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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 18

 

 

Introduction

Ezekiel 18. The Principle of Retribution.—From many points of view the imminent doom has been abundantly justified. But on whom will it fall? on the innocent and guilty alike? This chapter proclaims that it will fall only on those whom it overtakes in a state of sin, and that it may therefore be avoided by turning in penitence to God. God is gracious as well as just, and man is free to turn—he is bound neither by his ancestry nor by his own past. The chapter is an extreme expression of individualism, in criticising which it has to be remembered (a) that it is a pioneer statement, and (b) that it is addressed to men who imagine that they are hopelessly implicated in the penalties incurred by the sins of former generations.


Verses 1-4

Ezekiel 18. The Principle of Retribution.—From many points of view the imminent doom has been abundantly justified. But on whom will it fall? on the innocent and guilty alike? This chapter proclaims that it will fall only on those whom it overtakes in a state of sin, and that it may therefore be avoided by turning in penitence to God. God is gracious as well as just, and man is free to turn—he is bound neither by his ancestry nor by his own past. The chapter is an extreme expression of individualism, in criticising which it has to be remembered (a) that it is a pioneer statement, and (b) that it is addressed to men who imagine that they are hopelessly implicated in the penalties incurred by the sins of former generations.

Ezekiel 18:1-4. For after all, they were the generation that had participated in the reformation of Josiah; and it seemed to them that they were suffering for the unexpiated sins of his grandfather, Manasseh (2 Kings 23:26). They expressed their feelings in a proverb which suggested the irrationality and injustice of that; and Ezekiel meets them by denying from henceforth this principle of solidarity with the past, and by maintaining that the soul that sinneth—it and no other soul would die. No more would the son die for his father's sin, as had happened, e.g. in the case of Achan's children (Joshua 7:24) or Saul's (2 Samuel 21:6). The good would be spared in the judgment.

Ezekiel 18:5-13. But who is the good? These verses describe him negatively as a man who refuses to take advantage of his fellows, and positively as one who will be ready to help them in their need; but it is significant that Ezekiel includes, and even puts first, demands affecting worship. The good man must shun idolatry, and all participation in the sacrificial meals upon the high places (Ezekiel 18:5-9). But the bad man, who fails to fulfil these religious and moral demands, will perish: his relationship to a good father will not save him from his doom.

Ezekiel 18:14-18. Similarly a bad man's son, if he be himself a good man, will not be involved in his father's doom, but he will be spared in the judgment (Ezekiel 18:14-18).

Ezekiel 18:19-32. Similarly a man is not bound by his own past any more than by his ancestry; it is always possible for him to "turn"; and the God, who judges each man strictly according to his conduct, will nevertheless disclose Himself as gracious; for His deepest desire is not that the wicked should be punished, but that they should be converted and live—a truly evangelical utterance. The earnestness with which the prophet insists that the principles of the Divine retribution are right and equitable (Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29) shows that he is addressing men who strongly doubted it (Ezekiel 18:19-29). He ends with a fine appeal for repentance and a new heart, and another proclamation of the grace of God (Ezekiel 18:30-32). This concluding appeal shows that Ezekiel's conception of character and conduct is not so external as earlier verses might have led us to believe.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 18:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ezekiel-18.html. 1919.

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