The righteous turn away (Ezek 18:26-18:26)

“When the righteous

Turn away

From their righteousness,

They commit iniquity.

They shall die.

For the iniquity

That they have committed

They shall die.”

Yahweh was upset that the righteous turned away from their righteousness. They committed iniquities so that they would die. In case there was any doubt, Yahweh, via Ezekiel, repeated this death threat twice.

The fair way (Ezek 18:25-18:25)

“Yet you say!

‘The way of Yahweh

Is unfair.’

‘Hear now!

O house of Israel!

Is my way unfair?

Is it not your ways

That are unfair?”

Yahweh received a challenge about fairness. Why was Yahweh unfair? Yahweh responded to the house of Israel. It was not his ways that were unfair, it was their ways that were unfair.

The righteous become wicked (Ezek 18:24-18:24)

“But when the righteous

Turn away

From their righteousness,

Shall they live?

If they commit iniquity,

If they do

The same abominable things

That the wicked do,

Shall they live?

None of the righteous deeds

That they had done

Shall be remembered.

For the treachery

That they are guilty of,

As well as the sin

That they have committed,

They shall die.”

What happens if the righteous turn away from their righteousness, will they live? If they commit iniquity and do abominable things like the wicked do, will they live? None of their righteous deeds would be remembered. The guilty treacherous sins that they committed will bring them death.

The conversion of the wicked ones (Ezek 18:21-18:23)

“But if the wicked ones

Turn away

From all the sins

That they have committed,

They shall surely live.

If they keep

All my statutes,

They shall not die.

If they do

What is lawful,

What is right,

They shall surely live.

They shall not die.

None of the transgressions

That they have committed

Shall be remembered

Against them.

They shall live

Because of the righteousness

That they have done.

‘Have I any pleasure

In the death

Of the wicked?

I would rather

That they should turn

From their ways.

Then they would live.’

Says Yahweh God.”

What happens if wicked people turn away from all the sins that they have committed? They would live, if they kept all the statutes of Yahweh. If they did what was lawful and right, they would not die. None of their former transgressions would be remembered against them. They would live because of their righteousness. Yahweh did not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked ones. He would rather that they should turn from their evil ways, so that they would be able to live.

The son is not responsible for his father’s sins (Ezek 18:19-18:20)

“Yet you say.

‘Why should not

The son suffer

For the iniquity

Of the father?’

When the son

Has done

What is lawful,

What is right.

He has been careful

To observe

All my statutes.

He shall surely live.

The person who sins

Shall die.

A child shall not suffer

For the iniquity

Of a parent.

The parent shall not suffer

For the iniquity

Of the child.

The righteousness

Of the righteous

Shall be his own.

The wickedness

Of the wicked

Shall be his own.”

The question was about consequences of actions. Does the son suffer for the iniquities of his father? If the son has done what is lawful and right, should he be punished? If he has been careful to observe all the statutes of Yahweh, he would surely live. The person who sinned would die. A child will not suffer for the iniquity of a parent. Neither should a parent suffer for the iniquity of their children. Both the righteous and the wicked shall suffer the consequences of their own actions, not that of someone else.

The death of the unrighteous father (Ezek 18:18-18:18)

“As for his father,

Because he practiced extortion,

He robbed his brother.

He did what is not good

Among his people.

He dies for his iniquity.”

The fate of the unrighteous father is not so good. Since he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did not do any good among his people, he will die for his iniquity.

The good son of the unrighteous man (Ezek 18:14-18:17)

“But if this man

Has a son

Who sees all the sins

That his father

Has done,

Then considers it,

But does not do likewise,

Should he live?

This son does not

Eat upon the mountains

Or lift up his eyes

To the idols

Of the house of Israel.

He does not

Defile his neighbor’s wife

Or wrong any one.

He does not

Exact pledges

Or commit robbery.

But he gives his bread

To the hungry.

He covers the naked

With a garment.

He withholds his hand

From iniquity.

He takes no advance

Or accrues interest.

He observes

My ordinances.

He follows

My statutes.

He shall not die

For his father’s iniquity.

He shall surely live.”

What happens to the son of an unrighteous person? What if the son sees all the sins that his father has done, but decides to not follow in his father’s footsteps? This son does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or wrong any one. He does not exact pledges for loans or commit any robberies. However, he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment. He stays away from iniquity. He does not take any advances or accrue interest. He observes Yahweh’s ordinances and statutes. He is not going to die because of his father’s iniquity. Rather he will live.

The unrighteous son (Ezek 18:10-18:13)

“If he has a violent son,

A shedder of blood,

Who does

Any of these things,

Even though the father

Does none of them,

Shall he then live?

This violent son

Eats upon the mountains,

Defiles his neighbor’s wife,

Oppresses the poor,

Oppresses the needy,

Commits robbery,

Does not restore the pledge,

Lifts up his eyes

To the idols,

Commits abominations,

Takes advantage,

Accrues interest.

He shall not live.

He has done

All these abominable things.

He shall surely die.

His blood shall be

Upon himself.”

What happens if a righteous man has a violent son, who sheds blood? Even though the father does not do any of these things. This son eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, and oppresses the poor and the needy. This violent son commits robbery, does not restore the pledge when the debt is paid. He lifts up his eyes to the idols, and commits all kinds of abominations. He takes advantage of others by accruing interest. Shall this son live? No, he shall die. His blood shall be upon himself, not his father.

The righteous man (Ezek 18:5-18:9)

“If a man is righteous,

He does what is lawful.

He does what is right.

He does not eat

Upon the mountains,

He does not lift up his eyes

To the idols

Of the house of Israel.

He does not defile

His neighbor’s wife.

He does not approach a woman

During her menstrual cycle.

He does not oppress anyone.

But he restores

To the debtor

His pledge.

He commits no robbery.

He gives his bread

To the hungry.

He covers the naked

With a garment.

He does not take advantage.

He does not accrue interest.

He withholds his hand

From iniquity.

He executes true justice

Between contending parties.

He follows my statutes.

He is careful to observe

My ordinances.

He acts faithfully.

Such a one is righteous.

He will surely live.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Ezekiel outlined how the righteous man acts. First, he does what is lawful and right. He does not eat upon the mountains, the places of idol worship. He does not lift up his eyes to these Israelite idols. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. He also does not approach a woman during her menstrual cycle. He does not oppress anyone. However, he pays off his loans. He does not rob people. He gives his bread to the hungry people. He clothes the naked. He does not take advantage of anyone. He does not accrue interest. He stays away from iniquity. He executes true justice. He judges between contending parties. He follows the statutes and ordinances faithfully. This righteous one will surely live.

The bad proverb (Ezek 18:1-18:4)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘What do you mean

By repeating

This proverb

Concerning

The land of Israel?

‘The parents have eaten

Sour grapes.

The children’s teeth

Are set on edge.’

As I live,

Says Yahweh God!

‘This proverb

Shall no more

Be used by you

In Israel.

Know

That all lives are mine!

The life of the parent

Is mine.

The life of the child

Is mine.

It is only the person

Who sins

That shall die.’”

Yahweh was talking about personal responsibility rather than suffering for the sins of one’s parents. This proverb about parents eating sour grapes, while the effect would be on their children’s teeth is also found in Jeremiah, chapter 29. Here Yahweh asked them why they were repeating this proverb, because he wanted them to stop using this proverb in Israel. Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that all lives, both the parents and their children, belong to him. The person who sins will die. No one else will die. There is no collective guilt passed on from father to son.