Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 4

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary


Visions and Oracles of Judgment (4:1-7:27)

In this general division of the book chapters 4 and 5 deal with five dramatic acts of the prophet which describe in various ways the siege and the exile to follow. The reader should remember that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed the word of God through action as well as through word. For example, Isaiah walked naked through the streets to dramatize the fact that Egypt and Ethiopia would be captured by Assyrian power (Isaiah 20:1-2). Jeremiah broke a pottery jar as a symbol of God’s intent with respect to Judah ( Jeremiah 19), and when Hananiah broke the yoke of wood, a yoke of iron indicated the Captivity which would become unbreakable (Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:16). The Book of Ezekiel swarms with dramatic acts such as the eating of a scroll (Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3), the dramatizing of captivity (Ezekiel 5:1-4), the portraying of the siege of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-3). There are numerous other instances where the prophet’s act contains a message beyond the power of words to express (for example, ch. 12). It should be understood that the true prophet’s word or deed was really God’s word or deed, creating the event forecast.

Verses 1-17

Symbolic Siege of the City (4:1-17)

The prophet is instructed to take a mud brick and draw a map of Jerusalem on it. Such mud brick maps were common in Mesopotamia. Pretending that the map is the city, Ezekiel then carries out a miniature siege of Jerusalem. The prophet, taking the role of God, sets up camps and battering rams, and an iron plate is placed between him and the city. This prophetic act is "a sign for the house of Israel."

Following the siege there is another fascinating demonstration. Ezekiel is instructed to lie three hundred and ninety days on one side as an indication of the length of Israel’s captivity. He lies on his left side for Israel because a person who stood facing east in Palestine, and then lay back on his left side, would be looking northward where Israel was located. The face would be southward to Judah when he lay on his right side. The number of days has been a source of difficulty. Actually it is better to understand one hundred and ninety days, as does the Greek translation. Approximately one hundred and ninety years elapsed between the beginning of Israel’s captivity, sometime after 734 B.C., and the beginning of return in 538 B.C. (vs. 5).

Ezekiel is not only to lie upon his side for this extended period during the siege, but he must also bare his arm while, as God’s representative, he faces the city (a map on a mud brick). In this manner the prophet demonstrates that God is the chief adversary of Judah. The prophet remains bound during the siege. In all probability this symbolic act was repeated daily, but whether the full cycle of 190 days was completed cannot be said.

Details of life under siege are given in verses 9-17. Scarcity of food and water is described; barley cakes are to be baked with human excrement as fuel, and there is the forecast that "Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations whither I will drive them" (vs. 13). After his natural revulsion the prophet receives the concession from God that animal manure may become fuel for cooking. Hunger and thirst under siege are the terrors which shall cause the people to "waste away under their punishment" (vs. 17).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 4". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-4.html.
Ads FreeProfile