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Ezekiel 4:1 You also, son of man, take a tile, and lay it before yourself, and portray on it the city - Jerusalem- Such engraven tiles with cities upon them were common in Babylon. Again we see God working to appeal to people in local terms. And our witness of His word must be likewise. It's unclear where Ezekiel was imprisoned in Ez. 3, with the captives in Babylonia or in Jerusalem. His message in the acted parable which follows is clearly to the effect that Babylon would come a third time against Jerusalem and destroy it (:16). The message of judgment was of course an appeal to "turn" in repentance, for that was the aim of Ezekiel's witness as Ez. 3 has made clear. If this parable was acted out by the Chebar, then there was the possibility that the repentance of those already in captivity could have saved Jerusalem from the threatened destruction. For it was God's intention that Judah repent and Jerusalem not be destroyed.

Ezekiel 4:2 Lay siege against it, and build forts against it, and cast up a mound against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around- Presumably this was done by drawing these things upon the tile. But it was as if by doing so, a siege was actually laid against Jerusalem- so certain was this prophetic word of fulfilment. Presumably Ezekiel was still dumb at this time (Ez. 3:26). Hence the acted parable, the still small voice of lived example which was and is more powerful than the spoken word.

Ezekiel 4:3 Take for yourself an iron pan and set it for a wall of iron between yourself and the city: and set your face toward it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel- The setting of Ezekiel's face represented the setting of God's face against Jerusalem (Jer. 21:10; Ez. 15:7). Jeremiah's message in Jerusalem was being repeated by Ezekiel to the captives in Babylon. The iron pan speaks of the "northern iron" of Babylon (Jer. 15:12; 28:13- again we note similarities between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, prophesying at about the same time and delivering the same message, Jeremiah in Judah and Ezekiel to the captives already in Babylon). Later Ezekiel would liken the defences of Jerusalem to a weak "wall" of clay bricks that toppled easily (Ez. 13:12,14). But Ezekiel represented God, and the iron wall spoke of the barrier between Jerusalem and God through which their desperate prayers would not penetrate. It was a "sign" in that "the house of Israel" were to realize this is how it would be, and repent so it didn't happen. There is a gap between the Divine pronouncement and its realization, in which we can repent and change that pronouncement. We also live in such a gap, and have repented and changed the verdict of eternal death for us. "The house of Israel" is a term used repeatedly in Ezekiel. And yet the captives he was among were apparently from Judah. But it was God's plan that at the restoration, both the ten tribes and Judah would together repent and return to the land. Perhaps there were also members of the ten tribes in captivity in Babylon, or Ezekiel's prophecies were to be taken to them, as they were apparently taken to the Jews still in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 4:4 Moreover lie on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; according to the number of the days that you shall lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity- Again we see the "son of man" Ezekiel looking forward to the Lord Jesus, the ultimate bearer of Israel's sins. Ezekiel was to "lie" on his side, but the Hebrew is often used for sleeping. Whilst sleeping he was to bear their sin and when he awoke from the final sleep, their sin would have been carried; again looking forward to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Samaria, the capital of the ten tribe kingdom, is described by Ezekiel as being on the left side (Ez. 16:46). To 'bear iniquity' meant 'to bear the punishment for iniquity' (Ex. 28:43; Num. 18:1 etc.). They were as it were to sleep and then arise at the restoration.

Ezekiel 4:5 For I have appointed the years of their iniquity to be to you a number of days, even three hundred and ninety days. So you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel- Perhaps some restoration could have happened to the ten tribes after 390 years, if the right conditions had been fulfilled by them; although there's no sign it ever did.  See on :6. Perhaps God was willing to accept Ezekiel as the sin bearer for them, whether or not they repented; but they didn't even accept that. The start of the 390 day-years may have begun some time earlier for Israel, the ten tribes. We note that 390 + 40 gives 430, which was the number of years Israel were in Egypt (Ex. 12:40). The LXX reads 190, not 390. If we take the beginning of Israel's punishment as the deportations under the reign of Pekah in BC 736, this brings us to BC546. If Judah's punishment began with the destruction of Jerusalem in BC586, forty years from that comes to the same date, BC546.

Ezekiel 4:6 Again, when you have accomplished these, you shall lie on your right side, and shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah: forty days, each day for a year, have I appointed it to you- Ezekiel was asked to prophecy that Judah would suffer for their sins for 40 years. Perhaps something could've happened after 40 years... And then, the starting point of the 70 or 40 years was somewhat flexible- for Ez. 22:3,4 records Ezekiel's prophecy that the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians [the starting point of the time periods] was actually being hastened, brought forward, by the terrible behaviour of the Jews living there after the initial Babylon invasion of the land. Closer study reveals the variableness of outworking of the time periods. Jer. 25:11,12 and Jer. 29:10 speak of a 70 year period of Babylonian rule over Judah, beginning with the invasion of BC597. But Babylon only ruled over Judah for 49 years, before Babylon fell to the Persians. This would connect with the way that Zech. 4:3 speaks of 7 menorah candlesticks each with 7 lamps, making 49 lamps. 49 is the cycle of 7 sabbath years that culminated in the jubilee year, and the jubilee year, the proclamation of liberty to the land (Lev. 25:8-12; 27:7-24) is a figure used so often in Isaiah to describe the freedom of Judah once released from Babylon. Lev. 26:34,43 speak of the land enjoying her Sabbaths whilst Israel were in exile for their sins- i.e. for 49 years. So it seems that there could have been some restoration after 49 years- but it didn't happen. But Dan. 9:2 and 2 Chron. 36:21 seem to reinterpret those 70 years of Jeremiah's prophecies as speaking of a 70 year period during which Jerusalem and the temple would be desolate. See on Ez. 6:8.

Ezekiel 4:7 You shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm uncovered; and you shall prophesy against it- Ezekiel was representing God, whose arm was uncovered in His active judgment of Jerusalem. He was ready for action, and only desperate repentance would change this. But the same phrase "arm uncovered" is found only in Is. 52:10, which speaks of how God's arm was uncovered in preparing to destroy the nations abusing Israel through the revelation of Messiah. There is always a silver lining in God's judgments. The judgment of His people was to presage the destruction of Babylon and the establishment of His restored kingdom in Israel at the restoration, replete with a Messiah figure. But His people precluded this possibility by their disobedience.

Ezekiel 4:8 Behold, I lay shackles on you, and you shall not turn yourself from one side to the other, until you have accomplished the days of your siege- "Shackles" is the same word used of how the Jews bound Ezekiel with shackles in Ez. 3:25. Perhaps this refers to Him working through the angry Jews who bound Ezekiel with these shackles. Our apparent limitations are used by God and even placed by Him, even through the hands of evil people; in order that we might be a witness to them and lead them to repentance.

Ezekiel 4:9 Take for yourself also wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, and put them in one vessel and make bread of it; according to the number of the days that you shall lie on your side, even three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat of it- The idea was that whilst sleeping in captivity, Israel and Judah would eat only very basic food without meat. But the book of Esther reveals that this isn't what happened in the longer term; many of Judah ended up prosperous. Again we have here a potential scenario which was precluded by the utter refusal of the Jews generally to repent. See on :16.

Ezekiel 4:10 Your food which you shall eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time you shall eat it- The way Peter was given a vision and asked to eat what he had previously thought unclean has many similarities with Ezekiel going through a similar experience (Ez. 4:10-14 cp. Acts 10:14). Peter was intended to have made the connection, which he apparently didn't do. We too find points of contact between our experiences and those of Biblical characters. This is where familiarity with the basic text of scripture can open up the meaning of our lives to us.

Ezekiel 4:11 You shall drink water by measure, the sixth part of a hin: from time to time you shall drink- Not much less than a pint of water / day, less than what today would be considered a necessary fluid intake in a hot climate (1 Kings 22:27; Is. 30:20). Ezekiel was effectively imprisoned at this time, as explained at the end of Ez. 3; the idea was that his captors would in turn suffer like this.

Ezekiel 4:12 You shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it in their sight with dung that comes out of man- This suggests a very stark existence without even firewood. But as noted on :9, God punished His people far less than He planned, less their iniquities deserved, as Ezra observed to the captives who returned (Ezra 9:13). Here we see how God's statements may not come true because His mercy and pity is stronger than His judgment of sin. But that grace is not automatic, and is given depth and meaning the more we consider the reality of the statements of judgment made in His anger. See on :16; Ez. 5:2.

Ezekiel 4:13 Yahweh said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will drive them- They were to be purposefully defiled, made to eat unclean food (Hos. 9:3), driven to realize that they existed as unclean in God's eyes, their situation precluding perfect obedience to Divine law. And thereby they were to be driven to appreciate His grace. Again, there was purpose and intention behind all God's judgments for sin.

Ezekiel 4:14 Then I said, Ah Lord Yahweh! Behold, my soul has not been polluted; for from my youth up even until now have I not eaten of that which dies of itself, or is torn of animals; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth- The implication might be that given such a lack of meat in the diet, the captives like Ezekiel would be driven to eat unclean meat. We wonder whether Ezekiel was in fact so totally technically obedient; his words recall that of the older brother who claimed total obedience to his father.

Ezekiel 4:15 Then He said to me, Behold, I have given you cow’s dung for man’s dung, and you shall prepare your bread thereon- This was a concession to Ezekiel, showing how God is open to dialogue with man. However, the use of any dung would still have made the food ritually unclean; so the essential lesson of :13 was still to be learnt.

Ezekiel 4:16 Moreover He said to me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight, and with fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure, and in dismay- The situation acted out by Ezekiel was however to go on many years, not just during the siege of Jerusalem. The idea was that the deprivations of the siege were to continue throughout their captivity. But in wrath God remembered mercy and this didn't in fact happen; see on :9,12.

Ezekiel 4:17 That they may want bread and water, and be dismayed one with another, and pine away in their iniquity- This pining away was that of Lev. 26:39, the judgment for breaking covenant. But we must recall that they had just witnessed Ezekiel bearing their iniquity, in the spirit of the Christ. Their pining away, sitting depressed by the rivers of Babylon pining away in their sins, could have been resolved by realizing that Ezekiel had carried the punishment for their iniquity. He really was set up as their representative, "son of man" saviour. But as later with the Lord Jesus, they refused to accept that. Seeon Ez. 5:3.