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Under the similitude of the image of jealousy, the Prophet in this chapter sets forth the awful state of the people. And in the figure of the idol Tammuz, the deplorable condition to which all orders were reduced b y sin, is described.
We here enter upon a most interesting Chapter, full of solemn truths. The date of the vision, the Prophet hath marked. No doubt the impression wrought upon Ezekiel's mind made it memorable. Jacob never lost sight of Beth-el; neither Moses of the bush. The Reader will recollect, that Ezekiel was in Babylon at this time among those of the captivity; though in his visions the scene represented to his mind was Jerusalem. If the Reader be curious to calculate, and will compare this latter vision with Ezekiel's former (Ezekiel 1:0 ), he will find, that a period of fourteen months had elapsed between. There is somewhat worth remarking in what Ezekiel hath said, of sitting in his house at the time, and he elders of Judah sitting before him. Probably they were assembled for worship or meditation. And if so, how gracious was the Lord to be in their midst. Reader! what an encouragement this is to public as well as social worship! The promise of the Lord is absolute. Matthew 18:20 . And again, Matthew 28:19 . And I cannot help further remarking, that while Jerusalem herself was now barren, and deprived of ordinances; the Lord's poor captives in Babylon found their solemn meetings blessed with the hand of the Lord God upon them. And how often have God's dear children found Jesus in the wilderness, while multitudes miss him in the Church. How blessed was Patmos to John; and the prison to Peter and his companions. Revelation 1:9-11 ; Acts 5:17-19 .
I do not presume to say as much, but I venture to believe, that this glorious vision was similar to Ezekiel's former, (Ezekiel 1:26 ) And was not this the Lord Jesus, the glory-man? Surely there can be no doubt, but that this Almighty Mediator, from the first hour he stood up at the call of Jehovah the Father in his office character, as the Great Head of his Church and people; had his delights, as he himself tells us, with the sons of men, Proverbs 8:31 . No sooner had he gone forth in acts of creation, but his holy soul longed for the open display to enter upon his acts of redemption. And until the fulness of time, already fixed on in the ancient settlements of eternity, for his manifestation in substance of our flesh openly and fully to appear; he gave proofs to his Church and people how earnest he was to enter upon, and finish the work the Father gave him to do, by the various appearances he made before them: sometimes in the form of man, and sometimes in that of an angel. Yes, thou dear Lord! thou didst plainly and clearly testify thereby, that thine own heart was with thy people, and all the tendencies of thy manifestation was love.
There is somewhat particularly striking in this act of the Lord. The putting forth the hand, implies the Spirit of the Lord being upon him, or rather in him: and the lifting him up between the earth and the heaven, to bring him in visions of God to Jerusalem, was meant most probably to show, that the Prophet's mind was now wholly under divine teaching; so that in the visions of God which followed, there could be no doubt of their reality. That it was the same glory which he had before seen, became a further confirmation of the whole, and was intended to this end. Thus prepared, the Lord opened to his astonished mind the vision. He saw the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. It is not said what image this was; but, as the Lord declared himself a jealous God, jealous of his honor, and that honor particularly insulted by the setting up of graven images, it is more than probable, that this was some one of these several figures, which Israel under different reigns had made their idol. What an awful representation doth this give of the depravity of the human heart! Though the bulk of the people had been carried away into captivity for idolatry, and only a few left as vine-dressers, and to till the ground; yet even that few will continue to insult the Lord, though their brethren were in bondage for the same. Reader! do not such views humble your very soul before God? Do you not tremble to think what a nature you belong to, which in all the sons of men, is, and would forever be alike capable of perpetrating the same sins, did not grace restrain? Precious Jesus! I feel my soul humbled to the dust in the recollection: and were it not, that from the same nature it is by thy taking it upon thee I feel conscious of being related to thee, thou holy, blessed, glorious Lord, I should blush at the very name of man. Oh! thou divine and Almighty head of thy body thy Church! what unknown and unnumbered glories are folded up in this one view of thee, that we are bone of thy bone, and flesh of thy flesh!
It should seem by what is said in those verses, that the Lord meant his servant the Prophet should be enabled by such facts brought before his eyes, to tell the elders that sat before him, in what justice the Lord's punishments on Israel were founded. How tender, but yet cutting is the Lord's expostulation. Son of man seest thou what they do. Was it not enough to make the Lord depart, when such dunghill gods were set up against him; but yet, as if these provocations were not enough, the Lord will show Ezekiel greater, or as it might be rendered, more of the like abominations. Reader! let us not in Israel's history, overlook our own. What are the chambers of imagery in our hearts, is the question? Lord! I would say with one of old, cleanse thou me from my secret faults. Psalms 19:12 .
What tended to aggravate those crying sins yet more was, that they were committed in the very sanctuary. And they had thrown up a wall to conceal from every eye, and none but his eye who seeth in secret could discover. Alas! when sin is made yet more exceeding sinful, both from the place and persons, where and by whom it is wrought, the evil riseth to a greater malignity. Lord! I pray thee give to me grace to recollect, that my secret sins are in the light of thy countenance; and all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Psalms 90:8 ; Hebrews 4:13 .
Oh! what an awful account is here. The Prophet hath discovered now through the Lord's teaching him, by looking in through this hole in the wall, that it is not the common people, not the ignorant, not the unlearned only, that were given to idolatry; but the very elders, the ancients of the house of Israel, from whom the people ought to have received knowledge. The prophet saw seventy in number, that is, the whole Sanhedrim; meaning all the elders. Perhaps the vision meant to say, that even those who sat before Ezekiel in Babylon were to be included. And one more daring than his fellows the Prophet saw, whose person he knew, and to his everlasting disgrace he is mentioned by name. And the whole party were active and alive, ministering as the priests of the true God were used to do, in the temple service, with their censers. Lord! what is man! The Lord's second appeal comes in after such a representation uncommonly striking! Reader! have you and I seen such things in our day, in which the divine goodness is provoked? Oh! what chambers of imagery are there now in the world, yea, in the professing world! The Lord himself hath said, and who can unsay it: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 .
What are there more views, more of the same like abominations? Yes! here are the women of Israel introduced as well as the men, in their open and daring impiety. The former transgressions were in the chambers of retirement, but these latter are open; they seem lost to all shame; they are at the door of the gate. It is not said what this Tammuz was: most probable an idol of a peculiar kind, for the women are said to be weeping for it. But it hath been thought by some, that with their idolatry they mingled whoredom; and as such, like the crocodile, were found shedding tears over this pitiful image, the more easily, perhaps to take their prey, in such as stopped to remark their great tenderness. 1 Samuel 2:22 . Oh! Lord! to what a state hath sin humbled our nature!
Here is a picture, which holds forth the most finished representation of all. Here are about five and twenty men, with an uncovered front, got absolutely between the Porch and the Altar; that sacred spot, where the priests, the ministers of the Lord, presented themselves before the Lord, on the days of humiliation: (See Joel 2:17 .) and as if it were not enough to withhold worship from the Lord, they turn their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the east, to bow down to the creature of the Lord, even the sun, while standing with an unbent knee before the Creator, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. As these five and twenty men are said to be between the Porch and the Altar, there can be but little question but that they were the priests. So awful, so tremendously awful, was this abomination! And now the Lord makes an appeal to the Prophet, and shows the justice of his cause, in the vengeance that follows. And who but must acknowledge it, when he beholds all Israel, with the elders, and the women; the priests, and the people; all given to idolatry!
READER! let us pause over the sad view of this Chapter, in the contents of it, for it is most solemn: and consider well, the dreadful representation here given, of the human heart! Could it have been conceived possible, that while a whole nation was reeking under the Lord's chastisements, in one of his sore judgments of captivity; that the few which were saved by divine mercy, could have braved divine justice, with such horrible impiety! But Reader! in Israel, we only read the history of all the world, and every heart. So very true, and so universally just, is that scripture, all the world is become guilty before God. Who shall count the many transgressions which arise in one heart, and in one day only, against the sovereignty of God? Who shall write down the multitude, which in the aggregate, are found in that day, in a single town or village? And who shall describe the patience, and long suffering of God, before whose view, and to whose all discerning eye, the great mass of human transgressions, from the whole earth, comes up every day, and all the day, in an accumulated cloud of daring offence? Oh! how blessed, how truly blessed that proclamation made by the Lord of himself, in the holy mount, when he passed by and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness, and truth! Precious Lord Jesus! how truly is it seen in thee, and in thy great salvation, the evidences of this divine truth! Here indeed thy Church behold the wondrous grace and mercy displayed to the full. In thee the Lord Jehovah hath shown, that he keepeth mercy for thousands, and forgiveth iniquity, transgression, and sin. In thee, and by thy blood, and righteousness, the Lord hath clearly testified that he doth by no means clear the guilty, without an equivalent sacrifice. Lord! help both Writer and Reader, to fall down under the deepest sense of sin, and to look up, under the humblest hope of acceptance, in Jesus. Blessed forever, blessed be the Lord, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter