Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 7
The prophecy in the present chapter is the last in the series of prophecies that began in chapter 3 verse 22, when God told Ezekiel to go out into the plain, giving him a series of instructions about symbolic actions he was to take in order to dramatize the coming destruction of Jerusalem (ch's 4 & 5). After that He then began to explain to him the reason for the decree. Thus in the previous chapter the prophet was instructed to prophesy to the hills of Israel about the coming destruction of the land on account of the rampant idolatry, while in the present chapter he prophesies about the imminence of the decree, again emphasizing that it is on account of the abominations practiced by the people of Judah. Then in the following chapters (ch 8ff), Ezekiel is taken in prophetic vision from Babylon to Jerusalem , where God shows him how leaders of the people were actually practicing their idolatrous abominations in the Holy Temple itself.
"The end! The end is come upon the four corners of the land!" (v 2) - "This is the 'end' of which I spoke when I said, 'When you will have grown old (VENOSHANTEM) in the land and become corrupt. I bear witness against you today that you shall surely perish' (Deut. 4:25). The gematria of VENOSHANTEM is 852. From the time Israel entered the land until the Temple was built was a period of 440 years, and the First Temple stood for another 410 years, making a total of 850" (Rashi on v 2).
Repeatedly the prophet emphasizes that the coming calamity would be in retribution for the people's abominations (vv 3, 4, 8, 9 & 20).
"Violence (HAMAS) is risen up into a rod of wickedness - not because of them and not because of their multitude and not because of their roaring, and the lamentation is not because of them" (v 11). This rendering of verse 11 follows the explanation of Metzudas David (ad loc.), who states that "the 'violence' would be that of Nebuchadnezzar, a man of violence who arose to be the rod striking Israel wickedly and cruelly. But his success was 'not because of them' - i.e. not because of the merit of the Babylonians or because of their great multitude or because of their terrifying war cries but only because of the hand of God" (ibid.).
Our commentators interpret Ezekiel's prophecies in these chapters as referring only to the destruction of the First Temple , and there is no suggestion whatever that they may refer to a future destruction. Nevertheless, all of the prophecies that were included in our Biblical canon contain teachings for all times. Since in our times one of the principal leaders of Arab violence and terror against Israel has been the so-called HAMAS movement, we should heed the prophet's teaching about HAMAS (v 11) - as explained by Metzudas David - and keep in mind that this movement has no intrinsic power of its own and is able to cause trouble for Israel ONLY because the hand of God chastises until we repent of our sins.
"Let the buyer not rejoice nor the seller mourn." (v 12). "The way of the world is that the buyer rejoices over his acquisition while the seller mourns that financial pressures forced him to sell. but the prophet says that one who sells a field in Israel has no need to mourn over it because even if he would not have sold it, it would remain his only for a short time since he was soon to go into exile and abandon it. Likewise the buyer had no reason to rejoice, because his purchase would not remain his for long" (RaDaK ad loc.).
"They have blown the trumpet and prepared everything, but no-one goes out to the war." (v 14). "When the enemy comes against them, they will have prepared themselves for war, but no-one will go out to fight" (Rashi ad loc.). The military paralysis that was to take hold of Judah under attack from Nebuchadnezzar is reminiscent of the present-day military paralysis of the state of Israel even in the face of constant provocations, incessant daily rocket and missile attacks against innocent civilians, etc. Her leaders call it "restraint", but their inability to take any decisive military action against the people's enemies for most of the time since the 1967 Six Day War has seriously eroded the country's security. We must understand that this too is the "hand of God".
Ezekiel prophesies that because of the sin of idolatry, the Holy Temple was to be given over to strangers to destroy (vv 20-22). Because of the blatant injustices perpetrated by the people, the very worst of the nations would come to take over their houses and the pride of their land (vv 23-24). Prophecy, Torah and wise counsel would depart, leaving spiritual devastation and confusion (vv 25ff) ".and they shall know that I am HaShem" (v 27).
"And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month." (v 1). This was in the month of Elul in the sixth year after the exile of King Yeho-yachin. RaDaK (ad loc.) quotes from Midrash Seder Olam stating that the year in question had been a leap year, explaining that because of the extra month inserted into the leap year, over four hundred and thirty days had passed since the prophecies in the previous chapters. In chapter 4 vv 4-6 Ezekiel had been commanded to lie on his left side for 390 days to atone for the sins of Israel and a further 40 days to atone for those of Judah - a total of four hundred and thirty days. He would certainly have carried out these instructions immediately after the conclusion of the prophetic vision in which they were given. This means that the prophetic visions in our present chapter and those that follow came to him directly after these 430 days.
Ezekiel was the spiritual leader and head of the Sanhedrin of the Judean exiles in Babylon , and thus the elders of the people came to sit before him daily. It was in their very presence that HaShem's "hand" of prophecy overwhelmed him, and in his vision he saw himself being taken by the locks of his head and carried by a RU'ACH, "wind" or "spirit", to the northern gate of the Temple in Jerusalem . This was "the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy" (vv 1-3). The "image of jealousy" was the idolatrous image originally made by King Menasheh. When Menasheh repented, he cast it out of Jerusalem but did not destroy it, and his son King Ammon restored it. Despite the Torah revival in the reign of Ammon's son King Josiah, it appears that the wicked kings who followed him again restored this image.
It must be understood that such an image was not merely a fancy representation dreamed up by some artist, which people then proceeded to worship for no reason. King Menasheh was an outstanding Torah scholar (103b) and without doubt found the deepest rationalizations for the image he set up. (Rabbi Nachman teaches that God intentionally brought it about that the writings of the ancients justifying their idolatry should be lost since later generations, lacking the wisdom to refute them, would otherwise be in dire peril of succumbing to their influence, Likutey Moharan II, 32.) Thus Midrash Rabbah Devarim states that Menasheh's image had four faces corresponding to the four Chayos of the divine "Chariot". It seems that Menasheh had deep knowledge of what Ezekiel was later to see in his vision (Ezekiel ch 1) but Menasheh turned the angels into gods, violating the Second Commandment by representing them with physical images.
While Ezekiel physically sat in Babylon shortly before the destruction of the Temple, God sent the "wind" or "spirit" to carry him to Jerusalem in order to take him on a "virtual tour" of the Temple so he could see what the people were actually practicing within its holy precincts (vv 3ff).
"And behold the God of Israel was there according to the vision that I saw in the plain" (v 4). In Ezekiel's vision in the plain (ch 3 vv 23ff) he had seen the same Glory that he had seen at the River Kvar (ch 1 vv 4ff). This is what he now saw in the Temple - for the Shechinah was still dwelling there, for it was only in his vision in Chapter 10 that Ezekiel was to see how the Glory departed from the Temple stage by stage. The presence of the Glory in the Temple during his vision in our present chapter is precisely what made the idolatry of the people there so offensive.
Besides the "image of jealousy" (vv 5-6), God showed Ezekiel the many other representations of creeping things, abominable beasts and other idols which the people were worshiping in secret chambers. "And seventy men from among the elders of the House of Israel and Ya'azanyahu the son of Shafan in their midst." (v 11). "He was an important figure and his generation learned from him, and this is why God was angry with him" (Rashi ad loc.). As we follow Ezekiel on his "virtual tour" of the abominations practiced by the most respectable people in the holiest of places, we can but imagine the kinds of abominations reportedly practiced by some of the most prominent public figures of our times in the secret chambers of places like the Vatican, Bohemian Grove in N. California and many others that the wider public knows nothing about.
"For they say HaShem does not see us - HaShem has abandoned the earth" (v 12). The idolaters may have believed that God was the first cause of the creation, but "they said that He does not see what the creatures do because they believed that He had left the earth in the hands of the heavenly order of stars and planets and did not watch over it" (Metzudas David ad loc.).
"And behold, there sat women making the Tammuz weep" (v 14) - "This was a certain metal statue that they used to heat up from within and its eyes were made of lead which began to melt because of the heat of the furnace. It looked as if the statue was weeping, and the women would say, He is asking for a sacrifice" (Rashi ad loc.).
"And He brought me into the inner court.. And behold. about twenty-five men with their backs towards the Temple of HaShem and their faces towards the east, and they were prostrating themselves towards the sun." (v 16, cf. Talmud Succah 51b). As if this in itself was not offensive enough, Rashi and Metzudas David commenting on the phrase rendered as "they put the branch (Z'MORAH) to the nose" (on v 17) write that the people were crudely breaking wind from behind, creating a kind of vibrating "song" (from the root ZEMER), and that the prophet is saying that the foul smell would simply come into their own nostrils - i.e. their shame would rebound in their own faces.
May HaShem deliver us from all such abominations and bring us to true, pure service of God.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2006-7 All rights reserved