Ezekiel 4 is part of a series prophecies that include inspired speech, symbolism and drama used by Ezekiel in chapters 4-24. In chapter 4-7 Ezekiel dramatized the siege of Jerusalem for the Jews in exile in Babylon to observe.
Beginning on the day of his calling Ezekiel was to be mute and unable to speak accept when the Lord opened Ezekiel’s mouth to prophesy (Ezekiel 3:26-27). This state of prophetic muteness would continue until the city of Jerusalem had fallen (August 586 BC) and a man arrived at Ezekiel’s home from Jerusalem announcing Jerusalem had fallen (on Jan 8, 585 BC five months after it fell). Ezekiel will be mute for seven and a half years (July 593 – January 585 BC).
It appears the demonstration of chapter 4 occurs outside Ezekiel’s front door. The Jews had observed (Ez. 3:15-16) Ezekiel’s seven days of confinement after his initiation vision, so now they wonder what he is doing in his front yard.
Ezekiel takes a clay brick and etched a diagram of Jerusalem on it, an image that all the observing Jews would be familiar with since they had lived and worked in Jerusalem up until 5 years before.
Next, Ezekiel made little siege works with battering rams like little scale models of Babylonian military equipment. He then added some ramps to roll the siege engines up to the city walls that were etched on his clay brick. Ezekiel then added around the model of Jerusalem the military camps of the Babylonian soldiers.
Then with the diagram of Jerusalem surrounded by Babylonian camps and several siege engines ready to begin pounding on the walls of Jerusalem with their battering rams Ezekiel is to deliver the most startling point of his drama. Ezekiel, the prophet who is speaking for the Lord, is to take an iron pan and place it between his face and the model of Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem.
The scale model drama and the iron pan have a meaning and we are told, “This will be a sign to the people of Israel,” but we are not told what they are to understand by Ezekiel’s demonstration.
It appears that the iron pan is symbolic of the fact often repeated by Jeremiah and others that the Lord is going to hide his face and be inattentive to Israel’s suffering during the Babylonian siege. There is no hope. There is no prayer. There is no deliverance.
It is interesting that the iron pan is called an iron wall. Walls were designed to protect from invasion, but this iron wall was put up to prevent the Lord from intervening in order to help protect.
There are other ways of interpreting Ezekiel’s model of the siege, but the view above does agree with other prophecies and the historical results of Babylon’s invasion of Judah.