Ezekiel 8-9 – The Mark of the LORD

8:1 – The date of this revelation is September 18, 592 BC (Ezekiel’s first vision was on July 31, 593 BC). How should we understand this in light of his laying his sides for 430 days? He was sitting at home with the elders of Judah around him (to inquire of the LORD through him? cf. Eze.14:1-3; 20:1). Note that the hand of the LORD did not simply “come” upon him, but “fell” upon him. What is the significance of this?

8:2 – “A figure like a man”? (Eze.1:26-28) How should we understand his appearance?

8:3-5 – “Taken by the hair” and “lifted by the Spirit”? (cf. Bel and the Dragon 36) The term translated “idol” here (Heb. semel) is only referenced two other times (Deut.4:16; 2 Chron.33:7, 15; for explanation see Block NICOT 281) and here it is labeled “that provokes to jealousy” (cf. Deut.4:15-24). This idol is visible from one of the doorways to the Temple (as if to guard?). He sees the glory of the God of Israel (the Living God) which is contrasted with the idol that does nothing.

8:6 – “Do you see”? (8:12, 15, 17; note the wheel within a wheel covered in “eyes” in 1:18; Duguid NIVAC 132fn10). If the prophet is shown these things then surely the LORD has seen far more than He has shown. Why is this asked repeatedly? It serves a rhetorical effect for the prophet (and the readers) to take notice and not turn a blind eye to the surrounding sins. How could the LORD be driven from His sanctuary?

8:7-9 – Why is there a hole in the wall of the inner court of the temple that leads to a secret chamber for Ezekiel to dig through? It may demonstrate that though the secret remains (i.e., Ezekiel goes in through the hole and not the door), yet the LORD sees all.

8:10-12 – What kinds of things are being worshipped and how? Who is represented by the seventy worshippers? (see 8:1; contrast with Ex.24:1, 9; Num.11:24-25) He focuses on Jaazaniah son of Shaphan. Who is this fellow? Shaphan, his father, was a scribe in the days of King Josiah’s reforms (2 Ki.22:3-14; 2 Chron.34:8-20) and his brothers were Ahikam who assisted Jeremiah (Jer.26:24), Elasah who delivered Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jer.29:3), and Gemariah who tried to stop Jeremiah’s scroll from being burned by King Jehoiakin (Jer.36:10, 25). He was apparently not deported with Ezekiel and became defiled in idolatry (despite or even ironically in relation to his name’s meaning “the LORD hears”). Note that each elder representative worshipped a separate image of a creature. The seventy seems to refer to the totality. “The LORD does not see us”? What might this mean? Possibly (1) that the LORD has abandoned them or (2) that the LORD is ignorant of their idolatry (cf. Ps.10:1-11; 94:1-7). Does He in fact see? (Gen.16:13-14; Deut.4:28; Ps.115:4-8) Has He utterly “forsaken the land”?

8:13 – “More detestable” things will be shown (and 8:15)? What could be more detestable?

8:14 – Ezekiel was shown women “mourning for Tammuz” (lit. “weeping the Tammuz”)? Tammuz was the name given to an ancient Sumerian king who was divinized after dying and returning (not necessarily resurrected). The Mesopotamians annually worshipped Tammuz through a (particularly) women’s mourning ritual. Why is this being practiced in the Temple and what is its significance?

8:16-18 – Idolatry in the inner court. Why are the worshippers backs to the Temple and their faces to the east? It demonstrates a rejection of the LORD and worship of the sun (cf. 2 Ki.21:5; 23:11-12; condemned in Deut.4:19; 17:2-5). “The essence of idolatry is not so much denying the reality of God but the relevance of God” (Duguid NIVAC 140). Worse yet they are oppressive, violent and cruel to one another. What does “the branch to their nose” (or “my nose”) mean? Somehow it is insulting, though how is unclear.

9:1-2 – The statements about no pity (8:18) are immediately followed by the call for the executioners of the city of Jerusalem. Six executioners (much like the Levite temple guards in Eze.44:11) and one scribe arrive to carry out the judgment. Who is the scribe or who does the scribe represent? Suggestions have included Gabriel and the Christ.

9:3 – “The glory of the God of Israel went up”? “Above the cherubim” refers to the holy of holies and the ark of the covenant (Ex.25:18-22). Who commissions the scribe?

9:4-7 – “A mark on the forheads”? What was the mark and who was marked? (cf. Rev.7:3; 13:16) The ‘taw’ is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and at that time looked like an X (represented in English still in the ‘T’). This was perhaps like a signature (see Block NICOT 307). Who was to be judged by execution? Is there any gender or age discrimination? Why not? The list in 9:6 is of “the defenseless, the frail, and the innocent” (Block NICOT 308). The holy was profaned by idolatry and so was no longer holy and therefore the wicked could be slaughtered there. Iain Duguid (NIVAC 134-135) has noted the parallels to Passover in Exodus 12, but here it is Israel that is judged.

9:8-11 – “Left by myself”? Will the LORD destroy everyone? Note the reasons for the LORD’s judgment. Does he spare the righteous? (cf. Gen.18:23) Robert Chandlish (cited in Duguid NIVAC 137) astutely wrote, “The Lord waits long to be gracious, as if he knew not how to smite. He smites at last as if he knew not how to pity.”

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