On the exact day on which Nebuchadnezzar invested Jerusalem the fact was revealed to the prophet in Chaldæa, and he was commanded to declare the fate of the city by a parable (Ezekiel 24:3-14). Afterwards the sudden death of his wife was foretold, and he was forbidden to make any outward sign of mourning, that by this symbolical act he might further instruct the people (Ezekiel 24:15-24). At the close of the chapter he is told that the fall of the city will be announced to him by a fugitive, and after that he shall again prophesy to the people (Ezekiel 24:25-27).
Set on a pot.—Rather, the cauldron, the word being the same as in Ezekiel 11:3, and preceded by the definite article referring to that passage. Urgency is indicated by the repetition of the command “set on.” The people in Ezekiel 11:3 had called their city the cauldron; so let it be, the Divine word now says, and set that city upon the fire of the armies of my judgment, and gather into it for destruction the people who have boasted of it as their security.
(6) Scum.—This word, which occurs five times in these verses (Ezekiel 24:6; Ezekiel 24:11-12), is found nowhere else. Interpreters are agreed in the correctness of the old Greek version of it, rust. The thought is, that not only the inhabitants of the city are wicked, but that this wickedness is so great that the city itself (represented by the cauldron) is, as it were, corroded with rust. It is therefore to be utterly destroyed, “brought out piece by piece” (see 2 Kings 25:10); no lot is to fall upon it to make a discrimination, since nothing is to be spared. All previous judgments had been partial; this is to be complete.
Eat not the bread of men—i.e., the bread furnished by other men. It was customary for friends and neighbours to send food to the house of mourning, a custom which seems to be alluded to in Deuteronomy 26:14; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; and out of this custom the habit of funeral feasts appears to have grown in later times.
Here one great division of the prophecies of Ezekiel closes. They have been hitherto occupied almost exclusively with reproofs for sin and with warnings of impending judgment upon his people. The following prophecies, as far as Ezekiel 32, are indeed of the same character, but are directed entirely against foreign nations. This collection, as noticed in the Introduction, § 4, is not arranged chronologically like the rest of the book, but on the plan of putting together the prophecies against each nation. Ezekiel 29:17-21 is dated more than sixteen years after the fall of Jerusalem, and Ezekiel 32 about two months after the tidings of that event; all the others which are dated are before, but only a little before, the capture of Jerusalem. Most of those undated seem to be in their chronological place, except that the first of them (Ezekiel 25) was evidently after the fall of Jerusalem.
After that great judgment was made known to the prophet, there is a marked change in his utterances, and from that time his general tone is far more cheering and consolatory.