In chapter 8, the Lord gave Ezekiel a vision of the temple. Everywhere Ezekiel looked, there was idolatry. The priests, the elders, and the women all worshipped idols right inside God’s temple. God called this worship an abomination. In chapter 9, God shows Ezekiel what he will do about it.
Summoning The Executioners
The Lord is speaking here, the one who had the appearance of a man in 8:2 and 1:26. He called out with a loud voice, just as their will be a shout when Jesus returns. (1 Thessalonians 4:16) He summoned seven men. Six were executioners with weapons of slaughter. One was a recorder, a man with a writing case. They will execute God’s judgment in this part of the vision. The beings have the appearance of men, but they act as agents of God. So, they may represent the Babylonians whom God sends to execute his judgment upon Jerusalem.
God’s Glory Begins to Depart
The glory and presence of God resided between the cherubim, on the mercy seat, in the Holiest Place in the temple. But this verse tells us the glory of God is moving out of the temple. In this verse, he has moved from his normal place to the threshold, or doorway. He is on his way out of the temple. Without the presence of the Lord, the temple is nothing but a fancy building.
Instructions to the Recorder
This verse shows that God would not execute any people in Jerusalem who still worshipped God. They would be the ones who sighed and groaned (or moaned and groaned) over the abominations. We have seen studying the Old Testament that God always spares the remnant that believe in him. Here, God tells the Recorder to go through the city and put a mark on the foreheads of those people. The Hebrew word for “mark” here is “taw”, the last letter of the old Hebrew alphabet. It looked like an “x” or a cross. We are not told whether he found any. In verse 11, he did return and state that he had done what the Lord told him to do.
Instructions To The Executioners
God told the Executioners to go into the city and kill everyone, beginning in the temple. They only ones they were not to strike were those bearing the mark. Normally, no killing would be done in the temple because it would defile it. But God is saying it is already defiled by pagan worship, so that is not an issue.
So now, we not only have the recurring theme of the Remnant, we have the theme of the mark.
God marked Cain so that no one would kill him. (Genesis 4:15) The Passover story contained a mark. Those who put blood on their door posts were saved from the angel of death. In Exodus 12, God struck all the first born of the Egyptians. In this vision, God strikes everyone that does not have the mark. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “pass through” in verse 5 is the same word used in Exodus 12:23, where the Lord said the angel would pass through and strike the firstborn. So, Israel is compared to Egypt in its wickedness and idolatry.
Revelation 7 shows an angel putting a seal on the foreheads of the servants of God to protect them from four destructive angels. John also picked up this imagery in Revelation 13. In that chapter, both those who followed the beast and those who followed Christ are said to have marks identifying them. The concept in both Ezekiel and Revelation is that God knows who worships him and protects them from his judgment and his wrath.
Ezekiel was overwhelmed at the sight of God’s judgment executed upon the temple and the people of the city. He cried out, asking if God would even destroy the remnant. That statement makes me wonder if the Recorder found any faithful in the city to mark.
A similar situation exists in a story told by Jesus in Luke 18:1-8. A persistent widow sought justice from a judge until she got it. Jesus said, in a similar way, God will give justice to his elect (those who are saved), but will Jesus find faith when he returns? A few years later, God did again send judgment on Jerusalem in the form of the Romans. The city, including the temple, was destroyed.
God responded to Ezekiel by saying the sin of Israel was great and he would not spare the wicked. As God used Israel to destroy the Canaanites because of their wickedness and idolatry, the Lord would now use the Babylonians to destroy the Israelites for theirs.
Notice that the Lord says they do evil and say the Lord does not see. Many people in our time either do not believe God exists or that he is not active in our world. yet the Bible tells us God sees everything and will call everyone to account for it. Only those whose sins have been atoned by Christ will be allowed eternal life. All others will face eternal judgment.
This vision continues through chapter 10 and into 11.