The siege of Jerusalem. (1-8) The famine the inhabitants would suffer. (9-17)
Verses 1-8 The prophet was to represent the siege of Jerusalem by signs. He was to lie on his left side for a number of days, supposed to be equal to the years from the establishment of idolatry. All that the prophet sets before the children of his people, about the destruction of Jerusalem, is to show that sin is the provoking cause of the ruin of that once flourishing city.
Verses 9-17 The bread which was Ezekiel's support, was to be made of coarse grain and pulse mixed together, seldom used except in times of urgent scarcity, and of this he was only to take a small quantity. Thus was figured the extremity to which the Jews were to be reduced during the siege and captivity. Ezekiel does not plead, Lord, from my youth I have been brought up delicately, and never used to any thing like this; but that he had been brought up conscientiously, and never had eaten any thing forbidden by the law. It will be comfortable when we are brought to suffer hardships, if our hearts can witness that we have always been careful to keep even from the appearance of evil. See what woful work sin makes, and acknowledge the righteousness of God herein. Their plenty having been abused to luxury and excess, they were justly punished by famine. When men serve not God with cheerfulness in the abundance of all things, God will make them serve their enemies in the want of all things.
This chapter contains a prophecy of the siege of Jerusalem, and of the famine that attended it. The siege is described by a portrait of the city of Jerusalem on a tile, laid before the prophet, Eze 4:1; by each of the actions, representing a siege of it, as building a fort, casting a mount, and setting a camp and battering rams against it, and an iron pan for a wall, between the prophet, the besieger, and the city, Eze 4:2,3; by his gesture, lying first on his left side for the space of three hundred ninety days, and then on his right side for the space of forty days, pointing at the time when the city should be taken, Eze 4:4-6; and by setting his face to the siege, and uncovering his arm, and prophesying, Eze 4:7; and by bands being laid on him, so that he could not turn from one side to the other, till the siege was ended, Eze 4:8; the famine is signified by bread the prophet was to make of various sorts of grain and seeds, baked with men's dung, and eaten by weight, with water drank by measure, which is applied unto the people; it is suggested that this would be fulfilled by the children of Israel's eating defiled bread among the Gentiles, Eze 4:9-13; but upon the prophet's concern about eating anything forbidden by the law, which he had never done, cow's dung is allowed instead of men's, to prepare the bread with, Eze 4:14,15; and the chapter is concluded with a resolution to bring a severe famine on them, to their great astonishment, and with which they should be consumed for their iniquity, Eze 4:16,17.