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Ezekiel's Drama
Copyright © 2004 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

Ezekiel’s Drama

Perhaps the only known "drama" recorded in the Bible is the one that God commands Ezekiel to put on, every day, for over a year (Ezekiel 4,5). This "drama" is in the form of a tableau, a one-scene staged production where the actors and action are frozen-in-time, no movement, no dialogue. This single scene tells an entire story for the audience, provided the audience is willing to study it long enough.

Ezekiel must build a set in his home where he is to receive regular visitors, though he is not permitted to talk with them. He is instructed to inscribe the unmistakable and distinctive skyline of Jerusalem in miniature onto a single brick. This brick will serve as a representation of the entire city. He must also build an entire model of the city coming under siege from a foreign army.

Around the city (the brick) he must build miniature siege mounds, which the real enemy will build during the assault. In fact, he will duplicate many facets of an entire siege, including the encampments of the attacking army and incorporating many other details, even down to the very battering rams they will use to pound Jerusalem’s walls.

All this is to set the stage for the living element of the drama/tableau, Ezekiel himself. Ezekiel will represent God. Ezekiel is to place a metal pan between his face and the besieged Jerusalem. Then, Ezekiel will be tied with ropes so he cannot move. This symbolizes that when the siege starts, God will not listen to the cries of the Jews, and they will be unable to see or seek the face of the Lord, as if He were hiding Himself behind an iron wall. Nor will He move His arms, as if they were tied, so that He will not come to the aid of Jerusalem.

The entire scene is a warning to all Israel and Judah that they will be punished for their sins. In fact, at the conclusion of the year-long drama, Ezekiel will have one final act in which he is to publicly cut his hair with a sword, divide the cuttings into thirds, go to the town center, and burn one-third (symbolizing the loss of life through starvation and illness during the siege), chop-up the next third of hair with the sword (symbolizing the loss of life to the attacking army), and throw one-third into the air letting the wind scatter the strands (symbolizing the survivors being scattered by captivity into the nations of the Gentiles). Only a tiny remnant will remain.

Ezekiel Represents God in the Drama

An interesting side note to Ezekiel’s drama is that he represents God. Not the figure or image of God, but rather what God will do (hide His face from the prayers of the Jews and not move His hands to help them). Ezekiel will not be an idol, an object to be worshipped, he is merely a dramatic representation of the works of the Lord.

Further, Ezekiel is told that He will symbolically "lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on [Ezekiel’s body]; you shall bear their iniquity… thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel…. and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah." Ezekiel will not actually bear their iniquities, but only symbolically. And who is it that Ezekiel is symbolically representing? It is the Lord Himself who actually bears our iniquities, and it is Christ who did so on the cross.

It is unmistakable that God is presenting Ezekiel as a dramatic symbol of God’s actions and a symbolic reference to (a type of ) the Christ. A.R. Faussett, in his celebrated 1871 commentary on Ezekiel comments that "Ezekiel, in the person of God" has the iron wall set up to show the Jews would be hopelessly separated from God. He then calls Ezekiel "a type of Him who was the great sin-bearer, not in mimic show as Ezekiel, but in reality (Is. 53:4, 6, 12)."

Again, it must be stated that Ezekiel is neither an idol nor an object of worship, nor is he intended to be an actual likeness of either God or the Messiah. He is a dramatic representation, a human representation, of what God did, both in allowing the siege to occur, and later in bearing the iniquity of all the people.

Ezekiel’s Drama Summarized

Was it wrong for Ezekiel to represent God during the drama when he hid his face behind a metal plate? Was it wrong for Ezekiel to dramatically represent God bearing the iniquities of the peoples in his own body? For both questions the answer is "No." God wrote and cast the drama and even commanded its performance. None of the Ten Commandments were violated, not even the Second Commandment, even though God was dramatically and symbolically represented.

The implications for modern drama are apparent. Drama, as a tool for assisting in the instruction of the people, is certainly intimated by Ezekiel 4 and 5. Symbolic references to God, not with regard to His image but rather to His works and words, can be compliant with the Second Commandment. Drama in and of itself is only one instructional tool, and must be aligned to the Word as carefully and closely as any sermon or Sunday School lesson.


Addendum -- Ezekiel 4:1-6:1 (NASB95)

1 "Now you son of man, get yourself a brick, place it before you and inscribe a city on it, Jerusalem.

2 "Then lay siege against it, build a siege wall, raise up a ramp, pitch camps and place battering rams against it all around.

3 "Then get yourself an iron plate and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city, and set your face toward it so that it is under siege, and besiege it. This is a sign to the house of Israel.

4 "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.

5 "For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, three hundred and ninety days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.

6 "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; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year.

7 "Then you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it.

8 "Now behold, I will put ropes on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

9 "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, three hundred and ninety days.

10 "Your food which you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; you shall eat it from time to time.

11 "The water you drink shall be the sixth part of a hin by measure; you shall drink it from time to time.

12 "You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung."

13 Then the Lord said, "Thus will the sons of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will banish them."

14 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."

15 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."

16 Moreover, He said to me, "Son of man, behold, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they will eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and drink water by measure and in horror,

17 because bread and water will be scarce; and they will be appalled with one another and waste away in their iniquity.

Chapter 5

Jerusalem’s Desolation Foretold

1 "As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take and use it as a barber’s razor on your head and beard. Then take scales for weighing and divide the hair.

2 "One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.

3 "Take also a few in number from them and bind them in the edges of your robes.

4 "Take again some of them and throw them into the fire and burn them in the fire; from it a fire will spread to all the house of Israel.

5 "Thus says the Lord God, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her.

6 ‘But she has rebelled against My ordinances more wickedly than the nations and against My statutes more than the lands which surround her; for they have rejected My ordinances and have not walked in My statutes.’

7 "Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have more turmoil than the nations which surround you and have not walked in My statutes, nor observed My ordinances, nor observed the ordinances of the nations which surround you,’

8 therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I, even I, am against you, and I will execute judgments among you in the sight of the nations.

9 ‘And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.

10 ‘Therefore, fathers will eat their sons among you, and sons will eat their fathers; for I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant to every wind.

11 ‘So as I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare.

12 ‘One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.

13 ‘Thus My anger will be spent and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I will be appeased; then they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken in My zeal when I have spent My wrath upon them.

14 ‘Moreover, I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the nations which surround you, in the sight of all who pass by.

15 ‘So it will be a reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath and raging rebukes. I, the Lord, have spoken.

16 ‘When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I will send to destroy you, then I will also intensify the famine upon you and break the staff of bread.

17 ‘Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the Lord, have spoken.’ "

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