Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
HAIRS, AND THE
1. knife . . . razor--the sword of the foe (compare
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
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
2. Three classes are described. The sword was to destroy one third
of the people; famine and plague another third ("fire" in
being explained in
to mean pestilence and famine); that which remained was to be scattered
among the nations. A few only of the last portion were to escape,
symbolized by the hairs bound in Ezekiel's skirts
Jer 40:6; 52:16).
Even of these some were to be thrown into the fiery ordeal again
Jer 41:1, 2,
&c.; Jer 44:14,
&c.). The "skirts" being able to contain but few
express that extreme limit to which God's goodness can reach.
5, 6. Explanation of the symbols:
Jerusalem--not the mere city, but the people of Israel generally, of
which it was the center and representative.
in . . . midst--Jerusalem is regarded in God's point of view as center
of the whole earth, designed
to radiate the true light over the nations in all directions. Compare
No center in the ancient heathen world could have been selected more
fitted than Canaan to be a vantage ground, whence the people of God
might have acted with success upon the heathenism of the world. It lay
midway between the oldest and most civilized states, Egypt and Ethiopia
on one side, and Babylon, Nineveh, and India on the other, and
afterwards Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Phœnician mariners were
close by, through whom they might have transmitted the true religion to
the remotest lands; and all around the Ishmaelites, the great
inland traders in South Asia and North Africa. Israel was thus
placed, not for its own selfish good, but to be the spiritual
benefactor of the whole world. Compare
throughout. Failing in this, and falling into idolatry, its guilt was
far worse than that of the heathen; not that Israel literally
went beyond the heathen in abominable idolatries. But "corruptio
optimi pessima"; the perversion of that which in itself is the best
is worse than the perversion of that which is less perfect: is in fact
the worst of all kinds of perversion. Therefore their punishment was
the severest. So the position of the Christian professing Church now,
if it be not a light to the heathen world, its condemnation will be
sorer than theirs
(Mt 5:13; 11:21-24;
Heb 10:28, 29).
6. changed . . . into--rather, "hath resisted My judgments
wickedly"; "hath rebelled against My ordinances for wickedness"
7. multiplied--rather, "have been more abundantly outrageous";
literally, "to tumultuate"; to have an extravagant rage for idols.
neither have done according to the judgments of the nations--have not
been as tenacious of the true religion as the nations have been of the
false. The heathen "changed" not their gods, but the Jews changed
Jehovah for idols (see
"changed My judgments into wickedness," that is, idolatry,
The Chaldean version and the Masora support the negative.
Others omit it (as it is omitted in
and translate, "but have done according to the
judgments," &c. However, both
and also this verse are true. They in one sense "did according to the
heathen," namely, in all that was bad; in another, namely, in that
which was good, zeal for religion, they did not.
also proves the negative to be genuine; because in changing their
religion, they have not done as the nations which have not
changed theirs, "I (also) will do in thee that which I have not
8. I, even I--awfully emphatic. I, even I, whom thou thinkest to be
asleep, but who am ever reigning as the Omnipotent Avenger of sin, will
vindicate My righteous government before the nations by judgments on
9. See on
that which I have not done--worse than any former judgments
The prophecy includes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and
the final one by Antichrist
(Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2),
as well as that by Nebuchadnezzar. Their doom of evil was not exhausted
by the Chaldean conquest. There was to be a germinating evil in their
destiny, because there would be, as the Lord foresaw, a germinating
evil in their character. As God connected Himself peculiarly with
Israel, so there was to be a peculiar manifestation of God's wrath
against sin in their case [FAIRBAIRN]. The higher
the privileges the greater the punishment in the case of abuse of them.
When God's greatest favor, the gospel, was given, and was abused by
them, then "the wrath was to come on them to the uttermost"
10. fathers . . . eat . . . sons--alluding
to Moses' words
with the additional sad feature, that "the sons should eat their
La 2:20; 4:10).
11. as I live--the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence
of God for the certainty of the event.
defiled my sanctuary--the climax of Jewish guilt: their defiling
Jehovah's temple by introducing idols.
diminish--literally, "withdraw," namely, Mine "eye" (which
presently follows), that is, My favors;
uses the Hebrew verb in the same way. As the Jews had
withdrawn from God's sanctuary its sacredness by "defiling" it,
so God withdraws His countenance from them. The significance of
the expression lies in the allusion to
"Ye shall not diminish aught from the word which I command you";
they had done so, therefore God diminishes them. The reading
found in six manuscripts, "I will cut thee off," is not so good.
12. Statement in plain terms of what was intended by the symbols
Jer 15:2; 21:9).
draw out . . . sword after them--
Skeptics object; no such thing happened under Zedekiah, as is here
foretold; namely, that a third part of the nation should die by
pestilence, a third part by the sword, and a third be scattered unto
all winds, and a sword sent after them. But the prophecy is not
restricted to Zedekiah's time. It includes all that Israel suffered, or
was still to suffer, for their sins, especially those committed at that
It only received its primary fulfilment under Zedekiah: numbers then
died by the pestilence and by the sword; and numbers were scattered in
all quarters and not carried to Babylonia alone, as the objectors
pestilence . . . and famine--signified by the symbol "fire"
plague and famine burning and withering the countenance, as fire
13. cause my fury to rest upon them--as on its proper and permanent
I will be comforted--expressed in condescension to man's conceptions;
signifying His satisfaction in the vindication of His justice by His
they shall how--by bitter experience.
14. reproach among the nations--They whose idolatries Israel had
adopted, instead of comforting, would only exult in their calamities
brought on by those idolatries (compare
15. instruction--literally, "a corrective chastisement," that is, a
striking example to warn all of the fatal consequences of sin. For
"it shall be"; all ancient versions have "thou," which the
16. arrows of famine--hail, rain, mice, locusts, mildew (see
De 32:23, 24).
increase the famine--literally, "congregate" or "collect." When ye
think your harvest safe because ye have escaped drought, mildew, &c., I
will find other means
[CALVIN], which I will congregate as the
forces of an invading army, to bring famine on you.
17. beasts--perhaps meaning destructive conquerors
Rather, literal "beasts," which infest desolated regions such as
Judea was to become (compare
The same threat is repeated in manifold forms to awaken the careless.