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Ezekiel 5:1 You, son of man, take a sharp sword. You shall use it like a barber’s razor on yourself, and shall cause it to pass on your head and on your beard. Then take balances to weigh, and divide the hair- This was presumably to be done during the period Ezekiel was laying bound in Ez. 4. Ezekiel represented God, as made clear throughout the acted parable of Ez. 4. God like Ezekiel was taking the sword of the Babylonians into His own hand and as it were cutting off His own glory, represented by Ezekiel's hair (1 Cor. 11:15). Ezekiel may well have been a Nazirite with long hair. The eating of unclean food would have meant the end of his vow, and the need to shave his hair. The use of balances spoke of God's judgment of His glory, His hair, His people. They in all their sinfulness, like us, were intended to be His glory. God was not therefore left without personal suffering and loss through the sword He was bringing upon His people. 

Ezekiel 5:2 A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled; and you shall take a third part, and strike with the sword around it; and a third part you shall scatter to the wind - and I will draw out a sword after them- We would expect from this that the exiles would be persecuted and slain in captivity, and this surely was God's intended judgment. But in Esther we find the exiles in prosperity, in positions of power, and respected by their captors; and Jeremiah concludes his long prophecy with the information that Jehoiachin, Judah's exiled King, was exalted " above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon" and he was given special favour and honour by the King of Babylon (Jer. 52:31-34). I can only understand these things as pure grace; see on :9. God showed tenderness and favour to His people in captivity, far above what He had intended or what they deserved; they were punished less than their sins deserved at this time (Ezra 9:13; see on Ez. 4:12). And He does the same with us- He gives us so much more than we deserve. And yet most of Judah abused that grace; they were so taken up with the good life God gave them in captivity that they chose to remain there and not participate in the restoration. And we so easily can end up abusing His grace likewise.

The judgment of the people of Jerusalem by thirds becomes the basis for some of the visions of Revelation; and it is the same subject in view there, the latter day judgment upon the people of God in their land and city.

Ezekiel 5:3 You shall take of it a few in number, and bind them in your skirts- A tiny remnant would survive, but even they would be reduced to a tiny remnant. Only a remnant of a remnant would survive, and these were intended to be the repentant group who would bring about the restored kingdom of God in Israel. But in His grace, God didn't destroy on such a scale as here envisaged; and no repentant remnant therefore emerged. The "skirts" are s.w. "wings" in the cherubim visions (Ez. 1:9,11,23 etc.). Ezekiel was representing God; he could have been for the salvation of the remnant; see on Ez. 4:17. He was identified with the cherubim, as Judah also could have been. They too could have been transported with ease back to Jerusalem. But instead they imprisoned Ezekiel at the Chebar river.

Ezekiel 5:4 Of these again you shall take, and throw them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire; from it shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel- Perhaps the idea is that the destruction of the tiny minority of faithful ones by the persecution of the Jews themselves was what would bring the fire of judgment upon all Israel. The latter chapters of Isaiah speak of the persecution of this remnant by the Jews; Jeremiah was imprisoned and almost killed, as was Ezekiel. And Jewish tradition says that both those prophets were finally murdered by the Jews. Jerusalem killed the prophets, as the Lord lamented. The LXX however links this with :5 to imply that it was the burning of the house of Israel which would lead to the fire of judgment spreading from Jerusalem to the surrounding peoples who had participated in it.

Ezekiel 5:5 Thus says the Lord Yahweh: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the peoples and countries which are around her- Jerusalem ought to have been the spiritual light of the world around her, but she was not. She was the city set on a hill for all to see. But she failed in this, and so the Lord reapplied that idea to every individual believer in Him (Mt. 5:14,15).

Ezekiel 5:6 She has rebelled against My ordinances in doing wickedness more than the nations, and against My statutes more than the countries that are around her; for they have rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they have not walked in them- The Jews of course insisted that they were compliant with the law and covenant; but God perceived that in essence they were totally disobedient, and instead of being a moral light to the nations (see on :5), they were worse than the nations. The AV implies that Judah "changed" God's laws into wickedness.

Ezekiel 5:7 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because you are rebellious more than the nations that are around you and have not walked in My statutes, neither have kept My ordinances, neither have done after the ordinances of the nations that are around you- God was disappointed that His people had not only been disobedient to Him, but they had not even been obedient to their conquerors. He so values obedience, and had an attitude that sought to see if they would show it to at least someone, even if they had rejected Him. He analyzes every facet of human life, disobedience and obedience, and this highlights the depth of His grace.

Ezekiel 5:8 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I, even I, am against you; and I will execute judgments in the midst of you in the sight of the nations- Jerusalem and the temple was the location "in the midst of you", and the nations would view this in that their mercenaries were all part of the Babylonian army which sacked Jerusalem. But just as all the surrounding nations had been drawn against Zion to destroy it, so at the restoration it was God's intention that they would be gathered together there again in repentant worship (Jer. 3:17).

Ezekiel 5:9 I will do in you that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all your abominations- Again, this threat was ameliorated by God's grace. For the time of final unprecedented trouble for Jacob is yet future (Dan. 12:1,2; 1 Thess.2:16). It could have come in the Babylonian invasion, but God's grace didn't let it happen; see on :2. But the essence will come true, the prophetic word is not falsified by this grace; it will come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 5:10 Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of you, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments on you; and the whole remnant of you will I scatter to all the winds- This again repeats to the exiles in Babylon the words which Jeremiah had told to those in the land (Jer. 19:9). These things did indeed happen (Lam. 2:20; 4:10), in fulfilment of the curses for breaking the covenant (Lev. 26:29; Dt. 28:53). But as Solomon's prayer made clear, once those things had happened, then Israel were to look to Zion in repentance from the lands of their exile. And it was to this end that Ezekiel was amongst them. The scattering to the winds is again an allusion to the cherubim vision; the sound of wind is associated with them. They who could have saved Israel and returned them from captivity would further scatter them to the winds- and also, if the exiles were willing, return them. The Hebrew for "scatter" is literally to winnow, and again repeats Jeremiah's message to those in the land (Jer. 15:7 s.w.). But the idea of winnowing is that the grain falls to the earth, and this again was the idea- that out of the scattering throughout the provinces of Babylon, a remnant would fall to the earth / land from where they were winnowed, namely to Zion.

However, the scattering was not at all to the extent that God had envisaged here and in other prophecies. In wrath He remembered mercy, or perhaps the intercession and repentance of a minority led Him to ameliorate His judgments for their sakes. The Babylonians, unlike the Assyrians, didn't practice mass deportations. They removed the leadership of subjected peoples, and appointed locals as the leaders under their control. This is what they did to Judah, taking the royal family and priesthood into captivity, and establishing Gedaliah as puppet governor (Jer. 40: 7; 2 Kings 25:2) along with some local Jewish "elders" (Lam. 5:12), with Mizpeh rather than Jerusalem as the capital.  Ezra 9:7 is clear that it was "our kings and our priests [who] have been delivered" into captivity. The Babylonians saw no economic purpose in bringing masses of unskilled peasant farmers into captivity in their cities. It's been estimated that at least 90% of Judah were peasant farmers; and these, the impoverished masses, were left in the land and not deported (Jer. 52:16; 2 Kings 25:12). See on Ez. 11:15. The Babylonian policy regarding deportation and management of conquered lands is described in N.P. Lemche, Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society (Sheffield: JSOT, 1988) and D.L. Smith, The Religion of the Landless: The Social Context of the Babylonian Exile (Bloomington, IN: Meyer Stone, 1989). God did not therefore scatter all the people quite as He intended. There is archaeological evidence for continued agricultural activity in the land after the deportations. And Jer. 41:5 seems to speak of men coming to the Jerusalem temple from Shechem and Shiloh, in the ten tribe area, in order to offer grain offerings at the site of the temple. Presumably the altar had been destroyed, hence no animal sacrifices are mentioned. It has been suggested that the book of Lamentations was written as part of a temple ritual or at least material to be recited at the site of the temple.

Ezekiel 5:11 Therefore as I live, says the Lord Yahweh, surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations- "Defiled" is the word used in Ez. 4:14 of how Judah were to be defiled, to be ritually unclean, in their exile; but this is what they themselves had done by defiling or polluting the temple with the idols they placed within it, as Ezekiel will later reveal. So their judgment was as ever, appropriate to their sin. Their condemnation to defilement was in fact only a continuation of what they themselves had done.

Therefore will I also diminish you- They would likewise be "diminished" just as they had "diminished" God's laws and requirements (Dt. 12:32), minimizing and practicing reductionism to the point that they had done away with His law. We too can tend towards reductionism, reasoning towards the lowest common denominator rather than to the highest.

Neither shall My eye spare, and I also will have no pity- But the wonder of God's grace was that His eye did spare and He did pity at the restoration (Ez. 36:21; Joel 2:18; Mal. 3:17 s.w.), just as His eye had spared them in the desert (Ez. 20:17). This reveals the emotion of God, His pity even for the spiritually weak, and how this triumphs over His judgment.


Ezekiel 5:12 A third part of you shall die with the plague and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of you; and a third part shall fall by the sword around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds- It seems doubtful whether two thirds of Jerusalem died during the Babylonian siege. Rather it seems that God's grace was such that He didn't carry out His threats to the full extent; as Ezra perceived about the situation, they were punished less than their iniquities deserved (Ezra 9:13; see on Ez. 4:12). Jer. 40:7-12 is clear that a number of Jews did remain in the land immediately after the final Babylonian invasion.

And will draw out a sword after them- See on :2.

Ezekiel 5:13 Thus shall My anger be accomplished- These are the very words used about God's intention to utterly destroy Israel at the time of Ex. 32:10,12. But thanks to the intercession of Moses, this didn't happen. Moses later uses the term in reflecting how God's anger had been accomplished upon Israel, but not in the form of totally destroying them as He had first planned (Ps. 90:7). The implication of course was that a Moses-like figure could arise in intercession, God had been open to change the outworking of His anger, and so by implication He was likewise open at Ezekiel's time. And it seems He did relent, because as noted on :12, God did not totally destroy Jerusalem's population to the extent He had threatened. And yet just as Moses perceived that His anger was still accomplished, although without the total destruction of Israel, so Jeremiah uses this phrase in reflecting how in fact God's anger was accomplished in the Babylonian destruction (Lam. 4:11). Ezekiel himself will later note this too (Ez. 20:8,21).


And I will cause My wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted- The cessation, accomplishment or resting of God's wrath is mentioned several times in Ezekiel, and nowhere else in this way (Ez. 5:13; 6:12; 7:8; 13:15; 16:42; 20:8; 21:17; 22:20; 24:13). The idea is not that God was so angry that He had to express that anger and only calmed down once He had as it were lashed out. He does have real wrath; the huge love He has cannot exist in a dimensionless vacuum, it of itself implies He also has wrath. Ez. 5:13 continues: "I will cause My wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted", and the Hebrew there for "comforted" is literally 'to sigh', to be sorry, even to repent / change. Having expressed His legitimate anger, God knew that He would then be sorry and would then embark upon a process of restoration- by grace. For the objects of His wrath didn't deserve any restoration. "To rest" is the word translated "to place" in Ez. 37:14: "I shall place you in your own land" at the restoration from captivity. His wrath had to be expressed, and yet it was part of His wider purpose toward restoring His people and Kingdom. We would be quite wrong, therefore, to read these words as meaning that God was furiously angry and needed to lash out and get it all expressed so that He could as it were calm down again. His judgments are always ultimately constructive, and therefore "the wrath of God is the love of God". His wrath is therefore described in Ez. 5:15 as the rebuke of His fury / wrath; it was intended to rebuke, to achieve instruction, that they should 'know Yahweh'. The tragedy was that the captives for the most part refused to perceive it this way and respond.

They shall know that I, Yahweh, have spoken in My zeal, when I have accomplished My wrath on them- As noted on :12, God's words in wrath were not actually totally fulfilled. The Hebrew here is phrased in such a way as to imply that when the wrath was accomplished, they would realize that these threats were spoken in anger and had not been totally fulfilled; although it seems they will be finally in the holocaust of the last days.

Ezekiel 5:14 Moreover I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the peoples that are around you, in the sight of all that pass by- Again Ezekiel is repeating to the captives in Babylon the same message which Jeremiah was giving to the Jews in Judah (Jer. 19:8). This was the punishment for breaking the covenant (Lev. 26:13). But as shown on :12, God's threatened judgments were not executed to the degree He had originally planned; in wrath He remembered mercy. For there is evidence that Jerusalem was broken down but not completely desolate, some lived there, and even operated some limited temple services after the Babylonian destruction.

Ezekiel 5:15 So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment, to the peoples that are around you, when I shall execute judgments on you in anger and in wrath and in furious rebukes. I, Yahweh, have spoken it- God's fury was in order to rebuke. It was unlike human fury poured out upon the weak by the stronger. See on :13.

Ezekiel 5:16 They shall see, when I shall send on them the evil arrows of famine that are for destruction, which I will send to destroy you: when I will increase the famine on you, and will break your staff of bread- The arrows of famine may refer to the stabs of pain felt in extreme hunger, hence GNB "You will feel the pains of hunger like sharp arrows sent to destroy you". "Evil arrows" were thought to be cast by displeased gods; but here Yahweh insists that there is no supernatural evil, and He is going to be the one who fires such arrows. His omnipotence meant that there was no place left for any understanding of "evil" as coming from some cosmic evil being, such as the "satan" of modern theology.

Ezekiel 5:17 I will send on you famine and wild animals, and they shall bereave you; and pestilence and blood shall pass through you; and I will bring the sword on you: I, Yahweh, have spoken it- see on 1 Kings 22:22. The wild animals may be literal (as Dt. 32:23,24). In 2 Kings 17:25 literal lions were sent by God to punish people. However there is no record of this happening; again, as explained on :12, in wrath God remembered mercy. But the reference could be figurative, to Babylon as the "lion" with "eagle's wings" (Dan. 7:4). But this would then be an awkward repetition of "the sword" coming upon them.