For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

8:1.  “And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me.”


The time mentioned here, “the sixth year ... sixth month ... fifth day...” is generally understood to refer to the time that king Jehoiachin had been in exile, and that Zedediah, Judah’s last king, had been reigning; and the reference to the prophet’s sitting in his house is also generally taken to have reference to the command given him in 3:24 to shut himself within his house, so that he was to cease going out to speak to the people, but rather, to let them come to him when they wished to discuss something.  It was under that Divine arrangement that the elders had come to Ezekiel in his house; the hand of God falling upon him meaning simply that the Spirit of God had come upon him or had entered into him.


8:2.  “Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the color of amber.”


This was a theophany, a manifestation of God in a representative visible form.  From the waist downwards the form was fire; and above the waist, gleaming bronze.  Since fire and brass or bronze are both symbols of Divine anger and judgment, the picture is of God about to execute judgment upon rebel Judah.


8:3.  “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate, that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.”


The theophanic figure then extended his hand, grasped the prophet’s hair, and transported him into the air, giving him a vision of Jerusalem, where at the inner gate on the north side of the city, he saw an idol which provoked the Lord’s jealous anger.


It is significant that Ezekiel was shown the north side of the city, for in Scripture the north is the direction that speaks of intelligence or reason, rather than faith which is always associated with the south.  The people had rejected God, and were following the dictates of their own evil minds.


8:4.  “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain.”


Ezekiel was then shown the same glorious manifestation of God as had been given him in 3:22-23.


8:5.  “Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north, So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry.”


In obedience to the Divine command the prophet then looked northward, and saw there just north of the altar gate the image which had provoked the Lord’s fierce jealous anger.


8:6.  “He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.”


The “great abominations (filthy practices)” were Judah’s veneration of idols while continuing to preserve the empty form of worshiping Jehovah, their idolatrous hypocrisy so antagonizing Him that He was about to “go far off from my (His) sanctuary,” that departure being accomplished by His bringing the Babylonians to destroy His Temple, and carry the idolatrous people into captivity.


That one idol, however, wasn’t the only thing provoking God’s anger.  The prophet was about to be shown even viler practices.


8:7.  “And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.”


That literal hole in the wall was symbolic of the breach in the Divinely ordained pattern of worship caused by the people’s idolatry.


8:8.  “Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.”


Ezekiel’s having to dig portrays the truth that the evil was so carefully disguised as not to be readily discernible, and in this is disclosed the truth that the corruption lying under the facade of Christendom’s so-called worship is also not readily apparent.  For example, clerical garb distracts attention from the fact that the whole clerical system - Protestant as well as Roman Catholic - is anathema to God, for it is nothing less than the Nicolaitanism denounced in Re 2:15, and in regard to which God says, “... which thing I hate.”


The digging revealed a door through which the prophet beheld utter evil; and so is it in regard to apostate Christianity.  A careful examination of it in the light of Scripture reveals similar great evil.


8:9.  “And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.”


The prophet was then commanded to go through the door so that he might see the filthy practices being engaged in by those who were supposed to be the elders of the people.  The same disgusting sights would meet his eyes were he still on earth and permitted to see behind the religious facade of apostate Christianity.


8:10.  “So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.”


Carved or drawn on the walls were all kinds of reptiles, vermin, and every imaginable loathsome creature, together with all the idols which Israel worshiped.


8:11.  “And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.”


The seventy were the leaders of the nation, Jaazaniah being a descendant of a family that had been outstandingly faithful in Israel, yet there he was worshiping his favorite idol as the others were worshiping theirs.


8:12.  “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.”


“... the chambers of his imagery” is also translated, his room of pictures: his idol or image room: his painted room.  Each had his own idol or idols, and a personal shrine at which he presented his idolatrous worship; their consciences being freed from any sense of wrongdoing by their own false reasoning that Jehovah had forsaken the land, and therefore took no notice of what they did.


How accurately all this portrays the evil state of Christendom!  Here too each has his own “god” - mammon, learning, sports, pleasure, being but a few of the gods worshiped, the consciences of the devotees being salved by an occasional brief visit to “church,” or by the false conclusion that God doesn’t even exist.


8:13.  “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do.”


It might have been expected that the prophet had seen all of Israel’s wickedness, but he hadn’t: he had been shown only the “tip of the iceberg.”


8:14.  “Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.”


Again, the direction mentioned is “the north,” which as noted already, is biblically synonymous with intelligence or reason rather than faith.


Relative to Tammuz, The New Bible Dictionary states that:


This mourning for the god Tammuz took place on the second day of the fourth month (June/July).... It commemorated the legendary death of the Sumerian deity Dumu.zi (‘true son’), the prediluvian shepherd and husband of Ishtar.  On his death, Ishtar mourned and called on all to do so.  When she entered the underworld all birth, life, and joy ceased.  It is now known that Tammuz did not rise to life with Ishtar’s return for he later appears as a god of the underworld.  Those who see him as a dying and rising vegetation-deity take this to typify the disappearance of vegetation in the summer and its revival in the following spring rains.  The cult figures little in Assyrian and Babylonian religion except for the Tammuz-liturgies, which support the myth....


The women of Israel were just as idolatrous as the men.


8:15.  “Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.”


It might have been assumed that what the prophet had been shown was the full extent of the idolatry, but worse was to follow.


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, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, and they worshiped the sun toward the east.”


These men with their backs to the temple are generally believed to have been priests, representative of the nation, for apart from the small godly remnant, all the people had turned their backs on God.  Nor should we miss the significance of their number, twenty-five, for this number factorizes to 5 multiplied by 5, and five is the biblical number of responsibility.  God would hold them responsible for their wickedness, as He will every man who dies in unbelief.


The mention of the east adds further evil significance, for it is the biblical direction of sin and rejection of God, in spite of its being universally associated with good, because of its association with the rising of the sun and the coming of light, but it is to be remembered that it is the source of natural light, the symbol of human intelligence, as opposed to spiritual light of which the Holy Spirit is the Source.  Every biblical reference to the east, in fact, has an evil connotation.  Those twenty-five men “worshiped the sun toward the east.”  They are representative of the nation which had rejected the knowledge of God in favor of a self-willed worship dictated by man’s fallen intellect.


8:17.  “Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.”


Having rejected God’s control of their lives, and having lived according to the dictates of their own wicked hearts, they had filled the land with lawlessness, and therefore aroused the Lord’s anger.


Relative to the words “they put the branch to their nose,” nothing is known of this custom in connection with the worship of any people of antiquity, but obviously it did play some part in the ritual of such worship.


Some understand the words to mean that they put the branch, not to their own nostrils, but to God’s, thus offering Him an insult, but this also fails to shed any light on the actual significance of the gesture.


8:18.  “Therefore will I also deal in fury; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. 


By their persistent idolatry, and refusal to repent in God’s time, they had passed beyond the pale of mercy and must therefore perish without any hope of either leniency or pity, as must every man who dies unrepentant.

[Ezekiel 9]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough