Ezekiel 4:4

Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity.

Lie thou also upon thy left side,.... Some think this was not in reality, but in vision, as Kimchi observes; and so Maimonides {c}; and in like manner they understand his eating and drinking by measures and preparing food, as he is directed in a following part of this chapter: but others are of opinion that all this was really done. The reasons given on both sides are not despicable. It is urged against the reality of the fact, that the prophet, without a miracle, could never have lain so long on one side; and besides, this seems to be contradicted by a later account, of his sitting in his house before the expiration of those days; since from the fifth day of the fourth month of the fifth year, in which he began to prophesy, Ezekiel 1:1, (and this order was seven days after that at least, Ezekiel 3:15), to the fifth day of the sixth month of the sixth year, when we find him sitting, Ezekiel 8:1; were but four hundred and thirteen days; and if seven are taken out from thence, there are but four hundred and six; whereas the whole time of his lying for Israel and Judah were four hundred and thirty; and it is further observed, that it does not seem decent that the prophet should be obliged really to eat such bread as he was ordered to make. On the other hand it is observed, that the order of portraying the siege of Jerusalem on a the, and setting an iron pan for a wall, seem to direct to the doing of real facts, and to that this order is subjoined, without any mark of distinction; besides, the prophet was to have this portrait in view, while he was lying on his side, and uncover his arms, which seem to denote real facts: and was to prophesy, not by words, for he was to be dumb, Ezekiel 3:26; but by facts; and he was to do all this in the sight of his people; and if the order to make a cake of bread was not to be really performed in the manner directed, there would have been no occasion of deprecating it. The learned Witsius {d}, who has collected the arguments on both sides, is inclined to the latter; and observes from others, that some persons have lain longer on one side than the prophet, without a miracle: particularly a certain paralytic nobleman, who lay sixteen years in such a manner: and as for the computation of time, Cocceius is of opinion that the forty days for Judah are included in the three hundred and ninety for Israel; and which indeed seem to be the whole number, Ezekiel 4:9; and which at once solves the difficulty; and besides, the force of the objection may be taken off by observing, that the fifth year might be intercalated, and consist of thirteen months, which was common with the Jews to have a "Veadar", or intercalated month: nor is it dishonourable nor unusual for the Lord to call his dear servants sometimes to hard and disagreeable service, as both these cases seem to be, when he has ends of his own glory, and the good of others, to be answered thereby. And the lying on the left side for the sins of the house of Israel was, as Jarchi thinks, because that Samaria, which was the head of the ten tribes, lay to the left of Jerusalem: see

Ezekiel 16:46; or rather, because the left hand is not so honourable as the right; it may show that the Lord had not such an esteem for Israel us for Judah;

and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it; not to atone for it, but to show what was the cause of their captivity; far herein the prophet was no type of Christ, but represented the people of Israel; who had been grievously sinning against God, during the term of time hereafter mentioned, and now would be punished for it; for by "iniquity" is meant the punishment of it, which is often the sense of the word used; see Genesis 4:13;

according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity: which are particularly declared in Ezekiel 4:5.

{c} Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 46.
{d} Miscel. Sacr. tom. 1. l. 1. c. 12. sect. 14, 15, &c.