Ezekiel 4:16
Moreover he said to me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem.—In Ezekiel 4:16-17, the meaning of the foregoing symbolism is declared in plain language. Bread, as the chief article of food is put for all food, the specific for the general. There shall be extreme suffering and distress, as a part of the punishment for their long-continued sins.

Ezekiel 4:16-17. Behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem — I will cause a scarcity of bread in Jerusalem, 2 Kings 25:3; and deprive it of the chief support of man’s life. And they shall eat their bread by weight and with care — Here we have a declaration of the meaning of what the prophet was ordered to do, Ezekiel 4:10-11. It was intended to signify, that during the siege, the people of Jerusalem should eat their food very sparingly, and with great anxiety, for fear they should not be able to get a further supply, when what they had was consumed. That they may want bread and water — Or, so that they shall want bread and water: and be astonished one at another — Shall look upon one another astonished at each other’s ghastly, meager countenances, or at the greatness of their calamities; and consume away, &c. — And pine away with hunger and hardships, on account of their wickedness. 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 staff of bread - Bread is so called because it is that on which the support of life mainly depends.

With astonishment - With dismay and anxiety at the calamities which are befalling them.

16. staff of bread—bread by which life is supported, as a man's weight is by the staff he leans on (Le 26:26; Ps 105:16; Isa 3:1).

by weight, and with care—in scant measure (Eze 4:10).

Here the Lord confirms his threat of famine by a solemn protestation that he would break the staff of bread; either take their, harvests away, and deny them bread, or withhold his blessing, the strength of bread, that it should not nourish and refresh, as Leviticus 26:26.

In Jerusalem, that sinful city.

By weight: see Ezekiel 4:10.

With care; afraid and doubtful whether or where they shall have any more.

By measure: Ezekiel 4:11.

With astonishment; amazed at the strangeness of their condition, and the wounds and death of many that fell by the enemies’ hand, attempting to fetch a little water; or astonished, their very eyes failing for thirst. Moreover he said unto me, son of man,.... What follows opens the design, and shows what was intended by the symbol of the miscellany bread, baked with cow dung, the prophet was to eat by measure, as, well as drink water by measure: namely, the sore famine that should be in Jerusalem at the time of the siege:

behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: that is, take away bread, which is the staff of life, the support of it, and which strengthens man's heart; and also the nourishing virtue and efficacy from what they had. The sense is, that the Lord would both deprive them of a sufficiency of bread, the nourishment of man; and not suffer the little they had to be nourishing to them; what they ate would not satisfy them, nor do them much good; see Leviticus 26:26;

and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; that they might not eat too much at a time, but have something for tomorrow; and to cause their little stock to last the longer, not knowing how long the siege would be:

and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment; that such a judgment should fall upon them, who thought themselves the people of God, and the favourites of heaven.

Moreover he said to me, Son of man, behold, I will break {n} the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and in horror:

(n) That is, the force and strength with which it would nourish, Isa 3:1, Eze 14:13.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. the staff of bread] i.e. the staff which bread is; a common figure, ch. Ezekiel 5:16; Leviticus 26:26; Isaiah 3:1; Psalm 105:16.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the symbolical actions of this chapter were not actually performed. They naturally passed through the mind of the prophet as described, but so far as others were concerned they were merely narrated. The truth expressed by the symbolical action was as plain when the action was merely described as it would have been had the action been performed and seen. It is evident that the actions referred to here could not have been performed because they are represented as being done simultaneously. It is while he presses the siege with arm uncovered that the prophet also lies on his side held down by bands, bearing the sin of the people (Ezekiel 4:5; Ezekiel 4:7-8), and it is while lying immoveable in this condition that he prepares cakes upon the coals and eats them (Ezekiel 4:8-9). The prophet’s symbols merely express an idea; it is only when supposed to be actually performed that inconsistencies appear.

The siege and the hardships of it prolonged into the exile—the people’s bearing their sin—are the two chief ideas of the chapter. These are of course contemporaneous with one another so far, but they are spoken of separately in Ezekiel 4:1-6, the siege in Ezekiel 4:1-3, and the hardships of it and the exile in Ezekiel 4:4-6. But from Ezekiel 4:7 onwards they are somewhat mixed together. Cornill reconstructs the chapter in a very drastic way with the view of keeping the two things, the siege and the exile, distinct throughout. He groups the verses as follows: first, bearing the sin of the people, i.e. the exile with its uncleanness, Ezekiel 4:4-6; Ezekiel 4:8 (7 is a gloss), 9, 12–5; and secondly, the siege with its scarcity, Ezekiel 4:1-3; Ezekiel 4:10-11; Ezekiel 4:16-17. This reconstruction of the text is too violent to have any probability. A different suggestion was made by Well. (Hist. p. 273, note), to the effect that in Ezekiel 4:9, 390 is the right reading (though erroneously transferred also to Ezekiel 4:5 for 190), and that the reference is exclusively to the siege, which the prophet calculated would last so long. Further, the prophet’s lying on his side and being bound with bands, Ezekiel 4:8, is a different thing from his lying on his side, Ezekiel 4:5. In Ezekiel 4:5 he represented the bondage of the exile, in Ezekiel 4:8 seq. the straitness of the siege. This view requires that Ezekiel 4:13, which interprets Ezekiel 4:8 seq. of eating unclean food in the dispersion, should be struck out as a gloss. The verse certainly appears in a shorter form in LXX., though there seems no ground for considering it wholly interpolated. And it is more natural that the repulsive symbol of Ezekiel 4:12 should refer to the fact that all food eaten in exile was unclean rather than to uncleanness due to scarcity of fuel during the siege. The introduction too of a literal number of 390 days among other numbers of days which are symbolical is scarcely probable.

16, 17. Explanation of the symbol of eating bread by measure (Ezekiel 4:10-11).Verse 16. - The staff of bread. The phrase occurs again in Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13, and also in Leviticus 26:26; Psalm 105:16. In Isaiah 3:1 the thought is the same, but the Hebrew word is different. They shall eat bread by weight, etc. The phrase occurs, it may be noted, in Leviticus 26:26, one of the verses above referred to. The care and astonishment, implying that the wonted cheerfulness of meals would have departed, meet us again in Ezekiel 12:19. 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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