And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Lay siege against it.—It must have seemed at this time unlikely that Jerusalem would soon become the subject of another siege. The only power by whom such a siege could be undertaken was Babylon, Egypt having been so thoroughly defeated as to be for a long time out of the question; and Nebuchadnezzar had now, within a few years, thrice completely conquered Judaea, had carried two of its kings, one after the other, captive in chains, and had also taken into captivity 10,000 of the chief of the people, setting up as king over the remnant a creature of his own, who was yet of the royal house of Judah. A fresh siege could only be the result of a fresh rebellion, an act, under the circumstances, of simple infatuation. Yet of this infatuation Zedekiah, through the “anger of the LORD” (2Kings 24:20), was guilty, and thus the prophecy was fulfilled. The prophecy itself is undated, but must have been between the call of Ezekiel in the fifth month of the fifth year (Ezekiel 1:2) and the next date given (Ezekiel 8:1), the sixth month of the sixth year. The siege began, according to Jeremiah 52:4, in the tenth month of the ninth year, so that the prophecy preceded its fulfilment by only about four years.
Build a fort against it.—Rather, a tower. The several acts of a siege are graphically described. First the city is invested; then a tower is built, as was customary, of sufficient height to overlook the walls and thus obtain information of the doings of the besieged. Instruments for throwing stones or darts were also sometimes placed in such towers; next is “cast a mound against it,” a common operation of the ancient siege (comp. Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 32:24), in which a sort of artificial hill was built to give the besiegers an advantage; then the camps (not merely camp) are set round the city to prevent ingress and egress; and finally “the battering rams” are brought against the walls. These last were heavy beams, headed with iron, and slung in towers, so that they could be swung against the walls with great force. They are frequently to be noticed in the representations of sieges found in the ruins of Nineveh. The practice of forming the end of the beam like a ram’s head belongs to the Greeks and Romans; but the instrument itself was much older.Ezekiel 4:2-3. And lay siege against it — Make a portraiture of a siege, and of such warlike instruments as are used in sieges, figuring every thing just as when an army lies before a place with an intention of taking it. Moreover, take thou an iron pan — Or rather, an iron plate, probably such as cakes were baked on. “This,” says Bishop Newcome, “may denote the strong trenches of the besiegers, or their firmness and perseverance in the siege; or, according to others, that there was an iron wall between the besieged and God, whom the prophet represented;” namely, the sins of the people, which separated between them and God, and prevented him from showing them mercy.Jeremiah 6:6 note.
The camp - Encampments. The word denotes various hosts in various positions around the city.
Fort - It was customary in sieges to construct towers of vast height, sometimes of 20 stories, which were wheeled up to the walls to enable the besiegers to reach the battlements with their arrows; in the lower part of such a tower there was commonly a battering-ram. These towers are frequently represented in the Assyrian monuments.
Battering rams - Better than the translation in the margin. Assyrian monuments prove that these engines of war are of great antiquity. These engines seem to have been beams suspended by chains generally in moveable towers, and to have been applied against the walls in the way familiar to us from Greek and Roman history. The name "ram" was probably given to describe their mode of operation; no Assyrian monument yet discovered exhibits the ram's head of later times.
a mount—wherewith the Chaldeans could be defended from missiles.
battering-rams—literally, "through-borers." In Eze 21:22 the same Hebrew is translated "captains."
Cast a mount; which made large, high, and strong, and near as they can, might thence by help of galleries get over the walls and enter the city. Lay out the ground also for the army of the Chaldeans to pitch their tents in, and to form their camp.
Rams; the Chaldee paraphrast understands the captains and chief leaders among the soldiers, but it is better understood of those engines wherewith besiegers did batter the walls and towers of a besieged city; an engine of great use in days of old among all warlike nations, invented, say some, in the siege of Troy. Ezekiel 4:3; or draw the form of a siege, or figure of an army besieging a city; or rather of the instruments and means used in a siege, as follows:
and build a fort against it: Kimchi interprets it a wooden tower, built over against the city, to subdue it; Jarchi takes it to be an instrument by which stones were cast into the city; and so the Arabic version renders it, "machines to cast stones"; the Targum, a fortress; so Nebuchadnezzar in reality did what was here only done in type, 2 Kings 25:1; where the same word is used as here:
and cast a mount about it; a heap of earth cast up, in order to look into the city, cast in darts, and mount the walls; what the French call "bastion", as Jarchi observes:
set the camp also against it; place the army in their tents about it:
and set battering rams against it round about; a warlike instrument, that had an iron head, and horns like a ram, with which in a siege the walls of a city were battered and beaten down. Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, interpret the word of princes and generals of the army, who watched at the several corners of the city, that none might go in and out; so the Targum seems to understand it (b). The Arabic version is, "mounts to cast darts"; See Gill on Ezekiel 21:22.And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. a fort against it] The word is always used in the sing., though sometimes rightly rendered forts (2 Kings 25:1), as the term is the name of a class of offensive siege works. The work was probably a species of tower, of which a number might be erected “round about” the walls (2 Kings 25:1), and was used as a station for archers, or to discharge projectiles from (cf. LXX. ch. Ezekiel 17:17). Towers of this kind, manned by archers are seen on the Assyrian bas-reliefs. Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 149.
cast a mount] The “mount” or mound was an embankment raised till the besiegers standing on it were on a level with the top of the wall and able to command the streets of the city, cf. Lamentations 4:18. See Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24.
set the camp] set camps, detachments of soldiery.
battering rams] These were beams of wood with a head of iron, suspended by chains or ropes from a cross plank, and swung with great force by a number of men against the walls to batter them down. The term “round about” indicates that they were applied to different parts of the wall, perhaps where it might be thought weakest. It is not probable that the siege works were also engraved upon the brick. The latter rather by its elevation above the ground represented the city, and the siege works would be upon the ground, if we are to suppose them anywhere. But as the whole is a creation of the imagination it may be doubtful if the prophet was so precise or consistent as to put to himself the question where the siege works were placed.Verse 2. - Lay siege against it, etc. The wonder would increase as the spectators looked on what followed. Either tracing the scene on the tablet, or, more probably, as ver. 3 seems to indicate, constructing a model of the scene, the prophet brings before their eyes all the familiar details of a siege, such as we see on numerous Assyrian bas-reliefs: such also as the narratives of the Old Testament bring before us. There are
(1) the forts (as in 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:22; Ezekiel 26:8), or, perhaps, the wall of circumvallation, which the besiegers erected that they might carry on their operations in safety;
(2) then the mount, or mound (the English of the Authorized Version does not distinguish between the two) of earth from which they plied the bows or catapults (Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24; Jeremiah 33:4; Ezekiel, ut supra);
(3) the camps (plural in the Hebrew and Revised Version), or encampments, in which they were stationed in various positions found the city;
(4) the battering rams. Here the history both of the word and the thing has a special interest. The primary meaning of the Hebrew word is "lamb" (so in Deuteronomy 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:9, et al., Revised Version), or, better, "full grown wethers or rams" (Furst). Like the Greek κρίος (Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 7:4. 1; 2 Macc. 12:15), and the Latin aries (Livy, 21:12; 31:32, et al.), it was transferred to the engine which was used to "butt," like a ram, against the walls of a besieged city, and which, in Roman warfare, commonly terminated in a ram's head in bronze or iron. Ezekiel is the only Old Testament writer who, here and in Ezekiel 21:22, uses the word, for which the LXX. gives βελοστάσεις, and the Vulgate arietes. The margin of the Authorized Version in both places gives "chief leaders," taking "rams" in another figurative sense; but, in the face of the LXX. and Vulgate, there is no reason for accepting this. Battering rams frequently appear in Assyrian bas-reliefs of a much earlier date than Ezekiel's time, at Nimroud (Vaux, 'Nineveh and Persepolis,' p. 456), Konyunyik (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 14:0, and elsewhere. They were hung by chains near the bottom of the besiegers' towers, and were propelled against the walls. Ezekiel 2:8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say to thee, Be not stiff-necked like the stiff-necked race; open thy mouth, and eat what I give unto thee. Ezekiel 2:9. Then I saw, and, lo, a hand outstretched towards me; and, lo, in the same a roll of a book. Ezekiel 2:10. And He spread it out before me; the same was written upon the front and back: and there were written upon it lamentations, and sighing, and woe. Ezekiel 3:1. And He said to me: Son of man, what thou findest eat; eat the roll, and go and speak to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:2. Then opened I my mouth, and He gave me this roll to eat. Ezekiel 3:3. And said to me: Son of man, feed thy belly, and fill thy body with this roll which I give thee. And I ate it, and it was in my mouth as honey and sweetness. - The prophet is to announce to the people of Israel only that which the Lord inspires him to announce. This thought is embodied in symbol, in such a way that an outstretched hand reaches to him a book, which he is to swallow, and which also, at God's command, he does swallow; cf. Revelation 10:9. This roll was inscribed on both sides with lamentations, sighing, and woe (הי is either abbreviated from נהי, not equals אי, or as Ewald, 101c, thinks, is only a more distinct form of הוי or הו). The meaning is not, that upon the roll was inscribed a multitude of mournful expressions of every kind, but that there was written upon it all that the prophet was to announce, and what we now read in his book. These contents were of a mournful nature, for they related to the destruction of the kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. That Ezekiel may look over the contents, the roll is spread out before his eyes, and then handed to him to be eaten, with the words, "Go and speak to the children of Israel," i.e., announce to the children of Israel what you have received into yourself, or as it is termed in Ezekiel 3:4, דּברי, "my words." The words in Ezekiel 3:3 were spoken by God while handing to the prophet the roll to be eaten. He is not merely to eat, i.e., take it into his mouth, but he is to fill his body and belly therewith, i.e., he is to receive into his innermost being the word of God presented to him, to change it, as it were, into sap and blood. Whilst eating it, it was sweet in his mouth. The sweet taste must not, with Kliefoth, be explained away into a sweet "after-taste," and made to bear this reference, that the destruction of Jerusalem would be followed by a more glorious restoration. The roll, inscribed with lamentation, sorrow, and woe, tasted to him sweetly, because its contents was God's word, which sufficed for the joy and gladness of his heart (Jeremiah 15:16); for it is "infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and spokesman of the Omnipotent," and even the most painful of divine truths possess to a spiritually-minded man a joyful and quickening side (Hengstenberg on Revelation 10:9). To this it is added, that the divine penal judgments reveal not only the holiness and righteousness of God, but also prepare the way for the revelation of salvation, and minister to the saving of the soul.
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