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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Ezekiel 5

Verse 1

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.

Take thee a sharp knife ... a barber's razor - the sword of the foe (cf. Isaiah 7:20). This vision implies even severer judgments than the Egyptian afflictions foreshadowed in the former, because their guilt was greater than that of their forefathers. Cause it to pass upon thine head - as representative of the Jews. The whole hair being shaven off was significant of severe and humiliating treatment (2 Samuel 10:4-5 "Hanun took David's servant, and shaved off the one half of their beards"), especially in the case of a priest, because priests (Leviticus 21:5) were forbidden "to make baldness upon their head," their hair being the token of consecration. Hereby it was intimated that the ceremonial must give place to the moral law.

Take thee balances - implying the just discrimination with which Yahweh weighs out the portion of punishment "divided" - i:e., allotted to each. The "hairs" are the Jews; the divine scales do not allow even one hair to escape accurate weighing (cf. Matthew 10:30).

Verse 2

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.

Thou shalt burn with fire a third part ... take a third part, and smite about it with a knife ... a third part ... scatter in the wind - three classes are described. The sword was to destroy one-third of the people; famine and plague another third, ("fire" in Ezekiel 5:2 being explained in Ezekiel 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 (Ezekiel 5:3; Jeremiah 40:6, "the people that were left in the land" under charge of Gedaliah; 52:16). Even of these some were to be thrown into the fiery ordeal again, (Ezekiel 5:4, through the disorders consequent on the assassination of Gedaliah by Ishmael, and the leading of the remnant into Egypt by Johanan; Jeremiah 41:1-2, etc.; 44:14, etc.) The "skirts" being able to contain but few, express that extreme limit to which God's goodness can reach.

Verses 3-4

Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 5-6

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.

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

I have set it in the midst of the nations. Jerusalem is regarded in God's point of view as center of the whole earth, designed to radiate the true light ever the nations in all directions (Compare Ezekiel 38:12, margin, 'that dwell in the midst (navel) of the land;' Psalms 48:2, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king." This design of God is hereafter to be realized, as is foretold in Jeremiah 3:17, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered into it"). No center in the ancient pagan 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 paganism 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 afterward Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The Phoenician 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 Psalms 67:1-2; Psalms 67:7, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations ... God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him." Failing in this, and falling into idolatry, its guilt was far worse than that of the pagan; not that Israel literally went beyond the pagan 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: it 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 pagan world, its condemnation will be sorer than theirs (Matthew 5:13; Matthew 11:21-24; Hebrews 10:28-29).

Verse 6. She hath changed my judgments into wickedness [ watemer (H4784) 'et (H853) mishpaaTay (H4941) lªrish`aah (H7564)] - rather, 'hath resisted my judgments wickedly;' 'hath rebelled against my ordinances for wickedness' (Buxtorf). But see end of note on Ezekiel 5:7.

Verse 7

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;

Because ye multiplied more than the nations, [ hªmaanªkem (H1995)] - rather, 'have been more abundantly outrageous;' literally, to tumultuate [ haamah (H1993)], 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 pagan "changed" not their gods, but the Jews changed Yahweh for idols (see Ezekiel 5:6, "changed my judgments into wickedness" - i:e., idolatry, Jeremiah 2:11). The Chaldaic version and the Masora support the negative [ lo' (H3808)]. Others omit it, as it is omitted in Ezekiel 11:12, "but have done after the manners of the pagan that are round about you;" and translate, 'but have done according to the judgments,' etc. However, both Ezekiel 11:12 and also this verse are true. They in one sense "did according to the pagan" - namely, in all that was bad; in another-namely, in that which was good-zeal for religion-they did not. Ezekiel 5:9 also proves the negative to be genuine. God says, 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."

Verse 8

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.

Behold 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. See note, Ezekiel 5:7.

I will do in thee that which I have not done - worse than any former judgments (Lamentations 4:6; Daniel 9:12). The prophecy includes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the final one by Antichrist (Zechariah 13:8-9; Zechariah 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 special 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 favour, the Gospel, was given, and was abused by them, then "the wrath was to come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thessalonians 2:16).

Verse 9

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

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.

The fathers shall eat the sons ... and the sons shall eat their fathers - alluding to Moses' words (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53), with the additional sad feature, that "the sons should eat their fathers" (see 2 Kings 6:28; Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10).

Verse 11

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 - the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event.

Because thou hast defiled my sanctuary - the climax of Jewish guilt: their defiling Yahweh's temple by introducing idols.

Therefore will I also diminish, [ 'egra` (H1639)] - literally, withdraw, namely, mine "eye" (which presently follows) - i:e., my favours: Job 36:7 uses the Hebrew verb in the same way. As the Jews had withdraw 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 Deuteronomy 4:2, "Ye shall not diminish ought from the word which I command you:" they had done so, therefore God diminishes them. The reading found in six MSS. ['egda`], 'I will cut thee off,' is not so good.

Verse 12

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.

A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine ... and a third part shall fall by the sword ... and I will scatter a third part into all the winds - statement in plain terms of what was intended by the symbols (Ezekiel 5:2; see Ezekiel 6:12; Jeremiah 15:2; Jeremiah 21:9).

I will draw out a sword after them - (quoted from Leviticus 26:33). Sceptics object, No such thing happened under Zedekiah as a 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 (Ezekiel 17:21). It only received its primary fulfillment 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 (cf. Ezra 1:4; Esther 3:8, "There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom" (Ahasuerus' kingdom); Obad


With the pestilence, and ... famine - signified by the symbol "fire" (Ezekiel 5:2). Compare Isaiah 13:8; Lamentations 5:10; plague and famine burning and withering the countenance, as fire does.

Verse 13

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.

I will cause my fury to rest upon them - as on its proper and permanent resting-place (Isaiah 30:32, margin, 'the grounded staff ... which the Lord shall cause to rest upon him').

I will be comforted - expressed in condescension to man's conceptions: signifying His satisfaction in the vindication of His justice by His righteous judgments (Deuteronomy 28:63; Proverbs 1:26; Isaiah 24:1).

They shall know - by bitter experience.

Verse 14

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.

I will make thee ... a reproach among the nations. They whose idolatries Israel had adopted, instead of comforting, would only exult in their calamities brought on by those idolatries (cf. the similar treatment the prodigal received in his misery from the so-called friends for whom he had forsaken his loving father, Luke 15:15, "He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine").

Verse 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.

So it shall be ... an instruction - [ muwcaar (H4148), from yaacar (H3256), to chastise] - literally, a corrective chastisement, i:e., a striking example, to warn all of the fatal consequences of sin. For "it shall be" [ haayªtaah (H1961)], all ancient versions have 'THOU shalt be,' which the connection favours.

Verse 16

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 upon them ... arrows of famine - hail, rain, mice, locusts, mildew (see Deuteronomy 32:23-24).

I will increase the famine - literally, congregate or collect, When ye think your harvest safe, because ye have escaped drought, mildew, etc, I will find other means (Calvin), which I will congregate, or accumulate, as the forces of an invading army, to bring famine on you.

Verse 17

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.

So will I send upon you ... beasts - perhaps meaning destructive conquerors (as Nebuchadnezzar, compared to a "lion" with "eagle's wings," Daniel 7:4). Rather, literal "beasts," which infest desolated regions, such as Judea was to become (cf. Ezekiel 34:28; Exo. 33:29; Deuteronomy 32:24, "I will ... send the teeth of beasts upon them." So "lions" were sent among the pagan settlers planted by Assyria in Samaria; 2 Kings 17:25). The same threat repeated in manifold forms, to awaken the careless.

I will bring the sword upon thee - civil war.


(1) The shaving off of Ezekiel's hair in symbolical action intimated prophetically that God, by means of the enemy as His cutting razor, purposed to cut off the reprobates, both priests and people.

(2) Yet nothing was to be done at random. The balances (Ezekiel 5:1) implied that the persons to be punished, as well as also the kind of punishment about to be inflicted, were all accurately determined beforehand. The hairs represented the Jews. A third portion was to be burnt in the midst of the city-that is, was to perish by pestilence and famine; a third was to be smitten with the sword; and of the remaining third the majority was to be scattered in the wind-that is, was to be dispersed among all nations, and a sword to be drawn out after them. Only a small part of the third and remaining portion was to be found in Ezekiel's skirts, to signify the preservation of an elect remnant amidst the consuming judgments on the great mass of the nation; and even of this elect few some were to be cast into the fiery ordeal again.

(3) Hence, we learn how great is God's wrath against sin, when even the nation of His choice was so sorely chastised for transgression. Let the sinner go where he will, God draws sword after him (Ezekiel 5:2; Ezekiel 5:12). We also see that there is no chance in the seeming confusion of this world's affairs. They are all, in the very minutest particular, ordered and overruled by sovereign wisdom and justice. The divine goodness, too, is strikingly manifested in His preservation of the elect, so that not a hair of their head can be jured (Daniel 3:27; Matthew 10:30).

(4) Jerusalem was designed by her heavenly King to be a religious light "in the midst of the nations and countries round about her" (Ezekiel 5:5). Her physical position in the center of the oldest and most civilized nations-Egypt, Ethiopia, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, her proximity to the Phoenicians, the great maritime people of antiquity, on the one side, and to the Ishmaelites, the great inland traders, on the other-gave her a geographical facility for this purpose such as scarcely any other country or city possessed Then God had given her, in His moral law and statutes, the spiritual light which other nations had not, but which she was to be the instrument of imparting to them. But, instead of fulfilling her high mission, and raising the pagan nations up to the high standard given to her, she sunk down to the low level of their corruptions and idolatries (Ezekiel 5:6); and so she became worse than they-for the greater the light the greater is the guilt of those who turn their beck on it. The Jews imitated the pagan in all that was bad; but in the only feature wherein it would have been good for them to have followed the pagan-namely, in unchanging faithfulness to their religion-they did not imitate them, but "changed God's judgments into wickedness" (Ezekiel 5:6), and were "more abundantly outrageous an sin" (note, Ezekiel 5:7) than the nations round about.

(5) As therefore they did not do what was natural for them to have done, and what the very pagan did, in zealously clinging to the worship handed down by their fathers, behold, God, Yahweh, even God Himself (Ezekiel 5:8), declares that He also will do that which He has not done, and whereunto He will not do anymore the like (Ezekiel 5:9-10). The horrors to be inflicted on the Jews were to he without a parallel in history, in proportion as their privileges and their guilt were without a parallel. Because they had crowned their guilt by diminishing from the sanctity of God's own temple with all their detestable things. God also would "diminish" them, not pitying or sparing any (Ezekiel 5:11). As they have withdrawn their regard from Him, so would He "withdraw His eye" from them (note, Ezekiel 5:11).

(6) Many regard God as only a God of love, and refuse to believe that He is a God whose justice is only to be satisfied by the punishment of sin. But here God plainly declares that it is not until His "anger has been accomplished," and He has "caused His fury to rest upon" the guilty, that He will be "comforted" (Ezekiel 5:13). Men forget that God is jealous for His own honour, and that He has holy satisfaction in the vindication of His justice by His righteous judgments. Blessed be God, we have in the Gospel way of salvation a full satisfaction provided by the Father in Christ for God's justice, as well as an open channel wherein God's love may freely flow to us sinners: so that God, having caused all His fury to rest upon Christ, is now comforted, and speaks comfort to all who come to Him through the Saviour.

(7) How just retribution it was, that as Israel had brought a reproach on the name of God among the nations, so her name should be a reproach, a taunt, and an instructive warning to all nations (Ezekiel 5:14-15) of the fatal consequences of abuse of high privileges, and of apostasy from God. The pagan, to gain whose favour Israel had sacrificed the favour of God, so far from comforting her, only taunted her as having received just what she deserved (Ezekiel 5:14-15). When we forsake our God for the world, the very world shall be made instrumental in our punishment. The friendship of the ungodly is like the reed which, when leant on, snaps asunder, and pierces the hand that relied on it. Let us, with our higher Gospel privileges, remember that the greater in proportion are our responsibilities. May we never, for the sake of the world's favour, bring reproach on our Master's name, and forget the friendship of Him who saith, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you"! (John 15:14.)

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.