The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be on him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
righteousness … wickedness—that is, the reward for righteousness … the punishment of wickedness. "Righteousness" is not used as if any were absolutely righteous; but, of such as have it imputed to them for Christ's sake, though not under the Old Testament themselves understanding the ground on which they were regarded as righteous, but sincerely seeking after it in the way of God's appointment, so far as they then understood this way.Ezekiel 18:4.
The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: this is a most unquestionable truth, and though perhaps it may seem otherwise in some cases, yet could we see perfectly the connexion between persons and persons, and how they are one, could we see the connexion of sins and sins, and how easily, secretly, and undiscerned men become guilty of the same sins, we should, it is likely, see father and son, though perhaps one of them might not do the evil, both guilty, and neither punished for the sin further than the sin was his own; nor do the scriptures, Exodus 20:5 Deu 28:18, menace innocent children, nor doom persons to punishment, for sins from which they are fully and wholly free; but if children shall follow their fathers in sin, or justify them in it, or not mourn for it, or not deprecate, or whatever way there is by which children may make the sins of progenitors become their own; then if they die for those sins, it is for them as they are their own sins, not as they are their fathers’.
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him: Isaiah 3:10 will fully explain this passage; it shall be well with the righteous, for he shall eat the fruit of his doing, he shall be rewarded as a righteous one.
The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him; the reward of wickedness, i.e. woeful punishment, shall be executed upon the wicked, as Isaiah 3:11. Ezekiel 18:4, for the further confirmation of it:
the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; that is, as the Targum paraphrases it,
"the son shall not be punished for the sins of the father, nor shall the father be punished for the sins of the son.''
This is to be understood of adult persons, and of actual sins; for of such only the prophet speaks throughout the whole chapter, or of temporal, and not of eternal punishment:
the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him; he shall be rewarded with temporal good things in this life, according to his righteousness; which, as the Targum says, shall "remain" upon him; see Psalm 112:9; he shall eat of the fruit of his own doings, Isaiah 3:10; this is true of a man that is evangelically righteous, or is so through the imputation of Christ's righteousness to him; which is upon him as a robe to clothe him, and will always remain on him, being an everlasting righteousness, and will answer for him in a time to come:
and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him; and not another; his sin shall remain on him unatoned for, unexpiated, not taken away or forgiven; the punishment of it shall be on him, and abide upon him.The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ezekiel 18:5. If a man is righteous, and doeth right and righteousness, Ezekiel 18:6. And doth not eat upon the mountains, and doth not lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and doth not defile his neighbour's wife, and doth not approach his wife in her uncleanness, Ezekiel 18:7. Oppresseth no one, restoreth his security (lit., debt-pledge), committeth no robbery, giveth his bread to the hungry, and covereth the naked with clothes, Ezekiel 18:8. Doth not give upon usury, and taketh not interest, withholdeth his hand from wrong, executeth judgment of truth between one and another, Ezekiel 18:9. Walketh in my statutes, and keepeth my rights to execute truth; he is righteous, he shall live, is the saying of the Lord "Jehovah." - The exposition of the assertion, that God only punishes the sinner, not the innocent, commences with a picture of the righteousness which has the promise of life. The righteousness consists in the fulfilment of the commandments of the law: viz., (1) those relating to religious duties, such as the avoidance of idolatry, whether of the grosser kind, such as eating upon the mountains, i.e., observing sacrificial festivals, and therefore sacrificing to idols (cf. Deuteronomy 12:2.), or of a more refined description, e.g., lifting up the eyes to idols, to look to them, or make them the object of trust, and offer supplication to them (cf. Psalm 121:1; Deuteronomy 4:19), as Israel had done, and was doing still (cf. Ezekiel 6:13); and (2) those relating to moral obligations, such as the avoidance of adultery (compare Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22; and for טמּא, Genesis 34:5), and of conjugal intercourse with a wife during menstruation, which was a defilement of the marriage relation (cf. Leviticus 18:19; Leviticus 20:18). All these sins were forbidden in the law on pain of death. To these there are appended duties to a neighbour (Ezekiel 18:7.), viz., to abstain from oppressing any one (Exodus 22:28; Leviticus 15:14, Leviticus 15:17), to restore the pledge to a debtor (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 24:6, Deuteronomy 24:10.). חוב is hardly to be taken in any other sense than as in apposition to חבלתו, "his pledge, which is debt," equivalent to his debt-pledge or security, like דּרכּך זמּה in Ezekiel 16:27. The supposition of Hitzig, that חוב is a participle, like קום in 2 Kings 16:7, in the sense of debtor, is a far less natural one, and has no valid support in the free rendering of the lxx, ἐνεχυρασμὸν ὀφείλοντος. The further duties are to avoid taking unlawful possession of the property of another (cf. Leviticus 5:23); to feed the hungry, clothe the naked (cf. Isaiah 58:5; Matthew 25:26; James 2:15-16); to abstain from practising usury (Deuteronomy 23:20; cf. Exodus 22:24) and taking interest (Leviticus 25:36-37); in judicial sentences, to draw back the hand from wrong, and promote judgment of truth, - a sentence in accordance with the true nature of the case (see the comm. on Zechariah 7:9); and, lastly, to walk in the statutes and rights of the Lord, - an expression which embraces, in conclusion, all that is essential to the righteousness required by the law. - This definition of the idea of true righteousness, which preserves from death and destruction, and ensures life to the possessor, is followed in Ezekiel 18:10. by a discussion of the attitude which God sustains towards the sons.
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