"Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a straight razor, shaving your head and your beard. Then, using a set of balancing scales, divide the hair into thirds.
When the days of the siege are over, take one-third of the hair and burn it inside the city. Take another third, chop it into bits with the sword and sprinkle it around the city. The final third you'll throw to the wind. Then I'll go after them with a sword.
"Retrieve a few of the hairs and slip them into your pocket.
Take some of them and throw them into the fire - burn them up. From them, fire will spread to the whole family of Israel.
"This is what God, the Master, says: This means Jerusalem. I set her at the center of the world, all the nations ranged around her.
But she rebelled against my laws and ordinances, rebelled far worse than the nations ranged around her - sheer wickedness! - refused my guidance, ignored my directions.
"Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: You've been more headstrong and willful than any of the nations around you, refusing my guidance, ignoring my directions. You've sunk to the gutter level of those around you.
"Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: I'm setting myself against you - yes, against you, Jerusalem. I'm going to punish you in full sight of the nations.
Because of your disgusting no-god idols, I'm going to do something to you that I've never done before and will never do again:
turn families into cannibals - parents eating children, children eating parents! Punishment indeed. And whoever's left over I'll throw to the winds.
"Therefore, as sure as I am the living God - Decree of God, the Master - because you've polluted my Sanctuary with your obscenities and disgusting no-god idols, I'm pulling out. Not an ounce of pity will I show you.
A third of your people will die of either disease or hunger inside the city, a third will be killed outside the city, and a third will be thrown to the winds and chased by killers.
"Only then will I calm down and let my anger cool. Then you'll know that I was serious about this all along, that I'm a jealous God and not to be trifled with.
"When I get done with you, you'll be a pile of rubble. Nations who walk by will make coarse jokes.
When I finish my angry punishment and searing rebukes, you'll be reduced to an object of ridicule and mockery, turned into a horror story circulating among the surrounding nations. I, God, have spoken.
"When I shoot my lethal famine arrows at you, I'll shoot to kill. Then I'll step up the famine and cut off food supplies.
Famine and more famine - and then I'll send in the wild animals to finish off your children. Epidemic disease, unrestrained murder, death - and I will have sent it! I, God, have spoken."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)