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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 33

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-20

The Prophet as a Watchman

v. 1. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, in a message which was directly and verbally inspired,

v. 2. Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, once more turning to the members of his own nation, after having addressed various foreign nations in announcing to them the judgments of the Lord, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, in the punishment of war, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, from their borders, a member of their own nation, and set him for their watchman;

v. 3. if, when he seeth the sword come upon the land, as the invaders advanced to the attack, he blow the trumpet, in giving the alarm of their approach, and warn the people, for the signal did not merely serve for an announcement, but called upon the people and urged them to save themselves and their property,

v. 4. then, whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, being aware of the signal and its meaning, and taketh not warning, refusing and neglecting to heed its admonition, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head, the guilt would rest upon him alone, lie would have no one but himself to blame.

v. 5. He heard the sound of the trumpet and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. The picture is taken from the sacrificial rites of the Jews, who transferred their own guilt to the head of animals used in sacrificing, by the laying on of hands with prayer. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul, or, "since, by taking warning, he would cause his life to escape. "

v. 6. But if the watchman see the sword come, as the host of invaders approaches, and blow not the trumpet, deliberately neglecting this solemn duty, and the people be not warned, since they relied upon his giving the signal: if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, being guilty of negligence in not maintaining constant watchfulness, as those surrounded by enemies ought to do, but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand, he would be held responsible for his neglect in warning the people who relied upon him. Note that the meaning of the picture is here already intimated.

v. 7. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel, the Lord here applying the picture with the one change that the installation of the watchman is taken out of human hands; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, so that it is entirely and in every way a divine warning. not the prophet's own idea, and warn them from Me, for so the admonition must be understood.

v. 8. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surelydie, namely, in the absence of a true repentance, becoming subject to a certain death, the earnest of everlasting death; if thou, namely, the prophet, dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, causing him to forsake his path of iniquity by announcing to him the Lord's warning, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, for the failure to receive the warning would not take away his guilt, but his blood will I require at thine hand, thus making the prophet directly responsible, on account of his neglect, for the soul of the wicked.

v. 9. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, not to persist in his iniquity; if he do not turn from his way, refusing to give heed to admonition and warning, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul, so that no blame could attach to him for the calamity which had befallen the wicked person. Cf.Ezekiel 3:17-19.

v. 10. Therefore, O thou son of man, in agreement with the principles thus set forth, speak unto the house of Israel, Thus ye speak, in trying to find some excuse for the position in which they found themselves, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us and we pine away in them, on account of the load which they represented, how should we then live? The penalty of their guilt stared them in the face on every hand, and so they saw only despair or a deliberate continuance in sin before their eyes.

v. 11. Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, than which there is no more solemn oath, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, much less is it His intention to have the wicked punished in this manner, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, that alone being His gracious purpose. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Surely there can be no more emphatic way of declaring that God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

v. 12. Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, the Lord thus, in a way, disclaiming any relation with them as His own people in the very peculiar sense in which He had originally acknowledged them, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression, that is, if he leaves his righteousness for a life of wickedness, his former good life will avail him nothing; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall, if he duly repents of his sins and lives a life in accordance with God's will, not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness, since the Lord's forgiveness is of such a nature as to set aside all former guilt, so that it is no more remembered forever; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness, by virtue of the fact that he once was a righteous man, in the day that he sinneth. Every one who forsakes the path of righteousness and deliberately chooses the way of sin can no longer expect any consideration when he leaves the path of virtue.

v. 13. When I shall say to the righteous that he shall surely live, as a reward of mercy in acknowledgment of a life of faith; if he trust to his own righteousness, in a false reliance upon his own sanctity of life, and commit iniquity, freely risking a transgression with the idea that it would not be charged to him, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered, no longer being counted in his favor; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Cf.Ezekiel 18:24-28.

v. 14. Again, when I say unto the wicked, in pronouncing the sentence of punishment upon him, Thou shalt surely die, temporal death being, in his case, the wages of sin and the earnest of eternal damnation; if he turn from his sin and do that which is lawful and right, thereby showing the sincerity of his repentance;

v. 15. if the wicked restore the pledge, the reference being to a form of oppression by which the garment of the poor man was taken as a pledge, Exodus 22:26, give again that he hath robbed, Exodus 22:1-4, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, that is, follow strictly the commandments, the keeping of which had the promise of life, Leviticus 18:5: be shall surely live, he shall not die, for his works gave evidence of the sincerity of his repentance and of the reality of his faith.

v. 16. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him, for such is the nature of God's forgiveness; he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. Cf.Ezekiel 18:22.

v. 17. Yet the children of thy people say, as the Lord had complained once before, 18:25-29, The way of the Lord is not equal, that is, not according to equity, they accused Hun of not being fair in His dealings with them; but as for them, their way is not equal, it was He who had the right to bring this accusation. Therefore He repeats His guiding principle which He follows in dealing with them.

v. 18. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby, as a result of his deliberate wickedness.

v. 19. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, having been brought to the realization of the heinousness of his sins, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby, in possession of the forgiveness of the Lord and of His merciful gift of life.

v. 20. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal, thereby heaping blasphemy upon the holiness and righteousness of the Lord. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways, thereby giving definite proof of the justice of all His dealings, also in His punishment upon blasphemers. It is the same method which the Lord follows in our days, as many a godless person has found out to his great sorrow.

Verses 21-33

The Relation of the People to Ezekiel

v. 21. And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that is, a year and a half after the capture of Jerusalem, since Ezekiel was living in a very remote part of Babylon, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten, the appalling news of the overthrow of Jerusalem thus being brought to the prophet's attention in a most abrupt manner.

v. 22. Now, the hand of the Lord was upon me in the evening, causing a kind of ecstasy to fall upon him, afore he that was escaped came and had opened my mouth, which had formerly been closed, until he came to me in the morning, that is, this opening happened during the night, before the arrival of the messenger; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb. Cf.Ezekiel 24:26-27.

v. 23. Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

v. 24. Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel, the few dwellers in the ruins of the cities of Israel, speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land; but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance. Their argument was: If Abraham as an individual person received the land of Canaan for his possession, then surely the same God will not deny to us, the many rightful heirs of Abraham, the possession thus solemnly transmitted to him.

v. 25. Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Ye eat with the blood, that is, without letting the blood drain out on the ground, as the ordinance of the Lord prescribed, Levitcus 3:17, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, in gross idolatry, and shed blood, by freely committing deeds of violence; and shall ye possess the land? Did they think that the Lord would permit them to retain possession of the heritage of their fathers with such transgressions found in their midst?

v. 26. Ye stand upon your sword, depending upon the forceful application of what they desired, ye work abomination, by committing base crimes without a show of regard for God's will, and ye defile every one his neighbor's wife, sins against the Sixth Commandment being unusually prevalent at that time; and shall ye possess the land? The rhetorical question places a double emphasis upon the Lord's horror at their transgressions and the demand of His holiness for the proper punishment of the transgressors.

v. 27. Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, the God of the covenant, who is at the same time the Ruler of the universe, As I live, the most solemn oath which He is able to swear, surely they that are in the wastes, having sought refuge in the ruined cities and towns, shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, for the beasts of prey multiplied rapidly in the devastated country, and they that be in the forts, in mountain fastnesses, and in the caves, many of which, according to the account of Josephus, were inaccessible, shall die of the pestilence, unable to escape the punishment of the Lord.

v. 28. For I will lay the land most desolate, making it an utter waste, Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 12:11, and the pomp of her strength, upon which she depended and of which she boasted, shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate that none shall pass through, all the regular routes of travel through the land being abandoned and only an occasional horde of nomads being seen.

v. 29. Then shall they know that I am the Lord, this conviction being forced upon them in spite of all their efforts to deny His power, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed. Note the force of the description in setting forth the continued state of desolation, on account of which some commentators think of the ruined state of the country, not only during the Exile, but also after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

v. 30. Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people, namely, those among the exiles in Babylon, still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, both when they met in public and when they felt secure in the privacy of their own homes, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, with a show of interest which was far from proceeding from a willing obedience to the Lord's commands, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. Their sole motive was an obstinate curiosity, for they were not really concerned about keeping the will of the Lord; therefore Ezekiel was not to be deceived by this hollow mockery.

v. 31. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, in an assembly or crowd, as students flock to a teacher, and they sit before thee as My people, pretending to be the people of the Lord, and they hear thy words, in a respectful attitude, apparently earnest and willing, but they will not do them, op. Matthew 13:20-21; James 1:23-24; for with their mouth they show much love, literally, "for the pleasant things in their mouth they are doing," that is, they follow after, and perform, only such things as please them for the time being, but their heart goeth after their covetousness, they have their minds set on advantages which they hope to get.

v. 32. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, like a singer who charms with the sound of his voice, and can play well on an instrument, in accompanying his singing; for they hear thy words, but they do them not, giving no heed to their import nor obeying their admonition.

v. 33. And when this cometh to pass, namely, the prophecy concerning the desolation of the entire land of Israel, ( lo, it will come, this emphatic declaration being inserted as a final warning,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them, that it was God's message which Ezekiel proclaimed to them. As in those days, thus, too, many people of modern times are still willing enough to listen to a good speaker and even praise his eloquence, but they are altogether unwilling to follow his words, to apply the lessons of God's Word iii their own lives. It is a form of hypocrisy which is bound to bring God's punishment upon those who are guilty of such sham.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/ezekiel-33.html. 1921-23.
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