Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Eze 5:1-17. Vision of Cutting the Hairs, and the Calamities Foreshadowed Thereby.
1. knife … razor—the sword of the foe (compare Isa 7:20). This vision implies even severer judgments than the Egyptian afflictions foreshadowed in the former, for their guilt was greater than that of their forefathers.
thine head—as representative of the Jews. The whole hair being shaven off was significant of severe and humiliating (2Sa 10:4, 5) treatment. Especially in the case of a priest; for priests (Le 21:5) were forbidden "to make baldness on their head," their hair being the token of consecration; hereby it was intimated that the ceremonial must give place to the moral.
balances—implying the just discrimination with which Jehovah weighs out the portion of punishment "divided," that is, allotted to each: the "hairs" are the Jews: the divine scales do not allow even one hair to escape accurate weighing (compare Mt 10:30).
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. Three classes are described. The sword was to destroy one third of the people; famine and plague another third ("fire" in Eze 5:2 being explained in Eze 5:12 to mean pestilence and famine); that which remained was to be scattered among the nations. A few only of the last portion were to escape, symbolized by the hairs bound in Ezekiel's skirts (Eze 5:3; Jer 40:6; 52:16). Even of these some were to be thrown into the fiery ordeal again (Eze 5:4; Jer 41:1, 2, &c.; Jer 44:14, &c.). The "skirts" being able to contain but few express that extreme limit to which God's goodness can reach.
Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.
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.
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, 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 Ph�nician 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).
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. changed … into—rather, "hath resisted My judgments wickedly"; "hath rebelled against My ordinances for wickedness" [Buxtorf]. But see on Eze 5:7, end.
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. multiplied—rather, "have been more abundantly outrageous"; literally, "to tumultuate"; to have an extravagant rage for idols.
neither have done according to the judgments of the nations—have not been as tenacious of the true religion as the nations have been of the false. The heathen "changed" not their gods, but the Jews changed Jehovah for idols (see Eze 5:6, "changed My judgments into wickedness," that is, idolatry, Jer 2:11). The Chaldean version and the Masora support the negative. Others omit it (as it is omitted in Eze 11:12), and translate, "but have done according to the judgments," &c. However, both Eze 11:12 and also this verse are true. They in one sense "did according to the heathen," namely, in all that was bad; in another, namely, in that which was good, zeal for religion, they did not. Eze 5:9 also proves the negative to be genuine; because in changing their religion, they have not done as the nations which have not changed theirs, "I (also) will do in thee that which I have not done."
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. I, even I—awfully emphatic. I, even I, whom thou thinkest to be asleep, but who am ever reigning as the Omnipotent Avenger of sin, will vindicate My righteous government before the nations by judgments on thee.
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. See on Eze 5:7.
that which I have not done—worse than any former judgments (La 4:6; Da 9:12). The prophecy includes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the final one by Antichrist (Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2), as well as that by Nebuchadnezzar. Their doom of evil was not exhausted by the Chaldean conquest. There was to be a germinating evil in their destiny, because there would be, as the Lord foresaw, a germinating evil in their character. As God connected Himself peculiarly with Israel, so there was to be a peculiar manifestation of God's wrath against sin in their case [Fairbairn]. The higher the privileges the greater the punishment in the case of abuse of them. When God's greatest favor, the gospel, was given, and was abused by them, then "the wrath was to come on them to the uttermost" (1Th 2:16).
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. fathers … eat … sons—alluding to Moses' words (Le 26:29; De 28:53), with the additional sad feature, that "the sons should eat their fathers" (see 2Ki 6:28; Jer 19:9; La 2:20; 4:10).
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. as I live—the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event.
defiled my sanctuary—the climax of Jewish guilt: their defiling Jehovah's temple by introducing idols.
diminish—literally, "withdraw," namely, Mine "eye" (which presently follows), that is, My favors; Job 36:7 uses the Hebrew verb in the same way. As the Jews had withdrawn from God's sanctuary its sacredness by "defiling" it, so God withdraws His countenance from them. The significance of the expression lies in the allusion to De 4:2, "Ye shall not diminish aught from the word which I command you"; they had done so, therefore God diminishes them. The reading found in six manuscripts, "I will cut thee off," is not so good.
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. Statement in plain terms of what was intended by the symbols (Eze 5:2; see Eze 6:12; Jer 15:2; 21:9).
draw out … sword after them—(Le 26:33). Skeptics object; no such thing happened under Zedekiah, as is here foretold; namely, that a third part of the nation should die by pestilence, a third part by the sword, and a third be scattered unto all winds, and a sword sent after them. But the prophecy is not restricted to Zedekiah's time. It includes all that Israel suffered, or was still to suffer, for their sins, especially those committed at that period (Eze 17:21). It only received its primary fulfilment under Zedekiah: numbers then died by the pestilence and by the sword; and numbers were scattered in all quarters and not carried to Babylonia alone, as the objectors assert (compare Ezr 1:4; Es 3:8; Ob 14).
pestilence … and famine—signified by the symbol "fire" (Eze 5:2). Compare Isa 13:8; La 5:10; plague and famine burning and withering the countenance, as fire does.
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. cause my fury to rest upon them—as on its proper and permanent resting-place (Isa 30:32, Margin).
I will be comforted—expressed in condescension to man's conceptions; signifying His satisfaction in the vindication of His justice by His righteous judgments (De 28:63; Pr 1:26; Isa 1:24).
they shall how—by bitter experience.
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—They whose idolatries Israel had adopted, instead of comforting, would only exult in their calamities brought on by those idolatries (compare Lu 15:15).
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. instruction—literally, "a corrective chastisement," that is, a striking example to warn all of the fatal consequences of sin. For "it shall be"; all ancient versions have "thou," which the connection favors.
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—hail, rain, mice, locusts, mildew (see De 32:23, 24).
increase the famine—literally, "congregate" or "collect." When ye think your harvest safe because ye have escaped drought, mildew, &c., I will find other means [Calvin], which I will congregate as the forces of an invading army, to bring famine on you.
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. beasts—perhaps meaning destructive conquerors (Da 7:4). Rather, literal "beasts," which infest desolated regions such as Judea was to become (compare Eze 34:28; Ex 23:29; De 32:24; 2Ki 17:25). The same threat is repeated in manifold forms to awaken the careless.