Ezekiel 4:1
Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem:
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(1) Take thee a tile.—The use of tiles for such purposes as that here indicated was common both in Babylonia and in Nineveh. When intended for preservation the writing or drawing was made upon the soft and plastic clay, which was afterwards baked. It is from the remains of great libraries prepared in this way that most of our modern knowledge of Nineveh and Babylon has been derived. It is, of course, quite possible that Ezekiel may have drawn in this way upon a soft clay tile; but from the whole account in this and the following chapters it is more likely that he simply described, rather than actually performed, these symbolical acts.

Ezekiel 4:1. Take a tile, &c., and lay it before thee — The prophets often foreshowed impending judgments by significant emblems, which usually strike more powerfully than words. So Jeremiah was commanded to go down to the potter’s house, and observe how frequently vessels were marred in his hands, (chap. 18.,) and to take one of those earthen vessels and break it in the sight of the elders of the Jews, (chap. 19.,) that they might thereby be sensibly taught the greatness of God’s power, and their own frailty. So here God commands Ezekiel to take a tile, or such a slate as mathematical lines, or figures, are usually drawn upon, and there to make a portraiture of Jerusalem, thereby to represent it as under a siege. We may observe, that God often suited prophetical types and figures to the genius and education of the prophets themselves: so the figures which Amos makes use of are generally taken from such observations as are proper to the employment of a shepherd, or a husbandman. Ezekiel had a peculiar talent for architecture, therefore several of his representations are suitable to that profession. And they that suppose the emblem here made use of to be below the dignity of the prophetical office, may as well accuse Archimedes of folly for making lines in the dust: see Lowth.

4:1-8 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.A tile - Rather, a brick. Sun-dried or kiln-burned bricks were from very early times used for building walls throughout the plain of Mesopotamia. The bricks of Nineveh and Babylon are sometimes stamped with what appears to be the device of the king in whose reign they were made, and often covered with a kind of enamel on which various scenes are portrayed. Among the subjects depicted on such bricks discovered at Nimroud are castles and forts.CHAPTER 4

Eze 4:1-17. Symbolical Vision of the Siege and the Iniquity-bearing.

1. tile—a sun-dried brick, such as are found in Babylon, covered with cuneiform inscriptions, often two feet long and one foot broad.The prophet is directed to represent a mock siege of Jerusalem for a sign to the Jews, Ezekiel 4:1-3; and to lie before it in one posture for a set number of days, in order to denote the time of their sins for which God did visit, Ezekiel 4:4-8. His allotted provisions, with design to prefigure the people’s defilement among the Gentiles, Ezekiel 4:9-15, and the scarcity they should be reduced to by the siege, Ezekiel 4:16,17.

Hitherto the preface, containing the call and commission of the prophet; now he begins. This is the first prophecy, and it is against Jerusalem.

A tile, or brick, or any square tablet on which he might engrave or carve.

Lay it before thee, as carvers use to do, as engravers and painters do.

Portray upon it the city; draw a map of Jerusalem, delineate or describe the city Jerusalem, whence they were come, who now are in Babylon, and probably repented that they had left Judea and Jerusalem, and murmured against them that advised to it: but let them know by this sign that Jerusalem should suffer much more than ever they suffered, that those who remained there sinning against God should bear a long siege, a very grievous famine, and cruel slaughters.

Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile,.... Or "brick" (z). The Targum renders it, a "stone"; but a tile or brick, especially one that is not dried and burned, but green, is more fit to cut in it the figure of a city. Some think that this was ordered because cities are built of brick; or to show the weakness of the city of Jerusalem, how easily it might be demolished; and Jerom thinks there was some design to lead the Jews to reflect upon their making bricks in Egypt, and their hard service there; though perhaps the truer reason may be, because the Babylonians had been used to write upon tiles. Epigenes (a) says they had celestial observations of a long course of years, written on tiles; hence the prophet is bid to describe Jerusalem on one, which was to be destroyed by the king of Babylon;

and lay it before thee: as persons do, who are about to draw a picture, make a portrait, or engrave the form of anything they intend:

and portray upon it the city; even Jerusalem; or engrave upon it, by making incisions on it, and so describing the form and figure of the city of Jerusalem.

(z) "laterem", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Polanus. Piscator. (a) Apud Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 7. c. 56.

Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem:
1. take thee a tile] or, brick. The brick would be such as those found in the ruins of the cities of Mesopotamia, covered with figures and inscriptions, engraved on them when still moist. Libraries of such bricks have been found by explorers in this region, and deciphered. For the city read a city.

Ch. Ezekiel 4:1-3. Symbolical siege of Jerusalem

The prophet is commanded to take a brick (it is to be supposed still soft) and portray on it a city, even Jerusalem. Around the city he is to draw representations of siege operations, towers, a mound, camps and battering-rams. Between him and the city he is to set an iron plate to represent an iron wall. The determination of the besiegers is shewn by his attitude, he sets his face against the city. All this is symbol of a hard siege, carried on with great determination and apparatus against a lofty city.

Verse 1. - The first sign in this method of unspoken prophecy was to indicate to the exiles of Tel-Abib that which they were unwilling to believe The day of uncertain hopes and fears, of delusive dreams and promises (Jeremiah 27:16; Jeremiah 28:1-3; Jeremiah 29:21), was nearly over. The siege of Jerusalem in spite of Zedekiab's Egyptian alliance, was a thing decreed. Four years before it came - we are now between the fourth month of the fifth year (Ezekiel 1:2) and the sixth month of the sixth year (Ezekiel 8:1) of Zedekiah. and the siege began in the ninth year (2 Kings 25:1) - Ezekiel, on the segnius irritant principle, brought it, as here narrated, before the eyes of the exiles. That he did so implies a certain artistic culture, in possessing which he stands alone, so far as we know, among the prophets of Israel, and to which his residence in the land of the Chaldees may have contributed. He takes a tile, or tablet of baked clay, such as were used in Babylon and Assyria for private contracts, historical inscriptions, astronomical observations (Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 7:57), and the like, which were, in fact, the books of that place and time, and of which whole libraries have been brought to light in recent excavations (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' ch. 22) and engraves upon it the outlines of "a city" (Revised Version), in which the exiles would at once recognize the city of their fathers, the towers which they had once counted (Isaiah 33:18; Psalm 48:12), the temple which had been their glory and their joy. Bricks with such scenes on them were found among the ruins of Nimroud, now in the British Museum (Layard, ut supra, ch. 7, p. 167). It is not difficult to picture to ourselves the wondering curiosity with which Ezekiel's neighbours would watch the strange proceeding. In this case the sign would be more impressive than any spoken utterance. Ezekiel 4:1The general divine instructions. - Ezekiel 3:25. And thou, son of man, lo, they will lay cords upon thee, and bind thee therewith, so that thou canst not go out into their midst. Ezekiel 3:26. And I shall make thy tongue cleave to thy palate, that thou mayest be dumb, and mayest not serve them as a reprover: for they are a stiff-necked generation. Ezekiel 3:27. But when I speak to thee, I will open thy mouth, that thou mayest say to them, Thus sayeth the Lord Jehovah, Let him who wishes to hear, hear, and let him who neglects, neglect (to hear): for they are a stiff necked generation. - The meaning of this general injunction depends upon the determination of the subject in נתנוּ, Ezekiel 3:25. Most expositors think of the prophet's countrymen, who are to bind him with cords so that he shall not be able to leave his house. The words ולא תצא appear to support this, as the suffix in בּתוכם indisputably refers to his countrymen. But this circumstance is by no means decisive; while against this view is the twofold difficulty - firstly, that a binding of the prophet with cords by his countrymen is scarcely reconcilable with what he performs in Ezekiel 4 and 5; secondly, of hostile attacks by the exiles upon the prophet there is not a trace to be discovered in the entire remainder of the book. The house of Israel is indeed repeatedly described as a stiff-necked race, as hardened and obdurate towards God's word; but any embitterment of feeling against the prophet, which should have risen so far as to bind him, or even to make direct attempts to prevent him from exercising his prophetic calling, can, after what is related in Ezekiel 33:30-33 regarding the position of the people towards him, hardly be imagined. Further, the binding and fettering of the prophet is to be regarded as of the same kind with the cleaving of his tongue to his jaws, so that he should be silent and not speak (Ezekiel 3:26). It is God, however, who suspends this dumbness over him; and according to Ezekiel 4:8, it is also God who binds him with cords, so that he cannot stir from one side to the other. The demonstrative power of the latter passage is not to be weakened by the objection that it is a passage of an altogether different kind, and the connection altogether different (Hvernick). For the complete difference between the two passages would first have to be proved. The object, indeed, of the binding of the prophet in Ezekiel 4:8 is different from that in our verse. Here it is to render it impossible for the prophet to go out of the house; in Ezekiel 4:8, it is to prevent him from moving from one side to the other. But the one object does not exclude the other; both statements coincide, rather, in the general thought that the prophet must adapt himself entirely to the divine will - not only not leave the house, but lie also for 390 days upon one side without turning. - We might rather, with Kliefoth, understand Ezekiel 4:8 to mean that God accomplished the binding of the prophet by human instruments - viz. that He caused him to be bound by foreigners (Ezekiel 3:25). But this supposition also would only be justified, if either the sense of the words in Ezekiel 3:25, or other good reasons, pronounced in favour of the view that it was the exiles who had bound the prophet. But as this is not the case, so we are not at liberty to explain the definite נתתּי, "I lay on" (Ezekiel 4:8), according to the indefinite נתנוּ, "they lay on," or "one lays on" (Ezekiel 3:25); but must, on the contrary, understand our verse in accordance with Ezekiel 4:8, and (with Hitzig) think of heavenly powers as the subject to נתנוּ - as in Job 7:3; Daniel 4:28; Luke 12:20 - without, in so doing, completely identifying the declaration in our verse with that in Luke 4:8, as if in the latter passage only that was brought to completion which had been here (Luke 3:25) predicted. If, however, the binding of the prophet proceeds from invisible powers, the expression is not to be understood literally - of a binding with material cords; - but God binds him by a spiritual power, so that he can neither leave his house nor go forth to his countrymen, nor, at a later time (Ezekiel 4:8), change the position prescribed to him. This is done, however, not to prevent the exercise of his vocation, but, on the contrary, to make him fitted for the successful performance of the work commanded him. He is not to quit his house, nor enter into fellowship and intercourse with his exiled countrymen, that he may show himself, by separation from them, to be a prophet and organ of the Lord. On the same grounds he is also (Ezekiel 3:26, Ezekiel 3:27) to keep silence, and not even correct them with words, but only to speak when God opens his mount for that purpose; to remain, moreover, unconcerned whether they listen to his words or not (cf. Ezekiel 2:4, Ezekiel 2:7). He is to do both of these things, because his contemporaries are a stiff-necked race; cf. Ezekiel 3:9 and Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:7. That he may not speak from any impulse of his own, God will cause his tongue to cleave to his jaws, so that he cannot speak; cf. Psalm 137:6. "That the prophet is to refrain from all speech - even from the utterance of the words given him by God - will, on the one hand, make the divine words which he utters appear the more distinctly as such; while, on the other, be an evidence to his hearers of the silent sorrow with which he is filled by the contents of the divine word, and with which they also ought justly to be filled" (Kliefoth).

This state of silence, according to which he is only then to speak when God opened his mouth for the utterance of words which were to be given him, is, indeed, at first imposed upon the prophet - as follows from the relation of Ezekiel 3:25-27 to Ezekiel 4 and 5 - only for the duration of the period Ezekiel 3:25 to Ezekiel 5:17, or rather Ezekiel 7:27. But the divine injunction extends, as Kliefoth has rightly recognised, still further on - over the whole period up to the fulfilment of his prophecies of threatening by the destruction of Jerusalem. This appears especially from this, that in Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22 there is an undeniable reference to the silence imposed upon him in our verse, and with reference to which it is said, that when the messenger should bring back the news of the fall of Jerusalem, his mouth should be opened and he should be no longer dumb. The reference in Ezekiel 24:27 and in Ezekiel 33:22 to the verse before us has been observed by most expositors; but several of them would limit the silence of the prophet merely to the time which lies between Ezekiel 24 and Ezekiel 33:21. This is quite arbitrary, as neither in Ezekiel 24 nor in Ezekiel 33 is silence imposed upon him; but in both chapters it is only stated that he should no longer be dumb after the receipt of the intelligence that Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Chaldeans. The supposition of Schmieder, moreover, is untenable, that the injunction of Ezekiel 3:25 refers to the turning-point in the prophet's office, which commenced on the day when the siege of Jerusalem actually began. For although this day forms a turning-point in the prophetic activity of Ezekiel, in so far as he on it announced to the people for the last time the destruction of Jerusalem, and then spake no more to Israel until the occurrence of this event, yet it is not said in Ezekiel 24:27 that he was then to be dumb from that day onwards. The hypothesis then only remains, that what was imposed and enjoined on the prophet, in Ezekiel 3:26 and Ezekiel 3:27, should remain in force for the whole period from the commencement of his prophetic activity to the receipt of the news of the fall of Jerusalem, by the arrival of a messenger on the banks of the Chaboras. Therewith is also connected the position of this injunction at the head of the first prophecy delivered to him (not at his call), if only the contents and importance of this oracle be understood and recognised, that it embraces not merely the siege of Jerusalem, but also the capture and destruction of the city, and the dispersion of the people among the heathen - consequently contains in nuce all that Ezekiel had to announce to the people down to the occurrence of this calamity, and which, in all the divine words from Ezekiel 6:1-14 to Ezekiel 24, he had again and again, though only in different ways, actually announced. If all the discourses down to Ezekiel 24 are only further expositions and attestations of the revelation of God in Ezekiel 4 and 5, then the behaviour which was enjoined on him at the time of this announcement was to be maintained during all following discourses of similar contents. Besides, for a correct appreciation of the divine precept in Ezekiel 3:26 and Ezekiel 3:27, it is also to be noticed that the prophet is not to keep entire silence, except when God inspires him to speak; but that his keeping silence is explained to men, that he is to be to his contemporaries no אישׁ, "no reprover," and consequently will place their sins before them to no greater extent, and in no other way, than God expressly directs him. Understood in this way, the silence is in contradiction neither with the words of God communicated in Ezekiel 6:1-14 to 24, nor with the predictions directed against foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-33, several of which fall within the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Cf. with this the remark upon Ezekiel 24:27 and Ezekiel 33:22.

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