Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, said the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Repent, and turn.—The three last verses of the chapter contain an earnest exhortation to the Israelites, based on the principles of God’s dealings with man just now declared, to repent and receive His mercy and blessing. Here, as before, there is no question of human sufficiency; and when the counsel is given (Ezekiel 18:31), “Make you a new heart and a new spirit,” it is not meant to say that this can ever be the work of any other than God’s Holy Spirit; but that Spirit is ever given to them that ask Him, and the question of salvation is still one which each man must decide for himself before God. The whole point of the chapter is that God’s dealing with man is determined by man’s own attitude towards Him. He that is alienated in his heart from God, whatever may have been his previous life, God will judge; and he that now seeks to conform his life to God’s will, God will receive and forgive.Ezekiel 18:30-31. Therefore will I judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, &c. — You complain of the injustice of my ways or proceedings; but if I judge you according to the desert of your ways, you will certainly be all found guilty: and nothing but repentance, and a real turning to God in heart and life, can avert that ruin to which your sins have exposed you. Cast away from you all your transgressions — Here God, in a most tender and pathetic manner, exhorts the Israelites, and in them all sinners, to comply with those terms on which alone he could or can take men into favour, and save them from destruction, namely, the casting away or forsaking all their sins, whether of omission or commission, all their sinful tempers, words, or works; and giving up themselves sincerely and heartily to his love and service. And to show that a mere attendance on modes of worship, and an external obedience to the precepts of God’s law, are not sufficient, nor can be accepted without internal purity and holiness, he adds, Make you a new heart and a new spirit — Which words imply, both that a new heart and a new spirit are absolutely necessary in order to salvation, and that means must be used by us in order to the attainment of these blessings. It must be well observed, that what is here commanded as our duty, to show the necessity of our endeavours in the use of means, is elsewhere promised as God’s gift, (see Ezekiel 36:26; Ezekiel 11:19,) to show man’s inability to perform this duty, without the special grace of God, which, however, will not be denied to those who sincerely and earnestly seek it, in the way God has prescribed, namely, the way of prayer, watchfulness, self-denial, attention to and faith in the word and promise of God, assembling with his people, and carefully shunning the appearance of evil. For, as Lowth well observes, the difference of expression is thus to be reconciled, “that although God works in us to will and to do, and is the first mover in our regeneration, yet we must work together with his grace, and not quench or resist its motions:” see notes on Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:33-34. To the same purpose are the words of Calmet here: “We can do nothing well of ourselves; we have of ourselves nothing but sin: all our power comes from God, and with the aid of his grace we can do all things. But if, on the one hand, we ought to humble ourselves on account of our impotence, on the other hand we ought to hope in him, who giveth to all liberally, and who willeth not our death, but our conversion. He informs us of our freedom of will, by enjoining us to make us a new heart: he would have us to do what we can, and to ask of him what we cannot.”
I will judge you—Though ye cavil, it is a sufficient answer that I, your Judge, declare it so, and will judge you according to My will; and then your cavils must end.
Repent—inward conversion (Re 2:5). In the Hebrew there is a play of like sounds, "Turn ye and return."
turn yourselves, &c.—the outward fruits of repentance. Not as the Margin, "turn others"; for the parallel clause (Eze 18:31) is, "cast away from you all your transgressions." Perhaps, however, the omission of the object after the verb in the Hebrew implies that both are included: Turn alike yourselves and all whom you can influence.
from all … transgressions—not as if believers are perfect; but they sincerely aim at perfection, so as to be habitually and wilfully on terms with no sin (1Jo 3:6-9):
your ruin—literally, "your snare," entangling you in ruin.
I will judge you; I will debate, determine with you.
O house of Israel; who do keep up this opinion of me, the proud contemnors of God, and justifiers of themselves.
Every one; none shall be overlooked or excused, every one shall be judged.
According to his ways; your ways shall be the standard and measure; if they are good, you shall receive good; if evil, you shall suffer evil; and then there can be no colour of complaint.
Repent; it will be safest for you that are proud quarrellers; be therefore advised, repent, and venture not your life and welfare on self-justification. Some others there were of better temper; they are exhorted by repentance to prevent wrath, and prepare for the mercy which the Lord ever showeth to the penitent, as Ezekiel 18:21,22.
Turn yourselves; or, return yourselves; persuade others also. (Yourselves is not in the Hebrew.)
Iniquity; neither your ungodly practices, nor your unjust opinions of me and my ways, saith the Lord.
Shall not be your ruin, the cause of your temporal and eternal misery. Or thus, Cease from sin, then you will judge aright, and not be stumbled at the supposed inequality of my judgments: who leave sin, can see what mercy spared, pardoned, saved them; but who live in sin, will have soft thoughts for sin, and hard thoughts of God.
everyone according to his ways, saith the Lord God; not according to the ways of their father, but according to their own ways: this refers, not to the last and general judgment, but to some sore temporal punishment, which God, as the righteous Judge, would inflict upon them for their sins, according to the just desert of them; but whereas, notwithstanding all their wickedness, insolence, and blasphemy, the Lord was desirous of showing mercy to them, rather than proceed to strict justice; he exhorts and advises them to the following things:
repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; this is to be understood of a national repentance for national sins, to prevent national judgments, being an address to the whole house of Israel; and not of evangelical repentance, which is the gift of God, and of an external reformation, as the fruit of it; and not of the first work of internal conversion, which is by the powerful and efficacious grace of God; though, were both exhorted to, it would not prove that these are in the power of men, only show the want and necessity of them, and so be the means of God's bringing his chosen people to them. The phrase, "yourselves", is not in the original; both words used signify "to turn"; and may be rendered and explained thus, "turn" yourselves, and "cause others to turn" (p); let every man turn himself from his evil courses, and do all he can to turn his brother, or his neighbour, from the same; so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech interpret them. The Targum is,
"turn you to my worship, and remove from you the worship of idols:''
so iniquity shall not be your ruin; meaning temporal ruin, as it deserved, and they were threatened with; and which might be prevented by repentance and reformation: or, "shall not be a stumbling block to you" (q); an hinderance, an obstruction in the way of their enjoyment of temporal blessings.
(p) "convertimini et facite converti", Pagninus, Montanus, "sub. proximos"; so some in Calvin; "quisque suam fratrem", Munster, Vatablus. (q) "et non erit vobis in offendiculum", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator.Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)30. iniquity … your ruin] More naturally: that it (your transgressing) be not a stumbling block of iniquity to you. The transgressions which they are called on to renounce are specially their idolatries, cf. ch. Ezekiel 14:3, Ezekiel 7:19, Ezekiel 44:12.
30–32. Exhortation to repentance founded on the principle that God will deal with every man according to the condition in which he is found.Verses 30, 31. - That work was to produce repentance, hope, and fear. The goodness and severity of God alike led up to that. For a man to remain in his sin will be fatal, but it is not the will of God that he should so remain. What he needs is the new heart and the new spirit, which are primarily, as in Ezekiel 11:19, God's gift to men, but which men must make their own by seeking and receiving them. So iniquity shall not be your ruin; better, with the margin of the Revised Version, so shall they not be a stumbling block (same word as in Ezekiel 3:20; Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 14:3) of iniquity unto you. Repented sins shall be no more an occasion of offence. Men may rise on them to "higher things," as on "steppingstones of their dead selves." Ezekiel 18:14. And behold, he begetteth a son, who seeth all his father's sins which he doeth; he seeth them, and doeth not such things. Ezekiel 18:15. He eateth not upon the mountains, and lifteth not up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel; he defileth not his neighbour's wife, Ezekiel 18:16. And oppresseth no one; he doth not withhold a pledge, and committeth not robbery; giveth his bread to the hungry, and covereth the naked with clothes. Ezekiel 18:17. He holdeth back his hand from the distressed one, taketh not usury and interest, doeth my rights, walketh in my statutes; he will not die for the sin of his father; he shall live. Ezekiel 18:18. His father, because he hath practised oppression, committed robbery upon his brother, and hath done that which is not good in the midst of his people; behold, he shall die for his sin. Ezekiel 18:19. And do ye say, Why doth the son not help to bear the father's sin? But the son hath done right and righteousness, hath kept all my statutes, and done them; he shall live. Ezekiel 18:20. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. A son shall not help to bear the father's sin, and a father shall not help to bear the sin of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. - The case supposed in these verses forms the antithesis to the preceding one; the father is the transgressor in this instance, and the son a keeper of the law. The subject to הוליד in Ezekiel 18:14 is not the righteous man described in Ezekiel 18:15, but a man who is described immediately afterwards as a transgressor of the commandments of God. The Chetib וירא bite in the last clause of Ezekiel 18:14 is not to be read ויּרא, καὶ φοβηθῇ, et timuerit, as it has been by the translators of the Septuagint and Vulgate; nor is it to be altered into ויּראה, as it has been by the Masoretes, to make it accord with Ezekiel 18:28; but it is the apocopated form ויּרא, as in the preceding clause, and the object is to be repeated from what precedes, as in the similar case which we find in Exodus 20:15, (18). Ewald and Hitzig propose to alter מעני in Ezekiel 18:17 into מעול after Ezekiel 18:8, but without the slightest necessity. The lxx are not to be taken as an authority for this, since the Chaldee and Syriac have both read and rendered עני; and Ezekiel, when repeating the same sentences, is accustomed to make variations in particular words. Holding back the hand from the distressed, is equivalent to abstaining from seizing upon him for the purpose of crushing him (compare Ezekiel 18:12); בּתוך, in the midst of his countrymen equals בּתוך עמּו, is adopted from the language of the Pentateuch. מת after הנּה is a participle. The question, "Why does the son not help to bear?" is not a direct objection on the part of the people, but is to be taken as a pretext, which the people might offer on the ground of the law, that God would visit the sin of the fathers upon the sons in justification of their proverb. Ezekiel cites this pretext for the purpose of meeting it by stating the reason why this does not occur. נשׂא ב, to carry, near or with, to join in carrying, or help to carry (cf. Numbers 11:17). This proved the proverb to be false, and confirmed the assertion made in Ezekiel 18:4, to which the address therefore returns (Ezekiel 18:20). The righteousness of the righteous man will come upon him, i.e., upon the righteous man, namely, in its consequences. The righteous man will receive the blessing of righteousness, but the unrighteous man the curse of his wickedness. There is no necessity for the article, which the Keri proposes to insert before רשׁע.
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