“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.” — Ezekiel 8:12
Have you ever played hide and seek with a young child? Most little children assume that if they can’t see you, then you are also unable to see them! Sometimes, they will close their eyes and say loudly, “You can’t see me!” Other times, they think they are well hidden because they are covered up — perhaps hiding under a bedspread or behind a curtain — though their outline is clearly visible! If they know you are near, they often will start to giggle or laugh, which makes their hiding place even more obvious.
We serve a God who sees everything we do, whether we think it is covered or not. Jeremiah, one of Ezekiel’s contemporaries, spoke for God saying, “Mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17). Repeatedly, the Word of God reminds us that God sees and knows all things.
This is wonderful news to the person who is living to please God. It is comforting to know that God sees and cares! It would be foolish to try to hide from the One who created us and knows all about us. However, sin in the heart will cause individuals to try to cover up or hide their wrongdoings. Some believe that if they deny God’s existence, they will not be accountable for their sins. Others excuse or justify their wrong behavior. No matter what method is used to try to conceal sin, God still sees it and calls the soul who is hiding from Him, mercifully offering forgiveness through the Blood of Jesus.
In Ezekiel’s day, the leaders of Israel had convinced themselves that God did not see their evil, and they carried on their idolatrous activities as if everything were all right. However, God saw what they did in secret, and He revealed their evil deeds to the prophet. Although individuals could still repent, the time for national salvation was past. God was about to pour out His judgment upon the nation.
Today, God’s door of mercy is still open for those who will come to Him in true repentance. Rather than continuing to cover sin, how much better it is to admit guilt and obtain God’s forgiveness while mercy is still available!
This chapter records a vision in which God identified the depth of Israel’s iniquity by showing Ezekiel abominations that were taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem. These included the image of jealousy in the Temple in verses 5-6, and the worship of creeping things and beasts by the city leaders in verses 7-13. Ezekiel was also shown the weeping of idolatrous women over the pagan god Tammuz (verses 14-15) and the worship of the sun by the priests (verses 16-18).
According to the date given in verse 1, this vision took place fourteen months after Ezekiel’s first vision and near the end of his 430 days action-sermon. Ezekiel had remained in his home during that time; and the elders of Judah, the leaders of the exiles in Babylon, had come to him there. As he sat with these elders, he saw the same form (viewed by Bible scholars as the pre-incarnate Christ) that he had seen in his first vision (see Ezekiel 1:27).
The Divine Being took Ezekiel by a lock of hair and brought him to Jerusalem. The fact that this was a spiritual rather than physical transporting is inferred by the statement that he was “brought in the visions of God” to the city. Though Ezekiel was transported in spirit, what God showed him was not figurative but rather represented the coming reality.
Ezekiel found himself at the northern gate of the inner court. There, where worshippers were supposed to bring their sacrifices to the Lord, Ezekiel saw an idol identified as the “image of jealousy” — identified in that manner because it provoked God to jealousy. In verse 3, inclusion of the word “the” in the phrase “the image of jealousy” seems to indicate this was a specific idol Ezekiel’s hearers would recognize. Some Bible scholars suggest that perhaps the image set up by Manasseh and his son Amon, which was later removed by Josiah, had been moved back. In spite of the wickedness around him, however, Ezekiel saw that God’s Shekinah glory was still in the Temple (verse 4), an evidence of God’s grace. However, God was being driven away by “great abominations” referenced in verse 6.
In verses 7-13, Ezekiel learned that the community leaders of Jerusalem were worshipping all manner of ceremonially unclean animals. Their worship was hidden, but Ezekiel was led to where it was taking place. In the rooms built around the court wall, he saw a cavity in the wall and uncovered a door. He entered a room where the walls were covered with images of creeping things and beasts, and seventy elders — the “ancients of the house of Israel” — were worshipping them with censers of incense. In verse 11, one of these leaders was named: Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan. Shaphan had been a leader in Josiah’s reformation and one of his sons was a supporter of Jeremiah. Clearly, Jaazaniah was a rebel from a worthy family. The elders engaging in this abomination were considered wise by the people, but their assertion in verse 12 that the Lord did not see them was false.
Verses 14-15 record that in the outer court, Ezekiel saw women mourning for Tammuz, a Babylonian god most commonly known today by his Greek name, Adonis.
In verses 16-18, Ezekiel was taken into the inner court of the priest. There he saw the twenty-four priestly service divisions (established in 1 Chronicles 24), as well as their leader, the high priest, worshipping the rising sun. Since these service divisions represented the whole land, the fact that twenty-five men were engaged in this idolatrous worship indicated how widespread this pagan practice had become.
In the phrase “they put the branch to their nose” (verse 17), the word “branch” is a euphemism for Asherah, the Babylonian goddess, mother of Tammuz, who was represented by a branch or groomed tree. This was a vulgar gesture blatantly flaunting their idolatrous worship.
Verse 18 establishes once more the set resolve of God’s judgment. Though opportunity for individual repentance remained, the time for national conversion was past.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
B. The transgression and fall of Jerusalem
1. The vision of abominations in the Temple (8:1-18)
a. The introduction (8:1-4)
b. The image of jealousy (8:5-6)
c. The idolatry of the elders (8:7-13)
d. The worship of Tammuz (8:14-15)
e. The worship of the sun (8:16-17)
f. The wrath of the Lord (8:18)
The day is coming when God will bring to light the things that are hidden in darkness. As we allow God to search our hearts, we will have confidence before Him and will never need to hide.