Ezekiel 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 worshipped the sun toward the east.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Between the porch and the altar.—Ezekiel now returns to the court of the priests, and there sees—not about, but as it were (referring to the nature of the vision)—“twenty-five men.” These are probably the high priest and the heads of the twenty-four courses, representing the whole body of the priests, as the elders represented the whole body of the people. They were standing between the altar and the Temple, therefore in the most sacred part of the court, and there, turning their backs upon the Temple of the Lord, worshipped the sun. The adoration of the sun, probably the earliest form of false religion, was the especial worship of Persia, but had been long since practised by the kings and people of Judah (2Kings 23:5; 2Kings 23:11). Thus all classes of the nation are seen to be involved in common sin; and the priests particularly, the especial guardians of true religion, are found practising this sin under circumstances of peculiar insult to God. That the “chief priests” did pollute the sanctuary at this time is expressly asserted in the history at 2Chronicles 36:14.

8:13-18 The yearly lamenting for Tammuz was attended with infamous practices; and the worshippers of the sun here described, are supposed to have been priests. The Lord appeals to the prophet concerning the heinousness of the crime; and lo, they put the branch to their nose, denoting some custom used by idolaters in honour of the idols they served. The more we examine human nature and our own hearts, the more abominations we shall discover; and the longer the believer searches himself, the more he will humble himself before God, and the more will he value the fountain open for sin, and seek to wash therein.The inner court - The court of the priests.

About five and twenty men - Rather, as it were five etc. This was the number of the heads of the 24 courses (shifts) with the high priest presiding over them. These then were the representatives of the priests, as the seventy were of the people. In the temple the seat of the Divine Majesty was at the west, perhaps appointed for this very purpose, to guard against the idolatrous adoration of the rising sun. Therefore the idolatrous priests must in worshipping the false sun-god turn their backs upon the True. The worship of the heavenly bodies was one of the earliest forms of idolatry Job 31:26-27 and was expressly forbidden in the Law Deuteronomy 17:3. In its earliest form, it was conducted without the intervention of images, the adoration being addressed to the heavenly bodies themselves: this form, continued among the Persians, seems to have been introduced afresh into Jerusalem at the time of Ezekiel. Compare, also, 2 Kings 23:11-12. The images (compare Ezekiel 6:4, Ezekiel 6:6) were probably columns set up in honor of the sun, not images in human form. This simpler mode of sunworship was soon changed. The sun, or the god supposed to preside over it, was represented as a person, whose image was set up and adored.

16. worshipped—In the Hebrew a corrupt form is used to express Ezekiel's sense of the foul corruption of such worship. The inner court; the inmost, that which was next to the temple, called here the Lord’s house.

At the door of the temple: before he saw abominations in the gates of the courts, now he is come to the very house itself.

The porch; that stately, large porch, beautified with the high, curious, and mighty brass pillars, Jachin and Boaz, of which see 1 Kings 6:3 7:15,21.

The altar; the brazen altar for burnt-offerings, which was placed in the court before the front of the temple, and is here represented in its proper place, 2 Kings 16:14. This is not contradictory to Ezekiel 8:5, which speaks of the place where Ahaz had wickedly placed the altar, but this, Ezekiel 8:16, speaks of the same altar, as supposing it to be where it ought, as God commanded it should be, and Solomon placed it, 2 Chronicles 8:12.

About five and twenty; an indefinite and undetermined number.

Five and twenty men; either some principal men, or else some priests. If these, the greater sin in them to turn idolaters; if the other, the idolatry committed by them in a place they should not have entered appears presumptuous and greatly wicked.

With their backs toward the temple; in contempt of God, with an open and designed abrenunciation of God and his worship.

Worshipped the sun: though God had prohibited this, Deu 17:3, with Deu 4:17-19; yet, in imitation of’ the Chaldees, Persians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and the Eastern idolaters, these Jews turn their back on God, who created the sun, and worship the creature in contempt of the Creator. And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house,.... The court of the priests, where they offered sacrifice, and into which none might come but themselves:

and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar; the porch that led into the temple, and the brasen altar, the altar of burnt offerings, which was a very sacred place, and reckoned more holy than the court of the priests (g).

were about five and twenty men; the number, more or less, not being exactly known; who they were, whether the priests or princes of the people, is not certain; probably some of both:

with their backs towards the temple of the Lord; that is, the most holy place, which they were obliged to, in order to do what is afterwards affirmed of them; for the sanctuary was built to the west, that in their worship the Jews might not look to the east, as the Gentiles did; wherefore these men, that they might imitate the Gentiles in their idolatry, turned their backs to the most holy place; which is an aggravation of their impiety; casting the utmost contempt on God, his worship, and the place of it:

and their faces towards the east: when the sun rises:

and they worshipped the sun towards the east; as many nations did, though forbidden the Jews by an express law of God, Deuteronomy 4:19; yet this they fell into, and had horses and chariots devoted to this idolatry; see 2 Kings 21:3. The word rendered "worshipped" is compounded of two words; one signifying to "corrupt", the other to "worship": showing that, by worshipping the sun, they corrupted themselves, and the house of God; and so the Targum renders it,

"and, lo, they corrupted themselves, worshipping in the east the sun;''

and so it is explained in the Jerusalem Talmud,

"they corrupted the temple, and worshipped the sun;''

but Kimchi thinks the word (h) consists of the verb in the past tense, and of the participle; and that the sense is, when the prophet saw the men worshipping the sun to the east, as amazed at it, put this question to those that went in, "do ye worship also?" (i) so Ben Melech.

(g) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 7. fol. 184. 4. (h) (i) Vid. Hottinger. Smegma Orientale, l. 3. par. 1. c. 24. p. 154. who rather is of opinion that the word is compounded of the participle and the particle or the pronoun

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 worshipped the sun toward the east.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. The sun-worshippers in the inner court

16. about five and twenty] LXX., about twenty. These men were seen adoring the sun with their faces to the east, and their backs to the temple house. Their position between the temple and the altar seems to imply that they were priests (Joel 2:17), and it is not decisive against this view that they are called “elders” in ch. Ezekiel 9:6, for Jeremiah 19:1 refers to “the elders of the priests.” They may be supposed representatives of the priesthood.

worshipped the sun] The worship of the sun, the queen of heaven, and the host of heaven, was adopted by Israel from their eastern conquerors: cf. 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11; Jeremiah 44:17; Job 31:26; Deuteronomy 4:19. (The Heb. is to be read mishtaḥavim.)Verse 16. - He brought me into the inner court. The last and the worst form of desecration follows. It was the "inner court" (Joel 2:17) which, after the exile, was entered only by the priests. During the monarchy, however, it seems to have been accessible to kings and other persons of importance, as in the case of Solomon (1 Kings 8:22, 64; 1 Kings 9:25) in the revolution against Athaliah (2 Kings 11:4-15), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14), and Josiah (2 Kings 23:2). Ezekiel does not say that the men whom he saw were priests, though the number twenty-five suggests that they were taking the place of the high priest and the heads of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood (1 Chronicles 24:4-19), and so symbolized the whole order of the priesthood as the seventy elders represented the laity. In 2 Chronicles 36:14 the chief of the priests is spoken of as having been prominent in "polluting the house of the Lord." They were seen turning their backs to the temple of Jehovah, i.e. the sanctuary. The very act was symbolical of their apostasy (2 Chronicles 29:6; Isaiah 1:4; Jeremiah 7:24). And they did this in order that they might look to the east and worship the rising sun. That, and not the temple (Daniel 6:10), was the Kiblah of their adoration. The sun worship here appears to have had a Persian character, as being offered to the sun itself, and not to Baal, as a solar god. Of such a worship we have traces in Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; Job 31:26; 2 Kings 23:5, 11. Abominations of the Idolatry of the House of Israel

Time and place of the divine revelation. - Ezekiel 8:1. And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth (month), on the fifth (day) of the month, I was sitting in my house, and the elders of Judah were sitting before me; there fell upon me the hand of the Lord Jehovah there. Ezekiel 8:2. And I saw, and behold a figure like the look of fire, from the look of its loins downwards fire, and from its loins upwards like a look of brilliance, like the sight of red-hot brass. Ezekiel 8:3. And he stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by the locks of my head, and wind carried me away between earth and heaven, and brought me to Jerusalem in visions of God, to the entrance of the gate of the inner court, which faces towards the north, where the image of jealousy exciting jealousy had its stand. Ezekiel 8:4. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision which I have seen in the valley. - The place where Ezekiel received this new theophany agrees with the statements in Ezekiel 3:24 and Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel 4:6, that he was to shut himself up in his house, and lie 390 days upon the left side, and 40 days upon the right side - in all, 430 days. The use of the word יושׁב, "I sat," is not at variance with this, as ישׁב does not of necessity signify sitting as contrasted with lying, but may also be used in the more general sense of staying, or living, in the house. Nor is the presence of the elders of Judah opposed to the command, in Ezekiel 3:24, to shut himself up in the house, as we have already observed in the notes on that passage. The new revelation is made to him in the presence of these elders, because it is of the greatest importance to them. They are to be witnesses of his ecstasy; and after this has left the prophet, are to hear from his lips the substance of the divine revelation (Ezekiel 11:25). It is otherwise with the time of the revelation. If we compare the date given in Ezekiel 8:1 with those mentioned before, this new vision apparently falls within the period required for carrying out the symbolical actions of the previous vision. Between Ezekiel 1:1-2 (the fifth day of the fourth month in the fifth year) and Ezekiel 8:1 (the fifth day of the sixth month in the sixth year) we have one year and two months, that is to say (reckoning the year as a lunar year at 354 days, and the two months at 59 days), 413 days; whereas the two events recorded in Ezekiel 1-7 require at least 437 days, namely 7 days for Ezekiel 3:15, and 390 + 40 equals 430 days for Ezekiel 4:5-6. Consequently the new theophany would fall within the 40 days, during which Ezekiel was to lie upon the right side for Judah. To get rid of this difficulty, Hitzig conjectures that the fifth year of Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 1:2) was a leap year of 13 months or 385 days, by which he obtains an interval of 444 days after adding 59 for the two months, - a period sufficient not only to include the 7 days (Ezekiel 3:15) and 390 + 40 days (Ezekiel 4:5-6), but to leave 7 days for the time that elapsed between Ezekiel 7 and 8. But however attractive this reckoning may appear, the assumption that the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin was a leap year is purely conjectural; and there is nothing whatever to give it probability. Consequently the only thing that could lead us to adopt such a solution, would be the impossibility of reconciling the conclusion to be drawn from the chronological data, as to the time of the two theophanies, with the substance of these divine revelations.

If we assume that Ezekiel carried out the symbolical acts mentioned in Ezekiel 4 and 5 in all their entirety, we can hardly imagine that the vision described in the chapters before us, by which he was transported in spirit to Jerusalem, occurred within the period of forty days, during which he was to typify the siege of Jerusalem by lying upon his right side. Nevertheless, Kliefoth has decided in favour of this view, and argues in support of it, that the vision described in Ezekiel 8:1. took place in the prophet's own house, that it is identical in substance with what is contained in Ezekiel 3:22-7:27, and that there is no discrepancy, because all that occurred here was purely internal, and the prophet himself was to address the words contained in Ezekiel 11:4-12 and Ezekiel 11:14-21 to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in his state of ecstasy. Moreover, when it is stated in Ezekiel 11:25 that Ezekiel related to the exiles all that he had seen in the vision, it is perfectly open to us to assume that this took place at the same time as his report to them of the words of God in Ezekiel 6:1-14 and 7, and those which follow in Ezekiel 12. But. on the other hand, it may be replied that the impression produced by Ezekiel 11:25 is not that the prophet waited several weeks after his visionary transport to Jerusalem before communicating to the elders what he saw in the vision. And even if the possibility of this cannot be disputed, we cannot imagine any reason why the vision should be shown to the prophet four weeks before it was to be related to the exiles. Again, there is not sufficient identity between the substance of the vision in Ezekiel 8-11 and the revelation in Ezekiel 4-7, to suggest any motive for the two to coincide. It is true that the burning of Jerusalem, which Ezekiel sees in Ezekiel 8-11, is consequent upon the siege and conquest of that city, which he has already predicted in Ezekiel 4-7 both in figure and word; but they are not so closely connected, that it was necessary on account of this connection for it to be shown to him before the completion of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem. And, lastly, although the ecstasy as a purely internal process is so far reconcilable with the prophet's lying upon his right side, that this posture did not preclude a state of ecstasy or render it impossible, yet this collision would ensue, that while the prophet was engaged in carrying out the former word of God, a new theophany would be received by him, which must necessarily abstract his mind from the execution of the previous command of God, and place him in a condition in which it would be impossible for him to set his face firmly upon the siege of Jerusalem, as he had been commanded to do in Ezekiel 4:7. On account of this collision, we cannot subscribe to the assumption, that it was during the time that Ezekiel was lying bound by God upon his right side to bear the sin of Jerusalem, that he was transported in spirit to the temple at Jerusalem. On the contrary, the fact that this transport occurred, according to Ezekiel 8:1, at a time when he could not have ended the symbolical acts of Ezekiel 4, if he had been required to carry them out in all their external reality, furnishes us with conclusive evidence of the correctness of the view we have already expressed, that the symbolical acts of Ezekiel 4 and 5 did not lie within the sphere of outward reality (see comm. on Ezekiel 5:4). - And if Ezekiel did not really lie for 430 days, there was nothing to hinder his having a fresh vision 14 months after the theophany in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 3:22. For 'תּפּל עלי יד , see at Ezekiel 3:22 and Ezekiel 1:3.

The figure which Ezekiel sees in the vision is described in Ezekiel 8:2 in precisely the same terms as the appearance of God in Ezekiel 1:27. The sameness of the two passages is a sufficient defence of the reading כּמראה־אשׁ against the arbitrary emendation אישׁ 'כם, after the Sept. rendering ὁμοίωμα ἀνδρός, in support of which Ewald and Hitzig appeal to Ezekiel 1:26, though without any reason, as the reading there is not אישׁ, but אדם. It is not expressly stated here that the apparition was in human form - the fiery appearance is all that is mentioned; but this is taken for granted in the allusion to the מתנים (the loins), either as self-evident, or as well known from Ezekiel 1. זהר is synonymous with נגהּ in Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:27. What is new in the present theophany is the stretching out of the hand, which grasps the prophet by the front hair of his head, whereupon he is carried by wind between heaven and earth, i.e., through the air, to Jerusalem, not in the body, but in visions of God (cf. Ezekiel 1:1), that is to say, in spiritual ecstasy, and deposited at the entrance of the inner northern door of the temple. הפּנימית is not an adjective belonging to שׁער, for this is not a feminine noun, but is used as a substantive, as in Ezekiel 43:5 ( equals החצר הפּנימית: cf. Ezekiel 40:40): gate of the inner court, i.e., the gate on the north side of the inner court which led into the outer court. We are not informed whether Ezekiel was placed on the inner or outer side of this gate, i.e., in the inner or outer court; but it is evident from Ezekiel 8:5 that he was placed in the inner court, as his position commanded a view of the image which stood at the entrance of the gate towards the north. The further statement, "where the standing place of the image of jealousy was," anticipates what follows, and points out the reason why the prophet was placed just there. The expression "image of jealousy" is explained by המּקנה, which excites the jealousy of Jehovah (see the comm. on Exodus 20:5). Consequently, we have not to think of any image of Jehovah, but of an image of a heathen idol (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21); probably of Baal or Asherah, whose image had already been placed in the temple by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:7); certainly not the image of the corpse of Adonis moulded in wax or clay. This opinion, which Hvernick advances, is connected with the erroneous assumption that all the idolatrous abominations mentioned in this chapter relate to the celebration of an Adonis-festival in the temple. There (Ezekiel 8:4) in the court of the temple Ezekiel saw once more the glory of the God of Israel, as he had seen it in the valley (Ezekiel 3:22) by the Chaboras, i.e., the appearance of God upon the throne with the cherubim and wheels; whereas the divine figure, whose hand grasped him in his house, and transported him to the temple (Ezekiel 8:2), showed neither throne nor cherubim. The expression "God of Israel," instead of Jehovah (Ezekiel 3:23), is chosen as an antithesis to the strange god, the heathen idol, whose image stood in the temple. As the God of Israel, Jehovah cannot tolerate the image and worship of another god in His temple. To set up such an image in the temple of Jehovah was a practical renunciation of the covenant, a rejection of Jehovah on the part of Israel as its covenant God.

Here, in the temple, Jehovah shows to the prophet the various kinds of idolatry which Israel is practising both publicly and privately, not merely in the temple, but throughout the whole land. The arrangement of these different forms of idolatry in four groups of abomination scenes (Ezekiel 8:5, Ezekiel 8:6, Ezekiel 8:7-12, Ezekiel 8:13-15, and Ezekiel 8:16-18), which the prophet sees both in and from the court of the temple, belong to the visionary drapery of this divine revelation. It is altogether erroneous to interpret the vision as signifying that all these forms of idolatry were practised in the temple itself; an assumption which cannot be carried out without doing violence to the description, more especially of the second abomination in Ezekiel 8:7-12. Still more untenable is Hvernick's view, that the four pictures of idolatrous practices shown to the prophet are only intended to represent different scenes of a festival of Adonis held in the temple. The selection of the courts of the temple for depicting the idolatrous worship, arises from the fact that the temple was the place where Israel was called to worship the Lord its God. Consequently the apostasy of Israel from the Lord could not be depicted more clearly and strikingly than by the following series of pictures of idolatrous abominations practised in the temple under the eyes of God.

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