|Ezekiel 4:1 "Now you son of man, get yourself a brick, place it before you and inscribe a city on it, Jerusalem.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And thou, son of man, take thee a brick, and thou shalt set it before thy face, and shalt portray on it the city, even Jerusalem.
WBC: You, human one, are to take a brick and, setting it in front of you, draw a city on it.
Young's Literal: And thou, son of man, take to thee a brick, and thou hast put it before thee, and hast graven on it a city -- Jerusalem,
NOW YOU SON OF MAN, GET YOURSELF A BRICK, PLACE IT BEFORE YOU (Ezek 5:1-17; 12:3-16; 1Sa 15:27 15:28; 1Ki11:30 11:31; Isa20:2-4; Jer13:1-14; 18:2-12; 19:1-15; 25:15-38; 27:2-22; Ho1:2-9; 3:1-5; Ho12:10)
To summarize events to this point (Ezekiel is laid out very chronologically) remember that Ezekiel’s ministry began with a dramatic personal encounter with the "glory of the LORD", a good place for every minister and ministry to have it's inception. After emphasizing that Ezekiel's ministry would not be well received, the Lord appointed him as the watchman who was to sound the alarm of coming judgment to the exiles in Babylon. In Chapters 4-24 we see and hear watchman’s cry. The specific prophecy that begins this chapter is the first of a series of prophecies addressing the coming fall of Jerusalem, these prophecies being given over a year’s time in the next 4 chapters (through Ezek 7:27).
Richards quips that Ezekiel
Get yourself a brick - "Get" is a command in Hebrew. Some commentaries take the events in these next 2 chapters as the effects of a vivid imagination and not visible events that the other Jewish exiles could witness. Verse 4 clearly calls this first one a "sign" which leaves little doubt that these strange depictions were to "point out the way" as is the function of any sign and that could hardly be possible if these were events that occurred only in Ezekiel's mind. The use of real life events as a mode of teaching is found (albeit to a lesser extent) in the records of other prophet’s. And so we encounter Isaiah walking “naked and barefoot” for three years (Isa 20:3); Jeremiah wearing yokes of wood (Jer27:2) and Hosea being called to marry Gomer, a harlot (Hosea 1-3).
God's selection of a "brick" is interesting because Jerusalem was a city built with stones (1Ki10:27) on a rock foundation and the man made brick was the primary material used for construction of buildings in Babylon, where stones were scarce.
"Bricks" were not like the rectangular brick we encounter today. One ancient historian records "Let the bricks be two feet long, one foot broad, and four inches thick.” On a surface as large as this the whole siege might be easily portrayed. In Babylonia there was a lack of both timber and stone, and the thick clay deposited by the overflowing rivers was the only material adaptable to building.
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary has an describes "bricks" in Babylon:
Babylonian bricks were
Smith's Dictionary adds that
Place it before you - literally before your face
AND INSCRIBE A CITY ON IT, JERUSALEM. (Jer6:6; 32:31; Am3:2)
What is fascinating in this "sign of the brick" is that Jerusalem was built with stones on a rock foundation. Brick was a symbol of Babylon and was instrumental in Nimrod's instigation of rebellion against Yahweh at Babel (Ge10:10 Ge11:3). To depict Jerusalem with a symbol indigenous to idolatrous, rebellious Babylon would suggest that the holy city had become even worse than Babylon in her morals and idolatry.
"Inscribe" (chaqaq) means to engrave, inscribe, mark out, make meaningful marks on an object, to chisel or hew out on stone.
Matthew Henry comments that
News of Ezekiel’s strange action would have spread quickly through the community of Jewish exiles and they would have come to watch. The meaning of the display would not be too difficult to discern. There beloved city, Jerusalem surrounded by siege-works certainly indicated that it would again be besieged by an enormously powerful army. Imagine what must have gone through the minds of the exiles. Surely, in this case the sign would be as impressive and perhaps even more so than any spoken utterance. Ezekiel's was demonstrating that "A picture is worth a thousand words!" because pictures convey strong, memorable images and pictures etched on bricks would not quickly fade away.
Now think about this drama. Who should be seeing this pictorial prophecy concerning Jerusalem? Would it not have more effect on the Jews still remaining in Jerusalem? And so why present it to the exilic community?
Craigie offers an interesting analysis writing that
|Ezekiel 4:2 "Then lay siege against it, build a siege wall, raise up a ramp, pitch camps and place battering rams against it all around.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And thou shalt besiege it, and build works against it, and throw up a mound round about it, and pitch camps against it, and set up engines round about.
CEV: Then prepare to attack the brick as if it were a real city. Build a dirt mound and a ramp up to the top and surround the brick with enemy camps. On every side put large wooden poles as though you were going to break down the gate to the city.
TEV: Then, to represent a siege, put trenches, earthworks, camps, and battering rams all around it.
TLB: Draw a picture of siege mounds being built against the city, put enemy camps around it and battering rams surrounding the walls.
WBC: Then set against it siege appliances: erect a siege tower against it, pile up a ramp against it, station against it army encampments, and set battering rams all around.
Young's Literal: and hast placed against it a siege, and builded against it a fortification, and poured out against it a mount, and placed against it camps, yea, set thou against it battering-rams round about.
|THEN LAY SIEGE AGAINST IT (Jer39:1 39:2; 52:4)
Lay siege (matsowr) describes the process of shutting up and confining a city, and methodically attacking the walls (see Dt 20:19). Ezekiel would be very familiar with the significance of a "siege" for he had been carried captive to Babylon after the siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC (2Ki24:10-16), and he was writing these prophecies before the final siege (2Ki25:1-11). Quite likely many of the exiles in his audience were also all too familiar with the picture of a siege. Keep in mind that Jerusalem was a well-fortified city and it would take Babylon months to capture it.
A siege or prolonged military blockade of Jerusalem would force it to surrender by taking away the advantage of the city’s defensive walls by cutting outside contact and halting the flow of food, supplies, and weapons.
Who is to lay siege against Jerusalem in this drama? Obviously Ezekiel would be the one laying siege, but the prophet was God’s representative, thus clearly this was symbolic of Jehovah Himself besieging His beloved Jerusalem
How this must have hurt the heart of the LORD (see Ezek 6:9a 6:9b) Centuries latter our Lord lamented
The siege of Jerusalem in spite of Zedekiah’s Egyptian alliance, had been decreed. Ezekiel begins his with the siege sign some four years before it came — in this chapter we are somewhere between the fourth month of the fifth year (Ezek1:1 1:2) and the sixth month of the sixth year (Ezek 8:1) of Zedekiah and the siege began in the ninth year recorded as follows
BUILD A SIEGE WALL:
In Deuteronomy we find a description of a "siegework", Moses instructing Israel that
And so in ancient warfare, hewn trees together with earth and other materials at hand were used to form an embankment (raised structure to enclose or confine) around the besieged city. This "siege wall" not only cut off the besieged city from the surrounding country, but also served as a base of operations for the besiegers.
RAISE UP A RAMP:
The second phase of the siege involved throwing out from the "siege wall" one or more mounds, banks or ramps in the direction of the city (cf 2Sa20:15; 2Ki19:31 32). These ramps were gradually increased in height until they were about half as high as the city wall. On these mounds or “siege walls” the army could erect towers from which slingers and archers might attack effectively. The ramp provided a relatively smooth incline up which siege towers and Battering rams could be pushed up to the walls.
AND PLACE BATTERING RAMS AGAINST IT ALL AROUND.:
Once the ramps were built the battering rams were brought forward to begin hammering the city walls which were progressively weakened.
Battering rams - This is an interesting Hebrew word kar (plural = karim) which initially referred to a “lamb” (Deut32:14 1Sa15:9) or full grown rams. This Hebrew word and the Latin word Aries (ram) was transferred to the battering ram which was used to “butt,” like a ram, against the walls of a besieged city, and which, in Roman warfare, commonly terminated in a ram’s head in bronze or iron. Ezekiel is the only Old Testament writer who utilizes this word for a battering ram in this verse and (Ezek 21:22). The "engine" consisted of a large wooden beam suspended on a frame in a fashion that allowed it to be worked back and forth so that it could be driven with force and beat down fortified massive stone walls and city gates. The end of the beam that impacted against the wall was often shaped like the head of a ram (click thumbnail to enlarge) A crew of several men would operate the war engine which was armored to afford protection, since the city’s defenders naturally would fire upon them as they worked to breach the city. The whole engine was mounted on wheels for easy movement up an earthen ramp and position it at the base of the walls of a city under siege.
Luke records that as Jesus approached Jerusalem
Then He predicted the Roman siege declaring to the multitudes following him (including Pharisees) that
Then Jesus went on to describe the Roman siege in imagery similar to Ezekiel, declaring that
In perfect fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy, in AD70 the Roman general Titus surrounded Jerusalem with a siege wall. The Jews managed to destroy this embankment of hewn trees (cf Deut 20:20), after which Titus surrounded the city with a wall of masonry. This latter which normally took months to build was built in 3 days by the determined Roman Army. This strategy cut off all hope of escape and led to the unparalleled horror that followed.
|Ezekiel 4:3 "Then get yourself an iron plate and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city, and set your face toward it so that it is under siege, and besiege, * it. This is a sign to the house of Israel.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And take thou to thyself an iron pan, and thou shalt set it for an iron wall between thee and the city: and thou shalt set thy face against it, and it shall be in a siege, and thou shalt besiege it. This is a sign to the children of Israel.
NAB: Then take an iron griddle and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city. Fix your gaze on it: it shall be in the state of siege, and you shall besiege it. This shall be a sign for the house of Israel.
NJB: Then take an iron pan and place it as though it were an iron wall between you and the city. Then fix your gaze on it; it is being besieged and you are besieging it. This is a sign for the House of Israel.
NLT: Then take an iron griddle and place it between you and the city. Turn toward it and demonstrate how the enemy will attack Jerusalem. This will be a warning to the people of Israel.
WBC: so, you are to take an iron baking plate and use it as an iron wall separating you from the city. Stare fixedly at it and regard it as in a state of siege, and besiege it. It is to be a sign for the community of Israel.
Young's Literal: And thou, take to thee an iron pan, and thou hast made it a wall of iron between thee and the city; and thou hast prepared thy face against it, and it hath been in a siege, yea, thou hast laid siege against it. A sign it is to the house of Israel.
THEN GET YOURSELF AN IRON PLATE AND SET IT UP AS AN IRON WALL BETWEEN YOU AND THE CITY
Iron wall between you and the city - The "Iron wall " (cf Lev 2:5) was a convex iron plate or griddle that was normally placed over the fire, with the edges resting on bricks surrounding the fire and on which cakes and bread were baked.
The Pulpit Commentary says that this iron griddle
The following comments are somewhat speculative and thus against the usual approach of these verse by verse notes so read them with that thought in mind. While one cannot be dogmatic, clearly this wall indicates a barrier between Ezekiel and Jerusalem because God tells him to "set it up...between...". Furthermore since Ezekiel is God's representative to the rebellious house, it would follow that the iron wall represents a barrier between God and the house of Israel. A parallel thought is found in Isaiah where the prophet records that Israel's
Jeremiah laments to God that
In fact, as the siege progressed, Jerusalem would cry out for deliverance, but God would not answer her prayers. The Pulpit Commentary feels that this "spiritual" meaning (which is probably the most common interpretation of the iron wall) is out of harmony with the context.
AND SET YOUR FACE TOWARD IT SO THAT IT IS UNDER SIEGE AND BESIEGE IT:
Set your face - Several times in this book Ezekiel sets his face in the direction of the target of judgment, in
In Jeremiah we find God say referring to Jerusalem
In Ezekiel's call and preparation God had equipped him for this task instructing him
The point is that God equips us for the work He calls us to. A NT prayer found in Hebrews emphasizes this principle, the writer praying for the saints that
Dearly beloved saint, whatever God has clearly called you to do, He will fully furnish you to allow you to fulfill your call. Now we understand better why Ezekiel's face had been hardened.
THIS IS A SIGN TO THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL: (Isa 8:18; Heb 2:4)
The fact that this drama was a sign clearly indicates that "the house of Israel" was the "audience" who saw Ezekiel's "silent movie". This group of Jewish spectators is then taken as representative of the whole house of Israel. Be aware however that there is an exception to the meaning below in verse 5, where "the house of Israel" in context refers to the 10 northern tribes. (as does Ezek 37:16)
Sign ('owth or 'owt) is used 9 times in Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 12:6, 11; 14:8 20:12 20:20 21:19 24:24, 27).
A "sign" generally describes something that points to or represents something larger or more important than itself. In the present context the "sign" represents a non-verbal symbol or signal which is meant to be a discernible indication of what is not itself directly perceptible (the exiles can neither see the city of Jerusalem or its destruction). In this case the visible drama was a foreshadowing of coming events in Jerusalem in 586BC (cf Isa 20:3). We might say that Ezekiel was presenting a "preview of coming attractions".
Simeon addressing Mary the mother of Jesus declared one of the most famous "signs" declaring
God is not restricted in the means He uses to get our attention as shown by this "silent movie". Has God been doing something unusual in your life that could indicate He is trying to get your attention? Are you listening?
House of Israel - 83x in 73 v in Ezekiel - Ezek 3:1, 4f, 7, 17; 4:3ff; 5:4; 6:11; 8:6, 10ff; 9:9; 11:5, 15; 12:6, 9f, 24, 27; 13:5, 9; 14:4ff, 11; 17:2; 18:6, 15, 25, 29ff; 20:13, 27, 30f, 39f, 44; 22:18; 24:21; 28:24f; 29:6, 16, 21; 33:7, 10f, 20; 34:30; 35:15; 36:10, 17, 21f, 32, 37; 37:11, 16; 39:12, 22f, 25, 29; 40:4; 43:7, 10; 44:6, 12, 22; 45:6, 8, 17
It is interesting that he uses this term House of Israel as only 2 of the tribes of Israel were in captivity in Babylon, the other 10 having been removed to Assyria in 722BC.
|Ezekiel 4:4 "As for you, lie down on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; you shall bear their iniquity for the number of days that you lie on it.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And thou shalt lie upon thy left side, and lay the iniquities of the house of Israel upon it, according to the number of the hundred and fifty days during which thou shalt lie upon it: and thou shalt bear their iniquities.
WBC: You are also to lie down on your left side and let it feel the guilt of the community of Israel. You are to bear their guilt for as many days as you lie on it.
Young's Literal: and thou, lie on thy left side, and thou hast placed the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; the number of the days that thou liest on it, thou bearest their iniquity.
|AS FOR YOU, LIE DOWN ON YOUR LEFT SIDE AND LAY THE INIQUITY OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL ON IT: (2Ki17:21 22 23)
Richards observes that...
Preaching isn’t the only way to win a hearing for what you have to share. (Richards, L. The Bible reader's companion. Includes index. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
It is not clearly stated whether Ezekiel actually lay on his side day and night for these the 430 day period. Most commentators suggest, but without clear Scripture support, that he was supine only during that part of each day when he would be seen and this period would serve as a sufficient visual aid for the curious probably castigating exilic community.
John MacArthur makes a good observation supporting the argument that Ezekiel only lay supine part of each day --
Left side - This probably refers to the "north", the geographic location of the 10 northern tribes of Israel.
The following note is somewhat technical but explains why it is "fair" to interpret "left side" as "north" and "right side" (Ez 4:6) as "south".
The Hebrew word for left (sema'liy) is derived from the Hebrew root (semo'wl) which is also translated "left" but in Ezek 16:46 is translated "north" -- "Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north (semo'wl, KJV translates it "at the left hand") of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south (yamiyn; KJV translates it "at the right hand") of you, is Sodom with her daughters." The Hebrew word (yamiyn) which is translated "south" in Ezekiel 16 is the source of the Hebrew word translated "right" in Ezekiel 4:6. In sum, it is reasonable to interpret Ezekiel's positioning on his left side with his head toward the east and facing to the north (the northern kingdom of Israel) and on his right side as facing toward the south (the southern kingdom of Judah).
YOU SHALL BEAR THEIR INIQUITY FOR THE NUMBER OF DAYS THAT YOU LIE ON IT: (Lev10:17; 16:22; Nu14:34; 18:1; Isa53:11 53:12; Mt8:17; Heb9:28; 1Pe2:24)
Craigie notes that
|Ezekiel 4:5 "For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, three hundred and ninety days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And thou shalt accomplish this, and then shalt lie on thy right side, and shalt bear the iniquities of the house of Juda forty days: I have appointed thee a day for a year.
WBC: I assign you 390 days corresponding to their years of guilt, during which time you are to bear the guilt of the community of Israel.—
Young's Literal: And I -- I have laid on thee the years of their iniquity, the number of days, three hundred and ninety days; and thou hast borne the iniquity of the house of Israel.
|FOR I HAVE ASSIGNED YOU A NUMBER OF DAYS CORRESPONDING TO THE YEARS OF THEIR INIQUITY THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY DAYS: (Isa53:6)
390 days - Suffice it to say that the interpretation of this number is fraught with difficulty and commentaries vary widely. For that reason I will avoid speculating on the interpretation, which is made even more confusing by the Greek translation (Septuagint) which renders the number as "190"! This drama does indicate that there was a beginning and an end.
Craigie makes an excellent point that
THUS YOU SHALL BEAR THE INIQUITY OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL:
Ezekiel obviously represents Israel bearing her iniquity not vicariously suffering for it.
As day after day Ezekiel acted out this drama, imagine what must have been going through the mind of the exilic audience as they observed Ezekiel laying prostrate on the ground.
|Ezekiel 4:6 "When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And thou shalt accomplish this, and then shalt lie on thy right side, and shalt bear the iniquities of the house of Juda forty days: I have appointed thee a day for a year.
WBC: When you have completed that period, you are to lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the punishment of the community of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year.—
Young's Literal: And thou hast completed these, and hast lain on thy right side, a second time, and hast borne the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days -- a day for a year -- a day for a year I have appointed to thee.
|WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED THESE, YOU SHALL LIE DOWN A SECOND TIME, BUT ON YOUR RIGHT SIDE AND BEAR THE INIQUITY OF THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; I HAVE ASSIGNED IT TO YOU FOR FORTY DAYS, A DAY FOR EACH YEAR: (Da9:24 25 26; 12:11 12:12; Rev9:15; 11:2 11:3; 12:14; 13:5)
MacArthur notes that Ezekiel lying on his right side indicates that
A day for each year - This is the Hebrew formula of iteration — “a day for a year, a day for a year” which we first encounter in Nu14:34 which records God's judgment on Israel for failing to enter the promised land, God declaring that
This verse in Numbers provides essentially the only Biblical argument for the "year/day" school of prophetic interpretation, which converts prophetic "days" into years, especially in the prophecy of the “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9:24, 25, 26, 27 (See notes Daniel 9:24; Daniel 9:25; Daniel 9:26; Daniel 9:27) but this verse was spoken explicitly as a judgment on the faithless generation of Israelites, not as a key to future prophecy.
|Ezekiel 4:7 "Then you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it.|
Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: So thou shalt set thy face to the siege of Jerusalem, and shalt strengthen thine arm, and shalt prophesy against it.
WBC: Stare fixedly, then, at Jerusalem under siege, with your arm bared, and prophesy against it.
Young's Literal: 'And unto the siege of Jerusalem thou dost prepare thy face, and thine arm is uncovered, and thou hast prophesied concerning it.
|THEN YOU SHALL SET YOUR FACE TOWARD THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM WITH YOUR ARM BARED AND PROPHESY AGAINST IT : (Ezek 4:3; 6:2) (Is52:10)
Arm bared - Symbol of energetic action as in Is 52:10
The prophet was not to be an apathetic spectator of the siege which he was thus dramatizing, but actively to dramatize the event. This picture of the prophet not merely resting on his side and folding his hands as a man at ease might do, but instead looking intently, with bare outstretched arm at the scene inscribed on the brick, must have added to the startling effect of this "sign to the house of Israel".
Note that “set thy face,” is specially characteristic of Ezekiel (Ezek 4:3).
The words “prophesy against it” imply some spoken utterance which in fact begins in Ezek 5:5 when the LORD opens his mouth to speak "Thus says the Lord God."
|Ezekiel 4:8 "Now behold, I will put ropes on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.|
|Brenton's English of Greek Septuagint: And, behold, I have prepared bonds for thee, land thou mayest not turn from thy one side to the other, until the days of thy siege shall be accomplished.
WBC: In fact, I will put ropes round you, to stop you turning from one side to the other until you have completed your period for the siege.
Young's Literal: And lo, I have put on thee thick bands, and thou dost not turn from side to side till thy completing the days of thy siege.
|NOW BEHOLD, I WILL PUT ROPES ON YOU SO THAT YOU CANNOT TURN FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER: (Ezek 3:25)
UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE DAYS OF YOUR SIEGE: