Ezekiel 4:12-15 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Eze 4:12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
Eze 4:13 And the LORD said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.”
Eze 4:14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.”
Eze 4:15 Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.”

In Ezekiel 4, God is commanding Ezekiel to perform a series of symbolic acts to prophesy to the people of what is to come. Some of these tasks are quite hard, such as sleeping on his side for over a year. One such command is for Ezekiel to cook his food with human poop/dung. Ezekiel was to use the poop as fuel for his cooking fire. The symbolic purpose was to teach Israel that they too would eat unclean food, as the human excrement would defile the food.

But this is too much for the committed Ezekiel. If he were to eat this food, he would be undoing his life’s work in remaining pure in food. God instantly changes His mind and allows Ezekiel to use cow dung instead of human dung. This is an instant change of plan based on a real time petition. God’s original plan is modified to allow for the concerns of his prophet.

This entire incident counters all sorts of classical theology. God’s plans can change based on the desires of people. God’s plans are flexible and can change in an instant. What God declares does not necessarily come to past. God does not mind changing His plans to accommodate people. God sometimes compromises.

Yahweh, as shown in this story, is not outside of time. Yahweh is not immutable, and is definitely not impassible. Instead He cares about people and they can change Him. Yahweh does not know the future, but experiences it in the present. If He were to have an eternal picture of the future, His command to use human dung would be disingenuous. Instead he might have begun with the cow dung, explaining it is a stand-in for human dung, and both represent the uncleanness in the food Israel will soon eat. Instead, what happens is a clear change in God’s plans. This is describing a dynamic God, one who considers humanity when modifying His decrees.

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