The Latter Major Prophets – Ezekiel 4-7

“Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it.  Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it.  Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it.  It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it.  This will be a sign to the people of Israel.
“Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself.  You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side.  I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin.  So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.
“After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah.  I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.  Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her.  I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.
“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.  You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.  Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times.  Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times.  Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.”  The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”
Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord!  I have never defiled myself.  From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals.  No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.”
“Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”
He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem.  The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, for food and water will be scarce.  They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin.

  • Ezekiel 4:1-17

“Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard.  Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair.  When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city.  Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city.  And scatter a third to the wind.  For I will pursue them with drawn sword.  But take a few hairs and tuck them away in the folds of your garment.  Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up.  A fire will spread from there to all Israel.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.  Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her.  She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.
”Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws.  You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.  Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.  Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents.  I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds.  Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you.  A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword.
“Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged.  And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the Lord have spoken in my zeal.
“I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by.  You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke.  I the Lord have spoken.  When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you.  I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food.  I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless.  Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you.  I the Lord have spoken.

  • Ezekiel 5:1-17

Ezekiel 6:1-14 – Click the link HERE to read this at Biblegateway.com

Ezekiel 7:1-27 – Click the link HERE to read this at Biblegateway.com

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Ezekiel 4-24 ‘Judah and Jerusalem’s Ruin’: “The interpretation that Israel will be restored and the temple will be rebuilt can be understood only in light of the ruin of Judah, which was tied to the problem of temple desecration.  From the perspective of Ezekiel’s audience, it should be obvious that the prophet’s exhortation to his people of a literal national destruction would be coupled to the prophet’s encouragement of a literal national restoration.  Nothing less would meet the need and expectation of the vanquished nation.  And nothing less would demonstrate that the Lord was the sovereign and gracious deliverer of His people.  The transformation of the restoration promises by the symbolic school as merely the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant transferred to the church violates the fundamental law of biblical interpretation, which demands texts to be interpreted within their context.  If national Israel received divine destruction, national Israel must receive divine restoration.  This is also true of the messianic prophecies woven throughout the first division of Ezekiel (17:22-24; 21:26-27), which, though part of the church’s heritage of faith, were exclusively given to national Israel.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 4 ‘introduction’: “Unbelief is the root of disobedience.  We are creatures with a bent toward selfishness, but it is unbelief that opens the door to act out in self-centeredness which is disobedience, or rebellion.  Christians might not think that they sin, because of unbelief.  But unbelief shows up in the life of a Christian when she does not respond to the Lord as Who He says He is, and when she does not respond to His Word as the Truth.  Ezekiel has just seen the glory of the Lord and believes that He is Who He says He is.  … the Lord speaks His messages and judgments so that ‘they shall know that I am the Lord.’”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 4:4-8 ‘the siege of Jerusalem’: “Ezekiel’s second act (4:4-5) is to lie on his left side for 390 days in which he bears the sin of the house of Israel.  One day matches one year of sin by Israel.  To what do the 390 days refer?  If one adds this number to the date of Ezekiel the number goes back to approximately 1000 B.C. (598 + 390), which is roughly the time of David and Solomon.  But this is the period from the days of the united kingdom to Ezekiel.  The Greek Septuagint reads ‘190 year,’ and this refers no doubt to the time of the northern kingdom which began approximately 930 B.C. and lasted until 722/1 B.C. (around two hundred years).  It appears, following the Hebrew text, that Ezekiel (or God) indicts the entire monarchy period of Israel (understood all-inclusively).
“Also, Ezekiel is to lie on his right side for forty days in which he bears the sin of the house of Judah (4:6-8).  While ‘forty days’ is often used in the Old Testament, it occurs in many instances in situations involving the removal of sin, such as Noah’s flood, punishment on Egypt for forty years, forty days to the overthrow of Nineveh, forty days of Lent.  The forty days represent the exile of Judah that lasts forty years (587-539 B.C.).  Having said this, ‘their sin’ in verse 4 means just that – that is, the length of Israel’s iniquity – while ‘the sin’ of verse 6 is the length of the punishment for Judah’s iniquity.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 5:5-10 ‘Jerusalem’: “Here, the great city alone was not meant, but was used representatively of the whole land which, despite its strategic opportunity and responsibility, rejected God (vv. 6,7).
“5:7 Instead of being a witness to the heathen nations, Israel had exceeded them in idolatrous practices.  The nations maintained their familiar idols, while Israel defected from their true and living God.  God’s people were worse than the pagans in proportion to spiritual knowledge and privileges.  The judgments of God are always relative to light and privilege granted.  Since Ezekiel’s people were unique in their disobedience, they were to be outstanding in their punishment.
“5:8-10 The Book of Lamentations (2:22; 4:10) reveals how literally these promises were realized.  Down through the centuries had come the threats of Leviticus 26:29 and Deuteronomy 28:53; they were taken up by Jeremiah (Jer. 19:9; cf. Is. 9:20), and sealed in the life of the disobedient nation.  Even the remnant would be scattered and suffer.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 6:7-10 ‘you shall know that I am the Lord’: “This clause recurs in verses 10, 13, 14 and sixty times elsewhere in the book.  It shows that the essential reason for judgment is the violation of the character of God.  This is repeatedly acknowledged in Leviticus 18-26, where the motive for all obedience to God’s law is the fact that He is the Lord God.
“6:8-10 The masses of people were rejected, but grace and mercy were given to a godly remnant in the nation.  There never has been, nor ever will be, a complete end to Israel.  The doctrine of the remnant can be studied in Isaiah 1:9; 10:20; Jeremiah 43:5; Zephaniah 2:7; 3:13; Zechariah 10:9; Romans 9:6-13; 11:5.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 6 ‘high places’: “The ‘high places’ that we are to spend our time and affection on are those things that are above – where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  That’s a high place worth worshipping!  Spend a few moments there in His presence now, offering sweet incense to Him in the form of prayer and praise.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 7:2, 3 ‘the end’: “The first words from the Lord in Ezekiel 7:2, 3 are ‘An end! The end has come…  Now the end has come upon you.’  We might think that the excitement was because the end of 390 days on his side had come!  But, the Word of the Lord was announcing the end of days for Jerusalem, Judah, and the house of Israel in the Promised Land.  Ezekiel 7:1-27 foretells the certain doom of the nation and people of Israel.  This is a dramatic poetic chapter.  There are illustrations from nature: a budding rod; from the business world: buyers and sellers; of a watchman: blowing a trumpet; of fearfulness and shame: mourning doves; and of worthless possessions: silver and gold.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 7 ‘challenge’: “Ezekiel and all the rest of God’s faithful servants learned something that we must learn.  If there is anything worth having, it will have to be something that we get from God Himself.  The heavens have been closed since mankind began reasoning God out of the world.  What used to be the hand and providence of God is now just natural law. …
“But in the Christian faith, it is imperative that the individual meet God.  We are not talking about just the possibility of meeting God.  We are not saying just that it would be a good thing to meet God.  Meeting God is imperative!”

  • A. W. Tozer, Men Who Met God

My Thoughts

Ezekiel 4 is one of those stories that I remember well in my previous reading of Ezekiel.  First, Ezekiel makes a diorama out of clay, in case you were wondering about the “second act” of lying down in the Baker Commentary.  Ezekiel was a priest, but he may have had enough skill will clay so that no one would mistake what it looked like.  To hedge the bet, God tells him to draw Jerusalem on the clay.  Did he simply write the word “Jerusalem” on a block of clay or did the perimeter of the clay object resemble the walls – the walls that the siege towers would go against.  Whatever his skill level, Ezekiel was inspired by God to make it look recognizable.

Then Ezekiel must lie down on his left side and bear the sin of Israel for 390 days.  Then he was to lie on his right side and bear the sin of Judah for 40 days.  These numbers of days corresponded to the numbers of years that each of the various tribes of Israel rebelled against God.  In one of the commentaries, it was thought that Ezekiel was north of Jerusalem (the diorama) for the 390 days and south of Jerusalem (the diorama) for the 40 days.  To represent which tribes that he was bearing the sin of.

And as for the 390 years, the Baker Commentary comments are shown above, but I would like to revise that slightly.  The numbers from the beginning reign of Saul to the fall of Israel, the northern tribes about 722 B. C., is not quite 390 years.  That would be before Saul was born, but could it be 390 years to when Micah, Judges 17 (not the prophet), made an idol and had a Levite become his personal ‘priest?’  This ties in with the cursing of the high places in Ezekiel 6.  Yet, God wished to have a theocracy with no king.  While God granted them a king in Saul and used the kingly line of David to provide the ancestry of Jesus as a kingly line, God did not like what the people demanded of Samuel.  But God did not like the continued rebellion against Him in the time of the judges either.  We gravitate to the “house of Israel” being the northern tribes, but the Chosen people, all twelve tribes, had been in a sinful state for quite some time when the tribes split.

But if you lie down for over a year, you need to eat something.  The barley bread was the poor man’s bread, to signify that the people under siege would not have proper food to eat.  Look through history and you will see how people who are under siege will eat or drink anything once their supplies run thin.  Any consideration for clean or unclean animals goes out the window.  God tells Ezekiel how those who survive the siege will not be able to look the others into their eyes due to their shame for how low they sunk in order to survive.

Consider the Donner party and how the few survivors ate the flesh of those who had died.  After the survivors were rescued, one man found the flavor of human flesh tasty, and the rest of them ostracized him.  It was a clear sign of repentance and be being unrepentant.

But consider that God wanted you to do that, take a nap for more than a year.  For over a year, you lie down on one side, and then you roll over and lie on the other side for over a month beyond that.  Remember that Ezekiel’s mouth may still be frozen, unable to speak unless he speaks the word of the Lord.  He is acting this out before the people who are in exile, an exile as punishment for their sins.

But you may be confused at this point.  Babylon had already attacked Jerusalem.  Ezekiel himself was among those in exile, so why return the Jerusalem to destroy it?

In the later chapters of Jeremiah, starting about Jeremiah 41, the governor that Nebuchadnezzar left in charge as a puppet king is assassinated, Jeremiah 40.  The person taking over decided to run off to Egypt to avoid Babylonian wrath.  Jeremiah prophesied that God would protect them if they stayed, but the new “governor” ignored Jeremiah’s warnings and took Jeremiah and Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, in tow, fleeing to Egypt.

When the Babylonians took people into exile, they first took the royal family, as in Daniel and his friends.  Then they took the intellectuals, royalty, and the influential.  The governor had a few people that were trustworthy, but not the cream of the crop.  Thus, the baser instincts prevailed among those that remained.  As a priest, Ezekiel was taken, probably more educated than the average citizen of Jerusalem.

Thus, even though the exile had begun, there was an occupied city and the Temple.  It would only be a few short years before the Chaldeans (Babylonians) returned to lower the city to rubble.

There are several ways to consider this act of wrath from God.  The people had become corrupt.  They had strayed too far from God, unable on a corporate level to return to God (like the modern USA separation of church and state – as recent court decisions have gone).  God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  A loving father punishes his children.  Even though he knows that the punishment is unpleasant, the loving father must show not only that their behavior was bad, but their behavior has consequences.  God is our loving Father.  He knew that He needed to get the attention of His chosen people.  They needed to experience this punishment so that the few that would return would be more faithful than those who had been exiled.

And another big reason is that all of this puts a carpenter named Joseph and his betrothed wife in a small town called Nazareth at just the right time.  The exile provides us with a Savior, but it provides us with an object lesson that God is holy, and He does not mess around when sin is part of the equation.

To understand the humiliation that Ezekiel subjected himself to in Ezekiel 5, shaving off his beard and hair of his head, we must look back at 2 Samuel 10:4, when the king of Ammon had died.  His successor is greeted by a delegation sent by King David.  The new king thought them to be spies, so he shaved off half their heads and beards and cut their garments to humiliate them.  David had the delegation stay in Jericho until their beards had grown back.  Their beards were their symbol of their manhood, and the king of Ammon paid dearly for humiliating the delegation.

Here Ezekiel cuts off his own hair.  He divides the hair into three segments, burning a third, striking a third with the sword, and scattering a third in the wind.  Then finally Ezekiel speaks to explain what all this meant and remind the people of Judah that God will not show them mercy.  This punishment was nothing that they could reverse until it was fully carried out.  He was graphically telling those who had hope of God’s mercy that they might be allowed to return in their lifetime – if they could just pretend to be good for a little while.  No, this was the end of “Mr. Nice Guy.”

And then you read that Ezekiel was told by God to face the mountains of Israel and condemn them.  This may be odd at first, but the mountain tops were the places where the people of Israel and Judah set up their altars to false gods.  They worshipped their idols there.  They burned their incense there.  And God was going to remove all those things that were abominable before His sight.

And then Ezekiel 7 is in poetic form.  The End has come.  For those in exile, there is nothing to return to.  It is all gone.  And God will use “the most wicked of nations,” Babylon, to do it.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How would you react if your pastor did any of the things God required Ezekiel to do?
“2. From your list of Israel’s sins, which ones bring to mind a modern equivalent?
“3. God says he will do some terrible things to Israel: In wrath, where will he remember mercy?  In punishment, where do you see his love?  How will renewal come out of such stinging rebukes?
“1. What is the ultimate purpose of God’s judgment?  Why are different people hit differently?
“2. Have you ever seen the effects of ‘sword, famine and plague’, or other forms of God’s judgment?  How did it affect you?
“3. How do those around you view God’s wrath?  What do you say in response?
“1. Would you like to be judged by the standards you use to evaluate others?  Why or why not?
“2. In the context of relating to people you love, where is your patience being stretched the thinnest?  How much more patience do you have left?  What will happen when you run out?  How might limiting your patience be the more loving thing to do?
“3. Does it surprise you that God’s patience has an end?  Why or why not?  If God’s patience were limitless, what would his justice look like?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The first grouping of questions corresponds to Ezekiel 4-5, the second grouping corresponds to Ezekiel 6, and the third grouping corresponds to Ezekiel 7.

As for the first question #2, think back to the history of the Israelites from moments soon after they walked the seabed of the Red Sea until they were sent into exile.  There is a lot of turning their back on God to choose from.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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