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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 4

 

 

Verses 1-3

Ezekiel 4, 5. Four Symbols, Prophetic of the Coming Doom of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 4:1-3. (A) The Siege of Jerusalem—But if Ezekiel may not speak, he is a prophet still, preaching, if not by the word, at least by symbolic action; and, ominously enough, his first message is the announcement of the siege of Jerusalem—and this, be it remembered, four and a half years before that siege began. How the message came to his own soul, we cannot explain except on his own assumption, that it was the voice of God: its truth was certainly justified by the sequel. He sets forth the truth symbolically by portraying upon a brick (such as the Babylonians used for writing upon) a walled city exposed to a furious siege from surrounding forts, mounds, and battering rams.


Verses 4-8

Ezekiel 4:4-8. (B) The Exile: its Duration.—The next action is more curious. Ezekiel is represented as lying upon his side for 190 days (as LXX correctly reads in Ezekiel 4:5) to symbolise the years of punishment in exile—a year for a day—undergone by Israel and Judah for their sins. As the restoration of these two kingdoms is expected to occur simultaneously (Ezekiel 37:16 ff.) we must assume that, as he lies for forty days upon his right side to represent Judah (i.e. the southern kingdom), so he lies 150 days on his left to represent Israel (i.e. the northern kingdom), though the whole period of her exile covers, of course, 190 years. Forty is a round number: in point of fact, the exile of Judah (reckoning from the fall of Jerusalem) lasted almost fifty years (586-538 B.C.). A hundred and fifty is also a round number: from the date at which Ezekiel is writing (592 B.C.) back to the fall of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom (721 B.C.), the exile of Israel lasted about 130 years, or more nearly 150, if we carry the date back to the Assyrian deportation of some of Israel's northern inhabitants, 734 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29).

Some think that this action points to the rigidity of catalepsy; but the sequel, in which Ezekiel bakes, eats, and drinks, shows that it cannot have been literally carried out. At most one may suppose that the symbolic action was deliberately performed for a certain time each day. Despite his silence, his strange posture and behaviour were charged with prophetic meaning.


Verses 9-17

Ezekiel 4:9-17. (C) The Hardships of the Exiles and the Besieged.—The horrors of famine, consequent upon the siege, are suggested by the symbolical action of this section, in which the prophet's food and drink are to be carefully measured out—about half a pound of food a day and a little over a pint of water. But blended with the thought of the scarcity of food during the siege is the thought of the uncleanness of the food eaten during the exile. According to Hebrew ideas, any food eaten in any land outside of Canaan was necessarily unclean: partly because such a land, not being Yahweh's land, was itself unclean, and partly because no first-fruits would be offered to Him, as He could have no sanctuary there (Hosea 9:3 f.). The uncleanness of exile is suggested by the mongrel combinations (cf. Ezekiel 4:9) which in food, as in dress and other things (cf. Deuteronomy 22:9-11), seems to have been offensive to Hebrew religious sense; but it is suggested far more drastically by the repulsive accessories of its preparation, which must have been peculiarly offensive to the priestly Ezekiel with his regard for ceremonial propriety. This regard he specially emphasizes before God in a highly significant prayer—one of the very few prayers in the book—and a special concession is made; but even so, the religious horror of the exile to a sensitive and scrupulous Hebrew is powerfully suggested.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 4:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ezekiel-4.html. 1919.

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