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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 33

Editorial Review of Former Oracles (33:1-33)

This chapter is a literary binder which is fashioned for the express purpose of uniting chapters 1-24 with chapters 34-39, giving basis for future hope and restoration. The watchman motif is repeated (compare Ezekiel 33:1-9 and Ezekiel 3:16-21 ) , and the problem of individual responsibility is again presented (compare Ezekiel 33:10-20 and eh. 18). Verses 23-29 appear to be a shorter form of Ezekiel 20:14-21. In the midst of these repetitions there is set a date which chronologically belongs after Ezekiel 24:27 (Ezekiel 33:21-22). Added to this is a fascinating glimpse into the popularity of the prophet, the only new material included in the chapter (vss. 30-33).

Verses 1-9

Call to Be a Watchman (33:1-9)

The substance of this oracle is identical with the charge or commission given to the prophet at the outset in Ezekiel 3:16-21. A prophet must warn his people of impending judgment, then if disaster does come the responsibility is theirs, not his. Otherwise, failing to warn the people of impending disaster, the prophet bears responsibility and guilt. To such a task Ezekiel was called.

Verses 10-20

Corporate Guilt and Individual Responsibility (33:10-20)

This section is essentially a repetition of chapter 18, which has been discussed at some length. Sometimes the verses are identical with the expression found in the longer presentation, while in other parts they are a condensation. The problem of individual responsibility arose naturally at a time when corporate life was disintegrating. Prophetic preaching had explained this dissolution as a result of corporate guilt. Ezekiel emphasizes individual responsibility within the framework of corporate life, and stresses the fact that the Lord does not desire the death of any corporate or individual life.

Verses 21-22

A Chronological Note (33:21-22)

By a simple shift of letters in the Hebrew text "the twelfth year" becomes "the eleventh year," which is almost certainly correct (vs. 21). That was the year Jerusalem fell and word of the disaster came to the prophet through an escapee from the doomed city. In chronological order these verses would immediately follow Ezekiel 24:27. Ezekiel was generally a silent prophet, except on those occasions when his mouth was opened by the Lord. With the fall of Jerusalem, the prophet recovered from the dumbness which had come upon him in "the plain" when he received the commission from God (Ezekiel 3:22-27). The prophet henceforth is a harbinger of hope, not a disciple of despair.

Verses 23-29

Reason for Jerusalem’s Destruction (33:23-29)

The old problem of who constitutes the People of God — that is, who are to be the inheritors of the land — lies back of this passage. People living in waste places within Palestine claimed that the land by right belonged to them because it had been given to Abraham, their father. Ezekiel, like Jeremiah before him (Jeremiah 24), pinned his hope for the future on the exiles, not upon the people of the land. To explain why these folk were disinherited, Ezekiel reads the particulars of their indictment, and follows that with a description of judgment by the sword, wild beasts, and pestilence. The end of the process will leave the land in a state of utter waste. Then they shall know that the Lord is truly God of heaven and earth.

Verses 30-33

Hearers Who Do Listen (33:30-33)

The meaning here is obvious. Hearing with their ears, the people do not understand with their hearts. Ezekiel personally becomes a center of great popular interest among the exiles. But those who come and sit attentively listening, "with their lips . . . show much love, but their heart is set on their gain" (vs. 31b). They are pleased with the melodious voice of the prophet, who is like a singer of songs or a player of a musical instrument. To hear him conjures up visions of a better day, but what he is saying does not affect their understanding or influence their life. When the prophetic word is fulfilled, they will know that the voice among them was that of God’s prophet Then the ministry of Ezekiel will be vindicated.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 33". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-33.html.