Ezekiel 4:1-17 . SYMBOLICAL VISION OF THE SIEGE AND THE INIQUITY-BEARING.
9. wheat . . . barley, &c.--Instead of simple flour used for delicate cakes ( Genesis 18:6 ), the Jews should have a coarse mixture of six different kinds of grain, such as the poorest alone would eat.
fitches--spelt or dhourra.
three hundred and ninety--The forty days are omitted, since these latter typify the wilderness period when Israel stood separate from the Gentiles and their pollution, though partially chastened by stint of bread and water ( Ezekiel 4:16 ), whereas the eating of the polluted bread in the three hundred ninety days implies a forced residence "among the Gentiles" who were polluted with idolatry ( Ezekiel 4:13 ). This last is said of "Israel" primarily, as being the most debased ( Ezekiel 4:9-15 ); they had spiritually sunk to a level with the heathen, therefore God will make their condition outwardly to correspond. Judah and Jerusalem fare less severely, being less guilty: they are to "eat bread by weight and with care," that is, have a stinted supply and be chastened with the milder discipline of the wilderness period. But Judah also is secondarily referred to in the three hundred ninety days, as having fallen, like Israel, into Gentile defilements; if, then, the Jews are to escape from the exile among Gentiles, which is their just punishment, they must submit again to the wilderness probation ( Ezekiel 4:16 ).
10. twenty shekels--that is, little more than ten ounces; a scant measure to sustain life ( Jeremiah 52:6 ). But it applies not only to the siege, but to their whole subsequent state.
11. sixth . . . of . . . hin--about a pint and a half.
12. dung--as fuel; so the Arabs use beasts' dung, wood fuel being scarce. But to use human dung so implies the most cruel necessity. It was in violation of the law ( Deuteronomy 14:3 , 23:12-14 ); it must therefore have been done only in vision.
14. Ezekiel, as a priest, had been accustomed to the strictest abstinence from everything legally impure. Peter felt the same scruple at a similar command ( Acts 10:14 ; compare Isaiah 65:4 ). Positive precepts, being dependent on a particular command can be set aside at the will of the divine ruler; but moral precepts are everlasting in their obligation because God cannot be inconsistent with His unchanging moral nature.
abominable flesh--literally, "flesh that stank from putridity." Flesh of animals three days killed was prohibited ( Leviticus 7:17 Leviticus 7:18 , Leviticus 19:6 Leviticus 19:7 ).
15. cow's dung--a mitigation of the former order ( Ezekiel 4:12 ); no longer "the dung of man"; still the bread so baked is "defiled," to imply that, whatever partial abatement there might be for the prophet's sake, the main decree of God, as to the pollution of Israel by exile among Gentiles, is unalterable.
16. staff of bread--bread by which life is supported, as a man's weight is by the staff he leans on ( Leviticus 26:26 , Psalms 105:16 , Isaiah 3:1 ).
by weight, and with care--in scant measure ( Ezekiel 4:10 ).
17. astonied one with another--mutually regard one another with astonishment: the stupefied look of despairing want.