Ezekiel Chapter 4
Lessons from the text
Unusual and Bazaar Signs from God
God commands Ezekiel in this chapter and elsewhere to do very unusual acts as a sign to the Jews. Ezekiel was not the first prophet to perform signs, but arguably he has to perform the most extreme signs. Jeremiah was told to bury undergarments, but such is nothing compared to laying on your side for over a year eating a mixture of dung and wheat (Jer. 13:1-11).
Why did God command Ezekiel to do such a bazaar thing? He wanted to do something that would be sure to get the Jews’ attention. The people had fallen so far from the statutes of God that most people did not even know that they could not place an idol statue in the holy temple and expect God to be pleased (Eze. 8:3-16). The priests and levites were not teaching the people the truth to the point that the people did not even realize they were breaking the first and second commandments (Exo. 20:3-5).
God was trying to draw the people back to Him. He needed something that would break through all their preconceived notions of who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped. So, He chose Ezekiel to do truly strange things. Then, when people would stop and ask what on earth the man was doing, Ezekiel could teach them the truth about God.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 God tells Ezekiel to draw a battle scene on a tile. He is to draw Jerusalem surrounded by battering rams and attacked by a fort, a mountain, and an army camp.
3 Ezekiel completes the sign by himself lying in the floor to represent a siege against the city. The iron between him and the drawing is to show the unwavering strength of the attackers. No one can penetrate to the attacker and the attacker’s will is as strong as iron.
4-8 Ezekiel is to lie on his side according to the number of years that the two kingdoms must bear their iniquity. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, is to be judged for three hundred ninety years, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, is to be judged forty years. While these numbers may not appear to match other prophecies such as Jeremiah’s seventy years for the captivity, the forty years corresponds to the fall of the Babylonian Empire at the hand of the Persians, after which the Jews are treated favorably. Also, the lands of the northern kingdom are not restored when the lands of Judah are restored.
No human can lie without moving for as long as God commanded Ezekiel to lie. Therefore, God says that He will supernatural secure Ezekiel so that he cannot move. Also, God says that Ezekiel will be prophesying during this time.
9-13 God gives specific instructions about what Ezekiel can eat and drink. These are to represent the dire condition of the Jews. As Ezekiel cannot move from his side, the Lord is not commanding him to bake the wheat mixture; he is to give command in his house about what is to be prepared and brought to him. Ezekiel is married, so he was not in his house alone.
14 Ezekiel objects strongly to the Lord’s dietary instructions. He is repulsed not merely by the thought of eating man’s dung but also at the thought of breaking the Mosaic command to eat only clean items. Human dung is not clean but is to be buried (Deut. 23:12-14).
15 Amazingly, the Lord changes His command to Ezekiel. God is willing to take into consideration our objections and conscious. Since Ezekiel’s objection is based on a desire to fulfill Moses’ laws, God is willing to accommodate the prophet.
16-17 God further explains why Ezekiel is to have a strict diet: the Jews will only be able to eat and drink in rationed portions. They will have so little that they will be astonished. More importantly, they will be hungry. Since the people chose to starve themselves of God’s words and laws, God is going to let them starve. “Consume away” refers to being consumed by the consequences of their sins; it may mean dying from hunger or merely loosing strength and vitality from hunger.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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