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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Imagery

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(מִשְׂכַּית, maskith', an image, as rendered Leviticus 26:1; or picture, as rendered Numbers 33:52), only in the phrase "chambers of his imagery" (Ezekiel 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 (Ezekiel 8:3; 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 (Ezekiel 8:7), 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."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Imagery'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/imagery.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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