Chapter 4 The Siege of Jerusalem Portrayed
The unrighteous Jews thought that Jerusalem would be safe since the Lord’s Holy Temple was there. God gives them two warnings through Ezekiel of exceedingly tough times ahead for the Israelites. In the prophetic enactments of Ezekiel the prophet represents God Himself working invisibly behind the scenes but instigating the calamities coming on the unrighteous Jews.
1 “You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem. 2 Lay siege against it, build a siege wall against it, and heap up a mound against it; set camps against it also, and place battering rams against it all around. 3 Moreover take for yourself an iron plate and set it as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.
The Lord now instructs Ezekiel to take a clay brick and draw on it a model of Jerusalem. Ezekiel is further instructed to add details to the model including siege walls, an attack mound, an enemy encampment and battering rams being deployed against the city walls. Ezekiel also sets up an iron wall between him and the model of the city showing how isolated the city would become. The Lord then commands Ezekiel to set his face against the city laying siege to the model as a picture of how God was about to judge the Israelites.
4 “Lie also on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. 5 For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.
The next warning sign to be given by the prophet is that he is told to lie down on his left side for 390 days signifying this is how God feels bearing the sins of his people. When this time has elapsed, he must do another forty days this time on his right side and for the people of Judah. Each day that Ezekiel lies on his side represents one year of God’s judgement on the Israelites based in Jerusalem and on the tribe of Judah. The significance of the days is that the 390 represents the years of the upcoming exile for the Israelites and the 40 days representing 40 years in exile for the Judahites. It is of note that the total exile comes to 430 years the exact same period the Israelites were held captive in Egypt.
7 “Therefore you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem; your arm shall be uncovered, and you shall prophesy against it. 8 And surely, I will restrain you so that you cannot turn from one side to another till you have ended the days of your siege.
Ezekiel is to set his face against the model and prophesy against Jerusalem And will be unable to change his posture whilst the days of his lying down are to be completed.
9 “Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink.12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
The meaning of this poor bread portion for Ezekiel indicates there will be a serious shortage of food upcoming for the Israelites and not only a shortage but the bread would be defiled in some way. During his 430 days of lying on his side the prophet is only allowed inadequate quality starvation rations of bread and water.
13 Then the Lord said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”
God is showing the Jews how unclean their sins are to Him feeding them unclean food for their unclean hearts. Jerusalem is going to be emptied of people in what will then be a third exile from Jerusalem, and they will end up eating starvation rations that are unclean in a foreign exile.
14 So I said, “Ah, Lord God! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”
15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”
The prophet cannot bare to eat unclean bread cooked over human excrement as it would be unclean. The Lord concedes this point and allows him to cook over cow dung.
16 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, surely, I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, 17 that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.
Jerusalem is fast heading for a siege with only siege rations of bread and water available to them. Though the rations are short ironically there will be plenty of fear and terror about and the inhabitants will start blaming each other for the calamities knocking on their door. Their sins will surely catch up to them.