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Abominations in the Temple


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, the hand of the Lord G od fell upon me there. 2I looked, and there was a figure that looked like a human being; below what appeared to be its loins it was fire, and above the loins it was like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming amber. 3It stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, to the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. 4And the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I had seen in the valley.

5 Then God said to me, “O mortal, lift up your eyes now in the direction of the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. 6He said to me, “Mortal, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? Yet you will see still greater abominations.”

7 And he brought me to the entrance of the court; I looked, and there was a hole in the wall. 8Then he said to me, “Mortal, dig through the wall”; and when I dug through the wall, there was an entrance. 9He said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10So I went in and looked; there, portrayed on the wall all around, were all kinds of creeping things, and loathsome animals, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11Before them stood seventy of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the fragrant cloud of incense was ascending. 12Then he said to me, “Mortal, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of images? For they say, ‘The L ord does not see us, the L ord has forsaken the land.’ ” 13He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they are committing.”

14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the L ord; women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O mortal? You will see still greater abominations than these.”

16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the L ord; there, at the entrance of the temple of the L ord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the L ord, and their faces toward the east, prostrating themselves to the sun toward the east. 17Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O mortal? Is it not bad enough that the house of Judah commits the abominations done here? Must they fill the land with violence, and provoke my anger still further? See, they are putting the branch to their nose! 18Therefore I will act in wrath; my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; and though they cry in my hearing with a loud voice, I will not listen to them.”

Here the Prophet refers to another profanation of the temple, since the chief citizens of Jerusalem and those who ought to point out the way to others, prostituted themselves to impious worship, lie says, therefore, that he saw about five and twenty men, and it is probable, that there were as many as this among the first rank of citizens. But a certain number is put for an uncertain, and I think that the Prophet. was not so scrupulous on this point, or rather the Spirit of God, who showed that number in the vision; whatever it was, they not only worshipped the sun in private houses, but in the temple itself, and that not without gross and pointed contempt of God. For when they turned their back upon the sanctuary, they made a laughing-stock of God. It hence appears, that they were of so daring a front, that they openly boasted in their superstitions, and purposely polluted God’s temple. This, indeed, was monstrous, to see the elders of the city, and those practiced in the teaching and worship of the law, so alienated from all piety as to worship the sun. For this could not happen through either error or ignorance. For God in his law when he forbids the worship of the sun and stars, adds as a reason, that the whole celestial host was created for our use. (Deuteronomy 17:3.) Since, therefore, the sun is our servant and the moon our handmaid, and the stars also were created to serve us, it is preposterous to depart from the divinely ordained order, that the sun which was given us to spend his time in our service should be to us a god. Since, therefore, God has borne witness to this in his law, there was no excuse for error when the Jews adored towards the east.

Now he adds also another grosser dishonor done to God, when they turned their backs upon his sanctuary. They could, as I have said, pollute themselves at home and in conceal-merit with such defilements. But while they came of their own accord into the temple, it is just as if they provoked God by open daring, Now, when they turn their back, this is not only a foul denial but a contempt of God, as if they had said, that he was unworthy of their respect. Now, therefore, we see the whole force of the passage. But he says, turn yet again, and thou shalt see great abominations: some translate greater, as I have formerly mentioned, but I do not think it suitable. I do not contend for it, but if a reason is asked why this abomination is greater than others, it is not clear to me; hence I prefer to take it more simply in the positive degree. Nor is it an objection to this that מאלה, maleh, is added, for מ is not always taken comparatively; but as I think it means only, as if God had said, you will see other abominations besides those of which mention has been already made. But he points out the place of the temple where they worshipped the sun, namely, between the porch and the altar. This was the sign of great impiety to break into the holy place, and from thence to despise God. Now we know this to be a sign of lawful adoration, when the faithful turned their eyes to the sanctuary and the ark of the covenant, but when they turned their backs upon it, there is no doubt that they professedly wished to boast in a contempt of God and the law. It already appears, that they had adopted various and numberless forms of superstition. In Egypt they had not seen the worship of the sun, nor do we read that such worship was in use in Chaldea; but because they heard that the Persians and other Orientals worshipped the sun as a god, they imitated their custom. Therefore we see, that from these people they heaped up rites for themselves, so as to make an immense assemblage. It follows —

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