12. Then 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.
Again God questions his servant: we have explained the reason -- that he may pass sentence as a judge on his own people, whence it may be more clearly evident that those who had provoked God were unworthy of any pardon. Thou seest, says he, what the elders do? Through a feeling of honor he does not here name these elders of the house of Israel, but rather reproves their ingratitude, because they so drive others with them into alliance with their impiety. For elders ought to show the way to others. Since, therefore, the profanation of the worship of God took its origin from them, hence their disgrace is increased, and they were worthy of greater reproach. Seest thou, says he, what they do in darkness? From this word I gather that the place was remote from public observation; for there were near the floor of the Temple many cells and many chambers, as we see in Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 20:2; 1 Kings 6:5.) Since, then, the ciders had their apartments there, it is not surprising that a place was shown to the Prophet which they had so stained with their paintings. But he says that they did it in darkness, because they kept secret their sacred rites; as also there were mysteries among profane nations, which were not open to any but the initiated. Since therefore the multitude was not thought worthy of those mysteries, it is therefore probable that the place among the Jews of which the Prophet speaks was like a small chapel, which the elders, and those who had authority among the people, retained to themselves. he adds, each within the recesses. Some translate -- in the chambers of their painting; but I take the word
Now, therefore, we see in what sense the Prophet mentions hiding-places of their imagination, namely, because they reckon such pictures the mark of the greatest and rarest prudence. This was again prodigious, that the elders so gave themselves up to foul defilements. For among profane nations no religion held the leaders and heads of the people. We shall not find, either among the Greeks or the Latins, any of the higher classes, and of the chief governors, involved in the errors of the common people, but they pretended religion, that they might hold others in obedience. They instituted, indeed, great pomp; they pretended no small degree of reverence; but when they passed their time as friends at home, they laughed at all these trifles. Since, therefore, all the ceremonies of the Gentiles were a laughing-stock to sensible men, this was indeed a detestable prodigy that the elders of the people of Israel, in a secret place, in the very recesses of their thoughts, fabricated idols for themselves. Now the cause is expressed why they heaped to themselves that multitude of gods, namely, because they thought that God no longer regarded them. This passage is badly explained when interpreters think that the elders were epicureans, who dreamt that God enjoyed case and indulgence in heaven. They bring forward other passages, which seem similar but in words only, as where, in the book of Job, the impiety of the multitude is described, he says they think that God walks upon the hinges of heaven. (Job 22:14.) But the Prophet speaks more within bounds. Hence those who take this passage generally, extenuate the force of the doctrine which ought to be elicited from these words. Why, then, had the Jews fabricated so many idols for themselves? because they thought that God no longer regarded them, as I have already explained it; and this was the sign of their gross depravity; for God had chastised them in various ways: they ought to have returned into the way, yet they were so far from repenting, that they rather champed the bit, and thus persuaded themselves to seek other deities. And this impiety has occurred in all ages. At this time it clearly appears in the Papacy; nay, even the blind may even feel it with their hands. For when God afflicts these wretched ones, at first they suppliantly ask pardon; but. when he presses upon them more severely, then they begin to rage and look hither and thither, and have a common proverb -- "I know not to what saint I ought to pay my vows." Boys learn this proverb in the Papacy, and old men always have it on their lips in perplexity. Hence Ezekiel reproves this fault, when he gives this as a reason for the aged heaping up this multitude of deities -- that they thought themselves overlooked by God -- Jehovah, they say, does not see us here: they do not speak simply of God's providence, but indignantly complain of his disregard, because he did not relieve their miseries, and had deserted the land, as they afterwards explain themselves; for they immediately assert that God had deserted the land. We see, therefore, that they did not speak simply against God's providence, as if he despised human things, but that they were inflamed with fury, because God's hand pressed them heavily, and they did not feel any help in him. Hence they descended to brutes, reptiles, various painting's, and all kinds of abomination, because they thought that they were worshipping in vain the one true God. It follows --
1 "In darkness." -- Calvin
2 Or, "inward places." -- Calvin
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