Ezekiel 18


The Jews, in Ezekiel's time, complained of God's dealing hardly

with them in punishing them for the sins of their forefathers,

1, 2;

their temporal calamities having been long threatened as the

consequence of the national guilt, (Jer 15:4, &c.;)

and, from the general complexion of this chapter, it appears

that the Jews so interpreted the second commandment of the

Decalogue and other passages of like import, as if the sins of

the forefathers were visited upon the children, independently

of the moral conduct of the latter, not only in this world, but

in that which is to come. To remove every foundation for such

an unworthy idea of the Divine gorcrnment, God assures them,

with an oath, that he had no respect of persons, 3, 4;

strongly intimating that the great mysteries in Providence,

(mysterious only on account of the limited capacity of man,)

are results of the most impartial administration of justice;

and that this would be particularly manifested in the rewards

and punishments of another life; when every ligament that at

present connects societies and nations together shall be

dissolved, and each person receive according to his work, and

bear his own burden. This is illustrated by a variety of

examples: such as that of a just or righteous man, 5-9;

his wicked son, 10-13;

and again the just son of this wicked person, 14-20.

Then a wicked man repenting, and finding mercy, whose former

wickedness shall be no impediment to his salvation, 21-23;

and a righteous man revolting, and dying in his sins, whose

former righteousness shall be of no avail, 24.

The conduct of the Divine Providence is then vindicated, 25-29;

and all persons, without any exception, most earnestly exhorted

to repentance, 30, 31;

because the Lord hath no pleasure in the death of the sinner,


As the whole of this chapter is taken up with the illustration

of a doctrine nearly connected with the comfort of man, and the

honour of the Divine government, the prophet, with great

propriety, lays aside his usual mode of figure and allegory,

and treats his subject with the utmost plainness and



Verse 2. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's

teeth are set on edge?] We have seen this proverb already,

Jer 31:29, &c., and have considered its general meaning. But

the subject is here proposed in greater detail, with a variety of

circumstances, to adapt it to all those cases to which it should

apply. It refers simply to these questions: How far can the moral

evil of the parent be extended to his offspring? And, Are the

faults and evil propensities of the parents, not only transferred

to the children, but punished in them? Do parents transfer their

evil nature, and are their children punished for their offences?

Verse 3. As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have

occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.] I will now, by

this present declaration, settle this question for ever. And hence

God has sworn to what follows. After this, who will dare to doubt

the judgment pronounced?

Verse 4. All souls are mine] Equally so; I am the Father of the

spirits of all flesh, and shall deal impartially with the whole.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die.] None shall die for

another's crimes, none shall be saved by another's

righteousness. Here is the general judgment relative to the

righteousness and unrighteousness of men, and the influence of

one man's state on that of another; particularly in respect to

their moral conduct.

Verse 5. If a man be just, and do that which is lawful and

right] If he be just or holy within, and do what is according to

law and equity. What is meant by this, is immediately specified.

Verse 6. 1. Hath not eaten upon the mountains] Idolatrous

worship was generally performed on mountains and hills; and those

who offered sacrifices feasted on the sacrifice, and thus held

communion with the idol.

2. Neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols] Has paid them

no religious adoration; has trusted in them for nothing, and has

not made prayer nor supplication before them.

3. Neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife] Has had no

adulterous connexion with any woman; to which idolatrous feasts

and worship particularly led.

4. Neither hath come nigh to a menstruous woman] Has abstained

from the use of the marriage-bed during the periodical

indisposition of his wife. This was absolutely forbidden by the

law; and both the man and the woman who disobeyed the command were

to be put to death, Le 20:18. For which

Calmet gives this reason: "It has been believed, and experience

confirms it, that the children conceived at such times are either

leprous, or monsters, or deformed by their diminutiveness, or by

the disproportion of their members." There are other reasons for

this law, should those of the learned commentator be found


Verse 7. 5. Hath not oppressed any] Has not used his power or

influence to oppress, pain, or injure another.

6. Hath restored to the debtor his pledge] Has carefully

surrendered the pawn or pledge when its owner came to redeem it.

As the pledge is generally of more worth than that for which it is

pledged, an unprincipled man will make some pretence to keep it;

which is highly abominable in the sight of God.

7. Hath spoiled none by violence] Either by robbery or personal

insult. For a man may be spoiled both ways.

8. Hath given his bread to the hungry] Has been kind-hearted and

charitable; especially to them that are in the deepest want.

9. Hath covered the naked with a garment] Has divided both his

bread and his clothing with the necessitous. These are two

branches of the same root.

Verse 8. 10. Hath not given forth upon usury]

beneshech lo yitten. nasach signifies to bite; usury is

properly so termed, because it bites into and devours the

principal. Usury signifies, with us, exacting unlawful interest

for money; and taking the advantage of a man's necessities to

advance him cash on exorbitant profit. This bites the receiver

in his property, and the lender in his salvation.

11. Neither hath taken any increase] In lending has not required

more than was lent; and has not taken that product of the cash

lent, which was more than the value for its use. This may be a

part of the tenth article.

12. That hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity] Never associates

with those who act contrary to justice and equity; his hand or

influence being never found among evil workers.

13. Hath executed true judgment between man and man] Being

neither swayed by prejudice, fear, nor favour.

These thirteen points concern his social and civil relations.

Verse 9. Hath walked in my statutes] Not only acknowledging them

to be right, but acting according to them. Especially in every

thing that relates to my worship, changing nothing, neglecting


And hath kept my judgments, to deal truly] Has attended to my

Divine direction, both with respect to things forbidden, and

things commanded. These concern men in their religious conduct.

He is just] tsaddik hu. He is a righteous

man; he has given to all their due; he has abstained from every

appearance of evil, and done that which was lawful and right in

the sight of God.

He shall surely live] He has lived to me, and he shall live with


Verse 10. If he beget a son] Who is the reverse of the above

righteous character, according to the thirteen articles already

specified and explained.

Verse 13. Shall he then live?] Because his father was a

righteous man, shall the father's holiness be imputed to him? No!

He shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.] He shall

suffer for his own crimes.

Verse 14. Now, lo, if he beget a son that seeth all his father's

sins-and considereth] Lays to heart the evil of his father's life,

and the dreadful consequences of a life of rebellion against God.

And doeth not such like] Is quite a different man in moral

feeling and character; and acts up to the thirteen points

already laid down.

Verse 17. He shall not die for the iniquity of his father] He

shall no more be affected by his father's crimes, than his father

was benefited by his grandfather's righteousness.

Verse 20. The soul that sinneth, it shall die.] Hitherto we have

had to do with the simple cases of the righteous and the wicked;

of him who lived and died a holy man, and of him who lived and

died a wicked man. But there are two cases behind: 1. That of the

wicked man, who repents and turns to God. 2. That of the

righteous man, who backslides, and does not return to God by

repentance. On both these cases God decides thus:-

Verse 21. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins] And

afterwards walk according to the character of the righteous

already specified; shall he find mercy, and be for ever saved?


Verse 22. All his transgressions] Shall be so completely

forgiven by God's mercy, that they shall not be even mentioned to

him; and if he live and die in this recovered state, he shall live

with God to all eternity. And why? Hear the reason:-

Verse 23. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should

die?] No! That is foreign to him whose name is love, and whose

nature is mercy. On the contrary he "wills that he should return

from his evil ways and live."

And if God can have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he

cannot have made a decree to abandon him to the evil of his

nature, and then damn him for what he could not avoid: for as God

can do nothing with which he is not pleased, so he can decree

nothing with which he is not pleased. But he is "not pleased with

the death of a sinner," therefore he cannot have made a decree to

bring him to this death.

Verse 24. When the righteous turneth away from his

righteousness] Here is the second case. Can a man who was once

holy and pure, fall away so as to perish everlastingly? YES. For

God says, "If he turn away from his righteousness;" not his

self-righteousness, the gloss of theologians: for God never

speaks of turning away from that, for, in his eyes, that is a

nonentity. There is no righteousness or holiness but what

himself infuses into the soul of man, and as to

self-righteousness, i.e., a man's supposing himself to be

righteous when he has not the life of God in his soul, it is the

delusion of a dark and hardened heart; therefore it is the real

righteous principle and righteous practice that God speaks of

here. And he tells us, that a man may so "turn away from this,"

and so "commit iniquity," and "act as the wicked man," that his

righteousness shall be no more mentioned to his account, than the

sins of the penitent backslider should be mentioned to his

condemnation; and "in the sin that he," this once righteous man,

"hath sinned, and in the trespass that he hath trespassed, in them

shall he die." O, how awful a termination of a life once

distinguished for righteousness and true holiness! So then, God

himself informs us that a righteous man may not only fall foully,

but fall finally. But to such righteous persons the devil will

ever preach, "Ye shall not surely die; ye shall be as God." Touch,

taste, and handle; ye cannot ultimately fall. Thus we find, by the

manner of treating these two cases, that God's way is equal,

Eze 18:25; just, merciful, and impartial. And to prove this, he

sums up his conduct in the above cases, in the following verses,

26-29. Eze 18:26-29 And then, that the "wicked may not die in

his sins," and that the "backslider may return and find mercy," he

thus exhorts:-

Verse 30. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your

transgressions] There is still life; still a God that has no

pleasure in the death of a sinner, one who is ever ready to give

his Holy Spirit to all them that ask him; therefore "repent and

turn, so iniquity shall not be your ruin."

Verse 31. Cast away] With a holy violence, dash away every

transgression and incentive to it.

Make you a new heart] Call upon God for it, and he will give it:

for as sure as you earnestly call on God through Christ to save

you, so surely you shall be saved; and the effect will so speedily

follow, that God is pleased to attribute that in some sort to

yourselves, which is done by his grace alone; because ye

earnestly call upon him for it, come in the right way to receive

it, and are determined never to rest till you have it.

For why will ye die] Who should you go to hell while the kingdom

of God is open to receive you? Why should you be the devil's

slaves, when ye may be Christ's freemen! WHY WILL YE DIE? Every

word is emphatic. Why-show God or man one reason. Will-obstinacy

alone,-a determination not to be saved, or a voluntary

listlessness about salvation,-can prevent you. Ye-children of so

many mercies, fed and supported by a kind God all your life; ye,

who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ; ye, who have made

many promises to give up yourselves to God; ye, who have been

dedicated to the ever-blessed Trinity, and promised to renounce

the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked

world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; why will YE die?

Die!-what is this? A separation from God and the glory of his

power for ever! Die!-forfeiting all the purposes for which your

immortal souls were made! Die-to know what the worm is that never

dieth, and what that fire is which is never quenched! Why will ye


Verse 32. For I have no pleasure] God repeats what he had so

solemnly declared before. Can ye doubt his sincerity? his ability?

his willingness? the efficacy of the blood of his covenant?

Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.] Reader, now give God

thy heart.

Though every man comes into the world with a fallen nature-a

soul infected with sin, yet no man is damned on that account. He

who refuses that grace which pardons sin and heals infected

nature, who permits the evil principle to break out into

transgression, and continues and dies in his iniquity and sin,

and will not come unto Christ that he may have life; he, and he

only, goes to perdition. Nor will the righteousness of a parent or

relation help his sinful soul: no man can have more grace than is

necessary to save himself; and none can have that, who does not

receive it through Christ Jesus. It is the mercy of God in Christ

which renders the salvation of a sinner possible; and it is that

mercy alone which can heal the backslider. The atoning blood blots

out all that is past; the same blood cleanses from all

unrighteousness. Who believes so as to apply for this redemption?

Who properly thanks God for having provided such a Saviour?

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