Ezekiel 4:9 Bread (The Rest of the Story)

Ezekiel 4:9-15

(9) Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, 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.
(10) And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.
(11) Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink.
(12) And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
(13) And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.
(14) Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.
(15) Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.

There have always been times when God has called His ministers to shew His people their transgression (ISA 58:1) or their transgression's judgment and sometimes in rather graphic ways. The prophets were known to be set “...for signs and for wonders in Israel...” (ISA 8:18) and such a sign as Ezekiel was here commanded to present might not have been a wonder (miracle) but it surely should have made men wonder. With a scale model of Jerusalem before him, Ezekiel was to lie on his side for 430 days to signify Israel and Judah's sin and judgmental siege at the hands of the Babylonians (EZE 4:1-8). And to that strange theater was added this repulsive cooking show.

It is not that God delights in making His ministers to be a gazingstock or spectacle to the world (1CO 4:9) or “...the filth of the world....the offscouring of all things...” (1CO 4:13) or to be judged as mad (ACT 26:24) so that He can take some sick delight in their torment or join the world in its ridicule of them. But that sin might be graphically shown for what it is, such lessons are given which purposely offend human sensitivities. God's ministers do well to learn to endure hardness (2TI 2:3) for what He requires of them may not be popular, especially to the natural man. The gospel message (especially the discovery and reprimand of men's sins) is at least as repulsive to the natural man as Ezekiel's cooking school (1CO 1:18; 1CO 2:14). Was Ezekiel's bread to be cooked over man's dung “...in their sight” (EZE 4:12)? So the gospel which condemns sin and presents only Christ as relief should not be hid (MAT 5:14-16) but preached in and out of season (2TI 4:2). Christ spake openly to the world (JOH 18:20).

The thought of cooking his bread over man's dung was repulsive to Ezekiel (v.14). As saints who are subject to like passions as the prophets (JAM 5:17), we concur. There was something particularly objectionable about human dung and Israel was to take special pains to bury it outside the camp as an unclean thing (DEU 23:13-14). The dung of beasts was sometimes burned as a sacrifice (EXO 29:14; LEV 4:11; LEV 8:17; LEV 16:27; NUM 19:5) but not the dung of man. The significance of man's dung was not lost on Ezekiel and so he begged for relief on the basis of avoiding self-pollution. We do well to not only avoid evil but also to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1TH 5:22). God capitulated to Ezekiel's request and allowed him to substitute cow's dung. Matthew Henry made the following observation: “God allowed Ezekiel to use cow's dung instead of man's dung. This is a tacit reflection upon man, as intimating that he being polluted with sin his filthiness is more nauseous and odious than that of any other creature. How much more abominable and filthy is man, JOB 15:16!” It was man's sin, not the brute's, that put the creation under the bondage of corruption (ROM 8:20-22).

The components of Ezekiel's bread, though different from their familiar barley cakes (v.12), were essentially wholesome. It was the fuel that “defiled” it as a sign of Israel's upcoming eating of defiled bread amongst the Gentiles (v.13). Israel had long dabbled in the mysteries and idolatries of the nations which God had straitly commanded them to avoid (EXO 23:33; DEU 12:29-32), mingling their corrupt ways with the service of God. Idolatry, hypocrisy and man's traditions are identified with dung in Scripture (1KI 14:10; 2KI 10:27; MAL 2:1-3; GAL 1:14 c/w PHIL 3:7-8). They defile what is otherwise good and wholesome. Christians should therefore reject any assimilation of other religions' tenets or practices (2CO 6:14-18), the traditions of men which make God's word of no effect (MAR 7:6-13), or unfruitful works of darkness in any form (EPH 5:11) for these all are so much dung-fuel that defiles service to God. If we insist on cooking our service to God upon the dung of our own lusts, indifference or rebellion, our service will become worthless and we shall be as the salt which has lost its savour that is cast out to be trodden under foot of men (MAT 5:13), “...neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill” (LUK 14:35).