The Chastisement of Famine
Ezekiel 4:16, 17
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…

The striking and distressing symbolism described in this chapter must have brought with great vividness before the mind of the prophet, and before the minds of his companions in exile, the sufferings that were about to befall the metropolis which was the pride of their hearts. In the siege which was to come upon Jerusalem, the citizens should endure the horrors of privation, of hunger, and of thirst. It was foretold that in a sense this should be God's appointment, the effect of that retributive Providence which devout minds cannot fail to recognize in the government of the world. If such events took place in accordance with what are called general laws, since those laws are the consequence and expression of the very constitution of society, none the less must the Divine hand be recognized, none the less must it be understood that Divine lessons are to be learned with reverent submission.

I. A LESSON OF CORPORATE UNITY. As a city, Jerusalem had sinned by rejecting Jehovah's worship, and by honouring the gods of the nations; by disobeying Jehovah's laws, and following sinful impulses and indulging in sinful practices. As a city, Jerusalem sinned; as a city, Jerusalem suffered and fell. The innocent, no doubt, suffered with the guilty; those who mourned over the defection of Judah with those who were prominent agents in that defection. No man can live apart from his neighbours; least of all is this possible in the life of the city, which is characterized by a unity that may be designated corporate.

II. A LESSON OF PHYSICAL DEPENDENCE. Bread, water, and fuel are mentioned in this chapter as necessaries of life; without them men are condemned to famine and to death. The body is in correlation to nature - to the provision made for its sustenance and strength. If the supply be cut off, the body perishes. Familiar and commonplace as this truth is, men need, in their pride and self-confidence, to be reminded of it. The haughty Jews stood in need of the lesson. Let an army invest the city, and it is only a question of time; for the besieged, if unable to beat back the besiegers, must sooner or later surrender to the force of hunger, if not of arms.

III. A LESSON OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION. It is in this light that the calamities attending a siege are presented by the prophet. Men may see in a beleaguered city only a political fact, a military incident, the consequence of well known causes, the cause of well understood effects. To see all this is justifiable; to see nothing but this is blindness. A thoughtful and pious mind will look through, will look above, all that is phenomenal. There is purpose in human affairs, there is Divine meaning, there is revelation. When men, oppressed by adversity and threatened with ruin, are "astonied one with another, and pine away in their iniquity," it is possible that they may be so stupefied as to recognize no moral law in their experience, their fate. but the enlightened discern in such events indication of the Divine displeasure and indignation with sin. Chastisement, punishment, is no chimera invented by a heated imagination; it is a sober, albeit a painful fact, from which there is no escape and no appeal. The judgments of God are abroad in the earth; and this is that the inhabitants thereof may learn righteousness.

IV. A LESSON OF REPENTANCE AND OF MERCY. This lesson is not, indeed, explicitly presented in this passage; yet the whole prophetic symbolism leads up to it. Why are men hungry but that they may call for the bread of life? and upon whom shall they call but upon God? Whither shall the parched and thirsting turn but to him who has the water of life, for the quenching of their thirst and the satisfaction of their souls? To whom shall the afflicted address themselves but to him who can turn the outward curse into a spiritual blessing, who can make the scourge the means of healing, and the sword the means of life? In the midst of wrath God remembers mercy; and it is ever true that they who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: 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 fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure, and in dismay:

Conformity of Punishment to Sin
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