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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 18


God disalloweth the parable of sour grapes, Ezekiel 18:1-4. He showeth his dealing with a just man, Ezekiel 18:5-9, with the wicked son of a just father, Ezekiel 18:10-13, and with the just son of a wicked father, Ezekiel 18:14-18. He declareth that the treatment of both son and father shall be according to their respective deserts, Ezekiel 18:19,Ezekiel 18:20; and that the wicked, if he repent, shall live, Ezekiel 18:21-23; but he that revolteth from his righteousness shall die, Ezekiel 18:21. He defendeth the equity of his dealings, Ezekiel 18:25-30, and exhorteth to repentance, Ezekiel 18:31,Ezekiel 18:32.

Verse 1

He did not entertain them with a dream of his own head, but the Holy Spirit of prophecy suggests this to him, which now he speaketh on God’s behalf, and against the Jews. He had often before spoke God’s word in his name, as Ezekiel 6:0; Ezekiel 7:0; Ezekiel 13:0; Ezekiel 12:25, and now once more he is commanded so to do.

Verse 2

What cause have you, or what would you have men think of your carriage to me, and of mine towards you, that ye who are now in Babylon openly, unjustly, and impudently justify yourselves, and condemn your God?

Israel; the two tribes, not the ten.

The fathers; our forefathers have sinned, and we their children, who were unborn, do suffer now for their sins: and this was grown common, both in Babylon, and also in Jerusalem, Jeremiah 31:29; you would be thought innocent, and my proceedings against you unjust and cruel.

Verse 3

Either you who use it shall die for it, or because I will vindicate my proceedings so that all who consider your punishments shall see you deserve all that you suffer.

Verse 4

There can be no colour of partial judgment in the proceedings of God, who is equally God to all; who hath as great interest in the son as in the father, and as kindly would deal with the son as with the father: and how can it be thought likely I should punish the son for the father’s offence, or the father for the son’s offence?

All souls; all persons, which are frequently called souls, Leviticus 7:18,Leviticus 7:20,Leviticus 7:21; Joshua 20:3; and so it is Ezekiel 18:20, and Jeremiah 31:30.

The soul; the person, whether father or son, shall die, shall bear his own punishment: this text gives no colour for the opinion of the mortality of man’s soul.

That sinneth, i.e. obstinately, and yet will pretend his own innocency; whoso sinneth shall suffer for his own sin. You querulous Jews suffer then for your own sins and had you been, as you say you are, innocent, the sins of your fathers should not have hurt you; and for the future know I will keep to that rule of equity; no innocent person shall be prejudiced by the guilt of guilty ones. And if one that is, for aught we can discern, absolutely innocent, yet suffers for another man’s sin, it is most certain such a sufferer is not absolutely innocent, but some way or other is guilty of the sin for which he suffers.

Verse 5

So far is God from perverse and froward partiality in his judgments, that none ever had cause to complain hereof.

If a man, without respect of persons, every one, whoever he be, be just; faultless and unstained, which may refer to his temper and disposition of mind; and if his conversation hath agreed with the law of God and rule of justice in all points, in private and public affairs among men.

Verse 6

Hath not committed idolatry, first offering sacrifice, and eating of the things sacrificed to idols, whose temples and altars were on mountains, Ezekiel 20:28; Hosea 4:13, and where the idolaters did use to feed one another in honour of the idol; neither hath adored, nor expected help from the idols: this is a religious posture, as Psalms 121:1.

The idols of the house of Israel; they had idols of their own; and some that despised the heathens’ idols yet were polluted with their own idolatry, which was a great sin, whatever the blind idolater thought of it.

His neighbour’s wife; hath not broken out into adultery and defiled another man’s wife, for every man is here included in neighbour, as Luke 10:36. And abstained from both familiar converse and from conjugal acts with such a one, observing the law of God herein, Leviticus 15:19; Leviticus 18:19.

Verse 7

Hath not oppressed; by rigorous dealing grieve, injure, or damnify, and cause them to cry out, Ezekiel 22:9; Zechariah 7:10, which is done many ways; and how slyly soever it is done, yet it is a crying sin, Exodus 22:21-24. Much of oppression is in detaining what was laid in pawn, which was always of greater value than the thing that was taken upon it; and the poor often pawned their most necessary utensils, and oftentimes needed them ere they could redeem them; in such cases God will not that the pledge be detained; as Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:6,Deuteronomy 24:10-13,Deuteronomy 24:17; but here mercy ought to be preferred above profit; nor might the pledge be any way lessened by embezzling it.

Hath spoiled none by violence; nor by force robbed any one, and taken out of the hand of the owner, as the thief doth; whoso hath forborne these courses of inhumanity and injustice.

Hath given his bread; with compassion hath given to the necessitous, communicating to them as their case required, and our ability will reach.

Bread here is largely to be taken, Isaiah 58:7.

To the hungry; such as truly want, are not able to help themselves, and, we may with reason think, have none to help them if we do not. Hath covered the naked; clothed the naked, who else are like to perish for want of clothing, as Job 31:19. Who are such, and live so just, so holy, so inoffensive, so beneficent a life among men, shall not suffer for the sins others commit.

Verse 8

Given forth; lent or put into another’s hand, on condition of returning not the same, or equal value, but much more.

Upon usury; biting usury, (as the word implieth,) which no doubt is prohibited because of the injury it doth to the borrower, and the undue gain it brings to the lender. A rigorous imposing conditions of gain for the loan of money or goods, and exacting them without respect to the condition of the borrower, whether he gain or lose; whether poverty occasioned his borrowing, or whether visible likelihood of gain by employing the borrowed goods; which sort of usury is against both the law of charity, as well as against the express will of God, who prohibits it, Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37; Deuteronomy 23:19,Deuteronomy 23:20.

Any is not in the Hebrew, though interpreters here insert it for the greater emphasis and weight. This

increase here mentioned is by the critics in the Hebrew said to be either a receiving of the borrower some gratuity for lending that, for which the borrower must pay use also; a kind of oppression too common among us, called procuration, or continuation; or else when the buyer is required to increase the price, or return the thing he bought, which growing dearer than at the time he received it, proves an oppression to him. And this I suppose was usual among the covetous traders, who sold and gave day for payment; but if the commodity grew dearer, they exacted the thing again, or the increased price.

That hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity: this I think is not here to be taken in the larger sense, as if it referred to all iniquity, but in a restrictive sense, and as it refers to the iniquity and injustice of lenders and sellers; he that with care and conscience hath withdrawn his hand from all indirect or direct ways of forbidden usury.

Hath executed true judgment between man and man: this refers to this particular case of usury and taking increase; as if the prophet would make every man judge of the case ere he takes any thing, and requires him to judge according to truth, whether any, or how much, may be expected and received, whether no wrong be to the lender or borrower in the case. And so the whole will amount to this, he that in his lending hath truly weighed the borrower’s case, and used him with kindness as he would be used himself, this man is no usurer.

Verse 9

Walked; framed his life, and managed his conversation, conformed to the good, just, and holy ordinances of God. In my statutes; in matters of religion, hath kept to the direction of God’s law.

Kept my judgments, in matters of civil concern between man and man.

To deal truly; to act sincerely, with an honest heart, according to the best of his knowledge and judgment.

He is just; is just comparatively, so far righteous that he shall not feel, nor need he fear, to suffer what others’ sins bring upon them, he shall not suffer what he hath not deserved.

Shall surely live; shall be delivered from famine, pestilence, and sword, shall see good days, as Psalms 34:12,Psalms 34:13; his teeth shall not be set on edge, whatever quarrelling sinners say or think, but the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him.

Verse 10

If he beget a son; the just man before described, who transmits his nature, but cannot transmit his virtues, to his son.

That is a robber; that by force and violence breaks over the law of God and man, takes away what is another man’s; such a thief as sticks not to destroy that he may rob.

A shedder of blood; that is, a murderer; for shedding of blood here is not less than murder, as by the phrase, Genesis 9:6; Deuteronomy 21:7 1 Samuel 25:33; Psalms 79:10.

That doeth the like; the thing that is brother to one of these, as the Hebrew may bear; there are things like these, which destroy either the life or estates of our neighbour; for there are many methods and artifices which such violent ones use.

To any one of these things; it might seem to speak one such single act unpardonable; but I refer this text to that, Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:31. The law doth condemn such to death; man must not, though God may, pardon such a one.

Verse 11

In the former verse sins which are violations of the law by a man’s doing the evil which was forbidden, in the former part of this verse the sins which are omissions of good required, are mentioned.

Doeth not any; neglects all, frames not to do them. Of those duties: see Ezekiel 18:6-8.

Hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife: Ezekiel 18:6.

Verse 12

See Poole "Ezekiel 18:7". In the seventh verse the words are more large, condemning the oppressing of any one; here they do more particularly condemn oppressing

the poor, which have little to maintain and less to defend themselves; and needy is added, to render us more sensible of the greatness of this sin, which takes away right where we should show charity.

Hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge: see Ezekiel 18:7.

Hath lifted up his eyes to the idols: see Ezekiel 18:6.

Hath committed abomination, i.e. come near to a menstruous woman, which is expressly named Ezekiel 18:6, and here pointed at; or else idolatry.

Verse 13

See Ezekiel 18:8.

Shall he then live? Do you think his father’s righteousness shall preserve him from the punishment his own unrighteousness deserveth, my law threateneth, and my justice inflicteth? Shall he not with other sinners be spoiled, besieged, die by the sword or famine, or languish in a long captivity, and there die?

He shall not live; a decisive answer to the former question; such a one shall not prosper, nor long escape the strokes of my justice; and the answer is parallel with that Ezekiel 17:10.

He hath done all these abominations; is personally involved in the sins which are worthy of death, and which are so expressly threatened by law and prophets.

Done; not only winked at, or not hindered, but hath been a forward, voluntary, active doer of them.

All these that are here, and elsewhere in this prophet, and in others, charged on the Jews as the cause of their calamities at this day.

Abominations; great enormities, sins to be abominated and hated, not practised and justified by shameless sinners.

He shall surely die; most certainly die; or if you suppose such a one finally impenitent, he shall surely die under temporal judgments, and so by the first death fall under the second death also: dying he shall die; a Hebrew phrase, and very full.

His blood shall be upon him; Heb. it is plural, bloods: both the blood of the innocent which he murdered, and his own blood, which thereby he forfeited, the blood of his own soul and life, that is, the whole blame of his misery in time and eternity, shall lie upon himself, who brought all those sorrows on himself by his own wickednesses.

Verse 14

A third instance in a supposed son’s son to clear the case fully. The just father lives, his unjust son dieth; but the grandson of the just, seeing his father’s sins, and fleeing them, lives. It is rare that the children of debauched parents do think or discern evil in their parents’ courses, but blindly follow them, without putting difference between what is good and what is bad in that the latter doth; such suffer for their own sins more than for their fathers: but if it be so that the son of a wicked father act like a man, bring his father’s doings to the rule, and thereby discover the wickedness and danger of them, and do not the like, he shall not suffer for his father’s sins.

Seeth all his father’s sins; the kinds, or many of the several sorts, of his sins, for it is not possible the son should see all the particular acts of sin done by his father.

Considereth looks thoroughly into these things, and weighs the importance of them; considers God is our Sovereign, ought to be obeyed, will bless the obedient, will punish the disobedient; that his blessing is the life and welfare, his curse is the death and misery, of souls; that every man should look particularly to his own duty and happiness; that it is better to be happy with God, obeying him, than to perish with a father by imitating his vices; that God will be gracious to the obedient, according to his rich grace, though they be the children of irreligious idolaters and adulterers, &c.; on which or such-like considerations, if the son choose holiness, and walk in it, he shall live, his end shall not be, because his doings were not, like his father’s.

Verse 16

These two verses are explained already in the same words: see Ezekiel 18:6,Ezekiel 18:7.

Verse 17

Taken off his hand from the poor; withdrawn his hand from hurting or wronging the poor, though he had power and might to do it securely.

That hath not received usury, & c. see Ezekiel 18:8,Ezekiel 18:9, where these particulars are explained.

Verse 18

Oppressing, he oppressed; and spoiling, spoiled; did all the mischief he could: he shall die.

Verse 19

Notwithstanding this method of the Divine justice, which renders to every one his own work, and gives to every one the fruit of his own doings, ye, proud, quarrelling, self-justifying debauchees, idolaters, adulterers, murderers, usurers, oppressors, will not see your own sins, for which you are punished, but cry you are innocent, that your fathers sinned and you suffer.

Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? The prophet here brings in what he met with among them; still every where they insist on it that they deserved not by any sin of their own what they now suffered, and so would cast the sin and guilt on their fathers, and the rigour and severity on God, and clear themselves to all; which the prophet answers by a recapitulation of what he had more largely spoken, and avows it, that the righteous son of an unrighteous father shall live, and not die.

Kept all my statutes; as Psalms 119:44.

Verse 20

See Ezekiel 18:4.

The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: this is a most unquestionable truth, and though perhaps it may seem otherwise in some cases, yet could we see perfectly the connexion between persons and persons, and how they are one, could we see the connexion of sins and sins, and how easily, secretly, and undiscerned men become guilty of the same sins, we should, it is likely, see father and son, though perhaps one of them might not do the evil, both guilty, and neither punished for the sin further than the sin was his own; nor do the scriptures, Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 28:18, menace innocent children, nor doom persons to punishment, for sins from which they are fully and wholly free; but if children shall follow their fathers in sin, or justify them in it, or not mourn for it, or not deprecate, or whatever way there is by which children may make the sins of progenitors become their own; then if they die for those sins, it is for them as they are their own sins, not as they are their fathers’.

The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him: Isaiah 3:10 will fully explain this passage; it shall be well with the righteous, for he shall eat the fruit of his doing, he shall be rewarded as a righteous one.

The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him; the reward of wickedness, i.e. woeful punishment, shall be executed upon the wicked, as Isaiah 3:11.

Verse 21

So far is God from punishing the sins of guilty parents on innocent children, as in the last instance, Ezekiel 18:14 to the end of Ezekiel 18:20, appears, that he doth not punish the guilty for their own sins which they repent of and forsake. Our God, who mercifully pardoneth the penitent all their own sins, will not, cannot be supposed to charge innocent ones with the sins which are not their own.

The wicked; or a wicked man, any wicked man among you, O Jews! who charge me with such severity, if the most notorious sinner.

Turn, i.e. repent, for it is expressed by that word which implies repentance, and by the subsequent fruits of repentance.

From all; it must be a total renouncing of sin.

His sins that he hath committed; the penitent are most afflicted with the remembrance of their own sin, that which they committed, and watch most against it for the future.

Keep all my statutes; resolve to endeavour seriously and diligently, for in God’s merciful judgment a gracious penitent soul keeps what he would keep, keeps all his statutes, in that he would transgress none of them.

He shall surely live; he shall be pardoned, escape punishments, it shall be well with him: and this is the constant method of God’s proceedings with his people; he calls them to himself by promises of pardon, he never frights them from him by threatening to punish others’ faults on their backs. Leave your own, and you shall never suffer for others’ sins.

Verse 22

All; not one of all, so the Hebraism is; every one shall be forgiven.

His transgressions; personal, actual sins, in which he was not accessary, but principal; though great sins.

That he hath committed; formerly did commit, but now repenteth for.

They shall not be mentioned unto him; not remembered, i.e. imputed to or punished on him. They shall be as forgotten. So when God promiseth to pardon, he promiseth that he will not remember our sins.

In his righteousness that he hath done he shall live; this penitent, whose last works are righteousness, proper fruits of repentance, shall live, be rewarded and blessed for his righteousness, yet without merit: life should be the fruit of his repentance and righteousness.

Verse 23

Now, O ye perverse Jews! if by these truths you will judge of me, could it enter the thoughts of any one of you, that I should, as delighting in the death of sinners, impute other men’s sins to you, that you might die for them, when I could not slay you for your own? Think not thus of the God of mercy, who pities, forbears, and though at last hath punished obstinate sinners, yet never delighted in their death. Is it not my command that you and other sinners repent? Have not you and others found mercy upon seeming repentance? And as for that repentance which is sound, it ever had a full pardon; and the promise of life and pardon hath been repeated and confirmed to you again and again; so that it is the most unjust, unreasonable, and impious quarrel you, O Jews, have taken up against your God, who would have you repent of your own sins, and you should live, but if you repent not, you shall die, but for your own sins, not your fathers’. Since therefore I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, turn yourselves, and live ye, as it is Ezekiel 18:32; for this 23rd verse equally declares God’s mercy and our duty, the one in his pleasure at our return, the other in our pleasing him herein.

Verse 24

After the stating the equity of God’s ways in his dealings with parents and children, and his mercy in dealing with sinners that return according to his own promise, he proceeds to vindicate the equity of his ways in another case.

When, or if; should it so happen at any time. The righteous; one who really had observed the commands of the law, not done the abominations the wicked do, but done the good which the righteous doth, and in the sight of man appears as righteous, and as good as any one; whose apostacy is first full proof of his unsoundness and hypocrisy.

Turneth; changeth his course into sinful practices, like the wicked.

His righteousness; there is a righteousness which is of God, and there is a righteousness which is a man’s own, such as does arise from a man’s own reason and will, improved by common grace, or education, or awed by fears, or swayed by interest, or maintained by some failing spring which may easily dry up; these righteous ones easily fall away, and of such the prophet speaks.

Committeth iniquity; makes sin his work and business, John 8:31; 1 John 3:8,1 John 3:9.

Doeth according to all the abominations; forgets all better rules, derides his own former preciseness, and shakes off all restraints, that he may run to the excess of sin.

Abominations; recounted Ezekiel 18:10-13.

That the wicked man doeth: see Ezekiel 18:21.

Shall he live? do you think I will be so partial as to acquit him from real wickedness, committed with his whole heart, from his last works, which are abominable? Do you think his first heartless, partial, temporary righteousness will counterbalance his last and final apostacy? I tell you nay, but he shall die in it.

All his righteousness that he hath done; though he could produce his own righteousnesses, (as the Hebrew,) and these multiplied to many, all, and that they were really done, yet these should not avail before a just judge; who by a law that requires man should ever be and do what he was and did at best, is to determine his rewards or punishments according to what the man is at last, not according to what he was or seemed to be at first.

Shall not be mentioned; the parable tells us, Matthew 25:44,Matthew 25:45, some will plead that they did what they had opportunity of doing, and others, Matthew 7:22, will mention what they have done. But though they may mention these, the just judge will not, nor the law by which they are to be judged will not, allow it for a good and sufficient plea: see the phrase Ezekiel 18:22.

In his trespass that he hath trespassed: this expression shows that this man’s heart was on his sin; in his transgression he transgressed with full bent of mind, with delight and consent he did what he did, and could not say, I do what I would not; or, So then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me, as Romans 7:17. Lest any stumble at sight of infirmities in all, or needlessly disquiet themselves with fears of wrath at last, because they cannot be sinless, yet they do not fall under the character of such as are here threatened.

In them; in these great, wilful, continued, and multiplied sins.

Shall he die; every such obdurate and final apostate shall be condemned and punished temporally and eternally, and therefore look to it, ye wicked Jews, and consider, ye sinful Christians.

Verse 25

Yet ye say; you persist in your hard, unjust, and ungodly sentiments of an inequality in my ways, and are not afraid to speak as much.

The way: it were too much for sinners to charge God with inequality in a single act, but here are some dare censure the way, the whole management of affairs.

Of the Lord: strange frowardness! own him for Lord, yet condemn his government; grant his sovereign authority, and yet arraign the exercise of it!

Is not equal; not right, steady, or consistent with his own declaration and law; so the Hebrew. This prodigiously wicked assertion they build upon a most gross ignorance, and intolerably proud conceit of their own righteousness: We, say they, are righteous, not wicked, yet punished. Unheard-of pride, to condemn God, with whom is no iniquity, and acquit themselves, in whom is all iniquity!

Hear now; consider what I have proposed to clear my justice, hear me and my defence ere you condemn me, weigh well my defence. O house of Israel; both you that are in Jerusalem, and you also that are in Babylon at Telabib.

Is not my way equal? Do you speak what you think, does your judgment thus conclude, when you know, or might know, that this is the general rule I proceed by, The righteousness of the righteous is upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked is upon him? Can there be inequality here? Your ways which you choose, keep, plead for, and obstinately hold to, these are the crooked, unsteady, and unjust ways: for the question is to be resolved into a vehement asseveration.

Verse 26

See Ezekiel 18:24, where the whole of this verse is explained.

Verse 27

See Ezekiel 18:21,Ezekiel 18:22, where this verse is interpreted.

Verse 28

God’s promise is to pardon, spare, and preserve the penitent, such therefore shall not die.

Considereth: see Ezekiel 18:14.

Turneth; converteth: see Ezekiel 18:21.

He shall surely live, he shall not die: secure, self-justifying sinners misapprehend the justice of God, as we have heard, and repenting sinners are apt to mistrust the mercy of God, and therefore it is doubly assured in this promise.

Verse 29

This is the third or fourth appeal to the very consciences of Israel, on whose side the injustice lieth: the words are already unfolded Ezekiel 18:25, and the justice of God and the wickedness of such quarrellers declared.

Verse 30

Since you persist to implead me of iniquity in my judgments, after all I have said to clear myself, there is nothing left by which I may be cleared but this, to proceed with you according to your doings.

I will judge you; I will debate, determine with you.

O house of Israel; who do keep up this opinion of me, the proud contemnors of God, and justifiers of themselves.

Every one; none shall be overlooked or excused, every one shall be judged.

According to his ways; your ways shall be the standard and measure; if they are good, you shall receive good; if evil, you shall suffer evil; and then there can be no colour of complaint.

Repent; it will be safest for you that are proud quarrellers; be therefore advised, repent, and venture not your life and welfare on self-justification. Some others there were of better temper; they are exhorted by repentance to prevent wrath, and prepare for the mercy which the Lord ever showeth to the penitent, as Ezekiel 18:21,Ezekiel 18:22.

Turn yourselves; or, return yourselves; persuade others also. (Yourselves is not in the Hebrew.)

Iniquity; neither your ungodly practices, nor your unjust opinions of me and my ways, saith the Lord.

Shall not be your ruin, the cause of your temporal and eternal misery. Or thus, Cease from sin, then you will judge aright, and not be stumbled at the supposed inequality of my judgments: who leave sin, can see what mercy spared, pardoned, saved them; but who live in sin, will have soft thoughts for sin, and hard thoughts of God.

Verse 31

Not only cease from sin, but with indignation throw it away, as a loathsome, pernicious thing, or as a burden will sink you.

Your transgressions; as God requires, so it is the property of true repentance, that it does frame the heart against his own sins.

Make you a new heart; open your eyes, and let the clear, convincing light of my words, arguments, and proceedings shine upon you; do not obstinately harden your hearts, that you should retain your old prejudices against my justice and mercy, but receive new opinions and tenets concerning the things I have been clearing to you, that new judgment may produce a renewed and reformed course of life. Your old heart is made up of strange notions of your innocence, and the inequality of the ways of your God, and this influenceth your spirit to pride, quarrelling with God, who might have convinced you by severer methods, which should have put you as far out of doubt about the cause of your punishment, as out of hope of deliverance from it. Or else thus, I have proposed enough to change a considering heart, to renew the spirit of any thinking man; co-operate with me. See your sin, guilt, punishment, all yours, and from yourselves repent of sin, confess your guilt, deprecate your punishment.

Why will ye die? there is no other way for you to be delivered; your old ways and heart will end in death. This is an argument taken from their danger by old sins.

Verse 32

Another argument to persuade to conversion, taken from the gracious nature of God, who taketh pleasure in the return of a sinner; for that is the meaning of the words: sinners displease God when they undo themselves, they please him when they return.

Turn yourselves; do what you can, leave what sins you have loved.

Live ye; it is a promise.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 18". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.