The idol worship service of the seventy Jerusalem elders (Ezek 8:10-8:11)

“So I went in.

I looked.

There portrayed

On the wall,

All around,

Were all kinds

Of creeping things,

Loathsome animals,

With all the idols

Of the house of Israel.

Before them

Stood seventy

Of the elders

Of the house

Of Israel,

With Jaazaniah,

The son of Shaphan,

Standing among them.

Each had his censer

In his hand.

The fragrant cloud

Of incense

Was ascending.”

Ezekiel went into the worship service room on the other side of the wall. He saw various inscriptions or pictures all around the walls that included creeping things, despicable animals, and all kinds of idols from the house of Israel. This must have indicated some kind of Egyptian or Babylonian idol gods, perhaps the god Osiris. However, this might be a mishmash of various idol gods. Even more shocking was to see the 70 Jerusalem elders of Israel, including Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan, standing there with lit censers in their hands as the fragrant smell of incense ascended in the air. This was a shocking sight to see.

Israel forgot Yahweh (Jer 18:13-18:17)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh.

‘Ask among the nations?

Who has heard the like of this?

The virgin Israel has done

A very horrible thing.

Does the snow of Lebanon

Leave the crags of Sirion?

Do the mountain waters run dry?

Do the cold flowing streams stop?

But my people have forgotten me.

They burn incense to a delusion.

They have stumbled in their ways,

On the ancient roads.

They have gone into bypaths.

They have not gone on the highway.

They are making their land a horror.

This is a thing to be hissed at forever.

Everyone who passes by it

Is horrified.

They shake their heads.

Like the east wind,

I will scatter them

Before the enemy.

I will show them my back.

I will not show them my face,

In the day of their calamity.’”

Yahweh wants to know why the Israelites have forgotten him. This virgin Israel has done a horrible thing. He asks whether the snow leaves the mountains of Lebanon at Mount Hermon. Sirion is another name for Mount Hermon. Do the mountain waters dry up? Do the cold streams disappear? Do these sources for the Jordan River stop? Of course not, yet Yahweh’s people have forgotten him. They have turned to offering incense to false delusionary idol gods. They were stumbling along. They have gone off the main highways into the side roads. Their land has become horrible. People shake their heads and hiss as they pass by. Thus Yahweh was going to be like a wind from the east and scatter them to their enemies. When the day of troubles would begin, he would show them his back and not his face.

False wooden idols (Jer 10:3-10:5)

“The customs of the people

Are false.

A tree from the forest

Is cut down.

It is worked with an ax

By the hands of an artisan.

People deck it with silver.

They deck it with gold.

They fasten it with a hammer.

They fasten it with nails.

Thus it cannot move.

Their idols are

Like scarecrows in a cucumber field.

They cannot speak.

They have to be carried.

They cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them!

They cannot do evil.

It is not in them to do good.”

This section is a lot like that of Second Isaiah, especially chapters 40-44, against false human made idol gods. Thus this probably also comes from the later exilic times. Many people have this false custom of idol worship. He reminded them that these wooden idols come from a tree. Someone cut down the tree in the forest. Then an artisan or wood carver axed or created an image with a hammer and nails. Then they put silver and gold on it. Thus these false wooden idols cannot move. They are more like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch. They cannot talk or walk, since they have to be carried around. No one should be afraid of these scarecrow idols, since they cannot do any evil to you. However, they also cannot do any good for you either. Once again, this is an argument against the false wooden idol gods and their human makers.

Declaration of Isaiah to his disciples (Isa 8:16-8:20)

“Bind up the testimony!

Seal the teaching

Among my disciples!

I will wait for Yahweh,

Who is hiding his face

From the house of Jacob.

I will hope in him.

See!

I am a sign.

The children

Whom Yahweh has given me

Are portents in Israel

From Yahweh of hosts.

He dwells on Mount Zion.

Now if people say to you.

‘Consult the wizard ghosts!

Consult with the familiar spirits

Who chirp and mutter!’

Should not a people consult their gods?

Should they not consult the dead

On behalf of the living

For teaching,

For instruction?

Surely those who speak like this

Will have no dawn.”

Isaiah wanted his disciples to have and keep his testimony. He wanted his teachings to be put aside and bound up his works. This is probably why we have so many oracles of Isaiah. He was waiting on Yahweh, the Lord, who was hiding his face from the house of Jacob. However, Isaiah had hope because he and his children were signs or omens of good things to come. He knew that Yahweh lived on Mount Zion. He then warned his disciples not to be fooled when people told them to consult with various idol gods, ghosts, mediums, wizards, or spirits to find out what to do. Why would you want to consult with the dead to find out instructions on how to live? As he points out, people like this probably will not see the dawn, since they are destined for death.

Idol worshipers (Isa 2:6-2:8)

“You have forsaken

The ways of your people!

O house of Jacob!

You are full of diviners

From the east.

You are full of soothsayers

Like the Philistines.

They clasp hands with foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver.

Their land is filled with gold.

There is no end

To their treasures.

Their land is filled with horses.

There is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols.

They bow down

To the work of their hands.

They bow down

To what their own fingers have made.”

Isaiah speaks out strongly against idol worship that must have been common among the house of Jacob in eight century BCE. The Israelites have forsaken the ways of their people since they had a lot of eastern diviners, like priestly prophets who foretold the future in the name of some god, roughly the equivalent of a Yahweh prophet among the non-Israelites. There were also the fortune tellers or soothsayers from Philistine, from along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. There must have been some kind of magic handshake with foreigners that was also forbidden. Why were they doing this? Their land was full of silver, gold, many treasures, horses, and chariots. What else did they want? Despite all this, they still bowed down in worship to the idol gods that they had made with their own hands and fingers. Why were they worshiping these false idol statutes that they themselves had made?

The folly of the Egyptian idols (Wis 15:14-15:17)

“But most foolish,

More miserable than an infant,

Are all the enemies

Who oppressed your people.

They thought

That all their heathen idols were gods.

These have

Neither the use of their eyes to see with,

Nor nostrils with which to draw breath,

Nor ears with which to hear,

Nor fingers to feel with.

Their feet are of no use for walking.

A human being made them.

One whose spirit is borrowed

Formed them.

None can form gods

That are like themselves.

People are mortal.

What they make with lawless hands is dead.

They are better than the objects they worship.

Since they have life,

But the idols never had.”

Next this author turns to the historic oppressors of the Israelites, the Egyptians, without naming them. He points out the ineptitude of their idol gods (θεούς). These idols could not see, breathe, hear, feel, or walk, as they lacked the five basic senses. Humans (ἄθρωπος) made them. Any spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα) they might have, was borrowed from humans. People do not make gods (Θεόν) of themselves because they are mortal. Thus they can only make dead images. In fact, these idol makers were better than the dead objects (νεκρὸν) that they made, since they had life, while their images did not.

The idols are not good (Ps 16:4-16:4)

“Those who choose another god

Multiply their sorrows.

Their drink offerings of blood,

I will not pour out.

I will not take their names

Upon my lips.”

Those who do not choose Yahweh will multiply their sorrows. The psalmist will not partake in their blood offerings. He will not let their names pass his lips. These idol gods are the opposite of Yahweh. They are not good. Thus they are evil.