The Word Made Fresh
1“And you, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a razor to shave your head and beard. Then weigh the hair and divide it into three parts. 2When the siege ends, burn one third of it in the city; use a sword to chop another third of it; scatter the remaining third to the wind and I will send the sword after it. 3From what remains take a few strands and throw it into the fire to burn it, 4and from there fire will spread throughout all the families of Israel.”
5The LORD God announces, “This is Jerusalem, established in the midst of the nations and surrounding territories. 6But they have rebelled against my laws and regulations even more than the nations surrounding them. They have rejected my laws and ignored my guidance. 7So,” the LORD says, “you have become even more sinful than the nations around you. You haven’t obeyed my laws and my decisions. You haven’t even obeyed the laws of the nations around you. 8And now,” says the LORD, “I am against you. In full view of the nations, I will pronounce the penalties of your disobedience. 9Because of you and your sinfulness I will do what I’ve never done before or will ever do again. 10Parents will eat their children and children their parents. I will charge you with breaking my laws and scatter the rest of you to the winds. 11So, as surely as I live,” says the LORD God, “because you fouled my sanctuary with your disgusting behavior and sinful practices, I will punish you myself without shedding a tear of compassion. 12A third of you will die of plague and starve from famine. A third will be killed by the sword that surrounds you, and a third I will scatter to the winds, pursued by the swords of your enemies. 13Then I will be assuaged, for I will have taken my revenge and exhausted my anger against them. Then they will know that I, the LORD have judged them in my zeal and burned them up in my wrath. 14I will leave them desolate, ridiculed by all the nations and in sight of all who pass by. 15You will be ridiculed and mocked and will become a terrifying lesson to the nations around you when I punish you in anger and fury, according to the law. I am the LORD. I have declared it. 16When I send my deadly arrows of famine against you they will be sent for your destruction. I will even make your famine worse and completely cut off your food supply. 17I will send famine and wild animals against you and they will leave you childless. You will suffer plague and bloodshed, and I will send the sword against you. I am the LORD, and I have spoken it.”
1-4: Okay, we have now a kind of riddle. Ezekiel is to shave his head and his beard with a sword so that he will look sort of like Howie Mandell. He is to divide the hair by weight in thirds. One third is to be burned on top of the brick that represents Jerusalem. One third is to be chopped up around the brick with the sword. The remainder is to be tossed into the air to let the wind take it wherever with God in hot pursuit. But a few of these whiskers he is to catch and attach them to his robe. Some of them in turn are to be burned on the brick.
5-12: And now we are given the key to the riddle. The hair represents the people of Judah. God has become their enemy because they have rejected the covenant and worshiped other gods. One third of them will die in the city in awful circumstances, one third will be cut down by the sword and one third will be scattered to the winds.
13-17: God’s anger will erupt in unimaginable destruction. The surrounding nations (particularly the Amonites, Edomites and Moabites, who came in after the city was destroyed to loot and pillage) will taunt and mock them, and they will be tormented until God’s anger is sated.
This part of the book of Ezekiel is almost unbearable with descriptions of unimaginable suffering and of God’s anger being thrust against all the people, not just the officials and priests who led them to this point. This is a description of God that those who believe God is love can’t swallow easily. But we’ve just begun our study of Ezekiel. We’ll save our judgment until the whole story is told.