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Ezekiel 5:1-4

1. And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair

1. Et tu, fili hominis, sume tibi gladium acutum, novaculum tonsorum, sume eum tibi, et transire fac, 105105     That is, “draw it across” — Calvin. super caput tuum, et super barbam tuam: et sume tibi stateram ponderis, 106106     That is, “a just one.” — Calvin. et divide illa. 107107     That is, “the hairs which are erect upon thy head and thy beard.” — Calvin.

2. Thou 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.

2. Tertiam partem igne combures in medio urbis, ut completi fuerint dies 108108     “They shall be filled up;” literally, “for filling up the days” — Calvin. obsidionis: sumes tertiam partem, percuties gladio per circuitum ejus, tertiam vero partem sparges in ventum: et gladium evaginabo post eos.

3. Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.

3. Et sumes inde exiguum in numero, et ligabis illa 109109     That is, “a small part in number.” — Calvin. in alis tuis. 110110     That is, “that part of them in the skirts of thy garments.” — Calvin.

4. Then 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.

4. Et ex illis adhuc sumes, et projicies illa in medium ignis mittes et combures illa igne, unde egredetur ignis in totum domum Israel.


By another vision God confirms what he had lately taught concerning the siege of Jerusalem. For he orders the Prophet to shave the hairs off his head and his beard, then to distribute them into three parts, and to weigh them in a balance. He mentions a just balance, that equity may be preserved, and that one portion may not surpass another. There is no doubt that by the hairs he understands the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as by the head he understands the seat itself of their dwelling-place. Then the application will follow; but this I shall pass by today, because I cannot proceed farther. It is sufficient to hold briefly, that men are here designated by hairs, for hair can scarcely be counted, indeed that of the beard is countless; such was the multitude at Jerusalem, for we know that the city was very populous. We know, again, that it took occasion for pride from this; when they saw that they were strong in the multitude of their people, they thought themselves equal, if not superior, to all enemies, and hence their foolish confidence, which destroyed them. God then commanded the Prophet to shave off all the hairs of his head and of his beard. Thus he taught that not even one man should escape the slaughter, because he says, make the sword pass, or pass it, over thy head, then over thy chin, so that nothing may remain. We see, then, how far the passing of the razor is to go — until no hair remains entire on either the head or beard. Whence it follows, that God will take vengeance on the whole nation, so that not one of them shall survive. As to his ordering three parts to be weighed, and a proportion to be kept between them, in this way he signifies what we have often seen in Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 15:2) — Whosoever shall have escaped the sword shall perish by famine, and whosoever shall escape the famine shall perish by some other means. But here God explains at length the manner in which he was about to destroy all the Jews, although they were distributed into various ranks. For their condition might seem different when some had been put to flight, and others had betaken themselves to Egypt. But in this variety God shows that it detracts nothing from his power or intention of destroying them to a man.

Let us come to the words make a razor pass over thy head and over, thy beard; and then take scales מאזנים, maznim, is properly called a balance on account of its two ears. Take, therefore, a balance, or scales for weighing, and divide the hair. What this division means I have already explained, because all the Jews were not consumed by the same punishment,, and therefore those who had escaped one kind of destruction boasted that they were safe. Hence they were enraged against God. But this foolish confidence is taken away, when the Prophet is ordered to divide the hair extracted from his head and beard, Divide them, he says; afterwards he adds, a third part. As to God’s distributing the people into three parts, it is not done without the best reason for it; for a part was consumed by famine and distress before the city was taken. But because God marks all miseries by fire, therefore he orders a third part to be cast into the fire, and consumed there. Now because there were two parts remaining, every one promised himself life; for he who escapes present death thinks himself free from all danger, and hence confidence is increased; for we too often think ourselves safe when we have overcome one kind of death. For this reason, therefore, it is added, after thou hast burnt a third part in the fire, he says, take a third part and strike it with the sword Besides, he orders a third part to be burnt in the midst of the city. Ezekiel was then in Chaldea, and not near the city; but we said that all this took place by a prophetic vision. What is here said answers to the wrath of God, because before the siege of the city, a third part was consumed by pestilence, and famine, and distress, and other evils and slaughters; and all these miseries are here denoted by fire. For after the city had been taken, God orders a third part to be struck with the sword. We know this to have been fulfilled when the king with all his company was seized, as he was flying over the plain of Jericho, (2 Kings 25) when meeting with the hostile army; because very many were killed there, the king himself was carried off, his sons murdered in his sight, while his eyes were put out, and he was dragged to Babylon bound in chains. Hence this is the third part, which he commanded the Prophet to strike with the sword, because that slaughter represented the slaughter of the city.

Now it is added, that he should take a third part and cast it to the wind: then follows the threat, I will unsheathe my sword after them Here it is spoken as well of the fugitives who had gone into various countries, as of the poor, who being dispersed after the slaughter of the city, protracted their life but a short time. For we know that some lay hid in the land of Moab, others in that of Ammon, more in Egypt, and that others fled to various hiding-places. This dispersion was as if any one should cast the shorn-off hairs to the wind. But God pronounces that their flight and dispersion would not profit them, because he will draw his sword against them and follow them up to the very last. We see therefore, although at first sight the citizens of Jerusalem differ, as if they were divided into three classes, yet the wrath of God hangs over all, and destroys the whole multitude.

It is now added: Thou shalt take then a small number, and bind them, (that is, that number, but the number is changed,) viz., those hairs of which the number is small in the skirts of thy clothing It either takes away the confidence which might spring up from a temporary escape, or else it signifies that very few should be safe in the midst of the destruction of the whole people, which came to pass wonderfully. If that is received, the correction is added, that God would give some hope of favor because the people was consumed, yet so that the covenant of God might remain. Hence it was necessary that some relics should be preserved, and they had been reduced like Sodom, unless God had kept for himself a small seed. (Isaiah 1:9; Romans 9:29.) Therefore in this sense the Prophet is ordered to bind and to hide in the skirts of his garment, some part of the hair. Moreover, that part is understood only in the third order, because those who had escaped thought that they had obtained safety by flight, especially when they collected themselves in troops. Afterwards it follows, thou shalt then take from these, and throw it into the midst of the fire, and burn it in the fire Out of these few hairs God wishes another part to be burnt and consumed; by which words he signifies, even where only a small portion remains, yet it must be consumed in like manner, or at least that many out of these few will be rejected. And indeed those who seemed to have happily escaped and to have survived safely, were soon after cut off by various slaughters, or pined away by degrees as if they had perished by a slow contagion. But since it pleased him to remember his promise, we gather that a few of the people survived through God’s wonderful mercy: for because he was mindful of his covenant, he wished some part to be preserved, and therefore that correction was interposed, that the Prophet should bind under his skirts a small number. Yet from that remnant, God again snatched away another part, and cast it into the fire. If the filth of the remainder was such, that it was necessary to purge it, and cast part of it into the fire, what must be thought of the whole people, that is, of the dregs themselves? For the portion which the Prophet bound in his skirts was clearly the flower of the people: if there was any integrity, it ought to be seen there.

We just saw that there were many reprobate in that small number. Hence, therefore, it is easily gathered how desperate was the impiety of the whole people. After this, he says, take: this adverb is used that those who survived after the slaughter of the city should not think that all their punishments were over: after this, says he, that is, when they shall fancy all their difficulties over, thou shalt take from that part which thou hast preserved, and shalt cast it into the fire. Thence, he says, a fire shall go forth through the whole house of Israel He signifies by these words, as we have seen before, that the vision was not illusory, just as many fictitious things are represented in a theater. Hence God says, what he shows by vision to his servant would happen, as the event itself at length proved. But he goes further that the whole house of Israel shall burn in this burning, because indeed the last destruction of the city brought despair to the miserable, exiles, who, while the city was standing, promised themselves a return. But when they saw such utter destruction of the city, they were consumed just as if fire from Judea had crept even to themselves. In the meantime the remnant are always excepted whom the Lord wonderfully preserved, although he was in a vision destroying the whole people. We now see the tendency of this vision. I will not proceed further, because I should be compelled to desist, and so the doctrine would be abrupt. It is sufficient therefore to hold, although the people was divided into many parts so that the condition of each was distinct, yet that all should perish, since God so determined. Hence the confidence of those who thought they would be safe at Jerusalem was broken: then the ten tribes, which were captives, ought also to acknowledge that the last vengeance of God was not complete, until the city itself, the seat of government and the priesthood was destroyed.

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