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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Ezekiel 18

Verses 1-4

EZEKIEL - CHAPTER 18

RIGHTEOUS LIVING KEEPS ONE FROM ALL FORMS OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Verses 1-4:

Verses 1, 2 contain Divine instructions that Ezekiel was charged to give to the land of Israel. The Israelites were blaming their own chosen sins on their fathers. They repeatedly spouted the proverb that the "fathers had eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth were set on edge;" As if they could not help their own sins. While all men do inherit the carnal, depraved nature of their fathers, each is still a person of his own will and choice, to do right or wrong, Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 8:46; Psalms 51:5; Psalms 58:3; Isaiah 48:8.

Verse 3 advises that Israel will no more have any just or moral ground on which to blame either her chosen deeds of abomination, or divine chastisement, on her forefathers. Their former babbling of the proverb was a "cop-out" for their own personal and national sins. The same proverb is found Jeremiah 31:29-30. Their use of the proverb was similar to those who today excuse their sins by saying, "I’m just human," Lamentations 5:7; Adam blamed Eve, Genesis 3:12.

Verse 4 relates God’s claims of ownership of all souls. He owns those who bear His image, from creation. He owns them first, because He made them, second, because He sustains them, with life, breath, and all things, Acts 17:28; Malachi 2:10. As the creator, owner, and sustainer of life of all men, God has the moral right and righteous responsibility to punish both individuals and nations for their own chosen deeds of wrong, Jeremiah 18:6. The soul (individual of life) who sins "shall die," for his own sins, in matters of social and civil life, Proverbs 11:19, capital punishment by Divine sanction is here justified, Genesis 9:6.

Verses 5-9

RIGHTEOUS LIVING KEEPS ONE FROM ALL FORMS OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Verses 5-9:

Verse 5 lays down the moral and ethical principle, set forth in the Mosaic law, that each person who did that which was right and lawful need have no fear of punishment. For Divine punishment was to be meted out to those who did evil, individually and nationally, who did not live by the law, Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12.

Verse 6 describes what the individual should avoid doing if he expected to avoid punishment as prescribed by the Mosaic law, as follows: 1) First, one was not to "eat upon the mountains," where idol festivals were held, as described, Ezekiel 6:13; with the mistaken notion that such would secure the favor of idol gods, 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2) Second, one was not even to "lift up his eyes" (in expectancy), Matthew 5:28, to the idols of the house of Israel, as the eyes of an harlot rove after lust, Job 31:1; Psalms 121:2; Psalms 3) Third, one who had not come near to or had intercourse with a menstrous woman, a thing considered so unclean that a death penalty was prescribed for it in the law even a man toward his wife, Leviticus 18:19; Leviticus 20:18. Those who avoided such prohibitions of the law need have no fear of law­ punishment or Divine disfavor.

Verse 7 continues to describe other sins, for which even a righteous man’s committing them, would make him due to receive civil punishment, or criminal punishment, even to the point of capital punishment. One was not to oppress anyone, but restore the debtor’s pledge, Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:12-13. Each was to spoil no one by doing personal violence to them; Each was to give bread to the hungry and clothes to cover the naked, Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:35-36. Breaking these divine principles would lead to punishment, even for a righteous man, under penalty of the just laws of Israel.

Verse 8 continues a list of unethical things condemned under the law, such as usury (taking exorbitant interest), for the lending of money, a thing regulated by Mosaic law, Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36-37; Deuteronomy 23:19; Nehemiah 5:7; Psalms 15:5. That one who took no increase Or profit from lending to the poor, or their brethren, Exodus 22:25, who held back his hand from lawlessness, and administered just judgment among men was said to live by complying with these righteous matters of the law, Deuteronomy 23:19. For the "doer of the law," was to live (survive) thereby. That is he was to avoid Divine chastening or physical death as a law-breaker, Leviticus 25:36-37.

Verse 9 summarizes the kind of soul (individual of life) who shall live, survive without fear of the death penalty of the law, as that one who: 1) walked in (in harmony with) His statutes, and 2) who kept or guarded or respected His judgments as true. That person is declared to be just, justified, or acquitted, from the death penalties of the law of Israel, Ezekiel 20:11; Amos 5:4. This concerns the survival of earthly life with honor, not how a lost soul may obtain salvation from eternal death and hell, Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12.

Verses 10-20

HOW THE RIGHTEOUS AND UNRIGHTEOUS SON MAY LIVE

Verses 10-20:

Verse 10-13 introduce the hypothetical or supposed case of a righteous father who has an impudent, law-breaking son who willfully chose the ways of a prodigal The son adopted a course of murder and repeated (bloodshed), Ezekiel 21:12; Numbers 35:31. He also engaged unscrupulously by eating in idolatrous feasts on the mountains in Israel, by defiling his neighbor’s wife, oppressing the poor and needy, spoiled others by brutal violence, refusing to return a pledge of security on a loan, lifting up his eyes to worship idols, as abominations against God. He had loaned for purposes of usury, took the increase therefrom to live, even though he has a righteous father, Ezekiel 18:4. Ezekiel’s message from the Lord was that he should not; Because of his personally accountable law­breaking. Such was of Divine order, as capital punishment, Ezekiel 3:18; Ezekiel 33:4; Leviticus 20:11-13; Leviticus 20:16; Leviticus 20:27; Acts 18:6.

Verses 14-20 present a case where a father is shockingly wicked, but his son is law-abiding and righteous in this behavior. He is shocked at his father’s acts of depravity and avoids such himself, as Josiah and Hezekiah both did, 2 Kings ch. 18, 19, 22. It is expressly declared that the son shall not be punished, or put to death in any form of capital punishment, because of the sins of his father. The cruel deeds of a father are not to be punished in his son, though every son inherits the sin nature of his father, is the idea, Romans 5:12-14; Romans 14:11-12; See also Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Isaiah 3:10-11; Romans 2:11.

Verses 21-26

GOD WILL SAVE THE WICKED WHO REPENTS BUT REQUIRES CIVIL AND CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS FOR THE SAVED WHO BREAKS HIS LAWS

Verses 21-26:

Verse 21 declares that when a wicked man "will turn from" or "repent of" all his sins that he has committed, and keep, guard, or respect the statutes the Lord gave to govern men, he shall live, not be put to death, by capital punishment of the law, v. 27; Psalms 138:4; Isaiah 55:6-7; Ezekiel 33:12; Ezekiel 33:19.

Verse 22 adds that all his transgressions shall not be charged against him, when he was repented, Jeremiah 31:34. In his repentance and righteous acceptance of the Lord that one shall live, not by his righteousness, Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; Acts 11:18. Yet, he may be chastened for wrong, Hebrews 12:10; 2 Samuel 12:13-14.

Verse 23 rhetorically asks, "I do not have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, do I?" The answer is "no." God does not delight in punishing those who belong to Him, by right of creation, to the point of physical death, or even in punishing His children by some form of righteous judgment, Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 10:26-29.

Verse 24 asserts that even one who turns from a life of righteousness to a life of crime should be put to death for his pursuit of such crimes. Ones past good behavior does not acquit him from present acts of criminality, Galatians 6:7-8; Romans 14:11-12.

Verse 25 confronts Israel with charges being circulated among them that God’s ways were not equal, just, or fair in dealing with sin, v. 2. They were finding fault with the equity of God, setting in judgment against God, the giver of the law, v. 29; Ezekiel 33:17; Ezekiel 33:20. It was their ways that were unequal, not His. They confounded or confused God’s civil and criminal laws of justice with His forgiving grace and saving grace to the repenting sinner; Who repenting of ail his sires, and trusting Him as Savior, should receive pardon and everlasting soul life, Psalms 145:18-19; Isaiah 55:6-9. See also Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31.

Verse 26 reaffirms that even a righteous or redeemed man, or person, might be punished by civil, criminal, or direct, divine fiat for his transgressions against God’s law and against his fellowman, as also expressed Acts 5:1-10; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Hebrews 12:9 b. Each of the ten commandments had a statutory death penalty attached to the willful breaker of it, for the saved and unsaved, for the better order of Hebrew society. It is this issue with which Ezekiel confronts Israel. And there is also a Divine chastisement for sins committed by the righteous, one who has already been saved, as cited above.

Verses 27-32

AN EARNEST DIVINE CALL TO REPENTANCE

Verses 27-32:

Verses 27, 28 restate that when a former wicked man, in heart and deeds, repents or turns to God’s call, He will save or cause his soul, whole soul life to be saved, to live, at that moment, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 55:6-7. His change of heart that turns him to deeds of righteousness shall be the dynamic, causative occasion of his avoiding the death penalty of the broken law of the Lord thereafter, even as David did, Psalms 119:59-60; Deuteronomy 32:29. For the soul, or individual person who transgressed that law, whether father or son, should he put to death for his own guilt, not that of another, Ezekiel 18:4 b.

Verse 29 again recounts charges in Israel that God’s laws were not equitable, fair, or balanced in righteousness, as in v. 25; Job 21:6; Micah 2:7. The people tried to blame their sins on their fathers, v. 2, 3. Though they inherited the nature of sin from their parents, their practice of sin, by their own volition, will, or choice was also a matter of their own accountability under the law. God would not let them "cop out" on the "we couldn’t help it" excuse, See Romans 2:1; Romans 14:11-12.

Verse 30 announces a judgment upon each for his own sins and upon the nation for her national sins, persistently pursued because they did not repent, Proverbs 1:31. God then appealed to every-individual to repent and turn away from his personal sin, so that iniquity might not be their ruin, or bring their destruction, Isaiah 55:6-7; Matthew 3:2; Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Revelation 2:5.

Verse 31 appeals directly to the whole house of Israel to cast away, put behind her forever, all her multi-formed transgression of His laws. This is a national call to repentance and to a renewed mind, spirit, heart or attitude concerning God and righteousness, as expressed Ephesians 4:22-23. Only God can give a new heart, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27: Psalms 51:10; Psalms 51:12. Then He asked "why will (do you will) to die, O house of Israel?" An obstinate pursuit of rebellion against God was equal to a will to die, that would lead to their national death or demise, is the meaning of the question, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 32:29.

Verse 32 concludes that the Lord has or holds no pleasure in the death of one who dies in the fruit of his own ways of iniquity, and anarchy, v. 23; Isaiah 28:21; Ezekiel 33:11; Lamentations 3:33. A final call is then given of the Lord, "Therefore turn yourselves and live," of your own will, choice, or accord, Isaiah 55:6-7; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalms 145:18-19.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezekiel 18". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezekiel-18.html. 1985.