Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Medieval book illustration, Wikimedia Commons
And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair. Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them. Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts.
— Ezekiel 5:1-3
Like Jeremiah with his smashed pots and yoke, Ezekiel was known for his street theatre, his prophesying through performance art. In the previous chapter we see Ezekiel making a city out of clay, baking tiny loaves of bread using human faeces as fuel, and playing with model soldiers, like a child, all to prophesy God's plan for Jerusalem for those who would listen. In this episode he gets more dramatic, chopping off his own hair and beard to illustrate the division of the nation that is to come, each hair representing a citizen, with only a few stray ones being saved, wrapped in his cloak. God's advice to Ezekiel seems to have been, act, don't speak.
When too many people are saying the same thing we cease to listen. By taking action and setting up his street theatre Ezekiel causes the people to take notice. They can't help but be fascinated by this strange prophet's odd behaviour, and try to puzzle out what he means with his silent performances. Ezekiel engages the people, where perhaps many other soothsayers of the time speaking the same message are being ignored, and are lost to history. Ezekiel demonstrates the benefit of engagement, and brings to mind the words of Xun Kuang, a Confucian philosopher who lived around the same time:
Tell me and I forget,
teach me and I remember,
involve me and I learn.