Looking for Idols in Ezekiel 14

idolSon of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.   (Ezekiel 14:3, ESV)

Ezekiel 14 has (wrongly) been used to support the “idols of the heart” doctrine.

However, the passage says nothing about looking for idols in counseling or for any other purpose.  What, then, was going on?

Here was a people just about to be exiled for idolatry (physical idolatry—worshiping man-made objects of wood and metal). Ezekiel speaks throughout his book of such, and condemns the people for it.

Here, he describes how bad the problem had become: these same people, going out to Babylon, were about to carry images of the idols they were supposed to leave behind in their hearts!

They were “setting up” these idols upon their hearts so that, even when not physically present, they would be able to put them “before their faces.” What a tragedy! What an attachment to the idolatry they had become so accustomed to!

That’s what the passage is referring to. The idols (now in imagery) would accompany them was they went off in exile. There is nothing about their hearts manufacturing idols; nothing about seeking such imaginary idols in order to deal with counseling problems (biblical counseling was the farthest thing from Ezekiel’s mind).

It is important not to confuse things that differ. Never are these idols (now, literally, ON their hearts) said to be the products of their hearts.  Rather, they have been placed on them (in their minds[1]) in order to carry them (in mind) with them.

[1] The Hebrews had no word for mind—when thinking of it, they used the word “heart.””

2 thoughts on “Looking for Idols in Ezekiel 14

  1. Thanks Hugh. Please forgive me for taking so long to “approve” this post. I was out of town and this got caught in my spam folder. Let me respond as these passages make our point.

    Idolatry is indeed a form of covetousness—wanting a god other than the true God. The idolator wants a god who will give him rain, crops, fertility, or any one of a number of things he believes the true God can’t (or won’t) give. Since the true God does not satisfy he creates his own god, an idol.

    Also, note especially in the Col. passage, that Paul lists a number of other sins but does NOT label them as idolatry. “Idolatry” modifies only “covetousness.” The idea of an idol of “sexual immorality” and the other sins listed is foreign to Paul. He is not saying sinners have an idol of covetousness any more than they have an idol of lust, of drugs, of a job, or any other of a host of things we hear some teach today.

  2. Paul twice calls covetousness idolatry in Eph. 5:5 & Col. 3:5.
    That’s a “heart-issue.” Please explain.