Ezekiel 4


Ezekiel delineates Jerusalem, and lays siege to it, as a type

of the manner in which the Chaldean army should surround that

city, 1-3.

The prophet commanded to lie on his left side three hundred and

ninety days, and on his right side forty days, with the

signification, 4-8.

The scanty and coarse provision allowed the prophet during his

symbolical siege, consisting chiefly of the worst kinds of

grain, and likewise ill-prepared, as he had only cow's dung for

fuel, tended all to denote the scarcity of proviswn, fuel, and

every necessary of life, which the Jews should experience during

the siege of Jerusalem. 9-17.


Verse 1. Take thee a tile] A tile, such as we use in covering

houses, will give us but a very inadequate notion of those used

anciently; and also appear very insufficient for the figures which

the prophet was commanded to pourtray on it. A brick is most

undoubtedly meant; yet, even the larger dimensions here, as to

thickness, will not help us through the difficulty, unless we

have recourse to the ancients, who have spoken of the dimensions

of the bricks commonly used in building. Palladius, De Re Rustica,

lib. vi. c. 12, is very particular on this subject:-Sint vero

lateres longitudine pedum duorum, latitudine unius, altitudine

quatuor unciarum. "Let the bricks be two feet long, one foot

broad, and four inches thick." Edit. Gesner, vol. iii. p. 144. On

such a surface as this the whole siege might be easily pourtrayed.

There are some brick-bats before me which were brought from the

ruins of ancient Babylon, which have been made of clay and straw

kneaded together and baked in the sun; one has been more than four

inches thick, and on one side it is deeply impressed with

characters; others are smaller, well made, and finely impressed on

one side with Persepolitan characters. These have been for inside

or ornamental work; to such bricks the prophet most probably


But the tempered clay out of which the bricks were made might be

meant here; of this substance he might spread out a sufficient

quantity to receive all his figures. The figures were, 1.

Jerusalem. 2. A fort. 3. A mount. 4. The camp of the enemy. 5.

Battering rams, and such like engines, round about. 6. A wall

round about the city, between it and the besieging army.

Verse 2. Battering rams] carim. This is the earliest

account we have of this military engine. It was a long beam with a

head of brass, like the head and horns of a ram, whence its name.

It was hung by chains or ropes, between two beams, or three legs,

so that it could admit of being drawn backward and forward some

yards. Several stout men, by means of ropes, pulled it as far back

as it could go, and then, suddenly letting it loose, it struck

with great force against the wall which it was intended to batter

and bring down. This machine was not known in the time of Homer,

as in the siege of Troy there is not the slightest mention of

such. And the first notice we have of it is here, where we see

that it was employed by Nebuchadnezzar in the siege of Jerusalem,

A.M. 3416. It was afterwards used by the Carthaginians at the

siege of Gades, as Vitruvius notes, lib. x. c. 19, in which he

gives a circumstantial account of the invention, fabrication, use,

and improvement of this machine. It was for the want of a machine

of this kind, that the ancient sieges lasted so long; they had

nothing with which to beat down or undermine the walls.

Verse 3. Take thou unto thee an iron pan] machabath, a

flat plate or slice, as the margin properly renders it: such as

are used in some countries to bake bread on, called a griddle or

girdle, being suspended above the fire, and kept in a proper

degree of heat for the purpose. A plate like this, stuck

perpendicularly in the earth, would show the nature of a wall much

better than any pan could do. The Chaldeans threw such a wall

round Jerusalem, to prevent the besieged from receiving any

succours, and from escaping from the city.

This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.] This shall be an

emblematical representation of what shall actually take place.

Verse 4. Lie thou also upon thy left side] It appears that all

that is mentioned here and in the following verses was done, not

in idea, but in fact. The prophet lay down on his left side upon

a couch to which he was chained, Eze 4:6, for

three hundred and ninety days; and afterwards he lay in the same

manner, upon his right side, for forty days. And thus was

signified the state of the Jews, and the punishment that was

coming upon them. 1. The prophet himself represents the Jews. 2.

His lying, their state of depression. 3. His being bound, their

helplessness and captivity. 4. The days signify years, a day for a

year; during which they were to bear their iniquity, or the

temporal punishment due to their sins. 5. The three hundred and

ninety days, during which he was to lie on his left side, and bear

the iniquity of the house of Israel, point out two things: the

first, The duration of the siege of Jerusalem. Secondly, The

duration of the captivity off the ten tribes, and that of Judah.

6. The prophet lay three hundred and ninety days upon his left

side, and forty days upon his right side, in all four hundred and

thirty days. Now Jerusalem was besieged the ninth year of the

reign of Zedekiah, 2Ki 25:1, 2, and was not taken till the

eleventh year of the same prince, 2Ki 25:2. But properly

speaking, the siege did not continue the whole of that time; it

was interrupted; for Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to raise it, and

go and meet the Egyptians, who were coming to its succour. This

consumed a considerable portion of time. After he had defeated the

Egyptians, he returned and recommenced the siege, and did not

leave it till the city was taken. We may, therefore, conclude that

the four hundred and thirty days only comprise the time in which

the city was actually besieged, when the city was encompassed with

walls of circumvallation, so that the besieged were reduced to a

state of the utmost distress. The siege commenced the tenth day of

the tenth month of the ninth year of Zedekiah; and it was taken on

the ninth day of the fourth month of the eleventh year of the

same king. Thus the siege had lasted, in the whole, eighteen

months, or five hundred and ten days. Subtract for the time that

Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to interrupt the siege, in order to go

against the Egyptians, four months and twenty days, or one hundred

and forty days, and there will remain four hundred and thirty

days, composed of 390+40=430. See Calmet on this place. See also

at the end of this chapter. See Clarke on Eze 4:16.

Verse 6. Forty days] Reckon, says Archbishop Newcome, near

fifteen years and six months in the reign of Manasseh, two years

in that of Amon, three months in that of Jehoahaz, eleven years in

that of Jehoiakim, three months and ten days in that of

Jehoiachin, and eleven years in that of Zedekiah; and there arises

a period of forty years, during which gross idolatry was practiced

in the kingdom of Judah. Forty days may have been employed in

spoiling and desolating the city and the temple.

Verse 9. Take thou also unto thee wheat] In times of scarcity,

it is customary in all countries to mix several kinds of coarser

grain with the finer, to make it last the longer. This mashlin,

which the prophet is commanded to take, of wheat, barley, beans,

lentiles, millet, and fitches, was intended to show how scarce the

necessaries of life should be during the siege.

Verse 10. Twenty shekels a day] The whole of the above grain,

being ground, was to be formed into one mass, out of which he was

to make three hundred and ninety loaves; one loaf for each day;

and this loaf was to be of twenty shekels in weight. Now a shekel,

being in weight about half an ounce, this would be ten ounces of

bread for each day; and with this water to the amount of one sixth

part of a hin, which is about a pint and a half of our measure.

All this shows that so reduced should provisions be during the

siege, that they should be obliged to eat the meanest sort of

aliment, and that by weight, and their water by measure; each

man's allowance being scarcely a pint and a half, and ten ounces,

a little more than half a pound of bread, for each day's support.

Verse 12. Thou shalt bake it with dung] Dried ox and cow dung is

a common fuel in the east; and with this, for want of wood and

coals, they are obliged to prepare their food. Indeed, dried

excrement of every kind is gathered. Here, the prophet is to

prepare his bread with dry human excrement. And when we know that

this did not come in contact with the bread, and was only used to

warm the plate, (see Eze 4:3,) on which the bread was laid over

the fire, it removes all the horror and much of the disgust. This

was required to show the extreme degree of wretchedness to which

they should be exposed; for, not being able to leave the city to

collect the dried excrements of beasts, the inhabitants during the

siege would be obliged, literally, to use dried human ordure for

fuel. The very circumstances show that this was the plain fact of

the case. However, we find that the prophet was relieved from

using this kind of fuel, for cow's dung was substituted at his

request. See Eze 4:15.

Verse 14. My soul hath not been polluted] There is a remarkable

similarity between this expostulation of the prophet and that of

St. Peter, Ac 10:14.

Verse 16. I will break the staff of bread] They shall be

besieged till all the bread is consumed, till the famine becomes

absolute; see 2Ki 25:3: "And on the ninth of the

fourth month, the famine prevailed in the city; and THERE WAS NO

BREAD for the people of the land." All this was accurately

foretold, and as accurately fulfilled.

Abp. Newcome on Eze 4:6 observes: "This number of years will

take us back, with sufficient exactness, from the year in which

Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar to the first year of

Jeroboam's reign, when national idolatry began in Israel. The

period of days seems to predict the duration of the siege by the

Babylonians, Eze 4:9, deducting from the year

five months and twenty-nine days, mentioned 2Ki 25:1-4, the

time during which the Chaldeans were on their expedition against

the Egyptians; see Jer 37:5." This amounts nearly to the same as

that mentioned above.

Copyright information for Clarke