaaz the same as maacac (H4549), referring to the river Adonis, fed by, the melted snows of Lebanon, as also to the sun's decreasing heat in winter, and to the melting lamentations of Venus for Adonis]. Instead of weeping for the national sins, they wept for the idol. Tammuz (the Syriac for Adonis, according to Jerome), the paramour of Venus-and of the same name as the river flowing from Lebanon-killed by a wild boar, and, according to the fable, permitted to spend half the year on earth, and obliged to spend the other half in the lower world. An annual feast was celebrated to him in June (hence called Tammuz in the Jewish calendar) at Byblos, when the Syrian women, in wild grief, tore off their hair, and yielded their persons to prostitution, consecrating the hire of their infamy to Venus; next followed days of rejoicing far his return to the earth-the former feast being called 'the disappearance of Adonis,' the latter, 'the finding of Adonis.' This Phoenician feast answered to the similar Egyptian one in hononr of Osiris. The idea thus fabled was that of the waters of the river and the beauties of spring destroyed by the summer heat; or else the earth being clothed with beauty during the half year when the sun is in the upper hemisphere, and losing it when he departs to the lower. The name Adonis is not here used, as Adon is the appropriated title of Yahweh.

Verses 15-16

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.

Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations. The next are "greater abominations," not in respect to the idolatry, but in respect to the place and persons committing it. In "the inner court," immediately before the door of the temple of Yahweh, between the porch and the altar, where the priests advanced only on extraordinary occasions; as, for instance, national fasts, on which the "ministers of the Lord wept between the porch and the altar" (Joel 2:17), twenty-five men (the leaders of the twenty-four courses or orders of the priests, 1 Chronicles 24:18-19, with the high priest at their head, "the princes of the sanctuary," Isaiah 43:28), representing the whole priesthood, as the 70 elders represented the people, stood with their backs turned on the temple, and their faces toward the east, making obeisance to the rising sun (contrast the words of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:44). Sun-worship came from the Persians, who made the sun the eye of their god Ormuzd. It was afterward reformed by Zoroaster. It existed as early as Job (Job 31:26; cf. Deuteronomy 4:19). Josiah could only suspend it for the time of his reign 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11); it revived under his successors.

They worshipped ... toward the east - according to the usage of the Persians, who worshipped the sun at his rising in the east. In the Hebrew a corrupt form is used to express Ezekiel's sense of the foul corruption of such worship [ mishtachªwiytem (H7812), for mishtchªwiym]. (Havernick.) But this seem a doubtful piece of ultra-refinement in interpretation. The choice lies between it and the supposition that the corrupt form is an error of the transcriber.

Verse 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.

And have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose - proverbial, because 'they turn up the nose in scorn,' expressing their insolent security. (Septuagint) Not content with outraging "with their violence" the second table of the law-namely, that of duty toward one's neighbour - "they have returned" (i:e., they turn back afresh) to provoke me by violations of the first table (Calvin). Rather, they held up a branch or bundle of tamarisk branches (called barsom) to their nose at daybreak, while singing hymns to the rising sun (Strabo, 1: 15, p. 733). Sacred trees were frequent symbols in idol- worship. Calvin translates, 'to their own ruin'-literally, 'to their nose' - i:e., with the effect of rousing my anger (of which the Hebrew is "nose") to their ruin.

Verse 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.

Though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear - (Proverbs 1:28, "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me;" Isaiah 1:15).


(1) In this chapter Ezekiel is shown in a vision the abominations on account of which God is about to forsake His own temple, and to give it and the city of Jerusalem to destruction (Ezekiel 8:17-18). The prophet is permitted to see, with his own eyes, "the image" which provoked God's holy "jealousy," at the door of the inner temple gate (Ezekiel 8:3); then also "the chambers of imagery" covered with portraits of abominable idols (Ezekiel 8:10) and before them the 70 elders of Israel offering incense in the dark, as though the Lord saw them not, and had forsaken the earth (Ezekiel 8:12); next, the very women weeping for the imaginary sorrows of the impure god Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14); and a greater abomination still being perpetrated "between the porch and the altar" of Yahweh, where the ministers of the Lord ought to have been weeping for their own and the nation's sins (Joel 2:17), and deprecating His wrath, the high priest and the four and twenty leaders of the courses of priests, with their backs turned on the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, as they were worshipping the rising sun (Ezekiel 8:16).

(2) One could hardly believe that such abominations were possible among the people of God's covenant; and, after having seen them, one's only wonder is, that God should have spared them so long, and that, when He did take vengeance, He did not utterly destroy the whole race, root and branch, so as to leave no surviving remnant. But is there nothing analogous among ourselves? If God were to give any of us a comprehensive view of all the abominations perpetrated in one nation, or even one city, at one time, would our so-called Christian peoples have much cause for glorying as superior to Israel and Jerusalem when God was about to take vengeance on His covenant-people for their sins? How grievously must our national and individual covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), "provoke God to jealousy"! (Ezekiel 8:3.)

(3) Again, if "in the wall" of most men's outward profession of Christianity "a hole" or window were opened; whereby the inner heart could be seen (Ezekiel 8:7), and "a door" dug whereat one could "Go in, and behold the wicked abominations" there, what awful pictures "pourtrayed in the chambers of every man's imagery" (Ezekiel 8:12) would be discovered!

(4) How many, even in higher positions of life, such as were "the ancients of the house of Israel," would be found "doing in the dark" the deeds of darkness (John 3:20), "burning incense" to the idols of the heart, lust, and self, and virtually saving "The Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken the earth!" (Ezekiel 8:12.)

(5) Again, as many women wept for the idol Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) who "grieved not for the affliction of Joseph" (Amos 6:6), so how many professing Christian women waste in sickly and carnal sentimentality the tender and susceptible natures which God has given them wherewith to weep with them that weep, to heal the bruises of the suffering members of the Church, and to minister to those who need temporal or spiritual help!

(6) Again, how many in offices of ministerial responsibility, as the high priest and the twenty-four subordinate priests were (Ezekiel 8:16), who ought to be with their faces toward the Lord, and in His house interceding for their guilty country (Ezekiel 8:16), would be detected with their backs turned on the Lord, paying homage to those in princely stations, with their faces toward them as the rising sun in the east, and forgetting that "promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: but God is the Judge; He putteth down one and setteth up another"! ( Psalms 75:6-7.)

(7) The more we search into the secret springs of human nature and of our own hearts, the more abominations shall we detect. And the more we thereby see the forbearance of God toward us, the more incentive have we to provoke no more so long-suffering a God. Our spiritual privileges are greater than those of the most highly favoured of the Old Testament people of God. "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven (that is, the Gospel dispensation) is greater than" their greatest (Matthew 11:11). Let us, then, seek, by the promised aid of the Holy Spirit, to "cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Let Christian women, instead of weeping over fictitious tales of morbid love and carnal sorrows, like the women who wept for the beautiful and licentious Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14), consecrate their fine sensibilities to the active promotion of the glory of Him who is altogether lovely, and whose bitter sufferings for us should call forth our tears of gratitude and glowing love. Let them, instead of resembling the women weeping for Tammuz, try to resemble the devotion Mary, who, when all others were gone, stood at the sepulchre of her crucified Lord weeping, and so had her tears dried up by the risen Saviour Himself (John 20:11-16). Let ministers seek to be pure in their aims and motives, having a single eye to the glory of God. And let all guard against an unbridled imaginati on, and against every bosom-idol which would provoke our holy and loving God to jealousy.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/ezekiel-8.html. 1871-8.
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