The hair represents the people of the nations of Israel. Most of the church is in the nations of Israel, primarily the United States and Canada. The church is represented in the "small number"—represented by the hair that he puts into his pocket—taken from the third group, which goes into captivity and is thrown to the "four winds," showing a measure of protection. However, he then takes a part from that group and throws it into the fire. Now hair is the most flammable part of the body, and surely, the fire must indicate death.
This can be connected with the fifth seal of Revelation 6: the martyrdom of the saints. One can also connect it with Revelation 3:10 and the "Philadelphians" who are kept from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole earth. The group that he took out of his pocket and threw into the fire (and are therefore consumed in the fires of tribulation) represents the Laodicean church. It surely seems to indicate that very few, if any, of them will survive through the Tribulation. Five separations are indicated here in Ezekiel 5, but only one very small amount is protected in the fold of his skirt.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)
The prophecy in this passage, explained in verse 12, seems to confirm that Israel is tithed, but what about the pinch of hair bound in the edge of the garment? It is an even smaller fraction of the whole—an almost insignificant number. More intriguing is that nothing further is mentioned of them. They are a small remnant of people in Israel—possibly the spiritual remnant?—who are protected in God's hip pocket. If these hairs do represent the spiritual remnant, then it is a very small number indeed.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It is Ezekiel, the priest, who divides the hair. In this case, he seems to be a type of Christ, our High Priest. This squares with what we see in Revelation 2-3, where it is Jesus Christ who judges the churches, and He decides who is who and who goes where.
Recall that in Revelation 3:10 Jesus promises to keep those who persevere from the hour of trial. What are they persevering in? Verse 8 tells us that, though they have only a little strength, they "have kept My word, and have not denied My name." These are people who take following God seriously and do not give in an inch to this world. Jesus will be looking for these traits in those He chooses to protect from tribulation.
Ronny H. Graham
Hidden From the Hour of Trial
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ezekiel 5:4: