Good morning! Ezekiel’s messages about Judah and Jerusalem continue in today’s passage (chapters 6-10), and indeed they extend all the way through Ezekiel 24 before the book takes a new course. Yesterday I noted that Ezekiel holds together both priestly and prophetic concerns. Today, we can see his prophetic critique of wealth alongside the priestly sensibility of keeping the temple pure from idols. In the presence of both corrupting wealth and idolatry, Ezekiel envisions God cutting the people of Jerusalem off entirely, with only the exiles left as witnesses of the true God.
We’ve heard prophets say before that Israel will be destroyed because of its idols. Perhaps Ezekiel’s innovation on this is the promise in chapter 6 that at least a few will be spared so that the testimony of divine partnership with Israel will go on. However, most everyone in Jerusalem will die of warfare or famine. Even those who survive will be chased hither and yon by their troubles. Psychological trauma and guilt for their sinful idolatry will have them practically jumping out of their skin. Wealth is singled out in chapter 7 as a means by which idolatry took hold in the people. Gold was formed into idols, and therefore gold has become detestable because of the divine judgment which it stands for now in Hebrew eyes.
In chapter 8, Ezekiel is compelled by spiritual forces to take another mystical journey, this time to the temple in Jerusalem. Here is where his priestly background comes in for good use. Ezekiel identifies the throne where God sits, above the altar found within the Holy of Holies. Then attention goes to a rival, an idol that has been similarly erected within the temple itself. No sooner does he see this than the spirit draws his attention to more distasteful things. Unclean insects rot the wall of the palace from the inside out, and sacred leaders from Jerusalem are paying homage to them. These and other idolatrous acts are given as proof of Hebrew wickedness, justification for God practically wiping them off the planet.
We see in Ezekiel 9 this brutal judgment on those living in Judah after the exile. The prophet has a vision of avengers destroying all those in Jerusalem who don’t have a preserving mark on their foreheads, a sign that the bearer laments the idolatries of Israel in these latter days. If you’re recognize echoes from somewhere else of people marked on their foreheads, you might be thinking of the number placed on the heads of the unrighteous in the Book of Revelation. John, the author of that vision, borrowed much of his imagery from prophets in the Hebrew Scripture, especially Ezekiel. Even though we find the description of wholesale slaughter in Jerusalem to be grotesque, the prophet is much more fascinating with heavenly machinery. He spends much of the final chapter here describing how cherubim move around on wheels that are filled with eyes. But the main point of their moving is this: the God whose throne is above and among them has left the temple, abandoning that which has been God’s dwelling place for centuries past. “Happy” reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Ezekiel 11-14. Thanks for reading!