Hair Scattered to the Wind!
“Has Ezekiel gone mad?” This may have been the reaction of those who watched the prophet shave his head and his beard with a SWORD, then weigh the hair and divide it into thirds, and finally burn a third, strike a third with a sword, and scatter the remaining third to the wind. However, Ezekiel was not mad! But he was vividly signifying the punishment that God would soon send on Jerusalem, a punishment that would pave the way for the salvation of the world (Eze 5:1-12).
When Ezekiel tossed his hair into the wind, he was not telling God’s people anything new. When God gave the blessings and curses of the Law (Deut 28-30), He swore that, if Israel disobeyed Him, He would scatter them from one end of the earth to the other (Deut 28:64).
Soon after Ezekiel’s hair was swept away by the wind, Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian Empire and God’s “Diaspora” (Dispersion) of the Jews went into full swing.
Actually, though the Jews did not realize it, when Ezekiel acted out God’s message, God had already begun to scatter His people. The Assyrian Empire had taken most of the survivors of their conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel back home to their country (2 Kgs 17:21-23). Many from the southern kingdom of Judah, including Ezekiel, were already in Babylon (Eze 1:1-3).
Soon, as Ezekiel predicted, most of the survivors from the Babylonians’ destruction of Jerusalem would be joining them there (2 Kgs 25:8-12). The sons of Korah wrote of this afterward, “You… have scattered us among the nations” (Ps 44:11). But this was just the beginning…
Every Land and Every Sea is Full of Jews
After most of the survivors from Jerusalem went to Babylon, those left behind, against the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, went to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them (Jer 43). When the Persians became the dominant world power, they issued the order that the Jews whom the Assyrians and Babylonians had taken from Palestine could return to their homeland. However, most of them did not return. Notice the statement made by Haman to King Ahasuerus of Persia in around 479 B.C. He spoke of the Jews as “scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom” (Esther 3:8).
In the 400-year period between the Old and New Testaments that was not recorded by a prophet of God, the dispersing of the Jews continued both by force and free will. Ptolemy I of Egypt (322-285 B.C.) captured Jerusalem and took home captives, adding greatly to the Jewish population in Alexandria, Egypt. Antiochus the Great of Syria (223-187 B.C.) removed 2,000 families from Jewish communities in Mesopotamia and Babylon and settled them in Phrygia and Lydia (in Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey). The Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63 B.C. and carried away hundreds of Jews to Rome. During the period between the Testaments the Jews also voluntarily emigrated for the purpose of trade and commerce as well as colonization- a practice encouraged by the Greek kings who sought to “Hellenize” or bring Greek culture to all of the people under their control. The Sibylline Oracles (written about 150 B.C.) record that “every land and every sea is full of thee (that is Jews-aj)”.
Fast forward to today. According to internet sources, there are 15.3 million Jews in the world, 6.8 million living in Israel. This means that the other 8.5 million Jews are scattered around the world, some of them in most every country. At the time Ezekiel made his prediction, those already in foreign countries had the mindset to return to Palestine rather than to remain abroad.
There is no way that Ezekiel could have foreseen by human ingenuity that the Jews would become scattered throughout the world as history records and current census records establish to be true. Ezekiel had to be a prophet. He had to have spoken by the inspiration of God when he threw one-third of his hair into the wind! Let evidence like this strengthen your faith in the Bible!
This study is remarkable enough when looked at from the standpoint of fulfilled prophecy. But, there’s more! Read on to see how that He used His dispersion of the Jews to eternally bless both Jew and Gentile…
The Fullness of Time
God promised Abraham, the father of the Jews, that He would bless all nations through his seed (Gen 12:3). In His Providence, He used the dispersion as a part of the “fullness of the time” in which He fulfilled His promise. Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4). God sent Jesus into the world at the right time for His salvation to be accomplished and for the news of its blessing to spread quickly around the world.
The large Jewish population in Greek-controlled Alexandria, Egypt produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. This translation was made between 300 and 200 B.C. and made what had been just a Jewish book accessible to all, as Greek was the universal language of the Greek and Roman empires.
As the Jews dispersed, they set up synagogues in every city with at least 10 Jewish men for the purpose of the teaching of the Old Testament. Through this teaching, some Gentiles were proselyted to the Jewish faith. Other Gentiles became “God-fearers” or accepted Jehovah as their God. As Paul and others brought the gospel and Christianity throughout the Roman world, they first sought out the synagogue in any city where there was one (Acts 13:14-15; 14:1; 17:1, 10-12). In the middle of the desert of an idolatrous and immoral world, the preachers of the gospel found an oasis, an audience who believed in the one true God (Jehovah), who believed the Old Testament Scriptures were inspired by God, and who had concern for godly living. Also, those who announced that the Messiah had come had an audience that was looking for a Messiah. Historians such as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus all wrote of the widespread expectation that a ruler from the Jews would arise whose dominion would be worldwide. As a result of the teaching in the synagogues, many converts were made, especially among the Gentiles.
The gospel and Christianity had its very beginning, in the timing of God when the dispersed Jews gathered from around the world in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:9-11). This was no coincidence. This feast of firstfruits produced the firstfruits of souls saved by Jesus’ blood, those souls gathered to God from their many native countries. It was only a matter of time until these Christians were scattered from Jerusalem to the world, taking the gospel with them (Acts 8:4; 11:19-20). The Diaspora (Dispersion) predicted by Ezekiel was the key to the first century A.D. being the prime time for God to bring salvation through His Son and have this blessing for all nations be quickly communicated to them, leading to the obedience of faith (Rom 15:26)…
Back to the Land!
Even while God was promising to scatter His people among the nations, He was promising to bring them back to their land, signifying that He had accepted them back into His fellowship- His curses had ended, and His blessings had returned. He wanted to assure the Jews that there was hope beyond His judgment for their sins.
God promised not only to gather the Jews back to Israel, but to give them a “heart transplant”, replacing their heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Then they would obey Him from that tender and humble heart. He would be their God and they would be His people (Eze 11:14-20).
So, how do we reconcile God promising to scatter them while also promising to bring them all home? Through Isaiah, He promised that the return to the land would be in the time of the “Branch”, “the root of Jesse” (Isa 11:1-11). So, we know that this promise would be fulfilled by the Messiah, Jesus. His work as God’s Servant would involve not only gathering the Jews back to Him but bringing light and salvation to the Gentiles (Isa 49:5-6).
The physical Jews are scattered. Figuratively, God has returned His people to the promised land- His people both Jews and Gentiles. If you are not one of His people, let Him gather you to Himself. Obey Jesus so that He may forgive you, change you, and bless you with His fellowship now and later with the promised land of heaven of which Palestine was but a type.