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Chapter 4

I. Siege of Jerusalem portrayed (4:1-17): A. “Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and portray upon it a city, even Jerusalem: and lay siege against it, and build forts against it, and cast up a mound against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it round about. And take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face toward it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel” (4:1-3). 1. Ezekiel is commanded to sketch a drawing on a brick (tile stone) of the city of Jerusalem under a siege. A tile was the kind used in his day for writing things on, a sort of clay tablet. Ezekiel acted out the coming siege and fall of Jerusalem before it actually happened. God gave Ezekiel specific instructions about what to do and say and how to do and say it. What Ezekiel was to do was to draw the city of Jerusalem on the brick and then he was to break the brick to show that the city was going to be destroyed. 2. The prophet is instructed to take an iron pan and set it between him and the city under siege. Some believe this pan between the prophet and the city signifies the Babylonian army as an impenetrable wall that the inhabitants of Jerusalem cannot escape from. He was then instructed to throw rocks and other things at the tile back of the iron pan until it was destroyed. 3. This pantomime symbolized the coming siege of Jerusalem and the complete destruction of Judah and the city (see also Ezekiel 7-8, 16-17). Because Jerusalem was a well-fortified city, it would take Babylon months to capture it. The purpose of a siege was to starve out the enemies and wear them down by halting their flow of food, supplies, and weapons. 4. Ezekiel was also to build a ramp up to the brick city. The ramp provided a relatively smooth incline with which siege towers and battering rams could be pushed. Also the ramp allowed the attackers to get above the bedrock and large foundation stones of the city so the smaller and more vulnerable upper stones could be reached by the battering rams. 5. The very drawing and act was to be a “sign to the house of Israel.” The siege will take place and it did according to the record of II Kings 25:1ff.

B. “Moreover lie thou upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon
it; according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it, thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have appointed the years of their iniquity to be unto thee a number of days, even three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And again, when thou hast accomplished these, thou shalt lie on thy right side, and shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah: forty days, each day for a year, have I appointed it unto thee. And thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with thine arm uncovered; and thou shalt prophesy against it. And, behold, I lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to the other, till thou hast accomplished the days of thy siege” (4:4-8). 1. Ezekiel’s unusual actions symbolically portrayed the fate of Jerusalem. He lay on his left side for 390 days to show that Israel would be punished for 390 years; then he lay on his right side for 40 days to show that Judah would be punished for 40 years. Ezekiel was not allowed to move, symbolizing the fact that the people of Jerusalem would be imprisoned within the walls of the city.

We know that Ezekiel did not have to lie on his side all day because these verses tell of other tasks God asked him to do during this time. Likewise. but ultimately he will dispense judgment. 6:10). or is torn of beasts. Ezekiel is told to first lie upon his left side for 390 days and thereby “bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6. 5. and lentils. 20:33–34) with which the Lord acts on behalf of his people. God would afflict them for a period of time in captivity as they were once afflicted in Egypt. 4:6). neither came there abominable . to them that wait for him. shall appear a second time.g.” Next. I believe it simply means that due to Israel and Judah’s sin. Deut. according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side. twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. as though ropes bound him in his positions. And thou shalt drink water by measure. 430 years is found in Exodus 12:40 as the number of years Israel spent in Egyptian bondage. 53:11) and the author of Hebrews speaks of such bearing of iniquities when he said. We should not try to press this Illustration in Ezekiel too far. Then said I. “Take thou also unto thee wheat.” Isaiah spoke of Jesus who would “bear their iniquities” (Isa. and barley. and millet. among the nations whither I will drive them.. 4:34. it appears that the prophet acted out his drama for only a few hours each day. And Jehovah said. unto salvation” (Heb. for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself. and after this cometh judgment. Israel had been in affliction even before Judah’s 70 years began by the Assyrians beginning about 722 BC. “And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die. God's judgment of sin is inevitable. As the prophet takes God's role in the street drama. but I do not think the text requires this. the expression “thine arm uncovered” (cf. C. 6:6. Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread unclean. Again. apart from sin. shalt thou eat thereof. The Lord promised to help Ezekiel lie on his sides by restraining his movements. 52:10) suggests the more common “outstretched arm” (e. This was a time of Israel’s “affliction” (Gen. he was to lie upon his right side for 40 days and again symbolically “bear the iniquity of the house of Judah. He is longsuffering and may wait for years. Ex. 25:11). The idea of “bearing” is to carry a load. Ezek. and make thee bread thereof. Jesus carried the load of sin to the cross and paid sin’s final penalty so that we would not have to. Ezek. This judgment will include his people. even three hundred and ninety days. Ah Lord Jehovah! behold. And thy food which thou shalt eat shall be by weight. And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes. 4. and put them in one vessel. and beans. 3. and it was during this time that God enabled him to lie quietly. If Ezekiel prostrated himself with his head toward Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel's muteness (3:26) gives way to speech with the instruction to prophesy against the city. however. 9:27-28). my soul hath not been polluted. Ezekiel was to symbolically carry the load of Israel and Judah’s sin by laying on his side for 430 days (a representation of the number of years they are to be punished for their sin). so Christ also. 2. but here it is wielded against Jerusalem. Isa. 15:13). Some interpreters believed that God had someone bind Ezekiel with ropes each day. Dan. having been once offered to bear the sins of many. and spelt. and thou shalt bake it in their sight with dung that cometh out of man. the sixth part of a hin: from time to time shalt thou drink. We know that the time of Judah’s captivity was 70 years (Jer. he was facing north when he lay on his left side (and south when he lay on his right side.

flesh into my mouth. 14:3–21). 26:26. and thou shalt prepare thy bread thereon. 2. and with fearfulness. and in dismay: that they may want bread and water. 1:3) he was careful to keep himself undefiled (cf. Deut. behold. I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung. barley. Lev. To “break the staff of bread” (see 5:16. He canceled the most abhorrent aspect of the initial directive. He responded. 12:15–19. This sign was used to show the pollution and defilement the people would experience. supplies were so scarce that several foods had to be combined to provide enough for a meal. was intended to show scarce food would be during the siege. 105:16) means to cut off their food supply and is synonymous with famine. Cow dung. Ezek. however. During the siege. 22:8. to make it last the longer. See. Dung was mixed with straw and allowed to dry. Normally each of these foods was in abundance. my soul hath not been polluted. Then he said unto me. I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight. 14:13. and pine away in their iniquity” (4:9-17). Ezekiel was to bake his bread in the sight of the people.). a common fuel then as now. The two acts (i. Ezekiel is instructed to take small amounts of food and set it beside him for the duration of his bearing the iniquity of Israel and Judah. No stigma was associated with the use of animal dung. Though the Law did not specifically prohibit the use of human dung for cooking. its guideline regarding the disposal of human excrement suggests that it was considered improper (cf.” Ezekiel had always kept God’s dietary laws (Deut. As a priest (Ezek. 4:13). Ezekiel was repulsed with the idea of using human dung to make his bread and thereby complained to the Lord that he had never polluted his soul with anything that was unclean. Moreover he said unto me. He was to ration out his daily consumption of bread and water which is an indication of a famine during the siege. and they shall drink water by measure. 4. Ps. Ezekiel is to bake his bread with human dung as fuel. 7. beans. it is customary in all countries to mix several kinds of coarser grain with the finer. This mixture. God heard this complaint of his prophet. So . 3.e.. Ezekiel understood the symbolism of the sign. “Ah Lord Jehovah! Behold. 14). but the action was personally distasteful to him. He could not bring himself to do it. 23:12-14). 44:31). The Lord makes a provision for Ezekiel and allows the prophet to use cow dung rather than human dung to bake his bread. The phrase “staff of bread” probably refers to a method of supply or storage. which was used for cooking fuel in some quarters. The LORD explained the symbolism of using human dung: The people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them (Ezek. rationing his food and using human waist as fuel to cook with) were to represent the “grievous” nature of the suffering during the siege (cf. millet. and fitches. was allowed as a substitute in light of Ezekiel’s prayerful insistence and practical faithfulness to the ceremonial law (Deut. 16:3-4). lentils. Jer. 5. Son of man. The dried dung burned slowly and gave off an unpleasant odor. 6. of wheat. The siege (and subsequent captivity) would force the Israelites to eat defiled food and thus become ceremonially unclean. for human dung (4:14f. Such an act rendered the bread unclean due to its stink and terrible taste. The Lord gave Ezekiel permission to substitute cow’s dung. In times of scarcity. which the prophet is commanded to make. The use of dung as fuel was practiced throughout the Middle East because of the scarcity of wood. and be dismayed one with another. 1. also Lev. but using human dung was considered repulsive.

Ezekiel communicated through these object lessons. 8. “Great. so God says. I am going to put you at the level of the heathen. The measure of “bread by weight” is “twenty shekels” or about nine ounces. heathen idols.” . according the Law of Moses. All these conditions were to symbolize how people back in Jerusalem were going to have to eat to live during the siege. 9. Divine explanations (4:13–17): God first explained why he had directed the prophet to eat food which. was unclean. They insisted on taking on heathen worship. the ration of water is “the sixth part of a hin” or about a pint and a half. This whole situation was to impress the Jews that witnessed Ezekiel doing this that they may see the state of desperation their brethren would be in. They would have to eat sparingly because the famine caused by the siege would be severe. These were famine rations. Note the phrase: “and they shall eat bread by weight … and they shall drink water by measure”. among the nations” where God would banish them (4:13). trying to get across to them that they should expect to be in siege conditions. The prophet’s actions were designed to underscore the fact that the sons of Israel would “eat their bread unclean. 10.