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This eighth chapter begins a new stage of Ezekiel's prophecies and continues to the end of the eleventh chapter. The connected visions at Eze 3:12-7:27 comprehended Judah and Israel; but the visions (Eze 8:1-11:25) refer immediately to Jerusalem and the remnant of Judah under Zedekiah, as distinguished from the Babylonian exiles.
1. sixth year--namely, of the captivity of Jehoiachin, as in
the "fifth year" is specified. The lying on his sides three hundred
ninety and forty days
(Eze 4:5, 6)
had by this time been completed, at least in vision. That event
was naturally a memorable epoch to the exiles; and the computation of
years from it was to humble the Jews, as well as to show their
perversity in not having repented, though so long and severely
2. likeness--understand, "of a man," that is, of Messiah, the Angel
of the covenant, in the person of whom alone God manifests Himself
The "fire," from "His loins downward," betokens the vengeance of God
kindled against the wicked Jews, while searching and purifying the
remnant to be spared. The "brightness . . . upward" betokens
His unapproachable majesty
For Hebrew, eesh, "fire," the Septuagint, &c., read
ish, "a man."
3. Instead of prompting him to address directly the elders before
him, the Spirit carried him away in vision (not in person bodily) to
the temple at Jerusalem; he proceeds to report to them what he
witnessed: his message thus falls into two parts: (1) The abominations
(2) The dealings of judgment and mercy to be adopted towards the
impenitent and penitent Israelites respectively
The exiles looked hopefully towards Jerusalem and, so far from
believing things there to be on the verge of ruin, expected a return in
peace; while those left in Jerusalem eyed the exiles with contempt, as
if cast away from the Lord, whereas they themselves were near God and
ensured in the possessions of the land
Hence the vision here of what affected those in Jerusalem immediately
was a seasonable communication to the exiles away from it.
4. The Shekinah cloud of Jehovah's glory, notwithstanding the provocation of the idol, still remains in the temple, like that which Ezekiel saw "in the plain" (Eze 3:22, 23); not till Eze 10:4, 18 did it leave the temple at Jerusalem, showing the long-suffering of God, which ought to move the Jews to repentance.
5. gate of . . . altar--the principal avenue to the altar of burnt offering; as to the northern position, see 2Ki 16:14. Ahaz had removed the brazen altar from the front of the Lord's house to the north of the altar which he had himself erected. The locality of the idol before God's own altar enhances the heinousness of the sin.
6. that I should go far off from my sanctuary--"that I should (be compelled by their sin to) go far off from my sanctuary"-- (Eze 10:18); the sure precursor of its destruction.
7. door of the court--that is, of the inner court
the court of the priests and Levites, into which now others were
admitted in violation of the law [GROTIUS].
8. dig--for it had been blocked up during Josiah's reformation. Or rather, the vision is not of an actual scene, but an ideal pictorial representation of the Egyptian idolatries into which the covenant-people had relapsed, practising them in secret places where they shrank from the light of day [FAIRBAIRN], (Joh 3:20). But compare, as to the literal introduction of idolatries into the temple, Eze 5:11; Jer 7:30; 32:34.
10. creeping things . . . beasts--worshipped in Egypt; still found
portrayed on their chamber walls; so among the Troglodytæ.
11. seventy men--the seventy members composing the Sanhedrim, or
great council of the nation, the origination of which we find in the
seventy elders, representatives of the congregation, who went up with
Moses to the mount to behold the glory of Jehovah, and to witness the
secret transactions relating to the establishment of the covenant;
also, in the seventy elders appointed to share the burden of the people
with Moses. How awfully it aggravates the national sin, that the
seventy, once admitted to the Lord's secret council
should now, "in the dark," enter "the secret" of the wicked
those judicially bound to suppress idolatry being the ringleaders of
12. every man in . . . chambers of . . . imagery--The elders
("ancients") are here the representatives of the people, rather than to
be regarded literally. Mostly, the leaders of heathen superstitions
laughed at them secretly, while publicly professing them in order to
keep the people in subjection. Here what is meant is that the people generally addicted themselves to secret idolatry, led on by their
elders; there is no doubt, also, allusion to the mysteries, as in
the worship of Isis in Egypt, the Eleusinian in Greece, &c., to which
the initiated alone were admitted. "The chambers of imagery" are their
own perverse imaginations, answering to the priests' chambers in
the vision, whereon the pictures were portrayed
14. From the secret abominations of the chambers of imagery, the
prophet's eye is turned to the outer court at the
north door; within the outer court women were not admitted, but
only to the door.
15, 16. The next are "greater abominations," not in respect to the idolatry, but in respect to the place and persons committing it. In "the inner court," immediately before the door of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, where the priests advanced only on extraordinary occasions (Joe 2:17), twenty-five men (the leaders of the twenty-four courses or orders of the priests, 1Ch 24:18, 19, with the high priest, "the princes of the sanctuary," Isa 43:28), representing the whole priesthood, as the seventy elders represented the people, stood with their backs turned on the temple, and their faces towards the east, making obeisance to the rising sun (contrast 1Ki 8:44). Sun-worship came from the Persians, who made the sun the eye of their god Ormuzd. It existed as early as Job (Job 31:26; compare De 4:19). Josiah could only suspend it for the time of his reign (2Ki 23:5, 11); it revived under his successors.
16. worshipped--In the Hebrew a corrupt form is used to express Ezekiel's sense of the foul corruption of such worship.
17. put . . . branch to . . . nose--proverbial, for "they turn up the nose in scorn," expressing their insolent security [Septuagint]. Not content with outraging "with their violence" the second table of the law, namely, that of duty towards one's neighbor, "they have returned" (that is, they turn back afresh) to provoke Me by violations of the first table [CALVIN]. Rather, they held up a branch or bundle of tamarisk (called barsom) to their nose at daybreak, while singing hymns to the rising sun [STRABO, 1.15, p. 733]. Sacred trees were frequent symbols in idol-worship. CALVIN translates, "to their own ruin," literally, "to their nose," that is, with the effect of rousing My anger (of which the Hebrew is "nose") to their ruin.
18. though they cry . . . yet will I not hear-- (Pr 1:28; Isa 1:15).