Ezekiel 4:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof. 10 And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. 11 Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink. 12 And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. 13 And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.

For anyone who has studied Ezekiel 4: my interpretation of it, so far, is that God is going to punish the Jews with seiges and exile for 430 years (390 for Israel, 40 for Judah), although in chapter 4 Ezekiel is also referring to the 587 BC siege of Jerusalem.

To anyone who agrees: what would one's interpretation be for the 390 days (years) of eating defiled bread among the Gentiles? Is this punishment strictly for the house of Israel (since it is for 390 years) or is it for all the Jews (phrase "children of Israel" mentioned in verse 13)?

  • 2
    After the Death of Solomon , the Kingdom of Israel was split in two ,the ten northern tribes known as Israel and sometimes called Samaria ,the two southern tribes remained together, Judah and Benjamin,and were known as Judah.The wicked kings of these two nations brought ruin and distress to the people. The iniquity of the Northern Kingdom extended for 390 years,some scholars says that the period of Samaria's iniquity started with the split that took place under Rehoboam, and lasted until the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 19:30
  • @OzzieOzzie Good points: +1.
    – Xeno
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 17:38

3 Answers 3


One interpretation of the Ezekiel 4 passage is that the 390 days represents the number of years from the kingdom being divided (at the death of Solomon) until Israel would be taken away captive. In this view, the 40 days is the 40 extra years that Judah would receive until they too would be taken away in captivity to Babylon. In this view each day that Ezekiel laid on his side represented a year. This view comes up in writers who are attempting to determine the number of years the kings ruled when dealing with Bible Chronology. The co-regencies make this a difficult task.

A famous writer who took this view of Ezek. 4 is the work of James Ussher, who used this interpretation span the age of the kings. An article on Bible chronology by Larry Pierce also takes this view of Ezek. 4: Ussher’s Time Line for the Divided Kingdom. Yet another similar work on Chronology that takes this view is The Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones. Thiele, in his book on the chronology of the kings used a study of the annals of the Assryian kings to determine the chronology of the reign of the kings.

In this view the 390 and the 40 do not refer to the length of judgment, instead they are the number of years until judgment. In Jeremiah 25:11-12 the length of Judah's captivity is listed as 70 years, a prophecy that came to pass.

  • Yes thank you. I was already aware of the interpretation you have explained (which I am not convinced by) which is why I addressed my question "to anyone who agrees". I want to get an opinion on verses 9-13 by someone who is convinced that the 430 days represent 430 years of punishment.
    – user329957
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 16:26
  • I agree with the interpretation of 390 years, but not with the interpretation of the forty, seeing that the 390 years equated to the 7th year of the captivity of Jehoiachin. A related answer I wrote, hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/28201/…, which one conveniently charted.
    – user21676
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 18:41

The prophecy in Ezekiel 4 is a prophecy whose symbols are portrayed via the prophet's own actions. What Ezekiel does must be understood as symbolic, typifying the events foretold.

As with the dreams of the baker and the butler, a similar method of interpretation to Ezekiel's prophecy applies. In the dreams Joseph interpreted for the two men, the three baskets of bread represented days until the fulfillment of the dream was to occur--not days of the baker's punishment. The days of Ezekiel's laying on his side do not indicate years of Israel's punishment, but rather, years of probation until that punishment would come.

As another answer has suggested, the 390 years represented by the 390 days in Ezekiel's demonstration that were given for the "iniquity of Israel," began with the first year of the reign of Jeroboam who split away from Rehoboam with 10 of the tribes, also called the "Northern Kingdom" and "Israel." Solomon's son Rehoboam was left to govern just two tribes: Judah and Benjamin, the latter being so small and insignificant in comparison to the former that it became called simply "Judah" (the Southern Kingdom).

The entire prophecy, for both Israel and for Judah, is directed at the city of Jerusalem, however; not to the tribes generally. The siege predicted was to come to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was in the Southern Kingdom. Therefore, to assume that the Northern Kingdom (Israel) would be punished for 390 years is incorrect for another specific reason: Jerusalem was not within the boundaries of the Northern Kingdom.

At the end of the 390 years, Jerusalem is broken up and Solomon's temple is destroyed. Judah's sin happens much later in time, is much greater in significance, and less probation is granted afterward before the temple, the second one, is again destroyed. It was 40 years after Christ's crucifixion that Jerusalem was broken up and the temple destroyed.

While the total of 390 and 40 is 430, the twin prophecies are not fulfilled in back-to-back fashion, and many mistakenly attempt to combine and correlate them to the years noted in Exodus 12:40-41 for the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. Ezekiel's prophecies are not contiguous; they are parallel prophecies, having parallel sins (the rejection of God and the worship of God) and parallel fulfillments (the destruction of the temple at the end of a siege).

The defiled bread applies to the fact that the siege would be so severe as to cause the people to eat defiled food (e.g. their own boiled children). Most of the chapter focuses on the severity of the siege, such as the drinking of water by ration, and the cooking of food over dung. But the siege is not predicted to last 390 or 40 years--those numbers point to the time of fulfillment of the prophecy, not the duration of these conditions.


390 years was for the Northern 10 Tribes as punishment (IF they then turned back to God) but they didn't, so as the Torah said in multiple places (Ex. Lev 26:21) God's punishment would be 7 x's worse. So 2,730 years. Assuming the exile occurred ~722BC, that would bring us to 2008 (approximately) IMO: there was been an awakening & pouring out of God's Spirit to return back to him and the Truth of His word for His people. They not only have the faith in Jesus but the obedience to the Father's instructions (Torah).

Judah was in exile for ~40 years as prophesied and now the Spirit is at work to rejoin the Northern & Southern Kingdoms back together as one in a perfect faith & obedience that God always desired. Religions have been the stumbling block both to the Jews (Judaism) and Christians as they are holding to the traditions of men and neglecting the commandments of God and Faith in Jesus for salvation.

But He that began a good work is faithful to complete it and He is doing so right this very moment. Praise YAH

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    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 17:32

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