Ezekiel1-3 and 8-11 concern the Glory-Spirit-Storm-Cloud. Chapters 4-7 then begin to lay out the case publicly for the judgment of the Temple. Here is a link to the handout mentioned in this post.
Ezekiel lays out the case with a variety of different outlines. There are five sign-acts from Ezekiel 4:1-5:4 followed by the oracles of the rest of chapter 5 in a 3+1 pattern, then the last two chapters follow clear patterns: the alternating structure of Ezekiel 6, and then the alternating structure of Ezekiel 7.
The different parts are linked together by the repetition of certain key phrases or ideas. Thus the sign act of Ezekiel 5:1-4 is explained in 5:11-17, the word abominations links chapters 5-7, the pattern of nations/lands connects 5 and 6, “then you/they will know that I am YHWH” links 6 and 7, judgments (also trans. as rules) links 5 and 7, “I will break your supply of bread” links the end of chapter 4 and the end of chapter 5, “set your face toward…and prophesy” links chapter 4 and 6, “thus shall my anger spend itself,” etc. links chapters 5 and 6, the phrase “my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity” or the like links 5 and 7.
Thus together these chapters are presenting the case publicly and visibly for the judgment of the Temple. And one could argue that they do so in a 3+1 pattern where the four parts are chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7. And thus chapter 7 is the punch. Chapter 7 certainly does read like a punch.
The sign-act of 5:1-4 perhaps is best understood as going together with the rest of chapter 5 for a number of reasons. First, the significance of that sign-act is explained later in the chapter. Second, Ezekiel is called “son of man” like at the start of each of the major sections of these chapters. Perhaps this means that the first four sign-acts should be read as 3+1. However, we are going to look at it together with chapter 4 because it has the same basic structure as the sign-acts of chapter 4.
The first two sign-acts begin with “And you…,” next the verb take, and then a third verb that is the same for each (though it gets translated different ways in English). The third sign-act begins with “And you,” but then departs from the structure found in the others. The fourth sign-act has the same structure as the first two. And the fifth sign-act (5:1-4) has the first two parts but does not use that third verb in the same form to mark the structure. Take a look at the handout to see it visually. The third verb marking the structure, while it does not appear in every sign-act does appear five fimes.
The first sign-act has Ezekiel take a brick and build a visual object-lesson of a siege for everyone to see. The second is similar but uses an iron-griddle.
The third sign-act has Ezekiel lying on his side for long periods of time. 390 days on his left side for the number of years of punishment for Israel and 40 days for the number of years of the siege of Jerusalem.
It is significant that it is periods of 390 and 40 because of the significance of the number 40 in and of itself as well as the addition of 390 and 40 equals 430, which is the number of years that Israel was in exile in Egypt. Thus even in this sign of judgment there is the glimmer of hope because it points us forward to the new Exodus. The two halves of this sign-act are linked by the word order variation in Hebrew, I assign to you 390 Days, a year = days of punishment and 40 Days, day = year, I assign you.
The fourth sign-act starts the common way and follows that structure, here taking wheat and barley and etc. to make bread and putting the ingredients in a bowl. Then there is yet another reference to the 390 days of eating from this stuff. This perhaps highlights the 40 days in the middle of the two references to 390 days in the chapter. But the rest of the fourth sign-act follows a chiastic pattern.
The sign of eating it on dung is to explain that the people will eat their bread (and by extension all their food) unclean and the sign of eating or drinking in weighed or measured portions explains how the people under siege will be short on food and drink. Ezekiel’s objection to eating the food on human dung is answered by God’s mercy of giving him cow’s dung to eat it on instead. This points us forward to see that there will be some in siege or exile who will be able to maintain a ritually clean diet and yet allows him to demonstrate the sign so that it is clear for all to see what it means.
The fifth sign-act includes the phrase “when the days of the siege are completed,” which points us back to the third sign-act both of the parts of that third sign-act ending with a similar phrase. Thus we see the timing is to demonstrate what would happen after the third and fourth sign-acts had been fulfilled. As we have been saying, this sign-act is interpreted for us later in the chapter as saying that 1/3 will die of pestilence and famine, 1/3 will fall by the sword and 1/3 would be scattered “to all wind” and have the sword coming for them too.
Now to turn to the oracles of Ezekiel 5:5-17. Note first of all that the big difference between the first two is the use of the 3rd person “her” for Jerusalem and the use of the 2nd person “you” for Jerusalem. Another notable difference is the word order from “in my rules they have rejected and my statutes they will not walk in them” to “in my statutes you have not walked and my rules you have not done.” This translation done to bring out the word order in Hebrew. In any case it is a chiasmic pattern: A. Rules Rejected; B. Statutes Not Walked in; B’ Statutes Not Walked in; A’ Rules Not Done.
The first oracle has the theme of Jerusalem did worse evil than her neighbors (nations/lands around her). The second adds to it that she (now “you”) did not even do what rules the nations had. The third turns the Hebrew word before translated “rules” around now as “judgments.” And so because they had not done the rules of YHWH, nor even the rules of the nations, she (still “you”) will experience judgments unlike anything ever seen before or after. This oracle, if you read the content, is awful. But then the fourth (pattern of 3+1) adds it all up to give the punch. It uses both 2nd and 3rd person pronouns.
Even the introductions increase in seriousness with the final oracle:
“Thus says the Lord YHWH,”
“Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH,”
“Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH,”
“Therefore, as I live, a declaration/utterance of the Lord YHWH:”
In this last one God invokes an oath (“as I live”) and this is the only one explicitly called an oracle or declaration or utterance. And it has a double ending with “I am YHWH, I have spoken” signaling the end in v.15 but repeated at end of v.17.
The structure of chapter 6 is an alternating structure with two oracles, each followed by an “afterwave.”
First, as an alternating structure note the following phrases:
The first oracle mentions the destruction of the altars and their desecration with dead bodies and bones. It is followed by an afterwave that mentions those who escape. The ones who escape will remember (hence this theme of knowing that He is YHWH) that God is broken over their whoring after their idols. And they will loathe their evil abominations that they have done. Thus this punishment serves a purpose, it is not done in vain, but so that they shall know that He is YHWH.
The second oracle is almost a sign-act as Ezekiel is told to smite with his hand (some translate this as clap) and stamp with his foot and say, “Alas because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence they shall fall. Thus I will spend my fury upon them.” And the afterwave mentions many of the things in the first oracle about the slain corpses being put around the altars and idols.
Ezekiel 7 then gives us another alternating structure. This time there are three parts (7:2-4, 7:5-9, and 7:10-27). Interestingly some of the elements of the alternating structure are missing in some places. Thus there is no introductory “Thus says the Lord YHWH” for the third part and it is also missing the phrase to the effect of God’s “eye will not spare you nor will [He] have pity but [He] will punish you for (or according to) your ways while your abominations are in your midst.” Nevertheless, the alternating structure is clearly discernible as you can see on the handout.
Each one begins with references to the Day of Judgment. The first two end with “Then you will know that I am YHWH,” the second adding the phrase, “who strikes,” whereas the last one switches to the third person, “Then they will know that I am YHWH.”
Each one has a phrase about judging you/them according to your ways / their way. The theme is clearly that YHWH is coming on a Day of Judgment for the Temple.
The third part of this alternating structure chapter includes an alternating structure within it. The content of this section serves to highlight how helpless the people are to do anything about it. For example, both those who sell and those who buy homes are both going to face the same problem. Of course, people were trying to sell their land in Jerusalem since there was a siege going on but the money they would get would not help them either. Either way they were not going to escape the judgment.
This chapter should be understood as a +1 in a 3+1 pattern for chapters 4-7. And it serves this function because of the stress on The Day of YHWH. Given that chapter 7 has three parts suggests there should be a punch coming.