|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:13-18 The yearly lamenting for Tammuz was attended with infamous practices; and the worshippers of the sun here described, are supposed to have been priests. The Lord appeals to the prophet concerning the heinousness of the crime; and lo, they put the branch to their nose, denoting some custom used by idolaters in honour of the idols they served. The more we examine human nature and our own hearts, the more abominations we shall discover; and the longer the believer searches himself, the more he will humble himself before God, and the more will he value the fountain open for sin, and seek to wash therein.
Verse 14. - Behold, there sat women wailing for Tammuz. The point of view is probably the same as that of ver. 3, but the women were apparently in the outer porch of it, as he has to be brought to the gate in order to see them. We are led to note two things:
(1) the general prominence of women in the later idolatry of Judah;
(2) the specific character of the Tammuz worship.
(1) we have the women who wove hangings for the Ashera (2 Kings 23:7), those who had burnt incense to other gods, especially to the queen of heaven (Jeremiah 44:9, 15-19), probably, i.e., to Ashtaroth.
(2) The name Tammuz does not meet us elsewhere in the Old Testament. All interpreters, however, agree that it answers to the Adonis of Greek mythology. So Jerome translates it, and expressly states (in loc.) that what Ezekiel saw corresponded to the Adonis festivals. It may be enough to state, without going into the details of the story, that Adonis, the beautiful youth beloved of Aphrodite, was slain by a wild boar; that after his death he was allowed to spend six months of each year with her, while the other was passed with Persephone in Hades. The cultus thus became the symbol of the annual decay and revival of nature; but the legend rather than the inner meaning was in the thoughts of the worshippers. The emotions of women poured themselves out in lamentations over the waxen image of the beautiful dead youth who had perished in his prime, and in orgiastic joy over his return to life. Milton, deriving his knowledge, probably, from Selden's 'De Diis Syris,' has painted the whole atone in words which may well be quoted -
"Thammuz next came behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer's day;
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion's daughters with like heat;
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,
His eyes surveyed the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah."
(Par. Lost,' 1:446, etc.) The chief centre of the Tammuz-Adonis worship was Byblos, in Syria. but it spread widely over the shores of the Mediterranean and was fashionable both in Alexandria and Athens. One of the practices of the festival, that of planting flowers in vases for forced cultivation, has been perpetuated by Plato's allusion to "the gardens of Adonis" as the type of transitoriness ('Phaedr.' p. 376, b). Cheyne, following Lagarde, finds a reference to the cultus in Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 65:3: 66:17. The festival of Ishtar and Tammuz (or Tam-zi) at Babylon presented a marked parallel. Adonis is, with hardly a doubt, identical with the Hebrew Adonai (equivalent to "Lord"). Tammuz has been explained as meaning "victorious," or "disappearance," or "burning;" but all etymologies are conjectural. Lastly, it is not without interest to note
(1) that when Jerome wrote, the Cave of the Nativity at Bethlehem was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz ('Ep. ad Paul.'); and
(2) that the later Jewish calendar included the month of Tammuz, which corresponded to July. The festival seems to have been celebrated at the summer solstice. The time of Ezekiel's vision was in the sixth month, sc. about the time of the autumnal equinox (see 'Dict. Bible,' art. "Tammuz"). Mr. Baring-Gould, treating the legend as a solar myth, finds the old Phoenician deity represented in the "St. George of Merrie England" ('Curious Myths,' pp. 277-316). An exhaustive monograph, "Tammuz Adonis," has been published by Liebrecht, in his 'Zur Volkskunde' (1879), reprinted from the Zeitschrift Deutschen Morgen-Gesellschaft, vol. 17. pp. 397, etc.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house, which was towards the north,.... By "the Lord's house" no doubt is meant the temple, which the Targum here calls the house of the sanctuary of the Lord; that gate of the temple (for the temple had several gates) which was to the north was the gate called Teri or Tedi, and was very little used (y). In this part of the temple were the sacrifices offered; and therefore it was the greater abomination to commit idolatry where the Lord was more solemnly worshipped:
and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz: they were not in the court of the women, where they should have been; but at the northern gate, near the place of sacrifice; and they were sitting there, which none but the kings of the house of Judah, and of the family of David, were allowed in the temple (z); but, what was the greatest abomination, they were weeping for Tammuz. Jarchi says this was an image, which they heated inwardly, and its eyes were of lead; and these being melted with the heat, it seemed to weep; wherefore (the women) said, it asks for an offering: but not the idol, but the women, wept. Kimchi relates various interpretations of it;
"some (he says) expound it by an antiphrasis, "making Tammuz glad"; in the month of Tammuz they made a feast to the idol, and the women came to make him glad: others say, that with great diligence they brought water to the eyes of the idol called Tammuz, and it wept; signifying that it desired they would worship it: others interpret the word Tammuz as signifying "burnt"; (from the words in Daniel 3:19; , "to heat the furnace";) as if should say, they wept for him, because he was for they burnt their sons and daughters in the fire, and the women wept for them. He further observes, that Maimonides (a) writes, that he found written in one of the books of the ancient idolaters, that there was a man of the idolatrous prophets, whose name was Tammuz; who called to a certain king, and commanded him to worship the seven stars, and the twelve signs of the zodiac, for which the king put him to a violent death; and, the same night he died, all the images from the ends of the earth gathered together to the temple of Babylon, to a golden image which was the image of the sun; and this image was hanging between the heavens and the earth, and it fell into the midst of the temple, and so all the images round about it; and it declared unto them what had happened to Tammuz the prophet; and all the images wept and lamented all that night; and when it was morning, they all fled to their temples at the ends of the earth; and this became an everlasting statute to them, that at the beginning of the first day of the month Tammuz, every year, they lament and weeps for Tammuz; and there are others that expound Tammuz the name of a beast which they worship;''
but, leaving these interpretations, Tammuz was either the Adonis of the Grecians; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it Adonis; who was a young man beloved by Venus, and, being killed by a boar, his death was lamented by her; and, in respect to the goddess, an anniversary solemnity was kept by men and women lamenting his death, especially by women. So Pausanias, speaking of a certain place, there (says he) the women of the Argives (a people in Greece) mourn for Adonis (b). Lucian (c) gives a particular account of this ceremony, as performed at Byblus, a city in Phoenicia, not far from Judea; from whence the Jews might have borrowed this custom.
"I have seen (says he), in Byblus, a large temple of Venus Byblia, where they performed the rites unto Adonis, and I was a spectator of them. The Byblians say the affair relating to Adonis (or his death) by a boar happened in their country; and, in memory of it, every year they beat themselves, lament and offer sacrifice, and great mourning goes through the whole country; and when they beat themselves and mourn, they sacrifice to Adonis as dead; but the day following they pretend he is alive; and they shave their heads, as the Egyptians do at the death of Apis;''
and indeed it is thought by some that this Tammuz is the Osiris of the Egyptians; the same with Mizraim, the first king of Egypt, who, being slain in battle, his wife his ordered that he should be worshipped as a god, and a yearly lamentation made for him; and indeed Osiris and Adonis seem to be one and the same, only in different nations called by different names. Mention is made in Plato (d) of Thamus, a king that reigned at Thebes over all Egypt, and was the god called Ammon; no doubt the same with this Tammuz; and who is here called, in the Syriac and Arabic versions, Thamuz or Tamuz; he seems to be the same with Ham; and Egypt was called, the land of Ham, Psalm 105:27; and it is most probable the Jews borrowed this piece of idolatry from the Egyptians their neighbours; with whom they were now very familiar, and from whom they expected help against the Chaldeans; but as there were such shocking obscenities used in this idolatrous service, it is most amazing that the Jewish women, who had been instructed in the law and worship of God, should ever go into it. Gussetius (e) thinks that Bacchus, the god of wine, is meant; and gives several reasons for it; and among the rest observes, that in the fourth month, called Tammuz from him, the vine was forming in ripe grapes; near the beginning of a fifth month, it was pressed out, and tunned up; and by the next month, having done fermenting, it was stopped up, which represented him buried; and for which the weeping was in this month.
(y) Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 3.((z) Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 2. sect. 4. (a) Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 29, p. 426. (b) Corinthiaca, sive l. 2. p. 121. (c) De Dea Syria. Vid. Theocriti, Idyll. 15. (d) Phaedrus, tom. 3. p. 974, Ed. Serran. (e) Ebr. Comment. p. 903. So Luther apud Dieteric. Antiqu. Bibl. par. 2. p. 132.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. From the secret abominations of the chambers of imagery, the prophet's eye is turned to the outer court at the north door; within the outer court women were not admitted, but only to the door.
sat—the attitude of mourners (Job 2:13; Isa 3:26).
Tammuz—from a Hebrew root, "to melt down." Instead of weeping for the national sins, they wept for the idol. Tammuz (the Syrian for Adonis), the paramour of Venus, and of the same name as the river flowing from Lebanon; killed by a wild boar, and, according to the fable, permitted to spend half the year on earth, and obliged to spend the other half in the lower world. An annual feast was celebrated to him in June (hence called Tammuz in the Jewish calendar) at Byblos, when the Syrian women, in wild grief, tore off their hair and yielded their persons to prostitution, consecrating the hire of their infamy to Venus; next followed days of rejoicing for his return to the earth; the former feast being called "the disappearance of Adonis," the latter, "the finding of Adonis." This Phonician feast answered to the similar Egyptian one in honor of Osiris. The idea thus fabled was that of the waters of the river and the beauties of spring destroyed by the summer heat. Or else, the earth being clothed with beauty, during the half year when the sun is in the upper hemisphere, and losing it when he departs to the lower. The name Adonis is not here used, as Adon is the appropriated title of Jehovah.
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