Summary: God calls Ezekiel to play wargames and cook in unsanitary conditions in order to visually desmontrate the plight of the rebels in Jerusalem. Praise God we get to use Powerpoint for visual impact today!
In Ezekiel chapter 4, the prophet beings to prophesy to the people with visual aids!
VERSES 1-8 Wargames in the Bible!
Since I love to play boardgames based on military conflict, this passage is sort of fun. In this section, Ezekiel is commanded by God to create a visual representation of the siege of Jerusalem. It is important to remember that Jerusalem had already been captured once and now Nebuchadnezzar was angrier than he had been before because the puppet king (Zedekiah) that he had put on the throne had the nerve to lead a rebellion and to stop paying tribute.
At God’s instruction, Ezekiel takes a building brick, draws a map of the City of Jerusalem or some other visual representation, then places it on the ground and builds a graphic representation of the siege of the Holy City.
Not only is his representation graphic, but it depicts the methodology of the siege very carefully.
There are seven elements (indicating completeness) to this picture:
1) Siege- cutting off of the water and supplied to the city in an effort to starve the people out
2) Siege Wall- purpose is to cut off escape from those within the city
3) Earthen rampart- a ramp for the purpose of scaling the walls and getting into the city
4) Military camps- placed strategically around the city
5) Battering rams- to batter down the gates
6) Iron wall- represents the impenetrable barrier of the Babylonian army
7) Set His face against the city- representation of God’s firm resolve
The period of time that Ezekiel was to lay on his side (390 days representing the period of Israel’s rebellion and 40 days representing that of Judah itself) has caused great consternation for interpreters. Some view the 390 years as the period between the exile and rise of the Maccabees. Others view the time period of 390 years as suggesting that each of the approximately 390 days of siege was like a year of suffering. However, Ezekiel makes it clear that represented isn’t the period of suffering, but rather the period of iniquity. My opinion is that the 390 years represents the period from which the kingdom was divided by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The 40 years is believed by most commentators to represent the period of time from which Jeremiah first began to prophecy to the people of Judah,
VERSES 9-11 ODD COMBINATIONS OF FOOD!
God calls Ezekiel to carefully measure out and prepare food in small portions, in order to demonstrate the desperate situation that the people of Jerusalem would find themselves in. By doing this, Ezekiel would be visually demonstrating how bad things would be for the people of Jerusalem. He would eat a limited amount of food and demonstrate water rationing to depict the suffering of the people. God’s call is a very difficult one to fulfill and we shall see Ezekiel object. By the way, the combination of food is so odd that it suggests that the people will not only eat very little, but that they would eat anything they could get their hands on. The Combination is sort of like a Hobo Stew. A fun project we once did with a church group was to have every person bring a can of something, soup, vegetable, or canned meat. We put all of that food together in one pot. It was… interesting, but not really all that good. The foods that Ezekiel prepared didn’t really go together real well and would serve to illustrate how the people would eat whatever they could get their hands on.
VERSES 12-15 OVERWHELMED BY THE TASK!
Cooking a meal over dried dung may seem uncommon to you, but it remains a common practice where primitive conditions exist in the middle east. Because trees are scarce in some areas, the people will mix dried animal dung with straw or dried weeds in order to create a fuel to cook with. In the old west, out on the open range where there were few trees, folks would gather “Buffalo chips” and burn them for fuel. This was quite common.
Ezekiel had grown up in a priestly family and the use of human waste was expressly forbidden as unclean. Ezekiel objected and God permitted Ezekiel to alter the demonstration slightly. It did not take away from the meaning. The people would be rationing, but just doing whatever they could to survive.
VERSES 16-17 THE DEMONSTRATION EXPLAINED
The demonstration was pretty clear. While the people of Judah might have hoped that they had grown strong enough to through off the yoke of Babylon, God was declaring that this rebellion would end badly for them. They would suffer sever food and water shortages. They would have to ration their food and water. They would eat whatever they could get and they would disregard the religious dietary laws because of their hunger. They would look at each other wasting away and starving. It would be a time of great sorrow.