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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 18

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezekiel 18:0


God Deals Justly With IndividualsA False Proverb RefutedIndividual ResponsibilityIndividual ResponsibilityIndividual Responsibility
Ezekiel 18:1-9Ezekiel 18:1-9Ezekiel 18:1-4Ezekiel 18:1-2Ezekiel 18:1-2
(vv. Ezekiel 18:2)
(vv. Ezekiel 18:3)Ezekiel 18:3-4Ezekiel 18:3-4
(vv. Ezekiel 18:4-9)
Ezekiel 18:5-9Ezekiel 18:5-9Ezekiel 18:5-9
Ezekiel 18:10-13Ezekiel 18:10-13Ezekiel 18:10-13Ezekiel 18:10-13Ezekiel 18:10-13
Ezekiel 18:14-18Ezekiel 18:14-18Ezekiel 18:14-18Ezekiel 18:14-18Ezekiel 18:14-18
(vv. Ezekiel 18:14-17)
(vv. Ezekiel 18:18)
Turn and Live
Ezekiel 18:19-20Ezekiel 18:19-20Ezekiel 18:19-20Ezekiel 18:19-20Ezekiel 18:19-20
Ezekiel 18:21-23Ezekiel 18:21-23Ezekiel 18:21-24Ezekiel 18:21-23Ezekiel 18:21-23
Ezekiel 18:24-29Ezekiel 18:24Ezekiel 18:24Ezekiel 18:24
Ezekiel 18:25-29Ezekiel 18:25-29Ezekiel 18:25-29Ezekiel 18:25-32
Ezekiel 18:30-32Ezekiel 18:30-32Ezekiel 18:30-32Ezekiel 18:30-32

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This chapter provides a good opportunity to mention how the interpreter's presuppositions often distort the original author's intent. As an evangelical I have often used this text as an example of individual, personal response being necessary for salvation (i.e., personal relationship). However, in context, it is referring to Judah's claim that it was because of their ancestors' sins that they were suffering (cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). This chapter is more related to the current generation (corporate) rather than individuals of that generation.

Another way this chapter is used is seen in Ezekiel 18:32. It is often linked with John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; and 2 Peter 3:9 to show YHWH's love for all humans (which is surely true), but this text is really about Israel's descendants (cf. Ezekiel 18:30). We tend to read our systematic theology into every text. We tend to assign theological content to certain words and then read that definition into every usage of the term (i.e., “repent,” “live”). We must discipline ourselves to let the inspired authors speak to their day before we use it in our systematic theologies (which often say more about us than about God!).

Ezekiel is addressing a sinful people who do not think they are sinful, but rather blame their parents and previous generations for YHWH's judgment.

B. This chapter also offers an opportunity to show how biblical authors present truths in tension-filled pairs. Notice how Ezekiel 18:31 demands that the believers “make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit,” yet Ezekiel 36:26-27 asserts that YHWH will give them a new heart and a new spirit.

There are two ways to view these statements.

1. OT

a. The first way reflects the first covenant based on human performance (i.e., Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 30:16, Deuteronomy 30:19).

b. The “new” covenant focuses on God's performance (i.e., Ezekiel 36:22-38; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Jeremiah 31:31-34).

2. NT

a. These statements describe a covenant relationship where God initiates and sets the conditions for fellowship.

b. Humans must respond initially and continually in repentance and faith. Salvation is not a ticket to heaven or an insurance policy, but a daily personal relationship.

C. Note that the NKJV prints Ezekiel 18:4-18 (i.e., Ezekiel 18:4-9, Ezekiel 18:10-13, Ezekiel 18:14-17, Ezekiel 18:18) as poetry; NIV prints Ezekiel 18:5-17 (i.e., Ezekiel 18:5-9, Ezekiel 18:10-13a, Ezekiel 18:15-17a) as poetry and Ezekiel 18:13-14 as prose, however, the NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, and REB print the whole chapter in prose.

D. I like the brief outline in the Oxford Study Bible, p. 874.

“Maintaining right relations with God frees one from

1. the past of one's parents, Ezekiel 18:1-20

2. the past of one's own life, Ezekiel 18:21-32

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:1-4 1Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2”What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, 'The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children's teeth are set on edge'? 3As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. 4Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die. 4Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”

Ezekiel 18:2 “proverb” The use of this word (BDB 605, KB 647) ties this chapter to a unified context (i.e., chapters 12-18, cf. Ezekiel 12:22, Ezekiel 12:23; Ezekiel 14:8; Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 18:2, Ezekiel 18:3).

“The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children's teeth are set on edge”

One person's (or generation's) actions affect others. This is uniquely an eastern viewpoint. Eastern peoples are far more tribal, clan, and family-oriented. One is a member of a group and lives to serve that group. One's attitudes and actions affect that group. Here are some biblical examples.

1. Adam and Eve affect the whole human family and earth, Genesis 3:0

2. Parent's sin or faithfulness affects the children, Exodus 20:5-6; Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 7:9; Ezekiel 18:0

3. Achan's sin affects all of Israel and even some Israeli soldiers die because of his sin, Joshua 7:0

4. David sins, but his first son by Bathsheba dies and Israel languishes, 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 32, 51

5. Jesus' substitutionary, vicarious death on behalf of all humans, John 1:29; Romans 5:18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Ezekiel 18:3 “As I live” This is an oath based on the covenant name of God, YHWH (cf. Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 16:48; Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:19; Ezekiel 18:3; Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:31, Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8; Ezekiel 35:6, Ezekiel 35:11). See Special Topic: Names for Deity. YHWH is the only-living, ever-living God. All life is derived from Him, belongs to Him, and remains through Him (i.e., “all souls are Mine,” Ezekiel 18:4).

“you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel any more” This same proverb is mentioned in Jeremiah 31:29, but in the setting of “the last days.” This proverb impugns the justice and fairness of God (cf. Lamentations 5:7).

Ezekiel 18:4 “soul” This is not the Greek concept that we have a soul (i.e., divine spark), but the Hebrew concept that we are a soul (cf. Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word (BDB 659, KB 711-713) describes the life force (i.e., breath) in both animals and humans (cf. Genesis 1:20-30; Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:19; Genesis 7:22; Job 34:14-15; Psalms 104:29, Psalms 104:30; Psalms 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21). Humans are uniquely related to God by His personal formation of them and His breathing into them (cf. Genesis 2:7), yet they are also creatures of this planet. We eat, breathe, reproduce just like other animals of this planet. However, we are also created in God's image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). We are a physical and spiritual unity (i.e., Psalms 42:1).

“all souls are Mine” This is not a theological statement of monotheism (as in Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 57:16). The original author is speaking of the covenant people and particularly of Judah's royal line (i.e., Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah).

“The soul who sins will die” The emphasis is on individual covenant responsibility (cf. Ezekiel 14:20; Deuteronomy 24:17). Remember it is not “either/or,” but “both/and” between individual responsibility and corporate responsibility. This same tension can be seen between original sin and volitional sin (cf. Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). This truth is also seen in Deuteronomy 24:16.

What does “die” (BDB 559, KB 562) mean here? It must be more than physical death! It is the opposite of true “life” (cf. Ezekiel 18:9). There is “life” (BDB 310, KB 309) beyond this reality. This “life” is characterized by the presence and character of God.

One wonders how the Qal PARTICIPLE should be understood. Does it imply that a one-time sin brings death or is that already a reality in the Fall (cf. Genesis 3:0)? How would one relate this statement to 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9 (PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE)? Are we speaking of sin that characterizes the life or acts of sin? I would assume, because of the idolatrous actions of Ezekiel 18:7 and the covenant partners' violations of Ezekiel 18:8, that we are speaking of a life characterized by covenant rebellion (cf. Ezekiel 18:9).

The Bible mentions three kinds of death or possibly progressive stages of death. The first is Genesis 3:0. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, but they were still alive physically. The “death” referred to was relational (i.e., God to human, human to human, and human to self), as well as contextual (i.e., the planet, the ethos was altered).

The second aspect of death is personal, physical death (cf. Genesis 5:0). Spiritual death (cf. Ephesians 2:1) resulted in the physical cessation of life.

The third aspect (or progress) is ultimate, everlasting death (cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14), which involves

1. a permanent separation from fellowship with God

2. a permanent isolation from God's purpose for creation (i.e., loss of heaven)

3. a permanent fellowship of punishment with evil persons and rebellious angels

Verses 5-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:5-9 5”But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, 6and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period7if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 8if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, 9if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfullyhe is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 18:5-9 Notice the characteristics of a righteous covenant follower.

1. practices justice (lit. “what is lawful,” BDB 1048), Ezekiel 18:5

2. practices righteousness (lit. “what is right,” BDB 842), Ezekiel 18:5

3. does not eat at the mountain shrines, cf. Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 22:9; (this refers to Ba'al worship, cf. Ezekiel 6:13), Ezekiel 18:6

4. does not lift up his eyes to the idols, Ezekiel 18:6, cf. Ezekiel 18:12, Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 20:24; Ezekiel 33:25; Deuteronomy 4:19 (this denotes looking to them for favors and answers to prayers)

5. does not defile his neighbor's wife, Ezekiel 18:6, cf. Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 22:11; Ezekiel 33:26; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:18

6. does not approach a woman during her menstrual period, Ezekiel 18:6, cf. Ezekiel 22:10; Leviticus 15:19, Leviticus 15:20, Leviticus 15:24, Leviticus 15:25

7. does not oppress anyone, Ezekiel 18:7, cf. Ezekiel 18:12, Ezekiel 18:16; Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:29; Exodus 20:21; Leviticus 19:33; Leviticus 25:14, Leviticus 25:17; Deuteronomy 23:16

8. restores to the debtor his pledge, Ezekiel 18:7, cf. Deuteronomy 24:13

9. does not commit robbery, Ezekiel 18:7, cf. Leviticus 19:13 (e.g., Exodus 22:7-15, Exodus 22:21-27)

10. gives his bread to the hungry, Ezekiel 18:7, cf. Ezekiel 18:16; Deuteronomy 15:11

11. covers the naked with clothing, Ezekiel 18:7, cf. Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:35; Luke 3:11

12. does not lend money on interest, Ezekiel 18:8, cf. Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20 (next phrase “or take increase” is parallel to Leviticus 25:36)

13. keeps his hand from iniquity, Ezekiel 18:8

14. executes true justice between man and man, Ezekiel 18:8, cf. Zechariah 7:9; Zechariah 8:16

15. walks in My statutes, Ezekiel 18:9

16. so as to deal faithfully, Ezekiel 18:9

Notice some of these are prohibitions and some are mandated actions; some deal with ceremonial issues, others with sins against a covenant brother. They reflect the Mosaic Covenant.

Ezekiel 18:5 “practices justice and righteousness” These two often appear together in describing the person who lives pleasing to God (cf. 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 10:9; 1 Chronicles 18:14; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Psalms 99:4; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 59:14; Jeremiah 4:2; Jeremiah 9:24; Jeremiah 22:3, Jeremiah 22:15; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Ezekiel 18:5, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:21, Ezekiel 18:27; Ezekiel 33:14, Ezekiel 33:16, Ezekiel 33:19; Ezekiel 45:9; Amos 5:7, Amos 5:24). Pleasing God involves the inner life (heart, mind) and the outer life (worship, ethical actions, compassion). These cannot be divided. Faith permeates all of life! It is not an isolated ritual, liturgy, or worship time, but a daily, personal relationship! See Special Topic: Judge, Judgment, Justice and Special Topic: Righteousness.

Ezekiel 18:6 “eat at the mountain shrines This is a reference to idolatrous worship at the high places of the Canaanite fertility god Ba'al and goddess Asherah or Astarte (cf. Ezekiel 20:28). These high places were located on natural hills and manmade raised platforms in the cities. Ritual eating implied a covenantal relationship. See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the Ancient Near East.

“defile his neighbor's wife” Adultery was so serious because one's children were involved in the concept of the afterlife (one's name cut off). Also, it caused great problems in inheritance rights (cf. Leviticus 25:0), which were so important to the Israelites.

“approach a woman during her menstrual period” This is a cultural element dealing with ceremonial defilement (cf. Leviticus 12:2, Leviticus 12:5; Leviticus 18:19). The Israelites felt any bodily emission made one ceremonially unclean (cf. Leviticus 15:1-24).

Ezekiel 18:7 “restores to the debtor his pledge” Often a poor person's outer cloak was used as collateral for a loan. It was to be returned before evening because it was used to sleep in (cf. Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:17; Amos 2:8), but land owners often kept it to insure the laborer would return to work the next day.

“does not commit burglary” This refers to the rich landowners taking advantage of the poor people of the land (cf. Ezekiel 18:7, Ezekiel 18:12, Ezekiel 18:16; Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:29; Ezekiel 45:8; Ezekiel 46:18; Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:13; Jeremiah 22:3).

“gives bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing” God cares for the underprivileged and socially powerless (i.e., widow, orphan, alien); those who know God will also (cf. Deuteronomy 15:11; Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:31-45; James 2:15-16).

Ezekiel 18:8 “does not lend money on interest” This was forbidden to fellow Israelites, but permitted to foreigners (cf. Ezekiel 18:13, Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-38; Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Psalms 15:5). To be sure, this is mostly an issue of the heart! One's attitude and actions toward the needy are the focus of these verses.

Ezekiel 18:9 “he walks” This is the biblical metaphor for lifestyle faith.

“My statutes and My ordinances” See Special Topic: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

“will surely live” This is a repeated grammatical form (cf. Ezekiel 18:17, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:21, Ezekiel 18:28) used for emphasis (i.e., a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE plus a Qal IMPERFECT of the same VERB). This same grammatical pattern appears with two other terms in this chapter.

1. surely die, Ezekiel 18:13

2. do not have any pleasure, Ezekiel 18:23

Verses 10-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:10-13 10”Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother 11(though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor's wife, 12oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination, 13he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.”

Ezekiel 18:10 This verse shows that although parents are admonished to train their children in God's way (i.e., Proverbs), the child is ultimately responsible for his own acts. The child commits every sin mentioned in Ezekiel 18:5-9 (i.e., Ezekiel 18:11-13).

Ezekiel 18:13 “he will surely be put to death” See note at Ezekiel 18:9.

“his blood will be on his own head” Environment (society) and heredity (parents) are significant factors in social and religious development, but they do not remove individual responsibility (note Ezekiel 33:4, Ezekiel 33:5).

Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:14-18 14”Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father's sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise. 15He does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife, 16or oppress anyone, or retain a pledge, or commit robbery, but he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 17he keeps his hand from the poor, does not take interest or increase, but executes My ordinances, and walks in My statutes; he will not die for his father's iniquity, he will surely live. 18As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was not good among his people, behold, he will die for his iniquity.”

Ezekiel 18:14 Verse 14 is addressing the next generation of Ezekiel 18:5 and 10 (i.e., righteous, wicked, righteous, cf. Ezekiel 18:20).

Verses 19-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:19-20 19”Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. 20The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”

Ezekiel 18:19 This shows the diatribe nature of the chapter. Ezekiel is answering the unspoken (or veiled) questions whispered against YHWH's justice.

NASB“has observed” NKJV“done” NRSV“has been careful to observe” TEV“kept. . .carefully” NJB“kept”

The VERB (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PERFECT) means “to keep,” “to watch,” or “to preserve.” It implies a careful diligence in observing God's laws (i.e., Leviticus 22:31; Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 26:17). One's love for YHWH was expressed in obedience and love for God, other covenant brothers, and aliens. One could not claim to love God if he did not practice it toward other humans. Righteousness in its OT sense implied a care and concern for others, especially the underprivileged, that goes beyond a strict legal standard. Justice was extended by covenant compassion (see Norman H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, pp. 159-173). This is what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

Verses 21-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:21-23 21”But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. 23Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

Ezekiel 18:21 “if the wicked man turns” This shows the continuing love of God. Any moment that a human (in this case a covenant member) will repent and execute trust, God is there to forgive and receive him! See Special Topic: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

“he shall surely live” See also Leviticus 18:5. God wants to bless us!

Ezekiel 18:22 “All his transgressions” The term “transgressions” (BDB 833) literally means “to rebel.” It is used metaphorically of rebelling against YHWH (cf. Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 46:8; Isaiah 53:12[twice]; Hosea 14:9; Amos 4:4[twice]).

“will not be remembered” This VERB (BDB 269, KB 209, Niphal IMPERFECT) is also used metaphorically for YHWH forgetting human rebellion (cf. Ezekiel 18:24; Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 33:13). When God forgives, God forgets (i.e., Psalms 103:11-13; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Micah 7:19). What a wonderful Truth! What a wonderful God!

“because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live” This is an OT understanding of “righteousness” (see Special Topic at Ezekiel 3:20). It should not be understood in the sense of “sinlessness,” but in the sense it was used to describe Noah (cf. Genesis 6:4) and Job (cf. Job 1:1). They lived up to their understanding of the will of God. True and complete obedience is not a possibility for fallen humanity (cf. Genesis 6:5, Genesis 6:11-12; Psalms 14:3; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 1:18-20; Romans 5:12-14). Covenant obedience was the criteria for “a ceremonial righteousness” within ancient Israel. Even in the Judaism of Jesus' day “righteousness” was defined as

1. almsgiving, see Special Topic: Almsgiving

2. prayer

3. fasting (cf. Matthew 6:1-18, see Special Topic: Fasting)

as well as required sacrifices, feast days, and Sabbath observance.

Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked” The phrase “any pleasure” is a combination of the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 342, KB 339). This grammatical form occurs often in this chapter. See note at Ezekiel 18:9.

This chapter is an allusion to the transgeneration communication of sin through families (cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). However, it also alludes to the gracious character of YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9). The mercy of God vs. the judgment of God can be compared to judgment, 3-4 generations but mercy to a 1,000 generations! But Ezekiel even removes the 3-4! Each human created in God's image and likeness will stand before God as an individual based on his/her actions and motives (i.e., Deuteronomy 24:16).

Notice that “the wicked” is parallel with “anyone” in Ezekiel 18:32. Contextually this must refer to covenant people (i.e., Israelites), but the OT inclusion of (1) non-Israelites such as Job and Ruth; (2) the Mosaic covenant's concern for the alien; and (3) Isaiah's revelations of YHWH's love for and inclusion of “the nations” (i.e., Isaiah 66:23), causes one to expand (i.e., systematic theology) the reference to all humans, which is surely the focus of the “New Covenant” (i.e., John 1:12; John 3:16; John 4:42; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 4:14).

“rather than that he should turn and repent” See Special Topic: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

Verses 24-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:24-29 24”But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. 25Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not right.' Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right? 26When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die. 27Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. 28Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29But the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not right.' Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right?”

Ezekiel 18:24 This verse demonstrates that an OT covenant person could

1. be righteous, Ezekiel 18:24

2. become wicked, Ezekiel 18:24

3. become righteous again, Ezekiel 18:27, Ezekiel 18:28

The OT is a performance-based, conditional covenant! The question remains, is the NT a conditional covenant? It is not performance-based, but the goal of both the OT and NT is a righteous people who reflect God's character to a lost world! The problem of “easy believism” is the issue. The NT is a conditional covenant, which requires

1. repentance

2. faith, trust, belief

3. obedience

4. perseverance


Notice the phrases used to describe one who turns from righteousness.

1. commits iniquity (lit. “injustice,” BDB 732, cf. Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 18:24, Ezekiel 18:26 [twice]; Ezekiel 33:13 [twice],15,18; Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 19:35; Deuteronomy 25:16

2. does according to all the abominations (BDB 1072, see Special Topic at Ezekiel 5:11)

3. wicked man does (lit. “wicked,” BDB 957, cf. Ezekiel 3:18 [twice]; Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 21:30; Ezekiel 33:8 [twice])

4. treachery which he has committed (lit. “act unfaithfully,” BDB 591, cf. Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 15:8; Ezekiel 17:20; Ezekiel 20:27; Ezekiel 39:23, Ezekiel 39:26)

5. sin which he has committed (BDB 308, cf. Ezekiel 16:51; Ezekiel 18:14; Ezekiel 21:29; Ezekiel 33:10, Ezekiel 33:16)

All of these phrases refer to covenant people. Their genealogy in the family of Abraham did not protect them (note John 8:31-59) from the consequences of evil acts (cf. Isaiah 65:7; Jeremiah 31:29-30; Lamentations 5:7).

Ezekiel 18:25

NASB“not right” NKJV“not fair” NRSV, JPSOA“unfair” TEV“isn't right” NJB“unjust” REB“acts without principle”

This VERB (BDB 1067, KB 1733, Niphal IMPERFECT) refers to a standard of weight or measurement (cf. Ezekiel 18:29; Ezekiel 33:17, Ezekiel 33:20). YHWH judges precisely because He weighs the human heart and knows the actions of all (cf. Proverbs 16:2, Proverbs 16:11).

This verse shows the purpose of the chapter (cf. Ezekiel 18:2). The Judeans in Jerusalem are trying to explain God's judgment by blaming

1. their ancestors

2. their parents

3. God (He is unjust in His actions, cf. Ezekiel 18:29; Ezekiel 33:17, Ezekiel 33:20)

They were attempting to deflect spiritual responsibility. This whole chapter must contextually be seen in this light!

“Hear now” is a Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 1033, KB 1570). YHWH is still dealing with His covenant people. He wants them to repent and return to Him (cf. Ezekiel 18:30-32).

Ezekiel 18:28 “because he considered” This is literally “see” (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERFECT), but used in the sense of mental enlightentment (TEV “realizes”). It is similar to “came to himself” of Luke 15:17. Spiritual choices all begin in the mind! The new thoughts resulted in modified behavior!

The phrase “he shall surely live” is a repeated divine affirmation (see Ezekiel 18:9, Ezekiel 18:17, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:21).

Ezekiel 18:29 The VERB “is not right” (BDB 1067, KB 1733, Niphal IMPERFECT) is used three times; once as an accusation against God, but twice of the Judeans' sinful actions.

Verses 30-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 18:30-32 30”Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”

Ezekiel 18:30-32 This is a key theological summary. “Each according to his conduct” is a spiritual principle recurrent throughout Scripture (cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

This summary has a series of IMPERATIVES.

1. repent, - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE repeated in Ezekiel 18:32, see Special Topic: Repentance in the Old Testament

2. turn away- BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil IMPERATIVE , used in an exclamatory sense

3. cast away- BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERATIVE , cf. Ezekiel 20:7, Ezekiel 20:8

4. make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

5. live - BDB 310, KB 309, Qal IMPERATIVE, this is the key term used 17 times in this chapter (and 10 times in the parallel, chapter 33). YHWH lives, Ezekiel 18:3, and He wants us to live, but spiritual life has conditions and requirements.

Ezekiel 18:30 “a stumbling block” This (BDB 506) can be understood as the means or occasion of stumbling or literally of a rock in the road. See note at Ezekiel 3:20.

Ezekiel 18:31 It is obvious that even with YHWH's available mercy, some covenant people will not return to Him. Did they ever know Him? There are two inseparable ways this “knowledge” is manifest.

1. personal faith (cf. Genesis 15:6)

2. personal obedience (cf. Ezekiel 18:21-22)

The second is evidence that the first is present. The “new” covenant will accentuate (not initiate) this relationship. YHWH enables the fallen human to do what the human desires to do (i.e., Romans 7:0).

One more theological point on these verses, Israel's physical condition was related to her spiritual condition. Israel's problems were related to her disobedience to YHWH, not YHWH's weakness related to the other national gods (i.e., Babylonian Marduk). This truth emphasizes the tension between a sovereign monotheistic deity and a covenant people with true free will! Israel reaped the consequences of her choices, not YHWH's (i.e., Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32)!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is this chapter so important in understanding the OT?

2. Are we affected by the sins of others? How? Can we be corporately guilty for our society?

3. Does God love all humans or just a chosen group?

4. What spiritual principle is mentioned in Ezekiel 18:30?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 18". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-18.html. 2021.
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