Ezekiel has one last thing to do to prepare for his acting out the siege of Jerusalem. He must shave off his hair and beard, which would be a mark of great shame or mourning for Ezekiel. There is a law in Leviticus that Israelite men, and especially priests, are not to “mar the edges of the beard”, but the Lord commands Ezekiel to do this anyway. I take that law to mean that they weren’t to cut shapes into their beard, presumably like the neighboring nations did for their religions. Being fully clean-shaven might not have been prohibited, much like having hair go completely white was not a cause of ritual uncleanness, but culturally it would still be a mark of shame for him.
With his shorn hair, Ezekiel was to divide it into three equal parts and perform more symbolic actinos with it, once he was done portraying the siege. With one third he is to burn it in the middle of the city, with another third go around the city and strike it with a sword, and with the last thrid to scatter it on the wind. But a few pieces of hair he is to tie up in his robe, though a few of those are to be burned up too.
Naturally you might be asking, “What is this all about?” Wonderfully, the Bible often answers this question if we just keep reading. The Lord gives Ezekiel the interpretation by saying that the hair is the people of Jerusalem. A third will die from plague during the siege (burned), a third will killed by the invading soldiers, and a third will be scattered and flee in all directions. It is very interesting that there is no more mention of the remnant represented by the hair kept in Ezekiel’s robe. However, we know from Jeremiah 40 that there were some survivors in Jerusalem, a remnant kept alive by the Lord.
In addition to describing what will happen to the people of Jerusalem, the Lord explains why He is bringing such severe judgment upon them. Despite having the Law of Moses and the prophets to explain what God requires of them, they have been even more wicked than the nations that surround them who did not have those words. They were so rebellious, they didn’t even behave according to the laws of the neighboring nations. Because of their abominable and detestable practices, they are driven to do worse things as a punsihment, like cannibalism.
God in His mercy uses this judgement as a warning to the whole world that He takes holiness seriously. Everyone who hears how Jerusalem has fallen will know that it is because the Lord has executed judgement on them for their wicked deeds, and the wise will take that warning to heart. The wicked may seem to prosper for a time, but the Lord’s patience is long-suffering, not ever-suffering.
Teach us Your ways so that we may do them and live.