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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 8

Verses 1-6

Ezekiel 8-13. Other Visions of Sin and Judgment.

Ezekiel 8. The Idolatry of Jerusalem Illustrated.

Ezekiel 8:1-6 . The Jealousy Image.— The visions which fill chs. 8– 11 occurred about a year after those that precede ( Ezekiel 1:1), i.e. in 591 B.C. This chapter gives concrete illustrations of the kind of sin that justified the doom already announced: significantly enough, they all centre round idolatry ( cf. Ezekiel 8:6), and— most horrible of all— the scene of it is the Temple itself. Thither, on the occasion of a visit of certain Judæ an elders to his house Ezekiel had been transported in ecstatic trance by the Divine Being, whose glory he had seen and described in ch. 1: there he had witnessed— some think by a kind of second sight— one idolatry after another, each one worse than the last, and all represented as constraining Yahweh to depart from His sanctuary. First was an image of jealousy, i.e. an image which provoked Yahweh: it may have been an image of the goddess Astarte, or it may only have been a sacred pole (ashç râ ) forbidden to the Yahweh worship ( Deuteronomy 16:21): enough, as an image, it was an abomination— the more so, as it had been introduced after being abolished by Josiah ( 2 Kings 23:6).

Verses 7-13

Ezekiel 8:7-13 . The Mystery Cult.— Next, through a hole in the Temple wall, Ezekiel saw seventy elders headed by Jaazaniah (son, perhaps, of that very Shaphan who had been associated with the reform of the worship thirty years before, 2 K. 228ff.) indulging in mysterious animal worship, which some trace to Egypt, others to Babylon, while others, with more probability, regard it as a recrudescence of ancient Canaanitish practice (possibly totemistic). But the explanation of this, as partly of the other practices, lies in this ( Ezekiel 8:12), that they believe both themselves and their land to be forsaken by their God, Yahweh, and they are therefore driven to seek the support of other gods. (The meaning and the text of the phrase “ chambers of imagery” in Ezekiel 8:12 are uncertain.)

Verses 14-15

Ezekiel 8:14-15 . The Worship of Tammuz.— Then follows a scene in which the women lament for Tammuz— a clear allusion to a Babylonian cult. Tammuz (pp. 631 f.), “ impersonation of the fructifying, gladdening sun,” god of the spring vegetation, is represented as later in the year descending to the realm of the dead. Thither he was followed by the goddess Ishtar, and this accounts for the part here taken by the women in the cult. “ Here we strike upon the danger-point in the old nature religions” ; they easily developed licentious features. Whether these were practised in Israel in Ezekiel’ s time or not, such a cult constituted a grave menace. (For an illuminating account of Tammuz, who roughly corresponds to Adonis, see J. F. McCurdy, History, Prophecy, and the Monuments, §§ 1186– 1190.)

Verse 16

Ezekiel 8:16 f. Sun Worship.— The next scene is a group of sun-worshippers with their backs significantly turned towards the Temple. This also points to Babylonian influence. Sun worship, abolished by Josiah ( 2 Kings 23:11) had apparently been reintroduced. What the more abominable thing, alluded to in Ezekiel 8:17, may have been, we do not know, as the phrase “ they put the branch to their nose” is obscure: some imagine it conceals a reference to a definitely immoral worship. [But see J. H. Moulton’ s Early Zoroastrianism, pp. x, 189– 191. He says, referring to the Magi. “ The earliest evidence of their activity as a sacred tribe is in Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 8:17), where they are found at Jerusalem, in or before 591 B.C., worshipping the sun, and holding to their face a branch, which is the predecessor of the later barsom” (p. x). Of the barsom he says that Parsi priests still hold it “ to the face as they minister before the sacred fire” (p. 190). J. G. Frazer, with reference to Strabo’ s account of Zoroastrianism in Cappadocia, says: “ The perpetual fire burnt on an altar, surrounded by a heap of ashes, in the middle of the temple; and the priests daily chanted their liturgy before it, holding in their hands a bundle of myrtle rods and wearing on their heads tall felt caps with cheek-pieces which covered their lips, lest they should defile the sacred flame with their breath.”— Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3 i. 191.— A.S. P.] At any rate, after so many references to ritual sin, it is refreshing to find Ezekiel ending the indictment which justified the doom with a definite charge of wrong-doing: “ they have filled the land with violence.”

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.