Ezekiel 8:17
Then he said to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, see, they put the branch to their nose.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) For they have filled the land with violence.—Corruption in religion here, as always, bore its proper fruit in moral deterioration. A people who go astray from their duty to God are always found to neglect also their duty to man. Israel had before fallen into great and grievous sins. Within the memory of those still living, the good king Josiah, supported by the prophet Jeremiah and many others, had made great effort at reformation, and had purged the Temple of its abominations; hence God says the people “have returned to provoke me to anger.”

Put the branch to their nose.—This is an obscure expression, on which the learning and ingenuity of commentators have been spent in vain. It is an allusion to some custom well known at the time, but now lost. The simplest explanation seems to be in a reference to the habit of the Parsees (mentioned by Strabo) in their worship to hold twigs of the tamarisk, palm, and the pomegranate before their mouths.

Ezekiel 8:17-18. Then he said — After the prophet had seen all, and had had time to consider all he saw, God appeals to him concerning the heinousness of their crimes. Is it a light thing to the house of Israel — Who know and profess better things, and are dignified with so many privileges above other nations? Is it excusable in them, who have God’s oracles and ordinances, that they commit the abominations which they commit here? — Do they not deserve to suffer who thus sin? Should not such abominations as these make desolate? For they have filled the land with violence — All kinds of injustice are here meant, toward all sorts of men, whom they first despised and then defrauded, oppressed, or destroyed. And it is not strange if they who wrong their Creator make no conscience of injuring their fellow- creatures, and with all that is sacred, trample also on all that is just. And this wickedness of their conduct toward each other would have made their worship an abomination, even if it had been paid to the true God: see Isaiah 1:11, &c. And have returned to provoke me, &c. — After having filled the land with violence, they return to the temple to practise their idolatries: from injustice against man they return to impiety against God, and thus, by fresh abominations, add new aggravations to their guilt. And lo, they put the branch to their nose — This obscure clause is supposed by several commentators to relate to some custom among the idolaters of dedicating a branch of laurel, or of some other tree, to the honour of the sun, and carrying it in their hands at the time of their worship. And Spencer, De leg. Hebrews, lib. 4. cap. 5, observes, “that the heathen, in the worship of their deities, held forth the branches of those trees which were dedicated to them:” a rite which was called among the Greeks, οσχοφορια, θαλλοφρια: that is, branch-bearing. And Lewis, in his Origines Hebrææ, vol. 3. p. 4, observes, that the most reasonable exposition is, that the worshipper, with a wand in his hand, was wont to touch the idol, and then apply the stick to his nose and mouth, in token of worship and adoration. The Jewish rabbins, however, reckon this among the texts which their wise men have corrected, and say the original reading was not אפם, their nose, but אפי, my nose, or face; according to which reading the sense will be, They put a stick to my face, namely, to mock, or exasperate me: or, taking זמרהto mean here, not a branch, but, as Buxtorf renders it, odor malus ventris, the words will mean, they put an offensive smell to my nose, that is, they put an open affront upon me, namely, by turning their back to me in the place dedicated to my worship. And to this sense the LXX. interpret it, reading αυτοι ως μυκτηριζοντες, they are as those that mock me, or publicly affront me. The Vulgate, however, reads the clause as we do. Dr. Lightfoot renders the place, They put the branch to my wrath, or their wrath; that is, “they add more fuel to my wrath, which will burst out like a flame to consume them: just as if one should lay a heap of dry sticks upon a fire.” Therefore will I deal in fury, &c. — Hebrew, in anger, or wrath. Mine eye shall not spare — Their provocations are such, that my justice cannot be satisfied without bringing deserved punishment upon them; and though they cry, &c. — Their sins cry louder for vengeance than their prayers cry for mercy. 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."Violence" represents sin against man, "abominations" sins against God. These went hand in hand in Jerusalem.

And have returned - After the reformation effected for a time by Josiah's zeal, they have gone back to their old state.

They put the branch to their nose - An allusion to a then familiar practice, of which we find no clear traces elsewhere. Ezekiel is describing the attitude usual in such devotions, the branch held before the mouth, but wishing to represent it in contemptuous and derogatory terms, he substitutes the word "nose" for "mouth."

17. put … branch to … nose—proverbial, for "they turn up the nose in scorn," expressing their insolent security [Septuagint]. Not content with outraging "with their violence" the second table of the law, namely, that of duty towards one's neighbor, "they have returned" (that is, they turn back afresh) to provoke Me by violations of the first table [Calvin]. Rather, they held up a branch or bundle of tamarisk (called barsom) to their nose at daybreak, while singing hymns to the rising sun [Strabo, 1.15, p. 733]. Sacred trees were frequent symbols in idol-worship. Calvin translates, "to their own ruin," literally, "to their nose," that is, with the effect of rousing My anger (of which the Hebrew is "nose") to their ruin. Then; after the prophet had seen all, and had time to consider all he saw.

He said unto me; God appeals to the prophet. Doth the house of Judah think these no sins, or but little sins, or that I account not those provocations to anger? Do they so sottishly undervalue me and my law and ordinances, &c.? These idolaters, as others of the same stamp, are great oppressors; every where their oppressions may be found in great and high degrees.

Violence; all injustice is here meant towards all sorts of men, whom they first despise, and next destroy.

Have returned; from injustice against man, they return to impiety against God.

They put the branch to their nose; consecrate first these branches in the sun, and then next prize them, as what had touched the idol, and was bettered by it. Or, perhaps, took some branches out of the garland, wherewith they decked the idol, the altar, the victim, or themselves; and as the Orgyasts, i.e. worshippers of Bacchus, did wave their Thyrsus, the stalk or stem wreathed with ivy about it, carrying it in their hands whilst they danced, bowed their bodies, and often kissed the branches, so did these idolatrous Jews. Then he said unto me, hast thou seen this, O son of man?.... Took notice of and considered this piece of idolatry, worshipping the sun toward the east:

is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? could these things, which are such dreadful abominations, committed here in the temple, be reckoned light things by them, as surely they cannot? yet these are not all that they have done:

for they have filled the land with violence; with rapine and oppression; doing injury to the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, in all places:

and have returned to provoke me to anger; by other instances of idolatry:

and, lo, they put the branch to their nose; a laurel, or olive, or vine branch, which idolaters carried in their hands, and put to their nose, in honour of the idol they worshipped; in like manner as they kissed their hand at the sight of the sun, Job 31:26; and which the Jews did in imitation of the Heathen. This is one of the eighteen places in which there is "tikkun sopherim", or a "correction of the scribes"; who, instead of "my nose", direct to read "their nose"; hence the words are differently interpreted by the Jewish commentators; who, by rendered "branch", think an ill smell is meant; arising either from their posteriors, their back being towards the temple; or from the incense which they offered up to their idols; so Kimchi and Menachem in Jarchi; agreeably to which Fortunatus Scacchus (k) understands this, not of any branch used by idolaters, which they put to the nose of their idol, or their own, for the honour of that; but of the censer which the Israelites used, contrary to the command of God, and which they put to their nose to enjoy a forbidden smell; see Ezekiel 16:18; but Gussetius (l) gives another sense of the words, rendering them, "they send forth a branch to their anger"; the Israelites are compared to a vine, as in Isaiah 5:1; sending forth bad branches, idolatrous actions, as here in this chapter; and to these bad branches they sent forth or added another, even anger against God, the prophets, true believers, and right worshippers of God; and therefore he also would deal in fury and wrath, as in Ezekiel 8:18; so Dr. Lightfoot (m) renders it,

""they send the branch to my wrath", or "to their own wrath"; that is, to what they have deserved; as if it was said, in the same manner that anyone puts wood to the fire, the branch of the wild vine, that it may the more quickly be burnt; so do these put the branch to my wrath, that it may burn the more fiercely; hence it follows, "therefore will I also deal in fury", &c.''

The Targum is,

"and, lo, they bring shame (or confusion) to their faces;''

what they do turns to their own ruin and destruction; as follows:

(k) Sacror. Eleaochr. Myrothec. l. 2. p. 536. (l) Ebr. Comment. p. 231. (m) Heb. & Talmud. Exercitat. in Johan. xv. 6.

Then he said to me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the {p} branch to their nose.

(p) Declaring that the censings and service of the idolaters are but infections and villany before God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Is it a light thing] Probably: is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit … that they have filled: cf. Isaiah 49:6; ch. Ezekiel 9:9.

the branch to their nose] This is supposed to be part of the ceremonies of their sun-worship. It is said that the Persian sun-worshippers held before them a branch or bunch of date, pomegranate or tamarisk tree, or according to some of the Homa tree, probably that their breath might not contaminate the glory of the rising deity. The word “nose” might mean face (Genesis 3:19), but why not “mouth?” And this distinctively Persian rite is hardly probable at so early a date in Israel. Also the reference to idolatry seemed concluded, for it is asked whether these idolatries were not enough, that they had also filled the land with blood. LXX. has given a general sense, “and behold these are as mockers,” probably regarding the words as a proverbial phrase.Verse 17. - For returned read, with the Revised Version, turned again. The wind seems chosen with special reference to the attitude of the idol worshippers. It may be noted that even here the prophet speaks not only of the idolatry of Judah, but of its violence also, as bringing down the judgments of Jehovah. Lo, they put the branch to their nose. The opening word expresses the prophet's burning indignation. The act described probably finds its best explanation in the Persian ritual of the Avesta. When men prayed to the sun, they held in their left hands a bouquet of palm, pomegranate, and tamarisk twigs, while the priests for the same purpose held a veil before their mouth (Spiegel, 'Iran. Alterth.,' 3:571, 572, in Smend), so that the bright rays of the sun might not be polluted by human breath. And this was done in the very temple of Jehovah by those who were polluting the whole land by their violence. The LXX. gives, as an explanation, ὡς μυκτηρίζοντες, as though the act was one of scornful pride (comp. Isaiah 65:5), the sign of a temper like that of the Pharisee as he looked upon the publican (Luke 18:11). Lightfoot takes the "nose" as the symbol of anger, and looks on the phrase as proverbial: "They add the twig to their anger, fuel to the fire;" but this has little to commend it. The word for "branch" is used in Ezekiel 15:2 and Numbers 13:23 for a vine branch. Abominations of the Idolatry of the House of Israel

Time and place of the divine revelation. - Ezekiel 8:1. And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth (month), on the fifth (day) of the month, I was sitting in my house, and the elders of Judah were sitting before me; there fell upon me the hand of the Lord Jehovah there. Ezekiel 8:2. And I saw, and behold a figure like the look of fire, from the look of its loins downwards fire, and from its loins upwards like a look of brilliance, like the sight of red-hot brass. Ezekiel 8:3. And he stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by the locks of my head, and wind carried me away between earth and heaven, and brought me to Jerusalem in visions of God, to the entrance of the gate of the inner court, which faces towards the north, where the image of jealousy exciting jealousy had its stand. Ezekiel 8:4. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision which I have seen in the valley. - The place where Ezekiel received this new theophany agrees with the statements in Ezekiel 3:24 and Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel 4:6, that he was to shut himself up in his house, and lie 390 days upon the left side, and 40 days upon the right side - in all, 430 days. The use of the word יושׁב, "I sat," is not at variance with this, as ישׁב does not of necessity signify sitting as contrasted with lying, but may also be used in the more general sense of staying, or living, in the house. Nor is the presence of the elders of Judah opposed to the command, in Ezekiel 3:24, to shut himself up in the house, as we have already observed in the notes on that passage. The new revelation is made to him in the presence of these elders, because it is of the greatest importance to them. They are to be witnesses of his ecstasy; and after this has left the prophet, are to hear from his lips the substance of the divine revelation (Ezekiel 11:25). It is otherwise with the time of the revelation. If we compare the date given in Ezekiel 8:1 with those mentioned before, this new vision apparently falls within the period required for carrying out the symbolical actions of the previous vision. Between Ezekiel 1:1-2 (the fifth day of the fourth month in the fifth year) and Ezekiel 8:1 (the fifth day of the sixth month in the sixth year) we have one year and two months, that is to say (reckoning the year as a lunar year at 354 days, and the two months at 59 days), 413 days; whereas the two events recorded in Ezekiel 1-7 require at least 437 days, namely 7 days for Ezekiel 3:15, and 390 + 40 equals 430 days for Ezekiel 4:5-6. Consequently the new theophany would fall within the 40 days, during which Ezekiel was to lie upon the right side for Judah. To get rid of this difficulty, Hitzig conjectures that the fifth year of Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 1:2) was a leap year of 13 months or 385 days, by which he obtains an interval of 444 days after adding 59 for the two months, - a period sufficient not only to include the 7 days (Ezekiel 3:15) and 390 + 40 days (Ezekiel 4:5-6), but to leave 7 days for the time that elapsed between Ezekiel 7 and 8. But however attractive this reckoning may appear, the assumption that the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin was a leap year is purely conjectural; and there is nothing whatever to give it probability. Consequently the only thing that could lead us to adopt such a solution, would be the impossibility of reconciling the conclusion to be drawn from the chronological data, as to the time of the two theophanies, with the substance of these divine revelations.

If we assume that Ezekiel carried out the symbolical acts mentioned in Ezekiel 4 and 5 in all their entirety, we can hardly imagine that the vision described in the chapters before us, by which he was transported in spirit to Jerusalem, occurred within the period of forty days, during which he was to typify the siege of Jerusalem by lying upon his right side. Nevertheless, Kliefoth has decided in favour of this view, and argues in support of it, that the vision described in Ezekiel 8:1. took place in the prophet's own house, that it is identical in substance with what is contained in Ezekiel 3:22-7:27, and that there is no discrepancy, because all that occurred here was purely internal, and the prophet himself was to address the words contained in Ezekiel 11:4-12 and Ezekiel 11:14-21 to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in his state of ecstasy. Moreover, when it is stated in Ezekiel 11:25 that Ezekiel related to the exiles all that he had seen in the vision, it is perfectly open to us to assume that this took place at the same time as his report to them of the words of God in Ezekiel 6:1-14 and 7, and those which follow in Ezekiel 12. But. on the other hand, it may be replied that the impression produced by Ezekiel 11:25 is not that the prophet waited several weeks after his visionary transport to Jerusalem before communicating to the elders what he saw in the vision. And even if the possibility of this cannot be disputed, we cannot imagine any reason why the vision should be shown to the prophet four weeks before it was to be related to the exiles. Again, there is not sufficient identity between the substance of the vision in Ezekiel 8-11 and the revelation in Ezekiel 4-7, to suggest any motive for the two to coincide. It is true that the burning of Jerusalem, which Ezekiel sees in Ezekiel 8-11, is consequent upon the siege and conquest of that city, which he has already predicted in Ezekiel 4-7 both in figure and word; but they are not so closely connected, that it was necessary on account of this connection for it to be shown to him before the completion of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem. And, lastly, although the ecstasy as a purely internal process is so far reconcilable with the prophet's lying upon his right side, that this posture did not preclude a state of ecstasy or render it impossible, yet this collision would ensue, that while the prophet was engaged in carrying out the former word of God, a new theophany would be received by him, which must necessarily abstract his mind from the execution of the previous command of God, and place him in a condition in which it would be impossible for him to set his face firmly upon the siege of Jerusalem, as he had been commanded to do in Ezekiel 4:7. On account of this collision, we cannot subscribe to the assumption, that it was during the time that Ezekiel was lying bound by God upon his right side to bear the sin of Jerusalem, that he was transported in spirit to the temple at Jerusalem. On the contrary, the fact that this transport occurred, according to Ezekiel 8:1, at a time when he could not have ended the symbolical acts of Ezekiel 4, if he had been required to carry them out in all their external reality, furnishes us with conclusive evidence of the correctness of the view we have already expressed, that the symbolical acts of Ezekiel 4 and 5 did not lie within the sphere of outward reality (see comm. on Ezekiel 5:4). - And if Ezekiel did not really lie for 430 days, there was nothing to hinder his having a fresh vision 14 months after the theophany in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 3:22. For 'תּפּל עלי יד , see at Ezekiel 3:22 and Ezekiel 1:3.

The figure which Ezekiel sees in the vision is described in Ezekiel 8:2 in precisely the same terms as the appearance of God in Ezekiel 1:27. The sameness of the two passages is a sufficient defence of the reading כּמראה־אשׁ against the arbitrary emendation אישׁ 'כם, after the Sept. rendering ὁμοίωμα ἀνδρός, in support of which Ewald and Hitzig appeal to Ezekiel 1:26, though without any reason, as the reading there is not אישׁ, but אדם. It is not expressly stated here that the apparition was in human form - the fiery appearance is all that is mentioned; but this is taken for granted in the allusion to the מתנים (the loins), either as self-evident, or as well known from Ezekiel 1. זהר is synonymous with נגהּ in Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:27. What is new in the present theophany is the stretching out of the hand, which grasps the prophet by the front hair of his head, whereupon he is carried by wind between heaven and earth, i.e., through the air, to Jerusalem, not in the body, but in visions of God (cf. Ezekiel 1:1), that is to say, in spiritual ecstasy, and deposited at the entrance of the inner northern door of the temple. הפּנימית is not an adjective belonging to שׁער, for this is not a feminine noun, but is used as a substantive, as in Ezekiel 43:5 ( equals החצר הפּנימית: cf. Ezekiel 40:40): gate of the inner court, i.e., the gate on the north side of the inner court which led into the outer court. We are not informed whether Ezekiel was placed on the inner or outer side of this gate, i.e., in the inner or outer court; but it is evident from Ezekiel 8:5 that he was placed in the inner court, as his position commanded a view of the image which stood at the entrance of the gate towards the north. The further statement, "where the standing place of the image of jealousy was," anticipates what follows, and points out the reason why the prophet was placed just there. The expression "image of jealousy" is explained by המּקנה, which excites the jealousy of Jehovah (see the comm. on Exodus 20:5). Consequently, we have not to think of any image of Jehovah, but of an image of a heathen idol (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21); probably of Baal or Asherah, whose image had already been placed in the temple by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:7); certainly not the image of the corpse of Adonis moulded in wax or clay. This opinion, which Hvernick advances, is connected with the erroneous assumption that all the idolatrous abominations mentioned in this chapter relate to the celebration of an Adonis-festival in the temple. There (Ezekiel 8:4) in the court of the temple Ezekiel saw once more the glory of the God of Israel, as he had seen it in the valley (Ezekiel 3:22) by the Chaboras, i.e., the appearance of God upon the throne with the cherubim and wheels; whereas the divine figure, whose hand grasped him in his house, and transported him to the temple (Ezekiel 8:2), showed neither throne nor cherubim. The expression "God of Israel," instead of Jehovah (Ezekiel 3:23), is chosen as an antithesis to the strange god, the heathen idol, whose image stood in the temple. As the God of Israel, Jehovah cannot tolerate the image and worship of another god in His temple. To set up such an image in the temple of Jehovah was a practical renunciation of the covenant, a rejection of Jehovah on the part of Israel as its covenant God.

Here, in the temple, Jehovah shows to the prophet the various kinds of idolatry which Israel is practising both publicly and privately, not merely in the temple, but throughout the whole land. The arrangement of these different forms of idolatry in four groups of abomination scenes (Ezekiel 8:5, Ezekiel 8:6, Ezekiel 8:7-12, Ezekiel 8:13-15, and Ezekiel 8:16-18), which the prophet sees both in and from the court of the temple, belong to the visionary drapery of this divine revelation. It is altogether erroneous to interpret the vision as signifying that all these forms of idolatry were practised in the temple itself; an assumption which cannot be carried out without doing violence to the description, more especially of the second abomination in Ezekiel 8:7-12. Still more untenable is Hvernick's view, that the four pictures of idolatrous practices shown to the prophet are only intended to represent different scenes of a festival of Adonis held in the temple. The selection of the courts of the temple for depicting the idolatrous worship, arises from the fact that the temple was the place where Israel was called to worship the Lord its God. Consequently the apostasy of Israel from the Lord could not be depicted more clearly and strikingly than by the following series of pictures of idolatrous abominations practised in the temple under the eyes of God.

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