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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 5

Chapter 5. The Fate Awaiting Jerusalem and Its Inhabitants.

Verses 1-2

The Significance of His Shaven Beard and Head.

“And you, son of man, you take a sharp sword. As a barber’s razor you will take it to you. And you will cause it to pass over your head and on your beard. Then take for yourself balances to weigh and divide the hair. A third part you will burn with fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled. And you will take a third part and smite with the sword round about it. And a third part you will scatter to the wind, and I will draw out a sword after them.”

Shaving the head or beard was a sign of mourning (Ezekiel 7:18; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 48:37; Amos 8:10), or even of disgrace (2 Samuel 10:4). It was also the sign of the end of a person’s separation to God (Numbers 6:5; Numbers 6:18). Ezekiel’s act in doing so was an indication that Jerusalem would be shorn, as a sign of disgrace, as a sign of mourning, and as a sign of the end of its separation to God.

The hair then had to be weighed and divided and separated into three parts. The weighing indicated that Jerusalem had been weighed and had been found wanting (compare Proverbs 21:2; Daniel 5:27). Then one third he had to burn in the midst of his model city, a third part he had to smite with a sword round about the city, chopping them in pieces, and a third part had to be scattered to the wind. This was to take place once he had finished his days of depicting the period of the siege. This signified that one third of the inhabitants of Jerusalem would die in the siege through pestilence and famine, one third in the fighting round about and that one third would be scattered among the nations (Ezekiel 5:12; compare Jeremiah 15:2). But even these latter would still be subject to further judgments from God. ‘I will draw out a sword after them’. They would be constantly harried, and many would die because of their evil ways.

Verses 3-4

“And you will take from there a few in number, and bind them in your robes, and of these again you will take and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire. From there will come out a fire to all the house of Israel.”

Of the third part who escape death and were scattered some would be selected out for preservation, but even of these some too would die by famine and pestilence. The ‘fire’ of pestilence and famine which burned in Jerusalem would reach out to some of those who have escaped. In the end the whole of the house of Israel would be affected. It is a sad picture. God’s judgments would continue to reach out continually. His scattered people would never be fully at rest because of famine, pestilence and the sword.

‘Bind them in your robes (skirts - the lower flowing ends of the robe).’ The bottom of the robe would be tucked into the belt for walking and would form a kind of container which could be used for carrying things.

The second ‘from there’ probably refers to the fire depicted as burning in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 5:2 a). It would not only affect Jerusalem but would reach out and continue its effect even in those who had escaped.

Some have seen the last sentence as referring to a fire of purification, but in view of the importance of fire in the context it is difficult to think that such a change of usage would take place in context. It is rather a summary of the effect of the fire which Ezekiel had placed in Jerusalem (which signified pestilence and famine - Ezekiel 5:12). It affected one third of those in Jerusalem, and it would continue to affect the exiles, even those under God’s general protection. All would share in the judgments poured out on Jerusalem, for all shared its guilt.

Verses 5-6

Jerusalem’s Guilt and Future Judgment Is Spelled Out.

‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh, “This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her, and she has rebelled against my ordinances in doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statues more than the countries round about her, for they have rejected my ordinances, and as for my statutes they have not walked in them.” ’

‘This is Jerusalem’ was referring to Ezekiel’s model and confirming which city it represented. Because she was Yahweh’s inheritance she was central to all the nations, the one of central importance, with Assyria and Babylon to the north, Egypt and the Sudan to the south, the sea, and the countries beyond the sea from which the Philistines had come, to the west, and Arabia to the east. No wonder she saw herself as the centre of the world (see Ezekiel 38:12 where she is called ‘the navel of the earth’), and God described her in her own terms. But such a privileged position had given her responsibilities. And she had failed in those responsibilities.

The ‘ordinances’ and ‘statutes’ refer to the body of Law that Israel had been given, and probably include some of the prophetic writings. But these had simply made them multiply evil. Their very privilege made their disobedience more heinous. And even by the standards of the surrounding nations they were more sinful than other nations. This was a sign that they had wholeheartedly rejected His ordinances and commandments. They were disobedient rebels.

Verses 7-10

‘Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, “Because you are more turbulent than the nations which are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes nor have kept my ordinances, nor have done after the ordinances of the nations which are round about you, therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold I, even I am against you, and I will execute judgments against you in the eyes of the nations, and I will do in you what I have previously not done, and as I will not do any more the like, because of all your abominations. Therefore the father shall eat the sons in the midst of you, and the sons shall eat the fathers, and I will execute judgments in you, and the whole remnant of you will I scatter to all the winds.” ’

God’s indictment continues. The raging of the nations was well known (Psalms 2:1; Psalms 46:6) but Israel had been even more turbulent than they, rebelling against His statutes and ordinances, and against all moral standards. Therefore judgments would come on them so that the nations might see that Yahweh did not allow His people to behave so. They were intended to be a witness to the nations, but instead they had become their worst example. Thus God, even Yahweh, was against them. So He would do among them something unlike He had done before or will do after, because of their abominations (compare Ezekiel 5:11). Thus would they be an example to the nations.

For what was included in the word ‘abominations’ see Ezekiel 18:10-13.

Their situation would become so bad that they would become cannibals, eating even members of their own family (compare Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 4:10 which confirm that cannibalism is meant and not just murder). Then His judgments would come on them, plague, pestilence, famine and slaughter, and those who were left would be scattered in all directions. Winds came from all directions.

Verse 11

“Wherefore as I live”, says the Lord Yahweh, “surely because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you, nor shall my eye spare, and I will also have no pity.”

A further indictment was that they had defiled the temple with their abominations and idolatry (see Ezekiel 8:10). They had diminished God. That is why He would diminish them. There would be no mercy, no pity, because they had deliberately polluted the temple and brought dishonour on God, likening Him by their behaviour to creeping and detestable things.

Verse 12

“A third part of you will die with the pestilence, and they will be consumed with famine in the midst of you, and a third part will fall by the sword round about you, and a third part I will scatter to all the winds, and will draw out a sword after them.”

What the shaving of his head and beard have indicated is now described in detail. For one third, death by pestilence and famine. For one third, death by the sword. For one third, scattering in all directions. But the latter will also include death at the hands of adversaries who take advantage of their condition, and death at the hands of their captors. (See 2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 39:1-18).

Verse 13

“Thus will my anger be accomplished, and I will satisfy my fury on them, and I will be comforted. And they will know that I, Yahweh have spoken in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury on them.”

Outwardly all the results were natural results, and came about through rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. It was not God Who starved them. It was not God Who slew them. It was not God Who turned them to cannibalism. Yet He was the cause for He had withdrawn His protecting hand from them, because by their sins they had rejected His covenant and take themselves from under His protection. As ever in Scripture, this anger was not bad temper and vengeance because He was slighted, but the result of His holy response to what was detestable. He could not allow it to exist in those whom He had chosen and had to take every opportunity to get rid of it by judgment and refining.

‘I will satisfy (appease) My fury.’ He would call to account and give a just sentence so as to satisfy His moral demands. ‘I will be comforted.’ His hatred at sin would be appeased by a just reward for sin, as the Moral Governor of the Universe.

‘In My zeal.’ The ardour of a holy God against sin. The word is sometimes translated jealousy. There too it means the same.

Verses 14-15

“Moreover I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the nations who are round about you, in the sight of all who pass by. So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment, to the nations that are round about you, when I shall execute judgments in you in anger and in fury, and in furious rebukes. I, Yahweh, have spoken it.”

The catalogue of woes continues. All around would see their desolation, all would note that Yahweh’s people, who had boasted in their God and His power, had been humbled and devastated. All who passed by (see Lamentations 1:12) would reproach and taunt them, and would learn from what had happened to them of God’s hatred of sin. Indeed they would be astonished at what had happened to them. They were the people of Yahweh whom Sennacherib had been unable to conquer (2 Kings 19:35-36) because of what Yahweh had done. How then could this have happened to them? And the answer would be, because of the anger and fury and furious rebukes of Yahweh against their sin. Note the piling up of the verbs. The nations would be totally amazed.

Verses 16-17

“When I shall send on them the hurtful arrows of famine, which are for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, and I will increase the famine on you and will break your staff of bread, and I will send on you famine and evil beasts, and they will bereave you, and pestilence and blood will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, Yahweh, have spoken it.”

The desolations were now spelled out. Firstly famine. This would be like hurtful arrows (Deuteronomy 32:23), arriving suddenly, destroying men when no one was near. And the famine would increase and get worse, and the provisions on which they had leant for so long would be taken from them. They would no longer have anything to depend on.

And, as was inevitable with such famine, starving evil beasts would seek human flesh in order to survive, resulting in many bereavements, and pestilence and blood would follow on people starved of nourishment. Note the combination of ‘pestilence and blood’. The two words in Hebrew are an alliteration, ‘deber wa dam’. Elsewhere ‘blood’ often signifies pestilence. Then on top of this will come the sword. Men of violence would take advantage of the weakness resulting from their parlous state. And all this would come on them because Yahweh had allowed it. It is Yahweh Who says so.

Famine, wild beasts, pestilence, sword, these types of the judgment of God are fairly common in Scripture. See especially ‘God’s four sore judgments’ (Ezekiel 14:21); ‘God’s seven times more plagues’ (Leviticus 26:21-26); see also Deuteronomy 32:23-25; Revelation 6:8. They are His ‘reward’ for covenant unfaithfulness.

Throughout this passage we are made aware of Ezekiel’s profound sense of the holiness of God, of the awfulness and sublimity of the divine King, of the greatness of His glory, accentuated by his great vision, and of his awareness of the sacredness and authority of the Law, the divine instruction, so that all disobedience totally outraged him. It may be that we live in the age of mercy and abundant salvation, but we need to be aware that God has not changed. He still hates sin just as bitterly.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.