Ezekiel and the Heart of Idolatry -- By: John N. Day

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 164:653 (Jan 2007)
Article: Ezekiel and the Heart of Idolatry
Author: John N. Day

Ezekiel and the Heart of Idolatry

John N. Day

John N. Day is Pastor, Bellewood Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, Washington.

Tertullian opened his treatise on idolatry by declaring, “The principal crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, the whole procuring cause of judgment, is idolatry.”1 No portion of Scripture addresses this root issue of idolatry so repeatedly and pointedly as the hard-hitting Book of Ezekiel. This article addresses the focal points of the prophet’s discussion, as he was confronted by God and called to confront God’s exiled people on this issue.

According to the Book of Ezekiel, “idolatry is the quintessential cause of the Babylonian exile.”2 The sin of idolatry was the primary reason for God’s judgment on Israel—whether idolatry at the high places (chap. 6), idolatry in the temple (chap. 8), or idolatry in the heart (chap. 14). Of all the sins God condemns and people commit, idolatry is the root sin, the sin that explains all the others.3

And this sin of idolatry is rooted in the heart. As Ezekiel 20:16 explains, “They rejected My rules… for their heart went after their idols.”4 This key statement is issued in Ezekiel’s recounting of Israel’s past. Even at the time of their magnificent deliverance from Egypt, “none of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt” (v. 8). This idolatry continued throughout Israel’s history and into the exilic

period. That Ezekiel issued such a statement underscores his understanding that idolatry is a heart issue. Changed circumstances do not change an idolatrous nature; the heart remains the same unless it is changed by an act of divine grace. Even the graphically sexual allegories of covenant infidelity (chaps. 16 and 23) underscore the fact that this penchant for idolatry is seated in the heart and can be displaced only by God’s judgment and grace.

Overview of Ezekiel

The Book of Ezekiel begins with the prophet’s “conscription” to the ministry (chaps. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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