Ezekiel 4:13
And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.
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(13) Eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles.—The Mosaic law purposely so hedged the people about with detailed precepts in regard to their food and its preparation, that it was impossible for them to share the food of the Gentiles without contracting ceremonial defilement; and the declared object of this symbolism is to teach that the Israelites should thus be forced to contract defilement. Their sins had brought them to that pass, which is so often the result of continued and obdurate sin, that it should be impossible for them to avoid further transgression. Ezekiel shows by his reply, in Ezekiel 4:14, that like St. Peter, in Acts 10:14, he had ever been a scrupulous observer of the law. To St. Peter, however, it was made known that in the breadth of the Christian dispensation this ceremonial law was now done away, while to Ezekiel it still remained in full force.

Ezekiel 4:13. Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles — The prophet, speaking above of eating and drinking by weight and measure, foretels the famine in Jerusalem; now in the bread baked with dung is also pre-signified the unclean bread which the children of Israel were to eat among the Gentiles. For their circumstances in their captivity would not permit them to observe the rules of their law relating to unclean meats; and they would be constrained to partake of meats, part of which had been offered to idols. Compare Hosea 9:1-3; Daniel 1:8. Bread is often used in the Hebrew for all sorts of food.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.The ceremonial ordinances in relation to food were intended to keep the nation free from idolatrous usages; everywhere among the pagan idol feasts formed a leading part in their religious services, and idol meats were partaken of in common life. Dispersion among the Gentiles must have exposed the Jews to much which they regarded as common and unclean. In Ezekiel's case there was a mitigation Ezekiel 4:15 of the defilement, but still legal defilement remained, and the chosen people in exile were subjected to it as to a degradation. 13. Implying that Israel's peculiar distinction was to be abolished and that they were to be outwardly blended with the idolatrous heathen (De 28:68; Ho 9:3). This verse is a key to the former.

Even thus; scanty, mean, ill-dressed, and polluted in the very dressing, loathsome to any but starved bellies.

The children of Israel; not only the house of Judah, but all the rest of the children of Israel; not in the siege only, but this misery should pursue them.

Among the Gentiles; who would be ready enough to upbraid them, and twit them, as breaking the rules of their religion to fill their bellies: thus their sins would bring them to extremest want and shame. And the Lord said, even thus shall the children of Israel,.... Not the ten tribes only, or those who were among the other two, but all the Jews in captivity:

eat the defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them; so called, not because mixed, but baked in the above manner; which was a symbol of the defilements which they should contract upon various accounts, by dwelling among the Gentiles; so that this foretells their captivity; their pollution among the nations of the world; and that they should not be the holy people to the Lord they had been, and had boasted of. The Jews (k) cite this passage to prove that he that eats bread without drying his hands is as if he ate defiled bread.

(k) T. Bab. Sota, fol, 4. 2.

And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.
13. eat their defiled bread] Rather: eat their bread unclean. This is the meaning of the symbol: the food which the people shall eat among the nations will be unclean. In a pathetic passage of Hosea it is said: “they shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall eat unclean food in Assyria. They shall not pour out wine offerings to the Lord, neither shall their sacrifices be pleasing unto him; their bread shall be unto them as the bread of mourners, all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their bread shall be for their appetite; it shall not come into the house of the Lord” (ch. Ezekiel 9:3-4 R.V. marg.). A foreign land was in itself unclean (Amos 7:17), no presence of Jehovah sanctified it; all food eaten in it was also common for it was not hallowed by part of it being brought into the house of the Lord and offered to him. Food eaten among the heathen was as the bread of mourners in Israel, all who partook of it were polluted. But as the words of the prophet suggest (Ezekiel 4:14) in addition to this general uncleanness the people were forced in their straits or induced to eat many things actually prohibited by the Law, such as that which died of itself or was torn by wild beasts (ch. Ezekiel 44:31; Leviticus 17:15; Deuteronomy 14:21. Comp. Isaiah 65:4). And it is natural that in the sore famine during the siege such unclean food was eaten, as indeed more terrible practices prevailed (ch. Ezekiel 5:10). Ezekiel 4:13 appears in a shorter form in LXX., but there is no reason to regard the whole verse as a gloss.Verse 13. - Even thus shall the children of Israel, etc. The strange command takes a wider range. It symbolizes, not the literal horrors of the siege, but the "defiled bread" which even the exiles would be reduced to eat. So taken, the words remind us of the risk of eating unclean, food, which almost inevitably attended the position of the exiles (Hosea 9:3; Daniel 1:8), and which, it may be, Ezekiel had already tell keenly. There is obviously something more than can be explained by a reference to "the bitter bread of banishment," or to Dante's "Come sa di sale... " ('Par.,' 17:58). 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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