And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp sword: as a barber’s razor shalt thou take it unto thee, and shalt cause it to pass upon thy head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair. A third part shalt thou burn in the fire, in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled; and thou shalt take a third part, and smite with the sword round about it; and a third part shalt thou scatter to the wind, and I will draw out a sword after them. And thou shalt take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts. And of these again shalt thou take, and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire; therefrom shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, This is Jerusalem.-EZEKIEL V. 1-5·
WHEN lusts and falsities have gained control of a human mind, they destroy all goodness and truth in that mind, until there is not even any natural truth left in it, either in the interior of the natural mind, or in its exterior.
The prophet was called “son of man.” The prophets of the Old Testament, through whom the letter of the Divine Word was given to men, represented the Lord, as to His Word, and as to the doctrine of the church drawn from the Word. The prophet was merely a human means, “a son of man,” in the hands of the Lord. But, being called to act for the Lord, the prophet represented the Word of the Lord. In the highest sense, the Son of Man is the Lord, Himself, as the Divine Truth, which He exemplified and fulfilled in His external manhood, which came through man. As the prophet represented the Divine Word, which he was a means of revealing to men, so the things which the prophet suffered, at the hands of the Jews, represented the violence offered by the Jews to the letter of the Divine Word; and thus to the Divine Truth; and to the Lord, in His truth; and to His Humanity, which was the Word made flesh, for the salvation of men. And the same things were represented by the acts which the prophet did, in a representative way, at the command of the Lord.
SWORD AND CUTTING.
In such representative action, the prophet was cornmanded to take a sharp sword, and to use it as a razor, to cut off his hair and his beard. All cutting instruments, including knives, swords, etc., when spoken of in a good sense, represent the truth, as a weapon, to cut against all things which are false, evil, and sinful; or, in another sense, to cut into, to examine, to divide and separate, or to destroy, various thoughts which enter the mind. Or, in a bad sense, these cutting implements and weapons represent truths falsified, perverted into falsities, by being used for bad purposes, and employed to cut against the things which are good, true and useful. A sharp sword is one which cuts keenly and with exactness. And so, sharpness represents accuracy, as when sharp truth cuts into, and penetrates, false notions, and exposes the nature of evil feelings and of sinful acts; separating facts from false inferences, and destroying the influence of false ideas.
The hair, growing on the surface of the body, represents the ultimates, the outside things, which relate to the natural plane of life. In regard to the Divine Word, the hair on the human body represents the letter of the Word, as distinguished from the vital organs, which represent the internal and spiritual sense of the Divine Word.
To cut off all the hair, here means, representatively, to take away the ultimates, or externals, of goodness and truth; i.e., to deprive the mind of the practical use of its principles, in the daily life, by depriving it of the means of doing good, and of knowing truth.
Thus, baldness represents a condition of mind in which the man is deprived of knowledge of truth, and thus of the means of doing good; as is the case when a man is deprived of the letter of the Divine Word, by which he learns to distinguish between good and evil, and truth and falsity. For, when a man on earth is deprived of the letter of the Divine Word, he is deprived of all spiritual truth, because he is without the means of learning and understanding both natural and spiritual truth. And a man is deprived of the right use of the letter of the Lord’s Word, when that literal sense is corrupted, or falsified, or perverted to evil purposes. Hair, cut off, falls, and finally dies. And so the externals of truth, the rules, and the forms of worship, etc., when separated from the inward spirit and life of love to God, fall into nothing but empty forms, in which there is contained no inward, spiritual life, to the man who observes them in a merely formal way.
In making himself bald, the prophet represented the mental state of the people of Jerusalem, in their degenerate conditions of life. And he also represented the mental state of every man who is in an unregenerate condition, while yet professing to worship the Lord.
In one aspect, the Divine Word in its letter, is a sharp sword, which, when turned against the evils of unregenerate men, will penetrate, examine, and expose, the evils and falsities of their minds. And, at the same time, the prophet shaving off his hair also represented what the Jews were doing, spiritually, to the Divine Word, in their own minds, by allowing their false notions to destroy all the force of the letter of the Word, and to change its precepts and commandments of life into mere formalities of ceremony,
All celestial and spiritual truths rest upon the letter of the Word, as the spirit of a man on earth rests upon, and acts through, his natural body. And so, to corrupt, falsify and throwaway; the letter of the Divine Word, is, practically, to corrupt and throwaway all of the Divine Word.
The letter of the Word is not always literally true about natural things, but it is always true representatively, figuratively, by correspondence between natural and spiritual things. And, therefore, the representative and correspondential letter of the Word is always, a resting-place, and a containing-vessel, for the spiritual truth in the inward sense of the Word; as the expression of your face, and the tone of your voice, are resting-places and containing-vessels, in which you hold and express the inward feelings of your heart: and the thoughts of your understanding.
BALDNESS IN THE ORIENT.
Because of the representative meaning of baldness, it was, in Oriental lands, looked upon as a great misfortune, and, in some cases, as a great disgrace, especially when inflicted upon a man as a punishment for crime. Sometimes, persons made themselves bald, to express their great sorrow and extreme mourning, on the death of near relatives.
And so, in the case of our text, it may be said that the prophet made himself bald in mourning over the spiritual baldness of his people. Baldness was also an Oriental term of reproach, and a scurrilous epithet, applied to others, even when they showed no signs of physical baldness. This was the case, when the young men of Bethel jeered the prophet, Elisha, and called to him, “Go up, thou bald-head,” in contemptuous reference to Elisha’s assertion that his predecessor, Elijah, had gone up to heaven with a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire. And forty-two of those young men were killed by two bears, which are animals especially characterized by abundant long hair. The jeering of the prophet, by the lads, represents the contemptuous denial of the Divine character of the letter of the Word. And the destruction of the lads by bears represents the self-destruction of deniers of the Bible, by the force of the very letter which they reject and hate.
And Samson’s great strength was said to be in his long hair; and he lost that unusual strength when his long hair was cut off. And here, again is represented the failure of the power of the Divine Word, in the mind of a man who makes the Word bald, by denying and rejecting its literal sense, as the proper representative body of its inward spirit. In its literal sense, the Divine Word is in its fulness, and in its power, because the literal sense is directly applicable to the conduct of life, as in the Ten Commandments, and in ” The Golden Rule,” and in other precepts. And so, notwithstanding , the merely representative character of some parts of the letter of the Bible, we can always find many things in the letter which express, and make practical, every spiritual principle that is in the inward meaning of the Bible.
Weighing determines the quantity of goods: but spiritual weighing is to determine the quality, or spiritual character, of a feeling or a thought. In distinction, weighing means estimating the good which is in the matter, and measuring means determining the truth which is in it. And when a thing is weighed, spiritually, and its character is known, for good or for evil, its future career is foreseen. The mental balance to weigh mental things, is the rational faculty, the thinking capacity of the mind, enlightened by spiritual truth, on one side, and by natural truth, properly understood, on the other side. And when the enlightened rational faculty clearly sees the spiritual character of certain affections and thoughts, it assigns to each its career and place in the mind’s life. This is represented by the prophet dividing the hair which he had cut off, and devoting each portion to its destiny.
Three, as a number, represents fulness, completeness, especially as to truths; as, for instance, when truth is known, loved and practised; for then its power is complete, over all parts of the man’s life, his will, which loves, his intellect, or understanding, which thinks, and his conduct, which practises.
To divide the hair into three parts, spiritually, is to apply the truth to such conditions to a full extent, completely, so as to reach all things.
To burn one part in the fire, is to represent that one cause of the destruction of the letter of the Divine Word, in the degenerate mind, is in the hot fires of self-love, and of all its lusts of evil. And to burn the hair in the midst of the city, is to represent that such evil conditions are produced by the corruption of the central doctrines of the church; i.e., the doctrines concerning God.
To smite around another part, with the sword, or to cut up the hair into small pieces, is to represent the entire destruction of the power of the letter of the Word, in the unregenerate mind, by false reasonings from self-love, and from the fallacies of the senses. To scatter one part to all the winds, is to represent that all the active falsities of the natural mind sweep away, and scatter, even the letter of the Word, in the unregenerate mind, as the wind carries off the chaff, in the winnowing of grain.
And the text declares that those hairs, which were scattered by the wind, were not left to lodge and lie at rest, but that the Lord said, “And I will draw out a sword after them,” or send a sword against them ; which means that the literal truth is not merely carried out of the present thought, by some wind of doctrine, but that the more serious falsities of the mind will follow up, and destroy, such truth.
BINDING IN THE SKIRTS.
Of the last one-third, the prophet was to take a very few of the hairs, and to bind them in his skirts, i.e., in the lower edges of his robe. Clothing represents the truth, which clothes the affections, by giving form and expression to the love, and planning for its exercise. The outer edges of the clothing represent the truth as applied to the external things of conduct. And when the prophet bound a few hairs in his skirts, he represented the mind seeking to apply some few of the precepts of the Word to practical conduct. But, in the unregenerate mind, even these practical precepts of conduct finally go into the great consuming fire of selflove. And when this occurs, the last hold which the truth has upon the man will be lost, and the fires of his evils will consume all things of the church, in his mind and life. These things are represented by the direction to the prophet, to throw into the fire even the few hairs from his skirts; and that, from these, a fire should “come forth into all the house of Israel.” And then, to confirm the whole representation, the text declares, “This is Jerusalern;” i.e., this is a representative description of the spiritual conditions of the people of Jerusalem.
But the same things represent our conditions, to-day, to the extent in which we are living in similar unregenerate states, rejecting the life and power of the Divine Word, by stripping it of all its practical application to our actual daily life.
After our text, there follows a statement of what our Lord had done for Jerusalem; and. what Jerusalem had done, in ungrateful return for the Divine favors; and what must be the final result of Jerusalem’s evil doings. Jerusalem had been set conspicuously, in the midst of other nations, and yet her people, in spite of Divine favors, had rebelled against the Lord, to a greater extent than the other nations; and, therefore, they were worse criminals. They abandoned the Divine laws and principles, and disregarded the Divine rules, even while proudly claiming to be the chosen people of God. They even defiled the Lord’s sanctuary with their detestable and abominable things. They made the Lord’s house. “a den of thieves,” as Jesus declared in later times. This was Jerusalem, with her shorn head, degraded, degenerated, self-destroyed.
And may not these graphic representative pictures be full of timely warning to us, who call our Church by the name of the New Jerusalem? Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has done, for the New Jerusalem, more than for the old Jerusalem. Our Church, also, which is our spiritual holy city, is set down amidst other religious communities, who, with less spiritual light, do not clearly understand the nature and quality of the Divine character, nor the relation of God to His people, nor the practical methods of regeneration. With the far greater spiritual light of the inward and spiritual meaning of the Divine Word; and with a clear knowledge of the correspondent relation between. the outward letter of the Bible and its inward spirit; and thus with a full view of the Divine Word, as Jacob’s ladder, set up on the earth, in its literal sense, and reaching up to heaven in its spiritual meaning: and with a clear perception of the relation of spiritual principles to the practical conduct of daily life; we have very great favors for which to be thankful.
And, having the light and the opportunity, we should rise to greater heights of actual good character, than average men and women can do, with less spiritual light. To us much has been given, and of us much will be required. Every opportunity involves not only a possibility, but also a duty. The New Jerusalem, which our Lord of love is daily seeking to build up in our hearts, may be, to each of us, a glorious spiritual home, if we will do our part to make it so, by putting away from our hearts and lives all those evil, false, and sinful things which corrupt, in men, both the spirit and the letter of God’s holy Word, and which shut out the kingdom of heaven from all unregenerate hearts. “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of Jehovah. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” ” Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem! for Jehovah hath comforted His people. He hath redeemed Jerusalem.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903