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The Siege of Jerusalem Portrayed


And you, O mortal, take a brick and set it before you. On it portray a city, Jerusalem; 2and put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a ramp against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. 3Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.

4 Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it; you shall bear their punishment for the number of the days that you lie there. 5For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, one day for each year. 7You shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and with your arm bared you shall prophesy against it. 8See, I am putting cords on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

9 And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred ninety days, you shall eat it. 10The food that you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; at fixed times you shall eat it. 11And you shall drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; at fixed times you shall drink. 12You shall eat it as a barley-cake, baking it in their sight on human dung. 13The L ord said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread, unclean, among the nations to which I will drive them.” 14Then I said, “Ah Lord G od! I have never defiled myself; from my youth up until now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by animals, nor has carrion flesh come into my mouth.” 15Then he said to me, “See, I will let you have cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.”

16 Then he said to me, Mortal, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. 17Lacking bread and water, they will look at one another in dismay, and waste away under their punishment.

The Prophet here inserts the answer which he received to his request that God would relax his severe command: for it was abominable to eat flesh cooked with human dung, not only on account of the stench, but because religion forbade it: though the Prophet did not regard the taste of his palate, but objects that it was not lawful for him, and relates how anxiously he had abstained during his whole life from all polluted food. For if he had formerly dared to feed promiscuously on all sorts of food, he could not pray against it as he now does, that he should not be compelled to eat polluted bread: but he shows here that he had abstained throughout his whole life from all polluted food. My soul, says he, never was polluted: for soul is often put for the belly: then never have I tasted of a carcass, or of what has been torn in pieces By the figure a part put for the whole, he intends all unclean meats, which were unlawful food, according to the commandments of the law. (Leviticus 9.) For because a carcass is mixed with blood, God forbade them to touch the flesh of an animal which died by itself, because it had not been strangled, then if a wild beast should tear a sheep or an ox, that cruelty ought to be detestable to men. Since, therefore, both a carcass and torn and lacerated flesh are unclean food, the Prophet here says, that from his childhood even to that time he had kept the commands of God with his utmost endeavors: hence he obtains, as I have said, some mitigation. Yet he is compelled to eat his flesh cooked with the dung of oxen. This was done by vision, as I said yesterday: but meanwhile God did not change what he had determined concerning the people: viz. that they should eat their bread polluted among the Gentiles. For a cake cooked in the dung of oxen was unclean according to the Law. Hence God shows his own decree was fixed that the Israelites should be mingled among the Gentiles, so that they should contract pollution from their filth. It follows —

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