Further Ezekiel Study Materials
Third Movement: the Diet of Siege
God does not require that Ezekiel remain recumbent 24 hours a day; but provides for him to eat but even that act is symbolic. God first told Ezekiel to make a mixture of grains and store them in a jar and to daily make a scanty meal for himself and to drink only a minimum of water–about three pints a day. Ezekiel was repulsed by the command to cook the cakes he would make over a fire of human excrement, and asked the Lord to not have him do that so that he would not be defiled. God relented and allowed him to cook over a fire of cow manure.
“¢ In this image, unlike the symbol of the siege agent, Ezekiel is identified with the people, not God. Perhaps at times, then, a symbol must have a bicameral view: to be able to see the purposes of God, but identify so closely with people who are under judgment that he or she truly feels empathy with them in their plight.
“¢ Though we do not know the exact mechanism (and perhaps it’s best we don’t), God can and does relent from not only announcements of judgment (see Jonah 3:10; Jeremiah 18:5-10), He also relents in other ways (see Genesis 18). However, a very similar request regarding unclean food was denied by God when advanced by Peter (Acts 10). What’s the difference? Perhaps we might accurately say that some images or symbols are so powerful that they must remain intact (total acceptance of the Gentiles as clean before the Lord, for instance); whereas some other symbols may be softened just for the sensitivities and help of the one who must act out the symbol. At any rate, two things remain constant for the one who is called to be a symbol: the overarching purposes of God for the bringing of His people to Himself; and His mercy toward those who yield to Him.
“¢ It is perhaps significant that God relents at the point where Ezekiel, by eating defiled food, will be identified not as the people besieged and confined within the city of Jerusalem, but when they will be scattered. If we look carefully at the image, Ezekiel must even after his protests identify with the people while they are in Jerusalem, but he is not required to identify with them as they will be scattered. Perhaps, this too has a lesson: he must focus his mind as his body is focused on the privation of the siege time.
“¢ Just as God put Ezekiel on restricted and limited rations, sometimes He will hem in the physical circumstances of not only the one who is called to be a symbol, but will hem in the people under judgment so as to get their attention.
“¢ Again we see the participatory, not agential role of the one called to be a symbol. None of these actions commanded by God came from Ezekiel’s consciousness–in fact, part of it was even repulsive to him.
“¢ In a cascading effect, the people who would suffer famine within the city of Jerusalem will look at each other in horror as they see the physically devastating effects of sin on the bodies of those who have participated in sin as they have. By embodying the symbol that Ezekiel was presently acting out, they, too would become symbols.
“¢ Sin takes a toll on the body. Often the first place a hidden sin will show up is in the flesh–a venereal disease, a diseased liver, a pregnancy. Paul goes even further with this idea in 1 Corinthians 11:30. If we accept the Bible as a true representation of reality, Paul would say that illness and death can be traced not just to viruses and illnesses (which are participatory elements, not agential), but to the sin of not discerning the body of the Lord during His supper.