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Others have asked similar questions pertaining to passages such as Amos 7:3, 6, Numbers 22, 1 Samuel 15, and 1 Kings 19 regarding this topic. My goal in asking this is not ask the same old question from a systematic theology perspective (although my belief in consistency, inerrancy, and tota scriptura, see 2 Timothy 3:16, lead me to conclude that God does NOT in fact change His mind). Instead, I want to approach the passage in question from a hermeneutics perspective.

The passage in question is Ezekiel 4:9-17 (NASB). Particularly verses 12 and 15.

“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.Your food which you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; you shall eat it from time to time.The water you drink shall be the sixth part of a hin by measure; you shall drink it from time to time. You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung.” Then the Lord said, “Thus will the sons of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will banish them.”

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.” 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,because bread and water will be scarce; and they will be appalled with one another and waste away in their iniquity. - Ezekiel 4:9-17

After the prophet Ezekiel appeals to God about eating unclean food, God ammends His command to cook the bread over human excrement to allow him to do so over that from a cow. This does seem like an act of God changing His mind opposite to what is read in Numbers 23.

“ God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?“Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it. - Numbers 23:19-20

How should this supposed contradiction be dealt with?

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    I appreciate the way in which the question is asked and I believe the enquiry reveals something about God's character and nature. +1.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12, 2019 at 19:43
  • Where is the changing His mind part? The passage is about what will take place prophetically. Those things happened. Feb 13, 2019 at 0:38
  • Vs 12 says the prophet will bake bread over human excrement. Vs 14 has the prophet entreating God saying "I've never eaten anything unclean". Vs 15 has God allowing the prophet to replace human excrement with cow dung.
    – WnGatRC456
    Feb 13, 2019 at 1:13
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    I think the OP's point is that God allowed the prophet to change the conditions. They were not irrevocable.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 13, 2019 at 1:13

3 Answers 3

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I don't see the situation as God 'changing his mind' at all, myself. But I do believe the incident gives considerable insight into the character and nature of the Lord.

The prophet's conscience is respected and is not despised or overruled - even by Almighty God himself. Which is quite a remarkable thing, I think.

This reminds me of the incident when Peter was granted the vision on his housetop as Gentiles were on the way to hear the gospel from his lips. Peter had a conscience about talking to Gentiles and that had to be respected and that had to be dealt with - not with a commandment, for he was already obeying a commandment - in a personal way.

The unfolding and progressive revelation of Deity over the whole course of scriptural history has necessitated men learning many lessons about what is 'right'. These lessons may result in apparent contradictions of conscience, as here with the prophet and his food preparation.

But these matters of conscience are not despised, they are respected and they are suffered.

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I've just started reading Ezekiel, and this verse has held me. I think that God changed the way Ezekiel should heat the bread because Ezekiel took every order God gave him without question. This one order caused Ezekiel to speak up. I believe God made the change so that it wouldn't deter Ezekiel from going through with the orders. To me, this makes the tasks at hand that much greater. God amended the orders so that Ezekiel wouldn't have any pushback. This is also a sign for us that sometimes changes to execute the plan can happen, but the plan is still the plan.

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    Jan 18 at 15:29
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What an insightful question you've raised. I recently came across Paul LeBoutillier's book "Pastor I Have a Question," which led me to ponder further on the intriguing concept of 'God changing His mind'. Your inquiry prompted me to delve deeper into this topic.

Regarding your question, let me share my reflections:

In examining the passage of Ezekiel 4:9-17, we encounter a directive from the Lord to Ezekiel. God instructs Ezekiel to consume a specific type of bread made from various grains, cooked over human dung, while lying on his sides—a representation of the hardships the people of Jerusalem would endure during the siege.

However, Ezekiel, out of reverence for his dietary customs, raises objections to using human dung. Remarkably, God accommodates Ezekiel's concerns, allowing him to use cow dung instead. This adjustment in the directive demonstrates God's compassion and understanding towards Ezekiel's spiritual journey - a respect that was granted to Jacob aswell, as he wrestled with the understanding of God's omnipresence with regards to 'Beth-El'.

God seemingly meets Jacob, Ezekiel and all of us in our 'lack of understanding' of who He is and accommodates our ignorance on our spiritual journeys.

Reflecting on this scenario, it leads us to ponder: When faced with directives from authority figures in our lives, have we ever sought alternative solutions? And how did those in authority respond? Did they rigidly enforce their commands or exhibit understanding and seek a resolution that aligns with both the directive and our circumstances?

I have personally experienced leadership that was able to accommodate an alternative method while aligning to the directive. How about yourself?

For Ezekiel, under the Old Covenant and culture, consuming such food challenged his faith because he'd be using human feces as fuel for it. God, recognizing Ezekiel's conviction, respectfully accommodated his concerns while ensuring the fulfillment of His plans. This interaction illustrates God's consistency and exemplary leadership. Though God desired to demonstrate the condition of the Israelites through the human fuel, God accommodated Ezekiel's routine of purity.

But why? why didn't God just reveal to Ezekiel that like the undressed stones of the alter, it is not by works that we are saved but by Grace through faith? Why didn't God insist on revealing the lesson He wanted to teach Ezekiel about Israel? Because God is a great leader. But also, (maybe), by opposing what God told him, Ezekiel, through his heart posture, showed God mighty respect. One could argue for this because decency in the camp of Israel was of highest importance, and as the presence of God was among His people, they wanted to make sure they were as decent as possible, to make the place holy for the Lord.Therefore, they would go and lay their feces outside of the camp. Imagine Moses taking off his sandals because the place was holy- something like that. So one could also argue that God, out of respect for Ezekiel's heart posture, (this is a consistent desire we see in God's heart) adhered to Ezekiel's refusal - perhaps God was actually moved by Ezekiel's gesture?

So much in this passage!

Nevertheless, we get two character traits from God:

  1. Consistency: This incident echoes Paul's later teachings, highlighting God's unwavering character. Different individuals may hold varying convictions, yet God remains steadfast in His guidance. (it also confirms the teachings of Paul long before he wrote his accounts).

  2. Great Leadership: God's ability to accommodate without compromising His principles exemplifies remarkable leadership. It showcases a divine compromise—one that considers the well-being of all parties involved.

Despite the portrayal of God's wrath in the Old Testament, instances like this reveal His caring and considerate nature. Through understanding and compassion, God exemplifies leadership that transcends mere authority.

Some questions of my own:

  1. Did the Lord consider Ezekiel ready/not ready to hear the perspective of heart posture, cultural norms, old and new covenant stuff?
  2. Did God perhaps do this to test the heart of Ezekiel?
  3. Did Ezekiel object out of reverence for the diet or for the Lord?

would love to hear your thoughts!

Final remark:
I am Israeli, raised in Jerusalem. My country Israel is at war right now and my believing community would love your support in prayer.

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  • Hello Joshua Vine, I have edited out your personal info for your benefit and safety. If you have additional questions about the topic of this question, please create a new question and add a link to this one for context. Please, edit this answer once you have made the new question(s).
    – agarza
    Apr 3 at 2:43
  • Thank you! Blessings! Apr 3 at 6:27

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