Ezekiel 20:1 reveals that while the Jews were in their captivity, the elders came to seek answers from God. What were their questions? They can be ascertained only by God's reply. Overall, the questions seem to have been something similar to, "Why are we having all this trouble?" "What is the problem?" "When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?"
God's answer begins to take shape in verse 7, "Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes." The last phrase literally means "the delight of the eyes." "His eyes" must refer to the typical Israelite's eyes. Recall that the Israelites did what seemed right or pleasurable to them but not necessarily what was delightful to God. Since God commanded them to throw away what was a delight to them, we must understand, then, that "the delight of their eyes" was to God idolatry and rebellion.
That brief phrase contains two contrasting perspectives. It identifies what God had against them: their idolatry. The delight of their eyes was the idol that they looked at and gave their devotion to.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment
Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible shows as clearly as Ezekiel 20 the critical importance for the people of God to keep the Sabbath. Ezekiel does not record the question or questions the elders asked of God, but we can ascertain them from God's reply. They seem to have been something like, "Why are we having all this trouble? Why are we in captivity? When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?" God specifically names part of the problem when He says that He commanded them to get rid of "the abominations which were before their eyes." These things, obviously abominations to God, were a delight to the Israelites because they did not cast them away.
God clearly shows that part of the answer is that they were committing idolatry. In Ezekiel 20:12-13, He involves the Sabbath in their problems. Six times in this one chapter, God links idolatry and breaking the Sabbath as causes of their captivity. It is accurate to understand Sabbath breaking as just another form of idolatry. God gave the Sabbath to Israel and to us that we might know the true God, be sanctified, fulfill our purpose in witnessing of Him before the world, and be changed and inherit His Kingdom. Israel failed utterly. God cut them off, and they went back into slavery and captivity.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
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