164-72). Though this dramatization is rather simple, it is still quite deeply meaningful and profound, according to Block; the depiction of Jerusalem that Ezekiel is commanded to draw on the tablet, his rigidly controlled dietary intake, and the lying in two directions signifying his lamentation are all effective means of making more visceral and more physical the siege of the city and the collapse of the Hebrew people due to, according to the prophecies, the evils of their ways and their abandonment of God (Block 1997, pp. 171-86). Though highly symbolic, Ezekiels actions can also be interpreted as a series of direct and concrete reenactments of what occurred between God and his people.
While this direct interpretation is certainly possible, it is not the only means of understanding and interpreting Chapter 4 of the Book of Ezekiel. It has been noted that one of the rhetorical strategies that Ezekiel employs elsewhere in this Book is the deliberate obfuscation of a prophecys direct meaning, and this could certainly be a way for drawing the reader into an examination of meaning and intent in this chapter (Renz 1999, pp. 140). The minutiae of the “dramatizations” are so deliberate in their delivery, it is almost as though the passage were insisting that the symbolism of each of these details be inspected, and as though the author — or authors — were trying to present evidence of their intellectual agility (Renz 1999).
The actions that Ezekiel performs in the completion of his prophecies and Gods commandments in Chapter 4, whether or not the descriptions of these acts are meant to be cryptic, are certainly intended to be signs to the Israelites in exile in Babylon, to whom Ezekiel is preaching. The first of these acts is explicitly denoted as a “sign to the house of Israel,” and the others — including some in Chapter 5 — follow a similar pattern and are definitely similar in their content (Ezekiel 4:3; Tuell 2009, pp. 24). While these sign acts break from the prophetic and oracular formulas that are apparent in much of Ezekiel, these sign acts are actually “part of the standard repertoire of Israels prophets,” and their placement in this chapter — whether by Ezekiels own hand or by later redacters and collaters — shows a consistency in the tone and devices of many of the prophets, especially those dealing with exile in one form or another Tuell 2009, pp.
24). In this way, Ezekiel is actually establishing a sort of link to traditional culture, history, and prophecy for the Israelites in Babylon, stepping slightly out of the figure of exile that he is largely built into in the rest of his Book.
The minutiae of Gods commandments and Ezekiels prophecies in Chapter 4 of the Book of Ezekiel can be the source for abundant interpretation and debate, and the brief analysis of this chapters contents overall as presented here barely scratches the surface of the available knowledge and continuing deliberation concerning these passages. Both symbolic and concrete/realistic interpretations can exist side by side in this work, which adds to the depth of meaning that exists in this chapter.
Block, D. (1997). The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 (Volume 1): The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand rapids, MI: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing.
Malick, D. (2009). “An Argument of the Book of Ezekiel.” Accessed 15 May 2010. http://bible.org/article/argument-book-ezekiel
Renz, T. (1999). The rhetorical function of the book of Ezekiel. Boston: Brill.
Tuell, S. (2009). Ezekiel: New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA;.