The branch He mentions is probably an Asherah, a tree or a wooden pole that stood for the fertility goddess. It was essentially a phallic symbol. God says that their wickedness was the same as sticking that idol (and what they were doing) right in His nose—right in His face.
However, we need to understand that they were committing their idolatry in private. In their minds, they thought it did not make any difference; it was not hurting anyone. If nobody could see them doing it, they thought, "Hey, I'm getting away with the perfect crime. I can have my cake and eat it too. I can go to the Temple and look like I'm really somebody in the community. But, you see, here in the dark nobody sees me bowing down and worshipping these idols."
Does it make any difference? It makes a great difference to God! He was offended by what was going on. In this context, these people were in captivity because of what they were doing—it was a matter of cause and effect. What they sowed earned captivity.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction
Their sins did not slip by God, did they? God says their sins done "in the dark . . . filled the land with violence." Their lives affected the whole nation! The result was God's unsparing judgment descending upon Judah, and thousands of lives ended in death or captivity.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!
You think Easter sunrise services are beautiful? God was showing the prophet Ezekiel the sins of His people in a vision—a prophecy for today!
"Turn thee yet again," said God, "and thou shalt see greater abominations than these [Ezekiel had just been shown, in vision, idol worship among professing people of God]. And he brought me [in vision] into the inner court of the Eternal's house, and behold . . . between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with . . . their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing . . . that they commit the abominations which they commit here? . . . Therefore will I deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them." (Ezekiel 8:15-18)
Do you grasp what this most abominable thing is?
It is the identical thing millions are doing every Easter Sunday morning—the sunrise service—standing with their faces toward the east, as the sun is rising, in a service of worship which honors the sun god and his mythical idolatrous consort, goddess Easter. Yes, deceived into believing this is Christian, millions practice every Easter the identical form of the ancient sun worship of the sun god Baal! Throughout the Bible this is revealed as the most abominable of all idolatry in the sight of the Eternal Creator!
Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Plain Truth About Easter
In verse 14, Ezekiel expresses his "dismay" at yet a greater abomination: "women . . . weeping for Tammuz." This is another pagan practice, a very sexual one involving ritual prostitution. Ezekiel saw them involved in a rite in which they were mourning the death of a Mesopotamian god whose myth said he was resurrected to new life, a mockery of the redeeming death and life-giving resurrection of the true Son of God. This vision reveals that paganism had deeply affected the women in Israelite society as well.
In verse 16, the prophet sees a fourth vision in the inner court of the Temple—"about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple and their faces toward the east, and they were worshipping the sun toward the east." This is obviously some sort of pagan sunrise service, in which they honor the sun more highly than God, to whom they contemptuously show their backsides.
Each abomination is described as being greater in wickedness than the one before. In verse 17, God asks, "Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit abominations which they commit here [in the Temple!]? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger."
These leaders displayed no social responsibility whatsoever. They led their society to become one of rape and rapine, murder and violence in every quarter. Yet these hypocritical leaders dared to return to God's Temple, retiring furtively to its inner rooms to practice their pagan rites "in the dark" (verse 12).
The Torment of the Godly (Part One)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ezekiel 8:17: