The setting of this chapter was right after the fulfillment of the 430 (390 + 40) days that Ezekiel lay on his left and right sides. During all that time, his hair grew. Now, at the end of the 430 days, Ezekiel was instructed to cut off all the hair on his head and beard—that was a lot of hair!—and divide it into three parts by carefully weighing it. Ezekiel’s treatment of the hair demonstrated how those of Judah would die in the coming literal siege of Jerusalem, for the hairs represented the people. There was a sufficient quantity of hair to make this demonstration dramatic. Ezekiel ended up bald.
One third of the hair was burned with fire in the midst of Ezekiel’s portrayal of Jerusalem. This action showed that the city would be destroyed by fire and that people would die in the fire. Another third of the hair was chopped with a knife, portraying that people would be slain in the violence of the war. The final third was scattered in the wind. As the hair was scattering, Ezekiel ran after the hair with a sword and slashed at it in the air, showing that people would be pursued and killed as they tried to escape from Jerusalem, ran out for food, or ran out to actively defend the city.