<< SYMBOLIC PROPHECY OF THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM. >>
Son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee; and portray upon it a city, even Jerusalem : and lay siege against it, and build forts against it, and cast up a mound against it; set camps also against it, and set battering-rams against it, round about. And take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel. And lie thou upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of days that thou shalt lie upon it, thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of their days, three hundred and ninety days: so. shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah, forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it. And behold, I will lay my hands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege. Take thou, also, unto thee, wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof. And thy food which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat thereof. Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of a hin: from time to time shalt thou drink. And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes; and thou shalt bake it, in their sight, with manure…. And Jehovah said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.-EZEKIEL iv, 1-13.
THE LITERAL STORY.
IN the literal sense of this enacted parable, the prophet carried on a mimic siege, doing, in miniature, some of the things which an attacking army would do, in besieging a city. And this mimic siege is declared to be a sign unto the house of Israel. And the other actions of the prophet, such as lying on his side, and the manner of his eating and drinking, literally represented the distress of the inhabitants of the city, during the siege, when food would be of ordinary kinds, without luxury, and both food and water would be so scarce as to be used by measure, doled out in small rations; day by day. The long duration of the siege prophesied was represented, in general, by the long-continued lying on one side, and then on the other.
But we observe that the prophet was to lie on his left side, three hundred and ninety days, and on his right side forty days. And those two numbers, added, make four hundred and thirty, which was the number of years during which Israel was held in bondage, in Egypt, before the Exodus. And the days for lying on the right side, for Judah, were forty, which was the number of years during which Israel wandered in the wilderness, immediately following the Exodus from Egypt. And thus these were representative numbers, familiar to Israel.
The degenerate condition of the Israelites, after the siege and surrender of Jerusalem, was represented by the use of dried manure for fuel, in baking the bread for the prophet. This was a common practice, among the common people of Israel, who were poor, and with whom wood for fuel was expensive. But bread baked thus was regarded as ” unclean,” in a religious and ceremonial sense; and its use was typical of poverty and distress. A prophet was always a representative man, through whom the Lord communicated with the people. And, hence, the prophet was always closely observed by the people. And everything done by him was more or less representative. His personal life was merged in his representative character.
THE SPIRITUAL SENSE.
The historical spiritual sense of our text displays the degeneration of the Jewish nation and Church, with whom there was not left remaining any good which was not adulterated with the evil lusts of self-love, or any truth which was not falsified by the sensuous notions of self-derived intelligence.
In the personal spiritual sense, the general theme is the degeneration of the human mind, which adulterates the good of life with selfish evils, and falsifies the truths of the Lord’s Word, until it comes under the Dominion of the hells, which subjugate the mind, and subject it to all the sufferings which are inseparable from evil conditions.
All the things which the prophet did, as narrated in the text, in mimicking the doings of an attacking army, represent the particulars in the assaults of evil influences upon the mind of a man, both within his own natural mind, and from the outside evil spirits.
The tile, on which the prophet portrayed the city of Jerusalem, was, probably, a large fresh clay brick, not yet dried hard in the sun, and on which he could scratch a picture of the city: or, if it was a dried brick, he could draw the city upon it, with a reed pen. In either case, the portrait represented the mental conditions of the people of Jerusalern ; and the siege to which the tile was subjected, represented the conditions into which the people were precipitating themselves by their course of life.
LYING ON ONE SIDE, ETC.
The restricted method of lying on one side, only, for a long time, represents the mental condition in which a man remains, when under the influence of one form of mental activity, which narrows and constrains the mind, and restricts the practical life. There is no full spiritual freedom, except in the goodness and truth of regeneration. The unregenerate life is, necessarily, one of restraint and limitation.
Of the unregenerate life it is said, representatively, “The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can. Wrap himself in it.” (Isaiah xxviii. 20.)
The two sides of the body represent the two sides of the mind. The right side represents the will-principle, the heart, the affectional nature, with its loves and its feelings. And the left side represents the intellectual nature, the understanding, with its knowledge, its wisdom, its truth, and its thoughts. Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for Israel, and on his right side for Judah, because, in man, Israel represents the intellectual side, and Judah the affectional side.
As the prophet represented the Divine Truth which he taught to men, from the Lord, so the constrained action of the prophet, in lying on one side, for a very long time, also represented, in another sense, the constrained action of the Divine Truth, in the mind of the man who had been taught the truth, but who regarded that truth merely in an external and formal way, as relating to merely ceremonial worship.
Times represent states of mind, conditions of affection and of thought, by which the progress of the mind is computed. In distinction, days represent more especially the minor conditions, and frequent changes of mental states, in the practical daily life; and years represent the greater, rnore extended conditions, which include the minor states. In our text, literally, days were given, instead of the years represented, probably because of convenience of application. The representative lesson was rnore pointed, and more direct, than if it had been spread over several centuries, so that no one generation of men could have seen its whole course and plan. And, mentally, the quality of the larger periods of mental growth, is seen and represented in the quality of the smaller periods and conditions, of which the larger states are made up.
Three signifies fulness, completeness, especially as regards truth, in the mind and life; as where a man loves, understands, and practises the Lord’s truth. In this case, he receives truth in fulness, because it is in all his life, in his heart, his understanding, and his conduct. Hundreds, thousands, etc., add emphasis to the meaning, and make it more general and more extended. The period of three hundred days represents a general fulness, as to the truth. Ninety, another multiple of three, represents fulness, especially in relation to “remains,” i.e., to the early states of our life, remaining in our minds; because ninety is nine times ten, and ten especially represents such “remains.” As relating to the state of mind represented by the prophet lying three hundred and ninety days on his left side, the extent of time represents a full “vastation” of truth, in the mind ; i.e., a full laying waste, or destroying of truth, by means of the false ideas of self-love.
And forty represents temptation, especially in regard to the will, or heart. The flood lasted forty days; the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years; the spies of Israel searched the land of Canaan forty days; and Jesus fasted, in the wilderness, forty days. In all these cases, and many others, forty represents temptation. In our text, the forty days for Judah represented a full temptation to the heart of the unregenerate man, and his degeneration by yielding to evil. The fact that the prophet was said to bear the iniquity of Israel and of Judah, does not express any vicarious bearing, but merely a representative bearing, for the purpose of prophetic teaching. The three hundred and ninety days, and the forty days, together, represented a full vastation of goodness and truth among the people of Israel and Judah, a full rejection of good from the heart, and of truth from the understanding, so that their minds were about to sink into captivity to the hells.
In a more profound sense, the same things represent the temptations to the assumed humanity in Jesus Christ, considered as separate from the Divine inward life.
The words of our text do not seem to require us to understand that the prophet had to lie on one side three hundred and ninety days, and forty days, consecutively and continuously, without arising. The meaning seems to be that, during a long period, when the prophet did lie down, he had to lie on one side, only. He was instructed to make his own bread, and to get water for himself, during all the time. And it would be impossible to do these things while lying down. And it is not probable that either water or bread would remain fit for use, for over fourteen months, if he had provided enough to last, before lying down. And if he was to remain inactive so long, it seems probable that some one would have been instructed to wait upon him : but nothing of this kind is mentioned.
The amount of food and water allowed the prophet was very limited, ten ounces of bread, and one and one half pints of water, daily, only enough for the necessities of life. These things represent the straightened condition of the unregenerate man, in whose mind there is a shortness of spiritual sustenance.
Literally, the unclean method of baking the bread, represented that, during the siege, the people would be reduced to severe straits for fuel, and compelled to use what they could secure; and also that, after the siege, and in the succeeding captivity, they would be compelled to eat the polluted bread of the Gentiles. But, spiritually, the baking of the cakes, or bread, with the dried manure for fuel, represented that, in the mind of the unregenerate man, who has fallen into evil, falsity, and sin, there is no goodness, and no truth, that is not heated by the unclean lusts of self-love, the things which are rejected from every regenerating mind, In such a mind, even the ceremonies of worship are polluted with the impurities of self-love.
Natural-minded men, who have more fastidious taste of the senses than intelligent knowledge of spiritual things, sometimes complain that there are, in the Bible, many things which are repulsive to anyone of refined tastes. Undoubtedly, this is so, as to the letter of the Scriptures. But how could it well be otherwise? The Bible was made to reach fallen men, just as they were, and are, in low conditions of character. And the Word must come down to the plane of life on which such men live, or it cannot reach them, and influence them. It must deal with such phases of life as low-minded men can comprehend. And it must talk of things in which such men are interested.
If the Bible had been made for angels, only, it would have come in a very different literal sense. But it was made for both angels and sinners. And if sinners will use the Bible, for practical regeneration, their objection to its language will pass away, for they will see the necessity for such language, because the things named in the literal sense are the symbols, representatives, and correspondences of the things meant in the spiritual sense. And earnest men will not be chiefly interested in criticising the external elegance of the language, but in rejoicing in the plain truths which warn them of their own natural tendencies to evil, often hidden under an elegant sensuous taste. Remember that the language of the Bible, in its originals, and measurably so in its translations, is the reaching-down of infinite love and wisdom and purity, to the conditions and necessities of human impurities, in order to save every man who is willing to be saved.
THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN.
As the true physician does not desert his patient, even when in the repulsive filth of small-pox, but works for the life of his patient, and his restoration to health, so the infinite Divine Love never hesitates to follow a fallen man even into the depths of evil, to save the man, if possible; and, if not possible to elevate him into heaven, then to save him from sinking into still lower hells. O Lord, “If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there.” (Psalm cxxxix. 8.)
The Bible is not intended to be merely an elegant literary production, to cater to the refined natural tastes of cultured persons. It is the Book of God, who, from His heaven of love, uses the language of the Scriptures to reach down into the reeking horrors of the hells, to seek and to save that which is lost. The Bible is the Great Physician’s medical hand-book for all His human patients, describing and explaining all human diseases, some of which are very filthy. But you do not need to dwell upon the most disagreeable parts of the Book, if you are not in danger of such diseases. But a close study of the language will help you to diagnose your own spiritual diseases, and to apply the proper remedy, Not one of us can recognize how far down he would sink, in character, if the Lord’s infinitely tender love did not withhold us, by various seen and unseen methods of His constant Providence.
And, as we grow more earnest, in seeking higher spiritual conditions, and in resisting our own natural tendencies to evil, we shall cease to criticise the Divine methods of doing the great works of infinite love and mercy. As we learn more of the spirit of the Divine Word, by inward experience, we shall have less disposition to criticise its external form. When we say from our hearts, O Lord, ” Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” we shall recognize the fact that, when human paths are in the mud and filth of sensuous life, it is necessary for the Divine Word to shine upon these filthy things, to reveal their nature, and to warn us of the danger; “to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887