Acts Symbolic of Siege and Exile. 1* You, son of man, take a clay tablet; place it in front of you, and draw on it a city, Jerusalem. 2Lay siege to it: build up siege works, raise a ramp against it, pitch camps and set up battering rams all around it. 3Then take an iron pan and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face toward it and put it under siege. So you must lay siege to it as a sign for the house of Israel.a 4Then lie down on your left side, while I place the guilt of the house of Israel upon you. As many days as you lie like this, you shall bear their guilt. 5I allot you three hundred and ninety days* during which you must bear the guilt of the house of Israel, the same number of years they sinned. 6When you have completed this, you shall lie down a second time, on your right side to bear the guilt of the house of Judah forty days; I allot you one day for each year.b 7Turning your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with bared arm* you shall prophesy against it. 8See, I bind you with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.c
9* Then take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into a single pot and make them into bread. Eat it for as many days as you lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety days. 10The food you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; each day you shall eat it. 11And the water you drink shall be the sixth of a hin* by measure; each day you shall drink it. 12And the barley cake you eat you must bake on human excrement in the sight of all. 13The LORD said: Thus the Israelites shall eat their food, unclean, among the nations where I drive them.d 14“Oh no, Lord GOD,” I protested. “Never have I defiled myself nor have I eaten carrion flesh or flesh torn by wild beasts, nor from my youth till now has any unclean meat entered my mouth.”e 15Very well, he replied, I will let you use cow manure in place of human dung. You can bake your bread on that. 16Then he said to me: Son of man, I am about to break the staff of bread* in Jerusalem so they shall eat bread which they have weighed out anxiously and drink water which they have measured out fearfully.f 17Because they lack bread and water they shall be devastated; each and every one will waste away because of their guilt.g
* [4:1–5:4] The symbolic actions in this section prepare for the series of oracles that follow in 5:5–7:27.
* [4:5–6] Three hundred and ninety days…forty days: a symbol to represent the respective lengths of exile for the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Israel had already fallen to Assyria in 722/721 B.C. The numerical value of the Hebrew consonants in the phrase translated “the days of your siege” (v. 8) is three hundred and ninety. Forty years conventionally represents one generation.
* [4:7] Bared arm: a symbol of unrestrained power.
* [4:9–13] This action represents the scarcity of food during the siege of Jerusalem, and the consequent need to eat whatever is at hand. Twenty shekels: about nine ounces. The sixth of a hin: about one quart.
* [4:11] Hin: see note on 45:24.
* [4:16] Break the staff of bread: reducing the supply of bread that supports life as the walking staff supports a traveler; cf. 5:16; 14:13; Lv 26:26; Ps 105:16; Is 3:1.
b. [4:6] Dn 9:24–25; 12:11–12.