Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Siege Food: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 4 with poem by Yehuda Karni, Yerushalayim

Daily Readings
Psalm 75 Joshua 23 Ezekiel 4 James 3

Daily Text: Ezekiel 4

Siege Food
Ezekiel is in Chaldea or Babylonia on the Chebar Canal, but his message in Ezekiel 4 is of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was for Israel the center of the universe, the city that served as the lodestone of their lives. They would have been as affected by this word against the capital as the inhabitants would have been. Within this chapter are three signs: a model of siege works against the city, the immobilization of the prophet for a period of time representing Israel and Judah’s punishment and finally, a sign of famine in the severely restricted and unclean nature of Ezekiel’s food during this siege. Ezekiel’s fellow exiles would undoubtedly have been fascinated by his actions; his actions may well have become the focal of their lives throughout their course, that about which they could not stop talking, thinking, and fearing. This was not an act of magic creating in reality what Ezekiel is portraying figuratively. Rather, his enactment served only to let the people know how angry the LORD was with their communal disobedience. Could Ezekiel have lain on one side for 390 days? In one way or another we must accept that he did so. For to have received this word and communicated it, and then not followed it would have given the lie to God’s word and Ezekiel’s obedience. Neither is likely. Whether or not he was actually in one position for 24 hours a day for 390 and in another for 40 days is immaterial. It would have been carried out in a manner that spoke volumes both for God’s anger and Ezekiel’s obedience. Taken together the 390 and 40 days represent 430 years, the number of years that Israel was in Egypt and the approximate number of years of their life in the Promised Land up until this point. It appears that the number of years of sinning against the covenant God will be the number of years of punishment to be expected. Again exactness in all of this is difficult to demonstrate and essentially unnecessary. The implications are serious enough.

The siege food at famine proportions amounted to 176.29 grams or 8.06 ounces per day. One half pound of a mixed grain bread was not a lot of food. And add to that the restriction of a little over a pint of water a day, and you realize that the enactment of this message would be sobering indeed. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, this behavior may have been worth many more. Add to it that even with the modification from human dung to cow dung for fire fuel upon which the bread was baked, the departure for a priest from strict observance of the purity laws would in itself carry tremendous significance for observers. God was serious about cutting Jerusalem off from his pleasure. The loss of hope in this realization must have been of major proportions.

from Yerushalayim
Yehuda Karni

Would that I were a stone
like all the stones of Jerusalem,
and how blessed,
were my bones joined to the Wall!
Why should my body be spared more than
my soul, which endured
fire and water with my people?

Take me with the Jerusalem stone
and place me in the walls
and set me in with plaster,
and out of the very walls my bones
will sing,
that pine to greet the messiah.

Collect for the Day
O God, let not pride stiffen our necks, but help us to give you thanks and praise your name for ever, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. [476:803:Psalm 75 Psalm prayer]


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