Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
In the first chapters of the book, his main purpose was to impress upon his people the fact that the siege and exile would be coming, and the city
would be destroyed.
Another part of his function is to explain God’s reasons for what is happening, and to show them that God is not working capriciously. He is acting
in the interests of righteousness.
“What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel; ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set
As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no longer be used by you in Israel”- Ezekiel ch18 vv2-3
On the day when the Lord allowed Moses an oblique view of himself, he was proclaiming himself as “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
At first glance, it might appear that Ezekiel’s declaration is correcting the words heard by Moses. However, there is no real conflict between the
The meaning of the original proclamation is that the children will be punished as well as
the fathers. If the fathers experience devastation,
or if they are sent into exile, the later generations will still be feeling the effects of these events.
Whereas the proverb cited above (and quoted also in Jeremiah ch31 v29) claims that the children are punished instead of
It’s expressing a popular fatalism, the conviction of “there’s no justice”.
It may be the grievance of a current generation who think themselves better than their ancestors, and believe themselves to be suffering for the
faults of their ancestors.
But the proverb is mistaken.
For future reference, all souls belong to God individually, and he will (also) punish them individually.
Whether father or son, “the souls that sins will die”.
The point is then spelled out in more detail.
Righteousness is defined by behaviour in line with God’s will. The righteous man will refrain from idolatry. He will refrain from pollution of
marriage; he “does not defile his neighbour’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity”. He refrains from robbery and acting
oppressively, lends without demanding interest and restores the pledge to a debtor, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a
The unrighteous man does the exact opposite, in every way.
If a man is righteous, and does what is lawful and right, then he will live.
If he has a son, on the other hand, who does abominable things, then the son “shall surely die, his blood will be on himself” (vv5-13).
Conversely, if the son of that son “sees all the sins which his father has done, and fears, and does not do likewise… he shall surely live”
“The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son;
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”.
Both verdicts are subject to amendment, if the man alters his behaviour.
If the righteous man gives up his righteousness and joins the wicked man in doing abominable things, then he shall die as a wicked man. None of his
former righteous deeds will be remembered.
On the other hand, if the wicked man turns away from all the sins which he has been committing, and does what is lawful and right, then he will live.
None of his former transgressions will be remembered.
This is the outcome which the Lord God himself would prefer;
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked… and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
That is the real reason for his extended patience before he takes action.
How, then, can the house of Israel say “The way of the Lord is not just?”
The wicked man or the man who turns to wickedness will die, and the righteous man or the man who turns to righteousness will live. What could be
fairer than that?
Now obviously this question invites the kind of answer made by Job. He would have pointed out, quickly enough, that in practice
it is not
self-evident that righteous men live longer than unrighteous men.
And since everybody
dies in the end, the statement that “the righteous shall live” could only have been true in a relative sense, in any
That is, if we are talking about ordinary physical life.
In order to be fulfilled, the promise that “the righteous shall live” really does require some sense in which the righteous do not die at all.
So this kind of promise foreshadows, by implication, more explicit statements of the possibility of eternal life, which would meet the expectations of
The moral on which Ezekiel closes the chapter is a plea to the people to turn away from their transgressions, to “get yourself a new heart and a new
Why must they insist on throwing themselves forward into death?
“I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so turn and live”.
It is very easy for the modern reader, scanning this passage printed among the books of the Old Testament, to miss half the significance of what
Ezekiel is saying.
The most important point about this explanation is the timing.
It comes at a moment when Jerusalem and the kingdom based upon Jerusalem are about to be destroyed, as Ezekiel has been proclaiming in all the
On the face of it, this appears to mean the end of the relationship between the people of the land and their God.
Yet here we see an careful explanation of how their God intends to conduct himself towards them in the future
, rewarding their righteousness
and dealing with their transgressions.
In other words, it is taken for granted that there will be
Even as the prophecy of judgement reaches its climax, we see the first signs of the prophecy of restoration.
edit on 16-3-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)