1 “And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the
fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of
Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon
me.” And it came to pass, etc. We begin with a fresh date. One year
and one month had passed since the vision of Chebar, and had been
occupied partly by the acted, partly by the spoken, prophecies of the
preceding chapters. In the mean time, things had gone from bad to worse
rampant, and had found its way even into the temple. It is probable that
tidings of this had reached Ezekiel, as we know that frequent
communications passed between the exiles and those they had left behind
(Jeremiah 29:1-3, 9, 25). Directly or indirectly, Elasah the son of
Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah. may have conveyed a
message, orally or written, from Jeremiah himself. Some such report may
have led to the visit from the elders of
term the exiles of Tel-Abib. I venture, however, on the conjecture that
possibly those who came to the prophet were actually visitors who had
thus came are described as “elders of
“they of the Captivity” (ch. 3:15). In either case, the visions
that follow gain a special significance. The prophet becomes the seer. It is
given to him to know, in a manner which finds a spurious analogue in the
alleged mental traveling of the clairvoyant of modern psychology, what is
passing in the city from which the messengers had come — and to show
that he knows it. With such facts before his eyes, what other answer can
there be than that EVIL MUST MEET ITS DOOM? And so we pass into
the second series of prophecies which ends with ch.13:23. It would seem as
if the enquirers had kept silent as well as the prophet. We are not told that
they asked anything. His look and manner, perhaps also attitude and
gesture, forbade utterance. The hand of the Lord — the trance state —
was in the act to fall on him (see notes on ch. 3:14, 22). When the
trance state was over, we may think of him as reporting and recording
what he had thus seen in vision.
2 “Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the
appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins
even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the color of
amber.” I beheld, and lo a likeness, etc. The vision opens with a
theophany like that of ch. 1.; but here, as there, Ezekiel uses the word
which emphasizes the fact that what he had seen was but a “likeness” of
the ineffable glory, an image of the Unseen. (For “amber,” see ch.1:4, 27.)
In this case we note the absence of the cherubic figures. It is
simply the “appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah,” seen now
in the glow of fire, without the milder, more hopeful brightness of the
rainbow (ch. 1:28).
A Revelation of Fire (v.2)
The prophet is visited with a series of new visions under fresh
circumstances. No longer walking among the weeping captives by the
now in his own house receiving a deputation of Jewish leading men, who
have evidently been impressed by his earlier prophecies, and who have
come to consult him on the condition and prospects of his nation, when he
is seized with an inspired rapture. The house and the visitors melt away
from his consciousness, and there in the very presence of these waiting and
astonished guests the prophet’s eyes are opened to a vision of God, and he
is carried in imagination to scenes of sin and shame in the temple at
Truly the Spirit breatheth where it listeth. God may visit a soul in company
as well as in solitude, in the home as well as in the temple or in the
seclusion of nature. HE IS EVER PRESENT! The only question in —
When and how will the veil be lifted?
that is here portrayed. Not that man at any time can see God with the
outward eye, for flesh cannot see spirit. But in vision and representative
form God now manifests Himself to Ezekiel.
Ø The vision of God precedes the revelation of truth. It was usual
for this great seer of visions, Ezekiel, to have a new series of revelations
opened by some overwhelming manifestation of God’s presence. The
same occurred with John’s visions in the Apocalypse. We must know
God before we can understand Divine truth. The vision of God in the
soul must come first. Then truth can be seen in his light.
Ø The vision of God precedes the revelation of man. Ezekiel is about to
see awful sights of sin. He must first behold the pure fire of God’s
presence. We cannot know man till we see him in the light of God. The
Bible that gives us our highest knowledge of God also gives us our
Deepest insight into man. Vague ideas of God lead to LIGHT
THOUGHTS OF SIN! When about to visit the haunts of wickedness,
the Christian should first come into communion with God. This will
help him to see the horror of sin, to keep himself from contamination,
and to feel the right commiseration for the fallen.
human shape, but in one of fire — burning flames below, brilliant radiance
Ø The fire below suggests WRATH AGAINST SIN. “Our God is a
consuming Fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Christ came to baptize with fire,
and to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12).
There is a righteous indignation against sin, the lack of which would
mean moral feebleness. God burns to consume all evil.
Ø The brightness above suggests THE SUPREME GLORY OF GOD.
The crowning characteristic of God is not wrath. Above the fire is
the serene radiance. There is terror in the holiness of God when this
touches the sin of man. Yet God Himself is supremely calm and
beautiful. If we can rise from the flaming wrath about His feet,
and behold the beauty of His countenance, we shall see on it the
expression of eternal goodness.
3 “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine
head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and
brought me in the visions of God to
gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of
jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.” The form of an hand (compare
ch.2:9; Daniel 5:5). For the mode of transit, see Bel and the Dragon, v. 36
(a book of the Apocrypha that is included as chapter 14 of Daniel in the
Douay Bible) as probably a direct imitation. The touch of the “hand”
was followed by the action of the Spirit, in visions which he knew to
be more than dreams, visions that came from God (compare ch.1:1; 40:2).
The word is not the same as that commonly used by Daniel (chazon), and
often by Ezekiel himself (ch. 7:13; 12:22-23, et al.), but mareh, which
implies a more direct act of intuition. The word appears again in ch. 11:24;
43:3, and in Daniel 8:26-27, et al. To the door of the gate, etc. From the
first we trace the priest’s familiarity with the structure of the temple. He is
brought, as it were, after his journey in the spirit, to the door of the gate
of the inner court that looketh towards the north (Revised Version).
This is identified in v. 5 with the “gate of the altar.” It may probably also
be identified with the “upper gate” of ch. 9:2; the “high gate” of
Jeremiah 20:2; the “higher gate” of II Kings 15:35, built by Jotham;
the “new gate” of Jeremiah 36:10. Obviously it was one of the most
conspicuous portions of the temple, where the people gathered in large
numbers. And here the prophet sees what he calls the image of jealousy.
The words that follow probably give his explanation of the strange phrase,
not found elsewhere, though it might naturally be suggested by
Deuteronomy 32:16, 21; Psalm 78:58. What this image was we can
only conjecture. The word for “image” is a rare one, and is found only here
and in Deuteronomy 4:16; II Chronicles 33:7, 15. It may have been
the Asherah (the “grove” of the Authorized Version), or conical stone,
such as Manasseh had made and placed, with an altar dedicated to it, in the
house of the Lord (II Kings 21:3; II Chronicles 33:3), or one of
Baal, or of Ashtaroth, or even of Tammuz (see v. 14). As the word
“grove” does not occur in Ezekiel, it may be sufficient to state that the
Ashera was a pillar symbolical either of a goddess of the same name, or, as
some think, of the Phoenician Astarte. The worship seems to have first
become popular under Jezebel (I Kings 18:19), and took deep root
been connected with the foulest licence, like that of the Babylonian Mylitta
(Herod., 1:199; Baruch 6:43). The work of Josiah had clearly had but a
temporary success, and the people had gone back to the confluent
polytheism of the reign of Manasseh. In such a state of things the worst
The Image of Jealousy (v. 3)
Ezekiel in vision imagines himself plucked up by a lock of hair and carried
from the land of his exile back to
abominations that are being practiced in the
sacred enclosure he sees an idol that provokes the jealousy of the true God.
God has been grossly misapprehended. It has been taken as meaning that
God was regarded as narrow, self-seeking, or harsh. Such criticisms reveal a
total misapprehension of the Old Testament position, according to which
the jealousy of God is a necessity of His nature and righteousness.
Ø A necessity of God’s nature. There is but ONE GOD who fills all
things. When He is represented as jealous, this cannot be because
He grudges a certain amount of honor to a rival — as Zeus might
be jealous of Apollo — for GOD HAS NO POSSIBLE RIVALS!
The supposed rivals are not gods at all. The worship of them is the
worship of empty names. God is calling men back from delusion
to fact when He is jealous of heathenish worship.
Ø A necessity of righteousness. Forsaking Jehovah for false gods is not
merely leaving one deity for another, nor even only turning aside to
vanity and a delusion. It is turning from holiness TO SIN! The
worship of God involves purity of heart and life; idolatry means a
lower moral life. For the sake of holiness God cannot endure the
lower worship. It might be said that God could be worshipped under
various names as “Jehovah, Jove, or Lord.” But if the lower forms of
worship involve false thoughts of God and evil practices in morals,
they are degrading and unendurable.
the place of God, sits on His throne, defiles His temple, usurps His Name
and authority and worship. Anything that works in this way is an idol, and
needs to be visited with the just indignation of God. Let us note some of
these “images of jealousy.”
Ø Pleasure. If men set pleasure first, guiding their lives by its gaudy
radiance, pleasure presides over the altar of their souls. “Love not
pleasure, love God,” says Carlyle; for the supreme love of the one
excludes the supreme love of the other. (One of the characteristics
of the end of time will be “Men will be…..lovers of pleasure more
than love of God” – II Timothy 3:4 – CY – 2014)
Ø Money. This idol of gold is the modern representative of
Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the plain of Shinar — a hard, helpless
idol, which the man who lives for money enshrines in the temple
of his soul.
Ø Earthly love. God does not require us to abandon human affection; on
the contrary, we cannot love God unless we love man, and we learn to
love God best through the exercise of human affections (I John 4:20).
But when a human affection is supreme and will not yield in submission
to the will of God, the object of it becomes an “image of jealousy.”
Ø Self-will. We may think we serve God and yet we may refuse to obey
Him, only working according to our own will. This also is idolatry.
Ø Fixed opinions. Instead of loving truth, we are tempted to love our
Own ideas; wishing them to be true, we are led to regard them as
such, and so to shut our minds against the correcting voice of Divine
revelation. All these images of jealousy are just so many embodiments
of SELF, the monster idol of the soul and rival of God. To cast out
these images we need the true Image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ,
to come and take possession of our hearts.
behold, the glory of the God of
the vision that I saw in the plain. 5 Then said he unto me, Son of man,
lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes
the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar
this image of jealousy in the entry.” And, behold, etc. In appalling contrast
with that “image of jealousy,” Ezekiel saw what he had not seen, as he first
became conscious that he was in the court of the temple — the vision of the
Divine glory, such as he had seen it on the banks of Chebar (ch.1:4-28). He
was to look first on this picture and then on that, and the
measured by that contrast.
6 “He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they
do? even the great abominations that the
committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but
turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.”
That I should go far off, etc. The lesson taught was that
already implied in the fact that the glorious vision had come to him from
the north (ch. 1:4). The temple was already as a God-deserted
shrine. His return to it now was but the coming of the Judge and the
Destroyer. We are reminded of the Μεταβαίνωμεν ἔντευθεν –
Metabainomen enteuthen - Let us depart hence), which was heard in the
darkness of the night before the later
led onward as through the successive stages of an inferno of idolatries.
7 “And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked,
behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now
in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.
9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations
that they do here.” To the door of the court. What follows suggests that the
prophet was led to the gate that opened from the inner to the outer court.
This was surrounded by chambers or cells (Jeremiah 35:4). The term for
“wall” (kir) is that specially used for the wall which encloses a whole group
of buildings (Numbers 35:4). Behold a hole in the wall. The fact was
clearly significant. The worship here was more clandestine than that of the
“image of jealousy.” We are not warranted, perhaps, in insisting on minute
consistency in the world of visions, but the question naturally arises —
How did the worshippers enter the chamber if Ezekiel had to enlarge the
hole in the wall in order to get in? We may surmise that the entrance from
the temple court had been blocked up all but entirely in the days of Josiah,
that the idolaters now entered it from without or through some other
chamber, while Ezekiel thinks of himself as coming upon them like a spy in
the dim distance of the covered passage through which he made his way.
10 “So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things,
and abominable beasts, and all the idols of
the house of
pourtrayed upon the wall round about.” Every form of creeping things.
The words obviously paint the theriomorphic
probably being prominent. The alliance between Jehoiakim and Pharaoh
(II Kings 23:33-35), and which Zedekiah was endeavoring to renew, would
naturally bring about a revival of that cultus. Small chambers in rock or
tomb filled with such pictured symbols were specially characteristic of it
Base Idolatry (v. 10)
Placed, as the children of
nations, they were exposed to a great variety of temptations.
Circumstances must sometimes have favored the influence of one nation,
sometimes of another. Commercial intercourse, political leagues,
matrimonial alliances, all had a share in determining which nation should
predominate in influencing the Jewish people. And it is certain that by such
influences the people were led into idolatries of different
the neighbor of
contact with the people who had been by Divine power delivered from her
hands. Probably some relics of Egyptian superstition lingered for
generations among the Jews, and it seems certain that efforts were made to
introduce the deities and idolatrous worship of
worshippers of Jehovah. This verse obviously refers to the practice of
Egyptian idolatry in the capital, and in the very temple courts.
Ø It was the worship of living creatures.
Ø And of the lowest forms of life. This we know to have been
of the religion of ancient
Ø It was the elevation of the creature above the Creator.
Ø It was the glorification of animal in preference to spiritual life.
Ø It manifested itself in the most irrational and indefensible forms
which so called religion could possibly assume.
Ø It lowered the worshippers to a moral level of degradation below
which it was scarcely possible to sink.
Ø They forsook the pure and elevating worship of the living and true God,
preferring the vile to the precious, the disgusting to the sublime.
Ø They acted in a manner contrary to all the lessons of their past history.
Ø They rebelled against the authoritative admonitions of the Lord’s faithful
prophets. In all these respects the Hebrew people were far more blamable
than the surrounding nations who had been trained in idolatrous practices,
and had never declined from a purer and nobler faith and worship.
11 “And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the
Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud
of incense went up.” Seventy men, etc. The number was probably chosen with
reference to the “elders” who had seen the Divine glory in Exodus 24:9-10.
The Sanhedrin, or council of seventy, did not exist till after the
Captivity. The number can scarcely have been accidental, and may imply
that the elders were formally representative. Another Jaazaniah, the son of
Jeremiah, appears in Jeremiah 35:3; yet another, the son of Azur, in
Ezekiel 11:1. If the Shaphan mentioned is the scribe, the son of
Azaliah, under Josiah (II Kings 22:3), the father of Ahikam (Ibid. v.12),
of Elasah (Jeremiah 29:3), and of Gemariah (Ibid. ch.36:10-12), and the
grandfather of Gedaliah (Ibid. ch. 39:14, et al.), all of whom were prominent
in the reform movement under Josiah, or as friends of Jeremiah, and no other
Shaphan appears in history, the fact that one of his sons is the leader of the
idolatrous company must have had for Ezekiel a specially painful significance.
He could scarcely have forgotten the meaning of his name, “The Lord is listening,”
and probably refers to it in v. 12. As the climax of this chamber of horrors, the
seventy elders were all acting as priests, and were offering to their pictured idols
the incense which none but the sons of Aaron had a right to use, and which
they offered TO JEHOVAH ONLY!
12 “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the
ancients of the house of
chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD seeth us not; the
LORD hath forsaken the earth.” Every man, etc. And this, after all, was but
a sample of the prevalence of the Egyptian influence. Other elders had, in the dark,
a like adytum, a like chamber of imagery, like the Latin lararium, filled with a
like cloud of incense. And though the name of the leader of the band might
have warned them that the Lord was listening, they boasted, in their
blindness, that Jehovah did not see them; he had forsaken the temple, and
had gone elsewhere. They thought of Jehovah as of a local deity who had
abdicated. They were free to do as they liked without fear. The words are
worth noting further as the first of a series of popular half proverbs, in
which the thoughts of the people clothed themselves:
· The time “It is not near” - ch.11:3;
· “The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” – ch. 12:22;
· “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth
are set on edge.” - ch.18:2,
Away in them, how should we then live?” - ch.33:10;
our parts. – ch.37:11.
All these imply some personal knowledge of what was passing
Chambers of Imagery (v. 12)
Old men who should have been the guides of the younger generation were
found by the prophet to have their secret practices of idolatry in private
chambers, where they kept idols unknown to the world at large. Too
careful for their reputation to share in the open idolatry of the mass of the
people, these venerable hypocrites aggravated their guilt by cowardly
deception. Safely enclosed in the seclusion of their chambers of imagery,
they reveled in the orgies of a degrading idolatry, and then appeared in the
streets as sedate citizens. The shameful sin of this double living may be
practiced in other forms with another kind of chamber of imagery.
HEART. Children and poets are possessed of the most powerful
imagination; but even the dullest, most prosaic person is haunted with
visionary presences, though of the most common place order. When we
retire into ourselves, we unlock the door of our chamber of imagery and
look at its ghostly scenes. There hang the portraits of the past, some
blurred by the dust of years, others as clear as when they were first painted
by the flash of a keen experience; some distorted into painful, impossible
ugliness, others rounded into equally impossible perfection. There, too, are
vague shadows of the future. But the most important images are designs
and wishes, favorite fancies and pet ideas. These we embrace as friends;
before some of them, perhaps, we prostrate ourselves in idolatrous
worship. But happily we may also find there inspiring images of noble
deeds, the ideals we would strive to copy in actual life. We may have left
them too long in the dim chamber of imagery. We should bring them forth
and clothe them with the flesh and blood of living deeds, while the bad
images had better be crushed before they reach the doorway of utterance.
Lust is there, and adultery, covetousness, theft, hatred, and murder. So
long as a man restrains his utterance he is tempted to believe that it matters
not what he imagines. No greater delusion can be possible; for the true life
is that which is lived within. While in his chamber of imagery, a man is his
true self divested of the cloak of semblance which he wears when about in
the world. What images does he there delight to gaze upon? The true
character of the man will be determined by the answer to that question.
Certainly evil images may come there unsought and unloved as painful
temptations, and it is the duty of one who loves holiness to turn aside from
such. (You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep
him from building a nest in your hair – Chinese proverb – CY – 2014)
But the images delighted in reveal the true self. The wickedness there
planned and gloated over in evil thought is sin — a deed of the soul.
Ultimately it must come out in the life, for the imagination of the heart
colors the external conduct, Shakespeare says —
Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons,
Which, at the first, are scarce found to distaste,
But, with a little act upon the blood,
Burn like the mines of sulphur.”
TO WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CHAMBER OF IMAGERY. The old
see them, that He had forsaken the earth. This Ezekiel knew to be A
Ø God looks into the chamber of imagery. There is a window in every
soul, through which the eye of God gazes right down to the bottom
of its most secret thoughts. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
The cloak of hypocrisy is not as the thinnest veil between us and God.
Now, this is of supreme interest, because, while it does not very much
Matter what our fellow men may think about us, God’s thought of us
is ALL IMPORTANT!
Ø God will judge us for deeds done in the chamber of imagery.
Knowing all, He will not judge only by what the world sees.
Sins of the heart will be noted by God, and will bring down
upon us His just wrath, even though the hands have been clean
Ø The only effectual salvation must be ore that cleanses the chamber of
imagery. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” cries David, in the depth
of his penitence (Psalm 51:10, knowing that the outward sins he had
committed have sprung from the evil of his imagination. Therefore
nothing short of the new birth which Christ brings can save our souls.
Atheism (v. 12)
In the chambers of the temple courts the prophet in his vision beheld
seventy elders, representing the people of
idolatrous worship. The walls of the chambers were decorated with figures
of the animals to which homage was rendered. Those who by reason of
character and station should have been the leaders of the people in the
offices of pure religion were engaged in waving the censers of the
idolatrous worship, and the thick cloud of unholy incense filed the
chambers. As the prophet gazed appalled at this awful spectacle, the voice
of the Lord addressed him: “Hast thou seen what they do? They say, The
Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.” Here was the true
explanation of the defection of the Jews — leaders and common people
alike. It was atheism which led to idolatry. And atheism is far more
generally at the root of all evils in society than many superficial observers
are willing to allow.
professedly and openly atheists, who are such in reality. They may not cast
aside the Name of God, they may not openly repudiate the Law of God;
but in their hearts they believe not in Him. There may be recognized on
Ø Disbelief in the Lord’s omniscient observation of men. “They say,
The Lord seeth us not.”
Ø Disbelief in the Lord’s presence and activity. “They say, The Lord
hath forsaken the earth.” Whoever they may be who make these
assertions, and whatever their standing among their fellow men,
they are practically and really atheistic.
as that described should be without influence upon the moral nature and
Ø Atheism removes the restraints from sin which belief in the Divine
presence imposes. This is not the highest view to take of the question,
but it is a just one; and many natures are largely influenced by the
knowledge that AN ALL-SEEING GOD REGARDS ALL
THEIR WAYS AND THOUGHTS!
Ø Atheism removes the inspiration to goodness which belief in the
Divine presence furnishes. The knowledge that a holy and
omnipotent Father is ever with us, is ever ready to encourage and
assist us in all our endeavors to realize our highest ideal, must needs
be a factor of great importance in our spiritual life. Let this be
withheld or contradicted, and how much that is best must be
withdrawn along with it!
Among these Jews at
superstition and idolatry — no unusual conjunction.
Ø Very generally, atheism leads to self-indulgence and vice.
Ø And IT IS DESTRUCTIVE OF NATIONAL LIFE! Fidelity
to God is fidelity to principle, fidelity to society, fidelity to the
highest conception formed of human life. Infidelity to God
involves the opposite of all these virtues (especially abortion on
demand – CY - 2014), and abandonment to the life of interest,
of ease, of pleasure; it gives power to every temptation to sin,
to every evil tendency of society. Under its influence man sinks
to the merely animal life, and to such mental activity as
subserves that life.
APPLICATION. We are sometimes told that in speculative atheism there
is no great harm; that without belief in God men may be good citizens, and
may discharge honorably the several relationships of life. Without denying
that, in certain instances, the influence of Christianity may for a time abide
after Christianity itself has been abandoned, we have yet to look at the
proper and inevitable consequences of a general abandonment of belief in
God. We shall find these SO TERRIBLE, that we may well watch and pray
against the first loosenings of belief in the most fundamental and precious
of all truths.
13 “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see
greater abominations that they do. 14 “Then he brought me to the door
of the gate of the LORD’s house which was toward the north; and,
behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” Behold, there sat
women wailing for Tammuz. The point of view is probably the same as that of
v. 3, but the women were apparently in the outer porch of it, as he has to be
brought to the gate in order to see them. We are led to note two things:
we have the women who wove hangings for the Ashera (II Kings
23:7), those who had burnt incense to other gods, especially to the queen
of heaven (Jeremiah 44:9, 15-19), probably, i.e., to Ashtaroth. (Note
the had become leaders – see Isaiah 3:12)
the name Tammuz and does not meet us elsewhere in the Old Testament.
All interpreters, however, agree that it answers to the Adonis of Greek
mythology. So Jerome translates it, and expressly states (in loc.) that what
Ezekiel saw corresponded to the Adonis festivals. It may be enough to
state, without going into the details of the story, that Adonis, the beautiful
youth beloved of Aphrodite, was slain by a wild boar; that after his death
he was allowed to spend six months of each year with her, while the other
was passed with Persephone in Hades. The cultus thus became the symbol
of the annual decay and revival of nature; but the legend rather than the
inner meaning was in the thoughts of the worshippers. The emotions of
women poured themselves out in lamentations over the waxen image of the
beautiful dead youth who had perished in his prime, and in orgiastic joy
over his return to life.
well be quoted —
“Thammuz next came behind,
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer’s day;
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion’s daughters with like heat;
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,
His eyes surveyed the dark idolatries
The chief center of the Tammuz-Adonis
it spread widely over the shores of the
planting flowers in vases for forced cultivation, has been perpetuated by
Plato’s allusion to “the gardens of Adonis” as the type of transitoriness
(‘Phaedr.’ p. 376, b). Cheyne, following Lagarde, finds a reference to the
cultus in Isaiah 17:10; 65:3: 66:17. The festival of Ishtar and Tammuz
(or Tam-zi) at
a doubt, identical with the Hebrew Adonai (equivalent to “Lord”). Tammuz
has been explained as meaning “victorious,” or “disappearance,” or
“burning;” but all etymologies are conjectural. Lastly, it is not without
interest to note
overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz (‘Ep. ad Paul.’); and
corresponded to July. The festival seems to have been celebrated at the
summer solstice. The time of Ezekiel’s vision was in the sixth month, sc.
about the time of the autumnal equinox (see ‘Dict. Bible,’ art. “Tammuz”).
Mr. Baring-Gould, treating the legend as a solar myth, finds the old
Phoenician deity represented in
the “St. George of Merrie
(‘Curious Myths,’ pp. 277-316). An exhaustive monograph, “Tammuz
Adonis,” has been published by Liebrecht, in his ‘Zur Volkskunde’ (1879),
reprinted from the Zeitschrift Deutschen Morgen-Gesellschaft, vol. 17. pp.
Secret Sins (vs. 7-13)
“And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a
hole in the wall,” etc. In the case of “the image of jealousy” the idolatry of
the Israelites was open; in this case it is secret. In that the abominations
were committed by the house of
SECRET, These chambers of imagery, in which the elders of the house of
access. The secrecy with which their vile sins were committed is
graphically set forth in the text. “He brought me to the door of the court;
and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of
man, dig now in the wall,” etc. The idolatry practiced in these chambers
of imagery was the animal worship of the Egyptians. The prophet beheld
“every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of
the house of
spiritual degradation, and by its influence it increases that degradation. It is
fitly characterized as “the wicked abominations that they do.” Every thing
created, however good it may be in itself, becomes an abomination as soon as
it stands with man beside, or quite about, God. What a fall for the elders of
adoration of cattle and creeping things! And they must have felt the
wrongness of this, or they would not have so carefully striven to conceal it.
There are secret sins in the lives even of good men — sins of thought and
feeling that are hidden from our fellow men. Who could bear to have
everything that transpires in his mind and heart exposed to the gaze of
even his tenderest and best human friend; or, indeed, to any one except
the merciful and holy One?
“Or what if Heaven for once its searching light
Lent to some partial eye, disclosing all
The rude bad thoughts, that in our bosom’s night
Wander at large, nor heed Love’s gentle thrall?
“Who would not shun the dreary uncouth place?
As if, fond leaning where her infant slept,
A mother’s arm a serpent should embrace:
So might we friendless live, and die unwept.
“Then keep the softening veil in mercy drawn,
Thou who canst love us, tho’ thou read us true;
As on the bosom of th’ aerial lawn
Melts in dim haze each coarse ungentle hue.”
But the secret sins most analogous to those of the text are those which are
practiced willfully. Could we read the chambers of imagery in human hearts,
what pictures of sins tolerated, and even indulged in some, we should see,
while the lives present a fair exterior! Secret impurities, veiled dishonesties,
concealed jealousies and animosities, and hidden idolatries, would appear
before us in appalling shapes and colors, and perhaps in astounding numbers.
SECRETLY BY THOSE WHO ARE UNDER THE STRONGEST
OBLIGATIONS TO ESCHEW THEM. “And there stood before them
seventy men of
the ancients of the house of
“seventy men of the ancients,” compare Exodus 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16,
Ø The seventy elders may be viewed as representing the whole people, and
thus indicating the general corruption. In accordance with this view, the
entire nation is represented as having fallen from its high and holy calling
into this groveling superstition. And with comparatively few exceptions
the whole house of
Ø The seventy elders may be viewed as showing the corruption of those
who should have been most incorruptible. They were the
representatives and counselors of the people, and as such they were
morally bound by advice and example to have endeavored to keep
the people from idolatrous associations, and to have maintained in its
integrity the worship of the true God; yet they fell themselves into
abominable idolatries. More than once, persons standing highest in
religious position have been amongst the lowest in their real character.
Such was the case with the scribes and Pharisees during the time of
our Lord’s life upon earth (compare Matthew 23:13-33). Exalted
religious position or office is no guarantee of exalted spiritual excellence.
PRACTICAL ATHEISM. “For they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord
hath forsaken the earth.” Here is a twofold denial.
Ø Denial of the Divine observation of human life and conduct. “The
Lord seeth us not.” The attempt at concealment implies the fact that
they ignored the all-seeing eye. The practice of sin generally involves
the overlooking or ignoring of the presence and observation of God.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the
good” (Proverbs 15:3). Let this become a conviction, let it be realized
as a solemn fact, and sin would become an impossibility, at any rate
with most persons.
Ø Denial of the Divine interest in human life. “The Lord hath forsaken
the earth.” Their feeling seems to have been this: “God does not care for
us; he is indifferent to what we do, or what becomes of us.” “As He does
nothing for them, they must help themselves as well as they can.” This
practical atheism is the prolific parent of secret and other sins. If man
realized the deep concern of God for his well being, in that realization,
he would have a most effectual restraint from sin.
THE EARNEST CONSIDERATION OF THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS
OF GOD. “He said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations
that they do here .... Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen
what the ancients
of the house of
chambers of his imagery?” Thus the prophet was summoned to consider
the secret idolatries which were
being practiced by the elders of
important that the faithful servants of God should consider the existence
and practice of secret sins:
Ø To qualify them for battling with such sins. The reformer must become
acquainted with the full measure and force of the evils which he would
abolish, if he would succeed in his mission. And the physician, if he
would overcome disease, must know it in its inner workings as well as
in its outer manifestations. So also is it with him who would wage war
Ø To qualify them for estimating the righteousness of God’s treatment of
sinners. To appreciate how just and true He is in all His dealings with
men, it is necessary to consider the sins of mind and heart which are
committed against Him, as well as those of the tongue and hands.
ASSUREDLY BE MADE MANIFEST. God is perfectly acquainted with
every one of them. Our secret sins are set in the light of His countenance
(compare Psalm 90:8). The revelation to the prophet of the wicked
abominations practiced in the dark in the chambers of imagery, is
suggestive of the unveiling of all secret sins. (“All things are naked
and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” -
Ø In the present life circumstances sometimes arise which occasion the
revelation of hidden sins. Afflictions sometimes strip off the mask
from the face of the hypocrite. (“Some men’s sins aree open
beforehand, going before to judgment” – I Timothy 5:24). Or
the near approach of death leads to the acknowledgment of
concealed vice or crime.
Ø In the future life there will be an awful revelation of human character
and conduct. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with
every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil”
(Ecclesiastes 12:14). “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord
come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness,
and make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (I Corinthians 4:5).
Ø “Create in me a clean heart, O God;” (Psalm 51:10)
Ø “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (Ibid. ch. 19:12)
Ø “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
15 “Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee
yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and,
behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch
and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs
toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east;
and they worshipped the sun toward the east.” He brought me into the inner
court. The last and the worst form of desecration follows. It was the “inner court”
(Joel 2:17) which, after the exile, was entered only by the priests. During the
monarchy, however, it seems to have been accessible to kings and other persons of
importance, as in the case of Solomon (I Kings 8:22. 64; 9:25) in the
revolution against Athaliah (II Kings 11:4-15), and Hezekiah (Ibid. ch.19:14),
and Josiah (Ibid. ch.23:2). Ezekiel does not say that the men whom he saw were
priests, though the number twenty-five suggests that they were taking the place of
the high priest and the heads of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood
(I Chronicles 24:4-19), and so symbolized the whole order of the priesthood as the
seventy elders represented the laity. In II Chronicles 36:14 the chief of the priests is
spoken of as having been prominent in “polluting the house of the Lord.”
They were seen turning their backs to the
sanctuary. The very act was symbolical of their apostasy (Ibid. ch. 29:6; Isaiah 1:4;
Jeremiah 7:24). And they did this in order that they might look to the east and
worship the rising sun. That, and not the temple (Daniel 6:10), was the Kiblah
of their adoration. The sun worship here appears to have had a Persian character,
as being offered to the sun itself, and not to Baal, as a solar god. Of such a worship
we have traces in Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3; Job 31:26; II Kings 23:5, 11.
Greater Abominations (v. 15)
As Ezekiel is taken from one chamber of idolatry to another, in his visionary
visit to the temple, he finds to his horror a continuous aggravation of the
abominations. This is similar to the results of a survey of the world’s sin.
patristic statement that all sin is infinite, because it is an offence against the
infinite God, is not found in Scripture, nor is it borne out by observation or
experience. The Bible refers to various degrees of guilt; e.g. John 19:11.
Peter’s denial of Christ was a sin; but Judas’s betrayal was a vastly
greater sin. We are conscious of degrees of guilt in our own lives. It looks
as though the sink of iniquity must be a bottomless pit. There are even
deeper, blacker, more frightful and damnable sins yet to be reached by an
abandoned soul that plunges down an unchecked descent of iniquity. No
one is so bad that he can say, “I can do nothing worse than I have done.”
MEASURED BY EXTERNAL STANDARDS. They are not to be
determined by any graduated code of formal morality. What is a weakness
in one man may be a crime in another. The father of a starving family who
steals a loaf — like the hero of Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’ — is not to
be judged as the respectable promoter of rotten investments, who grows
rich on the ruin of thousands of helpless people. The miserable child of the
put into comparison with the son of a happy, prosperous Christian home.
There are hereditary tendencies to evil and peculiar circumstances of
temptation which beset certain people more than others. The degree of
guilt varies accordingly. We cannot weigh all these conditions. Hence the
advice, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
ABOMINATION. As Ezekiel went from one chamber to another, he came
upon a continually descending series of scenes of wickedness. The worst
were last. Sin is never at a standstill. It is a dark and turbid torrent that
SWELLS AND BLACKENS AS IT FLOWS! The man who begins with a
slight lapse from virtue is on the road to greater abominations. Herein is the
danger, the fatal insidiousness of evil. If the sinner saw the whole course of
his future from the first and at once — like Hogarth’s pictures of the ‘Rake’s
Progress’ — he would start back with horror. Yet while HE LINGERS
AND TOYS WITH SIN, it is silently coiling about him with more and
more direful entanglements. (The chains of sin are too light to be felt
until they are too strong to be broken!)
IS A REASON FOR SPEEDY REPENTANCE.
Ø All sin is abominable. One sin may be a greater abomination than
another, but the standard of measurement is not the depth below,
but the height above. The question is — How far have we fallen?
not — How much further may we yet sink away from the light?
A man’s sin is not one whit the less because his brother’s sin is
greater in guilt. (There is great danger in taking comfort because
everybody is doing it! - CY – 2014)
Ø The sooner we repent the easier it is to return. Sin hardens as it
becomes more aggravated in evil. While the light of God is waning,
the way of recovery is becoming more obscure. “Today is the
accepted time.” (Hebrews 4:7)
Ø It is possible for the greatest abomination to be forgiven. The
obstacle is only on one side. CHRIST CAN SAVE THE
WORST OF SINNERS!
Sun Worship (v. 16)
When Ezekiel, in his visionary visit to the temple, came upon the last scene
of horror, and beheld the greatest of all the abominations therein committed, he
saw twenty-five men performing rites of worship before the rising sun.
common, and perhaps also the most primitive, heathen cult. It was very
prominent in the ancient Egyptian religion — the rising, the midday, and
the setting sun being honored with separate names and rites; it was the
essential idea of the Canaanite Baal worship, as well as of the Babylonian
religion; and it lies at the heart of the Aryan mythology in Sanskrit, Greek,
and Teutonic forms. If any material object should be selected for worship,
it is natural that the earth’s great source of light, power, and life should be
the universal favorite. Our modern idolatries do not reach this material
form, but they contain the same ideas.
Ø The worship of light. This takes two forms.
o Aestheticism. Grace of form and tone are set up as supreme objects
of admiration, to the neglect of moral goodness.
o Science. This is put on a pinnacle as lord of all thought and life.
Now, knowledge is good, and all truth, which is the subject of
science, is in itself pure, and should be pursued by men. But the
exclusive cult of science is idolatry, because it is placing knowledge
o The worship of power. The sun is the great motive power of the
universe. Latent sun heat in coal drives our steam engines. Direct sun
heat lifts the water from the sea, that afterwards descends in
avalanches and mountain torrents. We do not prostrate ourselves
before the sun, the source of all this force, but we do magnify the
virtue of the power itself. Yet material resources are not the highest
o The worship of life. The sun is the great fertilizing influence of
nature. The return of its warm rays awakens nature from the death
of winter, and creates the new life of spring; its great heat makes the
tropics to teem with swift growing vegetable and insect life. The
most modern idolatry is the deification of the vital powers
(something like Mother Nature – CY – 2014) — the idea that, as
all natural instinct is pure, the indulgence of naturalism is
commendable. This is just the old Canaanite abomination.
o The worship of the future. The sun worshipper turned to the east
and hailed the sunrise. There is something fascinating and
exhilarating in this anticipation of the morning. Christianity
consecrates hope. But it is a mistake to believe in the future
as in a fate of coming good. The future can only be good
because GOD IS IN IT and blesses it.
Ø Departure from God. The sun worshippers stood with their backs
turned towards the temple. Their attitude was most significant.
All idolatry must be practiced with the back turned towards the
truly Divine. We cannot serve the false and the true one at
the same time.
Ø The degradation of God’s greatest works. The more beautiful and
powerful and fruitful the sun is seen to be, the more shameful is it
that men should degrade their thought of it into idolatry. When
we abuse God’s best gifts by idolizing them, we turn what should
occasion our deepest gratitude and admiration for God’s goodness
into an occasion for departing from Him.
Ø The consecration of sin. Sun worship began in adoration of the lord of
day. But it descended into gross licentiousness, through the selection of
the fertilizing power of sun heat as a special object of adoration. Thus
sun worship became the worship of lust. This will be the inevitable
effect of naturalism regarded as a religion. The worship of nature powers
pure and simple involves the consecration of the lowest of those powers,
so that what should be kept down as a slave claims to rule as a master,
with obscene effrontery.
ancient — is to be found in the revelation of One infinitely greater than
nature. No wonder men who had no vision of the spiritual God selected the
sun — so powerful in his southern splendor — as the greatest object of
adoration. But we have “the Sun of Righteousness,” before whose glory all
physical brightness grows pale and fades away.
17 “Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a
light thing to the house of
abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the
land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and,
lo, they put the branch to their nose.” For returned read, with the Revised
Version, turned again. The word seems chosen with special reference to the
attitude of the idol worshippers. It may be noted that even here the prophet
speaks not only of the idolatry of
down the judgments of Jehovah. (So also at the end of time – even now
violence is a factor not only in
city, with the shootings of the last month! So also in the days before the
Flood when God destroyed all mankind, except Noah and his family –
Genesis 6:11 – CY – 2014) Lo, they put the branch to their nose. The
opening word expresses the prophet’s burning indignation. The act
described probably finds its best explanation in 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 (Spiegel, ‘
3:571, 572, in Smend), so that the bright rays of the sun might not be
polluted by human breath. And this was
done in the very
by those who were polluting the whole land by their violence. The Septuagint
gives, as an explanation, ὡς μυκτηρίζοντες – hos muktaerizontes – put a
branch to their nose, as though the act was one of scornful pride (compare
Isaiah 65:5), the sign of a temper like that of the Pharisee as he looked upon
the publican (Luke 18:11). The word for “branch” is used in ch.15:2 and
Numbers 13:23 for a vine branch.
Making Light of Sin (v. 17)
sin” (Proverbs 14:9). This is a commonly observed fact.
Let us see how it is caused.
Ø As an attempt to excuse the sinner. This, of course, is the most
obvious and palpable reason why many people try to minimize
their own sin. The prisoner pleads “Not guilty” simply to save
himself. The same is done even before the private bar of a man’s
own conscience; for we wish to excuse ourselves to ourselves.
Thus there may be no conscious deception, no
hypocrisy. We may really persuade ourselves that we are not so
bad as we seem to be. The wish is father to the thought.
Ø By the force of habit. We grow accustomed to the worst
companions if we are much with them, as we scarcely notice
the ugliness of what is constantly with us, though strangers
would be struck with their first sight of it. So while we become
familiar with our sins, their supreme and most dreadful
wickedness ceases to affect us, as the fearful sight of mutilated
bodies ceases to affect hospital surgeons. The horror dies out
of the aspect of wickedness, and a look of familiarity takes its place.
Ø Through the influence of example. If a man stood alone in his sin, he
would he appalled at the singular horror of it. But he sees it reflected
in the lives of his neighbors, and, judging himself by the average
standard of society, instead of taking the Law of God for his
measure, he passes an easy sentence.
Ø In the deadening of conscience. This is the worst and the most
dangerous effect of sin. The sense for perceiving its guilt is blunted.
Until conscience is reawakened by the Spirit of God, no man truly
appreciates his own guilt.
“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue
in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little
thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience
conscience can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of
blindfolding the guide which I have chosen and then
knowing him to be blindfolded, I am guilty of the folly
of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.
Ø He sees it as it truly is. God is not deceived by our excuses. He sees
into the true nature of our thought and conduct with an all-searching
eye, and He is perfectly true and just to judge according to fact.
Ø God measures it by the law of holiness. He knows our weakness, our
ignorance, our temptation; and He does not judge men as He would
judge angels — of that we may be sure; for “shall not the Judge of
all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) But according as we have
light He will judge our conduct, measuring it against that light, and
not against the darkness of our neighbors. God cannot endure iniquity.
In His sight it is hideous and hateful and utterly deserving of
condemnation. Let us remember that we shall not be judged by man’s
standards of conventionality, but by God’s pure law of righteousness.
Ø If God forgives sin, He does not make light of it. Forgiveness is not
excusing evil. It recognizes the whole black guilt of it. Jesus who
brought free forgiveness denounced sin itself as no stern Hebrew
prophet had ventured to denounce it. In pardoning the penitent He
carefully noted that her sins were “many” (Luke 7:47). The publican
is commended for his humiliation in the confession of sin (Ibid. ch.
18:13). We can only judge of God’s horror of sin by the darkness and
OF HIS OWN SON! The great atonement of Christ was rendered
necessary because God could not make light of sin, though
He desired to save the sinner. We can be saved from our sin, not by
Making light of it, but when we fully confess its whole guilt and shame.
18 “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither
will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud
voice, yet will I not hear them.” The verse serves as a transition to ch. 9.
The unpitying aspec of the Divine judgments is again prominent. Such sins
deserved, and could only be expiated by, the judgments to which we now pass.
Man’s Provocations of God, and God’s Punishment of Man (vs. 14-18)
“Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which
was toward the north,” etc.
returned to provoke me to anger.” The sins mentioned in this paragraph
were not the only provocations of the Most High, as the words of the
clause imply. Professor Cheyne translates, “provoke me to anger again and
again.” And Ewald, “exasperated me repeatedly.” The various idolatries
and other sins committed by the people were so many provocations of the
Lord. But as to those mentioned in the text, notice:
Ø The foul idolatry of the women. “He brought me to the door of the
gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold,
there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” The meaning of Tammuz
is not certain, but the conjecture which is by far the most probable is
that it is the Hebrew and Syriac name for the heathen god Adonis,
who, according to the fable, was the beautiful paramour of Venus.
He was said to have been killed by a bear in the chase, and
afterwards to have returned to life. The worship of Adonis took
its rise at
over the East, and was thence
introduced to the Jews front
celebrated in the fourth month (corresponding to portions of our
June and July). This celebration “was of a twofold character: first,
that of mourning, in which the death of Adonis was bewailed with
extravagant sorrow; and then, after a few days, the mourning gave
place to wild rejoicings for his restoration to life. This was a revival
of nature worship under another form — the death of Adonis
symbolized the suspension of the productive powers of
nature, which were in due time revived. Accordingly, the time of
this festival was the summer solstice, when in the East nature seems
to wither and die under the scorching heat of the sun, to burst forth
again into life at the due season” (‘Speaker’s Commentary’). For seven
days the women gave themselves up to this lamentation, chanting
mournful songs to the accompaniment of pipes, cutting their breasts
with knives, and either cutting off their hair as a sacrifice to the god,
or presenting to him the more costly and shocking sacrifice of their
chastity. Well does Fairbairn say, “This Phoenician abomination had
become one of the festering sores
Ø The idolatry of the men. “And he brought me into the inner court
of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the
Lord,” etc. (v. 16). Most expositors regard these five and
twenty men as the presidents of the twenty-four orders into which the
priesthood was divided (I Chronicles 24.), with the high priest at their
head; and thus they look upon them as representing the entire priesthood.
This, however, is by no means certain. As a matter of fact, the priesthood
as a whole had never given themselves up to idolatry. The number
(twenty-five) is a round one, as in ch. 11:1. Had it been stated that the
men were priests, we might have supposed that they were the heads of
the twenty-four courses, together with the high priest. But no; they
were ‘elders’, i.e. laymen. The inner court was not closed to
the laity till after the return from exile (see I Kings 8:22, 64; 9:25;
II Kings 11:4-15).” But to whatever class these men belonged,
they were offering provocation to God by worshipping the sun.
This form of idolatry was of very ancient origin. Job declares his
Innocence of it (Job 31:26). It is distinctly prohibited in the Law
given by Moses (Deuteronomy 17:3). In its earliest form, among the
Arabians, the worship was addressed directly to the heavenly bodies,
without the intervention of images. In times preceding those of the
prophet this idolatry had been
by King Josiah (II Kings 23:5, 11). But by some means it had been
revived or reintroduced, and now in the days of Ezekiel was openly
flourishing again. Moreover, their worship of the sun was aggravated
by the posture in which it was practiced. “With their backs toward the
temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east.” The sanctuary of
the Lord God was behind them, as a thing they were renouncing, while
they were looking to the new object of their hope and adoration rising
in the east. A still further aggravation of their sin is mentioned: “And,
lo, they put the branch to their nose.” We are not certain as to the
meaning of this expression. “The Persian sun worshipper, according to
Strabo and others, held in his hand a bunch of shoots, called barsom,
when praying to the sun, and applied it to the mouth when uttering
prayer. This quite agrees with the rite here.” It appears to be of Persian
origin; only this qualification must be made that, considered as a
Persian practice, it has reference not to the worship of the sun, but to
that of the sacred fire. In the Avesta we read of a bundle of branches
called baresma (later writings call it barsom), which occupied as
important a place in Zoroastrian worship as in the worship of these
‘five and twenty men.’ The twigs preferred for this sacred object
were those of the date, the pomegranate, and the tamarisk,
and the words of the Zoroastrian Scripture (Vendidad, 19:64) are
rendered as follows by the latest translator: ‘Let the faithful man cut
off a twig of baresma, long as a ploughshare, thick as a barleycorn.
The faithful one, holding it in his left hand, shall not leave off keeping
his eyes upon it.’ Thus it is not expressly stated by the Zoroastrian
authorities (nor yet is it by Strabo) that the baresma was to be held to
the mouth (or the nose). This, however, was the way of holding the veil
called paitidana, the object of which was to prevent the impurities
of the breath from passing into the sacred fire. By this heathenish and
idolatrous practice the Lord Jehovah was insulted by His own people.
Ø The social injustice and oppression. “They have filled the land with
violence.” Unfaithfulness to God and cruelty to man were sins that went
hand in hand amongst the people
in the temple were pollutions, and in the land violence. The princes and
judges, they wronged men; the priests and prophets, they wronged God
(Zephaniah 3:3-4) If there be violence in a land, there will be
corruptions, pollutions, abominations in the sanctuary; if there be
superstition, idolatry in the Church state, there will be oppression,
injustice, and spoil in the civil state: when the temple is a den of thieves,
the land will be a den of oppressors and murderers (Jeremiah 7:9-11).
Thus the people provoked the Lord to anger by their oft repeated
and much aggravated sins and crimes.
mine eye shall not spare,” etc. (v. 18). The nature of the punishment is
not stated here; but it has already been set forth at length by the prophet,
and is still further indicated in the next two chapters. Two remarks
concerning it are suggested by this verse.
Ø It will be the expression of His righteous anger. “Therefore will
I also deal in fury.” The “therefore” indicates the close connection
between THE SIN and THE PUNISHMENT. They are related as
cause and effect (see our remarks on ch.7:4).
Ø It will be inflicted without any relenting. “Mine eye shall not spare,
neither will I pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice,
yet will I not hear them.” The former of these clauses we noticed on its
occurrence in ch.7:4. And as to the loud cries of the wicked in
their distress, they are generally the mere outburst of selfishness,
without a particle of true penitence or prayer (compare Proverbs
1:24-31). When Nebuchadnezzar came, besieged the city: when
plague and famine increased, then they fell upon their knees and
cried to God for help; as malefactors, when the judge is ready to
give sentence, cry out, and importune him to spare their lives.
Such prayers are the voice of the flesh, not of the spirit: forced,
not free: faithless and unseasonable prayers, COMING TOO LATE
and therefore UNACCEPTABLE! Let men therefore not defer
seeking of God TILL NECESSITY PUTS THEM UPON IT!
And let us seek Him, not with the selfish cries of terror, BUT WITH
PENITENT AND BELIEVING HEARTS! It is not the loud voice,
but the upright heart, THAT GOD WILL REGARD!
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The Glory of God and the Image of Jealousy (vs. 4-5)
In prophetic vision Ezekiel was transported from the place of exile to his
country’s metropolis, and to the temple which was the very centre of his
people’s religious observances. It may not be certain whether what in this
vision he discerned actually took place, or whether the vision was
representative and symbolical of what was occurring
and even in
contrast is that described in these verses! One observer in one spot is
brought face to face both with the splendour of the Divine manifestation
and with the horror of idolatrous rites!
THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF
appearance of splendour, such as he had previously beheld in the plain, and
had described in an earlier passage of iris prophecies.
1. This appearance was emblematical of the Divine attributes; alike of
God’s power to punish and to save, and of his moral excellences, justice
and truth, mercy and love.
2. This appearance was peculiarly suitable to the place where it was
his peculiar presence, who giveth not his glory to another.
3. This appearance was a reminder that for the Jewish people there was
one, and only one, proper Object of adoration and worship.
· THE IDOLATROUS IMAGE.
1. This was doubtless a figure of one of the false gods worshipped by one
of the nations in the neighbourhood of
corrupted and seduced. Which of the several idols was at that time
worshipped by the Jews we are not told; and, indeed, this does not signify.
2. Whatever this imaginary deity may have been, it is certain that the
attributes assigned to it were opposed to those belonging to Jehovah.
Cruelty and impurity were certainly qualities attributed to this false god.
3. Thus moral degradation was involved in the worship of this image;
degradation all the more signal because the Jews forsook a God of
righteousness and clemency, and fashioned or accepted an imaginary deity
embodying their own worst faults and vices.
· THE INDIGNATION WITH WHICH JEHOVAH REGARDED
provoketh to jealousy.” The reasons why the idol should be so designated,
why such should be the way in which it was regarded, are obvious enough.
1. Jehovah had enjoined upon the posterity of Abraham abstinence from
the idolatries from which the great forefather of the chosen people had
been delivered. Monotheism was the very stamp and seal of their election.
2. The very first and second commandments of the first table of the moral
Law prohibited idolatry.
3. The history of
warning against falling into this seductive snare.
4. The ordinances and institutions of the nation were expressly designed to
act as a check and dissuasive against the sin of the surrounding and heathen
· APPLICATION. Apostasy from the service of the one living and true
God is rendered inexcusable, and is worthy of severe condemnation, when,
as in the case of
and opportunities and inducements abound to be faithful and diligent in the
practice of pure religion.
Weeping for Tammuz (v. 14)
If the usual interpretation of this passage is correct, then it is clear that
there had been introduced from Northern Syria into
superstitious practice and cultus, which was altogether alien from the
beliefs and the worship proper to the nation whom the Supreme had
favoured with a clear and glorious revelation of his blessed character and
his holy will. It is an illustration of the weakness and proneness to err
characteristic of our humanity, that a nation so favoured as
borrow from their neighbours religious rites and observances utterly
inconsistent with their own religion, and of a kind fitted to degrade rather
than to exalt the moral life. We may observe of this special superstition —
· THAT IT SUBSTITUTED FICTION FOR TRUTH.
· THAT IT CONCENTRATED ATTENTION UPON NATURE
INSTEAD OF UPON THE AUTHOR OF NATURE.
· THAT IT SUBSTITUTED AN IMAGINATIVE AND FANCIFUL
FOR A REAL AND LEGITIMATE CAUSE OF EMOTION.
· THAT IT PROMOTED VICE INSTEAD OF MORAL PURITY.
· THAT IT CONSEQUENTLY DEGRADED THE NATION THAT
SUFFERED ITSELF TO BE SEDUCED BY IT.
· APPLICATION. No nation and no individual is superior to the necessity
of watchfulness against the contaminating influence of neighbours upon a
lower moral platform, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”
instead of the good leavening the evil, and so purifying the mass, the
contrary may happen, and the defiling influence of error and impurity may
spread. In this case there is every likelihood of the fulfilment of the
proverb, “The companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
Although the worship of Baal and other similar deities was no doubt a
corruption due to the personification of the great orb of day, it does not
seem that, in this passage, the prophet intends to denounce that form of
idolatry. It appears that actual sun worship, which we know to have been
practised among the Persians, obtained in the time of Ezekiel at
though it is scarcely credible that it took place literally in the circumstances
depicted in the context.
· THE SUN WORSHIP ITSELF. Of this it is enough to say that it is
creature worship, and is therefore dishonouring to the Creator who kindled
the sun in the firmament, and who is himself the eternal, uncreated Light.
· THE SUN WORSHIPPERS.
Ø They included the priesthood; for the five and twenty here mentioned
were doubtless the heads of the twenty-four courses, with the high priest
presiding over them.
Ø Their attitude was indicative of profanity and defection; they are
depicted as turning their backs
might face the sun as he rose in the east.
· THE EFFECTS OF SUN WORSHIP.
Ø This superstition estranged the minds of those who practised it from the
God who is Light, and in whom is no darkness at all; it rendered them
indifferent to the Divine Law, and inattentive to the Divine service and
Ø It was the means of filling the land with abominations and violence, and
this was especially the case when conjoined with the worship of the
Phoenician sun god.
Ø It thus became one of the many occasions for the arousing of the anger
of God, and led to the retributions and chastenings which speedily came
upon the ungrateful, unspiritual, and apostate people.
Gradual Disclosure of Human Sin (vs. 1-16)
The prophet notes the exact date of the vision, so that, if any doubt arose,
the circumstance could be verified, so long as any one of these elders
survived. These details of day and month may seem to many readers
needless and tedious; yet, in an earlier day, they probably served an
important purpose, and may be again useful in a future age. Even now they
demonstrate with what diligent care the prophet preserved the records of
Divine manifestations. The three hundred and ninety days during which
Ezekiel was to be a living sign were now fulfilled.
· THE OCCASION. The occasion arose out of a visit made to Ezekiel by
the elders of
to God. If men ask after truth from righteous motive, God is prepared to
meet them. The response from heaven may not be in the mode men expect,
yet some response there will be. On this occasion, too, God was honoured
in the person of his messenger. It becomes us to use those channels for
information which God has opened. If we are at our Sovereign’s footstool,
we shall not have long to wait.
· GOD’S GRACIOUS MANIFESTATION. It was an act of grace that
God should reveal Himself to His prophet, so that through the prophet he
might reveal himself to the elders. In every age God has chosen the most
fitting agencies through which to manifest himself to men.
Ø It was an exact repetition of a former appearance. This was to intimate
that God’s designs had in no respect changed. There were the same
splendours of majesty — the unchangeable glory — of Jehovah; there was
the same appearance of radiant fire in the loins and feet, to indicate that he
was about to march through the land in righteous indignation. “Verily, a
fire goeth before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about.” “For
he cometh to judge the earth.”
Ø A mighty energy was put forth. There was the form of a hand, by which
the prophet was lifted up. From first to last we need Divine assistance. So
feeble is human nature, that at every step we need gracious succour, both
to learn and to do God’s will. We must be separated from earthly scenes —
have elevation of mind — if we would see things as God sees them.
Ø Personal effort. There was place and scope for the prophet’s exertion.
Man must cooperate with God. “I beheld.” Ezekiel must use his eyes. In
that state of ecstasy to which he had been raised there is need for special
activity. Human nature at present cannot long endure the ecstatic state.
Golden opportunities such as these are brief. Therefore note well the
THE GRADUAL DISCLOSURES OF
of God was manifest in the temple.
Ø In the clear light of Jehovah’s presence we see the real character of sin.
The eye of man needs the medium of light through which to discern
objects; and a special revelation of God is required in which to discover
turpitude of sin. It was when God came near to Job that this exemplary
man exclaimed, “I abhor myself.” It was when Christ first revealed his
glory to Peter that he put up the prayer, “Depart from me; for I am a
sinful man, O Lord.”
Ø All forms of idolatry provoke God’s jealous anger. We take this “image
of jealousy” as an allegorical representation of the many sided idolatry of
common — they usurped Jehovah’s place; they supplanted his authority.
In stupendous condescension, God speaks to us after the manner of a
man. As the strongest passion which fallen man knows is jealousy, so
God represents this as the picture of indignant sentiment in his own
breast. He sets high value on our human love. It is the most precious
thing we can give Him. Hence, we wound Him in the tenderest part
when we erect a rival in His place. This is a root sin.
Ø Sin becomes most heinous of all sin when committed in the temple.
God’s dwelling place on earth is designed to be a fount, whence streams
of blessing may flow to every province of our human life. To defile this
fount is to send a stream of pollution into the domestic, commercial, and
political life of the nation. If there be idolatry in the temple, there will be
idolatry in the home; there will be disorder everywhere. The sanctuary
will always be a source of life or of death to the whole empire.
Ø God’s disclosures of our sin are gradual. This method has two
o It gives us a clearer conception of the magnitude and the degrees of
o It serves to deepen impression, while it does not overwhelm us with
despair. If we desire to know the truth respecting our sin,
God’s Spirit will lead us from point to point, so that we may have
an ever-deepening sense of our iniquity.
THE HEINOUSNESS OF
Ø Its secrecy. The prophet had to break through the wall in order to
discover it. Men will often indulge secretly in sins which they are ashamed
to commit openly. The censure of our fellow men is often a useful
deterrent. The opinion of others is a mirror, in which we see ourselves.
Every man has his “chamber of imagery” within. Idolatry in the heart
precedes the idolatry of temple worship. Can we not find some image of
evil painted on the wails of our imagination — some form of mammon, or
pleasure, or self? Therefore “keep thy heart with all diligence.”
Ø The deceitfulness of sin. It had blinded men’s eyes to the fact of God’s
presence — to the fact of certain discovery and certain retribution. A
growing acquaintance with sin convinces us of its many wiles to deceive.
Few men venture to sin until they forget God’s omniscience; and the habit
of forgetfulness leads swiftly to atheism.
Ø The sin was spread by most pernicious example. The men who ought to
have been beacons and bulwarks against idolatry were pioneers in iniquity.
Men holding high rank, whether in Church or in state, cannot sin as others
do. Their influence is enormous, and it is inevitable that they lead others to
heaven or to
hell. Every station has its responsibilities. If, in
princes and elders had set a high example of pious obedience, in all
likelihood the fortunes of the nation had been retrieved. If the helmsman be
blind, there is small chance for the safety of the ship.
4. This sin is seminal; it soon produces a brood of other sins. Idolatry
blossomed into sensual lust — into vice, disorder, and violence. The
idolatries of the heathen suited the popular taste, because they did not curb
natural inclination; gave a dangerous licence to every sensual and selfish
passion. They who have driven from the heart the love of God are soon
filled with every vile affection. They who have ceased to fear God soon
cease to have any regard for others’ weal. Sin rapidly generates a swarm
noxious vices. The women who wept for Tammuz at the door of the
temple were, without doubt, living in shameless prostitution. To depart
from God is to run into every excess of iniquity. The more we examine the
matter, the more flagrant and aggravated human sin appears. Superficial
observers may talk of sin as a mere bagatelle; but they who search out the
matter conclude that language is too poor to describe the cursed thing. It is
the heaviest calamity that can rest on a human being; worse than poverty,
or pain, or ill-repute, or desertion, or death: “He is in danger of eternal
Men Co-Assessors in Judgment with God (vs. 17-18)
In saving men from sin, God qualifies them for the highest offices in his
kingdom. “They shall sit upon thrones, judging the twelve
· GOD GIVES US, IN STAGES, HIS VIEW OF HUMAN GUILT.
Without question, we should take very low and imperfect conceptions of
sin, unless God revealed to us the facts in the moral department of
existence. By such means, God condescends to train us for companionship
with himself, and for high office in his realm. “Know ye not that we shall
· GOD SHOWS US FURTHER THE MANIFOLD EFFECTS OF
Ø Its inexcusableness. It is not committed from want of knowledge. Those
yielded to idolatry.
Ø Its effect upon others. All sin is contagious; and when exhibited in the
lives of learned and official personages, it has peculiar fascination. The
mystic force of influence diffuses it far and wide.
Ø Its penetrative power. It touches and taints every part of man’s nature
— body, soul, and spirit. It defiles every department of human life and
interest — agriculture, commerce, literature, legislation, the household.
Ø Its cumulative energy. It grows worse and worse, until every restraint is
broken down, and all sense of shame is destroyed. Open defiance of God is
the last phase of iniquity.
· GOD SUMMONS OUR JUDGMENT TO ASSESS THE GUILT.
God appeals to his prophet for his estimate of the case. “Hast thou seen
this, O son of man? Is this a light thing?’ Our judgment, our reason, our
moral sensibility, our conscience, have been conferred upon us for this
selfsame purpose, viz. that we should condemn what is evil and approve
what is good. Under certain circumstances it is our duty not to judge; as,
for instance, when all the facts of the case are not within our possession, or
when sympathetic help is better than critical examination, or when our
judging faculty is better exercised about ourselves than about others. Our
good, and the world’s advantage, must be our guide when to judge and
when not to pass a judgment.
· GOD DESIRES TO HAVE OUR ACQUIESCENCE IN HIS
DECISIONS. He puts great honour upon men in making them partners
with him in the highest offices of the heavenly state. God is no lover of
monopoly. As his creatures become fitted for eminent office and honour,
he promotes them. To give them pleasure is to give himself pleasure. If any
of his creatures become as wise and pure and good as he is, he will not
repine. He calls us his sons and daughters; and inasmuch as the relationship
is real, he loves to have our companionship, ay, and our hearty approval of
all that he does. When Christ shall sit as Judge, in glorious state, we are
told that all the holy angels shall sit with him. And if he will come to “be
admired by his saints,” he will desire to have admiration for his deeds as
well as for his Person. “He shall be justified” by his people “as often as he
The Vision of the Image of Jealousy (vs. 1-6)
“And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month,” etc. This and
the following three chapters are one discourse, or the record of one vision.
In this chapter we see how the prophet was transported in spirit to the
idolatrous abominations of which the people of
portions of these verses have already engaged our attention in other
connections. Moreover, vers. 1-4 are merely introductory to the vision; but
the following points may perhaps be considered by us with advantage.
· THE ELDERS SEEKING COUNSEL OF THE PROPHET OF THE
LORD. “I sat in mine
house, and the elders of
been suggested that this was on the sabbath day, and that the elders were
accustomed to meet thus on that day to hear the Word of the Lord from
Ezekiel, and to unite in the worship of the Lord their God. But others are
of opinion that the occasion was an extraordinary one, and that they were
assembled to seek counsel or comfort from the prophet. Whatever the
occasion might have been, there can be but little doubt that they were
endeavoring to obtain some communication of the Divine will. Thus in the
troubles of their captivity, when removed from their temple, and deprived
of the regular ordinances of
religion, these elders of
been more attentive to the prophet of Jehovah than they were when they
had their religious privileges in fall. When the vision had become rare, it
was prized. It is our sin and loss that our blessings are often not justly and
adequately valued until we have lost them wholly or in part.
“What we have we prize not to the worth,
Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack’d and lost,
Why, thee we rack the value; then we find
The virtue, that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours.”
Wise and blessed are they who duly prize their good and perfect gifts while
in the possession and enjoyment of them.
· THE DIVINE INSPIRATION OF THE PROPHET OF THE LORD.
Ezekiel had been inspired previously. The Spirit of God had moved him
mightily before; but now the hand of the Lord came again upon him. New
services require new inspirations. Fresh duties demand for their worthy
discharge fresh impartations of strength. Each day we need the renewal of
grace and strength from above. We discover in the prophet a triple effect
of Divine inspiration.
Ø Strengthening him. “The hand of the Lord God fell there upon me.” (We
have spoken of this in our remarks on ch. 1:3.)
Ø Exalting him. “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a
lock of mine head; and the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the
heaven, and brought me in the
visions of God to
was sitting there amidst the
carried away to
above its ordinary level, stimulates it into greater and nobler activities, and
renders it more capable of receiving Divine impressions and
Ø Enlightening him. The Spirit enlightened the prophet by quickening his
spirit to perceive Divine visions, and by unfolding those visions unto him.
(See our remarks on ch. 1:1, “The heavens were opened, and I saw
visions of God.”)
· THE SPIRITUAL VISIONS GRANTED UNTO THE PROPHET
OF THE LORD.
Ø A Vision of the glory of the Lord God. “Then I beheld, and lo a likeness
as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward,
fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance… as the colour of
amber Aria, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to
the vision that I saw in the plain.” Thus the prophet himself informs us that
this vision of the glory of God corresponds with one which he saw before,
and which we have already noticed (on ch. 1:26-28).
Ø A vision of the dishonour done to the Lord God. The prophet was
looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy,
which provoketh to jealousy… So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the
north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy
in the entry.” Many have thought that this was an image of Baal. Lightfoot
concluded that it was an image of Moloch. Others are of opinion that it
was an image of Asherah or Astarte, which is mentioned in II Kings
21:7; 23:4, 7, and incorrectly translated in the Authorized Version “grove.”
It has been suggested that it was an image of the Tammuz or Adonis
mentioned in v. 14, “and called ‘the image that provoked to jealousy,’
with special reference to the yonthful and attractive beauty of the object it
represented.” The view of Fairbairn seems to us the most probable. “We
are disposed to think,” he says, “from the ideal character of the
representation, that it should not be limited to any specific deity. The
prophet, we are persuaded, purposely made the expression general, as it
was not so much the particular idol placed on a level with Jehovah, as the
idol worship itself, which he meant to designate and condemn. So sunk and
rooted were the people in the idolatrous feeling, that where Jehovah had an
altar, there some idol form must have its ‘seat’ — a fixed residence, to
denote that it was no occasional thing its being found there, but a regular
and stated arrangement. And whatever it might for the time be — whether
it was Baal, or Moloch, or Astarte, that the image represented — as it was
necessarily set up for a rival of Jehovah, to share with him in the worship
to which he alone was entitled, it might justly be denominated ‘the image
of jealousy,’ as it provoked that jealousy, and called for that visitation of
wrath, against which the Lord had so solemnly warned his people in the
second commandment.” “The image of jealousy, which provoketh to
jealousy,” is an expression which looks back to Deuteronomy 32:16,
21: “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations
provoked they him to anger.” Thus Ezekiel beheld the Lord Jehovah
dishonoured by his own people, and at the gate of his own altar. And being
thus dishonoured, Jehovah abandons his temple. “He said unto me, Son of
man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house
When that sanctuary has been grossly polluted with idols he will no longer
dwell there. And this is applicable to the Church of Jesus Christ. If a spirit
of pride, worldliness, or selfishness become predominant in any Christian
community, he departs far off from it. If any idol of creed, or ritual, or
fashion, or popularity be established therein, he will go far away. And this
is applicable also to the human heart. If we give the devotion of our hearts
to another object or objects, he will leave us. He claims our supreme
affection. He will not have any rival for our love.