Ezekiel 4 – “Symbolic Actions”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God orders Ezekiel to perform symbolic actions such as laying siege to a brick representing Jerusalem, sleeping on his side for 430 days, and eating bread with cow excrement.

II. Photo
God gives Ezekiel an unusual order: “[God] answered me, ‘See, I allow you cow’s dung instead of human excrement; prepare your bread on that!’” (v. 15)

III. Important Verses
1-3: “And you, O mortal, take a brick and put it in front of you, and incise on it a city, Jerusalem. Set up a siege against it, and build towers against it, and cast a mound against it; pitch camps against it, and bring up battering rams roundabout it. Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between yourself and the city, and set your face against it. Thus it shall be under siege, you shall besiege it. This shall be an omen for the House of Israel.
4-6: “Then lie on your left side, and let it bear the punishment of the House of Israel; for as many days as you lie on it you shall bear their punishment. For I impose upon you three hundred and ninety days, corresponding to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment for the House of Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie another forty days on your right side, and bear the punishment of the House of Judah. I impose on you one day for each year.
9-15: “Further, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and emmer. Put them into one vessel and bake them into bread. Eat it as many days as you lie on your side: three hundred and ninety. The food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; this you shall eat in the space of a day. And you shall drink water by measure; drink a sixth of a hin in the space of a day. “Eat it as a barley cake; you shall bake it on human excrement before their eyes. So,” said the LORD, “shall the people of Israel eat their bread, unclean, among the nations to which I will banish them.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, my person was never defiled; nor have I eaten anything that died of itself or was torn by beasts from my youth until now, nor has foul flesh entered my mouth.” He answered me, “See, I allow you cow’s dung instead of human excrement; prepare your bread on that.”

IV. Outline
1-3. Symbolic action: besieging a brick inscribed with Jerusalem’s name
4-6. Symbolic action: Ezekiel is to lie on his side for 390 and 40 days
7. Ezekiel’s mission is to prophesy against the people
8. Symbolic action: Ezekiel is to tie himself up in cords
9-13. Symbolic action: Ezekiel’s dietary regimen, including human excrement
14-15. Ezekiel convinces God to let him eat cow excrement
16-17. God will bring famine to Jerusalem

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Allen, Leslie C. “Ezekiel 1-19” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 28 (Waco, Texas: Wordbook, 1994).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Hals, Ronald M. “Ezekiel” The forms of the Old Testament Literature vol. 19 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1989)
Photo taken from http://www.organicvalley.coop/uploads/tx_ovlightbox/farmpics/cow-closeup.jpg