Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This eighth chapter begins a new stage of Ezekiel's prophecies and
continues to the end of the eleventh chapter. The connected visions at
comprehended Judah and Israel; but the visions
refer immediately to Jerusalem and the remnant of Judah under Zedekiah,
as distinguished from the Babylonian exiles.
1. sixth year--namely, of the captivity of Jehoiachin, as in
the "fifth year" is specified. The lying on his sides three hundred
ninety and forty days
(Eze 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
elders--namely, those carried away with Jehoiachin, and now at the
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
(Eze 33:30, 31).
It was so ordered that they were present at the giving of the prophecy,
and so left without excuse.
hand of . . . Lord God fell . . . upon
me--God's mighty operation fell, like a thunderbolt, upon
it is less forcible, "was upon him"); whatever, therefore, he is to
utter is not his own, for he has put off the mere man, while the power
of God reigns in him [CALVIN].
2. likeness--understand, "of a man," that is, of Messiah, the Angel
of the covenant, in the person of whom alone God manifests Himself
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. The "brightness . . . upward" betokens
His unapproachable majesty
For Hebrew, eesh, "fire," the Septuagint, &c., read
ish, "a man."
colour of amber--the glitter of chasmal
3. 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 report to them what he
witnessed: his message thus falls into two parts: (1) The abominations
(2) The dealings of judgment and mercy to be adopted towards the
impenitent and penitent Israelites respectively
The exiles looked hopefully towards 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 possessions of the land
Hence the vision here of what affected those in Jerusalem immediately
was a seasonable communication to the exiles away from it.
door of the inner gate--facing the north, the direction in which he
came from Chebar, called the "altar-gate"
it opened into the inner court, wherein stood the altar of burnt
offering; the inner court
was that of the priests; the outer court
that of the people, where they assembled.
seat--the pedestal of the image.
image of jealousy--Astarte, or Asheera (as the Hebrew for "grove"
ought to be translated,
2Ki 21:3, 7; 23:4, 7),
set up by Manasseh as a rival to Jehovah 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
Phœnician Baal. HAVERNICK thinks all the
scenes of idolatry in the chapter are successive portions of the
festival held in honor of Tammuz or Adonis
Probably, however, the scenes are separate proofs of Jewish idolatry,
rather than restricted to one idol.
provoketh to jealousy--calleth for a visitation in wrath of the
"jealous God," who will not give His honor to another (compare the
JEROME refers this verse to a statue of Baal,
which Josiah had overthrown and his successors had replaced.
4. The Shekinah cloud of Jehovah's glory, notwithstanding the
provocation of the idol, still remains in the temple, like that which
Ezekiel saw "in the plain"
(Eze 3:22, 23);
Eze 10:4, 18
did it leave the temple at Jerusalem, showing the long-suffering of
God, which ought to move the Jews to repentance.
5. gate of . . . altar--the principal avenue to the altar of burnt
offering; as to the northern position, see
Ahaz had removed the brazen 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 before God's own altar enhances the heinousness of the
6. that I should go far off from my sanctuary--"that I should
(be compelled by their sin to) go far off from my
the sure precursor of its destruction.
7. door of the court--that is, of the inner court
the court of the priests and Levites, into which now others were
admitted in violation of the law [GROTIUS].
hole in . . . wall--that is, 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.
8. dig--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, practising them in secret places where they shrank from
the light of day [FAIRBAIRN],
But compare, as to the literal introduction of idolatries into
Jer 7:30; 32:34.
10. creeping things . . . beasts--worshipped in Egypt; still found
portrayed on their chamber walls; so among the Troglodytæ.
round about--On every side they surrounded themselves with incentives
11. seventy men--the seventy members composing the Sanhedrim, or
great council of the nation, the origination of which we find in the
seventy elders, representatives of the congregation, who went up with
Moses to the mount to behold the glory of Jehovah, and to witness the
secret transactions relating to the establishment of the covenant;
also, in the seventy elders appointed to share the burden of the people
with Moses. How awfully it aggravates the national sin, that the
seventy, once admitted to the Lord's secret council
should now, "in the dark," enter "the secret" of the wicked
those judicially bound to suppress idolatry being the ringleaders of
Jaazaniah--perhaps chief of the seventy: son of Shaphan, the scribe
who read to Josiah the book of the law; the spiritual privileges of the
increased his guilt. The very name means, "Jehovah hears," giving the
lie to the unbelief which virtually said
"The Lord seeth us not," &c. (compare
Ps 10:11, 14; 50:21; 94:7, 9).
The offering of incense belonged not to the elders, but to the priests;
this usurpation added to the guilt of the former.
cloud of incense--They spared no expense for their idols. Oh, that
there were the same liberality toward the cause of God!
12. every man in . . . chambers of . . . imagery--The elders
("ancients") are here the representatives of the people, rather than to
be regarded literally. Mostly, the leaders of heathen 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, &c., 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 portrayed
Lord . . . forsaken . . . earth--They infer this because God has left
them to their miseries, without succoring them, so that they seek help
from other gods. Instead of repenting, as they ought, they bite the curb
14. 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.
sat--the attitude of mourners
Tammuz--from a Hebrew root, "to melt down." Instead of
weeping for the national sins, they wept for the idol. Tammuz (the
Syrian for Adonis), 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 for his
return to the earth; the former feast being called "the disappearance
of Adonis," the latter, "the finding of Adonis." This Phœnician
feast answered to the similar Egyptian one in honor 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 Jehovah.
15, 16. 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 Jehovah,
between the porch and the altar, where the priests advanced only on
twenty-five men (the leaders of the twenty-four courses or orders of
1Ch 24:18, 19,
with the high priest, "the princes of the sanctuary,"
representing the whole priesthood, as the seventy elders represented
the people, stood with their backs turned on the temple, and their
faces towards the east, making obeisance to the rising sun (contrast
Sun-worship came from the Persians, who made the sun the eye of their
god Ormuzd. It existed as early as Job
Josiah could only suspend it for the time of his reign
(2Ki 23:5, 11);
it revived under his successors.
16. worshipped--In the Hebrew a corrupt form is used to express
Ezekiel's sense of the foul corruption of such worship.
17. put . . . branch to . . . nose--proverbial, for "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 towards one's neighbor, "they have returned"
(that is, they turn back afresh) to provoke Me by violations of the
first table [CALVIN].
Rather, they held up a branch or bundle of
tamarisk (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," that is, with the effect of rousing
My anger (of which the Hebrew is "nose") to their ruin.
18. though they cry . . . yet will I not hear--