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Go to Bible: Ezekiel 8
“It came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month.” This is Ezekiel’s third revelation recorded in the book of Ezekiel (Cp. Ezek. 1:1-2; 3:16). It starts in Ezekiel 8:1 and ends in Ezekiel 11:25. The sixth year refers to the sixth year of the Babylonia Captivity, which started when Jehoiachin was king of Judah (2 Kings 24:14-16). Many scholars accept that this date is September 18, 592 BC. That makes this vision a little over 13 months later than Ezekiel’s first vision (see commentary on Ezekiel 1:1, “in the fourth month”). Thus, after Ezekiel got his first revelations, it was over a year before he received this vision.
“the elders of Judah sat before me.” These elders, like Ezekiel himself, had been carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar’s army (2 Kings 24:2-16). These elders, like king Jehoiachin of Judah himself, apparently had no formal authority in Babylon, but they had been recognized as leaders and elders among the Jews before the captivity and they were still recognized by the Jews in that capacity, so they did have a genuine influence among the Jewish exiles.
The fact that they came to Ezekiel’s house indicates that they recognized Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry, even if they did not believe everything he said. This delegation is different from the one in Ezekiel 14:1, which is designated as “the elders of Israel,” instead of “the elders of Judah.” They could have been many of the same elders, but the occasions were different.
The reason for the elders of Judah coming to Ezekiel is not stated, but it is logical to conclude that they came to hear a word from Yahweh about the situation in Judah and Jerusalem as well as any word from Yahweh about their situation and fate. That they wanted to know about Jerusalem may in part explain why it was at that time that the spirit being took Ezekiel on a multi-chapter tour of Jerusalem and the Temple there, and showed him the abominations that were going on there, and with such egregious abominations Yahweh could hardly bless and protect Jerusalem, Judea, and the people there.
“fell on me.” The word “fell” indicates a sudden and powerful revelation to Ezekiel. This included speaking loudly into Ezekiel’s ears (Ezek. 9:1). Ezekiel 6:1 and 7:1 simply said the word of Yahweh “came” to Ezekiel. But this revelation “fell” on him.(top)
“there was a form that had the appearance of a man.” The Hebrew words “fire” and “man” are very similar, but “man” fits the context and is properly preserved in the Septuagint. At some point the Hebrew text was improperly transmitted, which is why versions such as the KJV read “fire” and not “man.”
This mysterious figure is not specifically identified in this context, but the evidence in the text is that it is Yahweh Himself. A number of things support this. One of them is that this description of Yahweh is extremely similar to the description of Yahweh in Ezekiel 1:26-27. Also, the form of the man on the throne on top of the platform above the cherubim in Ezekiel 1:26-27 is described as being “the God of Israel” (Ezek. 10:20). Yahweh does appear as a man or man-like figure many times in the Bible (cp. Adam and Eve who heard His footsteps, Gen. 3:8; Abraham, Gen. 12:7; 15:1; 17:1; 18:1; Jacob, Gen. 28:13; Moses and the elders of Israel, Exod. 24:9-11; Samuel, (1 Sam. 3:10; Solomon (twice), 1 Kings 3:5; 9:2; 11:9; Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isaiah, Isa. 6:1-5; Ezekiel, (Ezek. 1:26-28; Daniel, Dan. 7:9-14; Amos, Amos 7:7; Stephen, Acts 7:56; and the Apostle John, Rev. 5:1-8. See commentary on Gen. 18:1).
Also, this spirit uses the first person, “I” or “me” when God is speaking, e.g., Ezekiel 8:6, 17. Also, this “man” refers to the Temple as “my sanctuary” (Ezek. 8:6). Also, the last verse in the chapter, Ezekiel 8:18, is similar to what God had said elsewhere (cp. Ezek. 5:11; 7:9). Also, the Spirit continues speaking in chapter 9, and commands spirit beings in their roles in the destruction of Jerusalem, and by 9:4 the speaker is Yahweh (Ezek. 9:1-4). Then in Ezek. 9:5 the speaker is again referred to as “he,” and Ezekiel identifies him with Yahweh, saying, “Oh, Lord Yahweh!” (Ezek. 9:8). Chapter 9 ends with a statement that is similar to many other places in the Old Testament where Yahweh says He will not spare but will punish people for their sins, and in the closing verse the angel scribe reports back to Yahweh that he has done as “you have commanded me.” The personal appearance of God is theologically referred to as a theophany.(top)
“the Spirit lifted me up.” Yahweh, who appeared to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8:2 in the form of a human, now forcibly picks him up and takes him in a vision from Babylon, where he lived as an exile in the Babylonian Captivity, to Jerusalem, to show him the abominations going on there. God took Ezekiel to Jerusalem in this vision even though Ezekiel was right in the middle of meeting with the elders of Judah that had been taken captive to Babylon. Ezekiel’s vision lasted from Ezekiel 8:3 to 11:24, but even though it was complex it must not have taken very long in actual time because the elders of Judah sat there the entire time, and when the vision ended Ezekiel told them about it (Ezek. 11:25).
“statue of jealousy.” Here in Ezekiel 8:3, God calls the idol the “statue of jealousy” and it makes God jealous. We are not told what god or goddess is represented by the statue, and that would not have mattered much because God detests all idols. Israel made a covenant with God on Mount Sinai that He would be their only God, so rightfully God is jealous that He is sharing Israel’s worship with an idol god. The priests, Levites, and many of the people had abandoned the Law of God in order to have this kind of idol at one of the gates into the temple.
It is because of idolatry like this among the priests and Levites that God showed Ezekiel that in the Millennial Kingdom the priests who live near the Temple and serve with Christ will not have been idolaters like these priests and Levites were (Ezek. 48:11).(top)
“the glory of the God of Israel was there.” The personal presence of Yahweh, surrounded by His bright glory, was now at “the entrance of the gate of the inner court [of the Temple] that looks toward the north” (Ezek. 8:3-4).
What we see in Ezekiel chapters 8-11 is God taking Ezekiel in a vision from Babylon to Jerusalem and showing Ezekiel some of what was happening there and why He must abandon His Temple and destroy Jerusalem. Then, when Ezekiel’s vision is over, he tells his vision to the elders back in Babylon (Ezek. 11:25).
When Ezekiel arrives in Jerusalem in the vision, God is already there, surrounded by His glory (Ezek. 8:4). Then God gives Ezekiel a personal tour around different places in the Temple and shows him all the idolatry and idols that are there. God had already told Ezekiel about all the sin and rebellion going on in Judah, and that He was going to go against it (Ezek. 5:8) and also that He would have to withdraw from Jerusalem and the people (Ezek. 5:11). But in Ezekiel 8 God personally shows Ezekiel some of what was happening in Judah, even in the Temple itself (Ezek. 8:5-17), and God says He will act in wrath (Ezek. 8:18).
Then, in Ezekiel 9:3, and repeated with a different emphasis in Ezekiel 10:4, God moves from His cherubim chariot-throne to the threshold of the Temple; the entrance to the Holy Place (chapters 9 and 10 can be very confusing if it is not recognized that 9:3ff and 10:4ff are speaking of the same event but with a different emphasis). At that point, the whole Temple is filled with the glory of God (Ezek. 10:4). In Ezekiel 9:1-11, the emphasis is on the spirit beings God summons to destroy Jerusalem. In contrast, Ezekiel 10:1-17 focuses on the role of God’s personal presence and the cherubim chariot-throne in the destruction of Jerusalem.
In Ezekiel 9:1-7 God moves to the threshold of the Temple at the entrance of the Holy Place. From there He faces and speaks to the spirit beings who were standing beside the great bronze altar that was in the inner courtyard of the Temple (Ezek. 9:2). God tells the one spirit being who had an inkhorn to mark those who groan over the abominations done in Jerusalem, and He tells the other spirit beings to destroy all the inhabitants of the city who do not have a mark (Ezek. 10:3-7).
After doing that, God left the threshold of the Temple and mounted His cherubim chariot-throne, and then traveled to over the far east gate of the Temple (Ezek. 10:18-19). Then God brought Ezekiel to the east gate and showed him evil men and told him to prophesy against them and Ezekiel does so (Ezek. 11:1-13). God closes Ezekiel’s vision by speaking to him about the hope of Israel: that the people of Israel will be regathered to the very soil of Israel, all the idols and ungodly things will be removed, that the people will have a new heart and new spirit, and God will be their God and the people will be God’s people (Ezek. 11:17-20). Then God traveled on His cherubim chariot-throne to over the top of the Mount of Olives and Ezekiel was brought back in his vision to the exiles in Babylon where the vision ended (Ezek. 11:23-24). Ezekiel then told his fellow exiles the vision he had had from God (Ezek. 11:25), but the Bible never tells us about when God leaves the Mount of Olives or where He goes after that. We do know there is no record of God coming back to His Temple when it was rebuilt when the exiles returned from Babylon or when it was remodeled by King Herod. The Bible tells us God’s glory will return from the east when the Messiah builds the Millennial Temple and rules the earth in righteousness (Ezek. 43:1-4).(top)
“in the direction of the north.” In the vision, Ezekiel was placed at the entrance to the gate from the inner court of the Temple that looks north, i.e., the north gate of the inner court (Ezek. 8:3). He was told to look north and when he did he saw the image of jealousy in the entrance to the gate. So we know from this information that in the vision Ezekiel was set down inside the inner court, not outside it. If Ezekiel was outside the gate he would have had to have looked southward to see an idol in the north gate.
“the Altar Gate.” The Hebrew is “the gate of the altar,” but that is unclear in English because the altar did not have a gate, the gate was roughly adjacent to the altar in the inner courtyard, so it was called “the Altar Gate.”
“image of jealousy.” This is a genitive of production, an image (an idol) that produced jealousy, that is, the idol made God jealous.(top)
“do you see what they are doing.” This is a rhetorical question. God is emphasizing the evil by formulating what He says as a question. He is building a case and showing Ezekiel why He has to leave His Temple.
“so that I must go far away from my sanctuary.” The last sight of Yahweh as He leaves His Temple and Jerusalem is Ezekiel 11:22-23, when He is over the Mount of Olives. We know He goes from there into the east, but exactly where we are not informed. In the Millennial Kingdom, He will come back to His Temple from the east (Ezek. 43:1-4).(top)
|Eze 8:7||- (top)|
“when I had dug through the wall, behold, a doorway.” Exactly what is happening here is unknown, in part because we do not know the exact location where the hole in the wall was, and in part because we do not know the exact construction of the Temple at this time. The Temple had storerooms between the Holy Place and Holy of Holies and the wall to the courtyard, so it is likely that Ezekiel dug into a wall that gave him entrance to a storage room on the outer wall of the Temple proper, and the room had been converted into a pagan cult center.(top)
|Eze 8:9||- (top)|
“engraved on the wall.” Since these detestable things and idols were engraved on the wall of a room in the Temple (or perhaps even the Temple sanctuary itself), only the priests and Levites would supposedly have ever seen them, but it seems that the priests had let other leaders in the Temple—the 70 elders mentioned in Ezekiel 8:11—against the Law of Moses.(top)
“seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel.” A parallel horror to the engravings and idols in a room of the Temple were these 70 men who were elders of Israel but not Levites or priests worshipping idols inside the Temple when the Law of Moses strictly forbade their being there. Thus, not only were the priests and Levites not doing their duty to keep the sanctity of the Temple, but the elders, who knew better, seem more than happy to elevate their status at the expense of the Law and worship idols in the Temple. The avarice of fallen man is such that it takes laws and people willing to enforce them to keep people civil and obedient.(top)
|Eze 8:12||- (top)|
|Eze 8:13||- (top)|
“the entrance of the gate of Yahweh’s house that was toward the north.” Exactly how this gate differed from the earlier north gate is not known. This gate may have been further west than the Altar Gate (Ezek. 8:3-5) and been adjacent to the Temple proper, not just the eastern part of the inner courtyard.(top)
|Eze 8:15||- (top)|
“into the inner court of the house of Yahweh.” Ezekiel had been in the inner court, but now he was directly in front of (east of) the Temple itself.
“with their backs toward Yahweh’s temple and their faces toward the east.” Yahweh resided in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies, between the cherubim and over the Mercy Seat, and the men could have been facing Yahweh and worshipping Him. Instead, they turned their backs on Yahweh and worshipped the sun from inside Yahweh’s Temple.(top)
“to my nose.” Here in Ezekiel 8:17, the ancient scribes deliberately changed “my nose” to “their nose” to avoid offensive theology, and because that change is reflected in the standard Hebrew text, many English versions read “their nose” instead of “my nose.” The ancient scribes emended (changed) the text occasionally to, in their minds, preserve the sanctity of God.
The custom of putting a twig to the nose has been lost in antiquity, and scholars are not sure of its significance. A possible parallel might be a base-relief of a Syrian king holding a flower to his nose as he worshipped the stars (ANEP 281). If that is the case, it may be that God is telling Ezekiel that the worship of idols in the Temple was so bold and arrogant that it was as if the people of Judah were putting a branch to His nose so that He could worship their idols too.
It seems that the meaning of the custom was lost by 250 BC, because the Septuagint does not translate the phrase but translates a possible meaning: “and behold, they are like those who mock” (the LXX using muktērizō, “to turn up the nose at; to mock” to make the point).
About the change to the Hebrew text, E. W. Bullinger writes: “The Massorah, i.e., the small writing in the margins of the standard Hebrew codices…consists of a concordance of words and phrases, etc., safeguarding the Sacred Text. A note in the Massorah against several passages in the of the Hebrew Bible states: ‘This is one of the Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim [Scribes]’, or words to that effect. Complete lists of these emendations are found in the Massorah of most of the model or standard codices of the Hebrew Bible, and these are not always identical; so that the number exceeds eighteen…” (Appendix 33, The Companion Bible).(top)
“though they cry out in my ears with a loud voice.” This seems cold of God, but actually it is not. God knows that when disaster strikes the people will not cry out to Him because they love Him and wish to repent of their sins, they will cry out to Him out of their selfish desire to save their lives and property.
“I will not listen to them.” God does not hear prayers simply because people pray. Everyone sins, but some people are prideful and unrepentant about their sin, and God will not listen to the prayers of wicked and unrepentant people; those prayers are an abomination to Him (Prov. 28:9). It is the prayer of a righteous person that accomplishes much (James 5:16). There are a number of verses that say God does not answer the prayers of the wicked (cp.Job 35:12-13; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 1:15; 59:1-2; Ezek. 8:17-18; Micah 3:4; Zech. 7:12-13; and James 4:3). God spoke to Jeremiah, who was alive at the same time as Ezekiel, and told him on three different occasions not to pray for Judah (cp. Jer. 7:16; 11:14, 14:11; see commentary on Jer. 7:16).
[For more on God not hearing the prayers of the wicked or honoring their sacrifices, see commentary on Amos 5:22].(top)