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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 8

The Second Cycle—Chapters 8-19

THE second cycle (ch. Ezekiel 8:1 to Ezekiel 19:14) is separated from the first by an interval of a year and two months. The date is here the sixth year after the captivity of Jehoiachin, the sixth month, the fifth day, about five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. A vision here also forms the introduction, a song the close in ch. Ezekiel 19, in the midst of prophetic discourses that elucidate the vision, obviate objections, and form a bridge between it and the mind. The historical starting-point and the tendency also are similar. The prophet here also strives against the political dreams, represents the destruction as inevitable, and points to repentance as the only way of safety.

The vision is here far more comprehensive than in the first cycle. It occupies four whole chapters. It gives a complete representation of the sins of the people; and here accordingly is unfolded what in the first vision is only indicated concerning the punishment. Common to both visions is the delineation of the theophany itself, and in particular the description of the cherubim. The former delineation is supplemented by that here given only in details.

Ch. Ezekiel 8 contains the exposition of the guilt—the delineation of the four abominations of Jerusalem; ch. Ezekiel 9, the first punishment—Jerusalem filled with dead bodies; ch. Ezekiel 10, the second punishment—Jerusalem burnt; ch. Ezekiel 11:1-12, the third—God’s vengeance follows the survivors of the catastrophe. The close consists of comfort for the captives, who are already in exile with Ezekiel, and on whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem proudly look down; of these will God Himself take care, after the total disappointment of all human hopes (vers. Ezekiel 11:13-21). The prophet then sees still (vers. Ezekiel 11:22-23) how the glory of the Lord leaves the temple; and then the ecstasy comes to an end (vers. Ezekiel 11:21, Ezekiel 11:25).

Verses 1-6

Ezekiel 8:1. And it came to pass in the sixth year, the sixth month, on the fifth day, I sat in my house, and the ciders of Judah sat before me, and the hand of the Lord Jehovah fell there upon me. 2. And I beheld, and lo a form to look upon as fire: from the loins downward, to look upon as fire: and from the loins upward, to look upon as brightness, as the look of shining brass. 3. And he stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me to Jerusalem, in the visions of God, to the door of the gate of the inner court [45] that looketh towards the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy which provoketh to jealousy. 4. And, behold, there was the glory of the God of Israel, like the vision that I saw in the valley. 5. And he said to me. Son of man, lift up thine eyes toward the north. And I lifted my eyes toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy at the entrance. 6. And he said unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? The great abomination, that the house of Israel here committeth, that they should go far off from my sanctuary? And thou shalt yet again see great abominations.

[45] Luther, “to the inner gate.” But Michaelis rightly remarks: הפנימית , femininum, neque cum Petach neque cum Schaar mascul., sed cum subintellecto חצר , quod commune est, convenit. In Ezekiel 8:16 חצר is added. It is characteristic of Ezekiel the priest, that he says “the inner” briefly for “the inner court.”

The elders of Judah sit before the prophet (ver. Ezekiel 8:1). An exciting political report is current, perhaps that of the coalition formed between Elam and Media (ch. Ezekiel 8:15-17); [46] and the elders come to the prophet in the hope of receiving from him, under this change of affairs, a reversal of the former threatenings against Jerusalem, and a confirmation of their pleasing dreams, which they cannot well enjoy, so long as they have the prophet against them (comp. on ch. Ezekiel 20:1). The fire in ver. Ezekiel 8:2 first draws the attention of the prophet to it, because this stood in connection with present circumstances, whereas the brightness depicts the essence of God, which is ever the same. The fire was antecedently destructive of all the fond hopes of the people (comp. on Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:27). “And He stretched out;” the subject can only be the same who is spoken of in ver. Ezekiel 8:2—the Lord, to whom the hand already belongs in ver. Ezekiel 8:1. If the hand be the hand of God, ruach can only denote Spirit, power, not wind. For the wind suits not the hand of God, but the Spirit perfectly, which is active even through the hand, as also in ver. Ezekiel 8:1 the Spirit of God acts on the prophet through the hand. In fact, the hand is only a symbol of the energetic Spirit. The addition, “in the visions of God” (comp. ch. Ezekiel 1), prevents the thing from being carried into the sphere of the external. “Where was the seat of the image of jealousy which provoketh to jealousy.” The latter words indicate in what sense the prophet speaks of the image of jealousy, inasmuch as it provokes to jealousy the jealous, the energetic God, who as such gives not His honour to another, and calls forth His reaction against the wrong done to His honour. That the words only serve for explanation appears from ver. Ezekiel 8:5, where, after the explanation here given, the image of jealousy stands alone. From the north the punishment was to come (ch. Ezekiel 1:4). Thus the image of jealousy had its right place there. It was an actual summons to the north to send forth its avenging hosts. This leads us at once to see, that we here find ourselves on a purely ideal ground,—that the realistic interpretation of that which the prophet observes in the temple, and the attempt to draw therefrom historical conclusions concerning the then state of the temple, are altogether perverse. Several other grounds also speak for the ideality: for ex., the phrase “every one in his chamber” (ver. Ezekiel 8:12), where the reality suddenly breaks forth; further, the expression “in the dark” itself, thus not in a public place; the circumstance that Ezekiel must first break a door for himself (ver. Ezekiel 8:8); the 70 men in ver. Ezekiel 8:11, and the 25 in ver. Ezekiel 8:16,—a formal representation of the people, that in so official a manner, though certainly not at that time, did homage to idols in the temple; and so on. Even beforehand it cannot be imagined that the vision was a simple copy of the reality. This would contradict its very nature throughout. It is intended to present the thing in its deeper reality, as it cannot be seen with the eye of flesh. The temple was the ideal dwelling-place of the people. This is an idea that is widely spread through the Old Testament. [47] In Leviticus 16 all the sins of the people appear to he committed in the temple, the “tent of meeting,” in which the sinners dwelt with the holy God. It is there said, in ver. Ezekiel 8:16: “And he (the high priest) shall expiate the sanctuary from the impurities of the children of Israel, and from their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, that dwelleth among them in the midst of their impurities.” Because in a spiritual sense all the children of Israel dwell in the sanctuary, this will be polluted by every sin. In Amos 9:1 the altar in Jerusalem appears as the place of transgression; there the prophet sees all the abominations of Israel and Judah laid down. The altar was the place where the people of the two kingdoms were to lay down the embodied expression of their pious feelings. There lay, in point of fact, the fruits of the counterpart of these feelings; there was heaped up the unexpiated iniquity of the whole people. In the place of transgression appears the Lord to glorify Himself in the downfall of those who had not glorified Him by their life. So, then, here also, all that was extant in the land of an idolatrous character is united in a single figure, and placed in the temple, to cry thence to God and call forth His vengeance. This being so, we must in the further investigation rise above the image of jealousy. It is an ideal concentration of all superstitious dealing in Israel—a confluence of all the several forms of idols, the gods of the nations of the earth, that are the work of man, which are in 2 Chronicles 32:19 set over against the God of Israel. In the great importance which is attached to politics in the prophecies of Ezekiel, we must besides pay less regard to an idolatry that sprang from a confusion of the religious impulse, than to a homage which was offered to the world-powers, in order to attain to safety by their aid without God, or even against God. This homage went back at length to the heathen gods, because these were the ruling powers in the popular life. The comparison of ch. Ezekiel 23 will leave no doubt in reference to the correctness of this remark. It is possible that the image of jealousy has a still more special political import—that the northward direction refers not merely to the punishment to be expected, but also to the sin already committed. Then would the image of jealousy refer to the political adulteries of Jerusalem with the northern power of Babylon, against which they alternately conspired, and then again sought to gain it over; as Zedekiah, in the same year in which he had treated with the kings of Edom, Moab, and others, concerning]; a common undertaking against Babel, suddenly made off again to Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:59). [48] That the seat of the image of jealousy was in the north, is here mentioned by anticipation, to give the reason why the prophet is transported thither. The proper description of the image of jealousy follows only in ver. Ezekiel 8:5. “The image of jealousy that provoketh to jealousy “points to Deuteronomy 32:16, “They moved Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations they provoked Him.” To the position towards the north, so far as it refers to the punishment to be expected, corresponds there the sentence, “And I will provoke them to jealousy by not a people” (ver. Deuteronomy 32:21). “The gate of the altar “(ver. Ezekiel 8:5): it is so called because it led from the outer to the inner court, in which the altar stood. The prophet stands in the outer court, immediately at the door of the inner, and of course the northern one. At hand in the outer court, in the direction of the north, stands the image of jealousy. The removal in ver. Ezekiel 8:6 can only refer to those who were mentioned immediately before: to be removed can only mean, “that they be removed.” The right interpretation would not have been missed, had the import of the temple, as the place where the people dwell spiritually with the Lord, been duly recognised. By their idolatry, their adulterous intercourse with the world-powers, they have made themselves unworthy of dwelling with the Lord. They must be cast out of the sanctuary, the place of blessing and of grace, as formerly Adam, in consequence of his fall, was driven out of Paradise. The idea is the dissolution of the covenant, the abandonment to the world.

[46] M. Niebuhr, History of Assyria and Babylon, p. 212.

[47] Comp. Christol. Part ii. p. 599 f.; further, my comm. on Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4; Psalms 84:5, and on John 2:19.

[48] Niebuhr, p. 211.

Verses 7-13

Ezekiel 8:7. And he brought me to the door of the court; and I looked, and behold a hole in the wall. 8. And he said unto me. Son of man, break through the wall; and I broke through the wall, and behold a door. 9. And he said unto me. Go in, and see the wicked abominations that they do here. 10. And I went in and saw; and, behold, every form of moving thing, and abominable beasts, and all the detestable things of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about. 11. And seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shaphan, standing in their midst, stood before them, and every man had his censer in his hand; and the prayer of the cloud of incense went up. 12. And he said unto me, Seest thou, son of man, what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his image-chambers? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the land. 13. And he said unto me, Still further shalt thou see great abominations that they do.

The door of the court (ver. Ezekiel 8:7) is the chief door, the eastern. Thither is the prophet transported from the northern one (ver. Ezekiel 8:3). The hole which the prophet here sees is identical with that which he is to dig (ver. Ezekiel 8:8). He sees here, as it were, the model. The idea which lies at the base of the symbolic representation comes out in ver. Ezekiel 8:12. It is, that superstition, as a work of darkness, was driven into secret places. Just here it appears quite clear that the transportation to the temple has a purely ideal meaning. It is equally plain, however, that the superstition here spoken of has a political character—that the question is about political combinations. For then only does the secret movement explain itself: they do not wish yet to break openly with Babylon. A purely religious aberration would not have needed to hide itself in darkness: it had nothing to fear at that time. The wall, according to ver. Ezekiel 8:8, must first be broken through to reach the door. We see clearly from this that we are not in the region of reality. If the wall was before the door, how, then, did the idolaters enter? If there was an entrance for these, why must the prophet break open an entrance for himself? Our passage shows that under Zedekiah the temple itself was free from superstitious abominations. The same appears also from ch. Ezekiel 23:38. There the prophet reproaches the inhabitants of Jerusalem, because they, after sullying themselves with idolatry outside the temple, visited the temple, as if nothing had happened. The animal-worship to which, according to ver. Ezekiel 8:12, the rulers of the people devoted themselves, is peculiar in all antiquity to Egypt only, and so characteristic of it that the mention of it is equivalent to the express naming of Egypt. We must antecedently expect a certain participation in Egyptian idolatry in the Jews of that day, according to the political relations of the past. With the political fraternizations the religious went hand in hand. Religion was a power so far governing the whole life, that, for ex., an embassy sent to Egypt could not avoid participating in the idolatry of the day. Daniel 3 brings to our view the close relationship of politics and religion. But Egypt appears in ch. Ezekiel 23:19-21, Ezekiel 23:27, as the chief power by which Judah sought aid against the Chaldeans. It is there also expressly said, that with the political dependence was also connected the participation in the worship (vers. Ezekiel 23:7, Ezekiel 23:30, Ezekiel 23:37). But even the political dependence on Egypt itself, the seeking of help in it, may be regarded in the light of a participation in its superstition, inasmuch as its gods were the powers governing the life. He that trusted in Egypt trusted in its gods—which are already in the Pentateuch placed in inseparable connection with it ( Exodus 12:12)—and substituted for the honour of the eternal God the figure of an ox that eateth grass. This is certainly the chief point. The more rarely occurring external participation in Egyptian idolatry is only a single consequence of this whole unnatural relation. “Moving thing” is all that moves on the earth; comp. Genesis 9:3, “every moving thing that liveth.” The limitation to the smaller animals lies, where it finds place, not in the word itself, but in this, that the greater animals are specially named along with it. So here also the moving thing is the generic name. Along with this are the cattle named as the most prominent species in the genus. The animal-worship must, according to its principle, have been specially directed to the most useful animals. “Abomination” stands in apposition to cattle, and forms with it a kind of compound—abomination cattle. The cattle become an abomination, because the honour belonging to the Creator is assigned to them ( Romans 1:23). Everything created, however good it may be in itself, becomes an abomination as soon as it stands with man beside, or quite above, God. “All the detestable things of the house of Israel:” this means especially the idols, which belong to the same category with those expressly named. Only the land animals are here expressly named, whereas in the prohibition of the Egyptian animal-worship in Deuteronomy 4:17-18, mention is made also of fowls and aquatic animals. But at all events only the Egyptian gods come into account. The detestable, properly the filthy, stercorei, a designation of idols particularly natural to Ezekiel, refers everywhere to Leviticus 26:30. The filthy is a designation peculiarly suitable to animal-gods, the filthy ones of Egypt ( Exodus 24:7). “The filthy” also occurs especially of the Egyptian gods in Deuteronomy 29:17, the only place in the books of Moses where the word is found, except Exodus 26:30. “Portrayed upon the wall:” Moses in Deuteronomy 4:17-18 speaks of artificial representations of animals as the object of worship. “The seventy of the elders of Israel” (ver. Ezekiel 8:11) are from Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:9, Numbers 11:16, Numbers 11:24. As they there, as a chosen part, represent the whole of the elders, the men in authority, so also here. In ver. Ezekiel 8:12 the elders of the house of Israel are spoken of in general. The idea is, that the leaning to Egyptian customs, the trust in the shadow of Egypt ( Isaiah 30:22), is in the strict sense a national sin. If the state as such had abandoned itself to dependence on Egypt, and thereby committed a felony, it renounced the God of the spirits of all flesh, and called down His vengeance upon itself. “And Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing in their midst:” Shaphan occurs in 2 Kings 22:3; 2 Kings 22 : 2 Kings 22:10 as chancellor under Josiah. His son, who is probably invested with the same office, was no doubt the soul of the negotiations with Egypt. The prophet introduces the historical personality into this ideal company partly on this account, partly on account of his ominous name, The Lord hears, who was to come down on the head of these worshippers of beasts, and who pronounced judgment on their whole procedure. “Before them”—the pictures of animals. “And the prayer [49] of the cloud of incense went up.” The cloud of incense is called prayer, because it was an embodied prayer; comp. on Psalms 141:2, Revelation 5:8, Revelation 8:3-4, where we have the interpretation of the symbol, “The incense is the prayers of saints.” They say by the incense before those miserable figures, “Deliver me, for thou art my god” ( Isaiah 44:17). Here it is obvious that the prophet has before him not merely the direct participation in Egyptian idolatry. This was certainly not so general. Already Cocceius perceived the right meaning. He thus gives the real import: “The people of Israel relied at that time on the aid of the Egyptians, and looked to them as to their Saviour.” The words, “in the dark, every man in his image-chamber” (ver. Ezekiel 8:12), point to this, that revolt from Babylon, undertaken in concert with Egypt, was not at that time officially proclaimed—that it was still a secret, though a public one. Their inner apartments appear as image-chambers, because they deceive themselves in their inmost hearts with Egyptian fancies, which here find their external representation in the Egyptian figures on the walls. In ch. Ezekiel 23:14 the earlier Chaldean sympathies appear also in the objective form of pictures. They point to their justification of their shameless course in the words, “The Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken His land.” By these words they wish to refer the guilt to God. As He does nothing for them, they must help themselves as well as they can. Where punishment coincides with a defective sense of sin, revolt from God is the necessary consequence.

[49] עחר , not incense, scent,—a meaning that rests on no ground whatever.

Verses 14-15

Ezekiel 8:14. And he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house, which was toward the north; and, behold, the women sat there weeping for Tammuz. 15. And he said unto me, Seest thou, son of man? Still further shalt thou see greater abominations than these.

That the prophet is led to the north gate points to this, that the worship which is here treated of springs from the north. This suits Adonis, already recognised by Jerome in Tammuz, whose worship had its chief seat in Byblos, a city of northern Phoenicia, between Tripolis and Berytus, to which also the very characteristic mark of the weeping women leads. The real import is the seeking of political aid among the Phoenicians, who, according to the discussions on ch. Ezekiel 1, belonged to the anti-Chaldaic coalition. “Abominations greater than these” (ver. Ezekiel 8:15): in the previous passages it was merely, “Thou shalt still further see great abominations.” The gradation leads us to understand that the prophet here comes to the sin which stood at present in its full bloom. It was probably the project of a league with Medo-Persia which filled their minds with new hopes, and had called forth the new inquiry of the elders. The excitement was so much the greater, because the exiles were the appropriate agents for this alliance, as in general the Diaspora afforded a proper instrument for effecting the then far-reaching political combinations. We have only to think of the connection which even now subsists among the Jews of all countries.

Verses 16-18

Ezekiel 8:16. 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, about five and twenty men, whose backs were toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces towards the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17. And he said unto me. Hast thou seen, O son of man? Is it too little for the house of Judah to do the abominations which they have here done? that they have filled the land with violence, that they now still further provoke me to anger; and, lo, they put the vine-branch to their nose. 18. Therefore will I also deal in fury: my eye shall not spare, nor will I pity; and they shall cry in my ears with a loud voice, and I will not hear them.

The five and twenty in ver. Ezekiel 8:16 are, according to ch. Ezekiel 11:1, princes of the people. We have here, as in the seventy, an ideal representation of the ruling powers, so composed that for every one of the twelve tribes of which Israel ideally consisted, two men were counted, and one over as president. It is here said about twenty-five, in contradistinction to the seventy without the about in ver. Ezekiel 8:11. There the number had a definite basis in the Mosaic books; here this is wanting. This very about decides against the assumption that the twenty-five were the chiefs of the twenty-four classes of priests, with the high priest at their head. In this case the number would be sharply defined. Against the priests speaks also the political character of the whole scene, which becomes particularly evident by comparison with ch. Ezekiel 23, and by reference to the historical starting-point of the prophecies of Ezekiel, a great insurrection against the Chaldean monarchy. Moreover, it had never been really a fact that the whole priesthood, as one man, had given themselves over to idolatry. To this is added the impossibility of separating the twenty-five here from the twenty-five in ch. Ezekiel 11. We have here the transgression, there the punishment. In ch. Ezekiel 9 the latter was represented only in regard to the seventy. The place between the porch and the altar, immediately at the entrance of the court of the priests, on which especially the interpretation of the twenty-five by the priests was based, was also the appropriate one for the civic representatives in solemn supplications. As the priests stand there, according to Joel 2:17, to be in close proximity with the people in whose name they appear, so here the highest office-bearers of the people come as near the altar as was lawful for them, to show their contempt for the God of Israel. The Jews think they have behaved unbecomingly toward the altar. This is not ill devised, and goes further in the direction indicated by Ezekiel. The prophet has in view a new aspect of the political superstition of the people. It was a national sin; and so, along with the former representation of the people, consisting of seventy elders, a new one is here formed consisting of twenty-five princes. We learn more exactly the nature of this political superstition from the mention of the sun as the object of worship, and especially from the close of ver. Ezekiel 8:17, where a rite of the Medo-Persian religion is undeniably spoken of. If any one turned attention to the confederates against the Chaldeans, he must have thought above all of those whom Isaiah had already named as the destroyers of the in his time only dawning Chaldean empire, the Medo-Persians. “As the power,” it was remarked in the Christology, “which will subvert the Babylonian monarchy, appear the Medes in Isaiah 13:17. In ch. Ezekiel 21:2 Elam is named along with Madai, by which, in the usage of Isaiah, Persia is designated. This power, and at its head the conqueror from the east, Koresh, will, according to the announcement of Isaiah, bring salvation to Judah; through it will he gain a restoration to his native land.” The revolt might here shelter itself under the appearance of piety: the word of God itself seemed to point to alliance with the Persians, and to invite to the same. As Babylon, according to Isaiah 39, Ezekiel 16 and Ezekiel 23, and other accounts, conspired against Assyria a long time before it was able to overthrow it, so it is to be supposed that the Medo-Persian power first attained its object after many previous unsuccessful attempts. But we are distinctly assured of this by Ezekiel in ch. Ezekiel 32:2-4, Ezekiel 32:25. There appear the Elamites, “who caused their terror in the land of the living,” among the nations who were discomfited by the Chaldeans, without doubt in consequence of the coalition, which we here see in the act of formation. In Jeremiah, ch. Jeremiah 25:25, the kings of Media and Elam are named in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar among those who are to drink the cup of wrath. In the face of the fulfilment of this former prophecy, Jeremiah threatens, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah (ch. Jeremiah 49:34 f.), that the Lord will break the bow of Elam, without doubt in reference to the political hopes which were at this time placed in Elam. Graf says on this passage: “Elam’s power also is broken; the enemies, the instruments of the divine anger, surprise it, and before their terrible annihilating sword it flees to all nations: its land becomes subject to a foreign power. But yet once more is Elam restored.” Jeremiah plays no empty trick. He must have had a real cause for threatening destruction to Elam. The predictions of the prophets are “counsels” ( Isaiah 41:28). After a full historical investigation, M. Niebuhr says in the History of Assyria and Babylon, p. 212: “A successful war of Nebuchadnezzar with Elam, between the ninth and twentieth years of his reign, is certain.” The twenty-five stand not in the inner court, but at the door of it. That they appear in the temple of Jehovah, implies that they wish to maintain externally their relation to the Lord. But that they turn their back to the sanctuary of the Lord and their face to the sun, shows that in their political course they count the Lord for nothing; and, on the contrary, place their hope in the worshippers of the sun. The worship of the stars and the elements was, as Herodotus testified, peculiar to the Medo-Persian religion. They had no gods of wood and stone, no image-worship like the Egyptians. The chief object of their veneration was, along with fire, the sun. Hyde, De Religione Persarum, p. 305, gives from the ruins of Persepolis a copy of a scene—the king of Persia as he stands worshipping before the fire and the sun. The sun is here to be regarded more exactly as the rising sun. We have a reference to the Persian worship of the rising sun in Isaiah 41:2, “who awakened from the sunrise;” and Isaiah 46:11, “who calls from the sunrise an eagle.” The name Koresh itself, according to the Greek writers, signifies the sun. The Persian king was regarded as an incarnation of the sun-god. In that sculpture in Persepolis, the spirit of the king moves before the sun, from which it proceeds and to which it returns. [50] In ver. Ezekiel 8:17 it is said that Judah is already sufficiently burdened with “the abominations which they have done, that they have filled the land with violence,” so that it is really not the time to provoke God further by these new abominations. Here: this refers to sins with which they, the house of Judah, and especially their princes (for the violence points to these), have already filled the land, which have thus been committed abroad outside the temple. But yet they were, as the here shows, committed in the temple. For the temple is, in a spiritual sense, the dwelling of the Israelites, and all that they did took place there. In what the new transgression consists, by which they provoke God, is intimated in the words, “They put the vine-branch to the nose.” That it belongs to the religious department, in contrast with the former sins, which moved in the moral region, appears from the phrase “to provoke me” in its reference to Deuteronomy 32:16, “They vex Him with strange gods, with abominations they provoke Him.” The vine-branch [51] held before corresponds here with the worship of the sun in ver. Ezekiel 8:16. The vine-stock is the pre-eminent product of the sun, and so to the sun-worshippers the chief object of thanksgiving and prayer, the most suitable representative of all for which thanks are due to the sun. 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. For the vine-branch here needs not be a single rod, and the nose is derisively mentioned in place of the mouth, according to the leaning to irony and sarcasm which appears so often in the prophets when they oppose and chastise superstitious folly.

[50] We must beware of misunderstanding the anomalous form משתחוים as it occurs directly in Ezekiel, of whom the abnormal is a characteristic peculiarity. The form is a quid pro quo, but so is the practice signified by it. Lightfoot says, vox miro modo formata, ad miram abominatioem efficacius exprimendam. The regular form would be the participle משתחוים . But the prophet, by inserting n, gives a criticism of their proceeding. To be compared is Exodus 24:1, “And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou and Aaron, and seventy of the ciders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.” Further, Deuteronomy 11:16, “Take heed that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside and serve other gods, and worship them, and the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you.” The last passage is especially to the point. The ת serves the purpose of a quotation, that is, they worship; whereas it is said in the law of God, Ye shall not worship. You may declare this to be a mere play; but this does not at all alter the fact.

[51] זמורה means only vine-stock, nothing else, and so occurs in ch. 15:2. Every other explanation is thus to be rejected as arbitrary. The word never means shoot in general. Even according to its derivation, it suits only the vine-stock, to which alone it applies in use. The verb is used of the pruning of the vineyard. The noun, properly pruning, points to the care which the vine needs, if it is to thrive and bear fruit—the καθαί?ρει of John 15:2. Of the requital, which is brought in here by an arbitrary interpretation of זמורה , mention is first made in Ezekiel 8:18.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.