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Ezekiel 4:1 . Son of man, take thee a tile. It is probable that the prophet took a sheet of plastic clay proper for his purpose; for the Hebrew root בנה banah, is generally applied to construction in various kinds of architecture. On this tablet of clay he made a model of Jerusalem, and so well defined that all the jews would know it. Against this city he traced the lines of the besieging army, and against the towers of Jerusalem he built his pugnacula, as the Greek seems to import, little wooden forts. He raised his mounts, and set to work his scorpions, his battering rams, and other engines of war. The ram was powerful against the wall. It was a whole timber with an iron head. Forty men swung it with slings in one hand, and covered themselves with bucklers in the other, and boldly approached the wall amidst a shower of arrows from the besieged. They feared little, except from the slings, which threw down rocks on the assailants. Ezekiel did all this to win souls, that the jews who would not hear his sermons, might at least decypher his figures.
Ezekiel 4:5 . Three hundred and ninety days, reckoning a day for a year, as was done in regard of the twelve spies. There are some difficulties in our calculation, which requires the consummate skill of criticism. Vide Poli Synop. From the fourth day of the fourth month, of the fifth year, is four hundred and thirteen days; whereas the prophet lay forty days on his left side for the sin of Israel. These being taken off, there remain three hundred and ninety. How do the critics account for the loss of the seventeen years from the accession of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin by the calves in Bethel and Dan? Answer, by collating the chronology of the kings of Judah with some of the kings of Israel, where the æra of each may not be distinctly fixed, for the prophetic vision respects both those kingdoms.
Rehoboam reigned 17
Abijam, after the death of his father 4
These comprise the ninety years 90
Athaliah reigned 6
Till the commencement of king Azariah 26
Azariah, called Uzziah 52
Jotham to the 7th of Hezekiah 9
Hezekiah, after the fall of Samaria 23
Jeconiah, three months Zedekiah to the burning of the city. 11
The prophet lay on his left side for the expiation of Judah’s sin forty days or years, completing 430 years Total = 430
The last forty days or years is generally reckoned from the rejection of Jeremiah as a prophet, commencing in the thirteenth year of king Josiah; for though in the eighteenth year of his reign the princes at the great passover swore to keep the covenant, they swore with hypocrisy, concealing their idols at home, as stated in Jeremiah 34:18. Thus they are counted. Under Josiah eighteen years, under Jehoiakim eleven years, and under Zedekiah eleven, which gives precisely forty years.
Ezekiel 4:10 . Thy meat twenty shekels a-day, of barley meal, about ten ounces. See the map of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 4:11 . Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of a hin, the quantity contained in twelve shells of a hen’s egg. In some sieges more could not be allowed. The daily loaf of our prisoners often weighs eighteen ounces: the prophet’s short allowances designated the severities of the siege.
Truly God’s work requires workmen not discouraged by difficulties, nor fainting with hardship and fatigue. Jeremiah had long been prophesying concerning the invasion of the Chaldeans, and seeking to avert the calamity by repentance and by treaty; but the people he addressed were more worthy of the sword than of peace. Now, Ezekiel, inspired by the same spirit, foretels the same event, and by a double sign. He was directed to take a tile, whose frailty would strikingly express the weakness of the Jews, and engrave upon it the siege of Jerusalem in all its terrors. A ministry thus connected with singular tokens conveyed a double force to language. Such was Jeremiah’s constructing a model of the city, hiding his girdle near the Euphrates, his preaching with a yoke on his neck, and offering the Rechabites wine. It interested the curiosity of a nation, and conveyed to the mind unequivocal conviction.
The command to lie three hundred and ninety days on his side to expiate the sins of Israel, and forty for the sins of Judah, with all the severities of his diet, marks the great exactness of providence in weighing the guilt, and measuring the punishment of nations. There are some traces of this custom among the Brahmins of Indostan existing at this time. They often enjoin penitents to sit or stand in a painful posture for a considerable time, and their bodies not unfrequently become distorted by the severities of the discipline.
From the time Ezekiel thus laid upon his side, we learn the awful consequences of breaking covenant with God. Jeroboam’s breach is notorious, and Judah’s was not less so in itself. They never recovered from Manasseh’s abominable idolatries and rites. When Josiah afterwards renewed the covenant, the people secreted their idols where they could. Hence forty years of the most flagrant hypocrisy and crimes stood against them in the book of God.
We may next notice the compassion of God, in shortening the time of the prophet’s affliction as a day to a year. Be encouraged then, oh sinner, in seeking God, and afflicting thy soul for sin. When repentance melts the heart, the Sovereign of heaven and earth can shorten the days of vengeance and anger, by an effusion in thy heart of his forgiving love. Christ in one day bore our iniquity, and in him the Lord is more merciful than man can estimate. Learn also of Ezekiel to abhor the slightest pollution. He suffered not the flesh to shrink at severities, but was afraid of becoming ceremonially unclean. St. Peter was equally afraid to eat of unclean beasts. Acts 10:0. Happy is the delicate conscience which fears the slightest touch of defilement that would either obstruct its communion with God, or alienate it from the fellowship of saints. This holy fear is the strong fence of pure religion, and the glory of religious men.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20