Oh, the issues into one delves when involved in Judeo-Christian apologetics…we might as well jump right into it.
Prophets of YHVH have a long history performing hyperbolic, symbolic, allegoric, actions which are meant to illustrate a point.
For example, Jeremiah 51 relates and Jeremiah wrote about Babylon’s fall on a scroll and was to eventually “tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her; and they will become exhausted.’” So the sinking of the scroll was illustrative of the fall of Babylon.
Ezekiel was also to perform various illustrative actions and that brings us to out point as chapter 4 notes that YHVH tells Ezekiel:
“As for you, lie down on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; you shall bear their iniquity for the number of days that you lie on it….When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah.”
Then comes the key section in view within this article:
“But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself; you shall eat it according to the number of the days that you lie on your side.”
Yum, actually sounds like a really good and healthy recipe (back when wheat was not GMO).
But wait, there’s more! And here it is in various translations:
KJV “And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.”
NKJV “And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
NLT “Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.”
NIV “Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.”
ESV “And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
NASB “You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung.”
RSV “And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
ASV “And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it in their sight with dung that cometh out of man.”
YLT “A barley-cake thou dost eat it, and it with dung -- the filth of man -- thou dost bake before their eyes.”
DBY “And thou shalt eat it as barley-cake, and thou shalt bake it in their sight with dung that cometh out of man.”
WEB “And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with human excrement in their sight.”
HNV “You shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it in their sight with dung that comes out of man.”
As it turns out this was meant to be symbolic:
“Then the Lord said, ‘Thus will the sons of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will banish them.’”
The unclean bread was meant to symbolize the unclean, un-kosher food (un-kosher animals and otherwise kosher ones sacrificed to idols, etc.) that the Israelites would have to eat when banished.
However, Ezekiel was a bit taken a back, shall we say?:
“But I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never been defiled; for from my youth until now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has any unclean meat ever entered my mouth.’ Then He said to me, ‘See, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung over which you will prepare your bread.’”
In part 2 we will consider Atheist umbrage about this text. For now, keep in mind the illustrative nature of the actions to be taken.
Part of the issue is the question of whether Ezekiel was to actually mix fecal excreta, human or bovine, into the bread so that he actually has to eat it.
Due to a simple reading of the immediate context we note that the recipe for the bread it solely, “wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt” and these are the ingredients which Ezekiel was to “put…in one vessel and make them into bread” period.
Then he is told to make it in the form/shape or otherwise prepare it as a “barley cake” and only then is he told how to bake it, “over human dung” and then “cow’s dung.”
The recipe of ingredients is one thing and the manner whereby to bake it is another. The dung was to be used as fuel. In fact, even today, people all over the world use bovine and other similar forms of dung as fuel for fires.
But Ezekiel stated that he did not want to eat any such thing so the bread must have had dung mixed into it. Firstly, the point above stands; the ingredients do not call for dung but the manner whereby to bake it, the fuel source, does.
Also, note his objection, his haggling, “I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has any unclean meat ever entered my mouth.” He is referring to various things which would make a food unclean. It is not just that an animal kind could be un-kosher but the manner in which it dies and, in this case, the manner in which the bread was to be prepared.
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