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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-17

EZEKIEL - CHAPTER 4

THE TILE SIGN---SYMBOLIC ACTION, v. 1-17

Verses 1-17:

Verse 1 recounts the Lord’s direction for Ezekiel as "son of man," to select a tile, or clay brick and lay it before him, and sketch a drawing, or make a blueprint upon it, of the city of Jerusalem (city of peace), the holy city of the house of Israel’s homeland, location of the holy Temple. This was to be a sign to the house of Israel, now in heathen rebellion and Chaldean captivity, Ezekiel 4:3.

Verse 2 directs him to lay siege against it build a fort, a watchtower, against it and cast a mount against it, or build up a high hill of dirt above its walls, as embankment from which to attack the holy city, to destroy it, Jeremiah 52:4. As he sketched upon the tile, as the "son of man," God’s mouthpiece, he also was told to set up the enemy camp with battering rams around the walls of the city, to batter through the walls to enter and destroy the city. This depicted God’s use of the Chaldean army to destroy Jerusalem, the ancient city of the temple center of worship of the house of Israel.

Verse 3 directs Ezekiel also to take an iron pan and set it perpendicular as an iron wall of separation between him and the city, and he was to set his face against or turn his face away, pray not for Jerusalem, because God had irrevocably decreed her destruction because of her people’s willful sins, Proverbs 29:1. Ezekiel was to lay siege against it in the sense that he was to recognize and witness to the Jewish captives in Chaldea that the destruction of Jerusalem was a sign to the house of Israel that they could not flagrantly sin against their God without just punishment, Ezekiel 12:6; Ezekiel 11:24; Ezekiel 24:27.

Verse 4 recounts God’s mandate to Ezekiel to lie on his left side for a period of three hundred and ninety (390) days, bearing the iniquity of Israel, the ten northern tribes, upon his side. This was to reflect the low or base condition of rebellious Israel, with whom even Ezekiel was to be identified, in punishment or suffering for a determined number of years, a year for a day, v. 5. This prone posture indicated a period of specific chastisement Israel was to endure for her sins.

Verse 5 continues "for I have laid upon thee (Ezekiel) the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days," which was 390. That was the period that the Lord commanded him to lie on his left side, bearing the iniquity or punishment of "the house of Israel" the ten northern tribes, v. 4, Numbers 14:34. This was to be followed by a similar posture pattern for Judah, the southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, as described v. 6. This was a symbol of Christ our sin-bearer, Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 53:12.

Verse 6 then directs Ezekiel to lie for a period of forty (40) days upon his right side, also "bearing the iniquity" of Judah for this period, symbolizing forty further years, a decreed year for a day she was to endure chastisement in close ties with Israel for her iniquity or lawless, obstinate rebellion against the laws of her God, Numbers 14:4. This relates to the 40 years of Israel’s chastisement in the wilderness warnings and is a specific example of the Lord’s visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon their children, as found in the law, Exodus 20:5. This is also relative to the 430 years of Israel’s stay in Egypt, Numbers 14:34; Exodus 12:40-41; Galatians 3:17.

Verse 7 calls upon Ezekiel to set his face (with determined purpose) toward the siege of Jerusalem, the holy city. He was to uncover his arm, as prepared to go into warfare, and immediately now start his prophecy of certain pending judgment against it, without escape, Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 52:10.

Verse 8 offers a Divine pledge to Ezekiel to lay bands upon him, some form of restraints, Ezekiel 3:25, so that fulfillment of the prophetic decreed utterance was to be begun upon the Lord’s opening his mouth, as that of John the Baptist’s father Zechariah, Luke 1:62-64. Whether the restraint was a disease, some malady, or a "thorn in the side," as an infirmity given to Paul, is not clear. But it, was God-sent upon Ezekiel to restrain him in a prostrate position, first on his left side for 390 days, then on his right side for 40 days, v. 4-6; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

Verse 9 directed Ezekiel to take six kinds of grain: wheat, barley, beans, lentels, millet, and fitches, and mix them in one vessel to make bread from which he was to eat for the entire 390 days of his prone or prostrate position of resting, on his left side, for more than one year. This mixture symbolizes bread eaten for survival from the richest to the poorest in all Israel during their exiled punishment, indicated v. 5. It was a symbol of the low estate in which all ten tribes of Israel were to be held under the Gentiles for the 390 years.

Verse 10 adds that his meat (daily food) that he should eat, during his prostrate restraint and suffering, should be by weight twenty (20) shekels a day, an amount adequate in nutrition to sustain his life, by bare existence, yet under chastisement or a state of suffering which all Israel had awaiting them for their idolatrous rebellion against God, Exodus 20:5; Galatians 6:6-8. The amount of rationed daily food was said to be "too much for dying and too little for living."

Verse 11 further directed that he should drink a ration of water during these 390 days. It was to be about one quart, a sixth of an hin, from "time to time," believed to be from day to day, a very scant amount for a climate like that of Chaldea or Central Asia. It was a scant measure to sustain life, Jeremiah 52:6.

Verse 12 directs that this food, made from the six mixed grains, normally eaten by the poor, v. 9, should be prepared for him like common "barley cakes." It was to be baked in a peculiarly degrading manner, "with dung that cometh from man," used as cooking fuel, Isaiah 32:12. This special preparation of Ezekiel’s food during his time of binding, while laying on his side, was to be observed by the Jewish people about him daily, as it was prepared "in their sight." Human dung, made one unclean, under the law if left or used in the camp, Deuteronomy 14:3; Deuteronomy 23:12-14.

Verse 13 asserts "even thus", (just like this) should the children of Israel in captivity eat their defiled bread, (putrefied bread) among the Gentiles where he would drive them among the heathen, like starving cattle or beasts of the field, Hosea 9:3; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 28:68.

Verse 14 recounts Ezekiel’s protest against or abhorrence of the polluted bread or food of which he was to live for more than a year. Like Peter before the Lord, Acts 10:14, he protested to the Lord that he had not personally eaten of any kind of food forbidden by the holy laws of Moses. He had eaten neither any thing that "died of itself," of some disease, nor that had been mangled or torn then offered him as food, Isaiah 65:4; Yet, he was determined to suffer, on a national scale, with the masses of Israel who had done these law­-forbidden things, verifying that the sins of parents did and does cause their children to suffer. As surely as the "fathers eat sour grapes their children’s teeth will be set on edge," Ezekiel 18:2; Exodus 20:5. Flesh of animals three days killed was prohibited as food, Leviticus 7:17-18; Leviticus 19:6-7.

Verse 15 recounts the Lord’s response to his prayer to protest of his personal innocence of defiling the food for cooking laws of Israel, as given by Moses. Instead of human dung as fuel for cooking his food the Lord responded by giving for fuel cow’s dung to "prepare his bread therewith." Even today the use of dried cow dung, mixed with straw and dried, is widely used by the Arabs as cooking fuel. Against this fuel use Ezekiel did not protest, apparently considering it not polluting to the food cooked with it.

Verse 16 then declares that the Lord will break the staff (life support) of bread in Jerusalem, causing it to be scanty, though not polluted, during the forty days he was to lay on his right side, v. 6. See Leviticus 26:26; Psalms 105:16; Isaiah 3:1; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13. Judah’s suffering was to be certain and fixed but not so severe or long as that of Israel. They were destined to eat food by weight-rationing, and drink water by measured-rationing, fearful that it might cease for a period of some 40 years.

Verse 17 asserts that this period of national famine for Judah and Jerusalem was sent, that they might be in continual or repeated want for food and water, that they might consume or pine away for their sins, and come to acknowledge that they "lived, moved, and had their being in Him," and without Him they "could do nothing," Acts 17:28; John 15:5; Leviticus 26:39.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezekiel 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezekiel-4.html. 1985.
 
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