(an outtake from Once More, From the Beginning. This is one of the bits that didn’t make it into the book.)
First, God helped Ezekiel build a model of Jerusalem out of a few tiles and a pan. Waiting till a crowd gathered around the cunningly crafted model, The Lord whispered his instructions in Ezekiel’s ear, “Lie down on your left side . . . that’s it. One day for each year of the iniquity of the house of Israel. That would be three hundred and ninety days. Then on your right side. One day for each year of the iniquity of the house of Judah . . . that’s another forty days. Keep your eye on the teeny Jerusalem, there, so that you don’t forget the point of all this! Here, just in case your mind wanders, I’ll tie you down so you can’t move.”
Naturally, Ezekiel wasn’t left without food for the duration of this prolonged piece of performance art. In preparation, God had given him a strict diet to follow – so much meat, so much water per day – and had instructed him to bake a nourishing supply of multi-grain bread, fortified with beans and lentils. Playfully checking to see whether the little chef was still listening, The Lord slipped human excrement into the list of ingredients. This caught the prophet’s attention! Ever so respectfully, he asked whether this particular ingredient might be optional, pleading a sensitive stomach . . . he had always been very careful about his diet—
The Lord, chuckling, relented and allowed him to substitute cow’s dung.
In case it hasn’t become clearly apparent by now, this amusing entertainment was somehow supposed to teach the captive Jews that Jerusalem would be under siege by the Assyrians before long. Food would be scarce, as would water. The lesson might have had even greater impact if the people had been forced to eat the dung cakes themselves instead of just hearing about the experience at second hand from Ezekiel – however dramatically described.
Another complicated object lesson required that Ezekiel sacrifice his coiffure and his beard, abusing the hairs in various carefully prescribed ways designed to represent the punishments The Lord planned to visit on the remaining inhabitants of Jerusalem. The captive Jews no doubt enjoyed a rich chuckle from the spectacle of the diminutive prophet hacking away at his fistful of hairs, and before long, they were treated to the ridiculous sight of a hairless Ezekiel, stamping out a grim little dance and smacking his hands together to illustrate God’s assault on the house of Israel.
But when famine, fire and pestilence struck their relatives at home, and fathers cast hungry eyes on the more tender parts of their sons, and the sons balanced their waning fondness for their fathers against the nutritional value of very close relatives . . . well, Ezekiel and The Lord had the last laugh. Jerusalem was in big trouble.