Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Tile, very large. (Calmet) — Those of Italy were two feet large and one broad. (Pallad.) — This might be soft clay; (Grotius; Menochius) or the siege might be marked out upon it with chalk or a sharp stile. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Cast up. The ditch would be about three feet deep, and the earth being thrown up, people might approach the town with less danger. (Worthington) — The besieged were thus also prevented from going out, 4 Kings xxv. 1. Forts or towers were erected to overlook and clear the walls. — Rams. This is the first time we find them mentioned. Homer is silent about them; (Calmet) and the ancient sieges lasted so long, because people had not found out the art of demolishing the walls. (Diodorus ii.)
Ver. 3. Pan, or plate, on which bread was usually baked. This was to represent the walls of the city. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Sleep. Hebrew, “lie down.” (Menochius) — He eat at intervals. (Calmet) — Iniquities, or punishments. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Three, &c. St. Jerome says some “Vulgate,” (Haydock) Latin, (Calmet) or rather incorrect Greek (Haydock) copies read 100, others 150. See Origen, &c. (Calmet) — The Alexandrian copy has the former, (Haydock) the Roman edition the latter number; and is followed by Theodoret and Maldonat. (Calmet) — But the more accurate Septuagint agree with the Hebrew, &c. The captivity of Israel must be dated from Phacee, (4 Kings xv. 29.) to the end of the reign of Darius Memnon, who espoused Esther, and granted liberty “to all the Jews;” or rather from Manathem, (4 Kings xv. 19.) to the 28th of the same king Assuerus. Thus God’s “grace, we think, and we may so speak without arrogance, has enabled us to explain this difficulty, which no other has done.” (St. Jerome) — Many confound the duration of the iniquity of Israel with that of Juda, forming 430 years; and they explain it of the time during which the nation had prevaricated. But this seems unnatural. We may rather conclude, that the prophet speaks of a separate judgment, and dates from the destruction of Samaria and of Jerusalem. The former city was taken the year of the world 3283. If we add 390 years, we shall find the year 3673 the very year when Alexander [the Great] overcame Darius, and soon after granted the Jews full liberty to return, or live according to their own laws. This he granted to those in Babylon, and to the Israelites (Calmet) in Media. Josephus, Antiquities xi. ultra & contra Apion i. — Philadelphus afterwards liberated many in Egypt, (Josephus, Antiquities xii. 2.) as Osee (xi. 11.) had foretold. The chastisement of Juda must be dated from the destruction of Jerusalem under Sedecias, till Darius, the Mede, favoured the Jews about forty years afterwards. (Calmet) — St. Jerome only allows forty years to have elapsed from the first of Jechonias till the first of Cyrus. The want of an exact chronology gives rise to many such difficulties. (Haydock) — It is very hard to explain how the ten tribes were 390 and the two tribes 40 years in captivity, as it is certain that the latter were seventy year banished from their own country. (Worthington) — Perhaps during the last thirty their condition was greatly ameliorated, after the decree of Cyrus, though the liberation was only perfect under Hystaspes and Esther. (Haydock) — The iniquity of Israel, from Solomon to Salmanasar, lasted 390 years; and that of Juda, under the reign of Manasses, was most abominable for the space of forty years; (Tournemine) or it continued so long from the 18th of Josias till the 4th, after the city was destroyed, and the land became a desert. (Usher, the year of the world 3380 to 3420.) — But how shall the reign of the virtuous Josias be included in this period? (Haydock) — The action of the prophet lying 430 days, denoted the length of the siege of Jerusalem, during which extreme scarcity should be felt, and also the captivity of the people. Some have thought that he could not remain 390 days on one side, and that all passed in spirit. But what impression would that make upon the people? He was chained down, (Calmet) to represent their miserable condition. (Haydock) — Prędo saw a fool who lay tied in one posture for above fifteen years. (Calmet) — The remaining so long in one posture must have been painful to the prophet. (Tirinus)
Ver. 7. Siege, which shall be most terrible; (Haydock) 390 days: the pillage shall last other forty. (Tirinus) — So many years have the people transgressed. — Out. Hebrew, “naked.” Thus various barbarians fight. — Prophesy, not by words, (chap. viii. 26.) but by actions. (Menochius)
Ver. 10. Staters, sicles, each being equal to 9 dwt. 2.57 gr. Eng. The hin contained 1 gal. 2 pints. (Arbuthnot.) (Haydock) — He had an allowance of ten ounces a-day. (Calmet) (Tirinus)
Ver. 12. Barley, the worst or usual food of the poor. (Haydock) — Ashes, to denote hurry. (Calmet) — Cover with hot ashes, (Haydock) formed of dry excrements. (Calmet) — That of oxen is still used in Egypt, (Val. ep. xi.) and in some parts of England, by the poor people. (Hooke.) — This was more tolerable, (Calmet) and God agrees to substitute it, ver. 15. Hebrew, “Thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and shalt bake,” (Protestants) or “hide it,” &c. (Septuagint) (Haydock) — “The law itself, which the Jews read and do not understand, is this ember cake covered with human dung.” (Philippians iii. 8.) — “They adore not idols, but do all for the belly and for earthly goods.” (St. Jerome)
Ver. 13. Filthy. Israel was less careful to avoid uncleannesses than Juda. Hence the prophet eats only during 390 days, Osee ix. 3. (Calmet) — While the city was pillage for forty days, the prisoners would procure better food, ver. 7. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Ah. He makes the same exclamation as Jeremias, i. 6. Hebrew aha. Theodotion, “Oh!” Septuagint and Symmachus, “by no means.” (Haydock) — God forbid. Excrements make a person legally unclean, Deuteronomy xxiii. 12. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Neats, or “oxen;” boum. Protestants, “cow’s dung.” (Haydock) — God allows him to bake his bread under such ashes. (Calmet) — So great is his condescension towards his friends! (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Staff. As this supports the weak, so bread nourishes all men, (Worthington) particularly the bread of life. (St. Jerome) — Very little food, (Calmet) and that of a nauseous kind, (Haydock) would be found during the siege. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. When. Protestants, “they may want bread and water, and be astonished one with another, and consume away for their iniquity.” (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A prophetic description of the siege of Jerusalem, and the famine that shall reign there.
1 And *thou, O son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and draw upon it the plan of the city of Jerusalem.
2 And lay siege against it, and build forts, and cast up a mount, and set a camp against it, and place battering rams round about it.
3 And take unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face resolutely against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it: it is a sign to the house of Israel.
4 And thou shalt sleep upon thy left side, and shalt lay the iniquities of the house of Israel upon it, according to the number of the days that thou shalt sleep upon it, and thou shalt take upon thee their iniquity.
5 And I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.
6 And when thou hast accomplished this, thou shalt sleep again upon thy right side: and *thou shalt take upon thee the iniquity of the house of Juda forty days: a day for a year, yea, a day for a year I have appointed to thee.**
7 And thou shalt turn thy face to the siege of Jerusalem, and thy arm shall be stretched out: and thou shalt prophesy against it.
8 Behold I have encompassed thee with bands: and thou shalt not turn thyself from one side to the other, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege.
9 And take to thee wheat and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side: three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.
10 And thy meat that thou shalt eat, shall be in weight twenty staters a-day: from time to time thou shalt eat it.
11 And thou shalt drink water by measure, the sixth part of a hin: from time to time thou shalt drink it.
12 And thou shalt eat it as barley-bread baked under the ashes: and thou shalt cover it, in their sight, with the dung that cometh out of a man.
13 And the Lord said: So shall the children of Israel *eat their bread, all filthy, among the nations whither I will cast them out.
14 And I said: Ah, ah, ah, O Lord God, behold my soul hath not been defiled, and from my infancy even till now, I have not eaten any thing that died of itself, or was torn by beasts, and no unclean flesh hath entered into my mouth.
15 And he said to me: Behold I have given thee neat’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt make thy bread therewith.
16 And he said to me: Son of man: *Behold I will break in pieces the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care: and they shall drink water by measure, and in distress.
17 So that when bread and water fail, every man may fall against his brother, and they may pine away in their iniquities.
1: Year of the World 3409.
6: Numbers xiii. 34. — ** Jeremias lii. 30.
13: Osee ix. 4.
16: Ezechiel v. 16. and xiv. 13.