Ezekiel 8:7-11

7. And he brought me to the door of the court; and, when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.

7. Et induxit me in portam Atrii et aspexi, et ecce foramen unum in pariete.

8. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and, when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.

8. Et dixit ad me, Fill hominis, fode agedum parietem: et fodi in pariete, et ecce porta una.

9. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.

9. Et dixit ad me, Ingredere, et vide abominationes malas quas ipsi faciunt.

10. 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.

10. Et ingressus sum, et aspexi: et ecce omnis similitudo reptilis, et animalis abominatio, et omnia idola domus Israel, depictum1 in pariete circum circa.

11. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand: and a thick cloud of incense went up.

11. Et viri septuaginta ex seni-oribus domus Israel, et Iazanias, filius Saphan stabat in medio ipso-rum qui stabant coram ipsis,2 et viro3 thuribulum in manu sua: et densiter nubis suffitus ascendebat.


Here now the Prophet is brought to another place, where another kind of abomination is shown. If an idol had been erected in some recess of the temple only, even that impiety when joined with sacrilege could not have been borne. But when all parts of the temple were contaminated with such filth, hence we collect that the people was utterly desperate. For the Prophet says, that he was led into a more secret place, and since there was a hole there, he dug it by God's command, so that it became a door by which he could enter. This only ought to be understood of a vision. For the Prophet had brought nothing with him with which he could so dig a wall, but when he could only behold that hidden abomination through a chink, God opened the wall. But the Prophet seems to himself to make a door of entrance by his own hand. But he says, there were painted birds, reptiles, and animals: then he adds, an abomination and all the idols of the house of Israel. We see that there was not only one idol, but a great number. And in truth as soon as the true worship of God is neglected, men place no bounds to themselves: they are not content with one or two errors, but they heap to themselves numberless delusions. So the children of Israel fell away from one idol to a great multitude. Meanwhile it must be remarked, that the idol which he has mentioned was detestable beyond all others. For it was not called a provocative of jealousy without reason, since it inflamed God to jealousy. It is therefore probable that this idol was more noble than others, and held in greater price and veneration, since the unbelievers had greater and lesser deities. But now the Prophet refers to common idols, of which there was a great abundance, but not such great honor. For he says, that part of the temple was full of pictures all around. It is indeed certain, that the use of painting was always plentiful, but God wished his temple to be pure from images, lest men, being taken with such enticements, should turn aside directly to superstition. For if we see a man or an animal painted in a profane place, a religious feeling does not creep into our minds: for all acknowledge it as a painting: nay idols themselves as long as they are in taverns or workshops, are not worshipped. If the painter's workshop is full of pictures, all pass them by, and if they are delighted with the view of them they do not show any sign of reverence to the paintings. But as soon as the picture is carried to another place, its sacredness blinds men and so stupifies them, that they do not remember that they had already seen that picture in a profane dwelling. This therefore is the reason why God did not admit any pictures into his temple, and surely when the place is consecrated, it must happen that the painting will astonish men just as if some secret divinity belonged to it. Although the Prophet here does not say simply that the walls were full of pictures, yet he says, that an abomination and the idols of the house of Israel were there. We see therefore not only that the walls were so decorated for the sake of ornament, but because the people desired to celebrate all the deities whose names it knew to be famous among the profane nations.

Now as to the Prophet's being ordered to dig through the wall, we gather from this that superstitions are sometimes so hidden in secret places, that they escape our eyes even while we look at them. For such is the weakness of the human mind, that it does not easily perceive how abominable it is to vitiate the worship of God. Thus the Prophet only looked through a chink, so that he could not form a correct judgment concerning those pollutions; hence he is ordered to dig through the wall, just as if God assured him that a thin and obscure view was not sufficient, but that a door must be opened by which he should look in and thoroughly consider what would otherwise be concealed beneath those coverings. Now he says that he entered and saw the likeness of everything, and we must remember what I have lately touched upon, that the Jews are here condemned for heaping to themselves a multitude of gods: for it was very disgraceful to worship reptiles and brutes. The worship of a human figure has a specious pretext, for the Greeks, who always seemed to themselves wise above others, and thought the rest of the world barbarians, were deceived in idols referring to the human figure, but it was too base and gross for them to worship an ox, a dog, or an ass, as a god. We see therefore how basely the Jews were blinded who mingled brutes and reptiles for gods. But it is no wonder that they were so deluded, because Egypt was near, where we know that dogs and oxen, and even cats, were considered deities: nay they worshipped all kinds of herbs. Since therefore the Egyptians imagined that the deity resided in reptiles and unclean animals, as well as in herbs, it is no wonder that the Jews were drawn into these delusions through neighborhood. But since heavenly teaching had shown them the way, such blindness was inexcusable, because they could not err so basely without suffocating and so extinguishing the light which had been set before their eyes. But we see how men's audacity breaks forth, when they do not restrain themselves within obedience to God's teaching. He says that pictures were painted all round on the wall, which again confirms our observation, that the Jews were inflamed with such desires that they left no space empty, because they wished their eyes to fall upon those figures, which more and more inflamed their superstition.

He says also, that seventy elders of the house of Israel made incense for their idols. I do not think that the seventy who were chosen for ruling the people are referred to here, though I suppose the Prophet to allude to this number. For we know that from the beginning seventy were set over the people, and were chosen from each tribe, and were united together. But with regard to this place, I think the number seventy is used of those whom, although they were not prefects, they called seniors in respect to their office, not through their age only. Meanwhile we must remember that the Prophet looks to that order, because from the beginning God had wished the seventy to bear rule and hold the government. (Numbers 11:16.) Thus the Prophet signifies that the leaders of the people, who ought to rule others by their counsel, were remarkable for corrupting the worship of God. He puts Jezaniah, the son of Saphah, who was probably a man of great repute. Since therefore he excelled in the reputation for prudence and piety, the Prophet wished to exaggerate his crime, because he also, among others, offered incense to idols. What then could remain pure among the people, when he who was esteemed a holy man, so profaned himself among the rest! Hence we see that the Prophet means, that the whole people, from the least to the greatest, was so corrupt, that those who were superior to the rest prostituted themselves to idolatry. He says, then, that he stood before them, and each had a censer in his hand. Incense was the sign of the greatest veneration, and even this was retained for common use. Hence at the outset of Christianity, when the impious wished to seduce the Christians to idolatry, they only gave two or three grains of frankincense:4 that was a sign of apostasy: they did not order them to bend the knee before idols, nor to offer sacrifices, but only to smell to a few grains of incense. In sign, therefore, of veneration, the seventy men are said to bear censers or incense dishes. The Prophet adds, and the incense ascended in a thick cloud. Here understand the particle of likeness. The incense ascended as a thick cloud. I do not doubt that they were profuse, or rather prodigal, in their madness, so as to spare no expense: since idolaters rashly squander all things, when the intemperance of their zeal seizes upon them. And this was not considered with sufficient prudence. The Prophet therefore says that it was not common incense, but was dense like a cloud, since they threw it forth in great abundance, so that the offering might be fatter and richer: just as if he had said, that they were so intemperate in their superstitions, that they threw away an abundance of incense, and had all their expense for nothing, and only to satisfy their idols. Now it follows --

1 "There is a change of number from plural to singular. -- Calvin.

2 Meaning "idols." -- Calvin.

3 That is, "to each." -- Calvin.

4 Plin., lib 10:ep. 2, de Christianis ad Trajanum.


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