a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

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 now the Prophet is brought to another place, where another kind of abomination is shown. If an idol had been erected in some recess of the temple only, even that impiety when joined with sacrilege could not have been borne. But when all parts of the temple were contaminated with such filth, hence we collect that the people was utterly desperate. For the Prophet says, that he was led into a more secret place, and since there was a hole there, he dug it by God’s command, so that it became a door by which he could enter. This only ought to be understood of a vision. For the Prophet had brought nothing with him with which he could so dig a wall, but when he could only behold that hidden abomination through a chink, God opened the wall. But the Prophet seems to himself to make a door of entrance by his own hand. But he says, there were painted birds, reptiles, and animals: then he adds, an abomination and all the idols of the house of Israel We see that there was not only one idol, but a great number. And in truth as soon as the true worship of God is neglected, men place no bounds to themselves: they are not content with one or two errors, but they heap to themselves numberless delusions. So the children of Israel fell away from one idol to a great multitude. Meanwhile it must be remarked, that the idol which he has mentioned was detestable beyond all others. For it was not called a provocative of jealousy without reason, since it inflamed God to jealousy. It is therefore probable that this idol was more noble than others, and held in greater price and veneration, since the unbelievers had greater and lesser deities. But now the Prophet refers to common idols, of which there was a great abundance, but not such great honor. For he says, that part of the temple was full of pictures all around It is indeed certain, that the use of painting was always plentiful, but God wished his temple to be pure from images, lest men, being taken with such enticements, should turn aside directly to superstition. For if we see a man or an animal painted in a profane place, a religious feeling does not creep into our minds: for all acknowledge it as a painting: nay idols themselves as long as they are in taverns or workshops, are not worshipped. If the painter’s workshop is full of pictures, all pass them by, and if they are delighted with the view of them they do not show any sign of reverence to the paintings. But as soon as the picture is carried to another place, its sacredness blinds men and so stupifies them, that they do not remember that they had already seen that picture in a profane dwelling. This therefore is the reason why God did not admit any pictures into his temple, and surely when the place is consecrated, it must happen that the painting will astonish men just as if some secret divinity belonged to it. Although the Prophet here does not say simply that the walls were full of pictures, yet he says, that an abomination and the idols of the house of Israel were there We see therefore not only that the walls were so decorated for the sake of ornament, but because the people desired to celebrate all the deities whose names it knew to be famous among the profane nations.

Now as to the Prophet’s being ordered to dig through the wall, we gather from this that superstitions are sometimes so hidden in secret places, that they escape our eyes even while we look at them. For such is the weakness of the human mind, that it does not easily perceive how abominable it is to vitiate the worship of God. Thus the Prophet only looked through a chink, so that he could not form a correct judgment concerning those pollutions; hence he is ordered to dig through the wall, just as if God assured him that a thin and obscure view was not sufficient, but that a door must be opened by which he should look in and thoroughly consider what would otherwise be concealed beneath those coverings. Now he says that he entered and saw the likeness of everything, and we must remember what I have lately touched upon, that the Jews are here condemned for heaping to themselves a multitude of gods: for it was very disgraceful to worship reptiles and brutes. The worship of a human figure has a specious pretext, for the Greeks, who always seemed to themselves wise above others, and thought the rest of the world barbarians, were deceived in idols referring to the human figure, but it was too base and gross for them to worship an ox, a dog, or an ass, as a god. We see therefore how basely the Jews were blinded who mingled brutes and reptiles for gods. But it is no wonder that they were so deluded, because Egypt was near, where we know that dogs and oxen, and even cats, were considered deities: nay they worshipped all kinds of herbs. Since therefore the Egyptians imagined that the deity resided in reptiles and unclean animals, as well as in herbs, it is no wonder that the Jews were drawn into these delusions through neighborhood. But since heavenly teaching had shown them the way, such blindness was inexcusable, because they could not err so basely without suffocating and so extinguishing the light which had been set before their eyes. But we see how men’s audacity breaks forth, when they do not restrain themselves within obedience to God’s teaching. He says that pictures were painted all round on the wall, which again confirms our observation, that the Jews were inflamed with such desires that they left no space empty, because they wished their eyes to fall upon those figures, which more and more inflamed their superstition.

VIEWNAME is study