FOUNDATIONAL FRAMEWORK. PART 42
Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.
The time period between the Old and New Testaments is known as the “400 Years of Silence.” During this span of time a prophet speaking on behalf of YHWH could not be found. However, this does not mean that history was without Guidance. What brought about this “divine silence?”
Ezekiel 8:1-18.This vision took place on September 17, 592 BC (8:1). Ezekiel was a priest in the Temple and a prophet of YHWH. He is noted as part of those who were exiled from the land at the Babylonian invasion in 597 BC. While there, he lived in Telabib next to the Chebar River (Ezek 3:15) and served as a mouthpiece for YHWH, seeing that the elders of Judah sought regular counsel from him in this trying time (8:1; 14:1; 20:1). In 8:1, a vision from the “Lord GOD” (“Adonai YHWH”) comes to him, lifting him up and bringing him to Jerusalem (8:3-4). It is clear from the context of Ezekiel 1:26-27 that the being that appears to the prophet in 8:2 is YHWH Himself. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, the “glory of the God of Israel” is seen. This is none other than the “Skekinah Glory” of YHWH. (“Shekinah” means “to dwell.”)
This chapter is broken up into four levels of abominations (meaning “horrible, detestable”). Each pattern is the same with YHWH asking Ezekiel, “do you see?”, followed by “you will see” as each abomination progresses. Each instance makes a solid case against Israel as to why their intimacy with YHWH has been forfeited. This is seen in the remark that YHWH makes in 8:6 where He states, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But yet you will see still greater abominations.” Indulgence in evil, especially after a heightened period of revelation from YHWH, is such that repels Him,
moving Him to vacate His intimacy with His chosen people. Or to put it another way, sin separates people from God, regardless if they are believers in Him or not. For the unbeliever, he or she is separated from a relationship with Him because they are still dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), while the believer is separated from their fellowship with Him if sin is persistent, habitual, and/or unconfessed (1 John 1:9).
#1. 8:5-6. While we are not exactly sure what the “idol of jealousy” is, we do know that YHWH is a jealous God, as stated in the Ten Words in Exodus 20:5. This should not be understood that YHWH experiences jealousy like human beings, but that He experiences jealousy perfectly. This may sound strange, but if YHWH desires the best for His creatures and they are settling for far less than an active relationship and a vibrant fellowship with the Creator of all things, the jealousy of YHWH is rational and warranted because the inferior has been deemed more preferable than the Superior. YHWH will not compete with any god or idol and He most certainly will not make His dwelling place tolerable of such lesser fixtures. He is GOD, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Lord, YHWH.
The location specified is the entrance of the altar gate to the north. This was the north gate of the inner court that would lead to the sacrificial altar. Constable writes that, “King Jotham (750-732 B.C.) had built this gate, which apparently did not exist when Solomon first constructed the temple (2 Kings 15:35). Other names for it were the upper Benjamin gate (Jer. 20:2), the new gate (Jer. 26:10; 36:10), the altar gate (Ezek. 8:5), and the upper gate (2 Kings 15:35; Ezek. 9:2).”For such an idol to stand in the way of one making their way to the altar of sacrifice is to deter obedience to YHWH and to encourage allegiance to another.
#2. 8:7-12. Ezekiel is told to look through a hole in the wall and to dig away the excess around the hole by which he comes upon a secret door. This secret door leads to a room where seventy elders of Israel are found worshiping created things rather than the Creator of things (Deut 4:16-19; Rom 1:22-23). This is a dangerous scene, for throughout the
Scriptures we see replete evidence that leaders speak for their nation and when the leaders have gone astray, the people are sure to follow.
The one leading the elders of Israel in their secret idolatry is “Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan” (8:11b). Shaphan was the scribe that read the Law to King Josiah for the first time, setting off national reforms with Josiah leading Judah back to YHWH, while at the same time tearing down the altar, idols, and high places that had been built (2 Kgs 22:8-14).
The mention is made that these acts were done “in the dark” (8:12b), with the statements of the elders regarding YHWH being made known to Ezekiel. Their mindset/attitude is one that believes that they can hide their idolatry from YHWH, while simultaneously accusing Him of forsaking the Land of Promise. This conclusion would make their belief a result of unbelief.
Such secrecy is believed by some to be a result of the worship of Egyptian idols while under Babylonian rule (the two were at fierce odds with one another), while others see such secrecy as an attempt to hide themselves from the eyes of the Almighty. According to the context of the passage, the latter explanation is the correct one, seeing the attitude of the elders is made manifest in their collective statement: “The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land” (12b). The depths of idolatry had robbed the leaders of Israel of their awareness of the basic attribute of God’s omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-12; Prov 15:3; Jer 23:23-24) and His promise to care for them while in the land if they would be faithful to Him, obeying His Law (Deut 5:32-33).
#3. 8:13-14. The Lord brings Ezekiel to the north gate, which would lead to the inner court of the Temple. This gate is significant because it was the gate that would have been used by the king.The scene before him is of women who are weeping for Tammuz, who was known as the Babylonian god of vegetation, who they believed to be dying and resurrecting each year with the cycle of the seasons. McClain notes that Tammuz was “a heathen god corresponding to the Greek Adonis whose
worship was attended by such licentious orgies that the cult was finally suppressed by Constantine the Great.”
With only this one mention of “Tammuz” in the Bible, we may be quick to disregard the seriousness of this moment as seen by Ezekiel. Cooper provides us with some insight as to how deep the seedbed of Tammuz idolatry ran in Israel. He writes, “After the exile the Hebrew calendar included a month called Tammuz, the fourth month (June–July). This was the time for grapes to be harvested. The preservation of the name Tammuz in the calendar suggests the impact this form of pagan worship had on Jewish life and worship, both during and after the exile.”
Such devotion to this false deity is an affront to YHWH who is “YWHW Yireh,” the Provider of Israel (Gen 22:14).
#4. 8:15-17. Moving into the inner court and standing at the entrance to the Temple, Ezekiel finds himself stationed between “the porch and the altar” just outside the Holy Place (8:16b). The inner court was a place for priests only, which makes their identity clear. “They were the priesthood of the nation, represented here by the presidents of the twenty-four courses with the high priest at their head!”Oh, the violation; seeing that they have prostrated themselves in worship to the sun, meaning that this was the worship of Ra, the god of the sun, as previously seen in Egyptian culture. With their back to the Temple and their faces to the east, toward the sun, their posture symbolizes that they had turned their back on YHWH and the wholly-devoted oath that they had committed to (Exod 19:8), choosing instead to bow before the created, inferior objects of this world (Rom 1:18-21).
The First Temple which was built by Solomon was not destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar until 586 BC, so this “transportation” (vision) that Ezekiel is experiencing was likely revealing real-time events to him (remember, this chapter takes place in 592 BC). This further solidified
the reason for YHWH allowing for their captivity and for the destruction that was to come.
Ezekiel 9:1-11.This is an awful scene, and one that could have been avoided had the Israelites heeded the Word of YHWH and obeyed His commands. While this passage is plain in speaking for itself, it is important to note that the “glory of the God of Israel” (9:3a) moves from His place over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of holies to the threshold of the Temple, which is the doorstep.
Such judgment is merited because of Israel’s gross sin. YHWH declares that the iniquity of Israel and Judah “is very, very great,” with the land full of blood and perversion being found throughout the city (9:9).
Ezekiel 9:1-11.This may seem to be a slight detail, but it is significant nonetheless. The “glory of the Lord,” the Shekinah Glory moves from over the cherubim to the point of filling the court, which could be specified as being only the inner court, in contrast to the mention of the sound of angel’s wings in the outer court (10:5). This would be the same “court” that was previously mentioned in 8:16.
YHWH being “over the cherubim” should not be seen as the cherubim that were part of the Mercy Seat that sat upon the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of holies in the Temple, but rather as the cherubim that accompanied YHWH wherever He would go from chapter 1.
Ezekiel 11:12, 22-24. This passage captures the third movement of the glory of the Lord away from the Holy of holies, eventually leaving Jerusalem altogether. Verse 12 summarizes the atrocities of the Jews. In a sentence, they have repeatedly broken the Mosaic Covenant. Verses 22-24 find the glory of the Lord, hovering above the cherubim that follow Him, leaving Jerusalem, and positioning Himself outside of the city to the east, above the Mount of Olives. YHWH was no longer dwelling with His people. Cooper writes, “The most severe aspect of God’s judgment was his absence from among his people.”This is known as Ichabodmeaning “the Departed Glory.” Hosea 5:14-15 had been fulfilled.
Thankfully, we are told in Zechariah 14:4 that when the Lord returns to set up the Millennial Kingdom, He will set His foot down on the Mount of Olives, returning again at the Second Coming in the exact same way that He left.
Ezekiel 21:24-27.The charges against Israel are clear: Their sins were something of public knowledge. The Hebrew word translated “remembered” in the NASB is hazkarmeaning, “to remember, to be mindful,to bear something in mind, to account, to consider, to contemplate things called back to memory.”It is almost like the sins of Israel had become a memorial to their destruction, being complete self-inflicted and deserving of judgment.
The “wicked one, the prince of Israel” is understood to be King Zedekiah who was Judah’s last king. Zedekiah was installed as king of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar, and was little more than a puppet with little power (2 Kgs 24:11-16). Though he had sworn an oath of allegiance to Babylon, and though he was warned to allow for the wrath of YHWH to proceed without retaliation by Jeremiah (Jer 27:1-17), Zedekiah eventually sided with Egypt in rebellion against the chosen discipline of the Lord, breaking his oath (2 Chr 36:13). The breaking of his word as sworn unto YHWH classified him as a wicked king. He is commanded to remove his turban and to take off his crown (Ezek 21:26b). The crown would remain vacant in Israel until “He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him” (Ezek 21:27b), that being the Lord Jesus Christ, the rightful king of Israel.
These passages touch upon the reasons for the discipline that fell upon Israel, the vacancy of the Shekinah Glory of YHWH in the Temple, and the absence of a king worthy to rule and lead the people in pursuing righteousness. This justifies the Silent Years. However, YHWH was still moving in history.
With the division of Israel into the Northern (Israel) Kingdom and the Southern (Judah) Kingdom, the nation fell into a tailspin spiritually with
the Northern Kingdom being overtaken by the Assyrians in 721 BC and the Southern Kingdom first being attacked in 605 BC (of which the prophet Daniel was taken away) and finally falling to Babylon in 586 BC after a series of invasions in between. Showing themselves to be the dominate superpower of the day, Babylon conquered Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, in 612 BC.
In 539 BC, the Medo-Persian Empire invaded Babylon, conquering it and bringing new names to the geographical territories of the Middle East, most notable of which is the renaming of the “Province of Megiddo in the north” to Galilee, which contains Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, and Capernaum, just to name a few of the places that would later be prominent New Testament locations in the life of Jesus Christ.
With the Jews being taken captive by Babylon, the Idumeans moved into the southern territory that was once Judah. These people were descended from Esau, being “carryovers” from the Edomites. With the conquering forces of Alexander the Great in 330 BC causing a sweeping infection of Hellenistic culture, a change in the common language and the renaming of many provinces reflected the domination of Greece.
When Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided between his top four generals. It did not take long for two of these generals to fall to the others, creating the powers of the Ptolemies, which ruled over the provinces of Egypt (which included Israel and Jerusalem), and the Seleucids who reigned over Syria. “Until 198 BC Israel remained under the Ptolemies of Egypt, who did not disturb the Jewish way of worship or forcefully Hellenize the people.”However, Hellenism was zealously promoted by the Seleucids, who in 198 BC set out to conquer Egypt, which resulted in the exchange of Israel to the Seleucids’ control.
Though there were a succession of leaders at this time, one leader stood out among them all. Antiochus Epiphanes IV was king of the Syrians who took control of Judea, profaning the Second Temple by sacrificing pigs on the altar and smearing its chopped flesh across the wall of the Temple
while forcing the Levitical Priests to drink the blood. His army killed an estimated 40,000 Jews over a period of three days. Such acts foreshadow the desecration of the Temple of YHWH and the ensuing slaughter that the “man of lawlessness” will enforce during the future seven-year tribulation (Matt 24:15-21; Dan 9:24-27; 2 Thess 2:3-4).
When the tyranny and violence of Antiochus seemed at its worst, the Lord God rose up a family that took him and his army to task. Led by their father Mattathias, the Maccabees family (whose name means “the hammer of God”) took a stand for the righteousness of YHWH God. Ironside recounts the story:
“There came one day to Modin, Apelles, king Antiochus’ commissioner, to force all the inhabitants to conform to the heathen rites. Recognizing in Mattathias a ruler and an honorable man, Apelles came first to him, demanding that he set the example by sacrificing on the heathen altar which had been set up in the midst of the village. Mattathias indignantly refused, and declared without reservation that neither he nor his sons would harken to the king’s words. As he spoke, a renegade Jew pressed through the throng to offer before the idol. This so stirred the venerable old man that he ran forward and slew not only the transgressor himself, but ere the astonished commissioner realized his danger, he also was slain by Mattathias, who then destroyed the altar. Thus had a second Phinehas arisen in Israel.
The breach was made; the king was openly defied.”
Such an act set off a firestorm, fueling the flames of insurrection, and paving a path for restoration for the Jewish people. Upon Mattathias’ death in 166 BC, his son Judas took up the cause, leading victory after victory against the Syrians. Again, Ironside captures the scene:
“Another and greater army, commanded by Seron, was sent by king Antiochus to annihilate the Jewish company. The two forces met at Beth-horon. Seron, haughty and defiant, at the head of a vast host; Judas, intrepid and strong in faith, but leading a small company, who had been obliged to fast all that day, and were weak and discouraged as they
beheld their insolent foes. ‘How,’ they asked, ‘shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude, and so strong?’ Like a second Asa, Judas replied: ‘With the God of heaven it is all one to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company.’ Nor was his faith disappointed. Encouraged by the remembrance of the past mercies of Jehovah, the Jews threw themselves, in the apparent recklessness of faith, upon their disdainful foes, and under the daring leadership of Judas, scattered them like chaff before the flails, and completely defeated the Syrians, who fled wildly in all directions, leaving a vast number of dead and wounded on the bloody field. Thus was it demonstrated that one should chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, in reliance upon God their strength.”
After 11 years of reigning as king, Antiochus succumbed to a flesh-eating disease. With news of his death, Judas Maccabees led the people in cleansing the Temple of God in 165-164 BC, which is now commemorated as Hanukkah. Eventually winning their independence, the Jews soon experienced in-fighting between the traditional Jews and those Jews who had been heavily influenced by Hellenistic culture. The dispute was such that it eventually attracted the attention of a rising kingdom; a kingdom “as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces” (Dan 2:40). This new world superpower was Rome, who took control of Israel in 63 BC. Though the Jews were in the land, oppression was present once again, setting the perfect stage for the Jewish people to cry out to YHWH for salvation. It was time for His presence to be reintroduced into Israel.
John 1:14.While more will be said in the next lesson about the “Word,” what is seen in this verse is that the Word takes on flesh, becoming fully human, even to the point of “dwelling” (or setting up shop if you will) among the human race. Not only does the Word have flesh, and manifests His existence as flesh, but He takes up personal residence among flesh, though they are sinful and depraved.
John’s account here is personal. Almost like unleashing a climax of sight and sound, he tells us that he, along with others, beheld His “glory, glory
as of the only begotten from the Father.” This was not just any man, but One who could, and did at one time, radiate the glory of God among people. This “glory” once dwelled upon Mount Sinai after audibly speaking forth the Ten Words to the congregation of Israel (Exod 24:16; 20:1-20). This “glory” is the same glory that dwelt among Israel in the Holy of holies, residing behind a curtain, with demands of cleansing and the appropriation of lamb’s blood for acceptance… the same “glory” that was heartsick over the sins of people that He loved deeply, so much to the point that He judged them by scattering them abroad and removing His personal presence from among them.
Sin is tragic, but the God of all glory desires to dwell among His people! In the flesh-person of the “Word,” His residence on earth would be a reintroduction of Himself into the lives of the Israelites, a reintroduction that would be “full of grace and truth.”
Douglas Stuart, Ezekiel(Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1989), p. 89.
Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God(Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), p. 122.
McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 122.
Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), p. 244.
Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Yeshua: The Life of the Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective, Vol. 1 (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2016), p. 46. Most information involving these historical events is derived from this wonderful work.
Ibid., p. 47.
H. A. Ironside, The Four Hundred Silent Years (from Malachi to Matthew)(New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1914), p. 46–47.
Ibid., p. 49.