Ezekiel 18:24
But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die.
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Ezekiel 18:24. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, &c. — “The question here,” say some commentators, “is not whether truly righteous men ever do thus apostatize.” No? Surely it is the question, and the sole question: for if the truly righteous (of whom alone the prophet is speaking, and not of the hypocritically righteous, or mere professors of righteousness) do never apostatize, why does the prophet suppose that they do? Nay, why does he expressly affirm it, saying, When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity? &c. Which is repeated Ezekiel 18:26, with the addition, And dieth in them; for the iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Surely these words are utterly irreconcilable with the notion, that the truly righteous never fall away. They who maintain this position may, on similar grounds, maintain, and, to be consistent with themselves, ought to maintain, in contradiction to the 21st and 27th verses, that the truly wicked never turn from their wickedness, never truly repent, and save their souls alive. For both events are equally supposed by the prophet frequently to take place, and it is affirmed in similar terms that both do take place. See note on Ezekiel 3:20. Nor is this prophet singular in teaching this doctrine, or this the only passage of Scripture in which it is taught: it is abundantly and explicitly declared and attested in other parts of holy writ, and by other inspired writers, especially those of the New Testament, and even by Christ himself, as the reader may see, if he will take the trouble of consulting the passages quoted in the margin. All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned — For, better had it been for him not to have known the way of righteousness, than after he hath known it, to turn aside from the holy commandment, 2 Peter 2:21. Such a one sins against a clearer light, and greater convictions, and withal is guilty of the highest ingratitude in doing despite unto the Spirit of grace.18:21-29 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, while ver. 26,27 speaks the fulness of pardoning mercy: when 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.Why?... - Rather, "Why doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?" 24. righteous—one apparently such; as in Mt 9:13, "I came not to call the righteous," &c., that is, those who fancy themselves righteous. Those alone are true saints who by the grace of God persevere (Mt 24:13; 1Co 10:12; Joh 10:28, 29).

turneth away from … righteousness—an utter apostasy; not like the exceptional offenses of the godly through infirmity or heedlessness, which they afterwards mourn over and repent of.

not be mentioned—not be taken into account so as to save them.

his trespass—utter apostasy.

After the stating the equity of God’s ways in his dealings with parents and children, and his mercy in dealing with sinners that return according to his own promise, he proceeds to vindicate the equity of his ways in another case.

When, or if; should it so happen at any time. The righteous; one who really had observed the commands of the law, not done the abominations the wicked do, but done the good which the righteous doth, and in the sight of man appears as righteous, and as good as any one; whose apostacy is first full proof of his unsoundness and hypocrisy.

Turneth; changeth his course into sinful practices, like the wicked.

His righteousness; there is a righteousness which is of God, and there is a righteousness which is a man’s own, such as does arise from a man’s own reason and will, improved by common grace, or education, or awed by fears, or swayed by interest, or maintained by some failing spring which may easily dry up; these righteous ones easily fall away, and of such the prophet speaks.

Committeth iniquity; makes sin his work and business, John 8:31 1Jo 3:8,9.

Doeth according to all the abominations; forgets all better rules, derides his own former preciseness, and shakes off all restraints, that he may run to the excess of sin.

Abominations; recounted Ezekiel 18:10-13.

That the wicked man doeth: see Ezekiel 18:21.

Shall he live? do you think I will be so partial as to acquit him from real wickedness, committed with his whole heart, from his last works, which are abominable? Do you think his first heartless, partial, temporary righteousness will counterbalance his last and final apostacy? I tell you nay, but he shall die in it.

All his righteousness that he hath done; though he could produce his own righteousnesses, (as the Hebrew,) and these multiplied to many, all, and that they were really done, yet these should not avail before a just judge; who by a law that requires man should ever be and do what he was and did at best, is to determine his rewards or punishments according to what the man is at last, not according to what he was or seemed to be at first.

Shall not be mentioned; the parable tells us, Matthew 25:44,45, some will plead that they did what they had opportunity of doing, and others, Matthew 7:22, will mention what they have done. But though they may mention these, the just judge will not, nor the law by which they are to be judged will not, allow it for a good and sufficient plea: see the phrase Ezekiel 18:22.

In his trespass that he hath trespassed: this expression shows that this man’s heart was on his sin; in his transgression he transgressed with full bent of mind, with delight and consent he did what he did, and could not say, I do what I would not; or, So then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me, as Romans 7:17. Lest any stumble at sight of infirmities in all, or needlessly disquiet themselves with fears of wrath at last, because they cannot be sinless, yet they do not fall under the character of such as are here threatened.

In them; in these great, wilful, continued, and multiplied sins.

Shall he die; every such obdurate and final apostate shall be condemned and punished temporally and eternally, and therefore look to it, ye wicked Jews, and consider, ye sinful Christians. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness,.... This is to be understood, not of a truly righteous man; for no man can be so denominated from his own righteousness; but from the righteousness and obedience of Christ; and such a man cannot turn from his righteousness; for that is the righteousness of God, and can never be lost; and is an everlasting one, and will always endure; and with which eternal life is inseparably connected: but this is to be interpreted of one that is reckoned so from his own righteousness, what he himself has done, and not from another, from the righteousness of Christ, which he has wrought out; he is one that is righteous in his own esteem, and in the account of others; who is outwardly righteous before men; who trusts in himself that he is righteous, and trusts to his own righteousness; see Ezekiel 33:13; whose righteousness is not an evangelical one, but either a ceremonial righteousness, or at most a mere moral one, consisting of some negative holiness, and a few moral performances, as appears from Ezekiel 18:5; and from such a righteousness as this a man may turn, commit iniquity, sin and die; see 2 Peter 2:20; and is no proof or instance of the apostasy of real saints, true believers, or truly righteous men; besides, this man is represented as a transgressor, or "prevaricator", as the word signifies; a hypocrite, a man destitute of the truth of grace, and of true righteousness:

and committeth iniquity; makes a trade of sinning; goes into a vicious course of life, and continues in it; which a truly gracious man, one that is born again, and has true faith in Christ's righteousness, by which he is justified, can never do, 1 John 3:8;

and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth; such as theft, murder, adultery, idolatry, oppression of the poor, and giving upon usury, Ezekiel 18:10;

shall he live? in his own land, in peace and prosperity, enjoying all manner of good things? he shall not; much less shall he live an eternal life, so living and dying:

all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: or, "all his righteousnesses" (k); all the good works which he has done will never come into any account, or be of any avail; as they merited nothing, they will meet with no reward; they will not preserve him from present calamity, which his now sinful life exposes him to, nor secure him from eternal ruin; these may be mentioned and pleaded by himself, but to no purpose; God will not mention them, nor take any notice of them, nor the Judge at the great day of account, Matthew 7:22;

in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die; or, for his hypocrisy, "prevarication" (l), and vicious course of life he now lives in, a death of affliction shall come upon him; great calamities and distresses in this world; and, if grace prevent not, eternal death in the other; if he dies in his trespasses and sins, he will die the second death.

(k) "omnes justitiae ejus", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius.

(l) "propter prvevaricationem ipsius, vel suam", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Polanus.

But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his {g} righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

(g) That is, the false opinion that the hypocrites have of their righteousness.

24. Although it would have sufficed for the prophet’s purpose to assure the repentant sinner of God’s forgiveness, he has a certain theoretical interest in the principle which he is insisting on which makes him develop it on the other side also.Verse 24. - In the previous argument (ver. 21) the truth that the individual character may change had been stated as a ground of hope. Here it appears as a ground, for fear and watchfulness. The "grey-haired saint may fail at last," the apostle may become a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27), and the righteousness of a life may be cancelled by the sins of a year or of a day. Whether there was an opening for repentance, even after that fall, the prophet does not say, but the law that a man is in spiritual life or death according to what he is at any given moment of his course, seems to require the extension of the hope, unless we assume that the nature of the fall in the case supposed fetters the freedom of the will, and makes repentance impossible (Hebrews 6:4-7; 2 Peter 2:20). The righteousness of the father does not protect the wicked, unrighteous son from death. - Ezekiel 18:10. If, however, he begetteth a violent son, who sheddeth blood, and doeth only one of these things, Ezekiel 18:11. But he himself hath not done all this, - if he even eateth upon the mountains, and defileth his neighbour's wife, Ezekiel 18:12. Oppresseth the suffering and poor, committeth robbery, doth not restore a pledge, lifteth up his eyes to idols, committeth abomination, Ezekiel 18:13. Giveth upon usury, and taketh interest: should he live? He shall not live! He hath done all these abominations; he shall be put to death; his blood shall be upon him. - The subject to והוליד, in Ezekiel 18:10, is the righteous man described in the preceding verses. פּריץ, violent, literally, breaking in or through, is rendered more emphatic by the words "shedding blood" (cf. Hosea 4:2). We regard אח in the next clause as simply a dialectically different form of writing and pronouncing, for אך, "only," and he doeth only one of these, the sins previously mentioned (Ezekiel 18:6.). מאחד, with a partitive מן, as in Leviticus 4:2, where it is used in a similar connection; the form מאחד is also met with in Deuteronomy 15:7. The explanation given by the Targum, "and doeth one of these to his brother," is neither warranted by the language nor commended by the sense. עשׂה is never construed with the accusative of the person to whom anything is done; and the limitation of the words to sins against a brother is unsuitable in this connection. The next clause, לא עשׂה...והוּא, which has also been variously rendered, we regard as an adversative circumstantial clause, and agree with Kliefoth in referring it to the begetter (father): "and he (the father) has not committed any of these sins." For it yields no intelligible sense to refer this clause also to the son, since כּל־אלּה cannot possibly refer to different things from the preceding מאלּה, and a man cannot at the same time both do and not do the same thing. The כּי which follows signifies "if," as is frequently the case in the enumeration of particular precepts or cases; compare, for example, Exodus 21:1, Exodus 21:7,Exodus 21:17, etc., where it is construed with the imperfect, because the allusion is to things that may occur. Here, on the contrary, it is followed by the perfect, because the sins enumerated are regarded as committed. The emphatic גּם (even) forms an antithesis to אח מאחד (אך), or rather an epanorthosis of it, inasmuch as כּי גּם resumes and carries out still further the description of the conduct of the wicked son, which was interrupted by the circumstantial clause; and that not only in a different form, but with a gradation in the thought. The thought, for instance, is as follows: the violent son of a righteous father, even if he has committed only one of the sins which the father has not committed, shall die. And if he has committed even the gross sins named, viz., idolatry, adultery, violent oppression of the poor, robbery, etc., should he then continue to live? The ו in וחי introduces the apodosis, which contains a question, that is simply indicated by the tone, and is immediately denied. The antique form חי for חיּה, 3rd pers. perf., is taken from the Pentateuch (cf. Genesis 3:22 and Numbers 21:8). The formulae מות יוּמת and דּמיו בּו dna are also derived from the language of the law (cf. Leviticus 20:9, Leviticus 20:11, Leviticus 20:13, etc.).
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