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Ominous Object Lessons

“And you, son of man, take a brick[a] and set it in front of you. Inscribe[b] a city on it—Jerusalem. Lay siege to it! Build siege works against it. Erect a siege ramp[c] against it! Post soldiers outside it[d] and station battering rams around it. Then for your part take an iron frying pan[e] and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face toward it. It is to be under siege; you are to besiege it. This is a sign[f] for the house of Israel.

“Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity[g] of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days[h] for you—390 days.[i] So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.[j]

“When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days[k]—I have assigned one day for each year. You must turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. Look here: I will tie you up with ropes, so you cannot turn from one side to the other until you complete the days of your siege.[l]

“As for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt,[m] put them in a single container, and make food[n] from them for yourself. For the same number of days that you lie on your side—390 days[o]—you will eat it. 10 The food you eat will be eight ounces[p] a day by weight; you must eat it at fixed times.[q] 11 And you must drink water by measure, a pint and a half;[r] you must drink it at fixed times. 12 And you must eat the food as you would a barley cake. You must bake it in front of them over a fire made with dried human excrement.”[s] 13 And the Lord said, “This is how the people of Israel will eat their unclean food among the nations[t] where I will banish them.”

14 And I said, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, I have never been ceremonially defiled before. I have never eaten a carcass or an animal torn by wild beasts; from my youth up, unclean meat[u] has never entered my mouth.”

15 So he said to me, “All right then, I will substitute cow’s manure instead of human excrement. You will cook your food over it.”

16 Then he said to me, “Son of man, I am about to remove the bread supply[v] in Jerusalem. They will eat their bread ration anxiously, and they will drink their water ration in terror 17 because they will lack bread and water. Each one will be terrified, and they will rot for their iniquity.[w]


  1. Ezekiel 4:1 sn Ancient Near Eastern bricks were 10 to 24 inches long and 6 to 13½ inches wide.
  2. Ezekiel 4:1 tn Or perhaps “draw.”
  3. Ezekiel 4:2 tn Or “a barricade.”
  4. Ezekiel 4:2 tn Heb “set camps against it.”
  5. Ezekiel 4:3 tn Or “a griddle,” that is, some sort of plate for cooking.
  6. Ezekiel 4:3 tn That is, a symbolic object lesson.
  7. Ezekiel 4:4 tn Or “punishment” (also in vv. 5, 6).
  8. Ezekiel 4:5 tn Heb “I have assigned for you that the years of their iniquity be the number of days.” Num 14:33-34 is an example of the reverse, where the days were converted into years, the number of days spying out the land becoming the number of years of the wilderness wanderings.
  9. Ezekiel 4:5 tc The LXX reads “190 days.” sn The significance of the number 390 is not clear. The best explanation is that “days” are used figuratively for years and the number refers to the years of the sinfulness of Israel during the period of the First Temple. Some understand the number to refer to the length of the division of the northern and southern kingdoms down to the fall of Jerusalem (931-586 b.c.), but this adds up to only 345 years.
  10. Ezekiel 4:5 tn Or “When you have carried the iniquity of the house of Israel,” and continuing on to the next verse.
  11. Ezekiel 4:6 sn The number 40 may refer in general to the period of Judah’s exile, indicating the number of years Israel was punished in the wilderness. In this case, however, one would need to translate, “you will bear the punishment of the house of Judah.”
  12. Ezekiel 4:8 sn The action surely refers to a series of daily acts rather than to a continuous period.
  13. Ezekiel 4:9 sn Wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. All these foods were common in Mesopotamia where Ezekiel was exiled.
  14. Ezekiel 4:9 tn Heb “bread.”
  15. Ezekiel 4:9 tc The LXX reads: “190 days.”
  16. Ezekiel 4:10 sn Eight ounces (Heb “twenty shekels”). The standards for weighing money varied considerably in the ancient Near East, but the generally accepted weight for the shekel is 11.5 grams (0.4 ounce). This makes the weight of grain about 230 grams here (8 ounces).
  17. Ezekiel 4:10 tn Heb “from time to time.”
  18. Ezekiel 4:11 sn A pint and a half [Heb “one-sixth of a hin”]. One-sixth of a hin was a quantity of liquid equal to about 1.3 pints or 0.6 liters.
  19. Ezekiel 4:12 sn Human waste was to remain outside the camp of the Israelites according to Deut 23:15.
  20. Ezekiel 4:13 sn Unclean food among the nations. Lands outside of Israel were considered unclean (Josh 22:19; Amos 7:17).
  21. Ezekiel 4:14 tn The Hebrew term refers to sacrificial meat not eaten by the appropriate time (Lev 7:18; 19:7).
  22. Ezekiel 4:16 tn Heb, “break the staff of bread.” The bread supply is compared to a staff that one uses for support.
  23. Ezekiel 4:17 tn Or “in their punishment.” Ezek 4:16-17 alludes to Lev 26:26, 39. The phrase “in/for [a person’s] iniquity” occurs fourteen times in Ezekiel: here, 3:18, 19; 7:13, 16; 18:17, 18, 19, 20; 24:23; 33:6, 8, 9; 39:23. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” may also mean the “punishment for iniquity.”

Siege of Jerusalem Symbolized

“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(A) up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it.(B) Then take an iron pan,(C) place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward(D) it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign(E) to the people of Israel.(F)

“Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself.[a] 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(G) of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.(H) Turn your face(I) 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.(J)

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt;(K) 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. 10 Weigh out twenty shekels[b](L) of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. 11 Also measure out a sixth of a hin[c] of water and drink it at set times.(M) 12 Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement(N) for fuel.” 13 The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”(O)

14 Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord!(P) I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead(Q) or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.(R)

15 “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”

16 He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off(S) the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,(T) 17 for food and water will be scarce.(U) They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of[d] their sin.(V)


  1. Ezekiel 4:4 Or upon your side
  2. Ezekiel 4:10 That is, about 8 ounces or about 230 grams
  3. Ezekiel 4:11 That is, about 2/3 quart or about 0.6 liter
  4. Ezekiel 4:17 Or away in