Though the commands of God are more than strange sounding in chapter four, we are not left on our own to discover their meanings, for before the chapter ends, there is an explanation.
Keep in mind that Judah, the Southern Kingdom, remains. Ezekiel was a part of the second but not final deportation of the kingdom. The current exiles in Babylon believed against all prophetic evidence that Their countrymen would, empowered by God, come to their rescue. The inhabitants of Jerusalem however believed that only the exiles were being punished for sin and continued to live as they always had.
Ezekiel’s message is to the exiles. There will be no aid from Jerusalem. He is called to create a diorama of the city of Jerusalem surrounded by toy soldiers. Ezekiel lays, for 430 days, first on one side of his body facing the city, then on the other. As this drama plays out in the sight of his exiled brethren, written on his body are the sins of Israel and Judah. This siege of Jerusalem is Judah’s future.
But the object lesson does not end there. During the entire time he lies facing the city, he eats starvation rations. Twenty shekels of grain comes to about eight ounces. The grain is a mixture of wheat, barley, beans, lintels and spelt – precisely the poor kind of grain that would be available when a city is under siege. He is allowed only a liter and a half of water each day. All this symbolizes the reality that is Jerusalem. They will be of no help to the exiles, and their condition, as in the case of the exiles, is all because of sin and according to the direct command of God.