The Word Made Fresh
1On the fifth day of the sixth month in the sixth year, I was sitting in my house. Judah’s elders were sitting with me when the LORD’s hand came upon me. 2As I looked, there was a human figure with fire below its waist and what looked like bright amber above its waist. 3It reached out something like a hand and grabbed me by my hair and I was raised up by the Spirit between heaven and earth. I was taken in God’s vision to Jerusalem and stood before the entrance of the inner court facing north. I was brought to the seat of the image which arouses jealousy, 4and the brightness of the God of Israel was there like the vision I had seen in the valley.
5God said to me, “Son of man, look northward.” I did, and to the north of the gate in front of the entrance to the altar there was an idol of jealousy. 6The voice said, “Man, do you see what they’re doing? Do you see the terrible sins the house of Israel is committing here in order to drive me away from my sanctuary? Not only this, but you will see even more abominable things.”
7I was brought then to the courtyard entrance. I looked, and there was a hole in the wall. 8The voice said to me, “Man, dig through the wall.” I did, and when I dug through there was an entryway. 9“Go in,” the voice said, “and see the repulsive things they are doing here.” 10I went in, and I saw images on the wall of all kinds of creeping things and loathsome animals with all the idols of the house of Israel. 11Seventy of the elders of Israel stood before them, including Jaazaniah son of Shaphan. Each one was carrying an incense burner in his hand, and the sweet, pungent cloud of incense was rising. 12The voice said to me, “Man, do you see what the elders of Israel are doing in secret in their rooms filled with images? They say the LORD doesn’t see them because the LORD has given up on the land.” 13The LORD also said, “You will see even greater wicked things they are doing.”
14Then I was brought to the entrance of the north gate of the LORD’s house. Women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15The voice said, “Have you seen this? You will see even worse things than these.”
16Then I was brought to the inner courtyard of the LORD’s house and there, at the entrance of the temple between the porch and the altar were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple and their faces toward the east, and they lay face down before the sun to the east. 17The voice said to me, “Man, have you seen this? Isn’t it enough that the leaders of Judah commit the sins done here? Do they have to fill the land with violence and make me even angrier? Look how they put a branch to their noses! 18So, I will act in anger and not have any pity for them or spare them at all. If they cry out loudly to me, I will not listen to them.”
1-4: Two years plus a month have passed since that first vision, and now Ezekiel falls into another trance and a second vision comes to him. He must have presented the warnings to the elders because now they are in his house conferring with him. While they are there, as if to provide credence to his witness, he falls into another prophetic trance in which God gives him a vision of what is to come. Again, he uses similes: the figure “looked like” a man; it had what “appeared to be” a midsection, above which is the “appearance” of brightness which is “like” polished amber. The figure stretches out “the form of” a hand. He is transported in some mysterious way to Jerusalem and deposited at the entrance to the inner court where there is “the seat of the image of jealousy,” probably an allusion to a statue of the goddess Asherah which King Manasseh had placed there during his reign (2 Kings 21:7). King Josiah later had the statue removed (2 Kings 23:6), but the seat or pedestal may have remained. The “glory of the God of Israel” was in the temple, of the same appearance as he had seen in Chapter 1 beside the river Chebar.
5-6: In the vision Ezekiel sees the Asherah statue as if it were still in place.
7-13: He is told to dig into the wall of the inner court where there was already a hole. He does so, and finds seventy elders worshiping all kinds of foreign symbols and idols. God charges them with pretending they can hide from God’s sight by doing such things in their inner chambers. Their apostasy is made even worse by the presence of “Jaazaniah son of Shaphan,” for Shaphan had taken part in the reforms undertaken by King Josiah. The iniquity of Judah was indeed deep.
14-15: Next he is taken to the north gate where he sees a group of women “weeping for Tammuz,” a Mesopotamian fertility deity who was believed to enter the abode of the dead each autumn when nature “died.”
16-18: The fourth abomination he witnesses is a group of men worshiping the sun in the inner court before the great altar. King Manasseh had also set up altars and shrines dedicated to the “hosts of heaven,” the sun god Shamash being the primary one. Their backs are turned on the temple and therefore on God. Even worse, Ezekiel is told that the people who engage in such worship also “fill the land with violence.” “They are putting the branch to their nose” is an obscure colloquialism. It may have something to do with the use of aromatic herbs to mask foul odors; if so, it means something like refusing to acknowledge the suffering taking place throughout the land because they have turned away from God’s laws which protected the poor and weak.
Whenever we submit to any authority above the LORD, we place ourselves in the hands of a god or gods that are nothing more than idols.