Where the world comes to study the Bible

Ezekiel 5



Jerusalem's Destruction Foretold A Sword Against Jerusalem Symbolic Actions Describing the Coming Siege of Jerusalem
Ezekiel Cuts His Hair The Siege of Jerusalem Foretold
5:1-4 5:1-4 5:1-4 5:1-4 5:1-4
5:5-12 5:5-17 5:5-12 5:5-10 5:5-6
5:13-17   5:13-17 5:13-14  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1"As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take and use it as a barber's razor on your head and beard. Then take scales for weighing and divide the hair. 2One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. 3Take also a few in number from them and bind them in the edges of your robes. 4Take again some of them and throw them into the fire and burn them in the fire; from it a fire will spread to all the house of Israel."

5:1 "son of man" See note at 2:1.

▣ "take a sharp sword" The verb (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative) is a command. The normal instrument for shaving was a "razor" (BDB 1074, cf. Num. 6:5; 8:7). However, here a "sword" (BDB 352, vv. 1,2[twice], 12[twice], 17) is used. It was a symbol of the coming judgment (cf. 6:3,8,11,12; 7:15). This same judgment is alluded to in Isa. 7:20, using the word "razor." Shaving the hair and beard was a sign of shame (cf. II Sam. 10:4). The sword was a symbol of death and devastation. Judah would reap a divine judgment for her sins (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar's army).

▣ "scales for weighing" This is a Hebrew construct (BDB 24 and 1054). Scales were used in weighing the purchase of agricultural items. When used in an unfair way it became an idiom of exploitation and unfairness. In contrast, God's scales (i.e., of justice) were fair and reliable. Judah was weighed by YHWH and found wanting! Judah deserved both

1. shame (i.e., shaving)

2. judgment (i.e., scales)


5:2-4 Ezekiel's hair (usually a sign of religious devotion, cf. Numbers 6; Judges 16-17; II Sam. 10:4-5) was to be shaved, divided, and disposed of in specific ways.

1. one-third burned at the center of the city (i.e., the model of Jerusalem of chapter 4) when Jerusalem falls, v. 2

2. one-third cut with the sword all around the city (i.e., the model of Jerusalem of chapter 4), v. 2

3. one-third scattered to the wind, v. 2

4. a few hairs were tied into Ezekiel's robe, v. 3

5. a few hairs put in a fire, which will spread to all Israel, v. 4 (fire is often used in Ezekiel as a judgment of God, cf. 5:2,4; 10:2,6-7; 15:4-7; 16:41; 19:12,14; 20:47-48; 21:31-32; 23:25,47; 24:10,12; 30:8,14,16; 39:6. See Special Topic at 1:4).

The symbolic act seems to mean that one-third of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be killed by the sword, one-third will be killed by famine and one-third will be scattered among the nations (cf. v. 2). In v. 3 the concept of remnant appears, which occurs throughout the OT in God's dealing with His rebellious people (cf. II Kgs. 25:22; Isa. 6:13; 10:22; Jer. 23:3; Ezek. 5:3; 6:8-10; 11:13; Zech. 13:8, 9).


 5"Thus says the Lord God, 'This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her. 6But she has rebelled against My ordinances more wickedly than the nations and against My statutes more than the lands which surround her; for they have rejected My ordinances and have not walked in My statutes.' 7Therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'Because you have more turmoil than the nations which surround you and have not walked in My statutes, nor observed My ordinances, nor observed the ordinances of the nations which surround you,' 8therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I, even I, am against you, and I will execute judgments among you in the sight of the nations. 9And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again. 10Therefore, fathers will eat their sons among you, and sons will eat their fathers; for I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant to every wind. 11So as I live,' declares the Lord God, 'surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare. 12One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.'"

5:5 This verse affirms the purposeful plan of God to place His people where they must depend on His care and protection. They were not a large, powerful people (cf. Deut. 7:7), but their land was at the crossroads of the major Near Eastern powers of Babylon, Assyria, Anatolia, and Egypt.

God wanted to use His people planted in such a prominent place to educate and draw the surrounding peoples (i.e., "the nations) to Himself (cf. Deut. 4:6-8, see The Prophecy of Ezekiel by Feinberg, p. 37). Because of Israel's disobedience, all they (i.e., the nations) saw was the judgment of God (cf. vv. 7-9; 36:22-38).

▣ "at the center of the nations" When this phrase is seen in light of

1. Ezek. 38:12

2. the use of the imagery of "navel" in Near Eastern religion (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 333-334)

it becomes a significant theological statement. YHWH's people were the revelatory epicenter of the world. His eternal, universal, redemptive plan (see SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES at 12:16) involved them. Their continuing covenant unfaithfulness was a major (1) barrier or (2) revelatory means of revealing His faithful character, which will be expressed in the "New Covenant," which is not based on human performance (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

5:6-7 "statutes. . .ordinances" (See vv. 6, 7).



NASB"you have more turmoil"
NKJV"you have multiplied disobedience more"
NRSV"you are more turbulent"
TEV"you have caused more trouble"
NJB"your disorders are worse"
JPSOA"you have outdone"
REB"you have been more insubordinate"

This noun form appears only here in the OT (BDB 243, KB 632, Qal infinitive construct). Its basic meaning may be

1. to rebel

2. to raze

3. to be turbulent

4. Some scholars assert that it comes from a different root meaning "to disdain" or "to be weak."

Because of the last phrase of this verse, v. 6, and 16:27, this phrase must mean that Israel sinned worse than the surrounding nations! Her idolatries reached new heights!

5:8 "I, even I" This is very emphatic! YHWH will act against Israel to maintain the truthfulness of His own revelation. The covenant God acts against the covenant people!

God wanted to reach all nations through Israel. She was the means, not the goal!

▣ "I will execute judgment among you in the sight of the nations" It must be remembered that Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5,6). She will be a testimony, either positively or negatively (cf. 5:15; Ezek. 36:23-38).

5:9 God will execute judgment against His own covenant people more severely than other judgments because Israel knew Him, knew His will and yet violated them (cf. Luke 12:48)!

5:10 "the fathers will eat their sons" This is one of the horrors of siege warfare. It was foretold in Lev. 26:29 and Deut. 28:53. The cannibalism is predicted in Jer. 19:9 and fulfilled in Lam. 2:20 and 4:10. Flavius Josephus also tells us of the same horrendous acts occurring in the siege of Jerusalem by Titus in a.d. 70.

▣ "scatter all your remnant to every wind" The concept of remnant was alluded to in v. 3.

This verb (BDB 279, KB 280, Piel perfect) refers literally to winnowing grain (i.e., separating the husk and grain), but it is often used as a metaphor of judgment (i.e., exile, cf. 20:23). God's very own people become the "husk"!

Notice it is YHWH, not the nations, who scatters His people (cf. 5:10,12; 6:8; 12:14-15; 20:23; 22:15; 36:19). It was not the power of the gods of the nations or their military, but the righteous judgment of YHWH that scatters His people for breaking the covenant (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29).

5:11 "So as I live declares the Lord God" This is an oath used fourteen times in Ezekiel. It is a play on the word YHWH, which means "the only-living, ever-living God." God is true to His word!

▣ "because you have defiled My sanctuary" This is described in detail in chapter 8 (cf. 9:7; 23:38; 43:6-9).

▣ "abominations"


NASB"I will also withdraw"
NKJV"I will also diminish you"
NRSV, TEV"I will cut you down"
NJB"I too shall reject you"
JPSOA"I in turn will shear [you] away"
REB"I in turn shall destroy you"

This refers to (1) Ezekiel's vision of the glory of YHWH and His Spirit leaving the temple in Jerusalem and moving east to be with the exiles (cf. chapters 8-11) or (2) YHWH shearing Israel (cf. 5:1).

There is some question about what this verb (BDB 175, KB 203, Qal imperfect) means. The basic meaning is to

1. diminish (cf. Exod. 5:8,19; Deut. 4:2; Jer. 26:2)

2. restrain (cf. Job 15:4,8; Niphal Num. 9:7)

3. withdraw (cf. Job. 36:7; Niphal Num. 36:3,4)

The results of YHWH abandoning His own temple is a complete rejection of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as His people. Notice He will

1. have no pity, BDB 299, KB 298, Qal imperfect, cf. 7:9; 8:18; 9:5,10

2. not spare, BDB 328, KB 328, Qal imperfect, cf. 7:9; 8:18; 9:5,10

Instead of the promise of great numbers of Israelites (i.e., stars, sand, dust), YHWH will extensively reduce their numbers until only a remnant is left (cf. v. 3).

▣ "My eye" This is an anthropomorphic way of referring to God's personal attention to His covenant people. See Special Topic: Anthropomorphic Language Used to Describe God at 1:3.

 13"'Thus My anger will be spent and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I will be appeased; then they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken in My zeal when I have spent My wrath upon them. 14Moreover, I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the nations which surround you, in the sight of all who pass by. 15So it will be a reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath and raging rebukes. I, the Lord, have spoken. 16When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I will send to destroy you, then I will also intensify the famine upon you and break the staff of bread. 17Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the Lord, have spoken.'"

5:13 Notice all the "My's" in this verse! They denote YHWH's personal righteous character.

1. My anger (BDB 60)

2. My wrath (BDB 404)

3. My zeal (or "jealousy," BDB 888)

4. My wrath (BDB 404)


NASB, REB"I shall be appeased"
NKJV"I will be avenged"
NRSV"satisfy myself"
TEV"until I am satisfied"
NJB"I have sated my fury"

The verb (BDB 636, KB 688, Hithpael perfect) in this stem can have several meanings.

1. "be sorry" or "have compassion," cf. Deut. 32:36 (which does not fit this context)

2. "rue" or "repent," cf. Num. 23:19 (which does not fit this context)

3. "comfort oneself," cf. Gen. 37:35; Ps. 119:52 (which could fit)

4. "ease oneself by taking vengeance," cf. Gen. 27:42 (by planning evil); also this same connotation is expressed in the Niphal stem (cf. Isa. 1:24). This does fit the context best!

God's anger will cease after His judgment (cf. 16:42; 21:17; 24:13). His purpose is an obedient people, not a settled wrath! His acts of judgment are meant to restore, not totally annihilate!

Also note that it is not the people's repentance, but YHWH's mercy that limits and concludes judgment!

▣ "in My zeal" This noun (BDB 888) is translated "ardor," "zeal," and "jealousy." Therefore, it could be understood as

1. YHWH jealous for His word

2. YHWH jealous for His covenant people.

Israel had violated God's covenant and God's love!

5:14-15 This reflects Deut. 28:37. Moses told the people of Israel that if they kept the Covenant they would be blessed, but if they broke it they would be cursed.

Notice the list of things YHWH will do to His disobedient covenant people.

1. "I will make you a desolation," v. 14 (BDB 352, a place of waste and ruin)

2. "a reproach among the nations," v. 14 (BDB 357, a shame, disgrace, scorn, cf. v. 15)

3. "a reviling," v. 15 (BDB 154, this feminine noun form is found only here and means a taunt or someone as the object of blasphemous words)

4. "a warning," v. 15 (BDB 416, "chastening" or "chastisement of God")

5. "an object of horror," v. 15 (BDB 1031, "appalling object," horror," cf. Deut. 28:37; Jer. 25:9,11,18,38)

Notice how God describes His coming judgments (i.e., v. 15)

1. in anger (BDB 60, cf. v. 13)

2. in wrath (BDB 404, cf. v. 13[twice])

3. in raging rebukes (BDB 407 construct 404, cf. 25:17)

God acts against disobedient Israel as a witness to the nations of His righteous character (i.e., vv. 14-15; 36:22-38). It has always been YHWH's plan to reveal Himself through Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6). He wanted it to be in blessing, but if necessary, He will witness in judgment!

5:15 "it will be a reproach" The Dead Sea Scrolls and several ancient versions have "you," rather than "it."

5:16-17 These verses continue the items of destruction mentioned in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28. YHWH is true to His word (cf. v. 17c).

Note the litany of judgments.

1. the deadly arrows of famine, vv. 16,17; Deut. 28:20-26

2. wild beasts, v. 17 (cf. Lev. 26:22; Deut. 32:24)

3. plague, v. 17 (cf. Lev. 26:21)

4. bloodshed, v. 17

5. sword, v. 17

These were meant to turn His people back to Him in repentance and faith (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29).

5:16 "and break the staff of bread" The term "staff" (BDB 641), following its usages with Moses' staff (i.e., God's power in the hands of Moses), may be an idiom for a divine supply. Therefore, in this context it is parallel to famine. This phrase is used several times (cf. Lev. 26:26; Ps. 105:16; Ezek. 4:16; 5:16; 14:13).

5:17 "they will bereave you of children" The wild beasts will kill the children of the disobedient Jerusalemites. Notice, like David's first child with Bathsheba, the children pay the price for their parent's sin (cf. Deut. 5:9). However, please note Deut. 5:10 and 7:9. His love reaches to "a thousand generations"! Judgment is God's strange work (cf. Isa. 28:21; Lam. 3:33).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What does the scroll of chapter 2 represent? Why was it sweet as honey in his mouth, chapter 3, v. 3?

2. Why did God send a prophet to His people whom He knew would not listen?

3. What do the symbolic acts of chapters 4 and 5 represent?

4. What is the major message that Ezekiel is trying to convey to the exiles in Babylon?