For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

5:1.  “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.”


“... take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor” is more accurately translated, “take thee a sharp sword, and use it as a barber’s razor.”  Ezekiel was to use it to shave all the hair from his head and face; and he was then to divide the hair into three parts by weighing it, a small quantity being kept separate for use as described in verse 3.


A shaved head was a sign of mourning, but in the present context may signify also the removal of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and of the whole land.


The shorn hair represents Israel; and the balances are the symbol of Divine judgment, e.g., God’s words to Belshazzar, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,” Dan 5:27.


5:2.  “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 (sword): and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind.”


The siege was that mounted by the Babylonians in 586 BC, which ended with their doing what was symbolically portrayed in what Ezekiel did with his shorn hair, as explained in verse 12: the third part which he burned represented those who died of hunger or disease; the third part cut with the sword depicted those who were slain; and the third part scattered to the wind symbolized those who were carried captive to Babylon.


5:3.  “Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.”


The prophet was also to take a few strands of the shorn hair and bind (fasten, tie) them to the edge of his robe.  They appear to represent the few who may have managed to escape in the confusion, or who may have surrendered to the Babylonians when the siege began, see Jer 38:19.


5:4.  “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.”


Some of the few remaining strands of hair were then to be taken and burned, signifying that the sword of the Lord would follow and slay some of the few who would escape death at the hand of the Babylonians.  Most of that wicked generation were to perish.


5:5.  “Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.”


Jerusalem here represents the whole nation.  This is generally understood to be the introduction to God’s summation of Israel’s wickedness which had made her the object of His destruction rather than His blessing.  He had placed her amongst the nations to live to His glory, a center from which was to radiate the knowledge of Him to the whole earth; but she had dishonored Him by her wickedness, thereby robbing herself of blessing, and sealing her own doom.


5:6.  “And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.”


“... judgments” are rules or laws in general; and statutes are virtually the same, except that in the present context they seem to relate specifically to God’s appointed laws governing worship.  Israel, in brazen rebellion, had deliberately refused to obey His laws, and had changed them to accommodate their own sinful desires.  The countries around Israel also had judgments and statutes for the common well-being, but of their own making, yet even they were more obedient to those rules than was Israel to God’s.


5:7.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;”


“... more turbulent: more rebellious” are preferable translations of “are multiplied.”  The enormity of Israel’s wickedness may be gauged by the fact that they had not only failed to live according to God’s laws; but even by the low standards of the surrounding nations they were utterly depraved.  They are described in The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary as having “an extravagant rage for idols.”


5:8.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.”


Rebel Israel had not only incurred the condemnation of her neighbors, but now finally also of God, thus making Him her enemy rather than her benefactor, and forfeiting blessing in exchange for castigation.  And as she had dishonored Him before the nations, so would they, the nations, now witness her dishonor and punishment at His hand, as it is written, “... them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed,” 1 Sa 2:30.


5:9.  “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations.”


5:10.  “Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.”


What God had not done to them before was what He did to them in their conflict with Babylon.  He caused them to be besieged, so that multitudes died of famine and disease, the scarcity of food becoming so great that they resorted to cannibalism, and it is instructive to note that Moses had foretold just such a calamity in Le 26:29, “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.”


God’s promise, “I will not do any more the like,” has been kept: there is no record of Israel’s ever again having resorted to cannibalism.  But in AD 70 He did scatter them amongst the nations, that Diaspora leaving them still exiled to this day, apart from the few who have been returning to the land since 1948, that ongoing return being the clearest indication that the end of the age is upon us, as foretold by the Lord Himself in Mt 24 where Israel is portrayed under the symbol of a fig tree, the Lord’s assurance being, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”  We are the generation that has witnessed the budding of the “fig tree.”


5:11.  “Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord God; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity.”


God’s threat was immutable.  That wicked generation would be destroyed without either pity or mercy.


“... diminish” is also translated cut you down.


Since the defilement of the sanctuary is described in detail in chapter 8, it will be discussed more fully in our study of that section.


“... detestable ... abominations” are also translated unclean: hated: loathsome: disgusting: horrible: filthy: vile.


5:12.  “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.”


This interprets what is declared symbolically in verse 2.


5:13.  “Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know that I the Lord have spoken it in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury in them.”


Only when the Lord had executed all his threats against the guilty nation would His furious anger cease and He be satisfied; and only then, too late, would the guilty rebels know that the One they had brazenly defied was the omnipotent Creator.


Tragically too late, every unrepentant rebel will learn that same truth in the eternal torment of hell and the lake of fire.


5:14.  “Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.”


“... waste” is also translated a desolation: desolate ruin, some understanding this to be descriptive of the land emptied of its inhabitants, and untended, rather than of the people; but both, in fact are true.  The fall of the once favored and exalted people would evoke the contempt of the surrounding nations.


5:15.  “So shall it be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes.  I the Lord have spoken it.”


Many manuscripts have “So shall you be a reproach,” rather than “So shall it ...,” the latter clearly being the better translation.


Under His chastisement Israel would become not only an object of mockery and contempt, but also a warning against trifling with God, His punishment of His own disobedient people causing shock and consternation amongst the surrounding nations, and teaching people in every age that, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Heb 10:31.


5:16.  “When I shall send upon them (rebel Israel) the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread:”


The “you” and “your” in the latter half of this verse are used rather than “them” and “their,” not because Ezekiel was rebellious, but because, like many another obedient believer down through the ages, he too would have to endure the same suffering as the rebel majority of his nation.  Believers are not exempt from having to share in the earthly common lot of their unsaved neighbors.


When we remember that bread is used symbolically in Scripture to represent the written Word, the application of the lesson to us becomes apparent, for Christendom has followed all too faithfully in Israel’s disobedient footsteps, and only blind eyes will fail to see that we too are in the midst of a spiritual famine. 


This is not to say that the written Word is not available in greater measure than at any other time in the history of the world.  It is.  Bibles at minimal cost pour off the presses daily.  But it is necessary to understand that Scripture becomes spiritual food only as it is read and studied under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, unquenched and ungrieved, as it is written, “... the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Cor 2:14


The disobedient believer, however, by his very insubordination puts himself in the same position as the unbeliever, his rebellion quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit, and cutting off His ministry of enlightenment, so that to that man Scripture becomes little more than just another piece of literature.  And who can deny that disobedience characterizes the lives of multitudes of professed believers today, their spiritual state being advertized, not only in their lifestyles, but in their inability to understand the symbolic language of the OT!


5:17.  “So will I send you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee.  I the Lord have spoken it.”


In addition to famine, wild animals would also be multiplied throughout the land, and would kill some of their children, while disease and warfare would further increase the death toll, the certainty of war being conveyed in the words, “I will bring the sword upon thee,” and the immutability of the dire prediction being pledged in the words, “I the Lord have spoken it.”

[Ezekiel 6]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough