American Christians read the Bible as an encyclopedia of discrete verses, each one complete unto itself, containing an indivisible nugget of doctrinal or scientific knowledge, with no connection to the text before or after.

You probably think Dr. Boli is being too harsh on his fellow American Christians. But consider the case of Ezekiel 4:9.

If you walk into any large supermarket in the United States, you will find something called “Ezekiel Bread” in the bakery section. It is a very popular brand, and it has been sold for decades. Prominent on the label is a quotation from Ezekiel 4:9, which we quote here in the Authorized Version:

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beanes, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessell, and make thee bread thereof…

Look! It’s a divinely inspired recipe! We can make bread like that and sell it to eager consumers!

But would American consumers be quite so eager if they read Ezekiel as a book rather than as a directory of isolated atomic verses?

In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, the eponymous prophet is commanded to perform the sort of practical prophetic demonstration that prophets often had to act out. (It was not easy being a prophet of the Lord, which is why the lazier prophets all worked for Baal.) He must lie on his left side for three hundred ninety days and demonstrate the kind of privation that will come on Israel when it is conquered. (Then he will have a similar message for Judah.) And in that context, the Lord tells him,

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beanes, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessell, and make thee bread thereof according to the number of the dayes that thou shalt lie upon thy side; three hundreth and ninetie dayes shalt thou eate thereof. And thy meate which thou shalt eat, shalbe by weight twentie shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. Thou shalt drinke also water by measure, the sixt part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drinke. And thou shalt eate it as barley cakes, & thou shalt bake it with doung that commeth out of man in their sight. And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them. (Ezekiel 4:9–13.)

So now you know the point of the divinely inspired bread recipe given to Ezekiel. It is a demonstration of how bad things will be when Israel is destroyed. You will be driven far away, says the Lord, and you will be so wretched that you will have nothing to eat but this filthy horrible bread, and nothing to bake it on but human dung, and even then you will have so little of it that you will have to measure it carefully in tiny portions.

If Ezekiel were a book, then no one would walk into the supermarket and ask, “Hey, have you got some of that bread like the stuff the Israelites had to bake on human dung when they were starving to death?”

But since Americans read nothing but the individual verses out of context, Ezekiel 4:9 is the foundation of a legendarily successful marketing campaign.

By the way, we should point out that Ezekiel’s own story has a happy ending. After Ezekiel complained that this stuff was really gross (Ezekiel 4:14), the Lord permitted him to bake his bread over cow’s dung instead of human dung.


  1. Richard A says:

    Well, being a prophet for Baal was usually an easier gig, but every few centuries a prophet of God would get fed up with how they were slacking and for a few hours make it really, really hard.

  2. Fred says:

    I gotta hand it to their marketing team, that’s really creative, most folks would just slap an ‘eco-friendly’ label on it.

  3. The Shadow says:

    ‘Ezekiel bread’ is a new one on me! I’m rather appalled.

  4. Judd says:

    It gets worse. A prominent bible teacher named her ministry “Precept ministries”, after “precept by precept, line by line” in Isaiah 28:10-13, apparently neglecting to notice that the actual verse is a condemnation of people who use that method.

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