Ezekiel 4:3
Moreover take you to you an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between you and the city: and set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.
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(3) An iron pan.—The margin gives the sense more accurately, a flat plate. It was used for baking cakes (see Leviticus 2:5, marg.). This was to be set for a wall of iron between the prophet (representing the besiegers) and the city, doubtless as symbolical of the strength of the besiegers’ lines, and of the impossibility there would be of an escape from the city by a sally. Their foes should be made too strong for them defensively as well as offensively.

A sign to the house of Israel.—As already said, the tribe of Judah, with the associated remnants of the other tribes, is considered as representing the whole nation after the Assyrian captivity, and is spoken of as “the house of Israel” except when there is occasion to distinguish especially between the two parts of the nation. (See Ezekiel 3:7; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 5:4; Ezekiel 8:6; 2Chronicles 21:2; 2Chronicles 28:27, &c.) The prophecy would have been equally effective whether seen as a symbolic act or only related.

4:1-8 The prophet was to represent the siege of Jerusalem by signs. He was to lie on his left side for a number of days, supposed to be equal to the years from the establishment of idolatry. All that the prophet sets before the children of his people, about the destruction of Jerusalem, is to show that sin is the provoking cause of the ruin of that once flourishing city.An iron pan - Another figure in the coming siege. On Assyrian sculptures from Nimroud and Kouyunjik there are sieges of cities with "forts, mounts, and rams;" and together with these we see a kind of shield set up on the ground, behind which archers are shooting. Such a shield would be represented by the "flat plate" (margin). Ezekiel was directed to take such a plate (part of his household furniture) and place it between him and the representation of the city.

A sign to the house of Israel - This "sign" was not necessarily acted before the people, but may simply have been described to them as a vivid representation of the event which it foretold. "Israel" stands here for the kingdom of Judah (compare Ezekiel 3:7, Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 5:4; Ezekiel 8:6). After the captivity of the ten tribes the kingdom of Judah represented the whole nation. Hence, prophets writing after this event constantly address their countrymen as the house of Israel without distinction of tribes.

3. iron pan—the divine decree as to the Chaldean army investing the city.

set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city—Ezekiel, in the person of God, represents the wall of separation between him and the people as one of iron: and the Chaldean investing army. His instrument of separating them from him, as one impossible to burst through.

set … face against it—inexorably (Ps 34:16). The exiles envied their brethren remaining in Jerusalem, but exile is better than the straitness of a siege.

An iron pan, to signify the hardness and obstinacy of the besiegers; probably a frying-pan, on the plain part of which the the bearing the portrait of Jerusalem lying, the iron edges or brims compassed it round about, as a line drawn round a besieged city, out of which the distressed could not flee, into which no relief could be brought. It plainly noted the cruelty of the Chaldeans and future tortures of the Jews, who were like to be fried or broiled in this iron pan, as Jeremiah 29:22; /APC 2Ma 7:5.

Set it for a wall of iron; that it may resemble a wall of iron; for as impregnable as such a wall should the courage, resolution, and patience of the Chaldeans be attacking it.

Set thy face against it; fix thy displeased countenance against it, in token of my displeasure.

Thou shalt lay siege: if the prophet do represent him that sent him, then it speaks God’s appearing against these wicked ones.

This shall be a sign; all these things are signs and emblems usual with all, most usual with this prophet, who in this hieroglyphic foreshows the state of those that lived at Jerusalem. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan,.... Which Kimchi thinks, for its metal, represented the hardness of the hearts of the people of Israel; and, for its colour, the blackness of their sins: though others are of opinion, this being a pan in which things are fried, it may signify the miseries of the Jews in captivity; the roasting of Ahab and Zedekiah in the fire, and particularly the burning of the city: others, the wrath of God against them, and his resolution to destroy them: but rather, since the use of it was as follows,

and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city, it seems to represent all such things as are made use of by besiegers to screen them from the besieged; such as are now used are trenches, parapets, bastions, &c. for the prophet in this type is the besieger, representing the Chaldean army secure from the annoyance of those within the walls of the city:

and set thy face against it; with a firm resolution to besiege and take the city; which denotes both the settled wrath of God against this people, and the determined purpose of the king of Babylon not to move from it until he had taken it:

and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it; as an emblem of the army of the Chaldeans besieging it, which is confirmed by the next clause:

this shall be a sign to the house of Israel; of the city of Jerusalem being besieged by the Babylonians; this was a sign representing it, and giving them assurance of it.

Moreover take thou to thee an {a} iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.

(a) Which signified the stubbornness and hardness of their hearts.

3. an iron pan] As marg. plate, i.e. griddle on which cakes were fired (Leviticus 2:5). This common article the prophet is to set up between him and the city to represent an iron wall. As the plate is said to be an iron wall between him and the city it is most natural to interpret it of the powerful fortifications of Jerusalem (Ew.). It might, however, be a symbol of the implacable and iron severity of the siege, which itself but shews the inexorable grasp which the judgment of God has taken of the city. The word it in the end of the verse refers to the city; and the prophet plays the rôle of besieger.

All this is a sign to the house of Israel of what shall come to pass. Comp. ch. Ezekiel 12:11.Verse 3. - An iron pan. The word is used in Leviticus 2:5; Leviticus 6:21, et al., for a flat or shallow vessel in which cakes were baked or fried. Such a pan, like the Scotch "girdle," or our "gridiron," may well have formed part of the furniture of the prophet's house when it was taken for this strange use. It was to represent the kind of shield or fence set up on the ground, from behind which the besiegers discharged their arrows. Such shields are seen, like the battering rams, in Assyrian bas-reliefs (Layard, 'Nineveh,' etc., 2:345). Other interpretations, which see in it the symbol of the circumvallation of the city, or of the impenetrable barrier which the sins of the people had set up between themselves and Jehovah, or of the prophet himself as strong and unyielding (Jeremiah 1:18), do not commend themselves. The flat plate did not go round the city, and the spiritual meaning is out of harmony with the context. This shall be a sign, etc. (comp. like forms in Ezekiel 12:6, 11; Ezekiel 24:25, 27). The exiles of Tel-Abib, who wore the only spectators of the prophet's acts, are taken as representatives of "the house of Israel," that phrase being commonly used by Ezekiel, unless, as in vers. 5, 6, and Ezekiel 37:16, there is a special reason for noting a distinction for Jonah as representing the whole nation. After the Lord had pointed out to the prophet the difficulties of the call laid upon him, He prepared him for the performance of his office, by inspiring him with the divine word which he is to announce. - Ezekiel 2:8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say to thee, Be not stiff-necked like the stiff-necked race; open thy mouth, and eat what I give unto thee. Ezekiel 2:9. Then I saw, and, lo, a hand outstretched towards me; and, lo, in the same a roll of a book. Ezekiel 2:10. And He spread it out before me; the same was written upon the front and back: and there were written upon it lamentations, and sighing, and woe. Ezekiel 3:1. And He said to me: Son of man, what thou findest eat; eat the roll, and go and speak to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:2. Then opened I my mouth, and He gave me this roll to eat. Ezekiel 3:3. And said to me: Son of man, feed thy belly, and fill thy body with this roll which I give thee. And I ate it, and it was in my mouth as honey and sweetness. - The prophet is to announce to the people of Israel only that which the Lord inspires him to announce. This thought is embodied in symbol, in such a way that an outstretched hand reaches to him a book, which he is to swallow, and which also, at God's command, he does swallow; cf. Revelation 10:9. This roll was inscribed on both sides with lamentations, sighing, and woe (הי is either abbreviated from נהי, not equals אי, or as Ewald, 101c, thinks, is only a more distinct form of הוי or הו). The meaning is not, that upon the roll was inscribed a multitude of mournful expressions of every kind, but that there was written upon it all that the prophet was to announce, and what we now read in his book. These contents were of a mournful nature, for they related to the destruction of the kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. That Ezekiel may look over the contents, the roll is spread out before his eyes, and then handed to him to be eaten, with the words, "Go and speak to the children of Israel," i.e., announce to the children of Israel what you have received into yourself, or as it is termed in Ezekiel 3:4, דּברי, "my words." The words in Ezekiel 3:3 were spoken by God while handing to the prophet the roll to be eaten. He is not merely to eat, i.e., take it into his mouth, but he is to fill his body and belly therewith, i.e., he is to receive into his innermost being the word of God presented to him, to change it, as it were, into sap and blood. Whilst eating it, it was sweet in his mouth. The sweet taste must not, with Kliefoth, be explained away into a sweet "after-taste," and made to bear this reference, that the destruction of Jerusalem would be followed by a more glorious restoration. The roll, inscribed with lamentation, sorrow, and woe, tasted to him sweetly, because its contents was God's word, which sufficed for the joy and gladness of his heart (Jeremiah 15:16); for it is "infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and spokesman of the Omnipotent," and even the most painful of divine truths possess to a spiritually-minded man a joyful and quickening side (Hengstenberg on Revelation 10:9). To this it is added, that the divine penal judgments reveal not only the holiness and righteousness of God, but also prepare the way for the revelation of salvation, and minister to the saving of the soul.
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