Author: Ron Graham
Ezekiel Chapters 4 and 5
—Outline and Notes
In this lesson, we outline and analyse the 4th and 5th chapters of Ezekiel. Ezekiel enacts the siege of Jerusalem as God instructs. God describes the coming judgment and destruction.
1 Context Overview
Israel was a great nation in the time of the kings David and Solomon. But in the time that Ezekiel and Jeremiah were prophesying, that was a dim memory. The kingdom of Israel had been ransacked and captured by the Assyrians. Only the separate kingdom of Judah (Benjamin included) resisted the Assyrians. Its capital was Jerusalem
Then came the Babylonians (or Chaldeans) who overthrew the Assyrians. They took away captives also. As God speaks to Ezekiel, Jerusalem was soon to be destroyed. God allowed all this disaster because Israel had turned away from him.
2 Outline of Ezekiel Chapters 4 and 5
The Destruction of Jerusalem Portrayed
- Ezekiel is to make a model portraying Jerusalem under siege (Ezekiel 4:1-2).
- He must place an iron plate, as an iron wall, between him and the model city, and then act out the seige as a sign to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 4:3).
- He is then to lie on his left side for 390 days as a sign of the years of Israel’s iniquity [possibly since the kingdom divided in Jereboam's time] (Ezekiel 4:4-5).
- He is then to lie on his right side for 40 days as a sign of the years of Judah’s iniquity [possibly the duration of Jeremiah’s ministry] (Ezekiel 4:6).
- Ezekiel must lie with his face toward the model of the besieged Jerusalem, and with his bare arm indicating the city, he must prophesy against it (Ezekiel 4:7).
- God will restrain Ezekiel so that he cannot turn over while lying on his side (Ezekiel 4:8).
- For food, Ezekiel is to prepare cakes of barley mixed with other seeds and grains. This food will be rationed strictly, as will be his drinking water (Ezekiel 4:9-12a).
- God tells Ezekiel to use human dung as fuel for the cooking and do so in full view of the Israelites. Ezekiel objects, so God substitutes cow dung (Ezekiel 4:12b-15).
- God explains how, by following the instructions about food, Ezekiel will foreshadow the deprivations of Jerusalem when the real siege occurs (Ezekiel 4:16-17).
- Ezekiel must first shave his head and beard with a sharp sword, then use scales to divide the hair into three (Ezekiel 5:1).
- When he has completed the days, Ezekiel is to burn a third of the hair inside the model city. Using the sword, he must cut up another third around the model city. He must then throw the other third into the wind some of which God will rescue (Ezekiel 5:2).
- Ezekiel is to tuck a few of those hairs into the hem of his garment. Later he must throw some of them into a fire (Ezekiel 5:3-4).
- The LORD says that he blessed Jerusalem, but she has rebelled more than the nations around her (Ezekiel 5:5-7).
- The LORD says that he is against them and now they will suffer (Ezekiel 5:8-10).
- The LORD repeats that he is withdrawing his favour and they will suffer. He will fulfil in them what he told Ezekiel to do with his hair (Ezekiel 5:11-13).
- God’s describes his terrible judgment upon Jerusalem (Ezekiel 5:14-16).
3 Notes on Ezekiel Chapters 4 and 5
A Model of Jerusalem
Ezekiel is to make a model of Jerusalem under siege. Ezekiel is instructed how to interact with the model so as to prophesy by action the coming judgment on Jerusalem.
An Iron Plate
Ezekiel is to place an iron plate between him and the model city, as a wall of iron, to show that the siege will permit no escape, and God will separate himself from Jerusalem during the seige.
Ezekiel is to bake a small quantity of mixed grain barley cakes. These will be his food for hundreds of days and will be strictly rationed, as will his drinking water. In this way the coming privations in Jerusalem are foreshadowed.
Ezekiel must use a single bowl of meal in making the cakes. This must last for the 390 days and then for the 40 days. That symbolises the shocking scarcity of food to be suffered. (However I assume that, for Ezekiel’s sake, his cakes will nevertheless daily be replenished by God).
Dung for Fuel
Ezekiel was to use dried human dung as fuel to cook the cakes. This symbolised that the people of Israel in exile would eat unclean bread among the nations. (At Ezekiel’s request God substituted cow dung for human dung.)
Hair Shaved Off
Ezekiel is to shave his head and beard with a sharp sword and divide the hair by weight into three parts. After the specified number of days he will use the hair ceremonially to foreshadow Jerusalem being burned, its citizens slain all around it, or scattered in exile.
However God will rescue some hair of the third part (thrown to the wind), and Ezekiel will tuck a few strands into his garment, to foreshadow a remnant of the Israelites preserved by God, even though further attacked.
Lying on His Side
God required Ezekiel to lie down facing the model of the siege —on his left side for 390 days, and on his right side for 40 days.
This was the toughest part of the enactment. Ezekiel still had to prophesy oracles to the people whenever God spoke to him. It was a long‑term commission to be suffered. It symbolised God’s longsuffering down through hundreds of years of rebellion.
Ezekiel was to speak only as God moved him to. God did not want Ezekiel to add any words of his own. So God made Ezekiel's tongue stick to the roof of his mouth, except when God spoke to him and told him what to say.
Restrained by Ropes
God restrained Ezekiel with ropes while he was lying on his side, so that he could not turn over. This represented Israel and Judah under judgment from which there was no release.
Ezekiel had one arm free, presumably so that he could manipulate the model and shake his fist at it while prophesying against it.
The periods of 390 and 40 years are definite periods, indicating that God has been paying attention to the rebellion and keeping a record. But why God chose these particular durations as significant remains something of a mystery.
God’s dissatisfaction with Israel would cover longer periods, but perhaps mercy and forgiveness, or previous punishments, lessened the years he was counting.
4 Day Means Year Theory (An Aside)
It is often asserted, even taken for granted, that in prophetic Bible passages a day means a year.
In order to support this day-means-year theory, certain verses are taken out of context on the ground that God "hid" them in the text of the Old Testament as clues to decode times in prophecy. The texts are: Leviticus 25:8, Numbers 14:34, and the one in this lesson, Ezekiel 4:5-6.
There is no warrant for misapplying these scriptures to change symbolic days into literal years.
Attempts to correlate the symbolic numbers in visions mathematically with actual length of the times and seasons they represent causes a great deal of confusion.
5 For Reference: Israel and Judah’s Kings and Prophets