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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 5

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



The prophet shaves off his hair and divides it accurately into three parts, one part of which is burned in the city, another cut to pieces about the city, and the third part scattered to the winds. The meaning is explained to be that one third of the population of Jerusalem shall be consumed by pestilence and famine, and another third shall fall by the sword, while the remainder shall be scattered among the nations.

Verse 1

1. A sharp knife,… a barber’s razor The prophet uses a knife (literally, sword) as a razor or, less probably, his razor is called a sword (Ewald) to make the meaning more plain that the people are to be cut off by the sword, which Isaiah previously in this connection had actually called “a razor” (Isaiah 7:20). The hair in all oriental symbolism stands for the life. To sacrifice the hair is to symbolically sacrifice the life. (See note Ezekiel 16:21, and Oneil’s Night of the Gods, 1:312.) The priests were forbidden by law to shave (Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5); this therefore was another act which, when he saw it in the future, had made him “hot” and “bitter” (Ezekiel 3:14).

Balances to weigh No slightest inaccuracy is permitted. The exact judicial punishment must be executed (Deuteronomy 16:20; Daniel 5:27).

Verse 2

2. Burn… when the days of the siege are fulfilled This would indicate that, although so closely following the command to lie upon his side (Ezekiel 4:4, etc.), the acting out of this symbolic picture must be delayed until his one hundred and ninety days of silent and motionless watching of the besieged city are finished. The hair will then be burned on the tile in the midst of the besieged city (Ezekiel 4:1).

Smite about it with a knife “It” refers to the city, as is seen from Ezekiel 5:12. The prophet must throw the second lot of hair “about the city” and smite it as it falls. The meaning is that those who escape from the famine and pestilence within the city will fall by the sword outside the gates.

I will draw out a sword Those who do not fall in the city or its suburbs, but fly to distant places, will not escape. Jehovah’s sword in the hand of the heathen will still follow them (Jeremiah 9:16).

Verses 3-4

3, 4. To take a few hairs “by number,” and preserve them thus carefully only emphasizes the fate of the mass; but even of this remnant (Isaiah 10:20-22; Isaiah 11:11; Ezekiel 6:8-9), flying into exile, whom Jehovah in the person of the prophet would gladly bind to his person, some will be lost. For thereof [literally, from thence ] shall a fire come forth The punishment which falls upon the rebellious exiles whom Jehovah has tried to save will be felt by the whole nation.

Verse 5

5. In the midst of the nations The mediaeval geographies made Palestine the center of the world, and the exact “navel of the earth” is yet pointed out in Jerusalem. This is foolish, but the fact remains that in ancient times the Holy Land was in a peculiar sense “in the midst of the nations,” with Egypt to the south, Arabia and the Mesopotamian powers to the east, Phoenicia to the north, and the isles of the Greeks to the west.

(Introduction to Daniel, III, 4.)

Verses 5-11

5-11. Here begins the divine interpretation of this picture-sermon. Jehovah declares that it is because Jerusalem, which was the most highly favored of all cities, has exceeded all in wickedness, that its punishment is so unparalleled. It is for this reason that it shall be destroyed by famine and pestilence and sword, and shall become a lesson to the nations of God’s just and furious wrath, as it has been a distinguished example of his love and mercy.

Verse 6

6. Changed my judgments into wickedness… and my statutes Literally, rebelled against my judgments in doing wickedness… and against my statutes. “Judgments” are not here Jehovah’s afflictive penalties, but his judicial decrees.

Verse 7

7. Because ye multiplied R.V., “Because ye are turbulent;” but Cornill’s emendation seems commendable: “because ye are rebellious.”

Neither have done according to the judgments of the nations Not only have they failed to live up to the rules of right which Jehovah has approved and ordained, but they have even fallen below the heathen standard of righteousness (Ezekiel 16:47-48; Jeremiah 2:10-11).

Verse 8

8. Will execute judgments Rebellion against the righteous decrees of Jehovah concerning right actions and acceptable worship brings upon the nation righteous decrees of punishment. In the Hebrew there is a word play which cannot be rendered into English.

Verse 9

9. I will do… that which I have not done “This was no mere rhetorical threat. It is possible that the miseries of the siege and exile were no greater than those endured by other nations in those days, but the same miseries may be felt more acutely.” Davidson. Israel was a “peculiar people” in its advantages and its possibilities. Sinning against light, its guilt was greater, and its former exaltation by the same Hand that struck it down made its fall unique and its degradation full of peculiar misery (Lamentations 1:12; Daniel 9:12). “No other nation had a conscience so sensitive as Israel, or lost so much by its political annihilation.” Skinner.

Verse 10

10. Fathers shall eat the sons, etc. This shows the awfulness of the famine during the siege (2 Kings 6:24-29; Lamentations 4:10; Leviticus 26:29; Jeremiah 19:9).

Verse 11

11. Detestable things,… abominations These are the objects of their idolatrous worship (chap. 8). It is because of their willful and persistent insults, even in his own temple, that Jehovah declares, Therefore will I also withdraw (my glory, Ezekiel 10:18); neither shall mine eye spare, etc. The constant reiteration of the threat shows how the heart of Jehovah longed to do differently, and how, according to the speech of men, he needed to constantly reiterate his determination to execute the full penalty of this great sin. The calls to repentance and quick offers of forgiveness show how lovingly a cry for mercy would have been heard, if the threatening had awakened the people to penitence and reformation (Jonah 3:10; Ezekiel 33:11).

Diminish Literally, withdraw. Smend translates “withdraw (thy needs);” Davidson, “I will withdraw (mine eye);” Toy, “I will deal furiously.” By a slight change the word can mean “hew down.” Plumptre holds to the Authorized Version and explains by Ezekiel 16:27.

Verse 12

12. See Ezekiel 5:1-4; compare Jeremiah 15:2. Dav. Hein. Muller, Ezekiel Studien, 1893, has pointed out the very curious resemblance which this verse bears to many cuneiform inscriptions where sword, famine, and pestilence are joined together. For instance, Assur-banipal, who might almost be called a contemporary of Ezekiel, saw a divine decree written upon the disk of the moon: “By the iron sword, by the burning fire, by famine, and by pestilence I will make an end of his life.” Because of such coincidences Dr. Muller believes Ezekiel, even if he had not studied the cuneiform literature in detail, must at least have had some one “read to him the standard inscriptions.” His proof, however, hardly sustains his conclusions, while Ezekiel 3:5-6, would intimate that Ezekiel was not well acquainted with the Babylonian language.

Verse 13

13. I will be comforted “Either as rejoicing in the punishment of evil for its own sake (as Deuteronomy 28:63; Isaiah 1:24), or because the punishment does its work in leading men to repentance.” Plumptre.

They shall know that I the Lord have spoken it Constantly does Jehovah affirm that this punishment of Israel will produce among the nations an acknowledgment of his own power and Godhead. The object which he sought to accomplish, and did partially accomplish, by his wonderful deliverances of the Israelites, he will now accomplish by his equally wonderful punishments. Israel’s sin cannot minish Jehovah’s glory. The prophets need not plead for mercy to the disobedient people on the ground that otherwise the heathen would think Jehovah had not the power to deliver. The judgments upon the chosen people should be so startling that all would acknowledge that their God had forsaken them.

Zeal Literally, jealousy, heat of the soul. Jehovah could not accept, as did the heathen gods, a divided worship. This distinguished him among all gods. The heathen could worship many gods, but Jehovah grew hot with indignation if his worshiper recognized any other deity whatsoever. To the ancient world this was God’s most distinguished characteristic. The word may sound badly to modern ears, but jealousy, in the Bible sense, is the heat of love, and the emphasis of that monotheism which has conquered the earth.

Verses 14-15

14, 15. I will make thee waste,… a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations (Deuteronomy 28:37; Lamentations 2:15-16) These warnings of Jehovah were intended to move the people to repentance, but, failing in that, they were sorrowfully fulfilled. In the light of history no one dare affirm that this prophecy has not been literally accomplished. The history of the Jews is the history of fulfilled prophecy.

In anger and in fury and in furious rebukes No doubt there were limitations to Ezekiel’s conception of God. This revelation of Jehovah’s nature does not read like the one given in the Gospels. Yet we can now see that it is the reverse side of a perfect being. The “wrath of the Lamb” is most furious. No anger is like that of insulted love. Ezekiel had need to arouse “the terrifying sense of divine anger against sin” in order to make a place for the Gospel of pardon and eternal love (Ezekiel 23:11-20; Leviticus 26:6; Leviticus 26:22; Deuteronomy 32:24).

Verse 17

17. Evil beasts With the famine of the siege and the blood of slaughter comes the plague of evil beasts (Ezekiel 14:15; Ezekiel 14:21; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:25). This shows the desolation of the land. The people have been carried away and their valleys have become the home of jackals and lions (2 Kings 17:25).

I the Lord have spoken it This is not, as some modern critics maintain, the utterance of an angry prophet. Ezekiel, dumb in the presence of these awful calamities, is only able to picture them in his sign language to the people, because the hand of the Lord is upon him and he has fed upon the word of the Lord (Ezekiel 3:3; Ezekiel 3:14).

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ezekiel-5.html. 1874-1909.
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