Ezekiel 4:12
And you shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it with dung that comes out of man, in their sight.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) As barley cakes.—These were commonly cooked in the hot ashes, hence the especial defilement caused by the fuel required to be used. Against this the prophet pleads, not merely as revolting in itself, but as ceremonially polluting (Ezekiel 4:14; see Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21), and a mitigation of the requirement is granted to him (Ezekiel 4:15).

In their sight—This is still a part of the vision. The words have been thought to determine that the whole transaction was an actual symbolic act and not a vision; but this does not follow. It need only have been a part of the vision that what was done was done publicly.

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.In eastern countries where fuel is scarce the want is supplied by dried cow-dung laid up for the winter. Barley cakes were (and are) baked under hot ashes without an oven. The dung here is to be burned to ashes, and the ashes so employed. 12. dung—as fuel; so the Arabs use beasts' dung, wood fuel being scarce. But to use human dung so implies the most cruel necessity. It was in violation of the law (De 14:3; 23:12-14); it must therefore have been done only in vision. As barley cakes: these were delicacies with them when they could temper and make them right, but now these pitiful things should be to these half-starved bodies as delicates, Or rather, because they were greedy, and could not stay till they were baked. Or, lest any should take it from them. Or, because they never had enough to make a loaf with, they eat them as barley cakes.

With dung; there would be no wood left for such necessary uses, nor yet dung of other creatures, they would be all consumed by the length of the siege too. What loathsome food was this! yet in this straitness of the siege they are brought to it.

In their sight; openly, that any might see it. From this passage some conclude this was actually done, and not only represented in a vision. And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes,.... That is, the bread made of wheat, barley, beans, lentiles, millet, and fitches, was to be made in the form of barley cakes, and to be baked as they; not in an oven, but under ashes; and these ashes not of wood, or straw, or turf, but as follows:

and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of men, in their sight: the prophet was to take human dung, and dry it, and then cover the cakes or loaves of his mixed bread with it, and burn it over them, and with it bake it; which must be a very disagreeable task to him, and make the food very nauseous, both to himself and to the Jews, in whose sight it was done; and this shows scarcity of fuel, and the severity of the famine; that they had not fuel to bake with, or could not stay till it was baked in an oven, and therefore took this method; as well as points at what they were to eat when carried captive, as follows:

And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. It was customary in the East to use the dung of animals when perfectly dried as fuel. The hot ashes remaining from it are perfectly clean, and retaining their glow for a considerable time were used for firing cakes upon or under. See Wetzstein in Del. Job, p. 261 (Trans. i. p. 377). Whether the Hebrews would have considered such fuel unclean is not certain (cf. Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21; Deuteronomy 23:13); the material for firing which the prophet is commanded to use would certainly be unclean (Deuteronomy 23:13) as well as loathsome. The command is explained in Ezekiel 4:13.Verse 12. - Thou shall bake it with dung, etc. The process of baking in ashes was as old as the time of Abraham (Genesis 18:6), and continues in Arabia and Syria to the present day. The kneaded dough was rolled into thin flat cakes, and they were placed upon, or hung over, the hot wood embers of the hearth or oven. But in a besieged city the supply of wood for fuel soon fails. The first resource is found, as still often happens in the East, in using the dried dung of camels or of cattle. Before Ezekiel's mind there came the vision of a yet more terrible necessity. That supply also might tail, and then men would be forced to use the dried contents of the "draught houses" or cesspools of Jerusalem. They would be compelled almost literally to fulfil the taunt of Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36:12). That thought, as bringing with it the ceremonial pollution of Leviticus 5:3: 7:21, was as revolting to Ezekiel as it is to us; but like Dante, in a like revolting symbolism ('Inf.,' 18:114), he does not shrink from naming it. It came to him, as with the authority of a Divine command, that he was even to do this, to represent the extreme horrors of the siege. And all this was to be done visibly, before the eyes of his neighbours at Tel-Abib. The general divine instructions. - Ezekiel 3:25. And thou, son of man, lo, they will lay cords upon thee, and bind thee therewith, so that thou canst not go out into their midst. Ezekiel 3:26. And I shall make thy tongue cleave to thy palate, that thou mayest be dumb, and mayest not serve them as a reprover: for they are a stiff-necked generation. Ezekiel 3:27. But when I speak to thee, I will open thy mouth, that thou mayest say to them, Thus sayeth the Lord Jehovah, Let him who wishes to hear, hear, and let him who neglects, neglect (to hear): for they are a stiff necked generation. - The meaning of this general injunction depends upon the determination of the subject in נתנוּ, Ezekiel 3:25. Most expositors think of the prophet's countrymen, who are to bind him with cords so that he shall not be able to leave his house. The words ולא תצא appear to support this, as the suffix in בּתוכם indisputably refers to his countrymen. But this circumstance is by no means decisive; while against this view is the twofold difficulty - firstly, that a binding of the prophet with cords by his countrymen is scarcely reconcilable with what he performs in Ezekiel 4 and 5; secondly, of hostile attacks by the exiles upon the prophet there is not a trace to be discovered in the entire remainder of the book. The house of Israel is indeed repeatedly described as a stiff-necked race, as hardened and obdurate towards God's word; but any embitterment of feeling against the prophet, which should have risen so far as to bind him, or even to make direct attempts to prevent him from exercising his prophetic calling, can, after what is related in Ezekiel 33:30-33 regarding the position of the people towards him, hardly be imagined. Further, the binding and fettering of the prophet is to be regarded as of the same kind with the cleaving of his tongue to his jaws, so that he should be silent and not speak (Ezekiel 3:26). It is God, however, who suspends this dumbness over him; and according to Ezekiel 4:8, it is also God who binds him with cords, so that he cannot stir from one side to the other. The demonstrative power of the latter passage is not to be weakened by the objection that it is a passage of an altogether different kind, and the connection altogether different (Hvernick). For the complete difference between the two passages would first have to be proved. The object, indeed, of the binding of the prophet in Ezekiel 4:8 is different from that in our verse. Here it is to render it impossible for the prophet to go out of the house; in Ezekiel 4:8, it is to prevent him from moving from one side to the other. But the one object does not exclude the other; both statements coincide, rather, in the general thought that the prophet must adapt himself entirely to the divine will - not only not leave the house, but lie also for 390 days upon one side without turning. - We might rather, with Kliefoth, understand Ezekiel 4:8 to mean that God accomplished the binding of the prophet by human instruments - viz. that He caused him to be bound by foreigners (Ezekiel 3:25). But this supposition also would only be justified, if either the sense of the words in Ezekiel 3:25, or other good reasons, pronounced in favour of the view that it was the exiles who had bound the prophet. But as this is not the case, so we are not at liberty to explain the definite נתתּי, "I lay on" (Ezekiel 4:8), according to the indefinite נתנוּ, "they lay on," or "one lays on" (Ezekiel 3:25); but must, on the contrary, understand our verse in accordance with Ezekiel 4:8, and (with Hitzig) think of heavenly powers as the subject to נתנוּ - as in Job 7:3; Daniel 4:28; Luke 12:20 - without, in so doing, completely identifying the declaration in our verse with that in Luke 4:8, as if in the latter passage only that was brought to completion which had been here (Luke 3:25) predicted. If, however, the binding of the prophet proceeds from invisible powers, the expression is not to be understood literally - of a binding with material cords; - but God binds him by a spiritual power, so that he can neither leave his house nor go forth to his countrymen, nor, at a later time (Ezekiel 4:8), change the position prescribed to him. This is done, however, not to prevent the exercise of his vocation, but, on the contrary, to make him fitted for the successful performance of the work commanded him. He is not to quit his house, nor enter into fellowship and intercourse with his exiled countrymen, that he may show himself, by separation from them, to be a prophet and organ of the Lord. On the same grounds he is also (Ezekiel 3:26, Ezekiel 3:27) to keep silence, and not even correct them with words, but only to speak when God opens his mount for that purpose; to remain, moreover, unconcerned whether they listen to his words or not (cf. Ezekiel 2:4, Ezekiel 2:7). He is to do both of these things, because his contemporaries are a stiff-necked race; cf. Ezekiel 3:9 and Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:7. That he may not speak from any impulse of his own, God will cause his tongue to cleave to his jaws, so that he cannot speak; cf. Psalm 137:6. "That the prophet is to refrain from all speech - even from the utterance of the words given him by God - will, on the one hand, make the divine words which he utters appear the more distinctly as such; while, on the other, be an evidence to his hearers of the silent sorrow with which he is filled by the contents of the divine word, and with which they also ought justly to be filled" (Kliefoth).

This state of silence, according to which he is only then to speak when God opened his mouth for the utterance of words which were to be given him, is, indeed, at first imposed upon the prophet - as follows from the relation of Ezekiel 3:25-27 to Ezekiel 4 and 5 - only for the duration of the period Ezekiel 3:25 to Ezekiel 5:17, or rather Ezekiel 7:27. But the divine injunction extends, as Kliefoth has rightly recognised, still further on - over the whole period up to the fulfilment of his prophecies of threatening by the destruction of Jerusalem. This appears especially from this, that in Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22 there is an undeniable reference to the silence imposed upon him in our verse, and with reference to which it is said, that when the messenger should bring back the news of the fall of Jerusalem, his mouth should be opened and he should be no longer dumb. The reference in Ezekiel 24:27 and in Ezekiel 33:22 to the verse before us has been observed by most expositors; but several of them would limit the silence of the prophet merely to the time which lies between Ezekiel 24 and Ezekiel 33:21. This is quite arbitrary, as neither in Ezekiel 24 nor in Ezekiel 33 is silence imposed upon him; but in both chapters it is only stated that he should no longer be dumb after the receipt of the intelligence that Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Chaldeans. The supposition of Schmieder, moreover, is untenable, that the injunction of Ezekiel 3:25 refers to the turning-point in the prophet's office, which commenced on the day when the siege of Jerusalem actually began. For although this day forms a turning-point in the prophetic activity of Ezekiel, in so far as he on it announced to the people for the last time the destruction of Jerusalem, and then spake no more to Israel until the occurrence of this event, yet it is not said in Ezekiel 24:27 that he was then to be dumb from that day onwards. The hypothesis then only remains, that what was imposed and enjoined on the prophet, in Ezekiel 3:26 and Ezekiel 3:27, should remain in force for the whole period from the commencement of his prophetic activity to the receipt of the news of the fall of Jerusalem, by the arrival of a messenger on the banks of the Chaboras. Therewith is also connected the position of this injunction at the head of the first prophecy delivered to him (not at his call), if only the contents and importance of this oracle be understood and recognised, that it embraces not merely the siege of Jerusalem, but also the capture and destruction of the city, and the dispersion of the people among the heathen - consequently contains in nuce all that Ezekiel had to announce to the people down to the occurrence of this calamity, and which, in all the divine words from Ezekiel 6:1-14 to Ezekiel 24, he had again and again, though only in different ways, actually announced. If all the discourses down to Ezekiel 24 are only further expositions and attestations of the revelation of God in Ezekiel 4 and 5, then the behaviour which was enjoined on him at the time of this announcement was to be maintained during all following discourses of similar contents. Besides, for a correct appreciation of the divine precept in Ezekiel 3:26 and Ezekiel 3:27, it is also to be noticed that the prophet is not to keep entire silence, except when God inspires him to speak; but that his keeping silence is explained to men, that he is to be to his contemporaries no אישׁ, "no reprover," and consequently will place their sins before them to no greater extent, and in no other way, than God expressly directs him. Understood in this way, the silence is in contradiction neither with the words of God communicated in Ezekiel 6:1-14 to 24, nor with the predictions directed against foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-33, several of which fall within the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Cf. with this the remark upon Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22.

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