Imagery (מִשׂכַּית, maskith', an image, as rendered Le 26:1; or picture, as rendered Nu 33:52), only in the phrase "chambers of his imagery" (Eze 8:12). The scenes of pictorial representation referred to by this phrase are connected with an instructive passage in the history of Ezekiel and the Jewish exiles, who were stationed in Assyria, on the banks of the Chebar. At one of their interesting prayer-meetings for the restoration of Israel, which had been held so often and so long without any prospect of brighter days, and when the faith and hopes of many of the unfortunates were waxing dim and feeble, Ezekiel, in presence of his friends, consisting of the exiled elders of Judah, was suddenly rapt in mystic vision, and graciously shown, for his own satisfaction, as well as that of his pious associates, the reasons of God's protracted controversy with Israel, and the sad necessity there was for still dealing hardly with them. Transported by the Spirit (not bodily, indeed, nor by external force, but in imagination) to the city and Temple of Jerusalem, he there saw, as plainly as if it had been with the eve of sense, atrocities going on within the precincts of the holy place-the perpetration of which in the very capital of Judaea, the place which God had chosen to put his name there, afforded proof of the woeful extent of national apostasy and corruption, and was sufficient to justify, both to the mind of the prophet and his circle of pious associates, the severity of the divine judgments on Israel, and the loud call there was for prolonging and increasing, instead of putting a speedy end to, the dire calamities they had so long been suffering (Ezekiel 8), SEE EZEKIEL.
The first spectacle that caught his eye as he perambulated, in mystic vision, the outer court of the Temple that court where the people usually assembled to worship-was a colossal statue, probably of Baal, around which crowds of devotees were performing their frantic revelries, and whose forbidden ensigns were proudly blazoning on the walls and portals of the house of him who had proclaimed himself a God jealous of his honor (ver. 3; Lowth, ad loc.). Scarcely had the prophet recovered from his astonishment and horror at the open and undisguised idolatry of the multitude in that sacred enclosure, when his celestial guide bade him turn another way, and he would see greater abominations. Leading him to that side of the court along which were ranged the houses of the priests, his conductor pointed to a mud wall (ver. 7), which, to screen themselves from observation, the apostate servants of the true God had raised; and in that wall was a small chink, by widening which he discovered a passage into a secret chamber, which was completely impervious to the rays of the sun, but which he found, on entering it, lighted up by a profusion of brilliant lamps. The sides of it were covered with numerous paintings of beasts and reptiles-the favorite deities of Egypt; and with their eyes intently fixed on these decorations was a conclave of seventy persons, in the garb of priests — the exact number, and, in all probability, the individual members of the Sanhedrim who stood in the attitude of adoration, holding in their hands each a golden censer, containing all the costly and odoriferous materials which the pomp and magnificence of the Egyptian ritual required. "There was every form of creeping things and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel portrayed round about." The scene described was wholly formed on the model of Egyptian worship; and every one who has read the works of Wilkinson, Belzoni, Richardson, and others, will perceive the close resemblance that it bears to the outer walls, the sanctuaries, and the hieroglyphical figures that distinguished the ancient mythology of Egypt (see Kitto, Pict. Bible, note ad loc.). What were the strange and unsightly images engraved on the walls of this chamber discovered by Ezekiel, and that formed the objects of the profane reverence of these apostate councilors, may be known from the following metrical description, which the late Mr. Salt, long the British consul in Egypt, has drawn of the gods worshipped by the ancient idolatrous inhabitants of that country ("Egypt," in Hall's Life of Salt, 2, 416). Those who have prosecuted their researches among the rubbish of the temples, he says, have found in the deeply sequestered chambers they were able to reach
"The wildest images, unheard of, strange, That ever puzzled antiquarians' brains: Genii, with heads of birds, hawks, ibis, drakes, Of lions, foxes, cats, fish, frogs, and snakes,
Bulls, rams, and monkeys, hippopotami, With knife in paw, suspended from the sky; Gods germinating men, and men turned gods, Seated in honor, with gilt crooks and rods;
Vast scarabaei, globes by hands upheld, From chaos springing, 'mid an endless field: Of forms grotesque, the sphinx, the crocodile, And other reptiles from the slime of Nile."
In order to show the reader still further how exactly this inner chamber that Ezekiel saw was constructed after the Egyptian fashion, we subjoin an extract from the work of another traveler, descriptive of the great temple of Edfu, one of the admirable relics of antiquity, from which it will be seen that the degenerate priests of Jerusalem had borrowed the whole style of the edifice in which they were celebrating their hidden rites — its form, its entrance, as well as its pictorial ornaments on the walls from their idolatrous neighbors of Egypt; "Considerably below the surface of the adjoining building," says he, "my conductor pointed out to me a chink in an old wall, which he told me I should creep through on my hands and feet; the aperture was not two feet and a half high, and scarcely three feet and a half broad. My companion had the courage to go first, thrusting in a lamp before him: I followed. The passage was so narrow that my mouth and nose were almost buried in the dust, and I was nearly suffocated. After proceeding about ten yards in utter darkness, the heat became excessive, the breathing was laborious, the perspiration poured down my face, and I would have given the world to have got out; but my companion, whose person I could not distinguish, though his voice was audible, called out to me to crawl a few feet further, and that I should find plenty of room. I joined him at length, and had the inexpressible satisfaction of standing once more upon my feet. We found ourselves in a splendid apartment of great magnitude, adorned with an incredible profusion of sacred paintings and hieroglyphics" (Madden's Travels in Turkey, Egypt, etc.; see also Maurice, Indian Antiq. 2, 212). In the dark recesses of such a chamber as this, which they entered like the traveler through a hole in the outer wall, and in which was painted to the eye the grotesque and motley group of Egyptian divinities, were the chief men at Jerusalem actually employed when Ezekiel saw them. With minds highly excited by the dazzling splendor, and the clouds of fragrant smoke that filled the apartment, the performers of those clandestine rites seem to have surpassed even the enthusiastic zeal of their ancestors in the days of Moses, when, crowding round the pedestal of the golden calf, they rent the air with their cries of "These be thy gods, 0 Israel!" Beneath a calmer exterior, the actors in the scene pointed out to 'Ezekiel concealed a stronger and more intense passion for idolatry. Every form of animal life, from the noblest quadruped to the most loathsome reptile that spawned in Egypt, received a share of their insane homage; and the most extraordinary feature of the scene was that the individual who appeared to be the director of these foul mysteries, the master of ceremonies, was Jaazaniah, a descendant of that zealous scribe who had gained so much renown as the principal adviser of the good king Josiah, and whose family had for generations been regarded as the most illustrious for piety in the land. The presence of a scion of this venerated house in such a den of impurity struck the prophet as an electric shock, and showed, better than all the other painful spectacles this chamber exhibited, to what a fearful extent idolatry had inundated the land. SEE IDOLATRY.
It might have been supposed impossible for men to have sunk to a lower depth of superstition than that of imitating the Egyptians in worshipping the monsters of the Nile, or the vegetable produce of their fields and gardens, had not the prophet been directed to turn yet again, and he would see greater abominations that they did. "Then he brought me to the gate of the Lord's house, which was towards the north; and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz" (ver. 14). This, the principal deity of the Phoenicians, and who was often called also by that people Adoni, that is, My Lord, became afterwards famous in the Grecian mythology under the well-known name of Adonis; and the circumstance of his 'being selected for the subject of their most beautiful fiction by so many of the classic poets is a sufficient proof of the great popular interest his name and ritual excited among the idolaters of the ancient world. It is said to have originated in a tragic adventure that befell an intrepid and beautiful prince of Phoenicia, who was killed while hunting a wild boar, by which that land was infested, and whose untimely death in the cause of his country was bewailed in an annual festival held to commemorate the disastrous event. During the seven days that the festival lasted, the Phoenicians appeared to be a nation of mourners; and in every town and village a fictitious representation of Tammuz was got up for the occasion, and the whole population assembled to pour forth their unbounded sorrow for his hapless fate, more especially at Byblos, in Syria, where a temple was erected in honor of this national deity. A strange imposture was practiced to influence the public lamentations. There was in this temple a gigantic statue of the god, the eyes of which were filled with lead, which, on fire being applied within, of course melted and fell in big drops to the ground, a signal for the loud wailings of the by-standers, whose eyes, in sympathetic imitation, were dissolved in tears. Conspicuous among the crowd on such occasions, a band of mercenary females directed the orgies; and, in conformity with an ancient custom of bewailing the dead on anniversaries at the doors of houses (Potter's Grecian Antiq. bk. 4: ch. 3), others took their station at the gate, with their faces directed northwards, as the sun was said to have been in that quarter of the heavens at the time when Tammuz died. These violent efforts in mourning were always followed by scenes of the most licentious and revolting revelry, which, though not mentioned, are manifestly implied among the "greater abominations" which degraded this other group of idolaters. SEE TAMMUZ.
Besides the hieroglyphics of Egypt and the orgies of Tammuz, there was another form of superstition still, which in Jerusalem, then almost wholly given to idolatry, had its distinguished patrons. "Turn thee yet again," said his celestial guide to the prophet, "and thou shalt see greater abominations than these" (ver. 16). So he brought him "unto the inner court of the Lord's house, and behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs towards the temple of the Lord, and their faces towards the east: and they worshipped the sun towards the east." Perhaps of all the varieties of superstition, which had crept in among the Hebrews in that period of general decline, none displayed such flagrant dishonor to the God of Israel as this (Clem. Alexandrinus, Strom. 7, 520); for, as the most holy place was situated at the west end of the sanctuary, it was impossible for these twenty-five men to pay their homage to the rising sun without turning their backs on the consecrated place of the divine presence; and accordingly this fourth circle is introduced last, as if their employment formed the climax of abominations the worst and most woeful sign of the times. Could stronger proofs be wasted that the Lord had not forsaken Israel, but was driven from them? This was the lesson intended, and actually accomplished by the vision; for while the prophet was made aware by this mystic scene of the actual state of things among his degenerate countrymen at home, he saw himself-and instructed the pious circle around him to see-a proof of the long-suffering and the just severity of God in deferring to answer their fervent and long-continued prayers for the emancipation of their country. SEE SUN.