4:1 Sketching a city plan on a clay brick was not an uncommon practice in the ancient world. Ezekiel was instructed to sketch the siege of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar’s construction of the siege wall around Jerusalem is described in 2Kg 25:1 and Jr 52:4.
4:2 The purpose of a siege was to wear enemies down by halting their flow of food and supplies. Battering rams were pushed up siege ramps to attack the city walls.
4:3 The setting of God’s face behind an iron plate indicated that he would no longer look favorably upon the people. The people would experience the covenant curses for their disobedience (Lv 26:17; Dt 31:17-18; 32:20). War (it is under siege), along with its repercussions, is included in the list of covenantal curses (Dt 28:52-57).
4:4-6 The iniquity of Israel was greater than that of Judah. One popular view accounting for the periods of 390 days or years and 40 days or years is to calculate the 390 years backward from 586 BC, placing the starting point for the period of Israel’s iniquity in 976 BC, the year when the construction of the temple began. This would indicate that the nation was characterized by rebellion during the entire time the temple was standing. However, the best conclusion is that the 430-year period was chosen to represent the period of Israel’s stay in Egypt. By depicting the total period of sin and judgment in terms of a renewed Egyptian bondage, the prophet invited the hope that the end of the appointed time of punishment would result in a new exodus and a new entry into the promised land. An ancient Jewish tradition noted that the number 390 derived from the Hebrew numerical value of ymy msr, the consonants of the phrase “the days of the siege” (see v. 8; 5:2).
4:7 His fist was probably clenched as well.
4:9 The food products mentioned in this verse, all native to Mesopotamia, constitute a siege diet. According to an experiment recorded in Jewish tradition, no one would touch Ezekiel’s bread, not even a dog.
4:14-15 Eating flesh that had been mauled by wild beasts disqualified a priest from priestly service (44:31; Lv 22:8). Impure meat was sacrificial meat that had not been eaten by the third day after the animal was slaughtered (Lv 7:18; 19:7).