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Ezekiel 4:1-3

1. Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem:

1. Et tu, Fili hominis, sume tibi laterem, et pone ipsum coram facie tua, et pinge super ipsum urbem, nempe Hierosolymam:

2. And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about.

2. Et pone contra eam obsidionem, et extrue contra eam turrim, et funde adversus eam aggerem, et pone adversus eam castra, et statue contra eam arietes in circuitu.

3. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.

3. Et tu sume tibi patenam vel sartaginem ferream, et pone illam murum ferreum inter to et inter urbem: et obfirma faciem tuam adversus eam vel contra ex opposito, et sit in obsidionem, et obsidebis eam. Hoe signum domui Israel.


Here God begins to speak more openly by means of his servant, and not to speak only, but to signify by an outward symbol what he wishes to be uttered by his mouth. Hence he orders the Prophet to paint Jerusalem on a brick Take therefore, he says, a brick, and place it in thy sight: then paint on it a city, even Jerusalem This is one command: then erect a tower against it. He describes the form of ancient warfare; for then when they wished to besiege cities, they erected mounds from which they filled up trenches: then they moved about wooden towers, so that they might collect the soldiers into close bands, and they had other machines which are not now in use. For fire-arms took away that ancient art of warfare. But God here Simply wishes the picture of a city to be besieged by Ezekiel. Then he orders him to set up a pan or iron plate, like a wall of iron This had been a childish spectacle, unless God had commanded the Prophet to act so. And hence we infer, that sacraments cannot be distinguished from empty shows, unless by the word of God. The authority of God therefore is the mark of distinction, by which sacraments excel, and have their weight and dignity, and whatever men mingle with them is frivolous. For this reason we say that all the pomps of which the Papal religion is full are mere trifles. Why so? because men have thought out whatever dazzles the eyes of the simple, without any command of God.

But if any one now objects, that the water in baptism cannot penetrate as far as the soul, so as to purge it of inward and hidden filth, we have this ready answer: baptism ought not to be considered in its external aspect only, but its author must be considered. Thus the whole worship under the law had nothing very different from the ceremonies of the Gentiles. Thus the profane Gentiles also slew their victims, and had whatever outward splendor could be desired: but that was entirely futile, because God had not commanded it. On the other hand, nothing was useless among the Jews. When they brought their victims, when the blood was sprinkled, when they performed ablutions, God’s command was added, and afterwards a promise: and so these ceremonies were not without their use. We must therefore hold, that sacraments at first sight appear trifling and of no moment, but their efficacy consists in the command and promise of God. For if any one reads what Ezekiel here relates, he would say that it, was child’s play. He took a brick, he painted a city on it: it was only a figment: then he had imaginary machines by which he besieged the city: why boys do better than this: next he set up a plate of iron like a wall: this action is not a whit more serious than the former. Thus profane men would not only despise, but even carp at this symbol. But when God sends his Prophet, his authority should be sufficient for us, which is a certain test for our decision, and cannot fail, as I have said. First, he says, paint a city, namely Jerusalem: then lay siege to it, and move towards it all warlike instruments: place even כרים, kerim, which some interpret “leaders,” but they are “lambs,” or “rams,” for the Hebrews metaphorically name those iron machines by which walls are thrown down “rams,” as the Latins do. Some indeed prefer the rendering leaders,” but I do not approve of their opinion. At length he says, this shall be a sign and on this clause we must dwell: for, as I already said, the whole description may be thought useless, unless this testimony be added: indeed the whole vision would be insipid by itself, unless the savor arose from this seasoning, since God says, this should be a sign to the Israelites.

When God pronounces that the Prophet should do nothing in vain, this ought to be sufficient to lead us to acquiesce in his word. If we then dispute according to our sense, he will show that what seems foolish overcomes all the wisdom of the world, as Paul says. (1 Corinthians 1:25.) For God sometimes works as if by means of folly: that is, he has methods of action which are extraordinary, and by no means in accordance with human judgment. But that this folly of God may excel all the wisdom of the world, let this sentence occur to our minds, when it is here said, Let this be for a sign to the house of Israel. For although the Israelites could shake their heads, and put out their tongues, and treat the Prophet with unbridled insolence, yet this alone prevailed sufficiently for confounding them, that God said, this shall be for a sign And we know of what event it was a sign, because the Israelites who had been drawn into captivity thought they had been too easy, and grieved at their obedience: then also envy crept in when they saw the rest of the people remaining in the city. Therefore God meets them and shows them that exile is more tolerable than to endure a siege in the city if they were enclosed in it. Besides, there is little doubt that this prophecy was directed against the Jews who pleased themselves, because they were yet at ease in their rest. For this reason, therefore, God orders the Prophet to erect towers, then to pitch a camp, and to prepare whatever belongs to the siege of a city, because very soon afterwards the Chaldeans would arrive, who had not yet oppressed the city, but are just about to besiege it, as we shall afterwards see at length.

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