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Chapter VI. Your House Is Left Unto You Desolate. Chapters viii.-xi.

One of the most instructive phases of religious belief among the Israelites of the seventh century was the superstitious regard in which the Temple at Jerusalem was held. Its prestige as the metropolitan sanctuary had no doubt steadily increased from the time when it was built. But it was in the crisis of the Assyrian invasion that the popular sentiment in favour of its peculiar sanctity was transmuted into a fanatical faith in its inherent inviolability. It is well known that during the whole course of this invasion the prophet Isaiah had consistently taught that the enemy should never set foot within the precincts of the Holy City—that, on the contrary, the attempt to seize it would prove to be the signal for his annihilation. The striking fulfilment of this prediction in the sudden destruction of Sennacherib's army had an immense effect on the religion of the time. It restored the faith in Jehovah's omnipotence which was already giving way, and it granted a new lease of life to the very errors which it ought to have extinguished. For here, as in so many other cases, what was a spiritual faith in one generation became a superstition in the next. Indifferent to the divine truths which gave meaning to Isaiah's prophecy, the people changed his sublime faith in the living God working in history into a crass confidence in the material symbol which had been the means of expressing 079 it to their minds. Henceforth it became a fundamental tenet of the current creed that the Temple and the city which guarded it could never fall into the hands of an enemy; and any teaching which assailed that belief was felt to undermine confidence in the national deity. In the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel this superstition existed in unabated vigour, and formed one of the greatest hindrances to the acceptance of their teaching. “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are these!” was the cry of the benighted worshippers as they thronged to its courts to seek the favour of Jehovah (Jer. vii. 4). The same state of feeling must have prevailed among Ezekiel's fellow-exiles. To the prophet himself, attached as he was to the worship of the Temple, it may have been a thought almost too hard to bear that Jehovah should abandon the only place of His legitimate worship. Amongst the rest of the captives the faith in its infallibility was one of the illusions which must be overthrown before their minds could perceive the true drift of his teaching. In his first prophecy the fact had just been touched on, but merely as an incident in the fall of Jerusalem. About a year later, however, he received a new revelation, in which he learned that the destruction of the Temple was no mere incidental consequence of the capture of the city, but a main object of the calamity. The time was come when judgment must begin at the house of God.

The weird vision in which this truth was conveyed to the prophet is said to have occurred during a visit of the elders to Ezekiel in his own house. In their presence he fell into a trance, in which the events now to be considered passed before him; and after the trance was removed he recounted the substance of the vision to the exiles. This statement has been somewhat needlessly called in question, on the ground that after so protracted an ecstasy the 080 prophet would not be likely to find his visitors still in their places. But this matter-of-fact criticism overreaches itself. We have no means of determining how long it would take for this series of events to be realised. If we may trust anything to the analogy of dreams—and of all conditions to which ordinary men are subject the dream is surely the closest analogy to the prophetic ecstasy—the whole may have passed in an incredibly short space of time. If the statement were untrue, it is difficult to see what Ezekiel would have gained by making it. If the whole vision were a fiction, this must of course be fictitious too; but even so it seems a very superfluous piece of invention.

We prefer, therefore, to regard the vision as real, and the assigned situation as historical; and the fact that it is recorded suggests that there must be some connection between the object of the visit and the burden of the revelation which was then communicated. It is not difficult to imagine points of contact between them. Ewald has conjectured that the occasion of the visit may have been some recent tidings from Jerusalem which had opened the eyes of the “elders” to the real relation that existed between them and their brethren at home. If they had ever cherished any illusions on the point, they had certainly been disabused of them before Ezekiel had this vision. They were aware, whether the information was recent or not, that they were absolutely disowned by the new authorities in Jerusalem, and that it was impossible that they should ever come back peaceably to their old place in the state. This created a problem which they could not solve, and the fact that Ezekiel had announced the fall of Jerusalem may have formed a bond of sympathy between him and his brethren in exile which drew them to him in their perplexity. Some such hypothesis gives at all events a fuller significance to the closing 081 part of the vision, where the attitude of the men in Jerusalem is described, and where the exiles are taught that the hope of Israel's future lies with them. It is the first time that Ezekiel has distinguished between the fates in store for the two sections of the people, and it would almost appear as if the promotion of the exiles to the first place in the true Israel was a new revelation to him. Twice during this vision he is moved to intercede for the “remnant of Israel,” as if the only hope of a new people of God lay in sparing at least some of those who were left in the land. But the burden of the message that now comes to him is that in the spiritual sense the true remnant of Israel is not in Judæa, but among the exiles in Babylon. It was there that the new Israel was to be formed, and the land was to be the heritage, not of those who clung to it and exulted in the misfortunes of their banished brethren, but of those who under the discipline of exile were first prepared to use the land as Jehovah's holiness demanded.

The vision is interesting, in the first place, on account of the glimpse it affords of the state of mind prevailing in influential circles in Jerusalem at this time. There is no reason whatever to doubt that here in the form of a vision we have reliable information regarding the actual state of matters when Ezekiel wrote. It has been supposed by some critics that the description of the idolatries in the Temple does not refer to contemporary practices, but to abuses that had been rife in the days of Manasseh and had been put a stop to by Josiah's reformation. But the vision loses half its meaning if it is taken as merely an idealised representation of all the sins that had polluted the Temple in the course of its history. The names of those who are seen must be names of living men known to Ezekiel and his contemporaries, and the sentiments put in their mouth, especially in the latter part of the vision, 082 are suitable only to the age in which he lived. It is very probable that the description in its general features would also apply to the days of Manasseh; but the revival of idolatry which followed the death of Josiah would naturally take the form of a restoration of the illegal cults which had flourished unchecked under his grandfather. Ezekiel's own experience before his captivity, and the steady intercourse which had been maintained since, would supply him with the material which in the ecstatic condition is wrought up into this powerful picture.

The thing that surprises us most is the prevailing conviction amongst the ruling classes that “Jehovah had forsaken the land.” These men seem to have partly emancipated themselves, as politicians in Israel were apt to do, from the restraints and narrowness of the popular religion. To them it was a conceivable thing that Jehovah should abandon His people. And yet life was worth living and fighting for apart from Jehovah. It was of course a merely selfish life, not inspired by national ideals, but simply a clinging to place and power. The wish was father to the thought; men who so readily yielded to the belief in Jehovah's absence were very willing to be persuaded of its truth. The religion of Jehovah had always imposed a check on social and civic wrong, and men whose power rested on violence and oppression could not but rejoice to be rid of it. So they seem to have acquiesced readily enough in the conclusion to which so many circumstances seemed to point, that Jehovah had ceased to interest Himself either for good or evil in them and their affairs. Still, the wide acceptance of a belief like this, so repugnant to all the religious ideas of the ancient world, seems to require for its explanation some fact of contemporary history. It has been thought that it arose from the disappearance of the ark of Jehovah from the Temple. It seems from the third chapter of 083 Jeremiah that the ark was no longer in existence in Josiah's reign, and that the want of it was felt as a grave religious loss. It is not improbable that this circumstance, in connection with the disasters which had marked the last days of the kingdom, led in many minds to the fear and in some to the hope that along with His most venerable symbol Jehovah Himself had vanished from their midst.

It should be noticed that the feeling described was only one of several currents that ran in the divided society of Jerusalem. It is quite a different point of view that is presented in the taunt quoted in ch. xi. 15, that the exiles were far from Jehovah, and had therefore lost their right to their possessions. But the religious despair is not only the most startling fact that we have to look at; it is also the one that is made most prominent in the vision. And the divine answer to it given through Ezekiel is that the conviction is true; Jehovah has forsaken the land. But in the first place the cause of His departure is found in those very practices for which it was made the excuse; and in the second, although He has ceased to dwell in the midst of His people, He has lost neither the power nor the will to punish their iniquities. To impress these truths first on his fellow-exiles and then on the whole nation is the chief object of the chapter before us.

Now we find that the general sense of God-forsakenness expressed itself principally in two directions. On the one hand it led to the multiplication of false objects of worship to supply the place of Him who was regarded as the proper tutelary Divinity of Israel; on the other hand it produced a reckless, devil-may-care spirit of resistance against any odds, such as was natural to men who had only material interests to fight for, and nothing to trust in but their own right hand. Syncretism in religion and fatalism in politics—these were the twin symptoms 084 of the decay of faith among the upper classes in Jerusalem. But these belong to two different parts of the vision which we must now distinguish.


The first part deals with the departure of Jehovah as caused by religious offences perpetrated in the Temple, and with the return of Jehovah to destroy the city on account of these offences. The prophet is transported in “visions of God” to Jerusalem, and placed in the outer court near the northern gate, outside of which was the site where the “image of Jealousy” had stood in the time of Manasseh. Near him stands the appearance which he had learned to recognise as the glory of Jehovah, signifying that Jehovah has, for a purpose not yet disclosed, revisited His Temple. But first Ezekiel must be made to see the state of things which exists in this Temple which had once been the seat of God's presence. Looking through the gate to the north, he discovers that the image of Jealousy2626   Of what nature this idolatrous symbol was we cannot certainly determine. The word used for “image” (semel) occurs in only two other passages. The writer of the books of Chronicles uses it of the asherah which was set up by Manasseh in the Temple, and it is possible that he means thus to identify that object with what Ezekiel saw (cf. 2 Chron. xxxiii. 7, and 2 Kings xxi. 7). This interpretation is as satisfactory as any that has been proposed. has been restored to its old place. This is the first and apparently the least heinous of the abominations that defiled the sanctuary.

The second scene is the only one of the four which represents a secret cult. Partly perhaps for that reason it strikes our minds as the most repulsive of all; but that was obviously not Ezekiel's estimate of it. There are greater abominations to follow. It is difficult to understand the particulars of Ezekiel's description, especially 085 in the Hebrew text (the LXX. is simpler); but it seems impossible to escape the impression that there was something obscene in a worship where idolatry appears as ashamed of itself. The essential fact, however, is that the very highest and most influential men in the land were addicted to a form of heathenism, whose objects of worship were pictures of “horrid creeping things, and cattle, and all the gods of the house of Israel.” The name of one of these men, the leader in this superstition, is given, and is significant of the state of life in Jerusalem shortly before its fall. Jaazaniah was the son of Shaphan, who is probably identical with the chancellor of Josiah's reign whose sympathy with the prophetic teaching was evinced by his zeal in the cause of reform. We read of other members of the family who were faithful to the national religion, such as his son Ahikam, also a zealous reformer, and his grandson Gedaliah, Jeremiah's friend and patron, and the governor appointed over Judah by Nebuchadnezzar after the taking of the city. The family was thus divided both in religion and politics. While one branch was devoted to the worship of Jehovah and favoured submission to the king of Babylon, Jaazaniah belonged to the opposite party and was the ringleader in a peculiarly obnoxious form of idolatry.2727   The nature of the cults is best explained by Professor Robertson Smith, who supposes that they are a survival of aboriginal totemistic superstitions which had been preserved in secret circles till now, but suddenly assumed a new importance with the collapse of the national religion and the belief that Jehovah had left the land. Others, however, have thought that it is Egyptian rites which are referred to. This view might best explain its prevalence among the elders, but it has little positive support.

The third “abomination” is a form of idolatry widely diffused over Western Asia—the annual mourning for Tammuz. Tammuz was originally a Babylonian deity 086 (Dumuzi), but his worship is specially identified with Phœnicia, whence under the name Adonis it was introduced into Greece. The mourning celebrates the death of the god, which is an emblem of the decay of the earth's productive powers, whether due to the scorching heat of the sun or to the cold of winter. It seems to have been a comparatively harmless rite of nature-religion, and its popularity among the women of Jerusalem at this time may be due to the prevailing mood of despondency which found vent in the sympathetic contemplation of that aspect of nature which most suggests decay and death.

The last and greatest of the abominations practised in and near the Temple is the worship of the sun. The peculiar enormity of this species of idolatry can hardly lie in the object of adoration; it is to be sought rather in the place where it was practised, and in the rank of those who took part in it, who were probably priests. Standing between the porch and the altar, with their backs to the Temple, these men unconsciously expressed the deliberate rejection of Jehovah which was involved in their idolatry. The worship of the heavenly bodies was probably imported into Israel from Assyria and Babylon, and its prevalence in the later years of the monarchy was due to political rather than religious influences. The gods of these imperial nations were esteemed more potent than those of the states which succumbed to their power, and hence men who were losing confidence in their national deity naturally sought to imitate the religions of the most powerful peoples known to them.2828   It has been supposed, however, that the sun-worship referred to here is of Persian origin, chiefly because of the obscure expression in ver. 17: “Behold they put the twig to their nose.” This has been explained by a Persian custom of holding up a branch before the face, lest the breath of the worshipper should contaminate the purity of the deity. But Persia had not yet played any great part in history, and it is hardly credible that a distinctively Persian custom should have found its way into the ritual of Jerusalem. Moreover, the words do not occur in the description of the sun-worshippers, nor do they refer particularly to them.

In the arrangement of the four specimens of the religious 087 practices which prevailed in Jerusalem, Ezekiel seems to proceed from the most familiar and explicable to the more outlandish defections from the purity of the national faith. At the same time his description shows how different classes of society were implicated in the sin of idolatry—the elders, the women, and the priests. During all this time the glory of Jehovah has stood in the court, and there is something very impressive in the picture of these infatuated men and women preoccupied with their unholy devotions and all unconscious of the presence of Him whom they deemed to have forsaken the land. To the open eye of the prophet the meaning of the vision must be already clear, but the sentence comes from the mouth of Jehovah Himself: “Hast thou seen, Son of man? Is it too small a thing for the house of Judah to practise the abominations which they have here practised, that they must also fill the land with violence, and [so] provoke Me again to anger? So will I act towards them in anger: My eye shall not pity, nor will I spare” (ch. viii. 17, 18).

The last words introduce the account of the punishment of Jerusalem, which is given of course in the symbolic form suggested by the scenery of the vision. Jehovah has meanwhile risen from His throne near the cherubim, and stands on the threshold of the Temple. There He summons to His side the destroyers who are to execute His purpose—six angels, each with a weapon of destruction in his hand. A seventh of higher rank clothed in linen appears with the implements of a scribe in his girdle. These 088 stand “beside the brazen altar,” and await the commands of Jehovah. The first act of the judgment is a massacre of the inhabitants of the city, without distinction of age or rank or sex. But, in accordance with his strict view of the divine righteousness, Ezekiel is led to conceive of this last judgment as discriminating carefully between the righteous and the wicked. All those who have inwardly separated themselves from the guilt of the city by hearty detestation of the iniquities perpetrated in its midst are distinguished by a mark on their foreheads before the work of slaughter begins. What became of this faithful remnant it does not belong to the vision to declare. Beginning with the twenty men before the porch, the destroying angels follow the man with the inkhorn through the streets of the city, and slay all on whom he has not set his mark. When the messengers have gone out on their dread errand, Ezekiel, realising the full horror of a scene which he dare not describe, falls prostrate before Jehovah, deprecating the outbreak of indignation which threatened to extinguish “the remnant of Israel.” He is reassured by the declaration that the guilt of Judah and Israel demands no less a punishment than this, because the notion that Jehovah had forsaken the land had opened the floodgates of iniquity, and filled the land with bloodshed and the city with oppression. Then the man in the linen robes returns and announces, “It is done as Thou hast commanded.”

The second act of the judgment is the destruction of Jerusalem by fire. This is symbolised by the scattering over the city of burning coals taken from the altar-hearth under the throne of God. The man with the linen garments is directed to step between the wheels and take out fire for this purpose. The description of the execution of this order is again carried no further than what actually takes place before the prophet's eyes: the man took the 089 fire and went out. In the place where we might have expected to have an account of the destruction of the city, we have a second description of the appearance and motions of the merkaba, the purpose of which it is difficult to divine. Although it deviates slightly from the account in ch. i., the differences appear to have no significance, and indeed it is expressly said to be the same phenomenon. The whole passage is certainly superfluous, and might be omitted but for the difficulty of imagining any motive that would have tempted a scribe to insert it. We must keep in mind the possibility that this part of the book had been committed to writing before the final redaction of Ezekiel's prophecies, and the description in vv. 8-17 may have served a purpose there which is superseded by the fuller narrative which we now possess in ch. i.

In this way Ezekiel penetrates more deeply into the inner meaning of the judgment on city and people whose external form he had announced in his earlier prophecy. It must be admitted that Jehovah's strange work bears to our minds a more appalling aspect when thus presented in symbols than the actual calamity would bear when effected through the agency of second causes. Whether it had the same effect on the mind of a Hebrew, who hardly believed in second causes, is another question. In any case it gives no ground for the charge made against Ezekiel of dwelling with a malignant satisfaction on the most repulsive features of a terrible picture. He is indeed capable of a rigorous logic in exhibiting the incidence of the law of retribution which was to him the necessary expression of the divine righteousness. That it included the death of every sinner and the overthrow of a city that had become a scene of violence and cruelty was to him a self-evident truth, and more than this the vision does not teach. On the contrary, it 090 contains traits which tend to moderate the inevitable harshness of the truth conveyed. With great reticence it allows the execution of the judgment to take place behind the scenes, giving only those details which were necessary to suggest its nature. Whilst it is being carried out the attention of the reader is engaged in the presence of Jehovah, or his mind is occupied with the principles which made the punishment a moral necessity. The prophet's expostulations with Jehovah show that he was not insensible to the miseries of his people, although he saw them to be inevitable. Further, this vision shows as clearly as any passage in his writings the injustice of the view which represents him as more concerned for petty details of ceremonial than for the great moral interests of a nation. If any feeling expressed in the vision is to be regarded as Ezekiel's own, then indignation against outrages on human life and liberty must be allowed to weigh more with him than offences against ritual purity. And, finally, it is clearly one object of the vision to show that in the destruction of Jerusalem no individual shall be involved who is not also implicated in the guilt which calls down wrath upon her.


The second part of the vision (ch. xi.) is but loosely connected with the first. Here Jerusalem still exists, and men are alive who must certainly have perished in the “visitation of the city” if the writer had still kept himself within the limits of his previous conception. But in truth the two have little in common, except the Temple, which is the scene of both, and the cherubim, whose movements mark the transition from the one to the other. The glory of Jehovah is already departing from the house when it is stayed at the entrance of the 091 east gate to give the prophet his special message to the exiles.

Here we are introduced to the more political aspect of the situation in Jerusalem. The twenty-five men who are gathered in the east gate of the Temple are clearly the leading statesmen in the city; and two of them, whose names are given, are expressly designated as “princes of the people.” They are apparently met in conclave to deliberate on public matters, and a word from Jehovah lays open to the prophet the nature of their projects. “These are the men that plan ruin, and hold evil counsel in this city.” The evil counsel is undoubtedly the project of rebellion against the king of Babylon which must have been hatched at this time and which broke out into open revolt about three years later. The counsel was evil because directly opposed to that which Jeremiah was giving at the time in the name of Jehovah. But Ezekiel also throws invaluable light on the mood of the men who were urging the king along the path which led to ruin. “Are not the houses recently built?”2929   Following the LXX. they say, congratulating themselves on their success in repairing the damage done to the city in the time of Jehoiachin. The image of the pot and the flesh is generally taken to express the feeling of easy security in the fortifications of Jerusalem with which these light-hearted politicians embarked on a contest with Nebuchadnezzar. But their mood must be a gloomier one than that if there is any appropriateness in the language they use. To stew in their own juice, and over a fire of their own kindling, could hardly seem a desirable policy to sane men, however strong the pot might be. These councillors are well aware of the dangers they incur, and of the misery which their purpose must necessarily bring on the people. But they are determined to hazard everything and endure everything on the chance 092 that the city may prove strong enough to baffle the resources of the king of Babylon. Once the fire is kindled, it will certainly be better to be in the pot than in the fire; and so long as Jerusalem holds out they will remain behind her walls. The answer which is put into the prophet's mouth is that the issue will not be such as they hope for. The only “flesh” that will be left in the city will be the dead bodies of those who have been slain within her walls by the very men who hope that their lives will be given them for a prey. They themselves shall be dragged forth to meet their fate far away from Jerusalem on the “borders of Israel.” It is not unlikely that these conspirators kept their word. Although the king and all the men of war fled from the city as soon as a breach was made, we read of certain high officials who allowed themselves to be taken in the city (Jer. lii. 7). Ezekiel's prophecy was in their case literally fulfilled; for these men and many others were brought to the king of Babylon at Riblah, “and he smote them and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath.”

While Ezekiel was uttering this prophecy one of the councillors, named Pelatiah, suddenly fell down dead. Whether a man of this name had suddenly died in Jerusalem under circumstances that had deeply impressed the prophet's mind, or whether the death belongs to the vision, it is impossible for us to tell. To Ezekiel the occurrence seemed an earnest of the complete destruction of the remnant of Israel by the wrath of God, and, as before, he fell on his face to intercede for them. It is then that he receives the message which seems to form the divine answer to the perplexities which haunted the minds of the exiles in Babylon.

In their attitude towards the exiles the new leaders in Jerusalem took up a position as highly privileged religious persons, quite at variance with the scepticism which 093 governed their conduct at home. When they were following the bent of their natural inclinations by practising idolatry and perpetrating judicial murders in the city, their cry was, “Jehovah hath forsaken the land; Jehovah seeth it not.” When they were eager to justify their claim to the places and possessions left vacant by their banished countrymen, they said, “They are far from Jehovah: to us the land is given in possession.” They were probably equally sincere and equally insincere in both professions. They had simply learned the art which comes easily to men of the world of using religion as a cloak for greed, and throwing it off when greed could be best gratified without it. The idea which lay under their religious attitude was that the exiles had gone into captivity because their sins had incurred Jehovah's anger, and that now His wrath was exhausted and the blessing of His favour would rest on those who had been left in the land. There was sufficient plausibility in the taunt to make it peculiarly galling to the mind of the exiles, who had hoped to exercise some influence over the government in Jerusalem, and to find their places kept for them when they should be permitted to return. It may well have been the resentment produced by tidings of this hostility towards them in Jerusalem that brought their elders to the house of Ezekiel to see if he had not some message from Jehovah to reassure them.

In the mind of Ezekiel, however, the problem took another form. To him a return to the old Jerusalem had no meaning; neither buyer nor seller should have cause to congratulate himself on his position. The possession of the land of Israel belonged to those in whom Jehovah's ideal of the new Israel was realised, and the only question of religious importance was, Where is the germ of this new Israel to be found? Amongst those who survive the judgment in the old land, or amongst those who have 094 experienced it in the form of banishment? On this point the prophet receives an explicit revelation in answer to his intercession for “the remnant of Israel.” “Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren, thy fellow-captives, and the whole house of Israel of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, They are far from Jehovah: to us it is given—the land for an inheritance!... Because I have removed them far among the nations, and have scattered them among the lands, and have been to them but little of a sanctuary in the lands where they have gone, therefore say, Thus saith Jehovah, so will I gather you from the peoples, and bring you from the lands where ye have been scattered, and will give you the land of Israel.” The difficult expression “I have been but little of a sanctuary” refers to the curtailment of religious privileges and means of access to Jehovah which was a necessary consequence of exile. It implies, however, that Israel in banishment had learned in some measure to preserve that separation from other peoples and that peculiar relation to Jehovah which constituted its national holiness. Religion perhaps perishes sooner from the overgrowth of ritual than from its deficiency. It is an historical fact that the very meagreness of the religion which could be practised in exile was the means of strengthening the more spiritual and permanent elements which constitute the essence of religion. The observances which could be maintained apart from the Temple acquired an importance which they never afterwards lost; and although some of these, such as circumcision, the Passover, the abstinence from forbidden food, were purely ceremonial, others, such as prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and the common worship of the synagogue, represent the purest and most indispensable forms in which communion with God can find expression. That Jehovah Himself became even in small measure what the word “sanctuary” denotes indicates 095 an enrichment of the religious consciousness of which perhaps Ezekiel himself did not perceive the full import.

The great lesson which Ezekiel's message seeks to impress on his hearers is that the tenure of the land of Israel depends on religious conditions. The land is Jehovah's, and He bestows it on those who are prepared to use it as His holiness demands. A pure land inhabited by a pure people is the ideal that underlies all Ezekiel's visions of the future. It is evident that in such a conception of the relation between God and His people ceremonial conditions must occupy a conspicuous place. The sanctity of the land is necessarily of a ceremonial order, and so the sanctity of the people must consist partly in a scrupulous regard for ceremonial requirements. But after all the condition of the land with respect to purity or uncleanness only reflects the character of the nation whose home it is. The things that defile a land are such things as idols and other emblems of heathenism, innocent blood unavenged, and unnatural crimes of various kinds. These things derive their whole significance from the state of mind and heart which they embody; they are the plain and palpable emblems of human sin. It is conceivable that to some minds the outward emblems may have seemed the true seat of evil, and their removal an end in itself apart from the direction of the will by which it was brought about. But it would be a mistake to charge Ezekiel with any such obliquity of moral vision. Although he conceives sin as a defilement that leaves its mark on the material world, he clearly teaches that its essence lies in the opposition of the human will to the will of God. The ceremonial purity required of every Israelite is only the expression of certain aspects of Jehovah's holy nature, the bearing of which on man's spiritual life may have been obscure to the prophet, and is still more obscure to us. And 096 the truly valuable element in compliance with such rules was the obedience to Jehovah's expressed will which flowed from a nature in sympathy with His. Hence in this chapter, while the first thing that the restored exiles have to do is to cleanse the land of its abominations, this act will be the expression of a nature radically changed, doing the will of God from the heart. As the emblems of idolatry that defile the land were the outcome of an irresistible national tendency to evil, so the new and sensitive spirit, taking on the impress of Jehovah's holiness through the law, shall lead to the purification of the land from those things that had provoked the eyes of His glory. “They shall come thither, and remove thence all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them another heart, and put a new spirit within them. I will take away the stony heart from their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh: that they may walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments, and do them: and so shall they be My people, and I will be their God” (ch. xi. 18-20).

Thus in the mind of the prophet Jerusalem and its Temple are already virtually destroyed. He seemed to linger in the Temple court until he saw the chariot of Jehovah withdrawn from the city as a token that the glory had departed from Israel. Then the ecstasy passed away, and he found himself in the presence of the men to whom the hope of the future had been offered, but who were as yet unworthy to receive it.


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