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Ezekiel 8

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Vision of Abominations in Jerusalem Abominations in the Temple Temple Visions
(8:1-10:25)
Ezekiel's Second Vision
(8:1-10:22)
A Vision of the Sins of Israel
    The Vision of Idolatry Idolatry in Jerusalem  
8:1-4 8:1-4 8:1-4 8:1-3 8:1
        8:2-6
      8:4-5  
8:5-6 8:5-12 8:5-6    
      8:6  
8:7-13   8:7-13 8:7-12 8:7-13
  8:13-14   8:13-14  
8:14-15   8:14-15   8:14-15
  8:15-16   8:15-16  
8:16-18   8:16-18   8:16-18
  8:17-18   8:17-18  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND STUDY TO CHAPTERS 8-11

A. Chapters 8-11 are one literary unit (cf. 8:1 and 11:24).

 

B. This section occurs fourteen months after Ezekiel's original vision of God by the River Chebar; compare 1:1-3 with 8:1 (August-September 592 b.c.).

 

C. This is a literary unit which encompasses a vision of Ezekiel's of the abominations that were occurring in the Temple in Jerusalem. Commentators have been divided on whether this was simply a vision ("brought me in the visions of God," 8:3; also especially 11:24) or that he was physically transported to Jerusalem ("lifted me up between earth and heaven," 8:3). The details of both the Temple and the people involved are very specific.

 

D. Much of this flagrant idolatry can be attributed to the influence of King Manasseh (cf. II Kings 21), also notice King Josiah's reform in II Kings 23.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:1-4
 1It came about in the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month, as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell on me there. 2Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. 3He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located. 4And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain.

8:1 "It came about in the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month" This day relates to the exile of the Davidic seed (Jehoiachin) from Jerusalem to Babylon (cf. 1:2). Ezekiel uses this dating reference throughout his book (cf. 1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1,17; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1,17; 33:21; 40:1). This same dating reference is also seen in II Kgs. 25:27; Jer. 52:31.

▣ "with the elders of Judah sitting before him" This shows that the symbolic physical positions of 4:4-8 did not last all day and all night.

The "elders" were local tribal or clan leaders. This meant they were the civil leadership of towns, villages, and communities. They dealt with individual Israelites on a local level. Here they are the tribal leaders from Judea who have been exiled by Nebuchadnezzar to an exilic community by the canal Chebar. The fact that the elders would come and consult with Ezekiel shows his reputation (i.e., "sitting before me"). What a contrast between the elders of Judah, who would seek God's counsel from Ezekiel, and the elders of the House of Israel, who are committing idolatry in the temple and at home in 8:7-13.

▣ "the hand of the Lord God fell on me there" Notice the anthropomorphic language (see Special Topic at 1:3). Apparently YHWH's revelations came at different times and at different places. The exact nature and mechanism of divine inspiration is uncertain, but the reality is certain (cf. 1:3; 3:14,22; 33:22; 37:1; I Kgs. 18:46; II Kgs. 3:15; Isa. 8:11; Jer. 15:17). God has revealed Himself and His will to certain human instruments and through them to generations of believers. See Special Topic at 37:1.

8:2 Although this appearance (BDB 909) is very similar to the description of anthropomorphic deity in 1:26, 27, this verse seems to describe angelic agency (typical of apocalyptic literature).

The MT has "a form that had the appearance of fire." The term "fire" (BDB 77) is repeated later in the verse. The Septuagint translates a similar Hebrew word "man" (BDB 35).

1. Man - איש

2. Fire - אש

 

▣ "fire" See note at Ezek. 1:27.

▣ "brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal" See note at Ezek. 1:4,27.

8:3 "He. . .the Spirit" The angelic being is parallel or equated with the Spirit (cf. 3:12; 11:1). Often the Spirit (BDB 924) represents YHWH's presence. In this case the Spirit, in conjunction with the angelic being, transports the prophet (cf. I Kgs. 18:12; II Kgs. 2:16; Ezek. 3:12,14; 8:3; 11:24; 37:1; possibly Acts 8:26-27,39). See notes at 2:2.

"lifted" The verb (BDB 669, KB 724) is used in

1. v. 3 - Qal imperfect, Ezekiel is lifted, cf. 3:12,14; 11:1,24; 43:5

2. v. 5 - Qal imperative, Ezekiel is commanded to lift his eyes

3. v. 5 - Qal imperfect, he lifts his eyes

 

▣ "in the visions of God" "Visions" (BDB 909) is a means of receiving divine revelation (cf. Gen. 46:2; Num. 12:6; I Sam. 3:15; Dan. 10:16; Ezek. 1:1; 8:3; 40:2). Whether this involved

1. sight (cf. vv. 2,4,5,6,7,10,11)

2. hearing (cf. vv. 5,6,8,9,12)

3. mental images (cf. vv. 3,4,7)

is not always clear. See note at the beginning of the chapter, C.

▣ "to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court" This gate is called the Altar Gate in v. 4. We learn from Lev. 1:11 that this was the place of sacrifice. It was known as the royal entrance because it faced the palace of the king.

▣ "the idol of jealousy" There has been much discussion as to the exact nature of this idol or image (BDB 702). Idolatry caused a powerful reaction from YHWH (cf. Exod. 20:3-4)! Jealousy (BDB 888) is a word of deep passion. It is obvious that the idol had a prominent place at the entrance to the Temple of YHWH (cf. vv. 3,5; Jer. 7:30; 32:34). Some have supposed that because of II Kings 21:3,7; 23:6 that it was the carved image of Ashtoreth, the female fertility goddess. If so, this reflected Canaanite idolatry. Others supposed it was a statue of a temple guardian (i.e., lion, sphinx), if so, then Babylonian idolatry.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

8:4 The portable throne chariot of God that Ezekiel saw in Babylon (cf. 1:26-28) was also present in the temple.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:5-6
 5Then He said to me, "Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north." So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance." 6And He said to me, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But yet you will see still greater abominations."

8:6 "great abominations" This term (BDB 1072) is used in this literary unit in 8:6 (twice),9,13,15,17 and 9:4; 11:18,21. See Special Topic at 5:11.

NASB"that I would be far from My sanctuary"
NKJV"to make Me go far away from My sanctuary"
NRSV"to drive Me far from My sanctuary"
TEV"drawing me farther and farther away from my holy place"
NJB"to drive Me out of my sanctuary"

The verbal (BDB 934, KB 1221, Qal infinitive construct) expresses the reason for YHWH's departure (cf. 11:22-23) from the temple, which He promised never to leave (cf. II Sam. 7:13,16, but Jeremiah saw this as future, cf. Jer. 33:17,21).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:7-13
 7Then He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. 8He said to me, "Son of man, now dig through the wall." So I dug through the wall, and behold, an entrance." 9And He said to me, "Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here." 10So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around. 11Standing in front of them were seventy elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them, each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising. 12Then He said to me, "Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, 'The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.'" 13And He said to me, "Yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing."

8:7 "a hole in the wall" This implies that this particular idolatry was done in secret by the leaders of the people.

8:8 "now dig through the wall" This verb (BDB 369, KB 365) is used twice.

1. Qal imperative

2. Qal imperfect

It is uncertain how "the hole" of v. 7 is related to the new hole of v. 8, dug by Ezekiel. The first may have been a secret entrance for the idolaters (cf. vv. 11-12) and the second an access hole for Ezekiel to view the abominations occurring there (cf. vv. 10-13).

8:9 "Go in and see" These are both Qal imperatives.

1. BDB 97, KB 112, cf. v. 10

2. BDB 906, KB 1157, cf. v. 11

 

8:10 "every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things" This may relate to the worship of animals as reflected in Egyptian idolatry (cf. Exodus 32, a golden calf, later copied at the temples in Bethel and Dan). For Israel, they were to make no image of these unclean (cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14) animals (cf. Deut. 4:18). These prohibitions were to isolate Israel from Canaanite worship. Much of the Levitical legislation is for this purpose.

▣ "were carved on the wall all around" The verb (BDB 348, KB 347, Pual participle) means "to carve" (cf. I Kgs. 6:35 or "scratch" cf. Ezek. 4:1). In Ezek. 23:14 it may refer to wall painting.

8:11 "seventy elders of the house of Israel" "The house of Israel" parallels "the house of Judah." It also shows the number 70 (cf. Exod. 24:1; Num. 11:16,25) of the elders (cf. 7:26) involved in this idolatry. This would symbolize all of Israel's leadership. Seventy is a round number denoting fullness.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE

"Jaazaniah the son of Shapan" This shows the radical influence of idolatry when one of the well known leaders was involved in it (cf. 11:1). Shapan is a name related to the court leaders of Josiah (cf. II Kings 22; II Chronicles 34; Jeremiah 36), but the connection is uncertain. Possibly his name is meant to convey that the political leadership at the highest levels was involved.

8:11 "each man with his censer in his hand, and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising" They were all personally involved in the idolatrous rituals.

NASB, NRSV"fragrance of the cloud of incense rising"
NKJV"a thick cloud of incense went up"
TEV"smoke was rising from the incense"
NJB, REB"rose a fragrant cloud of incense"

The Hebrew term (BDB 801 II) is found only here in the OT. The same consonants mean (1) pray, (2) worshiper, (3) abundant, and (4) a place name in Josh. 15:42. BDB suggests "odor," but also possibly "smoke" (which is a symbol of prayer rising to God).

8:12 "each man in a room with its carved images" Not only were these leaders participating in cultic idolatry in the temple, but they had made local or individual shrines in their own homes (or alcoves of the temple). It is uncertain if this represents corporate worship or individual worship or both.

▣ "they say" There is a series of excuses and words found in the book of Ezekiel (cf. 8:12; 9:9; 11:3, 15; 12:22, 27; 18:2,25; 33:10, 24, 30; 35:12; 37:11). This is similar to Paul's use of diatribe in Romans.

▣ "‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land'" These comments cast aspersions on God's knowledge and His covenant promises! They were repudiating the character of YHWH (cf. Gen. 3:1-7)! These men had reacted theologically to the deportations of artisans and leaders from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 596 b.c.

8:13 "yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing" This becomes a repeated refrain (cf. v. 15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:14-15
 14Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15He said to me, "Do you see this, son of man? Yet you will see still greater abominations than these."

8:14 "women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz" See a good, brief article in James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 299-300. This reflects the Babylonian idolatry of the Sumerian agricultural god who died and rose every year. Obviously he became the fertility god of the Babylonians. He is known in Babylon as Dumuzi, Consort of Ishtar (cf. Isa. 17:10,11). He is known in Greece as Adonis, which is very similar to the Egyptian Osiris. This was the male lover of Aphrodite who was killed by wild boars and sent to the underworld each year for six months. The women wept to identify with Aphrodite, who wept at the loss of her lover during the winter. August to September (cf. v. 1) would have started this cycle. Possibly the worship of Babylonian gods shows that it had already conquered Israel spiritually!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:16-18
 16Then He brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun. 17He said to me, "Do you see this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose. 18Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them."

8:16 "twenty-five men" There may be some purposeful symbolism related to the identity of these different groups.

1. The 70 elders and the son of Shapan seem to represent the civil leadership.

2. The women seem to represent the general public.

3. The twenty-five men may represent priests (i.e., the High Priest and the priests from David's day).

If so, then all segments of Israeli society were actively involved in idolatry at the temple (the place YHWH symbolically dwelt).

▣ "with their backs to the Temple of the Lord and their faces to the east. . .toward the sun" The last mentioned Canaanite idolatry was the worship of the sun (i.e., Deut. 4:19; 17:3; II Kgs. 23:5,11; Jer. 8:2). The worship of the sun is also illustrated by the names of cities: (1) "Beth Shemesh" ["House of the sun," cf. Josh. 15:10; 21:16; Jdgs. 1:33]; (2) "En-shemesh" ["fountain of the sun," cf. Josh. 15:7; 18:17]; and (3) "Mount Heres" ["mount of the sun," cf. Jdgs. 1:35]). It is ironic symbolism that as they faced the sun they turned their back on the Lord. This sun worship was rampant all over the Ancient Near East, but particularly in Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, and later in Persia (cf. II Kgs. 23:11, also the later winged sun disk of Zoroastrianism).

8:17 "provoked Me repeatedly" The verb (BDB 494, KB 491, Hiphil infinitive construct) is regularly used of provoking YHWH to anger by committing idolatry (cf. Deut. 4:25; 9:18; 31:29; 32:16; I Kgs. 14:9,15; 16:7,33; 22:54; II Kgs. 17:11,17; 21:6; 23:19; Jer. 25:6,7; 32:30; 44:8; Ezek. 16:25).

▣ "for behold they are putting the twig to their nose" There have been several theories concerning this phrase: (1) we have found this (i.e., a flowered stem held to the nose) as an act of sun worship in Assyrian bas reliefs (which fits this context best); (2) the early rabbis and later Kimchi and Rashi say it relates to God's nose and thus the stench of idolatry that rose to Him; or (3) it is a sign of contempt and mockery of God (i.e., LXX, Strabo [historian], cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1118).

8:18 See note at 7:4.