Ezekiel 5:1
And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's rasor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.
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(1) Take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor.—Rather, take thee a sharp sword, as a barber’s razor shalt thou take it to thee. The word knife is the same as that used twice in Ezekiel 5:2, and translated once by knife and once by sword. It is occasionally used for any sharp-cutting instrument, but is most commonly taken, as here, for a sword. The English version also neglects to notice the pronoun in the second clause. The thought is plainly that the prophet is to take a sword, on account of its symbolism, and use it instead of a razor.

Upon thine head, and upon thy beard.—The cutting off the hair was a common mark of mourning (see Job 1:20; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 7:29); but the allusion here seems to be rather to Isaiah 7:20, in which God describes his coming judgments upon Israel as a shaving, “with a razor that is hired . . . by the king of Assyria,” of the head and the beard. The symbolism was the more marked because Ezekiel was a priest, and the priests were expressly forbidden in the law to shave either the head or the beard (Leviticus 21:5). The shaving, therefore, of a priest’s head and beard with a sword betokened a most desolating judgment.

Then take thee balances to weigh is not a mere detail introduced to give vividness to the symbolism, but seems designed to show the absolute certainty of the impending judgment.

Ezekiel 5:1. Take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor — The latter expression explains the former; and cause it to pass upon thy head, &c. — Hair being then accounted an ornament, and baldness a token of sorrow, therefore shaving denoted calamity or desolation. “Among the Arabs,” says Harmer, chap. 6. observ. 23, “there cannot be a greater stamp of infamy than to cut off any one’s beard: and many among them would prefer death to this kind of punishment. And as they would think it a grievous calamity to lose it, so they carry things so far as to beg for the sake of it, ‘By your beard, by the life of your beard, do.’ In like manner some of the benedictions are, ‘God preserve your blessed beard, God pour his blessings on your beard.’ And when they would express their value for a thing, they say, ‘It is worth more than his beard.’ I never had so clear an apprehension, I must confess, as after I had read these accounts, of the intended energy of that thought of Ezekiel, where the inhabitants are compared to the hair of the prophet’s head and beard. The passage seems to signify, that though the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been dear to God, as the hair of an eastern beard to its owner, yet that they should be taken away and consumed, one part by pestilence and famine, another part by the sword, and a third by the calamities of an exile.” See note on 2 Samuel 10:4. And then take the balances, &c. — A symbol of God’s justice, as the razor was of his wrath; to weigh and divide the hair — What the prophet is here commanded to do was by way of another emblematical representation of what was to happen to the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. The hair signified the Jewish people; shaving the hair with a razor, the divine vengeance; the weighing of the hair in the balances, the divine equity, which metes out to every one what is just and right; the dividing of the hair, the punishments allotted to different persons of them.

5:1-4 The prophet must shave off the hair of his head and beard, which signifies God's utter rejecting and abandoning that people. One part must be burned in the midst of the city, denoting the multitudes that should perish by famine and pestilence. Another part was to be cut in pieces, representing the many who were slain by the sword. Another part was to be scattered in the wind, denoting the carrying away of some into the land of the conqueror, and the flight of others into the neighbouring countries for shelter. A small quantity of the third portion was to be bound in his shirts, as that of which he is very careful. But few were reserved. To whatever refuge sinners flee, the fire and sword of God's wrath will consume them.Translate it: take thee a sharp sword, for a barber's razor thou shalt take it thee. Even if the action were literal, the use of an actual sword would best enforce the symbolic meaning. The "head" represents the chief city, the "hair" the inhabitants - its ornament and glory - the "hair cut from the head" the exiles cast forth from their homes. It adds to the force of the representation that "to shave the head" was a token of mourning Job 1:20, and was forbidden to the priests Leviticus 21:5. Thus, in many ways, this action of Ezekiel "the priest" is significant of calamity and ruin. The sword indicates the avenging power; the shaving of the head the removal of grace and glory; the scales and weights the determination of divine justice. Compare Zechariah 13:8-9. CHAPTER 5

Eze 5:1-17. Vision of Cutting the Hairs, and the Calamities Foreshadowed Thereby.

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).Under the type of the prophet’s hair, Ezekiel 5:1-4, is showed God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, Ezekiel 5:5-11, by pestilence, by famine, by the sword, and by dispersion, Ezekiel 5:12-17.

It is not unlikely that this command was given to the prophet so soon as he had understood the former chapter’s vision.

Song of Solomon of man: see Ezekiel 2:1.

Take thee; procure it by any means.

A sharp knife; a sword or knife very sharp, as the Hebrew; so the grievous judgment is expressed Ezekiel 21:9-11,14-16, and here the speedy, irresistible, and sweeping judgment against this people is aptly set forth.

A barber’s razor: this in different words is the same thing, and explains the former, and makes the emblem more exact, for by hair shaved and destroyed is the destruction of Jerusalem and its people represented to us, Now, that this may appear in the certainty of it, both a sword for strength, and sharp for cutting, nay, a razor much sharper, that shaves close, leaves nothing behind it, and cannot be resisted by the weak hair, so shall it be here with this people.

Cause it to pass; a Hebraism, shave close with it.

Thy head; the chief, as king and rulers, the city.

Thy beard; the common citizens; or, the towns round about.

Balances; just and exact scales, an emblem of Divine justice and equity.

To weigh: the prophet’s weighing represents God weighing these men and their ways.

The hair; these light, vain, and worthless ones, inhabitants of this sinful city, 2 Samuel 10:4,5 Jer 41:5 48:37. Thus foretell them their mourning, reproach, and deformity that is coming, for all this is signified by this shaving head and beard.

And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife,.... Or, "sword" (m). The word signifies any sharp instrument, by which anything is cut off, or cut asunder; what is here meant is explained by the following:

take thee a barber's razor. The Septuagint and Arabic versions read this in conjunction with the former, thus, "take thee a knife", or "sword, sharper than a barber's razor"; and so the Syriac version, "take thee a sword sharp as a barber's razor"; this sharp knife, sword, or razor, signifies, as Jarchi interprets it, Nebuchadnezzar; and very rightly; so the king of Assyria is called in Isaiah 7:20,

and cause it to pass upon thine head, and upon thy beard; the "head" was a symbol of the city of Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judea; the "beard", of the cities, towns, and villages about it; and the "hair" of both, of the common people; compared to hair for their numbers, for their levity and unsteadiness, and for their being the beauty and ornament of the places where they lived; and the shaving of them denotes their disgrace and destruction, and mourning on account thereof:

then take thee balances to weigh and divide the hair. The Syriac version adds, "into three parts"; signifying, that several distinct punishments would be inflicted on them, and these according to the righteous judgment of God; balances being a symbol of justice.

(m) "gladium", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Polanus, Starckius.

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

(a) To shave your head and your beard.

1. a sharp knife] lit. sword. The term may suggest the devouring divine sword, ch. Ezekiel 21:8 seq.

take thee a barber’s rasor] With R.V., as a barber’s razor shalt thou take it unto thee. Two weapons are not to be taken, the sword is to be used as a razor. Isaiah (ch. Isaiah 7:20) had already said: “In that day shall the Lord shave with the razor that is hired, even with the king of Assyria, the beard and the hair of the feet.” The land is likened to a man; the enemy sweeps off the population clean as the razor does the hair of the body.

balances to weigh] The divine justice is accurate, assigning to each part its destined chastisement; Jeremiah 15:2, “Such as are for death to death; and such as are for the sword to the sword; and such as are for the famine to the famine; and such as are for the captivity to the captivity.”

Ch. Ezekiel 5:1-4. Symbol shewing the fate of the population during the siege and after it, and their dispersion among the nations

The prophet is commanded to take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor. With this he is to shave off the hair of his head and beard. He is then to take balances in order accurately to weigh the hair into three parts. One third is to be burned in the fire within the city; a second third to be cut to pieces with the sword round about the city; and the last third is to be strewn to all the winds, and pursued by the sword. Of these last a few were to be taken and bound in the skirts of the prophet’s garment; though of these again some were to be thrown into the fire and consumed. The sense of the symbol is clear; a third part of the population shall be consumed by pestilence and famine within the city (Ezekiel 5:12); a third shall fall by the sword round about the city, on its capture; and a third shall be scattered among all nations, pursued by the sword. Of these a few shall meantime escape, but shall be subjected anew to consuming judgments.

Verse 1. - Take thee a barber's razor, etc. The series of symbolic acts is carried further. Recollections of Isaiah and Leviticus mingle strangely in the prophet's mind. The former had made the "razor" the symbol of the devastation wrought by an invading army (Isaiah 7:20). The latter had forbidden its use for the head and beard of the priests (Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5). Once again Ezekiel is commanded to do a forbidden thing as a symbolic act. He is, for the moment, the representative of the people of Jerusalem, and there is to be, as of old, a great destruction of that people as "by a razor that is hired." The word for "barber" (perhaps "hair cutter") does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament, but its use may be noted as showing that then, as now, the "barber" was a recognized institution in every Eastern town. The word for "knife" (Joshua 5:2; 1 Kings 18:28) is used in ver. 2, and commonly throughout the Old Testament, for "sword," and is so translated here by the LXX. and Vulgate. The prophet is to take a "sword" and use it as a razor, to make the symbolism more effective. Ezekiel 5:1The third symbolical act. - Ezekiel 4:9. And do thou take to thyself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and spelt, and put them in a vessel, and prepare them as bread for thyself, according to the number of the days on which thou liest on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:10. And thy food, which thou eatest, shall be according to weight, twenty shekels for a day; from time to time shalt thou eat it. Ezekiel 4:11. And water shalt thou drink according to measure, a sixth part of the hin, from time to time shalt thou drink it. Ezekiel 4:12. And as barley cakes shalt thou eat it, and shalt bake it before their eyes with human excrement. Ezekiel 4:13. And Jehovah spake; then shall the children of Israel eat their bread polluted amongst the heathen, whither I shall drive them. Ezekiel 4:14. Then said I: Ah! Lord, Jehovah, my soul has never been polluted; and of a carcase, and of that which is torn, have I never eaten from my youth up until now, and abominable flesh has not come into my mouth. Ezekiel 4:15. Then said He unto me: Lo, I allow thee the dung of animals instead of that of man; therewith mayest thou prepare thy bread. Ezekiel 4:16. And He said to me, Son of man, lo, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, so that they will eat bread according to weight, and in affliction, and drink water by measure, and in amazement. Ezekiel 4:17. Because bread and water shall fail, and they shall pine away one with another, and disappear in their guilt. - For the whole duration of the symbolical siege of Jerusalem, Ezekiel is to furnish himself with a store of grain corn and leguminous fruits, to place this store in a vessel beside him, and daily to prepare in the form of bread a measured portion of the same, 20 shekels in weight (about 9 ounces), and to bake this as barley cakes upon a fire, prepared with dried dung, and then to partake of it at the different hours for meals throughout the day. In addition to this, he is, at the hours appointed for eating, to drink water, in like manner according to measure, a sixth part of the hin daily, i.e., a quantity less than a pint (cf. Biblisch. Archol. II. p. 141). The Israelites, probably, generally prepared the עגּות from wheat flour, and not merely when they had guests (Genesis 18:6). Ezekiel, however, is to take, in addition, other kinds of grain with leguminous fruits, which were employed in the preparation of bread when wheat was deficient; barley - baked into bread by the poor (Judges 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; see on 1 Kings 5:8); פּול, "beans," a common food of the Hebrews (2 Samuel 17:28), which appears to have been mixed with other kinds of grain for the purpose of being baked into bread.

(Note: Cf. Plinii Histor. Natur. xviii. 30: "Inter legumina maximus honos fabae, quippe ex qua tentatus sit etiam panis...Frumento etiam miscetur apud plerasque gentes et maxime panico solida ac delicatius fracta.")

This especially holds true of the lentiles, a favourite food of the Hebrews (Genesis 25:29.), from which, in Egypt at the present day, the poor still bake bread in times of severe famine (Sonnini, R. II. 390; ἄρτος φάκινος, Athenaeus, IV. 158). דּחן, "millet," termed by the Arabs "Dochn" (Arab. dchn), panicum, a fruit cultivated in Egypt, and still more frequently in Arabia (see Wellsted, Arab. I. 295), consisting of longish round brown grain, resembling rice, from which, in the absence of better fruits, a sort of bad bread is baked. Cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, i. 453ff.; and Gesen. Thesaur. p. 333. כּסּמים, "spelt or German corn" (cf. Exodus 9:32), a kind of grain which produces a finer and whiter flour than wheat flour; the bread, however, which is baked from it is somewhat dry, and is said to be less nutritive than wheat bread; cf. Celsius, Hierobotan, ii. 98f. Of all these fruits Ezekiel is to place certain quantities in a vessel - to indicate that all kinds of grain and leguminous fruits capable of being converted into bread will be collected, in order to bake bread for the appeasing of hunger. In the intermixture of various kinds of flour we are not, with Hitzig, to seek a transgression of the law in Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9. מספּר is the accusative of measure or duration. The quantity is to be fixed according to the number of the days. In Ezekiel 4:9 only the 390 days of the house of Israel's period of punishment are mentioned - quod plures essent et fere universa summa (Prado); and because this was sufficient to make prominent the hardship and oppression of the situation, the 40 days of Judah were omitted for the sake of brevity.

(Note: Kliefoth's supposition is untenable, that what is required in Ezekiel 4:9-17 refers in reality only to the 390 days of Israel, and not also to the 40 days of Judah, so that so long as Ezekiel lay and bore the sins of Israel, he was to eat his food by measure, and unclean. For this is in contradiction with the distinct announcement that during the whole time that he lay upon the one side and the other, he was besieging Jerusalem; and by the scanty and unclean food, was to portray both the deficiency of bread and water which occurred in the besieged city (Ezekiel 4:17), as well as the eating of unclean bread, which impended over the Israelites when among the heathen nations. The famine which took place in Jerusalem during the siege did not affect the ten tribes, but that of Judah; while unclean bread had to be eaten among the heathen not only by the Israelites, but also by the Jews transported to Babylon. By the limitation of what is prescribed to the prophet in Ezekiel 4:9-15 to the time during which the sin of Israel was to be borne, the significance of this symbolical act for Jerusalem and Judah is taken away.)

מאכלך וגו, "thy food which thou shalt eat," i.e., the definite portion which thou shalt have to eat, shall be according to weight (between subject and predicate the substantive verb is to be supplied). Twenty shekels equals 8 or 9 ounces of flour, yield 11 or 12 ounces of bread, i.e., at most the half of what a man needs in southern countries for his daily support.

(Note: In our climate (Germany) we count 2 lbs. of bread for the daily supply of a man; but in warm countries the demand for food is less, so that scarcely 1 1/2 lbs. are required. Wellsted (Travels in Arabia, II. p. 200) relates that "the Bedoweens will undertake a journey of 10 to 12 days without carrying with them any nutriment, save a bottle full of small cakes, baked of white flour and camel or goat's milk, and a leather bag of water. Such a cake weighs about 5 ounces. Two of them, and a mouthful of water, the latter twice within 24 hours, is all which they then partake of.")

The same is the case with the water. A sixth part of a hin, i.e., a quantity less than a pint, is a very stubborn allowance for a day. Both, however - eating the bread and drinking the water - he shall do from time to time, i.e., "not throughout the entire fixed period of 390 days" (Hvernick); but he shall not eat the daily ration at once, but divided into portions according to the daily hours of meals, so that he will never be completely satisfied. In addition to this is the pollution (Ezekiel 4:12.) of the scanty allowance of food by the manner in which it is prepared. ענּת שׂערים is predicate: "as barley cakes," shalt thou eat them. The suffix in תּאכלנּה is neuter, and refers to לחם in Ezekiel 4:9, or rather to the kinds of grain there enumerated, which are ground and baked before them: לחם, i.e., "food." The addition שׂערים is not to be explained from this, that the principal part of these consisted of barley, nor does it prove that in general no other than barley cakes were known (Hitzig), but only that the cakes of barley meal, baked in the ashes, were an extremely frugal kind of bread, which that prepared by Ezekiel was to resemble. The עגּה was probably always baked on hot ashes, or on hot stones (1 Kings 19:6), not on pans, as Kliefoth here supposes. The prophet, however, is to bake them in (with) human ordure. This is by no means to be understood as if he were to mix the ordure with the food, for which view Isaiah 36:12 has been erroneously appealed to; but - as עליהם in Ezekiel 4:15 clearly shows - he is to bake it over the dung, i.e., so that dung forms the material of the fire. That the bread must be polluted by this is conceivable, although it cannot be proved from the passages in Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21, and Deuteronomy 23:13 that the use of fire composed of dung made the food prepared thereon levitically unclean. The use of fire with human ordure must have communicated to the bread a loathsome smell and taste, by which it was rendered unclean, even if it had not been immediately baked in the hot ashes. That the pollution of the bread is the object of this injunction, we see from the explanation which God gives in Ezekiel 4:13 : "Thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the heathen." The heart of the prophet, however, rebels against such food. He says he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law; from his youth up he has eaten no unclean flesh, neither of a carcase, nor of that which was torn by wild beasts (cf. Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21), nor flesh of sacrifices decayed or putrefying (פּגּוּל, see on Leviticus 7:18; Isaiah 65:4). On this God omits the requirement in Ezekiel 4:12, and permits him to take for firing the dung of oxen instead of that of men.

(Note: The use of dung as a material for burning is so common in the East, that it cannot be supposed that Ezekiel first became acquainted with it in a foreign country, and therefore regarded it with peculiar loathing. Human ordure, of course, so far as our knowledge goes, is never so employed, although the objection raised by Hitzig, on the other hand, that it would not yield so much heat as would be necessary for roasting without immediate contact, i.e., through the medium of a brick, rests upon an erroneous representation of the matter. But the employment of cattle-dung for firing could not be unknown to the Israelites, as it forms in the Huaran (the ancient Bashan) the customary firing material; cf. Wetzstein's remarks on Delitzsch's Job, vol. I. pp. 377, 8 (Eng. trn.), where the preparation of the g'elle - this prevalent material for burning in the Hauran - from cow-dung mixed with chopped straw is minutely described; and this remark is made among others, that the flame of the g'elle, prepared and dried from the dung of oxen that feed at large, is entirely without smoke, and that the ashes, which retain their heat for a lengthened time, are as clean as those of wood.)

In Ezekiel 4:16., finally, is given the explanation of the scanty allowance of food meted out to the prophet, namely, that the Lord, at the impending siege of Jerusalem, is to take away from the people the staff of bread, and leave them to languish in hunger and distress. The explanation is in literal adherence to the threatenings of the law (Leviticus 26:26 and Leviticus 26:39), which are now to pass into fulfilment. Bread is called "staff of bread" as being indispensable for the preservation of life. To בּמשׁקל, Leviticus 26:26, בּדאגה, "in sorrow," is added; and to the water, בּשׁמּמון, "in astonishment," i.e., in fixed, silent pain at the miserable death, by hunger and thirst, which they see before them. נמקּוּ בּעונם as Leviticus 26:39. If we, finally, cast a look over the contents of this first sign, it says that Jerusalem is soon to be besieged, and during the siege is to suffer hunger and terror as a punishment for the sins of Israel and Judah; that upon the capture of the city of Israel (Judah) they are to be dispersed among the heathen, and will there be obliged to eat unclean bread. To this in Ezekiel 5 is joined a second sign, which shows further how it shall fare with the people at and after the capture of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-4); and after that a longer oracle, which developes the significance of these signs, and establishes the necessity of the penal judgment (Ezekiel 4:5-17).

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