Chapter 8 begins with another vision. Ezekiel sees the appearance of a man (the Hebrew says “the appearance of fire”) (8:2). The fire, brightness, and gleaming metal tell us that this is something similar to what Ezekiel saw in chapter 1. This man takes Ezekiel by his hair and transports him to Jerusalem (v. 3). He finds himself in the entrance to the Temple and sees “the seat of the image of jealousy” (see Deut 32:16). While we aren’t given specifics, Ezekiel is describing literal idol worship inside the Temple of God. But the glory of God is also there (v. 4). God points to the image as being right in front of the altar of burnt offering (v. 5). God says Judah is worshiping idols to drive Him far from His sanctuary (v. 6). This is the threat of God removing His presence, which He is about to do.
In verses 7-8, God shows Ezekiel a hole leading into the Temple and tells him to dig through it. When he does, Ezekiel sees that the Temple is riddled with idols (v. 10)! The seventy men of the elders (v. 11) point us to the elders that God appointed to lead along with Moses (see Ex 24:1 and Num 11:24) – it is a representation of all the leaders of Israel. They are all idolaters (v. 12). Even the house of Shaphan (see 2 Chr 34:8, Jer 26:24) Then God shows Ezekiel the women of Israel, and they are worshiping Tammuz, a Sumerian fertility god (v. 14).
And it keeps getting worse. In the inner court the priests (the 25 men) have literally turned their backs on YHWH and are worshiping the sun (v. 16). All of Judah is provoking God to anger (v. 17). The “branch to their nose” is a ritual where the worshipers of Tammuz held cedar branches in front of their face as a sign of entreating the god. In verse 18, God tells Ezekiel that all the idolaters will be judged without pity.
In chapter 9, we see the judgment. Six men come from the north (9:2). This is again cosmic north, and these “men” are angels sent to execute the wicked. Along with them is a seventh “man” with with a writing case. The number seven symbolizes completeness, in this case, complete judgment. Then the glory of God leaves the Holy of Holies from between the Cherubim and goes to the doorway of the Temple. The writing angel is then told to mark the foreheads of those who are opposed to all the idolatry (v. 4 – see Rev 7:3). The angels of judgment are instructed to kill everyone without the mark (vv. 5-7). The vision brings Ezekiel to his knees and he cries out to God for mercy (v. 8). But God must judge the wicked (vv. 9-10).
The angel commanded to mark the righteous returns, having completed his mission (v. 11). Then Ezekiel sees over the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies “something like a sapphire in appearance like a throne” (10:1 – see Rev 4:2-3). The writing angel goes into the Holy of Holies to take hot coals from within the wheels (v. 2). The glory of YHWH then fills the Temple (v. 4 – see 1 Kings 8:10-11). Ezekiel then describes the appearance of the glory of YHWH in terms similar to chapter 1 (vv. 8-17). The glory then returns over the cherubim (v. 18), and the cherubim take flight and stand at the entrance to the Temple (v. 19). God is leaving Judah.
In chapter 11, Ezekiel is brought outside the entrance of the Temple where he sees the 25 men (11:1 – see 8:16). He is commanded to prophesy to them (v. 4). God will judge them by the sword (v. 8, 10) and with captivity (v. 9), because they have acted like the wicked nations around them in worshiping false gods (v. 12). Then one of the 25 men die (v. 13), signaling that judgment has begun. Ezekiel again prays to God for mercy, that He not destroy the full remnant.
So God give Ezekiel hope. Even though the people have forgotten YHWH and thought they were above punishment (v. 15), and even though God has removed them from the land as punishment (v. 16), to some, He has remained a sanctuary (the “for a while” says literally “in a small measure”). Those who still seek refuge in God will be restored (v. 17). They will not be idolaters (v. 18) and they will be given a new heart and new spirit by God (v. 19 – see Jer 31:33) so that they may be obedient to Him (v. 20). They will be His people (the spiritual people) and He will be their God. But the wicked will be judged (v. 21).
After these words, the Cherubim fly out of the Temple, out of Jerusalem, and onto the mountain on the east side of the city (the Mount of Olives – vv. 22-23 – see Zech 14:4 where this points to the final judgment). God has left Judah. The idolatry of the people has driven Him away (see 8:6). Then, Ezekiel is brought back to Babylon, and the vision ends (v. 24). Ezekiel then tells the exiles what he saw (v. 25).