Chapters 8-11 now go onto to describe Ezekiel’s second vision. It has been estimated that some 14 months had elapsed between the prophet’s first and second visions.
Wickedness in the Holy Temple
God reveals to Ezekiel in detail via the angel just how utterly evil the practices of specifically the elders have become having previously dealt with the evil practices of the whole people of Israel i.e. rank and file in his first vision as described in Chapter 1.
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. 2 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 colour of amber. 3 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. 4 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.
On a specific year, a specific month and specific day a delegation of the Jewish elders had come to Ezekiel seeking a word from the Lord and certainly looking for some crumb of comfort. However, they were in for a big disappointment, and no sooner had they come to prophet when the hand of the Lord fell upon Ezekiel and there appeared a heavenly being who fitted the description of the first angelic being in Chapter 1:27. The angel stretched out his hand and took the prophet by a lock of his hair and transports him supernaturally into a vision of Jerusalem and specifically to the inner court of the Holy Temple where a detestable idolatrous image had been set up and was provoking the Lord to an angry jealousy. However at that time the glory of the Lord had not departed from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
5 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.
The prophet is now permitted to take a tour of the Holy Temple to see the various idolatrous practices being conducted there. These abominations get progressively worse. The angel leads Ezekiel in successive steps from the outside of the HT in towards the Holy of Holies. The first of the four abominations is that mentioned in verse 5 the image of jealousy at the entrance to the temple. Some commentators think that this idol was an Asherah or pagan fertility Goddess in the form of a woman. This idol was located where those guards who should protect the Holy Temple should stand. How ironic this idol could offer no protection against whomsoever the Lord’s sends in judgement.
6 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.” 7 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall.8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door.
God tells Ezekiel that in effect He is being driven out of His Holy Temple by the wicked abominations being practiced inside it. Ezekiel’s attention is now drawn towards a hole that someone has started digging in the Temple Court wall. The prophet is instructed to enlarge the hole until he finds a secret door.
9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” 10 So I went in and saw, and there—every creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. 11 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. 12 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.’”
Ezekiel is instructed to open the door where to his horror he sees a room full of despicable idols which are also depicted on the walls of the room. The idols are different in nature including those depicted as insects and others depicted as animals. He sees 70 of the elders of Israel whose job it was to protect all the Holy Things in Judaism offering incense to these evil idols. Shockingly, one of the elders Jaazaniah was from a priestly family and a righteous line. These 70 elders think that God has departed and that He can longer see their heathen worship.
13 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” 14 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.
Ezekiel is given a further instruction to move towards the northeast corner of the Temple and discover even more vile abominations being practiced in the Lord’s House. The prophet now sees women weeping for the Babylonian nature god called Tammuz. This pagan practice celebrated the seasons of nature believing that the weeping would resurrect Tammuz the spring God to go on a produce a good crop harvest in summer. What an insult to the Creator God and yet another clear breach of the 10 commandments.
15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” 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.
The prophets tour now reaches its very lowest point in the inner court of the Lord’s House he sees between the porch and the altar and with their backs to God 25 men who were worshipping the sun. Again, an abomination clearly forbidden in the 10 commandments. They are rubbing the Lord’s nose into their sins in a place where He promised to dwell.
17 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. 18 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.”
Should such abominations ever occur the Temple of the Living God? These sinful people thought it was no big deal to profane God’s own Temple. Not content with all their violence and other sins outside the Temple they had to come to do worse in the face of God. The party is over their judgment is knocking at the door. In summary these Jews had worshipped every type of creature including humans or part humans even the heavenly bodies and celebrated the Gods of many other lands such as Babylon, Egypt, and others. Each act of idolatrous worship violates the 10 commandments given to them via Moses. It is now the Lord's time for payback.