The ZIBBC, Ezekiel 8, and Tammuz

I am bringing together several topics of interest in this post. First, I recently reviewed the ZIBBC (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Encyclopedia) here and recommended it as a resource to everyone who loves study. The set on the Hebrew Bible is $157.47 on amazon (five volumes, full-color, beautifully bound).

Second, because of some discussion the last two days about Christmas, Hanukkah, intermarriage, and so on, the issue of Tammuz and Ezekiel 8 came up.

Although Ezekiel was a prophet among the exile community in Babylon (having been deported in 597 with Jehoiachin), he was transported in spirit visions at times to Jerusalem and gave messages for the Jerusalem community. Were these messages for the exile community even though they spoke about Jerusalem? Or did messengers take Ezekiel’s words to Jerusalem? Or should we see these messages as being for both communities?

In Ezekiel 8:14-15, the prophet sees a vision of women in Jerusalem weeping for Tammuz.

The ZIBBC has a number of helpful comments and tools to help understand this passage. First, the commentary helpfully introduces the book of Ezekiel and helps the reader understand the time and place of the book. On the page where this passage is explained, the ZIBBC in a short space gives the reader the historical and religious background information needed.

On the left margin of the page is a picture of a cuneiform tablet, a clay tablet fire-hardened after having been impressed with a stylus (an instrument for making impressions on the clay) in the writing known as cuneiform. The tablet is the Myth of Dumuzi.

Dumuzi is the older Sumerian name for Tammuz, and means “the good offspring.” As a fertility god, Tammuz was called on in Babylonia to provide healthy animal and human babies. His power was believed to be over fertility for animals, plants, and people.

Tammuz is the shepherd god, similar to gods in other nations as the mythologies of the ancient world have many interconnections. In Sumerian texts he was known as “Dumuzi the shepherd” or “Dumuzi of the grain.”

Ezekiel’s text is the only place where Tammuz’s name is mention and there is a deliberate slighting of his power evident on the text. Ezekiel does not name the god Tammuz but does something subversive, calling him “the Tammuz,” making him “a mere object or a fetish.”

In Sumeria and Babylonia there were ritual mourning periods at the end of the month of Tammuz (roughly June-July) and the image of Tammuz was brought out. Tammuz, though a story involving Ishtar (Ashtoreth, in German Eostre, the goddess from whom Easter received its name), Tammuz dies after every summer and is reborn every spring. The weeping for Tammuz marks the beginning of his journey down into the netherworld (Hades, Sheol, the underworld, they are all connected ideas).

As you can see, this myth of the dying and ever-resurrecting god is the myth explaining the seasons.

In the Gilgamesh Epic we read about this annual rite:

For Tammuz, the lover of our youth, thou hast ordained wailing year after year.

What Ezekiel was seeing was the unfaithfulness of the people of Jerusalem.
–He saw a wall with symbols of unclean animals and creeping things, indicating Jerusalemites were eating unclean food (8:10).
–He sees the seventy elders of Israel in their rooms using censers in private worship of idols (8:11-12).
–He sees the women of Jerusalem weeping for Tammuz (8:14-15).
–He sees the men of Jerusalem with their backs to the Temple, facing the rising sun and worshipping it (8:16-17).

All of these visions serve as a reason for the withdrawing of God’s presence from the Temple. It is not that God is abandoning his covenant promises but that Israel has abandoned the covenant. When the Temple is destroyed, as noted later in Ezekiel, God’s presence has already been removed.

God has not failed. God’s people have failed to maintain the statutes of the covenant. Judah and Jerusalem are unfaithful.

But though God punished and pulls away, he does return. The book of Ezekiel portrays not only the end of God’s protection, but also regathering, restoration, and redemption.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The ZIBBC, Ezekiel 8, and Tammuz

  1. tandi119 says:

    Let us know what you discover about Tammuz. Maybe you will come to the same conclusion as Alexander Hislop and others:

    “Jerome, who lived in Palestine when the rites of Tammuz were observed, up to the very time when he wrote, expressly identifies Tammuz and Adonis (vol. ii. p.353), in his Commentary on Ezekiel, viii. 14, where the Jewish women are represented as weeping for Tammuz; and the testimony of Jerome on this subject is universally admitted. Then the mode in which the rites of Tammuz or Adonis were celebrated in Syria was essentially the same as the rites of Osiris. The statement of Lucian (De Dea Syria, vol. iii. p. 454) strikingly shows this, and Bunsen (vol. i. p. 443) distinctly admits it. The identity of Osiris and Nimrod has been largely proved in the body of this work. When, therefore, Tammuz or Adonis is identified with Osiris, the identification of Tammuz with Nimrod follows of course….”

    p. 314 in The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop

    Also see the chapter, The Great Red Dragon, available online at:

  2. judeoxian says:

    I really don’t think Alexander Bishop ever considered ANE context, like what Derek is doing here.

  3. Tandi:

    In yesterday’s post I made a compelling case that Nimrod has nothing to do with Babylonian deities and is not connected to Ninurta/Tammuz/Adonis, etc.

    You have not countered that argument with even an attempted rebuttal. Instead you cite a book no one takes seriously except uninformed people out of the loop of Biblical studies and ANE history. You would do just as well to cite the National Enquirer as your source.

    Saying something over and over again does not make it true. It is interesting that you do not consider my arguments, but carefully read and rely on this book. You don’t want the truth, Tandi and it is apparent to everyone but you.

    Derek Leman

  4. tandi119 says:

    I am continuing my studies, Derek, and finding some interesting information in other sources since you don’t accept Hislop’s research. Maybe you consider Donald G. Barnhouse, D.D. uninformed as well? He endorsed the book. Anyway, I checked one of Hislop’s many references and found this online (gleaned from De Dea Syria).

    Pagan precursor of the christmas tree?

    49. They cut down tall trees [suggestive of the pine, sacred to Attis] and set them up in the court; then they bring goats and sheep and cattle and hang them living to the trees; they add to these birds and garments and gold and silver work. After all is finished, they carry the gods around the trees and set fire under; in a moment all is in a blaze. – fn_99

    Then I found this about Tammuz:

    täˈməz, ancient nature deity worshiped in Babylonia. A god of agriculture and flocks, he personified the creative powers of spring. He was loved by the fertility goddess Ishtar, who, according to one legend, was so grief-stricken at his death that she contrived to enter the underworld to get him back. According to another legend, she killed him and later restored him to life. These legends and his festival, commemorating the yearly death and rebirth of vegetation, corresponded to the festivals of the Phoenician and Greek Adonis and of the Phrygian Attis. The Sumerian name of Tammuz was Dumuzi. In the Bible his disappearance is mourned by the women of Jerusalem (Ezek. 8.14).

    The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition Copyright© 2004,


    So, connecting the dots………Attis is Tammuz. The tall trees (decorated pine trees) were sacred to the pagan god who had various names in different lands. Ezekiel 8 speaks of the ABOMINATION of women weeping for Tammuz. Does God weep when He sees His children decorate pine trees for Christ-mass, a Popish holiday, putting the fragrant branch to their nose? (Ezek. 8:17).

    Still doing more research on the connections with Nimrod and Queen Sammu-remat (Semiramis). Fascinating study. I love ANE history. Any reading recommendations for me?

  5. Pingback: What is your view of Christmas... - Page 4 - Christian Forums

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