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 iand 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
God is really asking a lot of Ezekiel in this passage. It starts with some relatively easy commands to make a model of Jerusalem out of clay. Then it gets decidedly strange. Ezekiel is asked to rest on his left side for 390 days, over a year, for the sins of the people of Israel. Then he is asked to lay on his right side for 40 days for the sins of Judah. As far as I can remember this is the first time God has asked someone to take on the sins of another in a sort of atonement, albeit a very different sort of atonement. It is interesting also that God refers to Ezekiel as the “son of man”, the same name used to refer to Jesus when He came to take away the sins of the world.
God is to bind Ezekiel with rope so that he will not turn aside from the awesome and strange responsibility of this “siege” that he is supposed to bring upon the people of Israel and Judah. I cannot help but think this in some sense a prescient vision of the walk of Jesus to come. He also will be bound and punished for the sins of the people. Many of whom are unwilling to listen to His message.
God allows Ezekiel to eat and drink during his odd “side sitting” for the sins of the people. God initially allow Ezekiel to have a specific amount of food (20 shekels) and water (one sixth of a hin) taken at regular intervals throughout the day. Then God’s direction takes a rather odd turn. He asks Ezekiel to cook his bread, in front of the people, using human excrement. Apparently God wants to provide the people with a vivid word picture of the exile and desecration that will befall them as a result of their poor choices and sin. Seeing someone’s dinner cooked using human poop would definitely leave an impression on me if I saw it. At this point Ezekiel has had enough of God’s requests. He objects to having to defile himself so God can make a point. I can’t say I blame him.
God relents and allows Ezekiel to use animal dung instead of human waste to cook his bread. God provides some insight into why He wants to go to such great lengths to provide this picture for the people. He wants them to know that those who remain in Jerusalem will see and be forced to do similarly horrible things – “The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair”. Having chosen to disconnect themselves from the spring they will “be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin”.
I think God is reinforcing the point that without Him they are lost. He says the same to us as we make choices throughout our life. When we choose to go our own way we risk the same result. We are left cooking our food over human excrement and eating food that does not satisfy. God just wants the people of Israel to rely upon Him for their food and water. When we rely on ourselves we end up wasting away wallowing in our own sin.
Prayer: God You can provide for us if we are willing to accept Your provision. Help us to accept the sacrifice you made to take away our sins.