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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And 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.
Translate it: take thee a sharp sword, for a barber's razor thou shalt take it thee. Even if the action were literal, the use of an actual sword would best enforce the symbolic meaning. The "head" represents the chief city, the "hair" the inhabitants - its ornament and glory - the "hair cut from the head" the exiles cast forth from their homes. It adds to the force of the representation that "to shave the head" was a token of mourning Job 1:20, and was forbidden to the priests Leviticus 21:5. Thus, in many ways, this action of Ezekiel "the priest" is significant of calamity and ruin. The sword indicates the avenging power; the shaving of the head the removal of grace and glory; the scales and weights the determination of divine justice. Compare Zechariah 13:8-9.
2Thou 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.
"The third part burnt in the midst of the city" represents those who perished within the city during the siege; "the third part smitten about it" (the city) "with" the sword, those who were killed about the city during the same period: "the third part scattered to the wind" those who after the siege were dispersed in foreign lands.
In the midst of the city - The prophet is in exile, and is to do this in the midst of Jerusalem. His action being ideal is fitly assigned to the place which the prophecy concerns.
When the days of the siege are fulfilled - i. e., "when the days of the figurative representation of the siege are fulfilled."
3Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.
Of the third part a few are yet to be taken and kept in the fold of the garment (representing those still to remain in their native land), and yet even of those few some are to be cast into the fire. Such was the fate of those left behind after the destruction of Jerusalem Jeremiah 40; 41. The whole prophecy is one of denunciation.
4Then 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.
Thereof - Or, from thence, out of the midst of the fire. Omit "For."
5Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
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.
6And 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.
They - The inhabitants of Jerusalem.
7Therefore 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 - Some prefer: Because ye have raged tumultuously."
Neither have done according to the judgments - (or, ordinances) of the nations The reproach is that the Israelites have not even been as faithful to their one true God as the nations have been to their false gods (compare 2 Kings 17:33).
8Therefore 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.
Execute judgments - As upon the false gods of Egypt Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4.
9And 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.
Compare Matthew 24:21. The calamities of the Babylonian were surpassed by the Roman siege, and these again were but a foreshadowing of still more terrible destruction at the last day.
10Therefore 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.
11Wherefore, 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.
12A 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.
The judgments Ezekiel 5:12-17 of "famine, pestilence," and the "sword," were precisely those which attended the coming siege of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 15:2 ff). The "drawing out the sword after them" indicates that the anger of God will follow them even to the land of their exile (compare Jeremiah 42:19-22; Leviticus 26:25), and that the horrors of the Babylonian siege are but the beginning of the sorrows of the nation.
13Thus 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.
Comforted - In the sense of "consoling oneself" and "feeling satisfaction in punishing;" hence, to "avenge oneself."
The fury is to "rest" upon them, abide, so as not to pass away. The "accomplishment" of the divine anger is not the "completion" in the sense of bringing it to a close, but in the sense of carrying it out to the full.
14Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.
15So 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.
16When 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:
17So 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.