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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 8

The prophecies contained in these chapters Ezek. 8–19 fall within eleven months (compare Ezekiel 8:1 with Ezekiel 20:1). Although they were not all delivered on the same day, they may be regarded as a whole. They contain in fact a review of the condition of the people of Judah, including those who were still in the holy land, and those who were with the prophet exiles in Chaldaea. This is first represented by a vision Ezek. 8–11 in which the seer is transported in spirit to the Temple of Jerusalem; and next - the prophet having again taken his stand as a man among men - by symbolic act, parables, figures, etc., addresses his fellow-exiles.

Verse 1

The elders of Judah - The prophet’s fellow-exiles are no longer unwilling to hear him Ezekiel 2:1-10. They sat as mourners. The message here is not as in Ezekiel 6:2, but distinctly to Judah, that portion of the people whose exile Ezekiel shared.

Verse 2

The appearance of fire - In margin reference, seen as the appearance of a man enthroned upon the cherubim. Here He stands apart from the throne revealing Himself to His servant. Compare Daniel 3:25 note.

Amber - See the margin reference note.

Verse 3

In the visions of God - Ezekiel was not transported “in the body,” but rapt “in spirit,” while he still sat amidst the elders of Judah.

The inner gate - Or, the gate of the inner court. This gate, leading from the outer to the inner court (the court of the priests), is called Ezekiel 8:5 “the gate of the altar,” because it was from this side that the priests approached the brass altar. The prophet is on the “outside” of this gate, so that the “image of jealousy” was set up in the outer or people’s court over against the northern entrance to the priest’s court. This image was the image of a false god provoking Yahweh to “jealousy” Deuteronomy 32:16, Deu 32:21; 1 Kings 14:22. It may be doubted whether the scenes described in this chapter are intended to represent what actually occurred. They may be ideal pictures to indicate the idolatrous corruption of priests and people. And this is in accordance with the symbolic character of the number “four;” the four idolatries representing the idolatries in all the four quarters of the world. The false gods of pagandom are brought into the temple in order that they may be detected and exposed by being brought face to face with the God of revelation. Still history proves that the ideal picture was supported by actual facts which had occurred and were occurring.

Verse 4

The glory of the Lord having departed from His seat between the cherubims in the holy of holies (see Ezekiel 9:3) rests in the threshold of the temple, to execute vengeance before it quits the house altogether Ezekiel 10:18. The “there” in the inner court, which was “full of the brightness of the Lord’S glory” Ezekiel 10:4, and at the gate of which Ezekiel stands.

Verse 7

The door of the court - The seer is brought to another spot. In Ezekiel’s time there were various buildings on the space around the inner court which formed a court or courts, not improbably enclosed by a wall. The idolatries here were viewed as taking place in secret, and it is more in accordance with the temple arrangements to suppose that such chambers as would give room for those rites should belong to the outer than to the inner court. The seer is now outside the wall of the outer court, by the door which leads from it out of the temple-boundary. By breaking through the wall he enters into a chamber which stands in the outer court against the wall near the gate.

Verse 10

There is clearly a reference to the idolatry of Egypt. Many subterranean chambers in rocks upon the shores of the Nile exhibit ornamentation and hieroglyphical characters, some of which are representative of the objects of idolatrous worship. Such chambers fitted them for the scene of the ideal picture by which Ezekiel represented Egyptian idolatry. The Egyptian worship of animals is well known.

Verse 11

Seventy men - Compare Exodus 24:9-10. The vision may have pointed to the contrast between the times. The number “seven” is symbolic of the covenant between Yahweh and His people, and so the “seventy” men exhibit forcibly the breach of the covenant. It is a figure of the covert idolatry of the whole people.

Verse 12

In the dark - Hidden in the secret places which the seer dug through the wall to discover.

Chambers of his imagery - i. e., chambers painted with images.

Verse 14

The seer is now brought back to the same gate as in Ezekiel 8:3.

It is not certain that this verse refers to any special act of Tammuz-worship. The month in which the vision was seen, the sixth month (September), was not the month of the Tammuz-rites. But that such rites had been performed in Jerusalem there can be little doubt. Women are mentioned as employed in the service of idols in Jeremiah 7:18. There is some reason for believing that the weeping of women for Tammuz passed into Syria and Palestine from Babylonia, Tammuz being identified with Duv-zi, whose loss was lamented by the goddess Istar. The festival was identical with the Greek “Adoniacs.” The worship of Adonis had its headquarters at Byblos, where at certain periods of the year the stream, becoming stained by mountain floods, was popularly said to be red with the blood of Adonis. From Byblos it spread widely over the east and was thence carried to Greece. The contact of Zedekiah with pagan nations Jeremiah 32:3 may very well have led to the introduction of an idolatry which at this time was especially popular among the eastern nations.

This solemnity 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. At the same time there was a connection between this and the sun-worship, in that the decline of the sun and the decline of nature might be alike represented by the death of Adonis. The excitement attendant upon these extravagances of alternate wailing and exultation were in complete accordance with the character of nature-worship, which for this reason was so popular in the east, especially with women, and led by inevitable consequence to unbridled license and excess. Such was in Ezekiel’s day one of the most detestable forms of idolatry.

Verse 16

The inner court - The court of the priests.

About five and twenty men - Rather, as it were five etc. This was the number of the heads of the 24 courses (shifts) with the high priest presiding over them. These then were the representatives of the priests, as the seventy were of the people. In the temple the seat of the Divine Majesty was at the west, perhaps appointed for this very purpose, to guard against the idolatrous adoration of the rising sun. Therefore the idolatrous priests must in worshipping the false sun-god turn their backs upon the True. The worship of the heavenly bodies was one of the earliest forms of idolatry Job 31:26-27 and was expressly forbidden in the Law Deuteronomy 17:3. In its earliest form, it was conducted without the intervention of images, the adoration being addressed to the heavenly bodies themselves: this form, continued among the Persians, seems to have been introduced afresh into Jerusalem at the time of Ezekiel. Compare, also, 2 Kings 23:11-12. The images (compare Ezekiel 6:4, Ezekiel 6:6) were probably columns set up in honor of the sun, not images in human form. This simpler mode of sunworship was soon changed. The sun, or the god supposed to preside over it, was represented as a person, whose image was set up and adored.

Verse 17

“Violence” represents sin against man, “abominations” sins against God. These went hand in hand in Jerusalem.

And have returned - After the reformation effected for a time by Josiah’s zeal, they have gone back to their old state.

They put the branch to their nose - An allusion to a then familiar practice, of which we find no clear traces elsewhere. Ezekiel is describing the attitude usual in such devotions, the branch held before the mouth, but wishing to represent it in contemptuous and derogatory terms, he substitutes the word “nose” for “mouth.”

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.