Vision of Cutting the Hairs, and the Calamities
1. knife … razor—the sword of the
foe (compare Isa 7:20).
This vision implies even severer judgments than the Egyptian
afflictions foreshadowed in the former, for their guilt was greater
than that of their forefathers.
thine head—as representative of the
Jews. The whole hair being shaven off was significant of severe and
humiliating (2Sa 10:4, 5) treatment. Especially in the case of a
priest; for priests (Le 21:5) were
forbidden "to make baldness on their head," their hair being the token
of consecration; hereby it was intimated that the ceremonial must give
place to the moral.
balances—implying the just
discrimination with which Jehovah weighs out the portion of
punishment "divided," that is, allotted to each: the "hairs" are the
Jews: the divine scales do not allow even one hair to escape accurate
weighing (compare Mt 10:30).
2. Three classes are described. The sword was
to destroy one third of the people; famine and plague another third
("fire" in Eze 5:2 being
explained in Eze 5:12 to
mean pestilence and famine); that which remained was to be scattered
among the nations. A few only of the last portion were to escape,
symbolized by the hairs bound in Ezekiel's skirts (Eze 5:3;
Jer 40:6; 52:16). Even of
these some were to be thrown into the fiery ordeal again (Eze
5:4; Jer 41:1, 2, &c.; Jer 44:14, &c.). The "skirts" being able to
contain but few express that extreme limit to which God's goodness can
5, 6. Explanation of the symbols:
Jerusalem—not the mere city, but the
people of Israel generally, of which it was the center and
in … midst—Jerusalem is regarded
in God's point of view as center of the whole earth, designed to
radiate the true light over the nations in all directions. Compare
Margin ("navel"), Eze 38:12; Ps 48:2; Jer 3:17. No center in the ancient heathen
world could have been selected more fitted than Canaan to be a vantage
ground, whence the people of God might have acted with success upon the
heathenism of the world. It lay midway between the oldest and most
civilized states, Egypt and Ethiopia on one side, and Babylon, Nineveh,
and India on the other, and afterwards Persia, Greece, and Rome. The
Phœnician mariners were close by, through whom they might have
transmitted the true religion to the remotest lands; and all around the
Ishmaelites, the great inland traders in South Asia and North
Africa. Israel was thus placed, not for its own selfish good, but to be
the spiritual benefactor of the whole world. Compare Ps 67:1-7 throughout. Failing in this, and falling
into idolatry, its guilt was far worse than that of the heathen; not
that Israel literally went beyond the heathen in abominable
idolatries. But "corruptio optimi pessima"; the perversion of
that which in itself is the best is worse than the perversion of that
which is less perfect: is in fact the worst of all kinds of perversion.
Therefore their punishment was the severest. So the position of the
Christian professing Church now, if it be not a light to the heathen
world, its condemnation will be sorer than theirs (Mt
5:13; 11:21-24; Heb 10:28, 29).
6. changed … into—rather, "hath
resisted My judgments wickedly"; "hath rebelled against
My ordinances for wickedness" [Buxtorf].
But see on Eze 5:7, end.
7. multiplied—rather, "have been more
abundantly outrageous"; literally, "to tumultuate"; to have an
extravagant rage for idols.
neither have done according to the judgments of
the nations—have not been as tenacious of the true religion
as the nations have been of the false. The heathen "changed" not their
gods, but the Jews changed Jehovah for idols (see Eze 5:6, "changed My judgments into wickedness,"
that is, idolatry, Jer 2:11).
The Chaldean version and the Masora support the negative.
Others omit it (as it is omitted in Eze 11:12), and translate, "but have done
according to the judgments," &c. However, both Eze 11:12 and also this verse are true. They in
one sense "did according to the heathen," namely, in all that was bad;
in another, namely, in that which was good, zeal for religion, they did
not. Eze 5:9 also
proves the negative to be genuine; because in changing their religion,
they have not done as the nations which have not changed theirs,
"I (also) will do in thee that which I have not done."
8. I, even I—awfully emphatic. I, even
I, whom thou thinkest to be asleep, but who am ever reigning as the
Omnipotent Avenger of sin, will vindicate My righteous government
before the nations by judgments on thee.
9. See on Eze 5:7.
that which I have not done—worse than
any former judgments (La 4:6; Da 9:12). The prophecy includes the destruction
of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the final one by Antichrist (Zec 13:8,
9; 14:2), as well as that by
Nebuchadnezzar. Their doom of evil was not exhausted by the Chaldean
conquest. There was to be a germinating evil in their destiny, because
there would be, as the Lord foresaw, a germinating evil in their
character. As God connected Himself peculiarly with Israel, so there
was to be a peculiar manifestation of God's wrath against sin in their
case [Fairbairn]. The higher the
privileges the greater the punishment in the case of abuse of them.
When God's greatest favor, the gospel, was given, and was abused by
them, then "the wrath was to come on them to the uttermost" (1Th 2:16).
10. fathers … eat …
sons—alluding to Moses' words (Le 26:29; De 28:53), with the additional sad feature, that
"the sons should eat their fathers" (see 2Ki 6:28; Jer 19:9;
La 2:20; 4:10).
11. as I live—the most solemn of oaths,
pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event.
defiled my sanctuary—the climax of
Jewish guilt: their defiling Jehovah's temple by introducing idols.
namely, Mine "eye" (which presently follows), that is, My favors; Job 36:7 uses the Hebrew verb in the
same way. As the Jews had withdrawn from God's sanctuary its
sacredness by "defiling" it, so God withdraws His countenance
from them. The significance of the expression lies in the allusion to
De 4:2, "Ye shall not diminish
aught from the word which I command you"; they had done so, therefore
God diminishes them. The reading found in six manuscripts, "I
will cut thee off," is not so good.
12. Statement in plain terms of what was
intended by the symbols (Eze 5:2; see
Eze 6:12; Jer 15:2; 21:9).
draw out … sword after
Skeptics object; no such thing happened under Zedekiah, as is here
foretold; namely, that a third part of the nation should die by
pestilence, a third part by the sword, and a third be scattered unto
all winds, and a sword sent after them. But the prophecy is not
restricted to Zedekiah's time. It includes all that Israel suffered, or
was still to suffer, for their sins, especially those committed at that
period (Eze 17:21).
It only received its primary fulfilment under Zedekiah: numbers then
died by the pestilence and by the sword; and numbers were scattered in
all quarters and not carried to Babylonia alone, as the objectors
assert (compare Ezr 1:4; Es 3:8; Ob 14).
pestilence … and
famine—signified by the symbol "fire" (Eze 5:2). Compare Isa 13:8; La 5:10; plague and famine burning and withering
the countenance, as fire does.
13. cause my fury to rest upon them—as
on its proper and permanent resting-place (Isa 30:32, Margin).
I will be comforted—expressed in
condescension to man's conceptions; signifying His satisfaction
in the vindication of His justice by His righteous judgments (De 28:63; Pr 1:26; Isa 1:24).
they shall how—by bitter
14. reproach among the nations—They
whose idolatries Israel had adopted, instead of comforting, would only
exult in their calamities brought on by those idolatries (compare Lu 15:15).
15. instruction—literally, "a corrective
chastisement," that is, a striking example to warn all of the
fatal consequences of sin. For "it shall be"; all ancient
versions have "thou," which the connection favors.
16. arrows of famine—hail, rain, mice,
locusts, mildew (see De 32:23, 24).
increase the famine—literally,
"congregate" or "collect." When ye think your harvest safe because ye
have escaped drought, mildew, &c., I will find other means [Calvin], which I will congregate as the
forces of an invading army, to bring famine on you.
17. beasts—perhaps meaning destructive
conquerors (Da 7:4).
Rather, literal "beasts," which infest desolated regions such as
Judea was to become (compare Eze 34:28; Ex
23:29; De 32:24; 2Ki 17:25).
The same threat is repeated in manifold forms to awaken the