<< EZEZIEL’S VISION OF JERUSALEM’S IDOLATRY >>
As I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, the hand of the Lord Jehovih fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins and downward, fire; and from his loins and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal, And he put forth 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 the visions of God, to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court, that looketh toward the North; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain. Then said He unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes, now, the way toward the North. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the North, and behold, northward of the gate of the altar, this image of jealousy in the entry. And He said unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel do commit here, that I should go far off from My sanctuary? But thou shalt again see yet other great abominations. And He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. Then said He unto me, Son of man, dig, now, in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold, a door. And He said unto me, Go in, and see the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in, and saw; and behold, every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall, round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel: and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan, every man with his censer in his hand: and the odor of the cloud of incense went up. Then said He unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his chambers of imagery? for they say, Jehovah seeth us not; Jehovah hath forsaken the land. He said also unto me, Thou shalt again see yet other great abominations which they do. Then He brought me to the door of the gate of Jehovah’s house, which was toward the North; and behold, there sat the women, weeping for Tammuz. Then said He unto me, Hast thou seen, 0 son of man? Thou shalt again see yet greater abominations than these. And He brought me into the inner court of Jehovah’s house: and behold at the door of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah, and their faces toward the East.-EZEKIEL viii. 1-16.
EVIL men profane the holiness of the Divine Word. Even in their worship, their evil lusts pervert the literal sense of the Lord’s Word. And, interiorly, they adulterate every good principle; and they worship self-love, instead of the Lord. And, in doing so, they close, in themselves, every avenue by which the Divine Love and Mercy are seeking to enter into them.
THE LITERAL STORY.
At the time of our text, Ezekiel, the prophet, was among the captive Jews in Babylon. And, although he had made great efforts to arouse these Jews, they were fast sinking into evil ways; and they were generally indifferent to his pleadings. They would not listen to him in public; and so he remained in his house, and there received such persons as would visit him. And to them he spoke the Word of Jehovah, at various times, as in the case of our text.
In this case, his spiritual senses were opened into the spiritual world, and he uttered a representative prophecy. The fire, in which was a man, was a representation of the Lord, as the Divine Man, who lifted up the prophet, and revealed to him, in symbolic imagery, the degenerate mental conditions of the Jews.
THE SPIRITUAL SENSE.
The hair, by which the prophet was lifted up, being on the surface of the body, represents the external, or outward things. And, as the prophet, through whom the Divine Word was given, represents that Word, so the hair here represents the letter of the Word, the literal Scriptures, by means of which our minds are spiritually elevated, to see the things which are revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word, and to the open spiritual mind.
The hand which took hold of the prophet represents the power of the Lord, as exerted by means of the letter of the Word. We remember that Swedenborg declares that he was taught the spiritual truths of the Divine Word, by the elevation and enlightening of his mind, while he was reading the letter of the Word.
THE IMAGE OF JEALOUSY.
The prophet was mentally carried to the place of “the image of jealousy.” Manasseh, the thirteenth king of Judah, who reigned about seven hundred years before Christ, was an evil and idolatrous king, who adopted some of the abominations of the heathen. He reared altars to Baal, the principal god of the Phcenicians and Canaanites.
And he made, and set up, a hewn statue of Ashterah, or Ashtoreth, the principal goddess of the same nations, and probably identical with Astarte of the Greeks and Romans. This hewn image of Ashterah was “the image of jealousy,” referred to in our text. It was placed in the outer court of the temple of Jehovah, in Jerusalem, and beside the great altar, directly, in front of the “holy place,” where it stood in direct defiance of Jehovah, who was known as the jealous God, who would not suffer the Jews to worship any rival god. And this accounts for the expression that this image ” provoketh to jealousy.”
But, in Jehovah, “jealous” means “zealous.” In fact, the words are from the same Hebrew word. Divine jealousy, or zeal, is ardent love for the spiritual welfare of men. It is significant that the Hebrew name of Manasseh, who erected these idols, means” forgetting.”
And, certainly, especially in his position as king, he forgot the most important of all things of human remembrance, when he abandoned the living God, and turned to dead idols.
But, even amid abominations of degenerate men, the open eyes of the prophet could see, there, the glory of the God of Israel, an outward brilliance, representing love and wisdom, which are spiritual glory.
The prophet looked toward the North, the coldest quarter, representing the natural-minded condition of men, furthest removed from the Lord, as the spiritual sun, and receiving most obscurely the warmth of His love.
The “abominations” represented the profanations of goodness; and the unclean things represented the profanations of the Divine Truth, by the corruption of the Divine Word, in the church, even in worship. Thus, the evil lusts of unregenerate men connect them with the hells, even when outwardly engaged in formal ceremonial worship.
In the text, it is said that these abominations were done, in order that Jehovah should “go far off” from His sanctuary. For the Jews were worshipping the heathen goddess, Ashterah, even in the court of Jehovah’s temple. And, spiritually, when a man has descended into a life of self-love, and love of the world, he makes gods of these evil loves. And then he does not longer look to Jehovah, although he may pretend to worship in the temple of Jehovah. But, even then, Jehovah does not leave His sanctuary, nor does He desert the man; but the evil man drives Jehovah out of the inward temple of the man’s mind.
THE WALL, ETC.
The prophet came to a hole in the wall. A wall is a protection for the things which are behind It, or within its enclosure. But, if there is a serious hole in a wall, the protection is diminished, or destroyed. The wall here represents the letter of the Word, which protects the inward spirit of the Word. But, when a man’s knowledge of the letter, or his reverence for it, or his obedience to it, fails, he is without proper protection against his own natural tendencies to evil, which are always ready to corrupt the truth.
When there is a hole in the wall, the things within are revealed to view, as well as exposed to attack. And so, as to our minds, the light which can penetrate our natural minds and motives, will thus expose and reveal what is going on in the secret chambers of our minds.
To dig through the wall, is to investigate the external conditions of the natural mind, and to look through them and thus to discover the inward conditions. No matter how much unregenerate men may seek to shield themselves behind the wall of external piety, the searching light of the Lord’s truth will penetrate that wall, and will reveal and expose the worldly policy, and the self-love, which are worshipping their unclean idols, behind the outward walls.
THE SECRET CHAMBER.
The prophet discovered a hidden chamber, with “every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall, round about.” Probably this place, seen in the vision, was like the subterranean caverns, in the sides of mountains and other places in Chaldea, Egypt, and Persia, where the sun-worshippers congregated; and where the inside-walls were covered with symbolic pictographs and hieroglyphs, representing all kinds of beasts, including the vile creeping things, repulsive and even venomous; as was also the case in the temples of Isis and Osiris. The idols were probably represented as composite beings, part human and part beast, such as were worshipped in Egypt, Assyria, and elsewhere.
Beasts represent men, as to their affections. For every beast is a form of life representing some principle in man’s mind, In nature, all things below man are representative, pointing to man, as the highest being in the order of creation, in whom are combined all the qualities individually represented by the different animals, And so, in the Scriptures, beasts are named as the representatives; symbols and correspondences of human qualities. For instance, Jesus called Herod a fox, because Herod displayed the sensuous cunning which characterizes the fox.
Men are forms of both natural and spiritual affections, but beasts are forms of natural affection, only, which they have in common with men. We recognize this fact. when we call a man a beast, because he displays selfish and natural feelings, only, and lacks the better feelings which should belong to human life. Good animals were used in religious sacrifices, to represent that men devote to God their best qualities, which came from God. Good and useful beasts represent good affections, but ferocious and bad beasts represent evil qualities. Creeping things represent the lowest qualities, which relate to the natural senses.
All the beasts pictured on the wall of the secret chamber, mentioned in our text, represented all the sensuous lusts and falsities which were dominant in the minds of the people of Jerusalem, who, outwardly, engaged in ceremonial worship of God, but who, inwardly, in their secret hearts, reveled in the love of all kinds of selfishness and uncleanness.
The prophet going into this hidden chamber, represents the truth penetrating the outward forms which seek to hide evil purposes. The house represents the man’s mind. And when the man thinks falsity and loves evil, in the secret, inner chambers of his mind, he supposes that his real conditions are not seen and known by the Lord; and that he will receive credit for his external worship. The unclean things of evil and falsity reside in the interior of the natural mind of the unregenerate man. And these things give evil character to the man, in spite of all his outward piety and professions. And when the genuine truth of the Divine Word is turned upon an unregenerate man, and let into his mind, it will expose and, reveal all the beastly things, all the low, cold-blooded, creeping things, and all the idols of self-love, which dwell in his interior natural mind, and which there, in spiritual darkness, hold their brutal revels.
But all these horrid pictures on the walls, not only represent the low passions of the ancient Jews, but also, even in these days, they find their similitudes in the lower and grovelling passions of anger, malice, revenge, hatred, etc., which still swarm and creep in the low and secret chambers of every unregenerate human mind, every heart and intellect in which the love and wisdom of our Lord have not yet been able to clear the dark places, and to let in the light of heaven, to begin the practical work of regeneration.
The elders of Judah and Israel were the wise men of the nation. And they represented wisdom in the human mind. But, when even the wise men degenerated into idolatry, their condition represented the corruption of wisdom, when the rational mind, which should receive its light from spiritual things, has closed itself against spiritual light, and has taken its views from the low things of the natural senses. In this state of things, the mind must sink into conditions represented in the words of Jesus, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which, indeed, appear beautiful, outwardly, but are, within, full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so, ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within, ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew xxiii. 27, 28.)
The fact that there were seventy elders represents the profanation of holy things; for seven and seventy represent that which is holy; and the abuse of what is holy constitutes profanation.
One of the abominations exposed was that of “the women weeping for Tammuz.” Tammuz was the Syrian god of the sun, supposed to be identical with the Greek Adonis. According to the ancient myth, Tamrnuz represented external nature, in its glory, fresh in the spring, but destroyed by the storms of autumn and winter. Tammuz was pictured as a beautiful youth, who was killed in the autumn, by a wild boar, on the mountain. And, every autumn, the women assembled, and wept over his death. The same things were represented by the apparent removal of the sun further from the earth, in autumn and winter; and, hence, this season was taken for the weeping over Tammuz thus was represented the evanescent character of earthly things.
Spiritually, these women represented the natural affections of unregenerate persons, lamenting over the loss of the pleasures of the senses, and failing to see the delights of spiritual and regenerate life. And to do this, in the presence of the Lord’s temple, is to neglect Divine things, and to fix the heart upon the lusts of self love and the love of the world.
And, naturally, the next step further into evil, was the rejection and denial of Divine things, and setting the idols of self-love in the place of the Lord; which are represented by the twenty-five men turning their backs upon the Lord’s temple, while worshipping the sun, in the East. Presumably, these twenty-five men were made up of one man to represent the high priests, in the worship, and twenty-four men to represent the twenty-four priestly courses, or bands of priests, who officiated in turn, in the temple-worship.
These men were worshipping the sun of nature, in the holy place of the Lord’s sanctuary, and with their backs turned to the Lord’s temple, and their faces to the sun, thus indicating their entire rejection of the Divine things of Jehovah, and their complete apostasy, as well as their allegiance to the sun, as an idol. And thus, those who should have been nearest to the Lord and who should have led in worship of Jehovah, had turned against Him. For the sun which the evil man worships is merely of dead nature, thus representing the dead things of self-love, put in the place of the living God, in the unregenerate human heart. And when the fire of the Lord’s love seeks to enter such hearts, they regard it as intending to destroy their cherished life of self-love.
And yet, to every degenerating man, the voice of our Lord comes, in warning love, saying, “Turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903