Ezekiel 18-20 The soul who sins shall die

From Ezekiel 18-20

Scroll fed Ezekiel

In today’s passage the LORD answers people in Judea who started to complain regarding the punishment they were enduring. They claimed they were suffering for their fathers sins and not their own. The LORD’s justice is at stake and He will quickly correct them. Do later generations have to suffer for their parents mistakes?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

18 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Eze 18.1-4)

‘The soul who sins shall die.’ Everyone is responsible for their own lives and accountable for their own sin. They complained their punishment was because of their fathers sin. No. Their fathers were punished for their sins and they are being punished for their own sins.

5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right—

  • 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
  • does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity,
  • 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge,
  • commits no robbery,
  • gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,
  • 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit,
  • withholds his hand from injustice,
  • executes true justice between man and man,
  • 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully

—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God. (Eze 18.5-10)

  1. Father (a man) – righteous – will live

Ezekiel believes there are some people who are righteous. Here he describes what it looks like for someone to be righteous. He says they avoid idolatry (v6a), sexual immorality (v6b) and stealing (v7b). They exercise social justice and help the poor (v7,8). Ezekiel says people who do what is just and right will live.

But is this Judah’s situation?

10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. (Eze 18.10-13)

If the father is righteous, but his son commits iniquity. The son shall die for his own sin. Presumably the father will live.

  1. Father (a man) – righteous – will live
  2. Son – sinner – shall die

14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, 16 does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. (Eze 18.14-18)

Ezekiel takes the idea further. The son who lived in sin has a son of his own. This son rejects his Father’s lifestyle and lives for God. He shall live, but his father who lived in sin shall die.

  1. Father (a man) – righteous – he shall live
  2. Son – sinner – he shall die
  3. Grandson (sees his fathers sins) – righteous – he shall live

Which of these would you say are the LORD’s true people?

Ezekiel returns to their original complaint. They thought they were being punished for their fathers sins. Are they (3) the Grandson who has a sinful father? Or are they (2) the sinful son who has a righteous father?

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Eze 18.19-20)

They are (2) the sinful son who has a righteous father. They are being punished justly.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.

Their excuse is not the first time people have tried to blame their own punishment (future or present) on someone else. Even in the Garden, Adam blames the LORD, Eve blames the serpent.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3.8-13)

Judah will come under judgment for her own sin. The LORD justified his actions. But as we have seen many times before he promises to restore his people. He will cause them to walk in his statutes and commands. The way people conduct themselves gives us an idea if they are the LORD’s people or not.

Story of Jesus

Ezekiel’s passage is interesting because it highlights that the people describes as righteous made a practice of observing the LORD’s commands. I don’t see righteousness to be about perfection. Rather a continued trusting focus on the LORD and desire to walk as he wills. The New Testament also differentiates between the those who practice righteousness and those who keep on sinning.

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 Jn 3.4-10)

If the truth is in us, we say we have sinned. Thankfully, Jesus the sinless one, came to take away our sins and to destroy the works of the devil. He did this by dying on the cross. On the third day he rose again. Through the work of the Spirit, God caused us to he born again as his children. We believe Jesus is the risen Christ and he gives life to all those who come to him. Because his word (seed) is in us we cannot continue to practice of sinning, we live for him, practicing righteousness for the one who saved us.

The soul who sins shall die. The righteous shall live.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights