[Christ’s] righteousness is greater than the sins of all men,
his life stronger than death,
his salvation more invincible than hell.
— Martin Luther (The Freedom of a Christian)
Tammuz is only mentioned here in the Old Testament. All Ezekiel tells us is that women were sitting around weeping for him. In order to find out what Tammuz is all about, we will need to look at other ancient documents. Wikipedia has a great article about him complete with links to original texts if you want to search deeper.
Tammuz was a fisherman-king who reigned for 100 years before the flood. While he reigned, he enjoyed many love affairs with a girl named Inana. After a while, Inana decided to visit her sister who was queen of the underworld. She passed through seven gates to get there, leaving a piece of clothing behind at each gate. She arrived naked to find her sister’s throne empty. Inana had the boldness to sit down on it, and was judged instantly for her presumption by being turned into a corpse on a hook. Apparently, the gods of the underworld don’t take kindly to this type of intrusion.
Inana’s servant begged all the gods to help, and eventually Enki came to her rescue. Inana was resurrected with one catch: she had to find a soul to replace her in death. She checked out a lot of people, but didn’t have the heart to condemn any of them to her former fate. Eventually she found her former lover, Tammuz, sitting on her throne while she was in the underworld. Appalled at his impunity, she condemned him to her fate.
Tammuz tried to outrun his demonic escort to the underworld, and hid with his sister Geshtinana. The ruse was unsuccessful, and Tammuz was taken to the underworld. Finally, Inana felt a little guilty, and changed the deal: Geshtinana could take Tammuz’ place in the underworld for six months of every year.
Like many ancient myths, the cycle of death and rebirth echoes the agricultural cycle. The women in Ezekiel’s day had picked up on the quasi-religious ceremonies of their neighbours, and mourned Tammuz’s temporary death.
This simple ceremony may seem harmless, but it betrays a fundamental unbelief in Yahweh—the only real God who was their source of life.
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As strange as it may sound, the one true God would die. In about 600 years, he would be killed by the very people he came to rescue. Unlike Tammuz, however, God’s death in Jesus was a real even that rescued his creation from eternal death. This was more than the cycle of spring-time and harvest. Jesus’ death was a once-for-all event that changed the course of history forever.
Yahweh is the one true God. He is not held hostage by demons—he is the Lord of everything, with power even over death. Death has been a constant fear of humans throughout history. It is an unknown that provokes feelings of loss, insecurity, and temporality. Yet for the follower of Jesus, death is one fear that we are free from. Loss is temporary. Insecurity is replaced with salvation. Temporality becomes eternal life.
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Eternal God, thank you for the security we have in you. Thank you that you have complete power over everything—even death. In Jesus’ name, Amen.