Ezekiel 4:6
And when you have accomplished them, lie again on your right side, and you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed you each day for a year.
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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.According to the number of the days - Or, "to be to thee as a number of days (even as)" etc. Compare the margin reference. Some conceive that these "days" were the years during which Israel and Judah sinned, and date in the case of Israel from Jeroboam's rebellion to the time at which Ezekiel wrote (circa 390 years); and in the case of Judah from Josiah's reformation. But it seems more in accordance with the other "signs," to suppose that they represent not that which had been, but that which shall be. The whole number of years is 430 Ezekiel 4:5-6, the number assigned of old for the affliction of the descendants of Abraham Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:40. The "forty years" apportioned to Judah Ezekiel 4:6, bring to mind the 40 years passed in the wilderness; and these were years not only of punishment, but also of discipline and preparatory to restoration, so Ezekiel would intimate the difference between the punishments of Israel and of Judah to be this, that the one would be of much longer duration with no definite hope of recovery, but the other would be imposed with the express purpose of the renewal of mercy. 6. each day for a year—literally, "a day for a year, a day for a year." Twice repeated, to mark more distinctly the reference to Nu 14:34. The picturing of the future under the image of the past, wherein the meaning was far from lying on the surface, was intended to arouse to a less superficial mode of thinking, just as the partial veiling of truth in Jesus' parables was designed to stimulate inquiry; also to remind men that God's dealings in the past are a key to the future, for He moves on the same everlasting principles, the forms alone being transitory. When thou hast almost accomplished, or when about to accomplish them, i.e. forty days, before the three hundred and ninety do expire, at the end of three hundred and fifty days turn thou to thy right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; and that this is the true account appears from this verse, compared with Ezekiel 1:1,2 8:1, say some, and those very learned men. Others will have the forty days distinct from the three hundred and ninety, and reckon them by themselves, and so the better and grammatical construction in the Hebrew seems to carry it, for it speaks in the perfect tense, and lying. a second time. But be these numbers distinct or but one, is no great concern; either way they do plainly speak God’s wonderful patience with Israel and Judah, and point out the time of the miseries of both for their sinfulness.

Again, Heb. a second time. Thou shalt bear the iniquity: see Ezekiel 4:4.

Of the house of Judah; of the two tribes, say some; of the royal family, say others, and countenance it with Isaiah 22:21; and then Israel distinguished is the whole body of the two tribes, and the remnant of the ten tribes that escaped, and embodied with the two tribes; as some did at the first division, others afterward in Asa’s, Jehoshaphat’s, Hezekiah’s, and Josiah’s time, leave their places and came to Jerusalem.

Forty days; it is plain they are so many years, but not so plain where to begin them, whether from Manasseh, or more probably from Josiah’s renewing covenant, until the destruction of the temple, which is forty years; during which time God deferred to punish, expecting whether they would keep covenant and walk with God, or retain their idolatries and wicked ways, which latter they did for thirteen years of Josiah’s reign, for eleven of Jehoiakim, and eleven of Zedekiah’s reign, and five of his captivity, which amount to just forty years; and they are mentioned, say some, apart from the three hundred and ninety, because they were more wickedly abused to promote sin. And when thou hast accomplished them,.... The three hundred and ninety days, by lying so long on the left side, bearing the sins of the house of Israel in this way; or, as Cocceius renders the words, "and thou shall accomplish them, and thou shalt lie", &c. (g), that is, thou shalt so accomplish these days, that thou mayest lie through forty days on the right hand, and then make bare thine arm, and prophesy against Jerusalem; for he thinks the forty days are part of the three hundred and ninety, as before observed: and so Piscator's note is, "when thou shalt accomplish", &c. namely, when there shall remain yet forty days, as appears by comparing Ezekiel 4:9 with this verse and Ezekiel 4:5; so Polanus interprets the passage: then

lie again on thy right side; that is, for Judah; which tribe, as Jarchi observes, lay to the south, and so to the right of Jerusalem; see Ezekiel 16:46; or rather the prophet lay on the right side for Judah, because more honourable, and in greater esteem with the Lord; nor were their sins so many, or continued in so long as those of the ten tribes; and therefore they, and the punishment of them, are borne a less time by the prophet, as follows:

and thou shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: which some think answers to the forty years of Manasseh's evil reign; others reckon from the thirteenth of Josiah to the end of Zedekiah, and others from the eighteenth of Josiah to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was five years after the carrying of Zedekiah captive:

I have appointed thee each day for a year; which is not only the key for the understanding of the forty days, but also the three hundred and ninety.

(g) "et absolves hos, et decumbes", Cocceius, Starckius; "et consummabis haec, et jacebis", Montanus.

And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy {c} right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

(c) Which declared Judah, who had now from the time of Josiah slept in their sins forty years.

6. In Ezekiel 4:5 the number of days for Israel is stated to be 390, and in Ezekiel 4:6 the number for Judah 40. The number 390 creates a difficulty. Several things have to be borne in mind. 1. To bear iniquity means to bear the penalty of it. The period of bearing iniquity, therefore, does not refer to the time of sinning but to the time of being punished for sin. Consequently any allusion to the period of the duration of the Northern Kingdom is excluded. 2. The representation in this prophet, as in all the prophets, is that the overthrow of the state is due to the sin of the people, and this overthrow with the continued state of the Exile and its hardships is the punishment of the people’s sin. To be subdued by the heathen and driven into exile is for the people to have to bear their iniquity. Hence restoration is impossible until the iniquity of the people is paid off, or atoned in suffering (Isaiah 40:2). Israel’s bearing of iniquity comes to an end with the Restoration: “Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity pardoned.” 3. It is the view of all the prophets, Ezekiel included, that the Restoration will embrace all the existing captives both of the North and South, every one called by Jehovah’s name (Isaiah 43:6-7; cf. Isaiah 11:12 seq.; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 37:16 seq. &c.). And this restoration is final. 4. It follows from all this that the periods during which Israel and Judah bear their iniquity terminate simultaneously. Israel bears iniquity longer than Judah because it began to bear earlier. It is evident (cf. Ezekiel 4:9) that the whole period of bearing iniquity in exile is 390 years, not 390 + 40 or 430, but 350 + 40, the 40 years of Judah running parallel to the last 40 of Israel. The period of 40 years for Judah’s exile is confirmed by ch. Ezekiel 29:11-14, where it is said that Egypt shall be carried into captivity 40 years by Nebuchadnezzar, and at the end of that period restored, though not to its former greatness. Forty years is the period of Chaldean supremacy; at the end of that period Babylon shall fall, a new world arise, and the captive nations shall be restored. Now the prophet cannot possibly have supposed that Israel went into exile 350 years before Judah. From the fall of Samaria (722) to the destruction of Jerusalem (586) is only 136 years. In Ezekiel 4:5 LXX. reads 190 (so Ezekiel 4:9); in Ezekiel 4:4 the reading is 150, which probably is an addition (Field’s Hex.). The number 190 is probably the original one. It is not quite certain from what point the prophet computed, whether from the fall of Samaria (722), which is most natural, or from the deportation of the Northern tribes by Tiglath Pileser twelve years earlier; as he spoke also before the fall of Jerusalem even this point may be somewhat indefinite. Most probably he used general and round numbers, computing the time which Israel had already passed in captivity at 150 years, to which, if the 40 years still to be undergone in common with Judah be added, the whole period is 190 years.

Ezekiel 4:7-8 recapitulate Ezekiel 4:1-6 : Ezekiel 4:7, Ezekiel 4:1-3, and Ezekiel 4:8, Ezekiel 4:4-6. Ezekiel 4:1-6 form one passage describing first the siege (Ezekiel 4:1-3), and secondly the rigours of the siege, which are prolonged into exile (Ezekiel 4:4-6). While enduring these hardships in siege and exile the people are bearing their iniquity. The apparent incongruity of the prophet’s playing two rôles, that of besieger (Ezekiel 4:1-3), and that of being besieged (Ezekiel 4:4-6), could hardly be avoided if both things were to be represented.Verse 6. - Each day for a year. The Hebrew formula is that of iteration - "a day for a year, a day for a year." It originates, as has been said, in Numbers 14:34. What has been known as the year-day theory of prophetic interpretation flows naturally from it, and has been applied

(1) to the "seventy weeks" of Daniel 9:24-27, and

(2) the twelve hundred and sixty and the three days and a half of Revelation 11:3, 9. 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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