Matthew Poole's 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.Under the type of the prophet’s hair, Ezekiel 5:1-4, is showed God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, Ezekiel 5:5-11, by pestilence, by famine, by the sword, and by dispersion, Ezekiel 5:12-17.
It is not unlikely that this command was given to the prophet so soon as he had understood the former chapter’s vision.
Song of Solomon of man: see Ezekiel 2:1.
Take thee; procure it by any means.
A sharp knife; a sword or knife very sharp, as the Hebrew; so the grievous judgment is expressed Ezekiel 21:9-11,14-16, and here the speedy, irresistible, and sweeping judgment against this people is aptly set forth.
A barber’s razor: this in different words is the same thing, and explains the former, and makes the emblem more exact, for by hair shaved and destroyed is the destruction of Jerusalem and its people represented to us, Now, that this may appear in the certainty of it, both a sword for strength, and sharp for cutting, nay, a razor much sharper, that shaves close, leaves nothing behind it, and cannot be resisted by the weak hair, so shall it be here with this people.
Cause it to pass; a Hebraism, shave close with it.
Thy head; the chief, as king and rulers, the city.
Thy beard; the common citizens; or, the towns round about.
Balances; just and exact scales, an emblem of Divine justice and equity.
To weigh: the prophet’s weighing represents God weighing these men and their ways.
The hair; these light, vain, and worthless ones, inhabitants of this sinful city, 2 Samuel 10:4,5 Jer 41:5 48:37. Thus foretell them their mourning, reproach, and deformity that is coming, for all this is signified by this shaving head and beard.
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.This verse tells you into how many parts the hair was to be divided, and how to be disposed of, and so plain it needs little explication.
With fire; so either pestilence, or famine, with the displeasure of God, and the burning of the city and of the citizens, is noted.
The city, described on the tile, Ezekiel 4:1, a type of what should be done in Jerusalem.
When the days of the siege are fulfilled; when the three hundred and ninety days of thy lying against the portrayed city shall be ended; for when Jerusalem shall be taken at the end of the siege, the city shall be burnt; and who can say that none of the inhabitants were burnt, as the two false prophets Ahab and Zedekiah? Jeremiah 29:22. To be sure many that hid themselves under ground, in vaults and cellars, were burnt with the burning of the city.
A third part; it is not necessary this part should be equal to the former, if it be proportional it is enough; perhaps it might be somewhat less then the first third.
Smite about it with a knife; for these were such as fell, in either defending the walls, or sallying out during the siege, or were found in arms when the city was taken, or were overtaken in their flight with their most unhappy king or by law martial were adjudged to die by the conqueror. These many, yet weak ones, women and children, which died in the siege by famine and pestilence, might be a greater third.
A third part; those that fell to the Chaldeans, or fled to Egypt, or other countries, though they escape somewhat longer, yet carrying like sins are at last overtaken with like evils.
Thou shalt scatter; though these disposed of themselves, yet there was God’s hand also in it; he scattered those that of their own accord did flee.
In the wind; violent, uncertain, and troublesome should their enemies prove to them.
I will draw out; God will pursue them.
A sword; figuratively it is wasting punishment, literally it was fulfilled, Jeremiah 42:16,17,22 43:10,11 44:27. Thereof, i.e. of the last third which were to be dispersed. A few, or small quantity. In number; or, by number, as it may be read; tell out a small parcel of the hair. Bind them in thy skirts; as men tie up in a handkerchief, or in the skirt of their garment, what they would not lose. So some few shall be kept, God will not cut off the whole house of Israel, but reserves a remnant.
Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.Thereof, i.e. of the last third which were to be dispersed.
A few, or small quantity.
In number; or, by number, as
them in thy skirts; as men tie up in a handkerchief, or in the skirt of their garment, what they would not lose. So some few shall be kept, God will not cut off the whole house of Israel, but reserves a remnant.
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.Then take of them again; another division make of that little number, the preserved remnant. Throw some of them into the fire; they are not all to be saved who are delivered at the end of the siege.
Burn them; literally burn the hair, but signify the burning them that are meant by it.
In the fire of God’s displeasure, and of civil war, or private conspiracy, as in Ishmael against Gedaliah, Jeremiah 41.
Thereof, from their sin against God, their discontents at their state, and conspiracies against their governor, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, evil like another fire shall break out, which shall devour the most, and be near consuming all the house of Israel, as happened to them after Gedaliah’s death, and their going down to Egypt, as Jeremiah 40:1-Jer 44:30 Jer 46, under Johanan’s revolt, which the Chaldean did revenge at last.
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.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.
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.She; Jerusalem, the metropolis, where the temple and the solemn feasts and sacrifices were, which in likelihood was forwardest, fullest, and most expensive on other invented modes of worship; she who was most obliged to me.
Hath changed: the Hebrew includes a rebellion and contumacy; and these were cause of her changing, as rebels change the laws of a kingdom.
My judgments; the laws of holy, righteous, and sober living; the exact rules of manners. Into wickedness; improbity and injustice toward each other, and impiety and irreligion against God himself.
More than the nations; there is more honesty, truth, and righteousness among the nations than among the Jews.
My statutes; the precepts and rules of religious observances which I gave them they have less valued, been less constant to, than the nations have been to theirs, received from men, and invented by man. So Jeremiah 2:9-11.
They, the Jews, have refused, with scorn and abhorrence, as what their mind abominated. So vile were they grown, that they loathed the excellent law of God, and were weary of it, as the Hebrew implieth.
My statutes; as for my statutes in matters of religion, they have refused to walk in them, and have modelled religion to their own fancy, built altars, adopted new gods, and appointed new worship, more gay or easy, as their humour was.
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;Ye multiplied: there is some difficulty in assigning what it is they multiplied in, either numbers of people, benefits received from God, luxury, pride, tumultuousness, with increase of your riches; or in idols, superstitions, and appendant wickednesses. This last seems most agreeable with the text; the rest may not be excluded.
According to the judgments of the nations; while you have exceeded the nations in superstition and idolatry, you have fallen short of them in the moralities of their life, and done less good than they, taught by a far more imperfect law than-you, Romans 2:21-24.
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.Therefore; it is very just what God doth, he hath cause more than enough given him to do so.
Behold; take notice, and consider me, not as now for you, but against you. You look to the instruments, to the rod, but, behold, I am, even I am, against you, against thee, O Jerusalem.
Will execute judgments; I will act in severities that shall convince you it is my hand that wields the sword. You despised my holy law, my judgments as a rule of life, but you shall now feel my judgments that you shall die under. The Chaldeans will kill you, but I condemn you. They will be cruel, but I will be just in the execution; and who can be for thee, when I will be against thee in this dreadful manner?
In the sight of the nations; as notorious as thy sins, so shall thy punishment be. The very heathen shall see my hand in it, and own my justice.
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.Though the old world perished by water, and the judgment was greater in its extent, and Sodom was destroyed by fire, yet neither one or other was so lingering a death. These poor Jews were long dying, and felt themselves dying. Read the Lamentations as commentary on this text, or Josephus’s Wars of the Jews. Though in the siege of Samaria women ate their children, yet the city was not taken, sacked, and burnt as Jerusalem was after a long siege.
Whereunto I will not do any more the like: no doubt God keeps his word, though we should not be able to show how. And though the siege of Jerusalem under Vespasian was grievous, yet not in every thing equal with this, the Romans were not so cruel to the Jews.
Thine abominations; their sins were abominations, and God delivers them into the hands of men that did hate, loathe, and abhor the Jews, so much that they thought they could not be cruel enough against them.
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.And this explains what is above threatened. No history I know of that does mention any thing like this; barbarous Indians sell one another, and some report (as I take it) that children among them unnaturally murder aged parents, but they eat them not.
In the midst of thee; it may intimate their doing this publicly.
The whole remnant will I scatter: this was verified when they were fetched away who were left at the departure of the besiegers, and when the very small remnant with Johanan fled into Egypt.
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.As I live; a form of an oath becoming none but the living God, used often in Scripture and in this prophet.
Defiled; violated and profaned.
My sanctuary; my temple.
With all thy detestable things; not that all they did abominably was done in the temple; but either because they never heeded how they were polluted, but with legal pollutions on them came to the temple; or rather, brought in their idols, all their detestable counterfeit gods, as Jeremiah 7:30, and, in 2 Kings 16:10 23:12,13, their own altars, as Ahaz and Manasseh. All their idolatry and wickednesses, expressed by two words of like emphasis.
Diminish; lessen, break to pieces, cut up by the roots such stinking weeds.
Neither shall mine eye spare; there shall not be the least sign of pity in my eye, though I see all their misery.
Neither will I have pity; nor yet will I retain any affection of kindness for them; my heart, as my eye, shall be far from all pity and commiseration towards them.
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.From this to the end of the chapter we have a particular and more express declaration how God would execute these severe judgments upon this people.
With pestilence; no doubt, though it were not mentioned or threatened, as Jeremiah 34:17, we might conclude it could not but be in such a besieged city, where blood, putrifying carcasses, &c. annoy.
With famine; signified by fire, for it parcheth and withereth men.
Shall fall by the sword round about thee; as they did in their assailing the besiegers round about the walls, and as they did fall under the assault, when the enemy attempted to take the city, &c. See further Ezekiel 5:12. of this chapter.
I will draw out a sword after them; when the Babylonians’ sword hath cut off all about Jerusalem, I will draw out my sword, and pursue the rest which Nebuchadnezzar could not reach.
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.Thus; in this terrible and relentless manner already declared.
Mine anger; my provoked justice, not passion, shall be executed to the full of that I intend and have spoken.
My fury: after the manner of man is this spoken, and implies the great and hot displeasure of the Lord.
To rest; my bowels were troubled how to spare, and yet to punish, but now I will rest from such strugglings between my mercy and my justice; this shall be glorified, and I will be at ease.
I will be comforted; I did what in reason they could expect, and more than I was bound to, for their preservation; but nothing would prevail. O Israel, thou art destroyed, but it is my satisfaction thou hast destroyed thyself, and canst not charge it on me.
They shall know; these ruined ones by sad experience shall know.
In my zeal; in that indignation against your sins which the love of my own glory stirred up within me. In my provoked jealousy I spake, and will act against a persisting, perfidious, and adulterous wife, and it shall be known when I have finished my work.
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.Judgments should empty the land of men that might till and manure it, and so your fruitful land shall be turned and continued a waste and desolate land.
A reproach, Jeremiah 24:9 29:18,22; a reproach or curse; men should taunt at them, and, in wishing the worst they can, wish their enemies like the Jews. So it was Lamentations 2:15,16.
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.A reproach: see Ezekiel 5:14.
A taunt; a very proverb among men.
An instruction; sinners like thee shall learn by thy miseries what they may expect from me, and they shall acknowledge Divine justice in all.
When I shall execute judgments, in highest degrees of severity.
I the Lord; I, who can do it, because almighty; who may do it, because provoked; who will do it, because they repented not; I have spoken, and will do it, as Jeremiah 25:9.
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:I shall send; it is a messenger that goes not till God sends, and ever goes when he sendeth; he sends cleanness of teeth.
The evil arrows; either because thunder, tempests, locusts, blastings, &c., which cause famine, are sent by him, and fly like arrows; or because, like arrows shot forth, they pierce deep and kill.
Shall be for their destruction; is mortal and destructive in its nature.
To destroy you; that it may be sure to destroy and attain that effect, I design it for that very end. To make sure work against such,
I will increase the famine, either by sweeping away the little supplies expected, or continuing it longer than ordinary. Or, I will summon in penury as an army against you.
Break your staff of bread; withdraw the strengthening property of your’ bread. See Ezekiel 4:16.
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.Evil beasts; Heb. evil beast: either the king of Babylon, which, like a ravenous and insatiable beast, tore and devoured all. Or, literally, lions, bears, &c., which are one of his four sore judgments, Ezekiel 14:21.
Bereave thee, of your children, friends, and your own life; when you flee to mountains and caves, for fear of the Chaldees, where you seek your safety you shall find your death, and be torn to pieces. Thy land shall be the common road and highway for pestilence and blood, as the Hebrew denotes, and they shall lodge in thy cities, in Jerusalem, as if they were the appointed receptacles for these guests. Here are the four sore plagues which God wastes nations with, all sent out against the Jews, and their commission signed from heaven with a witness, Ourself. I have spoken it, saith the Lord.