Ezekiel 18:31
Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel?
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18:30-32 The Lord will judge each of the Israelites according to his ways. On this is grounded an exhortation to repent, and to make them a new heart and a new spirit. God does not command what cannot be done, but admonishes us to do what is in our power, and to pray for what is not. Ordinances and means are appointed, directions and promises are given, that those who desire this change may seek it from God.Equal - literally, "weighed out, balanced." Man's ways are arbitrary, God's ways are governed by a self-imposed law, which makes all consistent and harmonious. 31. Cast away from you—for the cause of your evil rests with yourselves; your sole way of escape is to be reconciled to God (Eph 4:22, 23).

make you a new heart—This shows, not what men can do, but what they ought to do: what God requires of us. God alone can make us a new heart (Eze 11:19; 36:26, 27). The command to do what men cannot themselves do is designed to drive them (instead of laying the blame, as the Jews did, elsewhere rather than on themselves) to feel their own helplessness, and to seek God's Holy Spirit (Ps 51:11, 12). Thus the outward exhortation is, as it were, the organ or instrument which God uses for conferring grace. So we may say with Augustine, "Give what thou requirest, and (then) require what thou wilt." Our strength (which is weakness in itself) shall suffice for whatever He exacts, if only He gives the supply [Calvin].

spirit—the understanding: as the "heart" means the will and affections. The root must be changed before the fruit can be good.

why will ye die—bring on your own selves your ruin. God's decrees are secret to us; it is enough for us that He invites all, and will reject none that seek Him.

Not only cease from sin, but with indignation throw it away, as a loathsome, pernicious thing, or as a burden will sink you.

Your transgressions; as God requires, so it is the property of true repentance, that it does frame the heart against his own sins.

Make you a new heart; open your eyes, and let the clear, convincing light of my words, arguments, and proceedings shine upon you; do not obstinately harden your hearts, that you should retain your old prejudices against my justice and mercy, but receive new opinions and tenets concerning the things I have been clearing to you, that new judgment may produce a renewed and reformed course of life. Your old heart is made up of strange notions of your innocence, and the inequality of the ways of your God, and this influenceth your spirit to pride, quarrelling with God, who might have convinced you by severer methods, which should have put you as far out of doubt about the cause of your punishment, as out of hope of deliverance from it. Or else thus, I have proposed enough to change a considering heart, to renew the spirit of any thinking man; co-operate with me. See your sin, guilt, punishment, all yours, and from yourselves repent of sin, confess your guilt, deprecate your punishment.

Why will ye die? there is no other way for you to be delivered; your old ways and heart will end in death. This is an argument taken from their danger by old sins. Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed,.... As unprofitable and pernicious, to be abhorred and abstained from, and to be cast off, as loads and burdens upon them. Kimchi interprets it of the punishment of their sins, which might be cast off, or escaped, by repentance; perhaps it is best to interpret it of the casting away of their idols, by which they transgressed; see Ezekiel 20:7;

and make you a new heart and a new spirit; which the Lord elsewhere promises to give, and he does give to his own elect; See Gill on Ezekiel 11:19; and if here to be understood of a regenerated heart and spirit, in which are new principles of light, life, and love, grace and holiness, it will not prove that it is in the power of man to make himself such a heart and spirit; since from God's command, to man's power, is no argument; and the design of the exhortation is to convince men of their want of such a heart; of the importance of it: and which, through the efficacious grace of God, may be a means of his people having it, seeing he has in covenant promised it to them. The Targum renders it,

"a fearing heart, and a spirit of fear;''

that is, a heart and spirit to fear, serve, and worship the Lord, and not idols; and so the amount of the exhortation is, yield a hearty reverential obedience to the living God, and not to dumb idols; or that they would be hearty and sincere in their national repentance and reformation they are here pressed unto:

for why will ye die, O house of Israel? which is to be understood, not of an eternal death; since the deaths here spoken of was now upon them, what they were complaining of, and from which they might be recovered, Ezekiel 18:2; but temporal calamity and affliction, as in 2 Corinthians 1:10; and so in the following words.

Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which ye have transgressed; and make {i} you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

(i) He shows that man cannot forsake his wickedness, till his heart is changed which is only the work of God.

31. a new heart] Cf. ch. Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 24:7; Psalm 51:7. The words are those of practical exhortation; to charge the prophet with assigning to man a power greater than that which Scripture in general allows to him is to distort his language. Cf. what he says on the other side regarding the divine operation on man, ch. Ezekiel 36:25-27, Ezekiel 11:19.The son who avoids his father's sin will live; but the father will die for his own sins. - 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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