Ezekiel 18

Listen to Ezekiel 18

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 "What do you[a] mean 1by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, 2'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'?
3 3As I live, declares the Lord GOD, 4this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.
4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: 5the soul who sins shall die.
5 "If a man is righteous and does 6what is just and right--
6 if he 7does not eat upon the mountains or 8lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, 9does not defile his neighbor's wife 10or approach 11a woman in her time of menstrual impurity,
7 12does not oppress anyone, but 13restores to the debtor his pledge, 14commits no robbery, 15gives his bread to the hungry 16and covers the naked with a garment,
8 17does not lend at interest 18or take any profit,[b] withholds his hand from injustice, 19executes true justice between man and man,
9 20walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully--he is righteous; 21he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD.
10 "If he fathers a son who is violent, 22a shedder of blood, who does any of these things
11 (though he himself did none of these things), 23who even eats upon the mountains, 24defiles his neighbor's wife,
12 oppresses the poor and needy, 25commits robbery, 26does not restore the pledge, 27lifts up his eyes to the idols, 28commits abomination,
13 29lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; 30his blood shall be upon himself.
14 "Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise:
15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife,
16 does not oppress anyone, 31exacts no pledge, 32commits no robbery, 33but gives his bread to the hungry 34and covers the naked with a garment,
17 withholds his hand from iniquity,[c] takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, 35and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father's iniquity; 36he shall surely live.
18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, 37behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
19 "Yet you say, 38'Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?' When the son has done 39what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, 40he shall surely live.
20 41The soul who sins shall die. 42The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. 43The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, 44and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 45"But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does 46what is just and right, 47he shall surely live; he shall not die.
22 48None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.
23 49Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
24 50But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? 51None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for 52the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
25 53"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
26 54When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.
27 Again, 55when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.
28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
29 Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
30 "Therefore 56I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. 57Repent and turn from all your transgressions, 58lest iniquity be your ruin.[d]
31 59Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and 60make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! 61Why will you die, O house of Israel?
32 62For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; 63so turn, and live."

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Ezekiel 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

God has no respect of persons. (1-20) The Divine providence is vindicated. (21-29) A gracious invitation to repentance. (30-32)

Verses 1-20 The soul that sinneth it shall die. As to eternity, every man was, is, and will be dealt with, as his conduct shows him to have been under the old covenant of works, or the new covenant of grace. Whatever outward sufferings come upon men through the sins of others, they deserve for their own sins all they suffer; and the Lord overrules every event for the eternal good of believers. All souls are in the hand of the great Creator: he will deal with them in justice or mercy; nor will any perish for the sins of another, who is not in some sense worthy of death for his own. We all have sinned, and our souls must be lost, if God deal with us according to his holy law; but we are invited to come to Christ. If a man who had shown his faith by his works, had a wicked son, whose character and conduct were the reverse of his parent's, could it be expected he should escape the Divine vengeance on account of his father's piety? Surely not. And should a wicked man have a son who walked before God as righteous, this man would not perish for his father's sins. If the son was not free from evils in this life, still he should be partaker of salvation. The question here is not about the meritorious ground of justification, but about the Lord's dealings with the righteous and the wicked.

Verses 21-29 The wicked man would be saved, if he turned from his evil ways. The true penitent is a true believer. None of his former transgressions shall be mentioned unto him, but in the righteousness which he has done, as the fruit of faith and the effect of conversion, he shall surely live. The question is not whether the truly righteous ever become apostates. It is certain that many who for a time were thought to be righteous, do so, ( ezekiel 18:26-27 ) sin is forgiven, it is blotted out, it is remembered no more. In their righteousness they shall live; not for their righteousness, as if that were an atonement for their sins, but in their righteousness, which is one of the blessings purchased by the Mediator. What encouragement a repenting, returning sinner has to hope for pardon and life according to this promise! In verse ( 28 ) is the beginning and progress of repentance. True believers watch and pray, and continue to the end, and they are saved. In all our disputes with God, he is in the right, and we are in the wrong.

Verses 30-32 The Lord will judge each of the Israelites according to his ways. On this is grounded an exhortation to repent, and to make them a new heart and a new spirit. God does not command what cannot be done, but admonishes us to do what is in our power, and to pray for what is not. Ordinances and means are appointed, directions and promises are given, that those who desire this change may seek it from God.

Cross References 63

  • 1. [Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 16:44]
  • 2. Jeremiah 31:29
  • 3. See Ezekiel 16:48
  • 4. Jeremiah 31:29, 30
  • 5. ver. 20
  • 6. ver. 19, 21, 27
  • 7. ver. 11, 15; Ezekiel 22:9
  • 8. Ezekiel 33:25
  • 9. ver. 11, 15; [Ezekiel 22:11]
  • 10. Leviticus 18:19
  • 11. Ezekiel 22:10
  • 12. ver. 12, 16; Exodus 22:21
  • 13. ver. 12; Ezekiel 33:15; Exodus 22:26
  • 14. ver. 12, 16, 18
  • 15. ver. 16; Isaiah 58:7; [Matthew 25:35, 36]
  • 16. ver. 16; Isaiah 58:7; [Matthew 25:35, 36]
  • 17. ver. 13, 17; Ezekiel 22:12; Exodus 22:25; Psalms 15:5
  • 18. ver. 13, 17; Ezekiel 22:12; Exodus 22:25; Psalms 15:5
  • 19. Deuteronomy 1:16; Zechariah 8:16
  • 20. ver. 17
  • 21. ver. 17, 19, 21; Ezekiel 20:11; Amos 5:4
  • 22. See Ezekiel 16:38
  • 23. See ver. 6
  • 24. ver. 6; [Leviticus 18:20]
  • 25. ver. 7
  • 26. ver. 7
  • 27. ver. 6
  • 28. Ezekiel 8:6, 17
  • 29. See ver. 8
  • 30. Ezekiel 33:4; Leviticus 20:9, 11; See Ezekiel 3:18
  • 31. [ver. 7, 12]
  • 32. ver. 7
  • 33. See ver. 7
  • 34. See ver. 7
  • 35. ver. 9
  • 36. See ver. 9
  • 37. See Ezekiel 3:18
  • 38. Exodus 20:5; [ver. 2]
  • 39. ver. 5, 21, 27
  • 40. See ver. 9
  • 41. ver. 4
  • 42. See 2 Kings 14:6
  • 43. Isaiah 3:10, 11
  • 44. [Romans 2:9]
  • 45. See ver. 27
  • 46. ver. 5, 19
  • 47. ver. 9
  • 48. Ezekiel 33:16
  • 49. ver. 32; Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4, 6; 2 Peter 3:9; [Titus 2:11]
  • 50. Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 33:12, 13, 18
  • 51. [2 Peter 2:20, 21]
  • 52. See Ezekiel 14:13
  • 53. Ezekiel 33:17, 20
  • 54. [See ver. 24 above]
  • 55. ver. 21; Ezekiel 33:19; [Ezekiel 13:22; Ezekiel 33:11, 12]
  • 56. Ezekiel 7:3, 8; Ezekiel 33:20; Ezekiel 36:19; [Ezekiel 39:24]
  • 57. [Ezekiel 14:6; Hosea 14:1]
  • 58. [Isaiah 3:8]
  • 59. [Ezekiel 20:7]
  • 60. See Ezekiel 11:19
  • 61. Ezekiel 33:11
  • 62. See ver. 23
  • 63. [See ver. 30 above]

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. The Hebrew for you is plural
  • [b]. That is, profit that comes from charging interest to the poor; also verses 13, 17 (compare Leviticus 25:36)
  • [c]. Septuagint; Hebrew from the poor
  • [d]. Or lest iniquity be your stumbling block

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains an answer to an objection of the Jews to the dealings of God with them in a providential way. The objection is expressed in a proverb of common use among them, and complained of as being without cause, Eze 18:1,2; however, for the future, no occasion should be given them to use it; for, though God could justify his proceedings upon the foot of his sovereignty, all souls being his; yet he was determined none but the sinner himself should suffer, Eze 18:3,4; and puts various cases for the illustration and vindication of his proceedings; as that a just man, who is described by his proper characters, as abstaining from several sins specified, and doing what is right and good, should surely live, Eze 18:5-9; but that the son of such a just man, being the reverse of his father's character, should surely die, Eze 18:10-13; and again, the son of such a wicked man, observing the heinousness of his father's sins, and abstaining from them, though his father should die in his iniquities, he should not die for them, but live, Eze 18:14-18; by which it appears that the dealings of God with the Jews were not according to the proverb used by them, but quite agreeable to his resolution; that the sinner, be he a father or a son, shall die for his own sins; and that the righteous man's righteousness shall be upon him, and the wicked man's sin upon him, and accordingly both shall be dealt with, Eze 18:19,20; which is further illustrated by a wicked man's turning from his sinful course, and doing righteousness, and living in that righteousness he has done; which is more agreeable to God that he should live, and not die in sin, Eze 18:21-23; and by a righteous man turning from his righteousness, and living a vicious life, and dying in it, Eze 18:24; from both which instances this conclusion follows, that God is to be justified; and that his ways are equal, and the Jews' ways were unequal, and their complaint unjust, Eze 18:25; and the same instances are repeated in a different order, and the same conclusion formed, Eze 18:26-29; upon which the Lord determines to judge them according to their own ways, their personal actions, good or bad; and exhorts them to repentance and reformation; and closes with a pathetic expostulation, with them, Eze 18:30-32.

Ezekiel 18 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.