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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.”

There is no doubt that a prophetic vision is here narrated; for the Prophet was not carried to Jerusalem, nor had he changed his place, nor were the elders of Judah before him, but he seemed to himself to be seized by the Spirit of God, that he might perceive the pollutions by which the Jews had profaned the temple. For he says, that he was at home when this vision occurred to him, and yet it was possible for him to be walking in the field. He does not, therefore, relate the thing as done, but simply teaches how God appeared, and adds the circumstances. By elders of Judah I do not understand captives, but those who were then dwelling at Jerusalem, that they should be witnesses of this prophecy, and so all excuse and pretense of mistake was taken away from them. He also expresses the time at which this vision happened, namely the sixth year, which he numbers from the exile of Jechoniah, as we saw in the first chapter. Hence an interval of a year and two months has elapsed since the first vision which was then unfolded, and the present which is now to be treated. Since, therefore, fourteen months had elapsed, God appeared again to his Prophet. This circumstance of the time is by no means superfluous, for this shows the great obstinacy of the people. The Prophet, as I have said, numbers the years from the exile of the king. But they were accustomed to count from the jubilee year; but he now renews the grief for that slaughter, when the king was treated ignominiously as a vile captive, and was harassed as a slave by the enemy. Since, therefore, the Prophet humbles the Jews by this computation of years, hence it appears how hardened was their obstinacy, as they did not grow wise though so severely chastened. But we shall see that they were seized with a prodigious madness, so that they cast aside the worship of God, they heaped together on every side new idolatries, and infected the temple with their abominations. We saw in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:17, and Jeremiah 44:17-19) that the worship of God was overthrown in the city Jerusalem, and in the temple itself; for they poured out libations to the workmanship of heaven — others translate, the queen of heaven, but we have shown that those places ought to be understood of all the stars — since, therefore, they offered incense to the workmanship of heaven, then they afterwards took to themselves idols and polluted themselves with the superstitions of all the nations. Our Prophet shows that they were not touched with any sense of their punishment, but that they became worse from the time when God began to raise his hand against them; for it was just as if he had begun to show himself from heaven the avenger of their superstitions. Hence we have a reason why the Prophet here mentions years and months, and even the fifth day of the month, namely, that the Jews may be held more convicted of their obstinacy, since no punishments recalled them into the way, but they wrestled with diabolical obstinacy against God. He says, the hand of God fell; by hand I do not simply understand prophecy as some do, but strength; for the sense seems too restricted to say, God’s prophecy fell — the phrase is too cold. But this is properly said of the power of God. It is just as if he professed that he did not bring forward anything of his own, because he put off, as it were, the man whilst Gods power reigned in him. Thus the power of God is opposed to all human faculties. It follows —

Ezekiel 8:2

2. Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber.

2. Et aspexi, et ecce similitudo 173173     Or, “image.” — Calvin tanquam aspectus ignis: ab aspectu lumborum infra ignis: et a lumbis ejus sursum tanquam aspectus splendoris, tanquam figura chasmal.


Some translate the last word angel, but in my opinion erroneously: for עין, gnin, properly signifies color, and I have already refuted that error in the first chapter. I am not clear as to what color it was, hence I follow the received opinion that, it was like amber. Now the Prophet says, he saw a likeness, or image composed of two parts; for from the loins downward it was like fire, but upwards it was brightness. By the word דמות, demoth, I do not doubt that he means the image of a man. God, therefore, appeared to his servant under some image; nor is the human figure out of place, because if it had been any other figure without doubt the Prophet had been silent. But we have already seen that God had put on the human form, and so represented himself in the person of his only begotten Son, as we have said, and shall see again in the tenth chapter. This, therefore, is the likeness of which the Prophet speaks, but he uses this word on purpose, that we may know that it was not a true and solid and substantial thing called body. As to the Prophet’s beholding a figure or likeness, this took place only in a bare vision, not that God then put on a body; and concerning this point also I have treated at length in the first chapter, and shortly I shall glance at it again. Now as to his saying, one part of the figure was fiery, but in another, the aspect of splendor, he seems here to express what the Jews ought to hope for, when at length they perceived God to be near, from whom they thought themselves very far off, since they so boldly despised his law and all the prophecies. As to the splendor, God’s majesty and incomprehensible glory is signified. For if brightness blinds our eyes, what would happen if we endeavor to penetrate to that immense light of which the sun is only a little spark? Since, therefore, Ezekiel says, there was the likeness of splendor above his loins, he doubtless shows how formidable the majesty of God ought to be to us. For God dwells in light, but inaccessible, as the Apostle says: but below, says he, was the appearance of fire, namely, because he must not. wait till the Jews received any joy from the presence of God. (1 Timothy 6:16.) We know, indeed, that hypocrites always boast rashly in the name of God, as Amos reproves them, What is to you the day of the Lord? it is a day of darkness and not light. (Amos 5:18.) For they boast that God would be entreated in their miseries, and that he must assist them, because he had taken them under his protection. The Prophet refutes this arrogance, and says, that the day of the Lord would be darkness. So also in this place, God appeared in the form of fire towards the earth, that the Jews should tremble when they saw the vengeance of God lighted up to consume them. Therefore in the splendor God’s majesty was shown, which humbled the Prophet and all the pious, that they should receive the vision reverently; for in the fire God’s vengeance was shown, lest the Jews should make for themselves too wide a shield of the name of God, which they extended falsely and fallaciously.

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