Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 8

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3411. B.C. 593.

God, having given Ezekiel a clear foresight of the miseries coming upon the people, here gives him a clear insight into the people’s wickedness, by which he was provoked to bring those miseries upon them. He takes him in a vision to Jerusalem, to show him the sins that were committed there, Ezekiel 8:1-4 . There the prophet sees,

(1,) The image of jealousy set at the gate of the altar, Ezekiel 8:5 , Ezekiel 8:6 .

(2,) The elders of Israel worshipping all manner of images in a secret chamber, Ezekiel 8:7-12 .

(3,) The women weeping for Tammuz, Ezekiel 8:13 , Ezekiel 8:14 .

(4,) The men worshipping the sun, Ezekiel 8:15 , Ezekiel 8:16 . God then appeals to the prophet, whether such a provoking people should have any pity shown them, and threatens most severely to punish them, Ezekiel 8:17 , Ezekiel 8:18 .

Verse 1

Ezekiel 8:1. And it came to pass in the sixth year Namely, of Jehoiachin’s captivity. In the sixth month The LXX. read, in the fifth month. As I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah Men of note for their age or authority, or the chief of those who had been made captives with Jehoiachin, sat before me Having come, probably, to inquire of the Lord concerning their present state of affairs, what the issue would be; or what would become of their brethren who remained in Judea and Jerusalem. It must be observed, “that in Ezekiel 4:4-6, the prophet is commanded to lie on his left side three hundred and ninety days, and on his right side forty days; to which must be added the seven days mentioned Ezekiel 3:15. But the interval between this vision, and Ezekiel 1:1, is only one year and two months, or four hundred and twenty days, reckoning thirty days in a month. It would seem, therefore, that this revelation was made to the prophet during his typical siege. ‘But Vignoles, 5. 2:447, thinks, that the year was a lunar one, with an intercalation of thirty days.’ Secker. And, according to Michaelis, the Jews, and in general the people of Asia, were used to lunar years of three hundred and fifty-four days. Add to them two months, or fifty-nine days, and you have four hundred and thirteen days. A whole month was intercalated from time to time into the lunar year, to make it agree with the harvest year. Add twenty-nine days, and you have four hundred and forty-two days.” Newcome.

Verse 2

Ezekiel 8:2 . I beheld, and lo a likeness Namely, of a man; the man whom he had seen upon the throne; as the appearance of fire This seems to have been the same appearance as that mentioned before, Ezekiel 1:27, signifying that God was about to inflict heavy judgments on the Jewish nation, but so as not entirely to destroy it. It is probable, while those who are here called the elders of Judah were sitting before the prophet with silence and attention, waiting for an answer to some inquiries they had made of him, as God’s prophet, concerning what was to be the future condition of the Jewish nation, that Ezekiel was on a sudden seized with an ecstasy, and had the things he gives an account of in the following verses presented before his eyes; or such a strong impression of them made upon his mind, that it seemed to him as if he actually saw them.

Verses 3-6

Ezekiel 8:3-6. And he put forth the form of a hand He appeared so to do. This, and all that follows, to the end of Ezekiel 8:16, was done in vision only, as appears from the expression here used: and brought me in the visions of God, &c. In a similar manner, it was represented to the Prophet Elisha’s mind, (2 Kings 5:26,) what Gehazi was doing when he took the presents from Naaman, which the prophet there calls being present with Gehazi. To Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate To the entrance that goes into the inner court, called the court of the priests, where the altar of burnt-offerings stood; where was the seat of the image of jealousy “An image set up within the precincts of the temple, to provoke God to jealousy, by setting up a rival against him in the place dedicated to his own worship.” This was most probably an image of Baal, for that, we find, was the idol they chiefly worshipped. As it was exceedingly provoking to God to set up another object of worship besides him; so it was still more so to do this in the place which had been built for, and was dedicated to, his worship only. To speak in the figurative sense in which God is spoken of, with regard to the Jewish nation, namely, as being a husband to it, it was just the same as if the adulterer were brought into the house of the husband whom he had injured, in his very sight; therefore it is very properly called here, the image of jealousy, or that exciteth jealousy. That I should go far off from my sanctuary Which are provocations sufficient to cause me to forsake my sanctuary, and deliver it up to be profaned by the heathen, Ezekiel 7:21-22. This is significantly represented by the departing of the divine glory from the threshold of the temple, Ezekiel 10:18.

Verses 7-11

Ezekiel 8:7-11. And he brought me to the door of the court This, Dr. Lightfoot understands of the east gate of the inner court, called the gate of Nicanor, over which was the council chamber, where the sanhedrim used to meet, and in some of the rooms near it they secretly practised idolatry, as God discovered to the prophet, Ezekiel 8:11. Behold a hole in the wall Through which I could look in, and see what abominations were committing there. Then he said, Dig now in the wall This, and what follows, was done only by vision, during the prophet’s trance or ecstasy, while the elders sat before him. And when I had digged in the wall, behold a door A private door, by which the elders entered into the chambers of their imagery, to perform idolatrous worship to the images. And he said unto me, Go in, &c. To give me the fullest conviction, I not only looked through the hole, mentioned Ezekiel 8:7, but went into the very room where these idolatries were committed. Behold the abominations that they do here Hebrew, are doing here: even under the approach of judgments, and under the walls of my temple. So I went in, and behold every form of creeping things It is probable that they imitated the Egyptians in this kind of idolatry; for the Egyptians used to worship several kinds of beasts and reptiles. According to Diodorus Siculus, 50. 1. p. 59, edit. Wess., (referred to by Secker,) “round the room in Thebes, where the body of King Osymanduas seemed to be buried, a multitude of chambers were built, which had elegant paintings of all the beasts sacred in Egypt.” It is not unlikely they imagined they evaded the law against setting up any image to worship, by having them only portrayed, or painted, on the wall; or, at least, that it was not so great an offence; for the Jewish people in general seem to have had little regard to any thing but the strict letter of the law, not regarding the spirit of it. However, as to objects for worship, pictures were prohibited, as well as carved images, as appears from Numbers 33:52. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients, &c. Heads of the tribes or families, or, at least, principal men, (according to the number of the sanhedrim,) who ought to have been examples of true religion, not ringleaders in idolatry. By this the prophet was given to see, that it was not the vulgar, or the poor and ignorant only that were guilty of idolatry, but the leading men of the nation, and those of the greatest knowledge, power, and influence, who were superior to, and had the direction of the common people; so that it was properly a national guilt, and, as such, loudly called for national punishment. And in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah Probably a prince of the people; the son of Shaphan Mentioned 2 Kings 22:9. Shaphan was forward in reforming under Josiah, and his son is as forward in corrupting the worship of God.

Verse 12

Ezekiel 8:12 . Hast thou seen what the ancients do in the dark Do secretly; every man in the chambers of his imagery Chambers so very private, that the prophet is described as obliged to dig a hole through the wall before he could discover their idolatrous practices. For they say, The Lord seeth us not They either deny the being and providence of God, (Ezekiel 9:9,) or they say in their hearts, God hath cast us off, and withdrawn his wonted protection from us. They seem to have been of the same mind with Ahaz, who resolved to worship the gods of the Syrians, his conquerors, 2 Chronicles 28:23. So these men worshipped the idols of their neighbours, whom they saw to be more prosperous than themselves. Observe here, reader, a practical disbelief of God’s omniscience and superintending providence is one chief cause of men’s treacherous departures from him. The Lord hath forsaken the earth Looks not after the affairs of it, and therefore we had as well worship any other god as him. Or, he hath forsaken our land, and left it to be a prey to its enemies, and therefore it is time for us to look out to some other god to whom to commit the protection of it. This was a blasphemous reflection upon God, as if he had forsaken them first, otherwise they would not have forsaken him. Those are indeed ripe for ruin who are arrived to such a pitch of impudence as to lay the blame of their sins on God himself.

Verse 14

Ezekiel 8:14. Then he brought me to the door which was toward the north Dr. Lightfoot distinguishes this door from that mentioned Ezekiel 8:5; this, he says, was the upper north gate, and that the lower; this being just over against the temple itself; whereas that was opposite the altar. Behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz “The prophet here refers to a Phœnician or Syrian superstition. Tammuz was an idol of Chaldee extraction, as is plain from his name; which also is used for the tenth month, reckoning from the autumnal equinox, that is, the month of June; and Tammuz, as the object of worship, expresses the solar light in its perfection, as in the summer solstice. The Vulgate renders Tammuz, by Adonis; and that Adonis, according to the physical theology of the heathen, was the same as the sun, there is no question. Macrobius expressly affirms it, Saturnal., lib. 1. cap. 21, and says, that the tradition of Adonis being killed by a boar, means the diminution of the sun’s light and heat by winter. This departure of Adonis, or the sun, was lamented in the most frantic ceremonies of grief by the Phœnician and Assyrian women, who, on these occasions, used to prostitute themselves in honour of his vivifying power; and thus the Jewish women are described by our prophet, weeping for Tammuz, on the fifth day of the sixth month, that is, of August; at which time his death, by the winter boar, was drawing on apace. Tammuz was supposed to have been killed by a wild boar in mount Lebanon, whence flows the river Adonis, concerning which Lucian relates an opinion prevailing in these parts, that its stream, at certain seasons of the year, is of a bloody colour, which the heathen considered as proceeding from a kind of sympathy in the river for his death: see Parkhurst and Uni. Hist., vol. 1. p. 342. Milton has touched upon each of these particulars in the following elegant lines:

“ Tammuz came next behind, Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured The Syrian damsels to lament his fate, In am’rous ditties all a summer’s day, While smooth Adonis, from his native rock, Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood Of Tammuz, 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 eye survey’d the dark idolatries Of alienated Judah .” PARADISE LOST b. 1. 5:446.

Verses 15-16

Ezekiel 8:15-16. Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations These latter wickednesses may be accounted greater, because they were acted in a more sacred place. And he brought me into the inner court The court next the temple, namely, that of the priests. And, behold, at the door of the temple At that door through which there was an entrance into the porch of the temple, from the altar of burnt- sacrifices. Before, he saw the abominations committed in the gates of the courts, now he is come to the very house itself. Were about five and twenty men with their backs toward the temple, &c. In contempt of God and his worship they turned their backs toward his sanctuary, and their faces toward the sun; according to the custom of the Chaldeans, Persians, and other eastern nations who worshipped the sun. Lowth thinks Hezekiah might allude to some idolatrous practice of this kind, in that confession of his, recorded 2 Chronicles 29:6, Our fathers have forsaken him, and turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs. They turned their back to God, and not the face, as Jeremiah expresses their contempt toward him, Jeremiah 2:27. To prevent even the appearance of this, the people were commanded to come into the courts of the temple at the north or southern gates when they came to worship, that they might not, at their return, turn their backs upon God: see Ezekiel 46:9. God ordered the holy of holies, in his temple, to be placed toward the west, in opposition to this species of heathen idolatry, which consisted in worshipping the rising sun. And the pious Jews always turned their faces toward the temple when they worshipped.

Verses 17-18

Ezekiel 8:17-18. Then he said After the prophet had seen all, and had had time to consider all he saw, God appeals to him concerning the heinousness of their crimes. Is it a light thing to the house of Israel Who know and profess better things, and are dignified with so many privileges above other nations? Is it excusable in them, who have God’s oracles and ordinances, that they commit the abominations which they commit here? Do they not deserve to suffer who thus sin? Should not such abominations as these make desolate? For they have filled the land with violence All kinds of injustice are here meant, toward all sorts of men, whom they first despised and then defrauded, oppressed, or destroyed. And it is not strange if they who wrong their Creator make no conscience of injuring their fellow- creatures, and with all that is sacred, trample also on all that is just. And this wickedness of their conduct toward each other would have made their worship an abomination, even if it had been paid to the true God: see Isaiah 1:11, &c. And have returned to provoke me, &c. After having filled the land with violence, they return to the temple to practise their idolatries: from injustice against man they return to impiety against God, and thus, by fresh abominations, add new aggravations to their guilt. And lo, they put the branch to their nose This obscure clause is supposed by several commentators to relate to some custom among the idolaters of dedicating a branch of laurel, or of some other tree, to the honour of the sun, and carrying it in their hands at the time of their worship. And Spencer, De leg. Hebrews, lib. 4. cap. 5, observes, “that the heathen, in the worship of their deities, held forth the branches of those trees which were dedicated to them:” a rite which was called among the Greeks, οσχοφορια , θαλλοφρια : that is, branch-bearing. And Lewis, in his Origines Hebrææ, vol. 3. p. 4, observes, that the most reasonable exposition is, that the worshipper, with a wand in his hand, was wont to touch the idol, and then apply the stick to his nose and mouth, in token of worship and adoration. The Jewish rabbins, however, reckon this among the texts which their wise men have corrected, and say the original reading was not אפם , their nose, but אפי , my nose, or face; according to which reading the sense will be, They put a stick to my face, namely, to mock, or exasperate me: or, taking זמרה to mean here, not a branch, but, as Buxtorf renders it, odor malus ventris, the words will mean, they put an offensive smell to my nose, that is, they put an open affront upon me, namely, by turning their back to me in the place dedicated to my worship. And to this sense the LXX. interpret it, reading αυτοι ως μυκτηριζοντες , they are as those that mock me, or publicly affront me. The Vulgate, however, reads the clause as we do. Dr. Lightfoot renders the place, They put the branch to my wrath, or their wrath; that is, “they add more fuel to my wrath, which will burst out like a flame to consume them: just as if one should lay a heap of dry sticks upon a fire.” Therefore will I deal in fury, &c. Hebrew, in anger, or wrath. Mine eye shall not spare Their provocations are such, that my justice cannot be satisfied without bringing deserved punishment upon them; and though they cry, &c. Their sins cry louder for vengeance than their prayers cry for mercy.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". Benson's Commentary. 1857.