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As I read through Ezekiel Chapter 8, I took notice of the "seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel" mentioned in verse 11 and what they were doing in the dark.

"11 And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

On getting to verse 12, the scripture says "each in his room of pictures." What does "each in his room of pictures" imply in this scripture? Were there seventy rooms (of pictures) in the temple?

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  • 'In the dark' 'each in his room of pictures' conveys to myself the secret place of their own imaginations, thinking they are unobserved (by the Lord) where they idolatrously worship other than whom and what he is. But this is an interpretation which I cannot prove from the text. Hence a comment, not an answer. – Nigel J Sep 15 '19 at 13:34
  • @Nigel, that's actually pretty good, but more specifically the context is that God has left them, so they have made an idol to replace him. Idols are gods of the imagination. It is similar to the vain imagination in Romans 1:21; which also concerns false gods. 'Pictures' is a poor translation here, distracting from the context of idols. – Bob Jones Sep 15 '19 at 20:28
  • I am looking at it that NIV might help with this interpretation. "He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.’” (Ezekiel 8:12 NIV). – Ernest Abinokhauno Sep 16 '19 at 6:33
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This is the original Hebrew of v. 12 as it was preserved in the MT,

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי, הֲרָאִיתָ בֶן-אָדָם, אֲשֶׁר זִקְנֵי בֵית-יִשְׂרָאֵל עֹשִׂים בַּחֹשֶׁךְ, אִישׁ בְּחַדְרֵי מַשְׂכִּיתוֹ: כִּי אֹמְרִים, אֵין יְהוָה רֹאֶה אֹתָנוּ--עָזַב יְהוָה, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ.

The Hebrew word in question is מַשְׂכִּיתוֹ which I have italicized, and everyone seems to translate it differently. Some translate as idol and some as image or picture. I favor the latter, since the same word מַשְׂכִּית appears in Leviticus 26:1, and most translations agree that it means something like an image or carving in stone, or a sculpted stone (the text speaks specifically about a stone of מַשְׂכִּית). So I think the most natural interpretation of Ezekiel 8:12 would be "each in their image-covered chambers". This actually fits the context well, since in v. 10 their chambers are described as being covered in images of idols,

So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel.

So images or carvings would seem to be the appropriate translation for the word מַשְׂכִּיתוֹ in v. 12.

As for the implication of the text that there were seventy rooms in the temple for the seventy men, I would be wary of such inference. V. 1 makes it abundantly clear that this is only a prophetic vision and not an actual account of what happened in the temple. The number seventy further suggests that the elders are symbolic entities and not actual figures presiding in the temple, although I do agree that the vision comparatively describes the pitiful situation of the Israelites during the first temple period, and that such abominations were rampant in the chambers of the temple.

Hope this helps.

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No original thought here, but I paste a short section I pulled from Michael Heiser's Nakedbible-Ezekiel 8

Taylor has a short commentary, this is part of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series, that comments on this. I think it’s worth a quick read. Taylor writes this about this section:Engraved upon the walls (portrayed, 10, EVV, is inadequate for a word meaning ‘incised’ or ‘carved in relief’) [MH: Basically that means they were reliefs, is what he’s saying] were all kinds of creeping things, loathsome beasts, and idols. Creeping things(Heb. remeś) are specifically mentioned as part of God’s good creation (Gen. 1:24); they are not by definition all unclean [MH: Just because it creeps doesn’t mean it’s unclean], as the AV of Leviticus 11:41 would suggest, for the word translated ‘creeping things’ in that context is the Hebrew šereṣ. They do, however, include many reptiles and small verminous creatures that scurry and slither over the ground, from snakes to scorpions, and these certainly were unclean. The serpent-deities known from Egyptian, Canaanite and Babylonian religions give grounds for supposing that this incident reflects the widespread influence of foreign cults on Israelite worship, cultivated no doubt from political, more than purely religious, motives.

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7And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. 9And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.
10So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.
11And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.
-- Ezekiel 8:7-12 (KJV)

In verse 10, Ezekiel describes what he saw when he entered through the door, "every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.". Then in verse 11,he observes seventy elders who "stood before them", that is, the portrayals1 (carvings) on the wall, with Jaazaniah in the midst of the elders.

In verse 12, the LORD says, rhetorically, "hast thou seen ...", since He knows what Ezekiel has just witnessed for himself.

So, "the chambers of his imagery" is a reference to the room they were currently in, and other rooms within the Sanctuary of the Temple2 that were similarly decorated with carvings. There were many rooms in the Sanctuary, but the number of them is of little consequence. The mention of "seventy" elders, indicates that all of the administrators of service in the Temple were participants in its desecration.


Notes:

  1. חָקָה (Strong's H2707 - chaqah) - cuttings, carvings, engravings

  2. There were many rooms within the Sanctuary of the Temple,
    see Rose Guide to the Temple - PDF Download

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  • "There were many rooms in the Sanctuary, but the number of them is of little consequence." ...is note worthy...but for the number of them that is of consequence. – Ernest Abinokhauno Sep 18 '19 at 5:31
  • @ErnestAbinokhauno Well, you are asking whether the number of rooms is of consequence, and I have concluded that they aren't. Your comment appears to suggest that you have already made up your mind that the number of rooms is significant, which means that you should probably self-answer to share what you have found in support of the claim? Did you look at the Rose Guide to the Temple? Can you find seventy rooms, each of which could be deemed "his room", i.e. one for each priest? I can't. – enegue Sep 18 '19 at 13:12
  • Yes! Each of which could be deemed in his room. I can't agree more! – Ernest Abinokhauno Sep 18 '19 at 18:19
  • @ErnestAbinokhauno You ignored my questions, so it's pretty clear to me that you want the number of rooms to be significant. A final question, "Why is the number of rooms significant to you?" – enegue Sep 19 '19 at 0:41
  • Not actually. I didn't ignore your question(s). I am just trying to think through why we have to adopt some elements in our interpretation and discard certain other elements as immaterial! – Ernest Abinokhauno Sep 19 '19 at 19:28

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