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Under the type of hair, is shewed the judgment of Jerusalem for their rebellion, by famine, sword, and dispersion.
Before Christ 594.
Ezekiel 5:1. Take thee a barber's razor— The balances were a symbol of the divine justice, as the razor was of the divine anger; the former signifying his equity, the hairs the Jews, and the dividing of the hair the punishment inflicted upon individuals. The author of the Observations has remarked, that among the Arabs there cannot be a greater stamp of infamy, than to cut off any one's beard; and that many among them would prefer death to this kind of punishment. And as they would think it a grievous affliction to lose it, so they carry things so far as to beg for the sake of it; "By your beard, by the life of your beard, do." In like manner, some of their benedictions are, "God preserve your blessed beard; God pour his blessings on your beard;" and when they would express their value for a thing, they say, "It is worth more than his beard." I must confess, continues this writer, that I never had so clear an apprehension as after I had read these accounts, of the intended energy of the thought of Ezekiel in the verse before us, when the inhabitants of Jerusalem are compared to the hair of the prophet's head and beard. The passage seems to signify, that, though the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been as clear to God as the hair of an Indian beard to its owner, yet that they should be taken away and consumed; one part by pestilence and famine, another part by the sword, and the third by the calamities of exile. See Observations, p. 261.
Ezekiel 5:2. When the days of the siege are fulfilled— While the days of the siege shall continue: that is, of the visionary siege spoken of in the preceding chapter. This verse is fully explained by the 12th.
Ezekiel 5:3. Take—a few—and bind, &c.— Hereby is prefigured the remnant of the Jews who should be left in the land under Gedaliah; and in the next verse the destruction which should come upon them also. See Jeremiah 40:5-6; Jeremiah 44:11; Jeremiah 44:30. Houbigant renders the last clause of the next verse, From that fire a flame shall burst forth, &c.
Ezekiel 5:5. This is Jerusalem— "This Jerusalem, against which thou prophesiest, was placed in the midst of the heathen nations. It made a figure among them on account of my temple, and the tokens of my presence. It was a city set on a hill, that it might be a pattern of religion, holiness, and virtue to them." There are some who take this expression, In the midst of the nations, literally, and suppose that Jerusalem is in the centre of the world. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 5:7. Ye multiplied—neither have done according to the judgments of the nations— Ye have sinned—but have done after the manners of the heathen. Houbigant. See ch. Ezekiel 11:12. God here calls the law of conscience and of nations his statutes and judgments; which the Jews had more infamously transgressed than the Gentiles, who had not the written law of God.
Ezekiel 5:9. The like— The national punishment of the Jews, comprehending what they suffered from Nebuchadrezzar, Titus, and Adrian, has been remarkably signal.
Ezekiel 5:11. Will I also diminish— Will I cut thee off. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 5:12. And I will draw out a sword after them— That is, "Mine anger shall still pursue thee even into countries whither thou art banished and carried captive." This was particularly fulfilled in those who retired into Egypt, and has been remarkably verified in the many persecutions and miseries which the Jews have undergone at different times in most parts of Europe since their general dispersion.
Ezekiel 5:13. Thus shall mine anger be accomplished— For my anger shall be accomplished, and then I will comfort myself, when my fury shall rest upon them; and then they shall know that I am the LORD, who in mine anger have foretold these things, when my fury shall be accomplished upon them. Houbigant. The ideas and expressions in this verse are borrowed from the passions of men; who find some ease and rest in their minds upon bringing offenders to condign punishment.
Ezekiel 5:15. So it shall be, &c.— And the reproach and the obloquy shall be a warning and an amazement, &c.
Ezekiel 5:17. Famine and evil beasts— That is, by a figure called by the Greeks εν δια δυοιν, the hungry and the evil beast. Instead of blood, Houbigant reads death or mortality.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Jerusalem's ruin is here represented by another sign.
1. The prophet must shave his head and beard, and carefully weigh and divide the hair into three parcels; one third must be burnt, another be cut in pieces, and the other scattered in the wind, a few hairs excepted, which he must bind in his skirts, and then quickly take thence, and burn in the fire.
2. The meaning of this is, that Jerusalem, which had been the head of the nations, and full of inhabitants, numerous as these hairs, must undergo the foulest disgrace, and be covered with bitterest grief: weighed in the balances of God's justice, the punishment suitable to their guilt is determined. The city must be taken and burnt; one third of the inhabitants consumed in the flames, or by the famine; another slain with the sword during the siege, or attempting to escape; the other be dispersed into all the neighbouring countries; not only led captive into Chaldea, but flying for refuge to Egypt, Moab, and Ammon, whither the sword of the king of Babylon would pursue them. A few under Gedaliah seemed reserved for mercy, but even among them the fire kindles, their ruler is slain, and this remnant miserably consumed; thus will God overcome when he judgeth. If sinners will obstinately persist in their wickedness, utter destruction will infallibly overtake them.
2nd, The explanation of the foregoing sign is here given at large, This is Jerusalem; the name of the thing signified being given to the sign, as this is my body.
1. Jerusalem was highly honoured, set in the midst of the nations, and exalted in privileges above them all, as a beacon on a hill, designed to diffuse the light of those divine oracles which were entrusted to her. For when God hath given distinguished mercies, he justly expects a suitable return.
2. Her provocations were multiplied, great, and aggravated. She hath changed my judgments into wickedness; not only neglecting God's commands, and slighting his institutions, but introducing the idolatries and abomination of the heathen; and, as if it was not enough to be like them, the profaneness and impiety of Israel were more than the nations round about them; yea, they did not according to the judgments of the nations round about them; they were more abandoned in wickedness, and shewed none of that respect for the true God which they paid to their idol deities. And to such a pitch of hardened insolence and impudence in sin were they grown, that in the very house erected for God's honour and worship, there did they set up their hated idols, and offered their detestable sacrifices before them. Note; (1.) Many a virtuous heathen will rise up and condemn the immoral lives of professing Christians. (2.) When they who have been God's people by profession turn apostates, they usually grow most abandoned.
3. Her punishment shall be according to her sins; terrible beyond what any nation before ever did, or ever shall again suffer; and public, in the midst of thee, that all around might behold God's righteous judgment, and be warned by her plagues.
[1.] God himself makes bare his holy arm. I, even I, am against thee; whatever instruments he employed, the destruction was from the Lord: in anger and in fury, and in furious rebukes, as a man exasperated with the most atrocious provocations; yea, all the fierceness of his wrath shall be accomplished, so entire shall be their ruin; and his fury shall rest upon them for a long season; they shall lie under the marks of his fearful vengeance, and this without mercy or pity: yea, so far from it, he will (speaking after the manner of men) delight in their misery; I will be comforted, in thus easing himself of his enemies under whom the very earth groaned, and in glorifying his justice and truth by the execution of these most righteous judgments. And then at last when they feel, they will know the truth of his threatenings, and his jealousy in vindicating his own glory and the honour of his government. Note; (1.) Woe to the sinner that provokes a jealous God: when his wrath is kindled, yea, but for a moment, who may abide it? (2.) The misery of the damned shall result to God's glory; and he will, without the least impeachment of his mercy, approve of their torment, seeing that it is the just reward of their deeds.
[2.] The particular judgments threatened are many and grievous. (1.) Famine, sharp and deadly as a poisoned arrow; so raging, that all natural affection should be extinguished thereby, and fathers eat their sons, and sons feed upon their murdered fathers. (2.) Dispersion; the remnant which survive the siege shall be miserably scattered in all lands, like Cain under a curse, and vagabonds in the earth. (3.) Pestilence, the usual consequence of famine; which should devour a third part. (4.) The sword, which should not only destroy about a third part during the siege, but pursue the fugitives, and bring them at last to a miserable end. (5.) Evil beasts; not merely enemies, as savage as lions, but every furious beast of prey; which should break in upon them in herds, bereave them of their dearest relatives, and devour those who fled into the mountains and desarts for shelter. For it is as vain to fly from God's vengeance, as to resist it.
[3.] Neighbouring nations would insult them on their fall, reproach them for their wickedness, ridicule their vain confidence; and while they were amazed and astonished at the terribleness of the judgment, would receive instruction, and be warned of the dreadful danger of provoking such a jealous God. Note: When the judgments of God are seen in the earth, the inhabitants thereof will learn righteousness, and repent of those sins which they see productive of such unutterable misery in others.
[4.] The veracity of God is engaged for executing the words of his threatenings. I, the Lord, have spoken it, able to perform it, and who cannot lie, or repent; therefore the judgment is infallibly sure to come. And however, while the threatened vengeance is distant, sinners are apt to despise it; when it is accomplished, they shall know and feel the truth of those threatenings, which they would not believe from the mouth of the prophet.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20