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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 4


As for you, son of man, take a clay tablet; lay it in front of you, and draw on it a city (Jerusalem).


Raise a siege against it: build a tower, lay out a ramp, pitch camps, and set up batteringrams all around.


Then take an iron griddle and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city. Fix your gaze on it: it shall be in the state of siege, and you shall besiege it. This shall be a sign for the house of Israel.


Then you shall lie on your left side, while I place the sins of the house of Israel upon you. As many days as you lie thus, you shall bear their sins.


1 For the years of their sins I allot you the same number of days, three hundred and ninety, during which you will bear the sins of the house of Israel.


When you finish this, you are to lie down again, but on your right side, and bear the sins of the house of Judah forty days; one day for each year I have allotted you.


2 Fixing your gaze on the siege of Jerusalem, with bared arm you shall prophesy against it.


See, I will bind you with cords so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.


3 Again, take wheat and barley, and beans and lentils, and millet and spelt; put them in a single vessel and make bread out of them. Eat it for as many days as you lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety.


The food you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; each day the same.


And the water you drink shall be the sixth of a hin by measure; each day the same.


4 Then he said to me: Son of man, I am breaking the staff of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread which they have weighed out anxiously, and they shall drink water which they have measured out fearfully,


so that, owing to the scarcity of bread and water, everyone shall be filled with terror and waste away because of his sins.


For your food you must bake barley loaves over human excrement in their sight, said the LORD.


Thus the Israelites shall eat their food unclean among the nations where I scatter them.


"Oh no, Lord GOD!" I protested. "Never have I been made unclean, and from my youth till now, never have I eaten carrion flesh or that torn by wild beasts; never has any unclean meat entered my mouth."


Very well, he replied, I allow you cow's dung in place of human excrement; bake your bread on that.



1 [5-6] Three hundred and ninety days . . . forty days: symbolically representing the respective lengths of the periods of exile of northern Israelites and Judahites. Northern Israel had already fallen to Assyria in 722 B.C. The letters in the Hebrew phrase for the days of your siege ( Ezekiel 4:8), each of which has its own numerical value, add up to three hundred and ninety. Forty years represent one generation.

2 [7] Bared arm: a symbol of unrestrained power.

3 [9-13] This action represents the scarcity of food during the siege of Jerusalem, and the consequent need to eat whatever is at hand. Twenty shekels: about nine ounces. The sixth of a hin: about one quart.

4 [16] (16) Breaking the staff of bread: reducing the supply of bread which sustains the life of man as the walking staff sustains the traveler on his journey; cf Ezekiel 5:13(16); 14:13; Lev 26:26; Psalm 105:16; Isaiah 3:1.

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