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The prophet was to shave the hair of his head and beard with a sword symbolizing the defilement and humiliation that would come on Jerusalem because of her sin. Shaving the head and beard was forbidden for Israelites in their law (Deuteronomy 14:1). It was a pagan practice that expressed great grief and humiliation (cf. Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 27:31; 2 Samuel 10:4-5; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5-6; Jeremiah 48:37; Amos 8:10). If an Israelite priest shaved his head, he was defiled and no longer holy to the Lord (Leviticus 21:5-6). Thus Ezekiel’s action pictured the unclean condition of Israel before the Lord as well as its removal in judgment by Babylon’s king (cf. Isaiah 7:20).
Then Ezekiel was to divide his cut hair using a scale to measure it in three equal piles. Weighing symbolized discriminating evaluation and impending judgment (cf. Proverbs 21:2; Jeremiah 15:2; Daniel 5:27). When the days of the siege were over, after 430 days (Ezekiel 4:5-6), he was to burn one-third of the hair in the center of the model of Jerusalem that he had built with the brick (Ezekiel 4:1). He should chop up another third of the hair with his sword outside the model city. The remaining third he was to throw up into the air so the wind would blow it away. This represented the fate of the Jews in Jerusalem during the siege. One third would die in the burning and destruction of the city (cf. 2 Kings 25:9), another third would die at the hand of the Babylonian soldiers outside the city (cf. 2 Kings 25:18-21; 2 Chronicles 36:17), and one third would go into captivity (cf. 2 Kings 25:11; 2 Kings 25:21) driven by soldiers that Yahweh would send after them.
The hair 5:1-4
Ezekiel was also to do something else during the time he was dramatizing the siege of Jerusalem with his model (ch. 4).
"After Ezekiel represented the fact of the siege (first sign [Ezekiel 4:1-3]), the length of the siege (second sign [Ezekiel 4:4-8]), and its severity (third sign [Ezekiel 4:9-17]), he demonstrated the results of the siege (fourth sign [Ezekiel 5:1-4])." [Note: Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1236.]
Ezekiel was also to take a few hairs from the last group and hide them in the edge of his robe symbolizing the remnant that the Lord would preserve in captivity. Still other hairs he was to throw into the fire representing the fact that the Lord would judge the whole house of Israel. The fire of judgment that would burn in Jerusalem would spread to judge the whole population of Jews.
The Lord explained that the center of the drama was Jerusalem that He had set at the center of many nations and lands. Some in Ezekiel’s audience undoubtedly hoped that the city under symbolic destruction was Babylon, but it was indeed Jerusalem. It was at the center of civilization geographically and theologically. Some rabbinic writers, early church fathers, and medieval cartographers concluded from this passage that Jerusalem was the "navel of the earth" (cf. Ezekiel 38:12). [Note: See Taylor, p. 86, n. 1.]
"God intended for Israel to be the great monotheistic missionary to the nations of the ancient world . . ." [Note: Feinberg, p. 37.]
But this blessed city had rebelled against Yahweh by being unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant.
"Although others could freely interchange the name of Zion with Jerusalem, this is impossible for Ezekiel, who avoids the theologically charged designation altogether. As chs. 8-11 demonstrate, for this prophet Jerusalem has ceased to be the residence of God; Zion was no more. The city’s privileged status among the nations had been forfeited." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 198.]
The interpretation of these Acts 5:5-17
Evidently Ezekiel’s verbal explanation of this drama came at the very end of the drama, at the time of the real destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was no longer silent then.
The Lord promised to judge Jerusalem in the sight of the other nations because she had been so unfaithful and rebellious. She had not even observed the common laws that her neighbors obeyed.
The Lord would punish Jerusalem uniquely for her sins. Father’s would eat their own sons, and sons their fathers, in the siege (cf. Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 4:10). Yahweh would scatter most of the surviving remnant from the Promised Land.
The Lord affirmed that He would withdraw His presence from His people because they had defiled His temple with idols (cf. ch. 8; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 11:22-23). The clause "as I live" expresses a very solemn oath. It appears 14 times in Ezekiel, more often than in any other prophetic book. God would not have pity on them. One third of the residents would die by plague or famine, another third by the sword, and another third would scatter from the land driven by enemy soldiers.
These judgments would satisfy the Lord’s anger against His people and would convince them of His wrath because of their sins.
"The final statement in Ezekiel 5:13 is the key to the chapter, if not to Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry as a whole." [Note: Ibid., p. 211.]
The Lord would desolate the people and make them an abhorrence to the observing nations. They would revile the Jews and use them as a warning of the consequences of covenant unfaithfulness, Yahweh promised.
The Lord would send famine-like arrows against His people to destroy them. Also wild beasts, plague, hemorrhage (associated with disease) or possibly cannibalism, [Note: Ibid., p. 215.] and war would be His instruments to judge them (cf. Leviticus 26:21-26). These are standard curses for covenant unfaithfulness referred to frequently in the Mosaic Law (e.g., Leviticus 26:22; Leviticus 26:26; Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:21; Deuteronomy 28:53-56; Deuteronomy 32:23-25; Deuteronomy 32:42; cf. Lamentations 1:7-14; Lamentations 2:20-22; Lamentations 4:4-10). All this Yahweh solemnly promised to do.
"The categorical imperative that rested on Ezekiel to carry out this task of watchman is reminiscent of that of Paul to ’warn everyone and teach everyone’ (Colossians 1:24-29, esp. 5:28). This imperative, both prophetic and apostolic, underscores the need for God’s people to covet a strong sense of his will in matters of their own hearts and habits." [Note: Allen, p. 80.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
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