Ezekiel 8:11
And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the middle of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel.—There may have been no enclosed chamber about the courts of the temple capable of actually containing so large a number; but again we are to remember that as this is in vision and for purposes of instruction, it is not necessary that all the details should be actually possible. The seventy elders were not the sanhedrin, which was not constituted until after the return from Babylon; but the number has probable reference to the seventy chosen to enjoy with Moses the Theophany of Exodus 24:9-10, and the other seventy selected to share with him in the gifts of the Spirit (Numbers 11:16). In contrast with those selected for especial nearness to God, these seventy are engaged in abominations most abhorrent to Him.

Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan.Son is perhaps used here, as often in Scripture, in the sense of grandson. In this case he may have been the same with “Jaazaniah, the son of Azur,” mentioned in Ezekiel 11:1 as one of the wicked princes of the people, against whom Ezekiel was directed to prophesy. It is hardly probable that two persons of the same character and the same (not very common) name should have been among the leaders of the people at the same time. The mention of his grandfather here would be appropriate, as bringing out the contrast in their characters, and showing the change for the worse that had been going on among the people. Shaphan was an officer of the court of King Josiah, and active in the reformation instituted by him (2Kings 22:3; 2Kings 22:14); while his son (Elasah) was one of the messengers by whom Jeremiah sent his prophecies to the Captivity (Jeremiah 29:3); and another son, Gemariah, was a scribe, having a chamber “in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house,” in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:10). At the same time his grandson, Michaiah, was sufficiently prominent at court to join in the intercession of the princes against the destruction of Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 36:11; Jeremiah 36:25); and a little later, in the general captivity of the ninth year of Zedekiah, another grandson, Gedaliah, had the person of Jeremiah given into his charge (Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:5), and was made governor over the remnant of the people (Jeremiah 40:11). Such being the family connections of Jaazaniah, the corruption which could make him a leader of idolatry is strongly shown.

With every man his censer in his hand.—The burning of incense was the exclusive function of the priesthood (Numbers 16; 2Chronicles 26:16-18); and it was alike the necessity and the choice of the idolaters of Israel to devolve this office upon those who were not of the Aaronic family. (Comp. 1Kings 12:31.) When the seventy elders offered incense to their idols they claimed thereby to be the priests of those idols.

8:7-12 A secret place was, as it were, opened, where the prophet saw creatures painted on the walls, and a number of the elders of Israel worshipped before them. No superiority in worldly matters will preserve men from lust, or idolatries, when they are left to their own deceitful hearts; and those who are soon wearied in the service of God, often grudge no toil nor expense when following their superstitions. When hypocrites screen themselves behind the wall of an outward profession, there is some hole or other left in the wall, something that betrays them to those who look diligently. There is a great deal of secret wickedness in the world. They think themselves out of God's sight. But those are ripe indeed for ruin, who lay the blame of their sins upon the Lord.Seventy men - Compare Exodus 24:9-10. The vision may have pointed to the contrast between the times. The number "seven" is symbolic of the covenant between Yahweh and His people, and so the "seventy" men exhibit forcibly the breach of the covenant. It is a figure of the covert idolatry of the whole people. 11. seventy men—the seventy members composing the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, the origination of which we find in the seventy elders, representatives of the congregation, who went up with Moses to the mount to behold the glory of Jehovah, and to witness the secret transactions relating to the establishment of the covenant; also, in the seventy elders appointed to share the burden of the people with Moses. How awfully it aggravates the national sin, that the seventy, once admitted to the Lord's secret council (Ps 25:14), should now, "in the dark," enter "the secret" of the wicked (Ge 49:6), those judicially bound to suppress idolatry being the ringleaders of it!

Jaazaniah—perhaps chief of the seventy: son of Shaphan, the scribe who read to Josiah the book of the law; the spiritual privileges of the son (2Ki 22:10-14) increased his guilt. The very name means, "Jehovah hears," giving the lie to the unbelief which virtually said (Eze 9:9), "The Lord seeth us not," &c. (compare Ps 10:11, 14; 50:21; 94:7, 9). The offering of incense belonged not to the elders, but to the priests; this usurpation added to the guilt of the former.

cloud of incense—They spared no expense for their idols. Oh, that there were the same liberality toward the cause of God!

There stood, offering incense before the idols.

Seventy men; either the sanhedrim, or council of seventy, who should have preserved religion pure and untainted, to which their office bound them; or else seventy of the more aged heads of the tribes or families, who should have been examples by their pure and constant affection to true religion; but these are ringleaders in this idolatry.

Ancients, by age or office, or both.

In the midst of them; either accompanying them in their idolatry, or rather as chief of the council or sanhedrim; in the chair, the seat of the chief, prefect, or principal next to the high priest.

Shaphan, mentioned 2 Kings 22:9, as most likely; a person that seems forward in reforming under Josiah, and his son as forward now in corrupting the worship of God.

Every man; all were actors in this idolatry, and either priests to these idols, or very bigots in the service.

A thick cloud; or abundance of a cloud, or rich (as the word among rabbinical senses) cloud; or, since the word whence this comes signifies to pray or supplicate, a cloud of incense offered with the prayers of these deluded idolaters, who were used to put both together.

Incense; whether simple and uncompounded, or compound, it was always of sweets, and very costly too; indeed idolatry, as adultery, will be lavish. And there stood before them,.... Before the pictures, as the Vulgate Latin version expresses it, praying, sacrificing, and offering incense unto them:

seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel; the whole sanhedrim, or great court of judicature among the Jews, as Kimchi; or at least there is an allusion to that number, which were appointed in Moses' time to be officers over the people, and govern and direct them, Numbers 11:16; which shows how sadly depraved and corrupted the state was, that not the common people only, but the civil magistrates, the chief rulers and governors, were given to idolatry; and those that should have taught the people the right way led them wrong; and it is still a further aggravation of their crime that they should do this in the chambers of the priests and Levites, where they ought not to have been:

and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan; who was either the prince of the sanhedrim, or at least a person of great note and esteem; and shows the corruption to be general, from the least to the greatest: Shaphan was a scribe in Josiah's time, who had a son named Ahikam, perhaps the father of this, 2 Kings 22:3; in Ezekiel 11:2; he is said to be the son of Azur, and one of the princes of the people:

with every man his censer in his hand; to offer incense to the idols portrayed on the wall; and which they did, for it follows:

and a thick cloud of incense went up; there were many that offered; and perhaps they offered a large quantity, being very liberal and profuse in this kind of devotion to their idols.

And there stood before them seventy {l} men of the elders 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 {m} a thick cloud of incense went up.

(l) Thus they who would have kept all the rest in the fear and true service of God were the ringleaders of all abomination, and by their example pulled others from God.

(m) It was in such abundance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. seventy men of the ancients] i.e. of the elders. The seventy were not any court such as the later Sanhedrim, but merely seventy men representing the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:24-25). The elders were the leaders of the people, and probably here represent them. Prominent among these elders was Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. There is no reason to suppose the name fictitious. Shaphan the scribe was the person who read the Book of the Law found in the temple to king Josiah (2 Kings 22:10). A son of his son Ahikam acted along with him and was a protector of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:14), and another son is mentioned (Jeremiah 36:10) as having a chamber in the upper court where Baruch read Jeremiah’s roll in the ears of the people. If Jaazaniah was a son of this Shaphan he pursued a different course from his father and brothers.Verse 11. - Seventy men, etc. The number was probably chosen with reference to the "elders" who had seen the Divine glory in Exodus 24:9, 10. The Sanhedrin, or council of seventy, did not exist till after the Captivity. The number can scarcely have been accidental, and may imply that the elders were formally representative. Another Jaazaniah, the son of Jeremiah, appears in Jeremiah 35:3; yet another, the son of Azur, in Ezekiel 11:1. If the Shaphan mentioned is the scribe, the son of Azaliah, under Josiah (2 Kings 22:3), the father of Ahikam (2 Kings 22:12), of Elasah (Jeremiah 29:3), and of Gemariah (Jeremiah 36:10, 11, 12), and the grandfather of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 39:14, et al.), all of whom were prominent in the reform movement under Josiah, or as friends of Jeremiah, and no other Shaphan appears in history, the fact that one of his sons is the leader of the idolatrous company must have had for Ezekiel a specially painful significance. He could scarcely have forgotten the meaning of his name, "The Lord is listening," and probably refers to it in ver. 12. As the climax of this chamber of horrors, the seventy elders were all acting as priests, and were offering to their pictured idols the incense which none but the sons of Aaron had a right to use, and which they offered to Jehovah only. Fourth Strophe

Still worse is coming, namely, the captivity of the people, and overthrow of the kingdom. - Ezekiel 7:23. Make the chain, for the land is full of capital crime, and the city full of outrage. Ezekiel 7:24. I shall bring evil ones of the nations, that they may take possession of their houses; and I shall put an end to the pride of the strong, that their sanctuaries may be defiled. Ezekiel 7:25. Ruin has come; they seek salvation, but there is none. Ezekiel 7:26. Destruction upon destruction cometh, and report upon report ariseth; they seek visions from prophets, but the law will vanish away from the priest, and counsel from the elders. Ezekiel 7:27. The king will mourn, and the prince will clothe himself in horror, and the hands of the common people will tremble. I will deal with them according to their way, and according to their judgments will I judge them, that they may learn that I am Jehovah. - Those who have escaped death by sword or famine at the conquest of Jerusalem have captivity and exile awaiting them. This is the meaning of the command to make the chain, i.e., the fetters needed to lead the people into exile. This punishment is necessary, because the land is full of mishpat dâmim, judgment of blood. This cannot mean, there is a judgment upon the shedding of blood, i.e., upon murder, which is conducted by Jehovah, as Hvernick supposes. Such a thought is irreconcilable with מלאה, and with the parallel מלאה חמס. משׁפּט דּמים is to be explained after the same manner as משׁפּט מות (a matter for sentence of death, a capital crime) in Deuteronomy 19:6, Deuteronomy 19:21 -22, as signifying a matter for sentence of bloodshed, i.e., a crime of blood, or capital crime, as the Chaldee has already rendered it. Because the land is filled with capital crime, the city (Jerusalem) with violence, the Lord will bring רעי, evil ones of the heathen, i.e., the worst of the heathen, to put an end to the pride of the Israelites. גּאון עזּים is not "pride of the insolents;" for עזּים does not stand for עזּי פנים (Deuteronomy 28:50, etc.). The expression is rather to be explained from גּאון עז, pride of strength, in Ezekiel 24:21; Ezekiel 30:6, Ezekiel 30:18 (cf. Leviticus 26:19), and embraces everything on which a man (or a nation) bases his power and rests his confidence. The Israelites are called עזּים, because they thought themselves strong, or, according to Ezekiel 24:21, based their strength upon the possession of the temple and the holy land. This is indicated by ונחלוּ which follows. נחל, Niphal of חלל and מקדשׁיהם, not a participle Piel, from מקדּשׁ, with the Dagesh dropped, but an unusual form, from מקדּשׁ for מקדּשׁיהם (vid., Ew. 215a). - The ἁπ λεγ. חהצנצט;, with the tone drawn back on account of the tone-syllable which follows (cf. Ges. 29, 3. 6), signifies excidium, destruction (according to the Rabbins), from קפד, to shrink or roll up (Isaiah 38:12). בּא is a prophetic perfect. In Ezekiel 7:25 the ruin of the kingdom is declared to be certain, and in Ezekiel 7:26 and Ezekiel 7:27 the occurrence of it is more minutely depicted. Stroke upon stroke does the ruin come; and it is intensified by reports, alarming accounts, which crowd together and increase the terror, and also by the desperation of the spiritual and temporal leaders of the nation - the prophets, priests, and elders - whom God deprives of revelation, knowledge, and counsel; so that all ranks (king and princes and the common people) sink into mourning, alarm, and horror. That it is to no purpose that visions or prophecies are sought from the prophets (Ezekiel 7:26), is evident from the antithetical statement concerning the priests and elders which immediately follows. The three statements serve as complements of one another. They seek for predictions from prophets, but the prophets receive no vision, no revelation. They seek instruction from priests, but instruction is withdrawn from the priests; and so forth. T̄ōrâh signifies instruction out of the law, which the priests were to give to the people (Malachi 2:7). In Ezekiel 7:27, the three classes into which the people were divided are mentioned - viz. king, prince (i.e., tribe-princes and heads of families), and, in contradistinction to both, עם הארץ, the common people, the people of the land, in distinction from the civil rulers, as in 2 Kings 21:24; 2 Kings 23:30. מדּרכּם, literally from their way, their mode of action, will I do to them: i.e., my action will be derived from theirs, and regulated accordingly. אותם for אתּם, as in Ezekiel 3:22, etc. (See the comm. on Ezekiel 16:59.)

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