|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:1-20 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.
Verse 4. - Behold, all souls are mine, etc. The words imply, not only creation, ownership, absolute authority, on the part of God, but, as even Calvin could recognize (in loc.), "a paternal affection towards the whole human race which he created and formed." Ezekiel anticipates here, and yet more fully in ver. 32. the teaching of St. Paul, that "God willeth that all men should be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The sentence, though taken from the Law, which ordered capital punishment for the offences named, cannot be limited to that punishment. "Death" and "life" are both used in their highest and widest meaning - "life" as including all that makes it worth living, "death" for the loss of that only true life which is found in knowing God (John 17:3).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Behold, all souls are mine,.... By creation; they being the immediate produce of his power; hence he is called "the Father of spirits", Hebrews 12:9, or the souls of men; these he has an apparent right unto; a property in; a dominion over; they are accountable to him, and will be judged impartially by him:
as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; and therefore must be thought to have as great a respect and affection for the one as for the other; for the soul of a son as for the soul of a father; and not deal partially in favour of the one, and cruelly and unrighteously with the other:
the soul that sinneth, it shall die; the soul that continues in sin, without repentance towards God, and faith in Christ, shall die the second death; shall be separated from the presence of God, and endure his wrath to all eternity: or the meaning is, that a person that is guilty of gross sins, and continues in them, shall personally suffer; he shall endure one calamity or another, as the famine, sword, pestilence, or be carried into captivity, which is the death all along spoken of in this chapter; the Lord will exercise no patience towards him, or defer punishment to a future generation, his offspring; but shall immediately execute it upon himself.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. all souls are mine—Therefore I can deal with all, being My own creation, as I please (Jer 18:6). As the Creator of all alike I can have no reason, but the principle of equity, according to men's works, to make any difference, so as to punish some, and to save others (Ge 18:25). "The soul that sinneth it shall die." The curse descending from father to son assumes guilt shared in by the son; there is a natural tendency in the child to follow the sin of his father, and so he shares in the father's punishment: hence the principles of God's government, involved in Ex 20:5 and Jer 15:4, are justified. The sons, therefore (as the Jews here), cannot complain of being unjustly afflicted by God (La 5:7); for they filled up the guilt of their fathers (Mt 23:32, 34-36). The same God who "recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children," is immediately after set forth as "giving to every man according to his ways" (Jer 32:18, 19). In the same law (Ex 20:5) which "visited the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" (where the explanation is added, "of them that hate me," that is, the children hating God, as well as their fathers: the former being too likely to follow their parents, sin going down with cumulative force from parent to child), we find (De 24:16), "the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither the children for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." The inherited guilt of sin in infants (Ro 5:14) is an awful fact, but one met by the atonement of Christ; but it is of adults that he speaks here. Whatever penalties fall on communities for connection with sins of their fathers, individual adults who repent shall escape (2Ki 23:25, 26). This was no new thing, as some misinterpret the passage here; it had been always God's principle to punish only the guilty, and not also the innocent, for the sins of their fathers. God does not here change the principle of His administration, but is merely about to manifest it so personally to each that the Jews should no longer throw on God and on their fathers the blame which was their own.
soul that sinneth, it shall die—and it alone (Ro 6:23); not also the innocent.
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