Ezekiel 5
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 6. Prophecy against the mountains of Israel, the seats of her idolatry

Ch. 4, 5. were directed chiefly against Jerusalem, because she had rebelled against the statutes of the Lord (ch. Ezekiel 5:6) and because she had polluted his sanctuary with her abominations (ch. Ezekiel 5:11). Therefore the arrows of Jehovah’s judgments shall come upon her, famine, pestilence and sword. For the same reason his judgments must overtake the land, especially the mountains, on which the high places were situated, where the idolatries and false worship were practised.

(1) Ezekiel 6:1-7. The high places, altars and sun-images shall be utterly destroyed; the carcases of the worshippers shall fall before the idols, and their bones be scattered about them.

(2) Ezekiel 6:8-10. A remnant shall escape and shall remember the Lord among the nations whither they are scattered, and shall loathe themselves for all the evils which they have done; and they shall know that he who spake to them was Jehovah, God alone.

(3) Ezekiel 6:11-14. Renewal of the threat of destruction with every expression of scorn and hatred on the prophet’s part for the people’s doings. They shall know when their slain fall down and lie around their altars that Jehovah has done it.

And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's rasor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.
1. a sharp knife] lit. sword. The term may suggest the devouring divine sword, ch. Ezekiel 21:8 seq.

take thee a barber’s rasor] With R.V., as a barber’s razor shalt thou take it unto thee. Two weapons are not to be taken, the sword is to be used as a razor. Isaiah (ch. Isaiah 7:20) had already said: “In that day shall the Lord shave with the razor that is hired, even with the king of Assyria, the beard and the hair of the feet.” The land is likened to a man; the enemy sweeps off the population clean as the razor does the hair of the body.

balances to weigh] The divine justice is accurate, assigning to each part its destined chastisement; Jeremiah 15:2, “Such as are for death to death; and such as are for the sword to the sword; and such as are for the famine to the famine; and such as are for the captivity to the captivity.”

Ch. Ezekiel 5:1-4. Symbol shewing the fate of the population during the siege and after it, and their dispersion among the nations

The prophet is commanded to take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor. With this he is to shave off the hair of his head and beard. He is then to take balances in order accurately to weigh the hair into three parts. One third is to be burned in the fire within the city; a second third to be cut to pieces with the sword round about the city; and the last third is to be strewn to all the winds, and pursued by the sword. Of these last a few were to be taken and bound in the skirts of the prophet’s garment; though of these again some were to be thrown into the fire and consumed. The sense of the symbol is clear; a third part of the population shall be consumed by pestilence and famine within the city (Ezekiel 5:12); a third shall fall by the sword round about the city, on its capture; and a third shall be scattered among all nations, pursued by the sword. Of these a few shall meantime escape, but shall be subjected anew to consuming judgments.

Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them.
2. third part in the midst of the city] If we could suppose that the prophet were strict in his symbolism the “city” here would be that graven upon the brick (ch. Ezekiel 4:1). There is no reason to suppose that he has this in his mind.

smite about it with a knife] Rather: and smite it with the sword round about it, i.e. around the city (Ezekiel 5:12). This is the fate of many of those who seek to escape before and after the capture of the city.

draw out a sword] Comp. Jeremiah 9:16, “I will scatter them among the heathen … and will send the sword after them.” Lamentations 1:3, “Judah dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest; all her pursuers overtook her between the straits.” The phrase again Leviticus 26:33.

Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.
3. few in number] Or, “by number,”—accurately numbering them. (Isaiah 40:26.) Of those dispersed a few shall meantime be preserved.

Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel.
4. Yet of those preserved some shall be cast into the fire and consumed.

thereof shall a fire] therefrom, i.e. from that remnant which is subjected to new consumption in the fire. The “fire” that goes out from this remnant must be destructive, not purifying, as in Ezekiel 19:4 (cf. Jdg 9:15; Ezekiel 15:5; Ezekiel 30:9; Ezekiel 39:6), but the meaning is not quite clear. It is the prophet’s belief that those left in the city after the captivity of Jehoiachin were more debased and wicked than those already carried away (ch. Ezekiel 9:9, Ezekiel 11:15). When the city is destroyed and its inhabitants come as captives among the former exiles, these when they see their wickedness will be comforted over the fall of Jerusalem, acknowledging that it was inevitable (ch. Ezekiel 14:22). Further Jehovah expresses his determination that he shall yet subdue Israel unto him and rule over them, though this implies purging out from among them the rebels, as of old in the wilderness of the Exodus (ch. Ezekiel 20:33-38). And the prophet feels himself a watchman (ch. Ezekiel 3:17); an approaching judgment looms before him, which all the people, each one for himself, will have to pass through. And the idea may be that the judgment, beginning with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, shall spread from them over the whole house of Israel.

Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
5. This is Jerusalem] Or, this Jerusalem—I set it! (Exodus 32:1; Ezekiel 40:45). Jerusalem is placed emphatically at the head of the sentence; the thoughts which the name suggests are then developed in the succeeding clauses.

countries that are round] Rather: nations; and countries are round about her. The geographical position of Jerusalem in the midst of the nations, distinct from them all, was but the external side of the exclusive favours bestowed on her by God. She should have been distinguished above the nations in righteousness, but her corruption was become deeper than theirs. Comp. on the idea of the central position of Jerusalem and Canaan, ch. Ezekiel 38:12—“the navel of the earth.”

5–17. Explanation of the four preceding symbols

Jerusalem, set in the midst of the nations and favoured of God above them all, has even exceeded them in wickedness (Ezekiel 5:5-6). Therefore God’s judgments upon her shall be unparalleled in severity, first in the horrors of the siege, and secondly in the terrible miseries of pestilence, famine and blood that shall follow it (Ezekiel 5:7-17).

And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.
6. Read: And she hath rebelled against my Judgments to do wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes. “Judgments” is ordinances; and “they” refers to the people, who compose Jerusalem.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;
7–17. Because she has surpassed the nations in evil, her chastisements shall be without example in severity.

Because ye multiplied] R.V. because ye are turbulent. Both renderings assume an otherwise unknown verb, supposed to be derived from the noun “multitude,” “tumult,” &c. The existence of such a verb is improbable. The suggestion of Boett. followed by Corn. because ye rebelled (hamroth) is perhaps best, as Ezekiel 5:6 is then resumed. The sense of R.V. could be got by a very slight change (hamoth), cf. Ezekiel 22:5, last words; Amos 3:9.

neither … according to the judgments] that is, the ordinances and practices of the nations. Others with Syr. would omit the neg.: but have done according to.… The charge of the prophet, however, is that Israel had exceeded the nations in wickedness; cf. Ezekiel 16:47-48; Jeremiah 2:10-11, “Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods?”

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.
8. in the sight of the nations] The nations saw Israel’s wickedness, and they shall also see her judgments, and they shall know that Jehovah is God alone.

And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations.
9. that which I have not done] This is no mere rhetorical threat. It is possible that the miseries of the siege and exile were no greater than those endured by other nations in those days, but the same miseries may be felt more acutely. Israel was a nation fervidly patriotic, and patriotism was inspired by the glow of religion; it was also for that time a nation highly cultured; and moreover its calamities were felt to come from the hand of its own God. The feelings of the godly Israelite after the fall of the city corresponded to the prophet’s words here before its fall: “Ho! all ye that pass by, behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger” (Lamentations 1:12). “See O Lord and behold, To whom hast thou done thus?” (Lamentations 2:20). “For the punishment of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were laid on her” (Lamentations 4:6).

Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.
10. the fathers shall eat the sons] Neither is this, as it might be, a generality merely to suggest severe straitness. Lamentations 4:10, “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children, they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.” See the story 2 Kings 6:24-29; cf. Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53; Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 2:20.

Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.
11. defiled my sanctuary] The commentary on this is supplied by ch. 8.

will I also diminish thee] The word is so rendered ch. Ezekiel 16:27, where, however, an object follows the verb. The balance of clauses here: I also will—and mine eye shall not spare: I also will not pity, appears to shew that the word expresses one idea along with the words “mine eye shall not spare.” This can hardly be expressed otherwise than: I also will withdraw mine eye and it shall not spare; I also will have no pity. For the phrase “withdraw the eye” cf. Job 36:7. In ch. Ezekiel 24:14 a similar word occurs, but there with the negative. Targ. Vulg. render “hew down,” but this kind of reading (d for r) is too familiar to be of any value. Perhaps the reading might be: I also am against thee and mine eye shall not spare, (form of “against thee” as Ezekiel 21:8, cf. here Ezekiel 5:8). Cf. ch. Ezekiel 8:18.

A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.
12. Explanation of the symbol Ezekiel 5:1-4.

Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know that I the LORD have spoken it in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury in them.
13. my fury to rest upon them] Rather: will quiet (assuage, or, appease) my fury. Zechariah 7:8, “have quieted my spirit in the North country.” The phrase again, ch. Ezekiel 16:42, Ezekiel 21:17, Ezekiel 24:13.

I will be comforted] i.e. appeased by the vengeance taken on the people’s sins, cf. Isaiah 1:24 (the word is for hithneḥamti).

in my zeal] The word, usually rendered “jealousy,” expresses the heat of any passion, here resentment, ch. Ezekiel 16:38; Ezekiel 16:42, Ezekiel 23:25, Ezekiel 36:5-6, Ezekiel 38:19. Cf. ch. Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 6:10, Ezekiel 24:22.

Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.
14. reproach among the nations] Lamentations 2:15-16, “All that pass by clap their hands at thee, they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that they called the perfection of beauty?”

So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I the LORD have spoken it.
15. So it shall be] So shall she be, i.e. Jerusalem. The ancient versions, however, give: and thou shalt be.

an instruction] i.e. a lesson of warning, cf. ch. Ezekiel 23:48, “that all women may be taught (take warning) not to do after your lewdness.” Cf. Deuteronomy 29:23 seq.

When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread:
16. arrows of famine] Cf. Deuteronomy 32:23-24.

shall be for their destruction] as R.V., that are for destruction.

I will increase] lit. add, i.e. send famine upon famine upon you. On “staff of bread” cf. ch. Ezekiel 4:14.

So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it.
17. evil beasts] The three great plagues often specified are, famine, pestilence and sword (ch. Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 14:17; Ezekiel 14:19), to which a fourth is sometimes added, evil beasts (ch. Ezekiel 14:15; Ezekiel 14:21, Ezekiel 33:27, Ezekiel 34:25; Leviticus 26:22; Deuteronomy 32:24).

In the above verses the cumulative expressions are often wanting in LXX. e.g. Ezekiel 5:11 the words “and with all thine abominations.” Differences of this kind do not affect the sense, and it is unnecessary to notice them in detail.

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