Abominations in the Temple

I started reading Ezekiel on Sunday for my devotions, and I came across this powerful image of “abominations in the temple”.

Ezekiel 8:

8:1 In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. 2 Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. [1] Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. [2] 3 He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. 4 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.

5 Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.

7 And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9 And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11 And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.

16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their [3] nose. 18 Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

The Grapes of Wrath, part 3

This is the third and last part of my narrative analysis of 1 Kings 21. (If you missed it, see Part 1 and Part 2 first)

III. Canonical Level

1 Kings 21 speaks to the themes of worship and idolatry, for Ahab and Jezebel are not seen to be true worshippers of the LORD but rather of Baal (cf. 16:31-32). We find that the importance of worship is very significant: Solomon worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem, Elijah on Mount Carmel. However, the idolatry of Jeroboam and Ahab show us what befalls those who do not worship the living God according to his standards; serving and worshipping Baal and paying homage to it by building an altar in Samaria has dire consequences. In the narrative of Naboth’s vineyard, we thus see the folly of sinful idolaters who do evil in the sight of God who are worshipping the wrong god at the wrong place. Nevertheless, we find Jesus words in John 4 very appropriate in the inauguration of his new covenant – it no longer matters where you worship, as long as you worship the true God in the right manner of the spirit. “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).

In terms of judgment for sin, this infamous incident of Ahab and Jezebel’s theft of Naboth’s vineyard is a clear sign that the fruit of their deeds were nothing but grapes of wrath. There are only two choices in life, either obedience or disobedience. For obedience, God rewards kings and nations; but for disobedience, there is judgment and punishment. In the perspective of the New Testament, we may wonder whether or not this punishment lasts for subsequent generations after the disobedient generation. Regardless, for those who have put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, it is certain that there is no longer condemnation nor a fear of judgment, “for the death he died he died to sin, once for all” (Rom.6:10, cf. Heb.7:27). Continue reading

The Grapes of Wrath, part 2

This is the second part of my narrative analysis of 1 Kings 21. (Part 1 is here)

II. Covenantal Level

At the covenantal level, Vineyardwe find that this story of Naboth’s vineyard occurs in the time of the divided kingdom. We are in the time of the Kings, and Ahab is the seventh king of Israel (previous kings of Israel included Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri). In accordance with Canaanite culture, Ahab’s offer of an exchange of property or offer of money to purchase Naboth’s vineyard was a common transaction in the Near East, for land was simply a commodity to be traded and sold for profit.

This famous story of King Ahab’s injustice and his murderous theft of Naboth’s vineyard epitomizes the overarching spiritual condition in Israel during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. As the prophet Elijah denounced, the vengeance and justice of the God will be unleashed on the king “because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 21:20). The latter prophet Micah pronounces a prophetic indictment of Israel and a description of their punishment in Micah 6:16, for there we find an oracle of judgment upon all who follow the works of the house of Omri and Ahab:

“For you have kept the statutes of Omri,
and all the works of the house of Ahab;
and you have walked in their counsels,
that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing;
so you shall bear the scorn of my people.”

In this we see that the consequence of doing “what is evil” in the sight of God is desolation. Israel has a king to rule over them, but unfortunately their king is evil to the inner most – following their king and his counsel only equates to the destructive justice of the LORD. Continue reading

The Grapes of Wrath, part 1

Over the next few days, I’d like to share with you a narrative analysis of 1 Kings 21 which I wrote earlier this semester. The classic story of Naboth’s vineyard will be analyzed at 3 narrative levels — character, covenantal, and canonical.

Feel free to share any comments or corrections to my analysis, as God knows that I am hardly well-versed in Old Testament theology!

I. Character Level

Vineyard

King Ahab, King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in the divided kingdom) was one of the nations most powerful kings. He was the son and successor of his father, King Omri of Judah (1 Kings 16:28-29). However, Ahab was also one of Israel’s most evil kings (1 Kings 16:28-31). It was even said that Ahab did more to provoke the LORD to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:33). For example, in the previous chapter of this study (1 Kings 20), we find that that while was Ahab in battle with Syria has captured the enemy Syria’s King Ben-hadad and was obligated by his covenant with God to kill him. However, Ahab spares Ben-hadad’s life by making a covenant with the pagan king instead of upholding his covenant with God. King Ahab was a man who was continuously disobeyed God and his prophets, and thus, since Ahab had let go a man whom God had set aside for destruction, the LORD promised to take the life of King Ahab (1 Kings 20:42).

Here in 1 Kings 21, we find King Ahab coveting his neighbor Naboth’s vineyard – a choice piece of land for a vegetable garden. Ahab is willing to give Naboth a better vineyard for it, or its value in money (vv.1-2). However, Naboth would not sell it, and Ahab becomes vexed in his spirit that he would not eat any food (vv.4, 5). By example, this shows that Ahab is a man who is immature and childish, covetous and easily offended by others who would not give him what he wants. Elijah prophesized the LORD’s wrath against Ahab, but Ahab’s life was spared when he repented, with the prophesied destruction being visited instead on his son (vv.27-29). Continue reading