“Then he stretched out what appeared to be a hand and took me by a tuft of hair of my head, and a spirit carried me between the earth and the heavens and brought me to Jerusalem by means of the visions from God, to the entrance of the inner gate that faces north, where the idolatrous symbol of jealousy that incites jealousy stood. And look! the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance that I had seen in the valley plain.” –Ezekiel 8:3-4
Ezekiel resided among the first wave of Jews taken into exile. He was there, in Babylon, sitting among the elders when Jehovah picked him up by the tuft of his hair and in a vision, he was transported back to the temple in Jerusalem. Jehovah took his watchman on a private tour of the temple sanctuary and courtyard so he could see for himself what was going on in secrecy.
Upon arrival at the temple in Jerusalem God instructed his prophet to gaze to the north, where he saw what was described as a symbol of jealousy situated at the gate of the altar. Ezekiel does not describe what the symbol looked like. It is not important anyway. Ezekiel does not specifically see anyone bowing before or worshipping the symbol in any fashion. It was a symbol of jealousy, in that, it was an idol, intended to offend God and incite him to jealousy.
Being in the entryway the symbol is in a very prominent place, where it should not be. Located at the gate of the altar the priests would have to always pass by the symbol of jealousy to offer up sacrifices upon Jehovah’s altar.
Now consider the comments in the Pure Worship publication, in chapter five, paragraphs eight and nine:
What meaning does Ezekiel’s vision of the symbol of jealousy have for our day? Apostate Judah certainly reminds us of Christendom. Idolatry is widespread in the churches of Christendom, which makes invalid any devotion that the people claim to give to God. Since Jehovah does not change, we can be sure that Christendom, like apostate Judah, has provoked his righteous anger. Surely, Jehovah is far away from this distorted form of Christianity!
What warning lesson can we learn from those idolaters in the temple? To render exclusive devotion to Jehovah, we must “flee from idolatry.” We might think, ‘I would never use images or symbols in my worship of Jehovah!’ But idolatry comes in various forms, some more subtle than others. One Bible reference work puts it this way: “One may think of idolatry as a metaphor for other goods —anything of value, worth, or power that becomes our ultimate concern to the exclusion of God.” Idolatry, then, can include material possessions, money, sex, entertainment—really, anything that could take first place in our lives and thus replace the exclusive devotion that is due Jehovah. We must guard against every form of idolatry because Jehovah has exclusive claim to our hearts—and our worship!”
In saying that “idolatry comes in various forms, some more subtle than others,” the publishers are surely correct. They enumerate “material possessions, money, sex,” etc. But what about power? Is it not an ingrained human tendency to want to dominate? Men particularly crave power over others. And it is not just men dominating the so-called weaker sex; more especially, men dominant over other men through institutions, governments, corporations and organizations, etc.
True, Christendom is blatant in their idolatry and make no attempt to disguise it. But what about the state of affairs among Jehovah’s Witnesses? What about the organization itself? Might it be the modern symbol of jealousy? Consider a few pertinent facts.
Originally C.T. Russell was reverentially regarded by the Bible Students as the spokesman for the Most High. He was held in honor as the Laodicean Messenger, supposedly the last of seven messengers from God. Although he apparently never laid claim to it, many of the Bible Students regarded Russell as the one and only faithful and the discreet slave. When he suddenly died the faith of many of his followers died too. So, from the very beginning, those who left the churches and became associated with Russell’s Watchtower were inclined to idolize fellow creatures simply because they taught them from the Bible. Idolatry is deeply etched in our souls.
J.F. Rutherford was determined to stamp out creature worship. He crushed the Russel idol —that much he did. But in the place of the face of a man —like the venerable Russell —instead, the Organization itself has been gradually elevated into an inordinate place in the minds and hearts of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Keep in mind, as the Watchtower said, idolatry can be very subtle. Indeed it is.
It is noteworthy that the symbol of jealously stood in the entryway. From the start, anyone who is interested in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is introduced to the Watchtower. It could be considered the portal of entry into the truth. Every Bible student is taught to regard their true teacher as being the “faithful and discreet slave.” In time they learn never to question the slave. Anyone who questions the faithful and discreet slave is questioning Jehovah himself —that is the general opinion.
Persons wishing to dedicate themselves to God in baptism are required to pledge in all solemnity that they recognize that their baptism brings them into association with God’s spirit-directed organization. And whether they realize it or not, that organization has more authority and influence over the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses than does Jehovah. That is frequently demonstrated when persons become aware of some of the Watchtower’s many misdoings and shenanigans. At once their faith is shattered. The gleam is off. The idol is tarnished and no longer worthy of being served.
The guardians of the gateway to the truth have great power. Their interpretation of the Bible is regarded as the only truth. So, the keepers of the gate have interpreted all prophecy to elevate the Organization. The very fact that Bethel has published a commentary on Ezekiel that is intended to burnish the image of the Organization as the very expression of pure worship is proof of that motive.
Take the prophecy that both Isaiah and Micah uttered regarding the mountain of the house of Jehovah being lifted up above the hills. This is to occur in the final part of the days. It is a reference to the Kingdom of God being established and recognized by those who wish to be subjects of that Kingdom and taught my Jehovah’s appointed teacher —the Wonderful Counselor. According to Bethel, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the fulfillment of the prophecy.
The implication is that the earthly Organization is on the pinnacle —exalted to heaven, far above the idolatrous cults of Christendom. And because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Kingdom has already been established in Mount Zion, the Watchtower Organization is the gateway to the Kingdom and the very portal through which the streaming throngs of pure worshippers must pass in order to go up the holy mountain.
Surely, an institution that claims to be the very expression of pure worship, which is regarded as the fount of the life-giving waters of truth, the sole channel of God’s voice on earth –is unavoidably inciting God to jealousy. There is no reason to doubt that the Watchtower is the antitypical “symbol of jealousy in the entryway.”
As shocking as this symbol of jealousy was God alerted Ezekiel it was going to get worse, saying: “Son of man, do you see what terrible, detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that make me go far away from my sanctuary? But you will see detestable things that are even more terrible.”