Ezekiel 18 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
The three primary parables in the three preceding chapters, outlined the national condition, as (1) spiritually unfruitful (ch. 15), (2) as spiritually unfaithful to her covenant with the LORD (ch. 16), and (3) as politically unfaithful to her covenant with another nation (ch. 17). Because of her ungodly character, the nation was on the verge of terrible judgment.
     Yet, the exiles, who heard Ezekiel present these messages, thought God would be unfair to judge their generation, since the national sins had been long standing. In this chapter, the LORD defends the righteousness of His justice. Though He must judge a sinful nation, He justly considers the heart condition of every individual. Each person will be judged according to his or her chosen way.
 
- The Proverb of the 'sour grapes' repudiated, by the perfect balance of God's justice - ch. 18
  1. Implication of proverb: God is unfair to punish us (the present generation) for historic sins. (v.1-4)
    Answer: The soul that sins, it shall die.
         God judges every man's heart condition.-
    1. a righteous man will live... (v.5-9)
    2. his wicked son will die... (v.10-13)
    3. his righteous son will live
      (but the son's righteousness does not apply to his wicked father). (v.14-18)
  2. Question: Why doesn't a father's guilt apply to his son? (v.19-20)
    Answer (repeated): The soul that sins, it shall die.
         God judges every man's heart orientation.-
    1. when a wicked man turns from sin... (v.21-23)
    2. when a "righteous" man turns to sin... (v.24)
  3. Explanation: The "Equality" of God's justice... (v.25-30a)
    • Does not weigh a man's good deeds against his bad.
    • Does weigh a man's heart desire against God's heart.
  4. Invitation: Repent, ie., turn from all sin, to God. (v.30b-32)
 
1. The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying,
The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?
3 [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
ye shall not have [occasion] any more to use this proverb in Israel.
4 Behold, all souls are mine;
as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine:
the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
This proverb (v.2) implies that the children are being punished for their fathers' sins.
While it is true that the sins of the fathers affect and influence their children to follow in their footsteps, the children can choose another way. (eg., Ex 20:4-6, where the 'visiting' of iniquity, refers to the Lord's judgment upon sin. As long as sin persists, He must judge it.)
     When Jeremiah, Ezekiel's contemporary, pronounced severe and irrevocable judgment upon the nation, for the sins of Manasseh (Jer 15:4), the people had protested and persecuted the prophet for his unpopular message. More than 50 years had elapsed since the death of that wicked king, but the nation had not responded to the prophetic warnings. Though the Lord had confronted them with His Word, during the revival under Josiah (Manasseh's grandson), there had been no true repentance. The nation continued to follow Manasseh's sinful ways, and, therefore, remained under the same condemnation
...behold, all souls are mine...
As the Creator and Giver of Life, the LORD is the possessor of heaven and earth, and all that in them is (including all created beings). We are all accountable to Him. Gen 2:7; Zech 12:1
...the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Judgment is coming upon all people... fathers and sons, alike. The penalty for sin is death. eg., Gen 2:16,17
However, Adam's physical death did not occur immediately after he sinned. Rather, his sin separated him from fellowship with God. By his own choice, the man was cut off from the only One who has Life in Himself. By turning from Him, Adam and his children became dead in their trespasses and sins. Eph 2:1-3
     Yet, as soon as Adam sinned, God pointed him to the Savior ("the seed of the woman"), who would deliver fallen man from his condition (Gen 3:15). Likewise, in the NT, the penalty for sin is declared alongside the Lord's provision (Rom 6:23).
...The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?
Yes. The children, who continue in the sinfulness which their fathers passed down to them, are under the same judgment. Judgment was unavoidable, for the nation, which persisted in its sin. But God has made provision for those who seek Him.
     Jeremiah quotes this proverb in another context (Jer 31:29,30). The very next verse, in that chapter (Jer 31:31-33), announces the New Covenant, by which repentant hearts are reconciled to God, are given a new nature like His, and are brought into fellowship with Him, whom to know is Life eternal (Joh 17:3).
     Apart from that transformation, "Every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge" (Jer 31:30).
5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,
6 [And] hath not eaten upon the mountains,
neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife,
neither hath come near to a menstruous woman,
7 And hath not oppressed any, [but] hath restored to the debtor his pledge,
hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry,
and hath covered the naked with a garment;
8 He [that] hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase,
[that] hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity,
hath executed true judgment between man and man,
9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly;
he [is] just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
...if a man be just {HB=tsadiyq, righteous}... and do that which is lawful {HB=mishpat, according to the judgments} and right {HB=tsedaqah, justice}.
This passage is not teaching that salvation can be earned by good works.
Rather, "if a man be righteous... and do..." ie., the righteous man will do righteous works.
The man whose heart is right with God, will seek to obey His Word, in order to do what God expects of him.
The condition of his heart is revealed by the way he lives. Eph 2:8-10; Jam 2:18
     eg., Abraham's faith was first accounted to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6). Then, because Abraham was in right relationship with God, Abraham's way of living would be in accord with God's 'justice and judgment' (Gen 18:19).
The acceptable and unacceptable actions (listed in v.6-9, and repeated in subsequent verses) are meant to test the reality of a man's faith and devotion to God, in the context of the culture of that day. The points listed were specifically addressed by the OT Law, and were being specifically violated by the nation, as Ezekiel wrote. The righteous man could be differentiated from others, in that he...
  • ...hath not eaten upon the mountains...
    This refers to participation in idolatrous sacrifices, in the high places. eg., Num 25:2; Eze 6:13
  • ...neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel...
    Eyes were lifted up to the idols in worship, and in expectation of blessing from them. eg., Ex 20:4,5; Deu 4:19
  • ...neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife... Lev 18:20; 20:10; cf. Jer 5:8,9; Heb 13:4
  • ...neither hath come near to a menstruous woman... Lev 18:19; 20:18; cf. Gal 5:19-21
    (Such an 'uncleanness' might have been committed to prevent detection of adultery, by avoiding pregnancy.)
  • ...hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge... Ex 22:21-24; Lev 25:14; cf. Amos 8:4-6
    A garment taken in pledge for a loan was not to be held tightly. Deu 24:12,13; cf. Amos 2:8
  • ...hath spoiled {ie., robbed} none by violence... eg., Ex 20:15; cf. Eze 22:27-29
  • ...hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment... Deu 15:7-11
  • ...hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase... Lev 25:35-37; cf. Eze 22:12,13
    Usury is interest on a loan. Israelites were not to profit from their brothers' misfortune.
  • ...hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity... Isa 33:15
  • ...hath executed true judgment between man and man... Lev 19:15; Deu 16:18-20
  • ...hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly... Deu 6:1,2; 10:12,13; Jam 1:22-25
...he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
The person who whole heartedly lived according to God's Word, as described above, would be swimming upstream contrary to the culturally accepted norms of his ungodly neighbors. Who would take such a stand, choosing to live for the Lord, rather than in conformity with the world?
Only the just {ie., righteous}, who live by their faith in God, will live according to that faith. Rom 4:3; Hab 2:4
 
10. If he beget a son [that is] a robber, a shedder of blood,
and [that] doeth the like to [any] one of these [things],
11 And that doeth not any of those [duties],
but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour's wife,
12 Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge,
and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination,
13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase:
shall he then live? he shall not live:
he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
The son of a righteous man does not inherit his father's righteousness.
The son, who rejects and lives contrary to God's Word, demonstrates his own unrighteousness.
As an unrighteous man, he will be judged for his own sin (not according to his father's righteousness).
...his blood will be upon him...- because the penalty for sin is death (v.4).
(Presumably, the father had sought to instruct and warn his son. Eze 3:18,19)
14 Now, lo, [if] he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done,
and considereth
{Psa 119:59,60}, and doeth not such like,
15 [That] hath not eaten upon the mountains,
neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
hath not defiled his neighbour's wife,
16 Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge,
neither hath spoiled by violence, [but] hath given his bread to the hungry,
and hath covered the naked with a garment,
17 [That] hath taken off his hand from the poor,
[that] hath not received usury nor increase,
hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes;
he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.
18 [As for] his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence,
and did [that] which [is] not good among his people,
lo, even he shall die in his iniquity.
The son of the rebellious sinner (mentioned in v.10-13) does not need to follow his father in sin.
  • If the son of the sinner turns in faith to the LORD, and lives for Him,
    he will be judged as righteous, and will enter into eternal life.
    He does not bear the guilt of his father.
  • However, the son's righteousness does not remove the guilt of his father, who remains under the penalty of death.
    The points presented in the previous verses had been illustrated by the lives of Judah's kings. Hezekiah and his great-grandson Josiah were both righteous kings, who attempted to turn the nation back to the LORD. Yet, both were sons of wicked fathers, and both had sons who did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?
When the son hath done that which is lawful and right,
[and] hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,
neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son:
the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him,
and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
...Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?
The word 'iniquity' {HB='avon} can refer to either the 'perversity of sin' or the 'punishment for sin.' The latter is intended here. ie., Didn't God say He would visit the sins of the fathers upon their children to the third and fourth generation? (Ex 20:5)
     The question is rooted in their self-righteousness. Attributing their troubles to the sins of their predecessors, they had not acknowledged their own guilt. Considering themselves better than their forefathers, they could not accept their judgment as just. Yet, God's judgment was upon them, because they continued in their fathers' wicked ways. cp. Mat 23:29-36
...the soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father...
This principle, set in OT Law, is foundational to human justice. Deu 24:16
Every person bears the consequences of his own righteousness or wickedness. Isa 3:10,11; Jer 32:18,19; Gal 6:7,8
21. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed,
and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him:
in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD:
[and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?
The sinner who repents and turns to the LORD, in faith..."shall surely live, he shall not die."
How is it possible for a 'sinner' to escape God's just judgment?
  • ...all his transgressions... shall not be mentioned {ie., remembered}...
    The repentant sinner's sin is removed from his account. cp. Psa 32:1,2; 51:1; Rom 3:23-26; Heb 8:12
  • ...in his righteousness that he hath done shall he live.
    Note that it does not say 'by his righteousness...' Titus 3:5,6
    Righteousness is imputed to the one who believes God's promise. Rom 4:1-8,23-25
    Imputed righteousness is demonstrated by living 'in righteousness' to serve the Redeemer.
    Saving faith is accompanied by living for the Savior. Jam 2:17
...Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?
The LORD answers this question directly, in v.32.
...and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
The sinner, being dead in sins, cannot change his ways (Jer 13:23).
But he can turn to the LORD, who alone is able to make the sinner righteous and to give him Life. Isa 1:18; 1Cor 6:9-11
24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity,
[and] doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked [man] doeth, shall he live?
All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned:
in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
The man who professes to be righteous, but who turns to live like the world, demonstrates that he really is not right with God.
Self-righteousness is an external pretense, worn over one's inner sinful nature. But by 'trespassing a trespass' (ie., committing unfaithfulness against the LORD, cp. Eze 14:13,14; 17:20), a man loses his pretentious cover and reveals his heart condition.
The righteousness which is from God involves a new nature, which desires to please the LORD. Titus 2:11-14; 1Joh 3:5-10
Self-righteousness is no substitute for the Righteousness of God, and has no merit before Him. Isa 64:6; Rom 10:3; Heb 10:38,39
...his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned {ie., remembered}... in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
Without true righteousness from God, a man remains under the penalty for sin. Mat 5:20; 7:22,23
25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal.
Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal?
are not your ways unequal?
26 When a righteous [man] turneth away from his righteousness,
and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them;
for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
27 Again, when the wicked [man] turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed,
and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal.
O house of Israel, are not my ways equal?
are not your ways unequal?
30. Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel,
every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD.
Repent, and turn [yourselves] from all your transgressions;
so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed;
and make you a new heart and a new spirit:
for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD:
wherefore turn [yourselves], and live ye.
...Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal.
The word 'equal' {HB=takan, balanced, measured out, weighed out} occurs six times in these verses (in negative or positive form).
...Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
  • The Lord's way is to weigh the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    This word for 'equal' is translated 'weigh' in 1Sam 2:3; Prov 16:2; and 'ponder' in Prov 21:2; 24:12
    He knows the true motives of the heart from which 'good' actions flow. Jer 17:9,10
    He knows the character of the heart from which 'evil' actions flow. Mark 7:20-23
    He weighs men's hearts against the standard of His righteousness. Lev 20:7; 1Pet 1:15,16
    All men fall short of His standard, except those to whom He has imputed true righteousness.
  • Man's way is to weigh their actions in comparison with the actions of other men.
    By man's standard, righteousness is relative to more 'good' versus 'bad' actions.
    But man's standard is woefully inadequate. Rom 3:10-19; Jam 2:10-12
...therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel...
The nation was about to be judged, because they had chosen to continue in the sins of their fathers, and because they had refused the Lord's repeated calls to repentance.
...every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD.
Yet, the Lord uses a just balance, weighing the ways of every individual.
(A man's ways reveal the condition of his heart. Ecc 11:9)
...Repent, and turn... from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin {ie., stumbling block, cause of your fall}. Isa 55:6,7
True repentance requires that we "turn from all... cast away from all your trangressions." Partial improvement is not enough, for His holiness requires the removal of all impurity. The LORD is looking for hearts that desire to be done with sin, and truly pure within.
...and make you a new heart and a new spirit.
This is something that a man cannot do for himself. But in those who turn to Him, the Lord creates a new heart (Psa 51:10; 2Cor 5:17).
...for why will ye die, O house of Israel? ... wherefore, turn yourselves, and live...
Once again, the LORD pleads with His people to turn to Him. For in Him is Life. Deu 30:19,20; cp. Joh 1:4; 11:25,26; 14:6

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