Ezekiel 4:10
And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.
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(10) By weight, twenty shekels a day.—The weight of the shekel is somewhat differently estimated by different authorities. The best computations fix it at about 220 grains, and this would make the allowance of twenty shekels equal to something less than eleven ounces, scarcely enough to sustain life. “Meat” is here used, as often in Scripture, of any kind of food. The extreme scarcity of food is also denoted by its being weighed rather than measured. “From time to time” means at set intervals of time (see 1Chronicles 9:25), here doubtless once a day. Only the longer period of 390 days is here mentioned, but the same command doubtless applied to both periods.

Ezekiel 4:10-12. And thy meat shall be by weight twenty shekels, &c. — In sieges it is common to stint every one to a certain allowance, by which means they can guess how long their provisions will last: twenty shekels is but ten ounces; a short allowance for a day’s sustenance. From time to time shalt thou eat of it — This shall be thy daily allowance during the whole three hundred and ninety days. Thou shalt drink also water by measure — In sieges it is usual for the enemy to cut off the water from coming into the cities which they besiege, as much as they can, which produces a scarcity of it; the sixth part of a hin — Which is about a pint and a half of our measure. Thou shalt eat it as barley cakes — Such as people make in haste, when they have not time for preparing a set meal: see Exodus 12:39. This represents the hurry and disorder which would be occasioned by the siege. And thou shalt bake it with dung — To signify the scarcity of all kinds of fuel. Sir J. Chardin, in his MS. quoted by Harmer, tells us, “the eastern people always used cow-dung for baking, boiling a pot, and dressing all kinds of victuals that are easily cooked; especially in countries that had but little wood.” And D’Arvieux,

“complaining that one sort of Arab bread smells of smoke, and tastes of the cow-dung used in baking it, informs us, that the peasants often make use of the same fuel, and that all who live in villages where there is not plenty of wood, are very careful to stock themselves with it; the children,” he says, “gather up the dung, and clap it against a wall to dry, from whence the quantity that is necessary for baking, or warming themselves, is taken from time to time.” — Harmer, chap. 4. observ. 20, vol. 1. According to Dathius, quoted by Bishop Newcome, the dung of camels, as well as that of cows or oxen, was also “often used by the easterns as fuel for preparing their food.” But the command here given to the prophet, to use human dung, expressed the greatest necessity, and was terribly significant of the extremities which the inhabitants of Jerusalem should undergo during the siege, no nation making use of that offensive kind of fuel.

4:9-17 The bread which was Ezekiel's support, was to be made of coarse grain and pulse mixed together, seldom used except in times of urgent scarcity, and of this he was only to take a small quantity. Thus was figured the extremity to which the Jews were to be reduced during the siege and captivity. Ezekiel does not plead, Lord, from my youth I have been brought up delicately, and never used to any thing like this; but that he had been brought up conscientiously, and never had eaten any thing forbidden by the law. It will be comfortable when we are brought to suffer hardships, if our hearts can witness that we have always been careful to keep even from the appearance of evil. See what woful work sin makes, and acknowledge the righteousness of God herein. Their plenty having been abused to luxury and excess, they were justly punished by famine. When men serve not God with cheerfulness in the abundance of all things, God will make them serve their enemies in the want of all things.meat - A general term for food, which in this case consists of grain. Instead of measuring, it was necessary in extreme scarcity to weigh it Leviticus 26:26; Revelation 6:6.

Twenty shekels a day - The shekel contained about 220 grains, so that 20 shekels would be about 56 of a pound.

From time to time - Thou shalt receive and eat it at the appointed interval of a day.

10. twenty shekels—that is, little more than ten ounces; a scant measure to sustain life (Jer 52:6). But it applies not only to the siege, but to their whole subsequent state. Thy meat; the mean and coarse bread which thou must eat and be content with.

By weight; not full, as once; not as much as you will, but a small pittance delivered by weight to all; which bespeaks the extreme penury the city should be brought to.

Twenty shekels; some say five ounces, others say ten ounces, the greater of the two scarce enough to maintain life, and yet, it is probable enough, it was but five ounces of bread which was his allowance. A hard case, when the law of the twelve tables allowed a pound of bread to prisoners daily for their diet. But here the prophet hath but half that allowance, if the twenty shekels were shekels of the sanctuary; and he hath but a quarter of that allowance, if they were common shekels by which his allowance was weighed.

From time to time; at set hours this was weighed out, and no more could be had at any other time, whether morning or evening; once in four and twenty hours, or once in twelve hours, still at the appointed hour; and possibly there might be different hours appointed to different persons, and every one must observe his own time.

And thy meat which thou shall eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day,.... To eat bread by weight was a sign of a grievous famine; see Leviticus 26:26; a shekel, according to Josephus (i), weighed four Attic drachms, or half an ounce, wherefore twenty shekels weighed ten ounces; so that the bread the prophet had to eat was but ten ounces a day:

from time to time shall thou eat it; at the certain time of eating, or but once a day; from a set time in one day to the same in another; as from morning to morning, or from noon to noon, or from evening to evening; see Jeremiah 37:21.

(i) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 8. sect. 2.

And thy food which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, {h} twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.

(h) Which make a pound.

10. twenty shekels a day] Twenty shekels might be eight or nine ounces. In this country two pounds of bread is held an ordinary allowance.

Verse 10. - Thy meat, etc.; better, food, here and elsewhere. Coarse as the food was, the people would have but scanty rations of it. Men were not, as usual, to measure the corn, but to weigh the bread (Leviticus 26:26). Taking the shekel at about 220 grains, the twenty shekels would be about 10 or 12 ounces. The common allowance in England for prison or pauper dietaries gives, I believe from 24 to 32 ounces, Besides other food. And this was to be taken, not as hunger prompted, but at the appointed hour. once a day. The whole scene of the people of the besieged city coming for their daily rations is brought vividly before us. Ezekiel 4:10The third symbolical act. - Ezekiel 4:9. And do thou take to thyself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and spelt, and put them in a vessel, and prepare them as bread for thyself, according to the number of the days on which thou liest on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:10. And thy food, which thou eatest, shall be according to weight, twenty shekels for a day; from time to time shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:11. And water shalt thou drink according to measure, a sixth part of the hin, from time to time shalt thou drink it. Ezekiel 4:12. And as barley cakes shalt thou eat it, and shalt bake it before their eyes with human excrement. Ezekiel 4:13. And Jehovah spake; then shall the children of Israel eat their bread polluted amongst the heathen, whither I shall drive them. Ezekiel 4:14. Then said I: Ah! Lord, Jehovah, my soul has never been polluted; and of a carcase, and of that which is torn, have I never eaten from my youth up until now, and abominable flesh has not come into my mouth. Ezekiel 4:15. Then said He unto me: Lo, I allow thee the dung of animals instead of that of man; therewith mayest thou prepare thy bread. Ezekiel 4:16. And He said to me, Son of man, lo, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, so that they will eat bread according to weight, and in affliction, and drink water by measure, and in amazement. Ezekiel 4:17. Because bread and water shall fail, and they shall pine away one with another, and disappear in their guilt. - For the whole duration of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, Ezekiel is to furnish himself with a store of grain corn and leguminous fruits, to place this store in a vessel beside him, and daily to prepare in the form of bread a measured portion of the same, 20 shekels in weight (about 9 ounces), and to bake this as barley cakes upon a fire, prepared with dried dung, and then to partake of it at the different hours for meals throughout the day. In addition to this, he is, at the hours appointed for eating, to drink water, in like manner according to measure, a sixth part of the hin daily, i.e., a quantity less than a pint (cf. Biblisch. Archol. II. p. 141). The Israelites, probably, generally prepared the עגּות from wheat flour, and not merely when they had guests (Genesis 18:6). Ezekiel, however, is to take, in addition, other kinds of grain with leguminous fruits, which were employed in the preparation of bread when wheat was deficient; barley - baked into bread by the poor (Judges 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; see on 1 Kings 5:8); פּול, "beans," a common food of the Hebrews (2 Samuel 17:28), which appears to have been mixed with other kinds of grain for the purpose of being baked into bread.

(Note: Cf. Plinii Histor. Natur. xviii. 30: "Inter legumina maximus honos fabae, quippe ex qua tentatus sit etiam panis...Frumento etiam miscetur apud plerasque gentes et maxime panico solida ac delicatius fracta.")

This especially holds true of the lentiles, a favourite food of the Hebrews (Genesis 25:29.), from which, in Egypt at the present day, the poor still bake bread in times of severe famine (Sonnini, R. II. 390; ἄρτος φάκινος, Athenaeus, IV. 158). דּחן, "millet," termed by the Arabs "Dochn" (Arab. dchn), panicum, a fruit cultivated in Egypt, and still more frequently in Arabia (see Wellsted, Arab. I. 295), consisting of longish round brown grain, resembling rice, from which, in the absence of better fruits, a sort of bad bread is baked. Cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, i. 453ff.; and Gesen. Thesaur. p. 333. כּסּמים, "spelt or German corn" (cf. Exodus 9:32), a kind of grain which produces a finer and whiter flour than wheat flour; the bread, however, which is baked from it is somewhat dry, and is said to be less nutritive than wheat bread; cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, ii. 98f. Of all these fruits Ezekiel is to place certain quantities in a vessel - to indicate that all kinds of grain and leguminous fruits capable of being converted into bread will be collected, in order to bake bread for the appeasing of hunger. In the intermixture of various kinds of flour we are not, with Hitzig, to seek a transgression of the law in Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9. מספּר is the accusative of measure or duration. The quantity is to be fixed according to the number of the days. In Ezekiel 4:9 only the 390 days of the house of Israel's period of punishment are mentioned - quod plures essent et fere universa summa (Prado); and because this was sufficient to make prominent the hardship and oppression of the situation, the 40 days of Judah were omitted for the sake of brevity.

(Note: Kliefoth's supposition is untenable, that what is required in Ezekiel 4:9-17 refers in reality only to the 390 days of Israel, and not also to the 40 days of Judah, so that so long as Ezekiel lay and bore the sins of Israel, he was to eat his food by measure, and unclean. For this is in contradiction with the distinct announcement that during the whole time that he lay upon the one side and the other, he was besieging Jerusalem; and by the scanty and unclean food, was to portray both the deficiency of bread and water which occurred in the besieged city (Ezekiel 4:17), as well as the eating of unclean bread, which impended over the Israelites when among the heathen nations. The famine which took place in Jerusalem during the siege did not affect the ten tribes, but that of Judah; while unclean bread had to be eaten among the heathen not only by the Israelites, but also by the Jews transported to Babylon. By the limitation of what is prescribed to the prophet in Ezekiel 4:9-15 to the time during which the sin of Israel was to be borne, the significance of this symbolical act for Jerusalem and Judah is taken away.)

מאכלך וגו, "thy food which thou shalt eat," i.e., the definite portion which thou shalt have to eat, shall be according to weight (between subject and predicate the substantive verb is to be supplied). Twenty shekels equals 8 or 9 ounces of flour, yield 11 or 12 ounces of bread, i.e., at most the half of what a man needs in southern countries for his daily support.

(Note: In our climate (Germany) we count 2 lbs. of bread for the daily supply of a man; but in warm countries the demand for food is less, so that scarcely 1 1/2 lbs. are required. Wellsted (Travels in Arabia, II. p. 200) relates that "the Bedoweens will undertake a journey of 10 to 12 days without carrying with them any nutriment, save a bottle full of small cakes, baked of white flour and camel or goat's milk, and a leather bag of water. Such a cake weighs about 5 ounces. Two of them, and a mouthful of water, the latter twice within 24 hours, is all which they then partake of.")

The same is the case with the water. A sixth part of a hin, i.e., a quantity less than a pint, is a very stubborn allowance for a day. Both, however - eating the bread and drinking the water - he shall do from time to time, i.e., "not throughout the entire fixed period of 390 days" (Hvernick); but he shall not eat the daily ration at once, but divided into portions according to the daily hours of meals, so that he will never be completely satisfied. In addition to this is the pollution (Ezekiel 4:12.) of the scanty allowance of food by the manner in which it is prepared. ענּת שׂערים is predicate: "as barley cakes," shalt thou eat them. The suffix in תּאכלנּה is neuter, and refers to לחם in Ezekiel 4:9, or rather to the kinds of grain there enumerated, which are ground and baked before them: לחם, i.e., "food." The addition שׂערים is not to be explained from this, that the principal part of these consisted of barley, nor does it prove that in general no other than barley cakes were known (Hitzig), but only that the cakes of barley meal, baked in the ashes, were an extremely frugal kind of bread, which that prepared by Ezekiel was to resemble. The עגּה was probably always baked on hot ashes, or on hot stones (1 Kings 19:6), not on pans, as Kliefoth here supposes. The prophet, however, is to bake them in (with) human ordure. This is by no means to be understood as if he were to mix the ordure with the food, for which view Isaiah 36:12 has been erroneously appealed to; but - as עליהם in Ezekiel 4:15 clearly shows - he is to bake it over the dung, i.e., so that dung forms the material of the fire. That the bread must be polluted by this is conceivable, although it cannot be proved from the passages in Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21, and Deuteronomy 23:13 that the use of fire composed of dung made the food prepared thereon levitically unclean. The use of fire with human ordure must have communicated to the bread a loathsome smell and taste, by which it was rendered unclean, even if it had not been immediately baked in the hot ashes. That the pollution of the bread is the object of this injunction, we see from the explanation which God gives in Ezekiel 4:13 : "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the heathen." The heart of the prophet, however, rebels against such food. He says he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law; from his youth up he has eaten no unclean flesh, neither of a carcase, nor of that which was torn by wild beasts (cf. Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21), nor flesh of sacrifices decayed or putrefying (פּגּוּל, see on Leviticus 7:18; Isaiah 65:4). On this God omits the requirement in Ezekiel 4:12, and permits him to take for firing the dung of oxen instead of that of men.

(Note: The use of dung as a material for burning is so common in the East, that it cannot be supposed that Ezekiel first became acquainted with it in a foreign country, and therefore regarded it with peculiar loathing. Human ordure, of course, so far as our knowledge goes, is never so employed, although the objection raised by Hitzig, on the other hand, that it would not yield so much heat as would be necessary for roasting without immediate contact, i.e., through the medium of a brick, rests upon an erroneous representation of the matter. But the employment of cattle-dung for firing could not be unknown to the Israelites, as it forms in the Huaran (the ancient Bashan) the customary firing material; cf. Wetzstein's remarks on Delitzsch's Job, vol. I. pp. 377, 8 (Eng. trn.), where the preparation of the g'elle - this prevalent material for burning in the Hauran - from cow-dung mixed with chopped straw is minutely described; and this remark is made among others, that the flame of the g'elle, prepared and dried from the dung of oxen that feed at large, is entirely without smoke, and that the ashes, which retain their heat for a lengthened time, are as clean as those of wood.)

In Ezekiel 4:16., finally, is given the explanation of the scanty allowance of food meted out to the prophet, namely, that the Lord, at the impending siege of Jerusalem, is to take away from the people the staff of bread, and leave them to languish in hunger and distress. The explanation is in literal adherence to the threatenings of the law (Leviticus 26:26 and Leviticus 26:39), which are now to pass into fulfilment. Bread is called "staff of bread" as being indispensable for the preservation of life. To בּמשׁקל, Leviticus 26:26, בּדאגה, "in sorrow," is added; and to the water, בּשׁמּמון, "in astonishment," i.e., in fixed, silent pain at the miserable death, by hunger and thirst, which they see before them. נמקּוּ בּעונם as Leviticus 26:39. If we, finally, cast a look over the contents of this first sign, it says that Jerusalem is soon to be besieged, and during the siege is to suffer hunger and terror as a punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah; that upon the capture of the city of Israel (Judah) they are to be dispersed among the heathen, and will there be obliged to eat unclean bread. To this in Ezekiel 5 is joined a second sign, which shows further how it shall fare with the people at and after the capture of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-4); and after that a longer oracle, which developes the significance of these signs, and establishes the necessity of the penal judgment (Ezekiel 4:5-17).

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