Ezekiel 33 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
This chapter opens the fourth major division of the book of Ezekiel (see the Outline, link above). Up to this point, the Glory of the LORD has been made known through His judgment upon the sinful rebellion of His people {Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, eg., Eze 7:4}, and upon the arrogant pride of their enemies {eg., Eze 32:15}. As the book continues, the Glory of the LORD will be revealed in His restoration of His people to their land, in the Kingdom of the Messiah {eg., Eze 36:11}. In preparation for this restoration, additional judgments are foretold (in the next few chapters), upon Israel and upon specific enemies.
     While the previous eight chapters focused upon the judgment of Gentile nations, this chapter again addresses the people of Israel.
     At the beginning of this book, the LORD called and commissioned Ezekiel as His watchman, to deliver His warnings of judgment to the Jews first (Eze 3:10,11) and also to the Gentiles (ch. 25-32). Here, as the LORD prepares to proclaim promises of restoration, Ezekiel is recommissioned as His prophet to Israel, but with a new emphasis.
 
A. The Watchman's Responsibilities Reviewed (33:1-6)
 
1. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them,
When I bring the sword upon a land,
if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning;
if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.
But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned;
if the sword come, and take [any] person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity;
but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
...when I bring the sword upon a land, if the people... take a man... and set him for their watchman...
A man appointed, by his people, as a watchman was entrusted with life and death responsibility.
Ezekiel's reponsibility was even greater, for he had been appointed to this role, by the LORD (Eze 3:17).
...if when he see the sword come... he blow the trumpet, and warn the people... (cp. Joel 2:1)
Ezekiel had seen, in vision, the approaching judgment (eg., Eze 6:1-3). He had faithfully sounded the alarm.
Throughout this book, he spoke only what the LORD had given him to speak. Over and over, he declared "...the word of the LORD came unto me, saying..." Therefore, his messages were delivered with the authority of the LORD Himself: "Thus saith the LORD..."
...then whosoever heareth... and taketh not warning... his blood shall be upon his own head...
While the watchman was responsible to sound the warning, each of the people were responsible for how they heard (Eze 3:11; Jer 6:17).
...but he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul...
When the LORD first commissioned Ezekiel to sound the warning, He had clearly instructed him concerning his responsibilities (Eze 3:17-21). Ezekiel had been faithful. But the people had not given heed to God's Word. Therefore, they were caught up in the judgment, with only themselves to blame (cp. Heb 2:1-3).
...if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet... the people be not warned... his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
The false prophets had denied God's Word, when they heard it. Rather than sounding an alarm, they had contradicted Ezekiel's warnings, with false proclamations of peace (eg., Jer 8:11). The LORD would hold them accountable for the blood of His people. Isa 56:10,11; Eze 13:2-10
 
B. The Watchman's Commission Renewed (33:7-9)
7 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel;
therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked [man], thou shalt surely die;
if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity;
but his blood will I require at thine hand.
9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it;
if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
The LORD re-commissioned Ezekiel as "a watchman unto the house of Israel" with the same words as at his first commissioning (Eze 3:17-19). Ezekiel had been faithful in declaring warnings of judgment, which, by this time, had overtaken Jerusalem. The LORD was now entrusting him to faithfully declare His Word concerning things that were yet to come (much of which awaits future fulfillment, even in our day). These things will be developed in subsequent chapters.
Today, the LORD continues to commission His servants to proclaim His Word.
A faithful 'watchman' (1Cor 4:1,2) will be careful to...
An unfaithful 'watchman' will be held accountable, by the LORD (Php 3:18,19; 2Pet 2:1).
...if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity...
The faithful watchman is not responsible for the response to his warning.
The LORD holds every hearer accountable for what he or she does with God's Word. Gal 5:19-21; 6:7,8
 
C. The Watchman's Message Re-iterated (33:10-20)
10. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel;
Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins [be] upon us,
and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
11 Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD,
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;
but that the wicked turn from his way and live:
turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
12 Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people,
The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression:
as for the wickedness of the wicked,
he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness;
neither shall the righteous be able to live for his [righteousness] in the day that he sinneth.
13 When I shall say to the righteous, [that] he shall surely live;
if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity,
all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered;
but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.
14 Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die;
if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
15 [If] the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed,
walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity;
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
16 None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him:
he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
17 Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal:
but as for them, their way is not equal.
18 When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
20 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal.
O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
The message of v.10-20 is a brief summary of an earlier message, recorded in ch. 18.
That previous message had repudiated a popular proverb: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." By this, the people were complaining that judgment was coming upon them for the sins of previous generations. In that message God corrected their misperception, by showing that judgment was coming upon the nation, because they had persisted in the wickedness of their fathers. They considered themselves better than their ancestors, but their self-righteousness did not measure up to the LORD's standard of true righteousness. Because the nation had hardened itself against God's warnings, its judgment was unavoidable. Yet, the LORD was still calling individuals to turn from their sins, and obtain true righteousness by faith in Him (Eze 18:20-23).
Since the time of that message, the national situation had changed, and so had the peoples' complaint...
...thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
In the interim, Jerusalem had fallen and the people had been taken captive and dispersed to foreign lands. The things foretold had come upon them (Eze 24:23; Lev 26:39). Under judgment for the sins of the nation, the exiled people 'pined away' in hopeless despair. Their lives hung in doubt. Their children had no future. Deu 28:66
...saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live...
"There is none righteous, no not one" (Rom 3:10). Yet, to all under the weight of sin and death, the LORD offers life for those who turn from sin, to Him. cp. 1Tim 2:4; 2Pet 3:9
...therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people...
    ...The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression...
    ...as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness.
Although judgment had overtaken the nation at large, the LORD was still weighing the hearts of individuals.
     A man's external facade of righteousness crumbles when his transgression {ie., sinful action} reveals the true condition of his heart (Mat 15:18,19). Self-righteousness may impress other men, but it is not acceptable before God, who looks on the heart (eg., Psa 90:8).
     On the other hand, the LORD imputes true righteousness to the repentant sinner, who being convicted of his sinfulness and desiring inner cleansing, turns to Him in faith (Psalm 51; Luk 18:9-14).
     The reality of this imputed righteousness is demonstrated in a change of life (as described in v.15,16). True righteousness will produce good works (Eph 2:8-10; 5:8-12). But by good works, a man cannot change the nature of his heart to make himself righteous in God's sight (Mat 7:22,23).
...Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal {ie., balanced, weighed}...
The Lord's way of weighing hearts is just, for He weighs true righteousness against the standard of His own holiness.
Men seek to tilt the scale in their favor, by comparing themselves with other men, or by hoping their good works will counterbalance the bad.
But the verdict is rendered according to God's scale... and it is a matter of life or death.
...O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
The LORD judges the heart of every individual. Note that, while this applies to all people, here, it is applied specifically to the Jewish people. As He judged the hearts of individual Jews in anticipation of the fall of Jerusalem (eg., Jer 24:5-10), so He will judge individual Jews in preparation for entrance into the future Kingdom of the Messiah (eg., Jer 31:31-33; Zech 13:8,9).
[For more detailed notes on the pertinent sections of the earlier similar message, see the Book Notes on Ezekiel ch.18, especially 18:21-32.]
 
D. The Watchman's Message Confirmed, by the Fall of Jerusalem (33:21-29)
21. And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth [month], in the fifth [day] of the month,
[that] one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.
22 Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came;
and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning;
and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.
23 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
24 Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying,
Abraham was one, and he inherited the land:
but we [are] many; the land is given us for inheritance.
25 Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood:
and shall ye possess the land?
26 Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife:
and shall ye possess the land?
27 Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
[As] I live, surely they that [are] in the wastes shall fall by the sword,
and him that [is] in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured,
and they that [be] in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.
28 For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease;
and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.
29 Then shall they know that I [am] the LORD,
when I have laid the land most desolate
because of all their abominations which they have committed.
...in the twelfth year, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month... one... came...saying, The city is smitten.
A year and a half after the fall of Jerusalem, a refugee finally brought the news to the exiles in Babylon. cp. Jer 39:2
(Some MSS read "in the eleventh year..." in which case, six months would have elapsed before the news arrived.)
...now the hand of the LORD was upon me... afore he that was escaped came... and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.
When the LORD first commissioned Ezekiel as His spokesman, He caused him to be 'dumb' {HB='alam, tongue tied, speechless} except when He put His Words in His prophet's mouth (Eze 3:26,27).
     On the day that Nebuchadnezzar had begun the siege of Jerusalem, the LORD had promised that Ezekiel's mouth would be opened, when word of the fall of Jerusalem reached the exiles (Eze 24:1-2,25-27).
     Now, just prior to the arrival of that news, the LORD loosened His prophet's tongue, allowing him to freely rehearse what God had foretold and what He had fulfilled. However, as the book continues, we will never hear Ezekiel sharing his own thoughts. Rather, he continues to speak only "the Word of the LORD [that] came unto me" (eg., v.22,23).
     The phrase "the hand of the LORD was upon me" (or, the equivalent) occurs seven times in this book.
Each occurrence marks the LORD's preparation and enabling of Ezekiel for new revelation and/or a new phase of his ministry.
  • Prior to the vision of the Glory of the God of Israel, and Ezekiel's call as a prophet, Eze 1:3
  • Prior to his commissioning as the LORD's watchman to warn His people, 3:14
  • Prior to receiving instructions for ministry among the exiles, 3:22
  • Prior to the vision of the Glory departing from Jerusalem, 8:1
  • Prior to his mouth being opened, at the news of Jerusalem's fall
    (soon after his re-commissioning as a watchman, to declare God's Word, 33:22)
  • Prior to the vision of the Dry Bones, concerning the restoration of Israel, 37:1
  • Prior to the vision of the Millennial Temple, 40:1
...son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying... we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.
Following the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar left a small remnant of Jews to tend the land, under Gedaliah, whom he appointed as governor (Jer 39:10; 40:7,8). These who had been 'the poor of the land' were now filled with prideful ambition to possess the whole land for themselves.
     However, the LORD had previously revealed that those who escaped the siege in Jerusalem, would not escape the sword and other forms of His judgment, for they were no less corrupt than their countrymen. They would be like the hairs 'few in number' remaining after the siege of Ezekiel's model of the city, at the beginning of his ministry (Eze 5:1-4).
     In v.25,26, the LORD itemized several sins for which they would be cast out of His land (cp. Lev 20:22; Deu 4:25,26)...
Therefore, judgment would overtake them by...
...the sword... beasts... pestilence... cp. Eze 5:12-17; Jer 15:2-4
They would be overtaken in the 'wastes' {ruins of the cities}, in the open field, and in every possible place of refuge.
...Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations...
On the day that this message was delivered, Ezekiel's prophecies had been confirmed, by the news of Jerusalem's fall. Yet, further desolation would come upon the people, before they would acknowledge that the LORD's hand had executed judgment upon them.
 
E. The Watchman's Message Received, as entertainment, not with conviction (33:30-33)
30. Also, thou son of man,
the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses,
and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying,
Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.
31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee [as] my people,
and they hear thy words, but they will not do them:
for with their mouth they shew much love, [but] their heart goeth after their covetousness.
32 And, lo, thou [art] unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument:
for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
33 And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,)
then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
...the children of thy people... are talking against {ie., of, about} thee... come... and hear... the word... from the LORD.
At this time, the people were not 'against' Ezekiel, in the sense of persecuting him, as other prophets had been persecuted (eg., Jer 11:18,19; 18:18). Rather, he was the subject of their conversations. The news concerning Jerusalem had confirmed his prophecies of its destruction. Therefore, they readily gathered to hear what else the prophet had to say.
     However, they honored God's Word with their lips, but did not take it to heart. eg., Isa 29:13,14; Jer 42:1-6,19-21; Mat 15:8; 22:16,17
...and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them.
They were like the elders who came, on several occasions, to enquire of the LORD before His prophet, though their hearts were not right before God (eg., Eze 8:1; 14:1-3; 20:1-3). They were like many people, today, who hear but do not heed God's Word (eg., Mat 7:24-27; Luk 6:46; Jam 1:22-24).
...with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
They flattered the preacher, but they followed their own worldly interests. eg., Psa 78:36,37; Mat 6:24; 13:22; Eph 5:5; 1Tim 6:9,10
...thou art unto them as a very lovely song {ie., a love song} of one that hath a pleasant voice... they hear thy words, but... do them not.
The prophet's words were beautiful to hear. While he spoke, the hearers were pleasantly entertained. But their lives were not affected by the Word of God which he spoke. cp. Mark 4:16,17; 6:20; Joh 5:35
...when this cometh to pass... then shall they know...
The prophet had faithfully spoken God's Word. It would be fulfilled, whether the people believed it or not (Eze 2:5).
     When the prophesied troubles overtook them, they would know that they had disregarded a spokesman from God (v.27-29).
     Yet, though the prophet's previous words had already been confirmed (v.21,22), the people remained in unbelief.
     Considering the hardness of men's hearts, God's messengers have reason to rejoice greatly, when some receive His Word rightly (1The 2:13).

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