This chapter begins with Ezekiel’s denunciations of Judah. 591-586 B.C. Ezekiel 8 and Ezekiel 11 are the reasons for Ezekiel 9 and Ezekiel 10.
Yahweh’s withdrawal from the doomed city. Ezekiel 8-11.
Abominations of idolatry in the temple precincts. Ezekiel 8.
Time and place of the Divine revelation. Ezekiel 8:1-4.
The first abomination picture is the image of Jealousy. Ezekiel 8:5-6.
The second abomination is the worship of beasts. Ezekiel 8:7-13.
The third abomination is the worship of Tammuz. Ezekiel 8:14-15.
The fourth abomination is the worship of the sun by the priests. Ezekiel 8:16-18.
1. Ezekiel is shown the religious corruption in the city of Jerusalem.
2. We note the progression of idolatry shown to the prophet.
The scene is Ezekiel’s house in Babylonia. This is 14 months after his commission. The elders of Judah have come for a message from God, possibly for consolation. These of course were the elders of Judah who were in captivity along with Ezekiel. Here is an example of the prophet speaking to the exiles about the people in Judah.
Now it seems that Ezekiel, who was about 31, really did not want to tell them the message. He knew the message from God, but it was going to take another vision to convince him that these men needed telling. We will find out more about these elders in a later attempt by them to get a message from the prophet. Ezekiel 14:1 / Ezekiel 20:1.
What we are going to read about now is clearly described by the prophet as ‘visions of God’. This was not the case say in Ezekiel 4:1, which would lead to the idea that some things were done literally, others were not. He is having a vision.
Notice that he sees the appearance of a man like that in Ezekiel 1:27. The one who sat on the throne was God, here we see the same form equated with the Spirit who lifted him up.
Let us clearly see that Ezekiel was brought in a vision to Jerusalem. His first point of call was the north gateway of the inner court of the temple. The first thing he saw there was an image of jealousy, and the glory of God. There is a sharp contrast between these two.
God will now give the prophet a ‘guided tour’ of the city pointing out the major problems. Ezekiel is shown four forms of idolatry which represent that of the whole nation.
This image is so-called because it provokes jealousy. It is believed that this was some image which they had connected with the worship of Jehovah. No one has any idea what kind of image it was. But to get into the temple, you had to pass this image at the north gate. This was the most prestigious gate; the king’s gate. Exodus 20:5 / Acts 17:16.
Notice how the people’s actions were driving God from His sanctuary. They were forcing God to leave where He wanted to be. More to come.
Digging in the wall of the court, the prophet is shown a secret door. One that certain people do not want to be known; for the people with something to hide. Here is a place where idol worship is carried out by hypocrites. Those who do not want to be known as idol worshippers, so they do it in secret.
On entering the room, he sees the idolatry going on. All these animals portrayed on the walls are not pictures. It is the idea of being engraved, or carved in relief. Involved with this were 70 elders. This was a number representative of the whole nation. Numbers 11:16 / Exodus 24:9.
One of these is named, Jaazaniah, son of Shaphan. Shaphan was King Josiah’s secretary of state, 2 Kings 22:3. One of his sons, Ahikam was an active supporter of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 26:24.
He is saying that the whole people are involved in this, and even the respectable leaders are secretly involved in it all too. They all were thinking that done in secret, no one, not even God could see them, for they believed God had forsaken the land. More to come.
This was a Sumerian/Babylonian god who is said to have died and gone into the underworld. Because of this, all vegetation died. This god was said to die during the winter months and during extremely dry periods. Whoever this was, it amounted to nature worship. The women weeping was part of the worship of course, which signified their sorrow for this god’s departure to wherever he went.
Ezekiel might expect to see the people weeping over the city of Jerusalem and all the sins committed in it, but no. Joel 2:17. More to come.
The worship of the sun by the people of Judah certainly was not new. Josiah had done some previous reforming of sun worship. 2 Kings 23:11. Obviously, it had not been too successful a reform, for here it is in full bloom. Hence, we see Josiah’s reform was ineffective.
Here it is going on at the very gate of the temple in full view of everyone, including, figuratively, God. There are 25 men involved in this worship. This is possibly a reference to the 24 courses of the priests and the high priest. 1 Chronicles 24:7-18. Here are the priests of the Most High God with their backs to Him and His sanctuary, and their faces toward the rising of the sun to the east.
‘Don’t you think they deserve it?’ God asks the prophet. After all this, Ezekiel is maybe a little more convinced that judgement is deserved. So along with all the idolatry going on in the land, the people are also involved in violence; they are completely breaking God’s law. So, they will be punished.
‘They put a branch to their nose.’ This statement is a little obscure. Several ideas are put forward to explain the statement.
1. An alternative reading. ‘They put forth a stench before my nose.’
2. A sign of contempt and insult.
3. A reverent part of Sumerian sun worship.
Whatever it was, it certainly was not godly.