Bible Study: Ezekiel 8 – Idolatry within the Temple

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The eighth chapter of Ezekiel is about evil abominations in the Temple of God. 

When?

Ezek 8:1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there.

Based on Ezekiel 1 which refers to the 5th year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, it seems reasonable to assume the verse here is referring to the 6th year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity which is  592 BC.

Idolatry within the Temple

Ezek 8:2-4 Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire–from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.

Idols provoke God to anger.

Deut 32:16 They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger.

Location of Idol: Image adapted from Ryrie
The house of Judah was worshiping foreign gods in the Temple of God which was in Jerusalem, having idols within the inner court. The red dot is the north gate of the inner court where the seat of the image of jealousy which provokes the jealousy of God. 

Ezek 8:5-6 Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance. Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.”

Israel (referring to house of Judah) had brought abominations within God’s sanctuary which made God go far away. This is echoed in the New Testament as well.

1Cor 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

1Cor 6:18-19 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own bodyOr do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

We are God’s temple where the Spirit dwells according to the New Covenant. If we defile ourselves with sexual immorality, God will destroy us.

Idolatry in the Dark

Ezek 8:7-12 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall. Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door. And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” So I went in and saw, and there–every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up. Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’ ”

God punishes us not for us to go far away from Him but to repent and return to Him. Many today turn against God and denying Him, like the seventy elders of the house of Israel who turned to other gods in dark or secret rather than repenting to the one true God.

Weeping for Tammuz

Ezek 8:13-15 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.”

Tammuz was a Sumerian god  also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Women weeping for Tammuz for his death was an ancient pagan ritual. God is showing Ezekiel the abominations done by the women in the house of the Lord.

Sun Worship

Ezek 8:16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.

Twenty five men, facing east are worshiping the sun in the Temple of the Lord.
Worshipers of Sun: Image adapted from Ryrie
The arrow in red represents the direction the 25 men were worshiping the sun, right at the door of the inner court of the temple of God.

God’s Wrath

Ezek 8:17-18 And He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.

God is so angry towards the house of Judah for their wicked abominations which they commit within the house of the Lord. If God does not spare or have pity towards the house of Judah for their abominations on a Temple built by human hands which God did not even ask for, how much more will He be angry if we defile ourselves who are His temple not made with human hands?