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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Ezekiel 33

Verse 1

Eze 33:1-2. For 8 chapters the prophet has been writing against various heathen nations that had mistreated God’s people. Some of that writing is in the form of predictions of things to come upon them, and other parts are a summary of what had previously taken place, and written by way of warning to future generations. Ezekiel now resumes his writing to his own countrymen. The general trend of the passages will be favorable and intended to give encouragement to the people of Israel. However, the seriousness of respon sibility on tbe part of a prophet and and teacher will be given attention. The subject will necessarily include some remarks concerning the respon-sibility of the people under the work of the teacher or prophet. The first lesson on the subject of responsibility is drawn from the work of a watchman in times of danger, especially the dangers of war. At such times a man is placed in one of the watchtowers and equipped with a trumpet to use as a signalling device.

Verse 3

Eze 33:3. The duty of this watchman is to be always on the alert and observe any approach of the enemy. When he sees such a danger he is to blow a warning signal with the trumpet to notify the citizens that danger is near.

Verse 4

Eze 33:4. The blowing of the trumpet moves the responsibility from the watchman to the citizen. If he ignores the signal of warning and is taken by the sword of the enemy he will have to take all of the blame for his death.

Verse 5

Eze 33:5. His blood shall be upon him means he will be responsible for his own downfall. No blood shall be shed by any other person in his behalf.

Verse 6

Eze 33:6. Here Is a rule that does not "work both ways.” If the watchman fails to sound the warning, his neglect of duty will not save the life of the citizen. Besides that, the watch-man also will be required to answer for the death of the victim.

Verse 7

Eze 33:7. So far the Lord has been speaking to Ezekiel In general terms on the responsibility of a watchman, now He comes to particulars and tells the prophet that he is being made one. His duty is to watch over the house of Israel, and deliver to them the words of warning that he receives from God.

Verse 8

Eze 33:8. The relation of a watchman to his people In times of literal war is being used t.o illustrate a subject far more important. The matter of a man's personal conduct and Us consequences is the thing the Lord would have the prophet conside'r. He was to warn the wicked man that death would he his lot if he did not repent and turn from his wickeness. If Ezekiel fails to deliver the warning the wicked man will die even though he is not made aware of his danger. Besides that, the negligent prophet will he held responsible for the death of the wicked man.

Verse 9

Eze 33:9. If the watchman warns the wicked man and he does not profit by it, he will die in or because of his iniquity. However, the watchman will have done his duty and will not he held responsible for the death of the victim.

Verse 10

Eze 33:10. This verse is a complaint of the house of Israel. They seem to think that the Lord is asking that which is impossible for them. They are expected to live in the service of God and yet He causes them to waste away in their sins. Their conclusion is that God wishes them to die, but that will be denied in the next verse.

Verse 11

Eze 33:11. The Lord declares that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but just the opposite is what is desired. That is why the wicked man is exhorted to turn from his evil way. Why will ye die is a challenge to the evil man to show a reason for his decision to die. No reason can be given, for nothing lies beyond death that will repay him for his unwise course. Neither can he make the excuse that it is unavoidable, for the Lord not only is giving him full warning of what is before him, but also has promised to help him in his efforts to avoid it.

Verse 12

Eze 33:12. The gist of this verse is that as a man terminates his life, so will be his lot ever afterwards. If he turns from a wicked course and does good the rest of his days, the Lord will not hold his former sins against him. On the same principle, if a righteous man backslides and ends his days in sin, his previous good deeds will not save him when the test comes lo determine his lot.

Verse 13

Eze 33:13. The paragraph comprised in Eze 33:3-9 looks especially to the phase of responsibility of a watchman toward the people under his charge. This verse introduces the special thought of God's attitude toward the promises of good or threats of evil that have been announced to man. The promises or warnings of the Lord are made on conditions, either expressed or implied. Hence the promise of life made to a good man is not so fixed that he cannot come short of that promise. If he becomes so confident over his former good deeds and record of them that he begins to do wrong, the promise of life will be revoked. This overthrows the doctrine titled "Once in grace always in grace," for man's favor with God depends on faithfulness to the end.

Verse 14

Eze 33:14. This verse indicates that a wicked man does not need to give up in despair just because the Lord has told him he must die; he is encouraged to turn from his sins. We should notice the wicked man has a two-sided duty to perform if he is to obtain mercy from God, Not only must he turn from active sin but also he must do that which is right. "Cease to do evil; learn to do well"(Isa 1:16-17)

Verse 15

Eze 33:15. This verse teaches the same lesson as the preceding ones, but it goes into particulars and specifies certain things the wicked man must do in order to obtain divine mercy and be made reconciled to the Lord.

Verse 16

Eze 33:16. This verse teaches the same lesson as Eze 18:21-22. It refutes the theory that an unrighteous man cannot do anything for his own salvation; that if he is doomed “from all eternity” to perdition, nothing can be done to change it,

Verse 17

Eze 33:17. The word equal is from an original that is defined “to balance” or be consistent and impartial. See the comments at Eze 18:25 for further explanation on this subject of God’s manner of dealing with the children of men.

Verse 18

Eze 33:18-19. This is explained at Eze 33:13-16 and elsewhere.

Verse 20

Eze 33:20. As a specific denial of the accusation made by the people that God is unequal or unfair. He declares that Israel will be judged “every one after his ways." not according to some decree made before the man was born. Since a man's ways are his own doing, that places his fate within his hands whether good or evil.

Verse 21

Eze 33:21-22. Twelfth year of our captivity means that dated from the taking of Jehoiachin to Babylon, at which time Ezekiel was taken. Eleven years atter that event king Zedekiah was taken and Jerusalem was destroyed, completing the third and final stage of the great captivity. That means therefore, that the present verse is located at the nest year after Jerusalem was destroyed, expressed by the words the city is smitten. This verbal news was brought to Ezekiel by one who escaped at the time Nebuchadnezzar closed in on the city and completed the overthrow of the great capital of Judah. The distance from Jerusalem to Babylon is great enough that nothing strange will be thought of its requiring until the next year for the messenger to reach the presence of the prophet. It had been prophesied (Eze 24:26-27) that one who escaped would bring just such a message and here it is. It had also been prophesied (same passage) that when that message was delivered to Ezekiel he would be no more dumb. See the comments at Ezekiel 24; Ezekiel 17, 27 for explanation of dumbness. The man who escaped was not depended on to break the news to Ezekiel as the first information, for the Lord told him about it the evening before according to the present verse. But the coming of the man with the message was to be the signal when the prophet was to consider himself free from the restrictions he had been under since Ezekiel 24; Ezekiel 15-18.

Verse 23

Eze 33:23-24. The reasoning of the people is In the form of a complaint. They refer to Abraham having possessed the land of Palestine although he was but one man. But here is a large multitude that should possess it since they are heirs of Abraham, but instead they are inhabiting -wastes (in Babylonian captivity) and not enjoying the land that was promised to Abraham's descendants.

Verse 25

Eze 33:25. The prophet was told to explain to the people why they were being denied the land of their inheritance. It does not mean they were doing all the things charged against them at the time Ezekiel was writing, for they were captives in a foreign land. They could not practice all these things there, except some of their idolatrous performances, and that was because the Lord willed it so to teach them a lesson. But the things listed are the ones they did while they did live In their home land. Eat with the blood violated Gen 9:4, Lev 3:17, and they practiced that while back in their own country. Idols . . . and shed blood Includes the guilt of bloodshed in general, but It especially applies to the slaying of their children to make sacrifices of them for their idols.

Verse 26

Eze 33:26. .S'fund upon your sword, refers to their use of the sword to accomplish their abominable advantages over their weaker brethren. Not satisfied with this iniquity, they committed adultery with the wives of their neighbors.

Verse 27

Eze 33:27. The greater portion of the nation of Israel had been taken to Babylon when Ezekiel began his writing, and in that sense were suffering the wastes mentioned in this verse. But the third stage of the 70-year period had been accomplished only recently, and there were still a great many who were left straggling in the wastes or desolated spaces in Palestine, A few had escaped the immediate effects of the invasion and were hiding in forts and caves and other places in an effort to shelter themselves. But although they might elude the invaders, they were doomed to feel the hand of God through His judgments upon them which would cause them to perish.

Verse 28

Eze 33:28. This verse is a general prediction of the desolated condition the whole land of Palestine was des- stined to suffer during the great captivity.

Verse 29

Eze 33:29. The Lord was determined that his people should not forget Him. They had special need for that lesson since they had given so much of their time and devotion to the strange gods that were worshiped by the heathen around them.

Verse 30

Eze 33:30. The Jews who were in exile in Babylon were more curious than sincere in their pretended inquiry for information. They would come to the prophet as if they really longed for instruction (chapter 8:1; 14:1; 20: 1). but after receiving it they refused to abide by it.

Verse 31

Eze 33:31. The people not only failed to accept the words of the prophet hut acted hypocritically about it. They pretended to admire Ezekiel for giving them the Information, but in their heart they were interested In the things of personal interest.

Verse 32

Eze 33:32. A very lovely song is a figurative description of the opinion the people pretended to have of Ezekiel's words. Their motive for such a pretended attitude could not have been sincere since they refused to abide by the admonitions that he gave them. By taking this false interest in him they hoped to obtain some more information, but without the purpose of profil ing by it. Because of this the Lord defeated their attempt to deceive the prophet by enlightening him on the subject.

Verse 33

A prediction becomes an evidence of the truth when it is fulfilled and not before. Hence this verse offers the conclusion and assurance to Ezekiel that he will finally be shown to have been a prophet of God.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.