Ezekiel 33

Ezekiel Israel’s Watchman

1The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, speak to your people,
Heb “sons of your people.”
and say to them, ‘Suppose I bring a sword against the land, and the people of the land take one man from their borders and make him their watchman.
3He sees the sword coming against the land, blows the trumpet,
Heb “shofar,” a ram’s horn rather than a brass instrument (so throughout the chapter).
and warns the people,
Sounding the trumpet was a warning of imminent danger (Neh 4:18–20; Jer 4:19; Amos 3:6).
4but there is one who hears the sound of the trumpet yet does not heed the warning. Then the sword comes and sweeps him away. He will be responsible for his own death.
Heb “his blood will be on his own head.”
5He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, so he is responsible for himself.
Heb “his blood will be on him.”
If he had heeded the warning, he would have saved his life.
6But suppose the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people. Then the sword comes and takes one of their lives. He is swept away for his iniquity,
Or “in his punishment.” The phrase “in/for [a person’s] iniquity/punishment” occurs fourteen times in Ezekiel: here and in vv. 8 and 9; 3:18, 19; 4:17; 7:13, 16; 18: 17, 18, 19, 20; 24:23; 39:23. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” may also mean the “punishment” for iniquity or “guilt” of iniquity.
but I will hold the watchman accountable for that person’s death.’
Heb “his blood from the hand of the watchman I will seek.”

7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman
Jeremiah (Jer 6:17) and Habakkuk (Hab 2:1) also served in the role of a watchman.
for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them on my behalf.
8When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you must certainly die,’
The same expression occurs in Gen 2:17.
and you do not warn
Heb “and you do not speak to warn.”
the wicked about his behavior,
Heb “way.”
the wicked man will die for his iniquity, but I will hold you accountable for his death.
Heb “and his blood from your hand I will seek.”
9But if you warn the wicked man to change his behavior,
Heb “from his way to turn from it.”
and he refuses to change,
Heb “and he does not turn from his way.”
he will die for his iniquity, but you have saved your own life.

10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you have said: “Our rebellious acts and our sins have caught up with us,
Heb “(are) upon us.”
and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’
11Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behavior
Heb “turn from his way.”
and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds!
Heb “ways.” This same word is translated “behavior” earlier in the verse.
Why should you die, O house of Israel?’

12 “And you, son of man, say to your people,
Heb “the sons of your people.”
‘The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him if he rebels.
Heb “in the day of his rebellion.” The statement envisions a godly person rejecting what is good and becoming sinful. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 2:247–48.
As for the wicked, his wickedness will not make him stumble if he turns from it.
Heb “and the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble in it in the day of his turning from his wickedness.”
The righteous will not be able to live by his righteousness
Heb “by it.”
if he sins.’
Heb “in the day of his sin.”
13Suppose I tell the righteous that he will certainly live, but he becomes confident in his righteousness and commits iniquity. None of his righteous deeds will be remembered; because of the iniquity he has committed he will die. 14Suppose I say to the wicked, ‘You must certainly die,’ but he turns from his sin and does what is just and right. 15He
Heb “the wicked one.”
returns what was taken in pledge, pays back what he has stolen, and follows the statutes that give life,
Heb “and in the statutes of life he walks.”
committing no iniquity. He will certainly live – he will not die.
16None of the sins he has committed will be counted
Heb “remembered.”
against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live.

17 “Yet your people
Heb “the sons of your people.”
say, ‘The behavior
Heb “way.”
of the Lord is not right,’
The Hebrew verb translated “is (not) right” has the basic meaning of “to measure.” For a similar concept, see Ezek 18:25, 29.
when it is their behavior that is not right.
18When a righteous man turns from his godliness and commits iniquity, he will die for it. 19When the wicked turns from his sin and does what is just and right, he will live because of it. 20Yet you say, ‘The behavior of the Lord is not right.’ House of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his behavior.”
Heb “ways.”

The Fall of Jerusalem

21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth of the month,
January 19, 585 b.c.
a refugee came to me from Jerusalem saying, “The city has been defeated!”
Heb “smitten.”
22Now the hand of the Lord had been on me
The other occurrences of the phrase “the hand of the Lord” in Ezekiel are in the context of prophetic visions.
the evening before the refugee reached me, but the Lord
Heb “he”; the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.
opened my mouth by the time the refugee arrived
Heb “by the time of the arrival to me.” For clarity the translation specifies the refugee as the one who arrived.
in the morning; he opened my mouth and I was no longer unable to speak.
Ezekiel’s God-imposed muteness was lifted (see 3:26).
23The word of the Lord came to me: 24“Son of man, the ones living in these ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land, but we are many; surely the land has been given to us for a possession.’
Outside of its seven occurrences in Ezekiel the term translated “possession” appears only in Exod 6:8 and Deut 33:4.
25Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: You eat the meat with the blood still in it,
This practice was a violation of Levitical law (see Lev 19:26).
pray to
Heb “lift up your eyes.”
your idols, and shed blood. Do you really think you will possess
Heb “Will you possess?”
the land?
26You rely
Heb “stand.”
on your swords and commit abominable deeds; each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Will you possess the land?’

27 “This is what you must say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those living in the ruins will die
Heb “fall.”
by the sword, those in the open field I will give to the wild beasts for food, and those who are in the strongholds and caves will die of disease.
28I will turn the land into a desolate ruin; her confident pride will come to an end. The mountains of Israel will be so desolate no one will pass through them. 29Then they will know that I am the Lord when I turn the land into a desolate ruin because of all the abominable deeds they have committed.’
The judgments of vv. 27–29 echo the judgments of Lev 26:22, 25.

30 “But as for you, son of man, your people
Heb “sons of your people.”
(who are talking about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses) say to one another,
Heb “one to one, a man to his brother.”
‘Come hear the word that comes
Heb “comes out.”
from the Lord.’
31They come to you in crowds,
Heb “as people come.” Apparently this is an idiom indicating that they come in crowds. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 2:264.
and they sit in front of you as
The word “as” is supplied in the translation.
my people. They hear your words, but do not obey
Heb “do.”
them. For they talk lustfully,
Heb “They do lust with their mouths.”
and their heart is set on
Heb “goes after.”
their own advantage.
The present translation understands the term often used for “unjust gain” in a wider sense, following M. Greenberg, who also notes that the LXX uses a term which can describe either sexual or ritual pollution. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 2:687.
The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.
that to them you are like a sensual song, a beautiful voice and skilled musician.
Heb “one who makes playing music well.”
They hear your words, but they do not obey them.
Similar responses are found in Isa 29:13; Matt 21:28–32; James 1:22–25.
33When all this comes true – and it certainly will
Heb “behold it is coming.”
– then they will know that a prophet was among them.”

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