Ezekiel 5:5
Thus said the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the middle of the nations and countries that are round about her.
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(5) I have set it in the midst of the nations.—This was eminently true of Jerusalem, and of Israel as represented by Jerusalem, in all the ages of its history. It constituted one of the great opportunities of Israel had they been faithful to their calling, while it became a chief source of their disasters when they went astray from God. On the south were Egypt and Ethiopia; on the north, at first the great nation of the Hittites, and later the Syrians, and also Assyrians (who must reach Palestine from the north); on the coast were the Philistines, at the southern end, and on the northern the Phœnicians, the great maritime nation having intercourse with all “the isles of the sea;” while on the deserts of the east and immediate south were the Ishmaelites, the chief inland traders, who kept up an intercourse by land with all these nations. Even with the great but little-known nations of India, commerce was established by Solomon. Thus centrally situated among the chief kingdoms of antiquity, Israel had the opportunity of presenting to the world the spectacle of a people strong and prosperous in the worship, and under the guardianship, of the one true God, and of becoming the great missionary of monotheism in the ancient world. At the same time they were separated from most of these nations by natural barriers, the deserts on the east and south, the sea on the west, the mountains on the north, which were sufficient to isolate them as a nation, and allow of their free development, without interference, as a God-fearing people. But when, by the unfaithfulness of the Israelites to their religion, the one bond of national unity was weakened, they became a ready prey to the nations around them. During the period of the Judges they fell under the power of one and another of the petty tribes on their confines; and later, when the great empire of Solomon was broken up in consequence of their sins, they were easily overcome by the powerful nations on either side. In all their later history the Israelites were a football between Egypt and Chaldæa, alternately spoiled by tribute as friends or devastated as enemies by each of them. So, in the Divine ordering of the world, responsibility must always be proportioned to privilege; and the failure to fulfil the responsibility leads, as in this case, not only to a withdrawal of the privilege, but to corresponding condemnation.

Ezekiel 5:5-6. Thus saith the Lord, This is Jerusalem — Here the explication of the foregoing type is given, namely, that the hair to be shaved off signified Jerusalem, which was to be destroyed. I have set it in the midst of the nations — I set Jerusalem in the midst of the heathen nations, that it might be a pattern of religion and virtue to them: that the Egyptians, Syrians, Arabians, &c., might take example from her. Jerusalem was set in the midst of the nations to be as the heart in the human body, to invigorate the dead world with a divine life, as well as to enlighten the dark world with a divine light. And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness — Instead of following my judgments, and the precepts I gave her for the conduct of life, she hath given herself up to wickedness. More than the nations — She hath sinned against clearer light and stronger convictions of duty than the heathen nations, and therefore has contracted greater guilt, and deserved greater punishment than they. And my statutes more than the countries round about her — None of the countries round about had the statutes of Jehovah delivered to them, for he made known his statutes only to Israel: the meaning of this therefore must be, that the nations round about were more observant of the statutes and precepts delivered to them by men than the Israelites were of those delivered to them by God. Thus we find from Jeremiah, that the Rechabites were much more observant of the precepts (though no easy ones) which their father or first founder enjoined them, than the Israelites were of the commandments given them by God.5:5-17 The sentence passed upon Jerusalem is very dreadful, the manner of expression makes it still more so. Who is able to stand in God's sight when he is angry? Those who live and die impenitent, will perish for ever unpitied; there is a day coming when the Lord will not spare. Let not persons or churches, who change the Lord's statutes, expect to escape the doom of Jerusalem. Let us endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Sooner or later God's word will prove itself true.I have set it in the midst of the nations - It was not unusual for nations to regard the sanctuary, which they most revered, as the center of the earth. In the case of the holy land this was both natural and appropriate. Egypt to the south, Syria to the north, Assyria to the east and the Isles of the Gentiles in the Great Sea to the west, were to the Jew proofs of the central position of his land in the midst of the nations (compare Jeremiah 3:19). The habitation assigned to the chosen people was suitable at the first for separating them from the nations; then for the seat of the vast dominion and commerce of Solomon; then, when they learned from their neighbors idol-worship, their central position was the source of their punishment. Midway between the mighty empires of Egypt and Assyria the holy land became a battlefield for the two powers, and suffered alternately from each as for the time the one or the other became predominant. 5, 6. Explanation of the symbols:

Jerusalem—not the mere city, but the people of Israel generally, of which it was the center and representative.

in … midst—Jerusalem is regarded in God's point of view as center of the whole earth, designed to radiate the true light over the nations in all directions. Compare Margin ("navel"), Eze 38:12; Ps 48:2; Jer 3:17. No center in the ancient heathen world could have been selected more fitted than Canaan to be a vantage ground, whence the people of God might have acted with success upon the heathenism of the world. It lay midway between the oldest and most civilized states, Egypt and Ethiopia on one side, and Babylon, Nineveh, and India on the other, and afterwards Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Phœnician mariners were close by, through whom they might have transmitted the true religion to the remotest lands; and all around the Ishmaelites, the great inland traders in South Asia and North Africa. Israel was thus placed, not for its own selfish good, but to be the spiritual benefactor of the whole world. Compare Ps 67:1-7 throughout. Failing in this, and falling into idolatry, its guilt was far worse than that of the heathen; not that Israel literally went beyond the heathen in abominable idolatries. But "corruptio optimi pessima"; the perversion of that which in itself is the best is worse than the perversion of that which is less perfect: is in fact the worst of all kinds of perversion. Therefore their punishment was the severest. So the position of the Christian professing Church now, if it be not a light to the heathen world, its condemnation will be sorer than theirs (Mt 5:13; 11:21-24; Heb 10:28, 29).

Thus saith the Lord God: this solemn declaration in God’s name the prophet useth by express order, Ezekiel 3:11.

This portrayed city’s typically Jerusalem, and her inhabitants.

I have placed her in a most delightful situation, chosen out the best part of the known world for her; in a neighbourhood to most rich and plenteous countries, with whom she might have conversed and spread forth my name, and which are round about her, either as servants about a mistress, or as meaner houses about the palace or manor of a lord, or as traders about an emporium, much to advantage of Jerusalem. Thus saith the Lord God, this is Jerusalem,.... A type or sign of it; it may refer to both the former and latter type. It is the city of Jerusalem that is designed by the city portrayed upon the tile; and the same is signified by the head of the prophet that was to be shaved; that being not only the chief city of Judea, but of the whole world, as follows:

I have set it in the midst of the nations; as the chief of them; and distinguished it from them by peculiar favours and blessings, natural and spiritual; being seated in a land flowing with milk and honey; and having the house and worship of God in it; and where were the symbols of his presence, and his word and ordinances; and therefore should have excelled them in true religion, devotion, and holiness, and set an example to them. The Jews generally understand this of the natural situation of Jerusalem. Jarchi interprets it of the middle of the world; as if it was mathematically placed in the centre of the earth. Kimchi says it was in the midst of the continent; and so its air was better than others; and these sort of writers (n) often speak of the land of Israel being in the navel or centre of the earth; they say (o) that the sanhedrim sat in the middle of the world; and therefore is compared to the navel, Sol 7:2; because it sat in the temple, which was in the middle of the world; but the former sense is best; though Jerom gives in to the latter:

and countries that are round about her: this is a proposition of itself; fire former clause being distinguished from it by the accent "athnach"; and should be rendered thus, "and the countries are", or "were, round about her" (p); on the east was Asia, on the west Europe on the south Africa and Libya, and on the north Babylon, Scythia, Armenia, Persia, and Pontus; and was mere conspicuous, eminent, and honourable than them all, having greater privileges, prerogatives, and excellencies; and therefore should have exceeded them in its regard to the laws and statutes of God, which she did not; hence this is said, in order to upbraid her for her ingratitude, as appears by the following words.

(n) Kimchi in Ezekiel 38.12. (o) T. Bab. Sanhedrin. fol. 37. 1. & Gloss. in ib. (p) "et circa eam erant terrae", Cocceius.

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).Verse 5. - This is Jerusalem, etc. The strange acted parables cease, and we have the unfigurative interpretation. The words that follow point to the central position of Jerusalem in the geography, and therefore in the history, of the ancient East: Egypt to the south, Assyria and Babylon to the north, and in the nearer distance Moabites and Ammonites, and Edomites, and Phoenicians, and Philistines; to all of these Jerusalem might have been as a city set on a hill, as the light of the Gentiles. That had been her ideal position from the first, as in the visions of Micah 4:1 and Isaiah 2:1 it was to be in its ideal future. The words are not without interest, as probably having suggested the thought, prominent in mediaeval geography (Dante, 'Inf.,' 34:115, and the Hereford 'Mappa Mundi'), that Jerusalem was physically the central point of the earth's surface. So Moslems believe Mecca to be the earth's centre, and the Greek word omphalos was applied to Delphi as implying the same belief The third symbolical act. - Ezekiel 4:9. And do thou take to thyself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and spelt, and put them in a vessel, and prepare them as bread for thyself, according to the number of the days on which thou liest on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:10. And thy food, which thou eatest, shall be according to weight, twenty shekels for a day; from time to time shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:11. And water shalt thou drink according to measure, a sixth part of the hin, from time to time shalt thou drink it. Ezekiel 4:12. And as barley cakes shalt thou eat it, and shalt bake it before their eyes with human excrement. Ezekiel 4:13. And Jehovah spake; then shall the children of Israel eat their bread polluted amongst the heathen, whither I shall drive them. Ezekiel 4:14. Then said I: Ah! Lord, Jehovah, my soul has never been polluted; and of a carcase, and of that which is torn, have I never eaten from my youth up until now, and abominable flesh has not come into my mouth. Ezekiel 4:15. Then said He unto me: Lo, I allow thee the dung of animals instead of that of man; therewith mayest thou prepare thy bread. Ezekiel 4:16. And He said to me, Son of man, lo, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, so that they will eat bread according to weight, and in affliction, and drink water by measure, and in amazement. Ezekiel 4:17. Because bread and water shall fail, and they shall pine away one with another, and disappear in their guilt. - For the whole duration of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, Ezekiel is to furnish himself with a store of grain corn and leguminous fruits, to place this store in a vessel beside him, and daily to prepare in the form of bread a measured portion of the same, 20 shekels in weight (about 9 ounces), and to bake this as barley cakes upon a fire, prepared with dried dung, and then to partake of it at the different hours for meals throughout the day. In addition to this, he is, at the hours appointed for eating, to drink water, in like manner according to measure, a sixth part of the hin daily, i.e., a quantity less than a pint (cf. Biblisch. Archol. II. p. 141). The Israelites, probably, generally prepared the עגּות from wheat flour, and not merely when they had guests (Genesis 18:6). Ezekiel, however, is to take, in addition, other kinds of grain with leguminous fruits, which were employed in the preparation of bread when wheat was deficient; barley - baked into bread by the poor (Judges 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; see on 1 Kings 5:8); פּול, "beans," a common food of the Hebrews (2 Samuel 17:28), which appears to have been mixed with other kinds of grain for the purpose of being baked into bread.

(Note: Cf. Plinii Histor. Natur. xviii. 30: "Inter legumina maximus honos fabae, quippe ex qua tentatus sit etiam panis...Frumento etiam miscetur apud plerasque gentes et maxime panico solida ac delicatius fracta.")

This especially holds true of the lentiles, a favourite food of the Hebrews (Genesis 25:29.), from which, in Egypt at the present day, the poor still bake bread in times of severe famine (Sonnini, R. II. 390; ἄρτος φάκινος, Athenaeus, IV. 158). דּחן, "millet," termed by the Arabs "Dochn" (Arab. dchn), panicum, a fruit cultivated in Egypt, and still more frequently in Arabia (see Wellsted, Arab. I. 295), consisting of longish round brown grain, resembling rice, from which, in the absence of better fruits, a sort of bad bread is baked. Cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, i. 453ff.; and Gesen. Thesaur. p. 333. כּסּמים, "spelt or German corn" (cf. Exodus 9:32), a kind of grain which produces a finer and whiter flour than wheat flour; the bread, however, which is baked from it is somewhat dry, and is said to be less nutritive than wheat bread; cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, ii. 98f. Of all these fruits Ezekiel is to place certain quantities in a vessel - to indicate that all kinds of grain and leguminous fruits capable of being converted into bread will be collected, in order to bake bread for the appeasing of hunger. In the intermixture of various kinds of flour we are not, with Hitzig, to seek a transgression of the law in Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9. מספּר is the accusative of measure or duration. The quantity is to be fixed according to the number of the days. In Ezekiel 4:9 only the 390 days of the house of Israel's period of punishment are mentioned - quod plures essent et fere universa summa (Prado); and because this was sufficient to make prominent the hardship and oppression of the situation, the 40 days of Judah were omitted for the sake of brevity.

(Note: Kliefoth's supposition is untenable, that what is required in Ezekiel 4:9-17 refers in reality only to the 390 days of Israel, and not also to the 40 days of Judah, so that so long as Ezekiel lay and bore the sins of Israel, he was to eat his food by measure, and unclean. For this is in contradiction with the distinct announcement that during the whole time that he lay upon the one side and the other, he was besieging Jerusalem; and by the scanty and unclean food, was to portray both the deficiency of bread and water which occurred in the besieged city (Ezekiel 4:17), as well as the eating of unclean bread, which impended over the Israelites when among the heathen nations. The famine which took place in Jerusalem during the siege did not affect the ten tribes, but that of Judah; while unclean bread had to be eaten among the heathen not only by the Israelites, but also by the Jews transported to Babylon. By the limitation of what is prescribed to the prophet in Ezekiel 4:9-15 to the time during which the sin of Israel was to be borne, the significance of this symbolical act for Jerusalem and Judah is taken away.)

מאכלך וגו, "thy food which thou shalt eat," i.e., the definite portion which thou shalt have to eat, shall be according to weight (between subject and predicate the substantive verb is to be supplied). Twenty shekels equals 8 or 9 ounces of flour, yield 11 or 12 ounces of bread, i.e., at most the half of what a man needs in southern countries for his daily support.

(Note: In our climate (Germany) we count 2 lbs. of bread for the daily supply of a man; but in warm countries the demand for food is less, so that scarcely 1 1/2 lbs. are required. Wellsted (Travels in Arabia, II. p. 200) relates that "the Bedoweens will undertake a journey of 10 to 12 days without carrying with them any nutriment, save a bottle full of small cakes, baked of white flour and camel or goat's milk, and a leather bag of water. Such a cake weighs about 5 ounces. Two of them, and a mouthful of water, the latter twice within 24 hours, is all which they then partake of.")

The same is the case with the water. A sixth part of a hin, i.e., a quantity less than a pint, is a very niggardly allowance for a day. Both, however - eating the bread and drinking the water - he shall do from time to time, i.e., "not throughout the entire fixed period of 390 days" (Hvernick); but he shall not eat the daily ration at once, but divided into portions according to the daily hours of meals, so that he will never be completely satisfied. In addition to this is the pollution (Ezekiel 4:12.) of the scanty allowance of food by the manner in which it is prepared. ענּת שׂערים is predicate: "as barley cakes," shalt thou eat them. The suffix in תּאכלנּה is neuter, and refers to לחם in Ezekiel 4:9, or rather to the kinds of grain there enumerated, which are ground and baked before them: לחם, i.e., "food." The addition שׂערים is not to be explained from this, that the principal part of these consisted of barley, nor does it prove that in general no other than barley cakes were known (Hitzig), but only that the cakes of barley meal, baked in the ashes, were an extremely frugal kind of bread, which that prepared by Ezekiel was to resemble. The עגּה was probably always baked on hot ashes, or on hot stones (1 Kings 19:6), not on pans, as Kliefoth here supposes. The prophet, however, is to bake them in (with) human ordure. This is by no means to be understood as if he were to mix the ordure with the food, for which view Isaiah 36:12 has been erroneously appealed to; but - as עליהם in Ezekiel 4:15 clearly shows - he is to bake it over the dung, i.e., so that dung forms the material of the fire. That the bread must be polluted by this is conceivable, although it cannot be proved from the passages in Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21, and Deuteronomy 23:13 that the use of fire composed of dung made the food prepared thereon levitically unclean. The use of fire with human ordure must have communicated to the bread a loathsome smell and taste, by which it was rendered unclean, even if it had not been immediately baked in the hot ashes. That the pollution of the bread is the object of this injunction, we see from the explanation which God gives in Ezekiel 4:13 : "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the heathen." The heart of the prophet, however, rebels against such food. He says he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law; from his youth up he has eaten no unclean flesh, neither of a carcase, nor of that which was torn by wild beasts (cf. Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21), nor flesh of sacrifices decayed or putrefying (פּגּוּל, see on Leviticus 7:18; Isaiah 65:4). On this God omits the requirement in Ezekiel 4:12, and permits him to take for firing the dung of oxen instead of that of men.

(Note: The use of dung as a material for burning is so common in the East, that it cannot be supposed that Ezekiel first became acquainted with it in a foreign country, and therefore regarded it with peculiar loathing. Human ordure, of course, so far as our knowledge goes, is never so employed, although the objection raised by Hitzig, on the other hand, that it would not yield so much heat as would be necessary for roasting without immediate contact, i.e., through the medium of a brick, rests upon an erroneous representation of the matter. But the employment of cattle-dung for firing could not be unknown to the Israelites, as it forms in the Huaran (the ancient Bashan) the customary firing material; cf. Wetzstein's remarks on Delitzsch's Job, vol. I. pp. 377, 8 (Eng. trn.), where the preparation of the g'elle - this prevalent material for burning in the Hauran - from cow-dung mixed with chopped straw is minutely described; and this remark is made among others, that the flame of the g'elle, prepared and dried from the dung of oxen that feed at large, is entirely without smoke, and that the ashes, which retain their heat for a lengthened time, are as clean as those of wood.)

In Ezekiel 4:16., finally, is given the explanation of the scanty allowance of food meted out to the prophet, namely, that the Lord, at the impending siege of Jerusalem, is to take away from the people the staff of bread, and leave them to languish in hunger and distress. The explanation is in literal adherence to the threatenings of the law (Leviticus 26:26 and Leviticus 26:39), which are now to pass into fulfilment. Bread is called "staff of bread" as being indispensable for the preservation of life. To בּמשׁקל, Leviticus 26:26, בּדאגה, "in sorrow," is added; and to the water, בּשׁמּמון, "in astonishment," i.e., in fixed, silent pain at the miserable death, by hunger and thirst, which they see before them. נמקּוּ בּעונם as Leviticus 26:39. If we, finally, cast a look over the contents of this first sign, it says that Jerusalem is soon to be besieged, and during the siege is to suffer hunger and terror as a punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah; that upon the capture of the city of Israel (Judah) they are to be dispersed among the heathen, and will there be obliged to eat unclean bread. To this in Ezekiel 5 is joined a second sign, which shows further how it shall fare with the people at and after the capture of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-4); and after that a longer oracle, which developes the significance of these signs, and establishes the necessity of the penal judgment (Ezekiel 4:5-17).

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