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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-17

2. The Four Signs, and their Interpretation (Ezekiel 4:1 to Ezekiel 5:17)

1And thou, son of man, take thee a brick, and give [lay] it before thee, and 2portray upon it the city, [viz.] Jerusalem. And give [lay] siege against it, and build a siege-tower against it, and cast a mound against it, and make a camp 3against it, and set battering-rams against it round about. And do thou take thee a pan in [of] iron, and give [set] it as a wall in [of] iron between thee and the city; and direct thy face against it, and it is in siege, and thou layest siege against it: 4this is a sign to the house of Israel. And lie thou on thy side, the left one, and lay the guilt of the house of Israel upon it; according to the number of the days 5that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their guilt. And I have given thee the years of their guilt, according to the number of the days, three hundred and 6ninety days; and thou bearest the guilt of the house of Israel. And thou accomplishest these, and liest upon thy side, the right one, a second time, and bearest the guilt of the house of Judah forty days; a day for a year, a day 7for a year, have I given it to thee. And toward the siege of Jerusalem thou shalt set thy face, and thine uncovered arm, and thou prophesiest against it. 8And, behold, I have laid bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn from one side 9to another, till thou endest the days of thy siege. And do thou take unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof; according to the number of the days that thou art lying upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat 10it. And thy food which thou shalt eat is by weight, twenty shekels a day; from 11time to time thou shalt eat it. And water shalt thou drink by measure, the sixth 12part of an hin; from time to time shalt thou drink it. And barley cake, that shalt thou eat, and in [with] dung that cometh out of man shalt thou bake it 13before their eyes. And Jehovah said, So shall the children of Israel eat their 14bread defiled among the heathen, whither I will drive them. And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! behold, my soul hath not been polluted, and neither carcase nor what is torn in pieces have I eaten from my youth up till now; neither hath 15abominable flesh come into my mouth. And He said unto me: Behold, I give thee dung of cattle for dung of man, and thou makest [preparest] thy bread thereon. 16And He said unto me, Son of man, behold, I break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they eat bread by weight, and in anxiety; and water by measure, and in 17anguish shall they drink; Because bread and water shall be wanting, and man and his brother are struck dumb [from anguish], and pine away in their guilt.

Ezekiel 4:4. Sept.: ... κατα�. ἡμερων πεντηκοντα κ. ἑκατον ἡμερας ἁς κοιμθηση ἐπ̓ αὐτου κ. ἀδικιας.

Ezekiel 4:5. ... τας δυο�. ἐς�. ἡμερας—

Ezekiel 4:8. Anoth. read.: מצוריך plur.

Ezekiel 4:9. ... ἐνενηκοντα κ. ἑκατον—(Some mss. חטים.)

Ezekiel 4:16. ... κυριος—

Ezekiel 4:17. ὁπως ἐνδεεις γενωνται� … (Anoth. read.: באחיו). Vulg.: ad fratrem


What the silence of the prophet is intended to signify, in case their own bad conscience should not set it before them vividly, is now represented in emblem to their curiosity by four symbolical actions, of which three are contained in our chapter; the explanatory inscription at the end is always given in shorter or longer terms, according to the expressiveness and completeness of each separate picture. According to Ezekiel 3:24 sq., and as is clear from themselves, the carrying out of these symbolical actions takes place in the house of Ezekiel. Next to his family, and perhaps called in by them, we have to think of his countrymen as spectators. The sections Ezekiel 4:1-3, Ezekiel 4:4-8, Ezekiel 4:9-17, have a connection with one another (Ezekiel 4:7-9 sqq.), and supplement one another. While the siege of Jerusalem, as the theme in the first section, is at the same time carried into further detail, and made more graphic in the second and third, after the inward, the outward condition of the parties concerned is indicated to us. Hengstenberg again transfers everything to the “sphere of the subjective” (similarly Hitzig: allegory), on which account also (according to him) the carrying out of the prophet’s instructions is not mentioned, and agrees with Ewald, with whom likewise the “literary activity” of Ezekiel is the principal thing, for which the objectivity (or not) of the symbolical action is a matter of pure indifference. Calvin, likewise, makes Ezekiel 4:4 sqq. take place in vision. As regards the “almost childish impression” of the action in question as an objective reality, this has to be attributed to Hengstenberg’s exposition itself; but that a publication of what takes place in the house of Ezekiel is not to be a matter of anxiety, follows from the well-known lively intercourse between those in exile and the great mass in the fatherland. (“Meanwhile, as the man of God, though full, is not permitted to speak, he is to employ the silent language of writing. But his writing is in symbol. His heart is with Jerusalem; there he portrays upon a brick the picture of the beloved city.”—Umbreit. “The heavy judgment which is to burst upon Jerusalem is announced, in harmony with the vision of Ezekiel 1:0, which already held out in prospect the approach of God to judgment.”—Hengst.)

Ezekiel 4:1-3.—The First Sign

Ezekiel 4:1. ואתה applies the foregoing special instruction to the prophet; and, at the same time, the imperative passes over into the description of what Ezekiel is to do, hence the perfects with ו consec. “Just the year before Zedekiah had journeyed to Babylon, for the purpose of testifying his submission to Nebuchadnezzar” (J. D. Mich.).—As to לְבֵנָה, comp. Winer, Realw. 2 p. 731 sqq. We are not to think of real stone, but of something baked from clay (white? chalky?), dried in the sun, or burnt white in the furnace. The walls of ancient Babylon were of bricks, and these Babylonian bricks are one foot long and broad, five inches thick and square. “Such bricks as the Assyrians and Babylonians, just in those districts where Ezekiel lived, filled so often with inscriptions” (Ewald). Besides, there is the significant allusion to Egypt and the bondage of Israel there, Exodus 1:14; Exodus 5:7 sqq. “In order to be able to engrave a delineation that will last,” Hitzig requires the “clay-brick,” which is likewise common in Canaan (Isaiah 9:10). Just so Keil: “white clayey substance.” Others: a brick-shaped slate.—As is usual with those who are thinking about anything, he is to lay the brick before him.—חקק is neither more nor less than: to fix, which may be done just as well by drawing as by engraving. “First of all only a city; Jerusalem would be the last of all the cities of the earth to be thought of, when the subject in hand is a city to be besieged by the Lord. After Jerusalem we are to suppose, as it were, a mark of exclamation” (Hengst.).—But to the brick there belongs not merely, as Hengstenberg maintains, the picture of the city, but also (in accordance with Ewald’s view) what follows, describing “how in all regular order, through all the steps from the beginning onwards to the end, one would open a siege against it.” It would be to press the letter, to make the execution of it from the outset impossible or “childish,” if one were to imagine the contents of Ezekiel 4:2 to be outside the brick; and how does Ezekiel 4:3 (comp. Ezekiel 4:7) suit such a view? The stone itself is not Jerusalem! (Hitzig.)

Ezekiel 4:2. מצור from צור, to press, to straiten. Hitzig: siege-work in general. דּוּק is Aramaic (Hitzig: it thus belongs to a land whose masters were thoroughly acquainted with fortress warfare, Habakkuk 1:10; Isaiah 23:13) and modern Hebrew: to look out, to fix the eyes upon; whence the noun, probably a Chaldee technical term, דָּיֵק, watch-tower (except in Ezekiel, elsewhere only in 2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 52:4), for the most part collectively, and so also here for the (wooden) towers of observation equal or superior in height to the walls round about the city to be besieged, from which weapons were thrown and shot by means of the ballistæ, as well as in other ways. [J. D. Mich.: two lines of circumvallation, a mound and rampart furnished with palisades. W. Neumann: the all prostrating storming-machine.] The plural מחנות, because several separate camps. ברים, from the iron ram’s head in front of beams, which, hanging in ropes or chains inside a scaffolding to be moved upon wheels, were directed against the walls and gates in order to push them in. Hävernick traces back the word to בּוּר ,ברה ,ברר, “to bore through.” Comp. besides, Josephus, De Bello Judges 3:7, § 19. (Others have understood by the expression, the “he-goats,” i.e. the leaders of the army divisions in the different camps.)—If, then, the prophet, as commissioned by God, enters on such a siege, the real besieger of Jerusalem is the Lord God; and while the Chaldeans appear as mere instruments in the divine hand, Ezekiel 4:3—which brings to a close the first symbolical action—intimates what state of mind, on the part of the Lord, Ezekiel has to represent.—ואתה (just as elsewhere also) introduces a new element, put on a parallel with Ezekiel 4:1 by means of קח־לך.—מחבת signifies something bent together, which may be flat for frying or roasting; in such saucepans the flat cakes were fried, Leviticus 2:5. As he is to set the iron pan as an iron wall, it is clear that he has to set it up perpendicularly; it is likewise clear, from the expression between thee and the city, that a relation of separation, of division, between Jerusalem as portrayed upon the brick and the representative of God is meant to be expressed. Only on the ground of such a relation between God and Jerusalem can we explain alike the hostile attitude of the prophet’s face, and specially the clause, and it is in siege, and along with that Ezekiel 4:1-2. But as the wall is to be after the manner of iron (ב), the iron pan cannot be taken as a fascine protecting the besieger, because such a thing, as a rule, was not of iron, and because certainly there could be no need of a protection for God the Besieger, but rather of a protection from Him; nor are we to think with Ewald (1st edit.) of the “very strong iron-like wall of Jerusalem” (Raschi), since the suffix also in אליה does not refer to the pan, but to the city, and the strength of the city wall is not certainly to be made prominent. Ewald also in his very recent 2d edition approaches the view of Hävernick (who with Ephraem understands “the mass of misfortune which is coming upon Jerusalem”), inasmuch as he makes the prophet put “the merely painted siege more strongly and palpably by means of the picture of a wall, as it were, of iron.” But in this way also the so express attitude of separation, which Hitzig recognises, is lost. The allusion to Jeremiah 1:13 for “the horrors of the siege” (Häv.) is too far-fetched [a Lapide: the burning of the city; Origen: the horrible tortures of the inhabitants, Jeremiah 29:22; 2Ma 7:5; others: the army-fire of the Chaldeans]. Jerome (that the wrath of God is represented) nearly approaches the correct view, to which Kimchi points by referring to Isaiah 59:2. The pan, therefore, as a wall, symbolizes the strong (Jeremiah 1:18, alike in accordance with God’s decree, and in consequence of the corruption of Israel) wall of separation, which finally explains everything, what precedes and also what follows. Vatablus and Grotius bring in, besides, “their hardness of heart and the blackness of their sins,” just as Hitzig also, “the base metal” and (in accordance with Ezekiel 24:6) “the rust as a picture of defilement through sin.” (Hengst.: first the refusal of divine help, then God Himself even the assailant.) Not so much the preparation of food which follows (Klief.), as the circumstance that such a pan (according to Ewald: “the nearest iron plate”) was at hand in every household (Keil), suggested the choice of the same. As the siege is described with the prophet as besieger, so “certainly it will be carried out, not hundreds of years afterwards, but in the lifetime of Ezekiel, during his labours” (Klief.). The significance of the iron pan would certainly disappear if we imagined that the prophet had grouped the siege in little figures round about the brick. Moreover, what is portrayed upon the stone, and is here spoken of as the city, is called in Ezekiel 4:7 “the siege of Jerusalem.”—The house of Israel is here the same as in Ezekiel 3:0 Comp. on the other hand, Ezekiel 4:5.—If the symbolical action is to be a sign (in the sense of foreshadowing), then the view, that it was also shown them, that, as it was for them, so it made its appearance objectively before them, is certainly more probable than Hengstenberg’s subjective view, more probable than with Stäudlein, Hävern., Hitzig, to make the action one that was not really performed, but only discoursed about (Isaiah 20:3). Klief.: “an important action, even when besides it is a silent one, must be performed; although the text does not mention it expressly, a thing that quite explains itself in the case of one who has received a command from God.”

Additional Note on Ezekiel 4:1-3

[In regard to the part required to be played by the prophet himself, however it may have been understood in former times, we should suppose few now will be disposed to doubt that the successive actions spoken of took place only in vision, and are no more to be ranked among the occurrences of actual life than the eating of the prophetic roll mentioned in the preceding chapter. Indeed, such actions as are described here, though well fitted, when rehearsed as past, and read as narratives of things ideally done, to make a strong and vivid impression upon the mind, would probably have had an opposite effect if transacted in real life. It would have been impossible for ordinary spectators to see Ezekiel conducting a miniature siege with a tile and a saucepan, and such like implements of war, without a feeling of the puerile and ludicrous being awakened; and the other symbolical actions mentioned, especially his lying for 390 days motionless on one side, if literally understood, can scarcely be regarded as coming within the limits of the possible. And along with the physical impossibility of one part of the requirement there was the moral impossibility of another, since to eat bread composed of such abominable materials would have been, (if performed in real life) a direct contravention of the law of Moses,—that law, respectful submission to which was ever held to be the first and most essential characteristic of a true prophet (compare Deuteronomy 14:3; Deuteronomy 23:12-14, with Ezekiel 13:1-5). Besides, we find the prophet (Ezekiel 8:1) represented as sitting in his house before the number of the days to be spent in a lying posture could have been completed. So that, on every account, it is necessary to consider the actions to have taken place in vision, as, indeed, was usually the case in prophetical actions, and uniformly so, as we shall find in Ezekiel.—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 4:4-8.—The Second Sign

Once more a new appointment, which onwards to Ezekiel 4:8, carrying into further detail the above indicated destiny of Jerusalem, gives us a more vivid picture of it as respects the inner condition of the parties concerned, after the manner of a second symbolic action on the part of Ezekiel. In the position of a prophet, it is implied that such an one may be the representative alike of God and of the people; and as, therefore, Ezekiel represents Jehovah in Ezekiel 4:1-3, so now, and in Ezekiel 4:9 sqq., he represents Israel. “Where in this way Jehovah Himself fights against His people, their downfall is certain; the prophet immediately assumes this position” (Häv.). The mere circumstance, that he is to lie on the one side and the other (“to sleep,” as the Sept. and Vulg. make it, plainly contradicts the context), is symbolical as regards those whom he represents, a picture of the political situation (Isaiah 28:20; Isaiah 50:11; Amos 5:2; Psalms 20:8; Psalms 44:25); not “as a sick person who can lie only on one side, and must always without shifting lie upon it” (Ewald), not as a figure for a state of political languishing, but in contrast with standing upright, a lying down in consequence of a fall (Hitz.).—As the period fixed is days (which, however, mean years), the reference generally to the besieged (“the frightful constraint from without, during which one cannot move or stir,” Ewald) is to be held fast in the first place; but then, farther, the carrying captive which follows, and the sojourn in exile, is at the same time to be kept in view. First the left side is made prominent when the reference is to the severed house of Israel,—according to Ewald, Hitzig, because of the geographical situation to the north of Judah (Ezekiel 16:46), while the latter lay in the south,—according to Grot., Hävernick, Keil, because of the superiority of the latter over the former (comp. Ezekiel 23:0.), Ecclesiastes 10:2. Maldon.: it had the priesthood and the kingdom.—עון is the guilt, thus the sin in its consciousness of punishment; neither the former alone nor the latter alone, but the transition from the one to the other in process of being effected for the subjective consciousness. The consciousness of guilt on the part of the people is to be awakened.—Inasmuch as Ezekiel is to lay the guilt upon it, i. e. his left side, the side upon which he himself has to lie, the problem can only be solved when we regard Ezekiel himself, in virtue of his lying upon his left side, as the bearer of the guilt, which is also immediately said. According to Keil, he would come to lie upon the guilt, and not the guilt upon him! That נשא cannot here mean “to bear,” as Hengstenberg asserts, one cannot see, because, if he is to lay the guilt upon himself, he will have to bear it also, and the matter in hand is not at all an official and mediatorial or atoning substitution, but only a symbolical bearing of a burden which has to lie heavily upon the people, whom he only represents. As many days as he shall lie upon his left side, so long will he represent the burden of guilt of the ten tribes. This is not certainly meant to signify the number of the years which they have sinned (Rosenm.). Is this, then, asserted by Ezekiel 4:5? The number of the days of his lying means, of course, “the years of their guilt;” but what is carefully to be noticed, as a period given him by God (ואני נתתי לך), yet not surely as a period selected by God from their course of sinning for the purpose of being represented by him? is such a divine formulating of the period of their sinning well conceivable? but as the guilt measured by God, to be represented by Ezekiel, and thus to be announced in actual fact, which they have brought upon themselves, and have to bear in years. What comes upon them in years, Ezekiel is to represent to them in days, thus bearing the guilt of the house of Israel. This explanation, simply arrived at from the text, will have to be tested by the interpretation of the periods given. For Israel there are appointed 390 days, and the prophet has accomplished these.

Ezekiel 4:6. For his lying on his right side, a second time. to bear the guilt of the house of Judah, 40 days are appointed. The question, whether the 40 days are to be supposed as included in the 390 (with Cocc. and others), is expressly answered in the negative by the שנית (“for the second time”); there are 390 and 40, in all 430 days, which sum the text certainly does not add together. For the special reason, that the season of punishment has begun long ago in the case of the ten tribes, just as it is already touching Judah also, a division of time readily suggested itself, while the division of collective Israel into Israel and Judah presented itself historically. In getting the 390 years to correspond in respect of sinning, and especially the 40, if they are to be reckoned as actual years, and therefore exactly, even the most diverse modes of explanation have found themselves helpless. The whole kingdom of Israel did not last for 390 years; and we must therefore go back beyond the ten tribes, into the period of the judges, pot to mention other modes of reckoning by means of omissions. Rosenm., therefore, made the distinction between Israel and Judah step into the background as regards the 390 years; and inasmuch as he gets at 386 years from the division of the kingdom down to the eleventh year of Zedekiah (the conquest of Jerusalem), he consoles himself for what is wanting with the poetic rounding off of prophetic language; but Judah’s 40 years of sin are reckoned from the twelfth year of the reign of the pious king Josiah! Hengstenberg understands Israel as collective Israel, begins with 2 Chronicles 12:1 (comp. 2 Chronicles 11:17), i.e. from the fourth year of Rehoboam, “the year of the falling into sin of the whole nation,” and supports himself in this view by Vitringa’s reckoning of 430 years 6 months from the founding of the temple to the destruction of the state; and deducting 37 years of Solomon’s and 3 of Rehoboam’s, there remain 390 years; and Judah, according to him, is contrasted with the whole people, the 40 years being 40 from the collective Eze 390: “the despising of the grace of God in the raising up of king Josiah (2 Kings 23:25), and the frustration of the last attempt made by Jeremiah,” beginning with the thirteenth year of Josiah, the first appearance of Jeremiah on the stage, whose labours down till the destruction of Jerusalem lasted 40 years. The connection with Ezekiel 4:1-3 manifestly makes the time of punishment more probable than a time of sin; and the computation of the number 390 for the days which the siege of the city lasted, from the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year of Zedekiah down to the 9th day of the 4th month of the 11th year, can very simply be made to correspond by making a deduction for the temporary raising of the siege on account of the Egyptians (Jeremiah 37:5). On the other hand, every calculation of 390 and of 40 years—which is certainly involved—fails as a time of exile for Israel and Judah. In this state of matters, if one reckons by literal days and years, but still more considering the all-pervading symbolical character of the whole and of the details, the acceptance of symbolical formulas of time for the divinely-awarded punishment of the guilt alike of Israel and of Judah commends itself. For the number 390 in reference to Israel, Kliefoth, by comparing Deuteronomy 25:3 with 2 Corinthians 11:24, in accordance with the number of the ten tribes, arrives at 10 × 39 years of punishment as just so many strokes of divine chastisement; and for Judah, on the other hand, as he does not treat it as two tribes, by a fair adjustment he arrives at the highest legal number of just 40 strokes, i.e. years. What Keil remarks in opposition to this view may be said, but is less decisive than the certainly surprising character of such a mode of reckoning for the prophetic symbolism of an Ezekiel. Klief. has been driven to his ingenious attempt at interpretation, because the number 390 baffled every other interpretation. But this number also, which stands for Israel, can claim no peculiar symbolism for itself. The ten tribes, as Klief. himself calls them “torn off branches, atoms of a nation,” have, in view of the longer historical duration of their exile, as well as by reason of their greater liability to punishment, only in general a claim to be more heavily punished. In particular, they do not come into consideration as regards the siege in our verses which applies to Jerusalem, nor in any other way, save that the national prophetic spirit must include them in its conception of collective Israel, for which Judah with Jerusalem is the title. With such a historical meaning also for Judah, with which also the right side of the prophet standing for it corresponds, one need not be stumbled with Kliefoth, although the number 390 should be “in itself quite meaningless.” It is the same as with the left side of Ezekiel, so quite peculiarly taking the lead in Ezekiel 4:4-5, for this reason only, because his misery as an exile, long ago begun, and already entered upon in part by Judah likewise, is fitted to exhibit before the eyes of the remnant of Judah what will not be wanting to them just as visibly. For the symbolism the number 40, which is applied to Judah, is the determining element. The relation of the 40 to 390 may be similar to the case in which Bähr (2. p. 491) does not allow the Numbers 33:0 and 66 as such to come into consideration, but only in their connection with 7 and 14, bringing them up to 40 and 80. As respects the number 40 itself, Bähr says convincingly, according to it, almost universally, such periods are fixed as bring with them a state of more or less constraint and oppression, and yet somehow at the same time a state having a bearing on religious affairs. Keil is right in basing the symbolical meaning of a definite term of divine visitation not simply on the 40 years’ leading of the people through the wilderness (Numbers 14:0), which properly amounted to 38 years only, but on the earlier passage Genesis 7:12; Genesis 7:17 Comp., in order to determine the meaning of the number 40, Exodus 34:28 (Deuteronomy 9:0); 1 Kings 19:8; Jonah 3:4; Matthew 4:0. As in this way the 40 for Judah, which alone properly came under consideration, threw light on the 390, the summing up might be let alone; with some reflection it was done, as a matter of course, and this all the more that the number 390 in itself must of necessity appear meaningless. The possible connection with the actual period of the siege of Jerusalem, or a portion of it (comp. on Ezekiel 4:9), may be regarded as a subordinate reference. “The sufferings of the siege will, in the general sense of severe constraint, certainly continue during the whole exile also,” etc. (Ew.) The addition of 390 and 40 gives (according to Exodus 12:40) the period of sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt, 430 years, significant for all after periods of the nation, on account of the parallel of this period with the exile (Introd. p. 19), and in the law even (Deuteronomy 28:68), as well as in Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 9:6; Ezekiel 8:13, brought into significant prominence. That the sojourn in Egypt, which sprang from quite a different cause, suits badly as a type for a period of punishment (Klief.), cannot accordingly be maintained. Comp. besides, Genesis 15:13 (Acts 7:6), where we have it in round numbers! “The period of the first heathen tyranny over the people of Jehovah repeats itself in the history of the nation: the old, everlastingly memorable time becomes to the seer—himself already living amid heathen surroundings—a type of the oppressions rushing in anew upon them with irresistible violence; hence the punishment of the exile is intensified by the circumstance that it appears as the antitype of the ancient 430 years’ Egyptian bondage” (Häv.). But here Klief. is right, when, against a special reference of the 40 years for Judah to the 40 years’ leading of the people collectively through the wilderness (for which Häv. points to Ezekiel 20:13 sqq., 23 sqq., 35, 36), he raises the objection, that in this way another occurrence lying outside the 430 years is drawn in, while the 40 years must certainly lie within the 430. We must therefore either abide by the general symbolical character of the number 40, or like Keil, who very ingeniously draws attention to the circumstance, that the last 40 years of the Egyptian bondage furnished a reason for a division of the 430 into 390 and 40, find again in the 40 the 40 years of his exile which Moses spent in Midian. Comp. Exodus 7:7 with Acts 7:23; Acts 7:30—not as Keil, Exodus 2:11. Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:23-30. “These 40 years,” remarks Keil, “were not only for Moses a season of testing and purification for his future calling, but doubtless for the Israelites also the period of their severest oppression by the Egyptians, and in this respect quite appropriate as a type for the future period of Judah’s punishment; so that as Israel in Egypt lost in Moses her helper and protector, so now Judah was to lose her king, and to be given up to the tyranny of the heathen world-power.” [See Additional Note at the close of the Exegetical Remarks.—W. F.] Instead of the Kethib הימיני (elsewhere only in 2 Chronicles 3:17) we must read, with the Qeri, הַיְמָנִי.—Comp. on Ezekiel 4:5.—The suffix in נתתין refers to עון. Hengst., who takes למספר as=for just as many days (Klief., Keil: for the number of, for a number of), translates: so that for every day there comes a year, I give it thee. [The 190 of the Sept. for the whole, and 40 for Judah, Hävernick explains to himself by the bringing in of another type, viz. the deluge, Genesis 7:24; Genesis 7:12. They read Exodus 12:40 differently from the Hebrew text. Hitzig makes them reckon their 150 from the year 738 to 588.]

By means of Ezekiel 4:7 our section goes back upon the first (Ezekiel 4:3), and harmonizes the two symbolical actions. Inasmuch as the prophet represented the people before, and not so much Jerusalem, he can in representing Jehovah set his face toward the siege of Jerusalem (viz. as that was to be represented in Ezekiel 4:1-3), fixedly, sharply, as an enemy. The bared arm,—(Isaiah 52:10) as of a warrior, for the purpose of fighting, stripping it of the garment up to the shoulder,—according to Raschi, prefiguring Nebuchadnezzar, is at the same time the free arm of the prophet, who is lying upon the other. As it must be the right arm for the warlike object in view, we shall have (as against Hitz.) to think of the 390 days in Ezekiel 4:4-5, during which Ezekiel lies upon the left side, with which Ezekiel 4:8 also agrees. The arm outstretched in the same direction strengthens as well as gives effect to the permanence of the look; if it were to be understood as occasionally lifted up, then the על, which is certainly usual elsewhere also in the case of threatening announcements, would be explained still more definitely.—In accordance with Ezekiel 3:25, the expositors understand the prophesying as not so much orally in words, but virtually by means of this very symbolical acting. Comp. however, on Ezekiel 5:5 sqq.

Ezekiel 4:8. והנה נתתי־ in contrast with נתנו הנה, Ezekiel 3:25; there in order to move him along, here in order to make him fast. The bands are not the same as there; but whereas those bands of men do not make the prophet obedient to them, a slave to their will, the bands here, on the other hand, which God throws over him, answer their purpose of fixing him according to God’s will. The outward literal bands become in the divine speech a figurative expression for the divine power which will hold him down, and at the same time (Klief.) make him bear it with patience. [According to Häv., a new element is introduced by וִהנה; the prophet, in a vivid manner, is placed in the condition of the besieged. According to Calv.: indicating the stability and firmness of the divine decree.]—The turning which is hindered in such wise is that from the left to the right side, onwards till the accomplishment of the days of his besieging; so that he has to represent the siege of the city, which may in this way be specified as lasting 390 days (comp. on Ezekiel 4:6-7), unless what follows was intended to suggest a still more special reference. [Klief. refers Ezekiel 4:7-8 to the whole period of 430 days; Hitz. refers the prophesying to the 40 days merely.]

Ezekiel 4:9-17.—The Third Sign.

Ezekiel 4:9. A new charge, as in Ezekiel 4:4; a still more detailed amplification, now especially of the outward condition; a third symbolic action, by which also provision is made for the sustenance of Ezekiel while the above described state of affairs lasts; and thus in connection with it. A representation of the people. If already in Ezekiel 4:8 “the state of restraint of the besieged” (Hengst.) were thought of, then an immediate transition would be made from this more general calamity to the more special want of sustenance.—חטִּין, a Chaldaic plural; ן instead of ם, wheat in grains (in the sing especially wheat on the stalk, in the field). Hengst.: as wheat is the usual means of sustenance among the exiles, the Chaldaic form pushes itself forward. Manifestly from a better time (Häv.: descending from what is better to what is worse and worse); for now there follows what,—however good and in part delicious the ingredients in themselves are,—when baked into bread, as is the case here, is prison-bread,—barley in grains, 1 Kings 4:28 (Jdg 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9), beans as well as lentils, a favourite dish (Genesis 25:34), of the latter of which down to the present day the poor in Egypt, in time of dearth, make use as food; דָּגָן millet (from דח, to swell in water, or from the dark colour, allied with דָּגָן, “grain”), yielding a bad kind of bread; and נֻּסְּמִים fitches, spelt (Exodus 9:32), as being one of the poorest sorts of grain, which produces a dry and not very nourishing kind of bread.—The circumstance that Ezekiel is to take of all together does not indeed run counter to the law (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9), but comes very near the prohibition, possibly indicating circumstances of a lawless character, where one is not so rigid. More expressly it is suggested in this way, that the besieged will in their distress be compelled to gather together everything that can possibly be turned into bread. (Απανπα γάρ τοι βρωτὰ πολιορκουμένοις.) This state of matters is represented yet more strongly by means of the one vessel, which shows that of each separate sort not much more is to be had (Ezekiel 4:10).—The length of time (=מִסְפַר הימים as many days as there are) is given definitely as 390 days. It is therefore “inadmissible,” with Keil, to get rid of this clear and definite statement by the supposition that the greater number merely is given (Prado), and that the 40 days are to be understood with the rest, but (Ewald) are omitted for brevity’s sake (in the case of Ezekiel!!). It is conceivable that for 390 days exactly the famine would make itself specially felt. (2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:9-10.) At all events, the prophet has to calculate his prison-fare for 390 days, for so many days is he to eat it. (390 loaves, Jer.)—על־עדך is accordingly his left side (Ezekiel 4:5), before he turned to the right one. Comp. on Ezekiel 4:7-8. Klief. is right as against the including of the 40 days in the 390, not, however, in the extended application which he asserts for these 390 days, viz. on to Ezekiel 4:17, as will soon appear. It is a very good remark of Klief., that the prophet was not altogether prohibited from letting service be rendered to him.

Additional Note on Ezekiel 4:9

[At Ezekiel 4:9, he is ordered to “make bread according to the number of the days that he should lie upon his side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.” Here the 40 days are left out, although during them also he was to lie upon his side—not, as commentators generally, and still also Hävernick, suppose, from the first period being by much the larger of the two, and as such standing for the whole; but to keep the reference clear to the distinctive character of the wilderness-period, which was the point chiefly to be had in view by the Jewish exiles. The eating of polluted bread as a symbol, properly implied a constrained residence in a Gentile country—an unclean region; hence, in the explanation given of the symbol at Ezekiel 4:13, it is declared of the house of Israel, that “they shall eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles.” But in the wilderness Israel stood quite separate from the Gentiles, though still under penal treatment, and in a sense still connected with Egypt (hence “the wilderness of Egypt,” Ezekiel 20:36); and so they who were in a manner to return to that state again were merely to “eat bread by weight, and with care, and drink water by measure, and in desolateness:” a state of chastisement and trouble, but not by any means so heathen-like, so depressed and helpless, as the other.—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 4:10. His food is this bad mixed food (Ewald), not the definite portion which he will have to eat (Keil), for it is defined as portions only by what follows. Ezekiel is to have to eat, not as much as he likes, but, as usually happens in a time of scarcity during sieges, by weight (Ezekiel 4:16). 20 shekels (shekel, what is weighed, hence a definite weight, just as mishkol is weight in general)—according to Ewald, about 20 ounces; according to Keil, 22–23 ounces of bread; according to Philippson, equivalent to 400 beans in weight (Leviticus 26:26). Although in those warmer countries a man needs less than in our climate, yet here it is at most the half of what is usually necessary that is specified for each day. The definition from time to time strengthens the daily element, as distinguished from the hunger which is continually making itself known, never satisfied; he will not be at liberty to give heed to this latter, but will have to consider the time, that he has only 20 shekels for each day, hence—seldom, at long intervals, sparingly! [Keil supposes: at the different hours of the daily meal time. He makes Ezekiel provide himself with a store of grain and legumes, and prepare his bread daily therefrom. Precisely so Klief., who brings in, besides, the pan from Ezekiel 4:3 for the purpose.] And as the food is by weight, so the drink—the water is by measure.

Ezekiel 4:11 (Ezekiel 4:16). A whole hin is reckoned by the Rabbins at 72 egg-shellfuls; hence one-sixth the same as two logs 12 egg-shells. Too much for dying, too little for living. As in this way food and drink are specified for the 390 days, the idea readily suggests itself, with Grotius and others, of referring Ezekiel 4:12 to the 40 days that still remain. The express mention of the number was not necessary here, because its symbolism (comp. on Ezekiel 4:5-6) in general sways the whole, and because in particular it is, of course, understood as the residue after the 390 had been so expressly made prominent (Ezekiel 4:9). The description may the more readily dispense with the number, as from the facts of the ease it becomes sufficiently clear, on the one hand, by means of the new element of uncleanness, especially after the divine explanation which immediately follows in Ezekiel 4:13, and, on the other hand, by means of that freer movement on the part of the prophet which is demanded by Ezekiel 4:12. The 40 certainly symbolizes (comp. on Ezekiel 4:4-6) chiefly the exile among the heathen, as it was to begin for Judah after the taking of besieged Jerusalem. Hengst. excellently remarks: “the barley cake here has nothing at all to do with the pot in Ezekiel 4:9; that is gone.” Ewald finds in it an “exceptional sort of thing, as if for a feast;” certainly too much, and not in accordance with the character of the period of exile. עֻגָּה, the warm cake of bread baked in the hot ashes, just as is usual down even to the present day in eastern lands, especially on journeys, is distinguished as something more common, what is more in order, from the preceding unusual and extraordinary mixed food. The poor standing of exiles causes it to be of barley (comp. Ezekiel 4:9), unless such cakes baked in ashes were as a rule of barley, of which Keil has by no means proved the contrary, as against Hitzig. [Keil, Hitzig, and others translate predicatively: as a barley cake, prepared in that manner, shalt thou eat it. (Is the suffix neuter? is it to be referred to לחם in Ezekiel 4:10?)] Since the important thing here, as regards the sense, is merely the emphasizing of the uncleanness of the food, and since the use of dry animal dung as fuel (Ezekiel 4:15) is at least nothing unusual in the East, האדם גללי צאת was the strong term for it. As fuel (comp. for בגללי, ver Ezekiel 15:0 : עליהם), unlike Isaiah 36:12, it has nothing to do with the siege, beyond which, as regards the symbol, we have now come, as if i were pointing to a scarcity of wood; but at most, it refers to the harassing, immured condition of Ezekiel in his own house. Filth and misery round about on every side: what an overwhelmingly vivid sermon for his countrymen this situation before their eyes! Comp. besides, Deuteronomy 23:12-14. תעגנה from עוג, a technical word for עגה, either: to make round, to curve, to bend, in reference to the form of these cakes, or: because they were surrounded with hot ashes. (Sept.: ὁ ἐγκρυφίας.)

Ezekiel 4:13. The divine interpretation, which is immediately annexed to this quite extraordinary demand, and just because it is so, lays stress (for the reference is not to the siege, but it is already the exile that is spoken of), not on the difficulty as to fuel, but on its uncleanness, and that not so much in a Levitical as in a moral point of view, as judged by the universal human instinct of decency. Man’s dung signifies the profane sojourn in the heathen world in general with its idols (גלולים!). Comp. Ezekiel 9:3. The prophet raises his objection—in Ezekiel 4:14—in the sense: if I have never eaten that which is unclean according to the law of Israel, how should I have anything to do with a thing unclean generally! (Grot.)—אֲהָהּ, an exclamation of astonishment, fear, horror. My soul—not so much as: I myself; it expresses rather the living consciousness of the prophet in his feelings, alike as to his antipathies and sympathies (Matthew 26:38). A lively expression of feeling, especially characteristic of a priest! Comp. as to the subject-matter, Deuteronomy 14:21; Exodus 22:31; Acts 10:14; Acts 11:8; Daniel 1:8.—פּגּוּלִ, according to Ges.: something made fetid, stinking; hence, on the one hand: unpalatable, on the other: forbidden to be used by the laws of food, something abominable, disgusting, or: something rejected, worthy of rejection (Leviticus 7:18); also without בשׂר, Isaiah 65:4. According to Häv.: especially characterizing the priest, inasmuch as in the case of the sacrificial meals flesh left over till the third day was reckoned פגול, Leviticus 19:7. God makes the concession to him

Ezekiel 4:15—with רְאֵה, corresponding to his הִנֵּה, of cow’s dung (Kethib: צְפוּעֵי, Qeri: צְפִיעֵי), like camel’s dung—a very common, odourless fuel. The objection and concession (Hav.: an impressive episode) give a distinctness of their own to the matter in hand; and thereafter Ezekiel 4:16 returns to the beginning, not merely of this third symbolical action (Ezekiel 4:9 sqq.), but, in winding up, of the whole chapter (Ezekiel 4:1 sqq.), and in this way to what is most closely impending, viz. to the siege of Jerusalem. And to this corresponds in point of form the בן־אדם, and, as regards the subject-matter, the participial construction הנני־שבר, of what is as it were shown in the act of being broken in pieces.—As in Isaiah 3:1 bread and also water are named as that which supports (Delitzsch), or more exactly, that on which one supports himself, so here the staff of bread, since bread supports, i.e. nourishes, strengthens, refreshes the heart of man, Psalms 104:15; Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5; Leviticus 26:26. This staff being broken on which the earthly man leans, he falls into the dust of death. Defined more exactly, and, at the same time, set forth vividly by means of ואבלו־לחס־. Comp. Ezekiel 4:10-11.—בשממון strengthens בדאגה, the anxiety about the means of subsistence (Matthew 6:31-32) rising up into silent, speechless pain, caused by the impending starvation.

Ezekiel 4:17. Either dependent on the principal thought in Ezekiel 4:16 : “in order that” (Ewald), or, as this is limited to bread, dependent on the amplification of the same there: because.—The brother also in Psalms 49:7.—In other respects, a quotation from Leviticus 26:39; Lamentations 2:12; Lamentations 2:19 (Luke 21:26).

Additional Note on Ch. 4.

[Jerusalem in a state of siege represents the covenant-people, as a whole, straitened and oppressed by the powers of this world, as the instruments of God’s just displeasure. And the prophet being appointed to bear, during its continuance, the iniquity of the people, with stinted and foul provisions, points in another form to the same visitation of evil—only with a more particular respect to the cause from which it was to spring, and the penal character it should wear. That the time specified should have been in all 430 years, denoted that the dealing was to form a kind of fresh Egyptian exile and bondage to the elements of the world; but much more so in the case of the one house than in that of the other. The house of Israel having cast off nearly all that was distinctive in the position and privileges of the covenant-people, they had consequently sunk into a condition of greatest danger, one bordering on heathen darkness and perdition—nigh unto cursing. What they might expect was to be bruised and crushed to the dust, as if under the rod of Egypt. But Judah was not so far gone; she had the true priesthood to minister at her altars, and the house of David to rule by divine right over the heritage of God; so that her subjection to the powers of evil was only to be like the time of chastisement and trial in the wilderness, out of which she might again emerge into a state of peace and blessing. As the prophet also again declared, in a later prophecy, “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples (not the wilderness merely, but the wilderness of the peoples, to show that it was to be the same only in character as of old, but not in geographical position), and there will I plead with you face to face; like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 20:35-38). A new time of chastisement, but mingled, as of old, with mercy; severe and earnest dealing, but for a gracious result—that they might be refined and purified, so as to become fit for enjoying the good which, as a redeemed people, was secured to them for a heritage of blessing. And if any hope remained for the other branch, the house of Israel—if they were ever to escape from their state of Egyptian darkness and bondage, it must be by their going to join their brethren of Judah in the wilderness, and sharing in their peculiar treatment and prospects. On which account, it is not the whole of the 430 years of the Egypt-state that is appointed toward the house of Israel in the vision, but this shortened by the 40 years of the wilderness sojourn, to teach them that a way still lay open for their return to life, but only by their having the Egypt-state merged into that of the wilderness; in other words, by ceasing from their rank idolatries and open apostasy from the way of God, and coming to seek, along with Judah, through God’s covenant and ordinances, a restoration to righteousness and peace and blessing.

But why should the prophet, in thus announcing the future dealings of God, have thrown the delineation into so peculiar, so enigmatical a form? Why should he have presented it to the view as a returning again “of the years of former generations”? Not, certainly, on the principle of a bald and meagre literalism, as if he meant us to understand that the clock of Providence was actually to be turned back, and the identical ground trodden over again, the precise measures of time filled up anew, of which we read in the earlier history of the chosen race. He who would interpret in such a style the symbolical visions of an Ezekiel is incapable of entering into the rapt emotions of such a mind, and must necessarily flounder at every step. For here we have to do, not only with a lively and fervid spirit, which is ever breathing life, as it were, into the dead, but that spirit in a state of ecstatic elevation, in which the mind naturally served itself of the more remarkable facts and providences in the past; yet only as aids to the utterance of prophetic thought—appropriate forms wherein to clothe the new things concerning God’s kingdom, that were through the Spirit imaging themselves to the prophet’s vision. And, indeed, the very imperfection that usually appears in the frame of such historical visions, as compared with the past realities,—the partial mingling together here, for example, of the two great consecutive periods of past judgment and trial in the history of the covenant-people, so as to make the second begin before the first had ended,—this very imperfection shows, as it was doubtless intended to do, that an exact reproduction of the past was not in the eye of the prophet, and that the nature of God’s contemplated designs, rather than any definite bounds and limits respecting them, were imaged under those ancient periods of tribulation in Egypt and the wilderness.

There were three reasons chiefly why the prophets in general, and this prophet in particular, might be often led to speak of the future under the form and image of the past. In the first place, as the meaning obviously did not lie upon the surface, it called for serious thought and inquiry regarding the purposes of God. A time of general backsliding and corruption is always a time of superficial thinking on spiritual things. And just as our Lord, by His parables, that partly veiled while they disclosed the truth of God, so the prophets, by their more profound and enigmatical discourses, sought to arouse the careless from their security, to awaken inquiry, and stir the depths of thought and feeling in the soul. It virtually said to them, You are in imminent peril; direct ordinary discourse no longer suits your case; bestir yourselves to look into the depths of things, otherwise the sleep of death shall overtake you.
Then, again, it conveyed in a few words—by means of a brief allusion—what the most lengthened description without it could scarcely have accomplished. It was employing a device which the most powerful and effective orators have sometimes resorted to with the greatest effect—as in the memorable words of Mirabeau, when, wishing to repel the thought of danger, he flashed out the pregnant interrogation: “Is Hannibal at the gates?” In like manner, the prophet here, seeking to impress upon his countrymen the certainty and the awfulness of God’s impending judgments on account of sin, carries them back to the past; he brings up to their view Egypt and the wilderness as ready to renew themselves again in their experience. What thoughts of terror and alarm were these fitted to awaken in their minds! Centuries of bondage and oppression! A wearisome sojourn amid drought and desolation! And then this foreshadowing of the future, not only rendered more distinct, but also strengthened as to its credibility, authenticated by those stern realities of the past! It assuredly has been; shall it not be again?

But this suggests another and, indeed, still deeper reason for such a mode of representation having been adopted; for such renewed exhibitions of the past were among the means specially chosen by God for the purpose of enforcing on men’s notice the uniformity of His dealings, and teaching them to regard the providential facts of one age as substantial predictions of what are to be expected in another. It told men then, and it tells us now (only it was more peculiarly adapted to those who lived in ancient times, as the revelations they possessed consisted, much more than now, in the records of history—yet it tells all alike), that the forms alone are transitory in which divine truth and righteousness manifest themselves, while the principles embodied in these forms are eternal, and can never cease, amid all outward varieties, to be giving forth similar exhibitions of their life and power to those which have already appeared. The eye that can thus look through the shell into the kernel, may see the future things of God’s administration mirrored in the past—not, indeed, the exact copy and image of what is to be, yet its essential character and necessary result. Even those very periods of bygone tribulation and chastisement, which the prophet here represents as coming to life again in his day—have they not also a voice for other times? Are they not still reiterating their lessons, and perpetually renewing their existences, in the case of impenitent transgressors now, as well as formerly, in that of drooping exiles in the cities of the Medes, or on the banks of Chebar? One of these periods—the sojourn in the wilderness—the Baptist still finds prolonging itself to the era of his own ministry. His word of stern expostulation and solemn warning makes itself heard as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness;” for he sees everywhere around him trackless deserts where ways of God need to be opened up—elements of corruption working which require to be purged away by the searching application of divine righteousness, before the Canaan of God’s inheritance can be properly entered and enjoyed. And the lukewarm and fruitless professor still—so long as he cleaves to the ways of iniquity, and refuses to yield a hearty surrender to the will of God—what else is his condition? He is in bondage to the elements of the world, and therefore can have no part in that good inheritance which floweth with milk and honey. The doom of Heaven’s condemnation hangs suspended over his head; and if not averted by a timely submission to the righteousness of God, and a cordial entrance into the bond of the covenant, he shall infallibly perish in the wilderness of sin and death.—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 57–61.—W. F.]


1. In the case of a prophet of Ezekiel’s peculiarity, it must be granted that the boundary between symbolic representation in mere forms of speech, and by means of action in real life, may be a movable one. Where, however, the prophet, just as in the case before us, is not to speak, but to be silent, what he relates as a series of facts can hardly be otherwise understood than as actually so. Preaching by means of things done as a mere form of speech is a contradiction in itself. He is to act as He who has sent him will also act. There is, in the first place, enough of words. And then it would perhaps be difficult to reconcile with the “honesty and uprightness of the prophet,” which, however, Hengst. maintains, what he asserts of his symbolical actions, that they are “only pictures executed in a lively manner, calculated to make an indelible impression on the imagination.” For example, Ezekiel 4:14-15. [But see Note on Ezekiel 4:1-3.—W. F.]

2. “If any one reads what Ezekiel reports here, it will perhaps appear to him like a childish play, which it would also be, if God had not commanded the prophet to make it so. From this we may learn that the sacraments also are distinguished from empty illusions by means of the word of God alone. The authority of God for them is the mark of distinction, by which the sacraments are singled out, and have their meaning. It is not the outward appearance, but the Author that is to be looked at. So also the whole system of divine worship under the law differed almost in no respect from the ceremonies of the heathen; yea, these latter brought their sacrifices, and that even with the greatest possible pomp; but Israel had God’s command and promise on their side” (Calv.).

3. The sinner will not get off so easily before God, however lightly he may appear to deal with his sin before men, and before the tribunal of his own conscience. Sin lies as guilt upon man’s conscience, as a burdensome consciousness that one deserves punishment, has to expect punishment. Between the past, when the sin was committed, and the future, when punishment is deservedly to be expected, guilt is the painful, burdensome present of the sinner. Guilt is an abiding thing, even if punishment is a past thing.
4. If every one in himself has to bear his guilt, this moral side is supplemented by the specifically religions one, that a freeing from the burden of it, an exculpation—not the denial, nor the lessening, the explaining away, but the removal of guilt—has been provided for. Without this thought, by means of which the forgiveness of sins is accomplished, true religion is inconceivable. Such a removal of guilt took place mediatorially in Israel by means of the priesthood. What lay in this case in the office, as of divine form for the period of shadows, lay also in the sacrifice, as of divine substance for the same period of types; by means of the sacrifice, the removal of guilt took place in the way of substitution, of atoning acceptance of that guilt. Everything was in a manner like a bill of exchange, of which God meant to get payment (realisiren) in His own time. This divine realization in the fulness of the times will thus have the form of a priest and the essence of a sacrifice. The Servant of Jehovah in Isaiah 53:0 is both, priest as well as sacrifice; but the prophet is not so, who has neither to mediate nor to make atonement, but who speaks God’s word or embodies it in action—in our case here the latter; that is to say, he symbolically represents the guilt of the people in his own person, not so much, of course, by action as by suffering.

5. As Ewald already points out, the 40 years for Judah are parallel with the 70 years of the Babylonian exile in Jeremiah. What the latter are in a predominantly numerical point of view, the 40 of Ezekiel are in a purely symbolical.

6. Hävernick, in connection with the episode of Ezekiel 4:14-15, mentions the case of Daniel, who in deepest sorrow must eat the bread of affliction, and pine away in grief over the sins of his people, but an angel of God comes also, and comforts and strengthens him. So likewise here, as he says, Jehovah alleviates the punishment. The protest of Ezekiel not less closely resembles the εἰ δυνατόν of the Son of man in Gethsemane, and the strengthening by an angel from heaven.

7. The circumstance that they were to eat “their bread polluted” among the heathen, pointed at the same time, according to Cocc., to the entire want of the means of cleansing through sacrifice Hosea 9:4). The land of the heathen far from the temple was an unclean land, because there was no possibility of cleansing according to the law of the Sanctifier of Israel.


Ezekiel 4:1. Similar symbolic actions we find performed by Christ also, who places a child in the midst of His disciples, washes their feet, etc. And so God wishes here also to say to Israel: “Thou wilt not hear; open thine eyes at least!” (H. H.)—God sometimes demands things which appear to men foolish, nay, silly. But in God’s foolishness there is wisdom, while in all the wisdom of men there is mere foolishness in the end, 1 Corinthians 1:25.—“Elisha in 2 Kings 13:0 causes bow and arrows to be brought; Isaiah in Ezekiel 20:0 walks barefoot; Jeremiah in Ezekiel 27:0 wears a yoke, bonds, etc. The apostles shake the dust off their feet (Matthew 10:0), shake their clothes (Acts 18:6); Agabus binds Paul with his girdle (Acts 21:0). Let us recal to mind the bundle of arrows wherewith that heathen preached concord to his sons” (L. L.).—“Most of all art thou besieged, when thou supposest that thou art not at all besieged. There is a security of the Christian which is storm; for, according to Job, man’s life upon earth is a warfare” (Jer.).—“Besieged Jerusalem is the soul in its sins, against which all the works of the divine righteousness are directed; but as the unburnt brick is easily dissolved in pieces by water, so also the soul in its sins by the tears of repentance” (a L.).

Ezekiel 4:2. Titus confessed of the second destruction of Jerusalem, that the city was conquered more by the angry Deity than by means of the Roman weapons.—“Temptation may be called a spiritual siege” (Stck.).—The whole world round about us is, in the main, a siege of the soul; in the world we have tribulation. If only the iron pan does not stand between us and God! For if God be for us, who can be against us? But, on the other hand, if God must be against us, according to the testimony of our own conscience, what could peace even with all men help us!

Ezekiel 4:3. “Preachers frequently appear to their hearers as their enemies, because they proclaim to them their ruin, and depict the punishment of their sin vividly before their eyes; and yet they do not wish their ruin, but the salvation of their souls” (Stck.).—“The Jews might shake their heads and thrust out their tongues, but this fact they could not alter, that it was a sign for Israel” (Calv.).—To him who has his soul before his eyes, everything, even if it is not said so expressly as here, may be a sign.—All things must, and in fact do, work for good to those who love God.

Ezekiel 4:4 sqq. “Preachers are to grudge no trouble and inconvenience for the best interests of their hearers, 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9” (St.).—“God does not always punish on the spot, when men deserve it with their sins” (O.).—Preachers are to preach not merely with the word, but by their example, in doing as well as in leaving undone, and also in suffering.—God’s patience and His servants’ patience is a fine sermon.—“We, for the most part, reckon up only our days of sorrow, but for our days of joy, and especially for our days of sin, we have neither reckoning nor remembrance” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 4:7. How much longing, how much pain, but what righteousness also, lay in this look toward Jerusalem!—A prelude on Ezekiel’s part to Luke 19:41 sqq., but also a contrast—here the uncovered arm, there the weeping eyes of Jesus.—“Ah! if now Jerusalem and we who are in it were to judge ourselves, and were to look upon our sins and vices as our worst enemies, and to attack them; then it would not be necessary for God with those who are His to take up a position against us as enemies” (B. B.).

Ezekiel 4:8. “Diseases and afflictions of every kind are such bands, wherewith God binds His own, and not merely the ungodly” (Stck.).—“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit,” says Paul in Acts 20:0.—“Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” is a well known watchword of those who are mighty according to the flesh in this world.—“We bind ourselves with our sins, and Satan knows how to hold us fast in these bands of our own” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 4:9 sqq. So the bread of misery is ever still of many sorts, and yet not much for each day.—“But our days also for the bread of misery are measured and numbered, and beyond them it is not to last” (B. B.).—Want of bread is to be endured, for man lives not by bread alone; but the want of God no man ought to be able to endure, not even for a single instant; and yet how many become old and grey without hunger on this account!

Ezekiel 4:10-11. The high importance of bread and water in a bodily and spiritual point of view; and yet, for the most part, we are able to think only of prisoners in connection with bread and water.

Ezekiel 4:12. “Nothing can be so loathsome to men as sin is to God” (Stck.).—“But what else, pray, are those doing but eating dirt, who delight themselves in earthly things, and do everything for the sake of the belly or the flesh?” (B. B.)—And in what is the daily intellectual food of so very many men, consisting as it does of newspapers and pamphlets, of social intercourse and conversation—in what is it baked? Paul reckoned everything but dung for Christ, Philippians 3:0.

Ezekiel 4:13. Along with the Jews, all those, even at the present day, are eating defiled bread, who, like them, are despising the bread of life which came down from heaven.

Ezekiel 4:14. He who must be silent to men, may yet open heart and mouth to his God.—“There is full permission to ask God for the alleviation of the cross” (O.).

Ezekiel 4:15. “God is and remains gracious even in the midst of wrath; if He does not take the cross of His children entirely away, yet He alleviates it” (Cr.).

Ezekiel 4:16 sq. “No one has less thought of it than the rich, that there was to be a possibility of the want becoming so great in their case, that bread and water were so easily to fail them, even although a famine should happen. But the rich man experienced it even in hell, and could not get a drop of water, however much he wished to have it” (B. B.).

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/ezekiel-4.html. 1857-84.
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