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The Portraiture of Jerusalem

In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel we find
one of the remarkable and elaborate
instances in Scripture of instruction,
warning, and prophecy by symbolical
action. The prophet is directed to make
a representation of Jerusalem upon a
tile, and in its presence to carry on,
during a protracted period, by
symbolical procedure, the operations of
a siege, and represent its accompanying
circumstances of calamity and privation.
The details are curious, interesting, and
instructive; but as they have become in
some points obscure by lapse of time, or
from imperfect knowledge of eastern
usages, we shall endeavor to explain
The direction to portray the city upon a
tile seems at the first view a strange
mode of representation. It would have
been so even in Palestine at the date of
the transaction; but it was the most
natural and obvious mode of
representation that could be devised in
Chaldea, where the practice of writing
and portraying, by indented figures
upon broad and thin bricks or tiles, is
now well known from abundance of
actual remains. Great numbers of such
bricks, charged with inscriptions, and
with figures of animals and other
objects, have been found among the
ancient ruins of Chaldea and Assyria.
The bricks employed for this use are
mostly of fine clay, hardened in the fire.
They are of various sizes, but usually of a
foot square by three inches in thickness.
In those that have been found, one of
the broad surfaces is immensely charged
with inscriptions in the wedge-shaped
character; and some of them, in addition
to the lines of inscribed writing, have the
figures of animals and other objects,
with other lines of inscription attached
to them. It has hence been conjectured,
that these tiles comprise public and
private documents, with the names and
seals of witnesses, and that the ruined
edifices from which they have been
obtained were the repositories of such
archives. In fact, the second discovery by
Mr. Layard, in his last visit to Nineveh,
of a large chamber filled with such
inscribed tiles, places this beyond
question; and establishes the probability
that the record-chambers at Babylon
and at Ecbatana, which were
successively explored for the original
decree of Cyrus in favor of the Jews,
were such chambers as those, and the
records like these inscribed on tiles. The
object, doubtless, was to give them the
most enduring shapeas durable as
inscription on stone, perhaps more
durable, while far less expensive and
cumbersome. There is much reason to
hope that the inscriptions on tile and
marble already brought to light, and
more that is assuredly yet to be found,
will ere long be deciphered, as already
has been partly done. Indeed, Colonel
Rawlinson expresses little doubt of
being able to read the contents of this
record-chamber; and when this is
accomplished, we shall doubtless
acquire large additions to our present
imperfect knowledge of the remote
history of Assyria, Babylonia, and
Media, with new and valuable materials
for the illustration of Scripture. Indeed,
if the decree of Cyrus had been then
found at Babylon, we might cherish the
hope of its being yet discovered there;
and if so, as a version of it exists in the
Bible, it would furnish a key for the
translation of other memorials of the
same kind. But the decree was found in
the record-chamber at Ecbatana in
Media. This is the modern Hamadan,
and when we visited that place, we did
not perceive any such mounds or
heaps (to use the Scriptural term), as
those of the ancient sites of the Tigris
and Euphrates, the exploration of which
might offer the hope of any such reward
to antiquarian research.
As to the mode of representation in the
case before us, it may have been by
impressing the name or symbol of
Jerusalem upon the tile. The direction
given to the prophet is, however, to
portray Jerusalem itself. We incline,
therefore, to think that the city was
actually figured in such a way as to be
recognizable by the exiles whom the
prophet addressed, and to whom the
actual site was familiar. This might be
done by means of engraving or
indentingor perhaps by color, for
traces of color have been found upon the
bricks of the Assyrian palaces. Either
way, the representation of a town would
have been no difficult process, according
to the mode followed by the Assyrian
artists, who have left us many
representations of towns in their
sculptures. It was only needful to define
the site in a rough way, and to mark out
upon the conspicuous points one or two
of the remarkable buildings. The
following engraving shows how this
might be done. Indeed, there is some
reason to suppose that this is an
Assyrian representation of Jerusalem;
and if so, it is quite within the range of
probability that we see in it a facsimile
of the portraiture of Jerusalem which
appeared upon the tile of Ezekiel; for it
may, easily be supposed that when
ordered to portray that city, the prophet
would do so after the fashion of those
acknowledged representations of it, so
easy to copy, which he had seen on the
walls of the Assyrian palaces. We say
had seen advisedly; for there is much
evidence in various allusions to be found
in his prophecy, that he had seen and
noticed with particular attention the
chambers of imagery in these regal
abodes; and if so, he must have regarded
with especial interest any
representations of Jerusalem which may
have been found in them.
Assyrian Portraiture of Jerusalem

In regard to the probability of this

sculpture being intended to represent
Jerusalem, there can be no better
authority than Mr. Bonomi, who is well
acquainted with that city, and has
studied its topography and antiquities.
Speaking of this sculpture in his recent
work on Nineveh and its Palaces, he
says: The sculpture represents a
fortified city, built upon a considerable
elevation, opposite to which is a still
higher craggy hill, surmounted by a
castellated tower, from the base of which
a narrow stream flows down into the
valley that separates the two hills. It is
especially to be observed that olive-trees
are growing upon both the hills, but
more particularly on the one upon the
summit of which is the tower; and that
on the half of the city is a walk, or road,
about half-way up, below which, and at
the side of the stream, is a row of tombs,
or inferior houses. The relative situation
of these objects exactly resembles the
position of similar objects visible on
approaching Jerusalem from the East.
On our left we have Mount Moriah and
the high wall of the temple; at our feet
the brook Kedron, and the tombs of the
valley of Jehoshaphat, or some inferior
buildings at the base of Mount Moriah;
and on our left the Mount of Olives. The
chief objection to this interpretation, is
the circumstance of the stream taking its
rise in the Mount of Olivesa
topographical inaccuracy, however, that
might easily be pardoned in the Assyrian
artist, if time and the Arabs had but
spared us the other friezes to assist us in
interpreting this relievo, and the other
significant decorations of the chamber.