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Ezekiel 8:1 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, the hand of the Lord Yahweh fell there on me- This was one year and one month from the opening vision of Ez. 1, once the days lying on his side were completed (Ez. 4:5,6). These "elders" may have been visitors from Judah rather than the elders of the community of captives in Babylon. Jeremiah had sent a letter through Elasah, warning against the false prophets competing with Ezekiel, who were claiming that Jerusalem wouldn't fall (Jer. 29:1-3,9,25). The prophecies which Ezekiel now begun seem to continue until Ez. 13:23, concluding with a threat of destruction upon the false prophets. These elders may have come in order to seek Ezekiel's explanation of himself in the light of the false prophecies being made of immediate salvation. The eldership of Judah are roundly condemned at this time. So we can assume that they had not come humbly seeking God's word. And therefore this chapter reveals how Ezekiel had a vision convicting them of the idolatry going on in Jerusalem, perhaps contrary to the impression of righteousness which they were giving.

Ezekiel 8:2 Then I saw, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal- As earlier in Ezekiel, this burning, molten metal speaks of God's intense anger. See on Ez. 1:27. The person appears without the cherubim. To be picked up by this person (:3) must have been a frightening experience. God's wrath was because of the awful idolatry and blasphemy which Ezekiel was now to behold. The elders of Judah had come to Ezekiel (:1) and said nothing of the true state of affairs in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was being shown that God's burning anger was in reality upon the people, whatever veneer of spirituality the elders had.

Ezekiel 8:3 He put forth the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the sky and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court that looks toward the north- This was the upper or higher gate (Ez. 9:2), the gate where Jeremiah was put in the stocks (Jer. 20:2). The false prophets were assuring Jerusalem of safety as Yahweh's special city. Perhaps the elders had come with this message (:1). So Ezekiel is now going to testify what is really going on there.


Where there was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy- "Image" translates an unusual word which appears to refer specifically to the worship of the asherah or groves (2 Chron. 33:7,15). There would have been a distinctly sexual aspect to the worship. It was in this area that there were "houses of the Sodomites" (2 Kings 23:7). The adultery of Israel against their God was both literal and spiritual, as demonstrated by Hosea's experience with Gomer. This is why the image provoked God to jealousy, because it was the scene of His peoples' literal and spiritual adultery against Him. Josiah's reformation, like so much attempted spiritual reformation, was short-lived. The images were soon replaced.

Ezekiel 8:4 The glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain- There is a purposeful juxtaposition between Yahweh's glory and the awful idolatry going on. We too live in the shadow of His glory and all idolatry in whatever form ought to instinctively feel utterly inappropriate. It is worth considering whether the visions Ezekiel had of the progressive departure of "the glory of the God of Israel" (Ez. 8:4) from the temple to the East of Jerusalem and then further away are describing the literal departure of the Angel from His dwelling place over the ark in the temple. Similarly "the glory" Angel departed (1 Sam. 4:21) when the ark over which He dwelt was taken by the Philistines. See on Ps. 78:60.

Ezekiel 8:5 Then He said to me, Son of man, lift up your eyes now to the road that leads toward the north. So I lifted up my eyes toward the northern road, and behold, northward of the gate of the altar this image of jealousy was in the entry- The northward aspect is perhaps because the Jews were looking and worshipping towards the north, Babylon. To worship the idols of their enemies may seem incredible, but it is psychologically likely as it reflects the perversity and deep contradiction within unrestrained human nature. It was by that same northern road that the Jews would be led away captive.

Ezekiel 8:6 He said to me, Son of man, do you see what they do, even the great abominations that the house of Israel do commit here, so that I should go far away from My sanctuary? But you shall again see other, greater abominations- "Do you see...?" could imply that Ezekiel was struggling to allow himself to realize what was going on. As he had not long been in captivity himself and was a priest familiar with the temple, we may enquire why he needed to be shown these things. Perhaps he had earlier been aware of them but not perceived their full import. See on :7. Or perhaps these things had only started going on in the temple area since he had gone into captivity. As the Babylonian threat increased, so the people increasingly turned to their idols. This is a paradox and yet psychologically credible given the perversity of the human mind when it comes to matters of faith. The Divine 'going far away' was in the form of the cherubim of glory departing from the sanctuary, effectively driven out by Israel's abominations. They had set up idols within the temple; effectively they were pushing God out rather than Him departing from them. They thereby had chosen the path of their condemnation. Hence "I will do to them after their way, and according to their own judgments will I judge them" (Ez. 7:27).

Ezekiel 8:7 He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall- The hole was there but apparently needed to be dug through in order for Ezekiel to see clearly. I discussed on :6 the possibility that Ezekiel was vaguely aware of abuses in the temple from his time there before his captivity. This corresponds to the hole in the wall; but he had to make some effort to now see through to what was actually going on, and accept it.

Ezekiel 8:8 Then He said to me, Son of man, dig now through the wall; and when I had dug through the wall, behold, a door- See on :7. The worship was going on "in the dark... in rooms of images" (:12). The darkness could mean this was the most holy place, lit only by the candlestick; although 70 men would hardly have fitted in there (:11). But the reference may be to the priestly chambers which surrounded the court; the priests had their images there. This would explain the huge emphasis in Ez. 40-48 upon the chambers. Much detail is given about them. The idea is that the previous abominations performed in them were not to be done in the new temple which the exiles were to build and operate.

Ezekiel 8:9 He said to me, Go in, and see the wicked abominations that they do here- It seems Ezekiel needed to be urged to 'see' it, hinting at some reluctance in him to recognize the real state of affairs in Jerusalem and Judah.

Ezekiel 8:10 So I went in and saw; and behold, every form of creeping thing and abominable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed around on the wall- We know from Jer. 44 and Zech. 5 that many Jews had accepted the idols of their Babylonian conquerors, rather like Ahaz did after his defeat by Assyria (2 Kings 16:10). The spirit of exposing the idolatry of Babylon whilst living in it, waiting the call to leave, is so relevant to modern Christians working, living and waiting in latter day Babylon. However the animal worship implied here is more Egyptian than Babylonian. Egypt were the great hope of Israel rather than Yahweh; perhaps they thought that by worshipping Egyptian gods, Egypt would come and save them. And it did for a few months appear that way; for the Babylonian siege was lifted in order to fight the Egyptian army (Jer. 34:22; Ez. 30:20,21). They were made to eat unclean animals in captivity (Ez. 4:13; Hos. 9:3), but this was really a reflection of the choices they themselves had made- to worship them. This worship of that which we are externally and religiously separate from remains a big temptation for us all.

Ezekiel 8:11 There stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel; and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, every man with his censer in his hand; and the odour of the cloud of incense went up- These 70 were the forerunners of the Sanhedrin, based upon the 70 elders with Moses. Ezekiel as a type of the Lord Jesus exposed their evil. These elders were not priests, and yet here they offer incense; this was exclusively the work of the priests. Shaphan was the scribe who had read the discovered law of God to Josiah (2 Kings 22:3-12), leading to his reforms; now his son was a leader of this apostasy. Clearly enough, the cases of both Josiah and Shaphan demonstrate that spirituality cannot be passed on in any blood line nor by upbringing alone. There has to be a genuine desire for God in every individual heart.

Ezekiel 8:12 Then He said to me, Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, every man in his rooms of images?- See on Ez. 2:6. Jeremiah speaks of how he came to see Israel for who they were: “The Lord made it known to me and I knew; then thou didst show me their evil deeds” (Jer. 11:8). Ezekiel was shown “what the house of Israel is doing in the dark” (Ez. 8:12). To pass through human life with this level of sensitivity must’ve been so hard. Psychologically and nervously, the stress would’ve been awful. It seems to me that the prophets had to be somehow psychologically strengthened by God to endure living that sensitively in this crass and unfeeling world- hence God made Ezekiel and Jeremiah as a wall and “iron pillar” to Israel, hardened their faces, so that they wouldn’t be “dismayed at [the] looks” of those who watched them with anger and consternation (Jer. 1:18; 15:20; Ez. 2:4-6; 3:8,9,27). This psychological strengthening was not aimed at making them insensitive, but rather in strengthening them to live sensitively to sin in a sinful world without cracking up. And He will do the same for us, too.

They say, ‘Yahweh doesn’t see us; Yahweh has forsaken the land’- They likely didn't say this in so many words. But as the Lord Jesus taught clearly, the thought is counted by God as if it is a spoken word. Ezekiel was up against the idea amongst the captives that Yahweh had forsaken the land. Hence his visions of God's cherubim-angels, present both in the land as well as amongst the captives by Chebar in Babylon (Ez. 10:20). It was the same message as the lesson of Jonah- who likewise thought that Yahweh somehow only operated within the land of Israel. The amazing truth was that Yahweh only forsook the land when the Jews left it. He was there with them right up until the end.

Ezekiel 8:13 He said also to me, You shall again see more, greater abominations which they do- The great abominations being done are those referred to in Ez. 18:12,13,24, where Ezekiel encourages them with the reality that a man may do great abominations all his life, but then repent at the end and be saved.

Ezekiel 8:14 Then He brought me to the door of the gate of Yahweh’s house which was toward the north; and see, there sat the women weeping for Tammuz- Tammuz was the equivalent of Adonis in Greek mythology. But adon, "Lord", is typically used of the Lord God. They had replaced Yahweh as "Lord" with Tammuz. But there is only one Lord, the God of Israel. Having any other Lord was therefore a denial of Yahweh, just as it is today. The weeping for "Tammuz" was the ritual weeping for the death of the young handsome Adonis by Aphrodite, whose role the women played in the worship, and then became ecstatic with joy in the worship ritual when Adonis resurrected. Tammuz / Adonis was therefore a false Messiah.

Ezekiel 8:15 Then He said to me, Have you seen this, son of man? You shall again see greater abominations than these- The repeated questions imply Ezekiel struggled to perceive and see the import of the apostacy; see on :6.

Ezekiel 8:16 He brought me into the inner court of Yahweh’s house; and there, at the door of Yahweh’s temple, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men- Perhaps in imitation of the 24 orders of priests in 1 Chron. 24. They are likely the 25 princes of the people of Ez. 11:1, who were located where only the priests should have been. It was at this very point between the porch and altar that Joel envisaged the repentant priesthood earnestly begging God for a change in plan, pouring out their repentance to avoid destruction (Joel 2:17). Instead, the leaders of Israel were worshipping the sun.

With their backs toward Yahweh’s temple, and their faces toward the east; and they were worshipping the sun toward the east- Jeremiah had said that Judah had gone backward from Yahweh (Jer. 7:24; 2 Chron. 29:6), and this was symbolized by turning their backs upon the temple. God's turning His back upon Israel was therefore only what they themselves had done to Him. Again, "I will do to them after their way, and according to their own judgments will I judge them" (Ez. 7:27).

Ezekiel 8:17 Then He said to me, Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here?- The same word for "trivial" is used in Ez. 22:7 for how these people had a "light" attitude to their parents. This lighthearted, not serious view of life affected all their relationships, with God as well as family. And we live in an age where as never before, nothing is taken seriously.

For they have filled the land with violence- The sins of the temple cult had spread to the whole land. The idea could be that the violence engulfing the land was their fault. But "violence" also carries the idea of unjust gain. It may refer to how what God took as 'violence' was done by the Jews to each other as a result of the example set in Jerusalem.

And have turned again to provoke Me to anger- "Turned again" is literally 'returned'. Perhaps some of the community of captives had returned to Judah, as there was some contact between them and Judah (see on :1). But they had returned only to commit abominations, rather than in repentance.

And behold, they put the branch to their nose- The allusion is to the Persian ritual of the Avesta. When men prayed to the sun, they held in their left hands a bouquet of palm, pomegranate, and tamarisk twigs, while the priests for the same purpose held a veil before their mouth, so that the bright rays of the sun might not be polluted by human breath. Judah went into captivity in Babylon which was then taken over by Persia. Again, they got what they essentially wanted. They had loved the Persian gods and culture, and so they were taken there to be dominated by it.

Ezekiel 8:18 Therefore will I also deal with them in anger; My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them- The wonder of God's grace was that His eye did spare and He did pity at the restoration (Ez. 36:21; Joel 2:18; Mal. 3:17 s.w.), just as His eye had spared them in the desert (Ez. 20:17). This reveals the emotion of God, His pity even for the spiritually weak, and how this triumphs over His judgment.