Do not be like your ancestors (Zech 1:4-1:6)

“Do not be like your ancestors!

The former prophets

Cried out

Against them.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Return from your evil ways!

Return from your evil deeds!

But they did not hear.

They did not heed me.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Your ancestors,

Where are they?

The prophets,

Do they live forever?

But my words,

My statutes,

That I commanded

My servants,

The prophets,

Did they not overtake

Your ancestors?

Thus,

They repented.

They said.

‘Yahweh of hosts

Has dealt with us

According to our ways,

According to our deeds,

Just as he planned to do.’”

Yahweh, via Zechariah, wanted the people of Israel not to be like their ancestors.  They should return from their evil ways and deeds.  Their ancestors had not listened to the former prophets proclaiming the word of Yahweh.  What happened to their ancestors?  Neither they nor these prophets would live forever.  However, the statutes and commands of Yahweh as pronounced by his servants, the prophets, overtook them.  They repented and agreed that Yahweh had treated them fairly according to their ways and deeds.

The conversion of the wicked ones (Ezek 33:14-33:16)

“Again,

Although I say

To the wicked!

‘You shall surely die!’

Yet if they turn

From their sin,

If they do

What is lawful,

What is right,

They shall surely live.

If the wicked ones restore

The pledge,

If they give back

What they have taken

By robbery,

They shall surely live.

If they walk

In the statutes of life,

If they commit no iniquity,

They shall surely live.

They shall not die.

None of the sins

That they have committed

Shall be remembered

Against them.

They have done

What is lawful.

They have done

What is right.

They shall surely live.”

This time, Yahweh turned to the wicked ones. They were going to die if they did not turn away from their sin. However, if they did what was lawful and right, they would surely live. If these wicked ones restored their debt pledges and gave back what they have stolen in their robberies, they would live. If they walked in the statutes of life, and did not commit any iniquity, they would live, not die. None of the sins that they had committed would be remembered against them. As long as they did what was lawful and right, they would surely live. There was hope for these wicked sinners.

The rebellion (Ezek 20:21-20:21)

“But the children

Rebelled

Against me.

They did not follow

My statutes.

They were not careful

To observe

My ordinances.

By their observance,

Everyone shall live.

They profaned

My Sabbath.”

This is the 3rd mention of a rebellion in this chapter. This time, even the children of those wandering in the desert rebelled. It seemed to be a major theme of Ezekiel in his history of the Israelites. In each case there was a rebellion. First there were those in Egypt, then those in the wilderness, and now the children of those in the wilderness. They failed to follow the statutes of Yahweh. They failed to observe his ordinances that gave life. Finally, they profaned his Sabbath.

The warning in the wilderness (Ezek 20:18-20:18)

“I said to their children

In the wilderness.

‘Do not follow

The statutes

Of your parents!

Do not observer

Their ordinances!

Do not defile yourselves

With their idols!’”

Yahweh had warned the children of Israel during the wilderness travel. They were not to follow the statutes of their parents, since Yahweh was going to give them new ones. These young children were not to observe the various ordinances and customs of their parents that they had followed in Egypt. Finally, they were not to defile themselves with the Egyptian idols of their parents.

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 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.