Posts Tagged ‘Ezekiel’

Reason #5 – Spiritual Death In Ezekiel 18 Means A Contradiction Between Ezekiel and Christ

If Ezekiel 18 contains the “plan of salvation” for the OT saint, then there is a contradiction between the book of Ezekiel and the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When it comes to understanding the covenants of God, most honest Bible students will agree the “Old Testament” was still in effect during the time of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).  In fact, it was impossible for the New Testament to be activated until the Lord Jesus Christ died.

(Hebrews 9:16-17)  For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.   For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

If the Old Testament was still in effect during the earthly ministry of Christ, we would expect the mechanics of salvation to be the same as the time of Ezekiel.  Note we did NOT say the “message” of salvation.  It is important to make the distinction.  We see an abrupt change in the message given to Israel when John the Baptist arrives on the scene:

(Matthew 3:1-2)  In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Even the brethren who claim man was saved by works in the Old Testament concede the point there is a new message when John starts preaching.  These brethren also claim Mark 10 and other passages demonstrate man was saved during the time of the earthly ministry of Christ by repentance, baptism, and following the commandments.[1] If we can agree the mechanics of salvation remained the same (again, please note I did not say “message”), we must also agree the mechanics of eternal security remain the same.  In other words, God saved people either by faith plus works or faith alone in BOTH the time of Ezekiel and the time of the earthly ministry of Christ.

By necessity, the brethren who believe in faith plus works also believe Ezekiel 18 proves people lost their salvation when they sinned and failed to bring the appropriate sacrifice resolving to keep the Law.  I recently heard a preacher use Ezekiel 18:24 to “prove” a man lost his salvation in the OT when he didn’t keep up works under the Mosaic Law.

(Ezekiel 18:24)  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.

But how does this compare with the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ?  Does Jesus Christ teach a man must “keep up” the commandments in order to remain eligible for eternal life?  Without even examining the faith plus works vs. faith alone issue, examine the aspect of security in the following verses:

  • (John 6:47)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
  • (John 3:18)  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
  • (John 5:24)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
    • If a person passes from death to life, does the failure to “keep the commandments” pass him back from life to death?
  • (John 10:27-29)  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.   My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
    • If “any man” cannot pluck the sheep out of Christ’s hand, and “no man” is able to “pluck” them out of the Father’s hand, how could a man’s failure to obey the Law remove him from the hand of both the Son and the Father?

The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that those who are saved are eternally secure.  This presents a major problem for those who believe Ezekiel’s message “proves” man lived under a conditional salvation in the Old Testament based on human performance.  God dealt with Israel under the same covenant both in Ezekiel 18 and during the earthly ministry of Christ.  There cannot be a contradiction in the Word of God so the problem must be with understanding.  Either man was eternally secure in Ezekiel 18 and the faith plus works interpretation is wrong, or man was not eternally secure and there is a contradiction between the words of Christ and the words of Ezekiel.

In case some are wondering, it is important to clarify before becoming mischaracterized.  Please also note I DID NOT STATE:

1) The message of salvation was the same for those prior to the dispensation of grace as those living in the dispensation of grace.

2) The mechanics of eternal security was the same for the Old Testament saint as it is today.

3) The ministry of the Holy Spirit was the same in the Old Testament as it is today.

God operates with man on the basis of 2 or 3 covenants (Covenant Theology)

[1] See the article Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler for my commentary on that passage


Read Full Post »

Reason #3 – The terms of the contract between God and Israel in the context of Ezekiel 18 refer to physical punishment.

The phrase “house of Israel” occurs 140 times in the Old Testament.  In the Book of Ezekiel, we find this phrase an amazing 79 times!

Here are the occurrences in Ezekiel 18:

(Ezekiel 18:6)  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,

(Ezekiel 18:15)  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,

(Ezekiel 18:25)  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?

(Ezekiel 18:29)  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?

(Ezekiel 18:30)  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.

(Ezekiel 18:31)  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?

This is a prophetic book about a nation – the house of Israel!

Terms of the Contract = Physical

Ezekiel is a book about the consequences of a broken contract between Jehovah and Israel and the restoration of the nation.  In Leviticus 26, a series of blessings and curses upon the nation Israel are laid out in orderly fashion.  Verses 1 through 13 detail the blessings while verses 14 through 39 list the curses.  These are conditional blessings and curses.  Israel contracted to receive them based on her performance in obedience or disobedience to the commandments of God. Israel’s heart as God’s chosen people turned against God.  The curses, given in five separate courses, turn out to be a prophetic history of the nation.  Ezekiel’s ministry occurred in the beginning of the 5th course of punishment.  This is THE KEY to understanding why Ezekiel prophesied such condemnation against Israel.  Ezekiel prophesied the details of the curses Israel agreed to in her contract with God!

God uses Ezekiel the priest (Ezek 1:3) to prophesy using the contract found in Leviticus, the book of the priesthood.  Leviticus is a book about God’s holiness.  Ezekiel is a book about Israel’s ungodliness.  Leviticus presents a sacrificial system which outwardly demonstrates an inward communion between God and His people.  Ezekiel condemns the nation because their sacrifices are a false manifestation of broken communion.

The curses in Leviticus 26 do not reveal individual condemnation for failure to perform the Law.  It’s important to remember these punishments resulted from a corporate agreement between Jehovah and Israel.  While there were certainly righteous individuals in the nation at any given time, Israel as a whole continued to prove they were a hard-hearted and disobedient people.  Just as the four courses of punishment are given in a series of cumulative installments, the fifth course of punishment itself is in cumulative installments.  Without going into much more detail, here are just a few examples of the parallels between Leviticus 26 and the prophecy of Ezekiel.


Leviticus 26

Ezekiel’s Prophecy

Famine (Leviticus 26:26)  And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied. (Ezekiel 4:16)  Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment:
Cannibalism (Leviticus 26:29)  And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. (Ezekiel 5:10)  Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.
Slain men’s carcases laid upon the destroyed idols (Leviticus 26:30)  And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. (Ezekiel 6:13)  Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.
Cities laid waste, idolatrous temples destroyed, refusal to accept offerings (Leviticus 26:31)  And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. (Ezekiel 6:6)  In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.
Judgment in a foreign land (Leviticus 26:33)  And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. (Ezekiel 5:2)  Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them.

(Ezekiel 12:14)  And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.[1]

The Book of Ezekiel is about a nation (Israel) who broke her vows to Jehovah in the contract she agreed to fulfill and was destined to destruction as a result.

(Leviticus 26:46)  “These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.”

In the chapters leading up to Ezekiel 18 and those immediately after, page after page is filled with promises of physical destruction because of Israel’s disobedience to her covenant vows.  The wrath of Jehovah has already been executed in some course, but much still remained as Ezekiel penned the book.

But, just as Leviticus 26 concludes with the promise of restoration with repentance in verses 40-45, Ezekiel also looks forward to the time when Jehovah Himself will fulfill the promises that Israel could never keep.  There will be restoration and blessing because Jehovah’s mercy and grace will replace the blind attempt of a sinful nation to maintain a righteous standing before Him.  This is the context of the book of Ezekiel, including chapter 18.

Therefore, we must keep in mind the contractual blessings and curses in Ezekiel are physical in nature as a result of a physical contract with physical consequences.  It is recommended the Bible student go back to Leviticus 26 to find anything except physical blessings and cursing promised.  Throughout history, this is the way the Lord manifested Himself to His nation.

[1] In all four OT occurrences of the phrase “draw out the sword” (here, Ezek 5:2, 12; 12:14), it is preceded by the use of “scatter” and it is always a reference to Israel.  It is in three other passages but always in reference to the judgment of a nation outside Israel (Egypt: Exod 15:9, Ezek 30:11; Tyre: Ezek 28:7).

Read Full Post »

Reason #2 – “Soul” in Ezekiel refers to the whole person, not just the spirit of man, and so does not refer to eternal death.

Those who wrongly assume “death” means spiritual death in Ezekiel 18, make the same wrong assumption where the “soul” is mentioned.  An erroneous understanding is built from the first assumption.  It is reasoned that if this passage presents spiritual life and death, then the word “soul” must be the part of man subject to spiritual life and death.  And if works play a part in this spiritual life and death, then it is reasoned this must confirm works play a part in the salvation of Old Testament people.  Here it is presented in another way.

Assumption #3 Works leading to life or death must be the Old Testament plan of salvation
Assumption #2 “Soul” must be the part of man subject to spiritual death
Assumption #1 “Death” must be spiritual

This reasoning is a “house of cards.”  Once it is understood that Ezekiel 18 refers to physical life and death (Assumption #1), then it is easy to understand why the works produced in the context of this passage have nothing to do with justification unto eternal life.

By necessity, those who see the passage in terms of spiritual life and death believe the word “soul” must refer to the second part of man’s trichotomy (spirit, soul, body – cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:23) or a combination of soul and spirit.  However, once again, this forces a meaning on the passage without consideration of the context.  The Hebrew word “nephesh” is often, but not always, translated into the English word “soul.”  It is used in a variety of contexts in the Old Testament.  Here are a few examples of places where it is translated “soul” in the Old Testament.

In some places it refers to the individual man.

(Exodus 1:5)  “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.”

(Exodus 12:4)  “And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.”

(Ezekiel 13:18)  “And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you?”

In other places, it is translated “soul” where man exercises certain powers or performs certain actions.

(Genesis 27:4)  “And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.”

(1 Samuel 1:26)  “And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.”

(Ezekiel 4:14)  “Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.”

And yet in other places, “nephesh” is translated “soul” to refer to mortal man, subject to physical death, salvation, and prolonged life.

(Genesis 12:13)  “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.”

  • Notice Abraham’s soul referred to his physical life in this context.

(1 Samuel 24:11)  “Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.”

  • Notice David is referred to his physical life.

(Ezekiel 18:27)  “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.”

  • Notice it is the wicked man who turns away from his wickedness that saves his soul alive.

It is entirely consistent with the system of physical promises and physical punishments given to the nation Israel for death of the “soul” in Ezekiel 18 to mean physical death.  Even if one would like to take the contrary position, there is little if not less evidence, to support the concept of “soul” being the part of man subject to spiritual death in this context.

Read Full Post »

(In the previous post, I laid out six reasons why “the soul that sinneth” does not concern spiritual death.  In the next several posts, I am going to go into detail concerning each reason.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post.  I thought about splitting this up into two or three separate posts but thought it better to just leave the information together for continuity of thought sake.  Yes, I am aware how much this violates the intent of the blogosphere!  Thanks for your indulgence.)

Reason #1 – “Death” In Ezekiel Means Physical Death, Not Spiritual Death

Those who believe people Old Testament saints were justified unto eternal life by keeping the Law make the assumption that the subject of dying and death in Ezekiel 18 refers to spiritual death.  But this is a huge assumption and an even bigger presumption on the passage.  First, it must not be assumed spiritual death is in view just because the words “soul,” “sin,” and “dieth” occur together.  Secondly, it is presumptuous to take the doctrine we understand today as spiritual death and force it on the understanding and situation of the Old Testament people in this passage.  Grave error occurs when passages are interpreted out of context both historically and dispensationally.

In the King James Version, the word “die” is used 30 times in Ezekiel.  Let’s look at a few instances where this occurs and see if we can understand the meaning of the passages, specifically Ezekiel 18.

The Death of the Wicked Is Literal, Physical Death

(Ezekiel 3:18)  “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”

  • Who is the wicked? Ezekiel 3:17 tells us the Lord is talking about the “house of Israel.”

(Ezekiel 3:17)  Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

Question:  Is “…house of Israel” referring to an individual or a nation?

Answer:  It should be obvious the context, like most warnings in Ezekiel, is national in scope.

  • Why are they considered “wicked?” Ezekiel 3:7 tells us, “…for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.”
  • According to this verse, when the wicked dies, there is bloodshed. There are only two ways to interpret this – spiritually or literally. If the watchman does not warn the wicked (the disobedient house of Israel), the watchman will be held accountable. This is the principle laid out in Genesis 9.

(Genesis 9:5-6)  “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

The bloodshed refers to the taking of physical life.

  • Conclusion: This is a warning to the prophet. He must fulfill his duty to warn the house of Israel of their wicked ways and the coming physical consequences. Otherwise, he (the prophet) will be held accountable for the deaths of his fellow Israelites. The accountability is literal, the shedding of the blood of the wicked is literal, and thus the death of the wicked is literal.

Dying “In Iniquity” Is Physical Punishment

(Ezekiel 3:19)  “Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”

  • What does “thou has delivered thy soul” mean in this context? There are two possible interpretations:
    • This is a passage on soul salvation. By warning the wicked of the coming judgment of God, Ezekiel himself as the watchman gains justification unto eternal life. If he fails to warn the wicked, he is condemned to eternal damnation.
    • The literal interpretation is: By warning the wicked, Ezekiel will deliver his soul from something. What is the something? It is the resulting guilt and accountability of not warning the wicked.
  • A comparison passage is found in chapter 14. For the sake of brevity, we won’t exposit all the pertinent verses. Here are just a few to help us get the point:

(Ezekiel 14:17-20)  Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:  Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:  Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

  • The sword comes upon the land – physical punishment
  • Man and beast will be cut off from it. What is “it?” It = the land, not eternal death. “Cut off” from the land. In other words, a figure of speech for physical death. Looked at another way – If this was eternal death, why would “beast” be mentioned?
  • The three men refer back to Noah, Daniel, and Job (verse 14). What shall they be delivered from? “A sword” as we saw in verse 17. This is deliverance from physical punishment.
  • Pestilence = physical punishment
  • Blood = a euphemism for death as seen again in the cutting off of man and beast.
  • “Deliver their own souls” = must refer back to the salvation from the physical punishment in verse 19 (pestilence and blood).

Conclusion:  Once again the passage concerns physical death.  Spiritual death is not in view.

Pointing Back to Context

(Ezekiel 3:20)  Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

In case you didn’t notice, the first two examples were from verses adjacent to one another.  Now, in Ezekiel 3:20, let’s ask the question once again – Is the context in this passage physical death or spiritual death? Notice the Lord says “Again” to let us know He is continuing the thought of the previous verses – the context is physical punishment, not spiritual.

Additionally, the word “deliver” is used 16 times in the book of Ezekiel and each time it refers to something physical occurring.  Check it out in: Ezekiel 7:19, Ezekiel 11:9, Ezekiel 13:21, Ezekiel 13:23, Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 14:20, Ezekiel 21:31, Ezekiel 23:28, Ezekiel 25:4, Ezekiel 25:7, Ezekiel 33:5, Ezekiel 33:12, Ezekiel 34:10, Ezekiel 34:12

A Few More Considerations

For the sake of saving time (and space!) here are some of the other verses that contain the word “die”:  Ezekiel 5:12, Ezekiel 6:12, Ezekiel 7:15, Ezekiel 12:13, and:

(Ezekiel 13:19)  “And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?”

  • Here is an indictment against the false prophetesses in Israel. If the death in this verse is spiritual death:
    • The false prophetesses had the power to condemn innocent people to eternity without God.
    • The false prophetesses had the power to deliver those who were guilty unto eternal life.

Obviously, this was not the case and this verse refers to physical death and physical life.

  • The terminology in this verse also occurs in similar fashion in a comparison verse in Ezekiel 18!

(Ezekiel 18:27)  “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.”

The phrase in Ezekiel 13 “save the souls alive” refers to physical life, and the phrase “save his soul alive” refers to physical life.  In Ezekiel 13 it is the unrepentant and untruthfulness that causes the death of the innocent.  In Ezekiel 18, it is the change of mind and the obeying of the truth that saves life of the repentant.  This is a consistent use of the phrase.

Here is a list of verses with the word “die” in Ezekiel except those in chapter 18.  Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 28:8, Ezekiel 28:10, Ezekiel 33:8, Ezekiel 33:9, Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 33:13, Ezekiel 33:14, Ezekiel 33:15, Ezekiel 33:18, Ezekiel 33:27

An honest study would reveal these verses refer to physical punishment, not eternal death in Hell.  So far, we’ve considered every verse in Ezekiel except those in chapter 18.  If the verses in this one chapter do concern eternal life and death, then this chapter stands out as the great exception in the entire 48 chapters of Ezekiel!

So you can study it on your own, here are the rest of the verses that contain the word “die” in Ezekiel:   Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:13, Ezekiel 18:17, Ezekiel 18:18, Ezekiel 18:20, Ezekiel 18:21, Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:24, Ezekiel 18:26, Ezekiel 18:28, Ezekiel 18:31


1)      In Ezekiel, “the death of the wicked” refers to physical death.

2)      In Ezekiel, to “die in iniquity” refers to physical death.

3)      In Ezekiel, when a soul is “delivered,” refers to physical deliverance.

Once again, it must be stated that the interpretation of spiritual death in Ezekiel 18 assumes a meaning on the passage without taking into account the context of the passage or the entire Book of Ezekiel.  There is no comparison passage in Ezekiel that supports the conclusion that life and death should be interpreted as spiritual rather than physical.

Read Full Post »

Ezekiel 18:3  As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.

In Scripture, proverbs common amongst the people of Israel were recorded.  They were the result of human observation.  They were brief encapsulations about life intended to teach something.  These proverbs are not to be confused with the Book of Proverbs given by God Himself as Scripture. Instead, these observations were invented by people and passed down as “wisdom.”  Here are a few examples.

(1 Samuel 10:12)  And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?

(1 Samuel 24:13)  As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.

(Ezekiel 16:44)  Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

(Genesis 22:14)  And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

  • The observation of Abraham is encapsulated in a saying recorded in this verse.  “As it is said to this day,” is not to be confused as an inspired word given by the Lord.  But rather it is a phrase that teaches the meaning or intent of the name Jehovahjireh.

It is God Himself Who tells Israel to stop repeating this proverb.  It was wicked because it communicated the hopelessness of God’s people.  They portrayed themselves as “victims” of the sins of their forefathers.  God sets Israel straight by rejecting the idea that their distress is a result of generational guilt.

Read Full Post »

The Proverb

(Ezekiel 18:1)  The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,

“The word of the LORD came unto me…” occurs 46 times in Ezekiel.  The prophet is about to communicate something directly from God Himself.

(Ezekiel 18:2)  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?

Although the destruction of Israel was yet to be accomplished by the Babylonians, a proverb was circulating amongst the exiled people at that time.  Jeremiah, a contemporary of Ezekiel, also wrote about this proverb in Jeremiah 31:29-30.  Both quoted the proverb to let the nation know the time had come for the people of Israel to stop using it as an excuse for their circumstances.  Please notice the proverb is about “the land of Israel.”

This proverb concerned the collective guilt of the nation and the object of blame for their current predicament.

…the fathers –  The previous generations prior to the one currently in Babylonian captivity.

…sour grapes – The sins which they (the fathers) committed.

…the children – The current generation.

…the children’s teeth are set on edge – The consequences, which is the suffering they were enduring – exile into a foreign land.

There are different ideas regarding what “set on edge” means.  Obviously, the “sour grapes” mean they are unripe.  They are bitter, which is what John Wycliffe states in his early English translation.  The taste of these grapes the fathers ate has an effect on the mouths of their children.  Some commentators suggest the proverb is talking about the acidic reaction on the teeth.  Regardless of the chemical explanation, the proverb provides a human explanation of the current condition of Israel during Ezekiel’s time.  God commands an immediate stop to this proverb.

The proverb tries to explain the reason for the suffering of the current generation.  It points to the sins of the previous generations, and attempts to avoid the guilt or at least waters down the idea of individual responsibility.  Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah write a strong rebuke rejecting the proverb.  The human tendency to avoid bearing personal accountability for sin goes all the way back to Genesis 3 where Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.  The remainder of Ezekiel 18 is designed to set Israel straight regarding accountability.

Read Full Post »

Ezekiel 18:4 – “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.”

Ezekiel 18:20 – “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.”

Outline and Setting of Ezekiel 18

The book of Ezekiel is full of compelling and exciting prophecies.  Ezekiel was a prophet and priest living in Babylon during the exile ordered by Nebuchadnezzar.  While Ezekiel lived with his fellow refugees in a community called “Telabib,” the prophet Jeremiah lived in the land of Israel.  Both men heaped condemnation on the nation of Israel at a time when she was about to go through the devastating judgment of God.

Ezekiel 18 is God’s response to a wicked proverb designed to protest God’s justice.  We find the proverb in verse 2.  The chapter outlines three objections.  Here is the structure of the chapter in relation to these objections:

  • Vs 2 – The proverb disputing the justice of their fate
    • Ezekiel answers the proverb in vss 5-18 through 3 case studies
      • Vss 5-9 – The righteous person
      • Vss 10-13 – The wicked son
      • Vss 14-17 – The righteous grandson
  • Vs 19 – The question of Divine Justice – “Why?”
    • The answer – Vss 20-24
  • Vs 25 – The objection to the fairness of God – “The way of the Lord is not equal”
    • The answer – vss 26-32

It would be worthwhile to examine the details of the generational case studies presented in this chapter.  However, to keep this article at a reasonable length, we will only have the opportunity to look at a limited amount of information.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »