Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem:
Eze 4:1-17. Symbolical Vision of the Siege and the Iniquity-bearing.
1. tile—a sun-dried brick, such as are found in Babylon, covered with cuneiform inscriptions, often two feet long and one foot broad.
And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about.
2. fort—rather, "watch-tower" (Jer 52:4) wherein the besiegers could watch the movements of the besieged [Gesenius]. A wall of circumvallation [Septuagint and Rosenmuller]. A kind of battering-ram [Maurer]. The first view is best.
a mount—wherewith the Chaldeans could be defended from missiles.
battering-rams—literally, "through-borers." In Eze 21:22 the same Hebrew is translated "captains."
Moreover take thou unto thee an 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.
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.
Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity.
4. Another symbolical act performed at the same time as the former, in vision, not in external action, wherein it would have been only puerile: narrated as a thing ideally done, it would make a vivid impression. The second action is supplementary to the first, to bring out more fully the same prophetic idea.
left side—referring to the position of the ten tribes, the northern kingdom, as Judah, the southern, answers to "the right side" (Eze 4:6). The Orientals facing the east in their mode, had the north on their left, and the south on their right (Eze 16:46). Also the right was more honorable than the left: so Judah as being the seat of the temple, was more so than Israel.
bear the iniquity—iniquity being regarded as a burden; so it means, "bear the punishment of their iniquity" (Nu 14:34). A type of Him who was the great sin-bearer, not in mimic show as Ezekiel, but in reality (Isa 53:4, 6, 12).
For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.
5. three hundred and ninety days—The three hundred ninety years of punishment appointed for Israel, and forty for Judah, cannot refer to the siege of Jerusalem. That siege is referred to in Eze 4:1-3, and in a sense restricted to the literal siege, but comprehending the whole train of punishment to be inflicted for their sin; therefore we read here merely of its sore pressure, not of its result. The sum of three hundred ninety and forty years is four hundred thirty, a period famous in the history of the covenant-people, being that of their sojourn in Egypt (Ex 12:40, 41; Ga 3:17). The forty alludes to the forty years in the wilderness. Elsewhere (De 28:68; Ho 9:3), God threatened to bring them back to Egypt, which must mean, not Egypt literally, but a bondage as bad as that one in Egypt. So now God will reduce them to a kind of new Egyptian bondage to the world: Israel, the greater transgressor, for a longer period than Judah (compare Eze 20:35-38). Not the whole of the four hundred thirty years of the Egypt state is appointed to Israel; but this shortened by the forty years of the wilderness sojourn, to imply, that a way is open to their return to life by their having the Egypt state merged into that of the wilderness; that is, by ceasing from idolatry and seeking in their sifting and sore troubles, through God's covenant, a restoration to righteousness and peace [Fairbairn]. The three hundred ninety, in reference to the sin of Israel, was also literally true, being the years from the setting up of the calves by Jeroboam (1Ki 12:20-33), that is, from 975 to 583 B.C.: about the year of the Babylonians captivity; and perhaps the forty of Judah refers to that part of Manasseh's fifty-five years' reign in which he had not repented, and which, we are expressly told, was the cause of God's removal of Judah, notwithstanding Josiah's reformation (1Ki 21:10-16; 2Ki 23:26, 27).
And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.
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.
Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it.
7. arm … uncovered—to be ready for action, which the long Oriental garment usually covering it would prevent (Isa 52:10).
thou shalt prophesy against it—This gesture of thine will be a tacit prophecy against it.
And, behold, I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege.
8. bands—(Eze 3:25).
not turn from … side—to imply the impossibility of their being able to shake off the punishment.
Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.
9. wheat … barley, &c.—Instead of simple flour used for delicate cakes (Ge 18:6), the Jews should have a coarse mixture of six different kinds of grain, such as the poorest alone would eat.
fitches—spelt or dhourra.
three hundred and ninety—The forty days are omitted, since these latter typify the wilderness period when Israel stood separate from the Gentiles and their pollution, though partially chastened by stint of bread and water (Eze 4:16), whereas the eating of the polluted bread in the three hundred ninety days implies a forced residence "among the Gentiles" who were polluted with idolatry (Eze 4:13). This last is said of "Israel" primarily, as being the most debased (Eze 4:9-15); they had spiritually sunk to a level with the heathen, therefore God will make their condition outwardly to correspond. Judah and Jerusalem fare less severely, being less guilty: they are to "eat bread by weight and with care," that is, have a stinted supply and be chastened with the milder discipline of the wilderness period. But Judah also is secondarily referred to in the three hundred ninety days, as having fallen, like Israel, into Gentile defilements; if, then, the Jews are to escape from the exile among Gentiles, which is their just punishment, they must submit again to the wilderness probation (Eze 4:16).
And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.
10. twenty shekels—that is, little more than ten ounces; a scant measure to sustain life (Jer 52:6). But it applies not only to the siege, but to their whole subsequent state.
Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink.
11. sixth … of … hin—about a pint and a half.
And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
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.
And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.
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).
Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.
14. Ezekiel, as a priest, had been accustomed to the strictest abstinence from everything legally impure. Peter felt the same scruple at a similar command (Ac 10:14; compare Isa 65:4). Positive precepts, being dependent on a particular command can be set aside at the will of the divine ruler; but moral precepts are everlasting in their obligation because God cannot be inconsistent with His unchanging moral nature.
abominable flesh—literally, "flesh that stank from putridity." Flesh of animals three days killed was prohibited (Le 7:17, 18; 19:6, 7).
Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.
15. cow's dung—a mitigation of the former order (Eze 4:12); no longer "the dung of man"; still the bread so baked is "defiled," to imply that, whatever partial abatement there might be for the prophet's sake, the main decree of God, as to the pollution of Israel by exile among Gentiles, is unalterable.
Moreover he said unto 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:
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).
That they may want bread and water, and be astonied one with another, and consume away for their iniquity.
17. astonied one with another—mutually regard one another with astonishment: the stupefied look of despairing want.