Ezekiel 18:31
Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye 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.

Ezekiel 18:31The vindication of the ways of God might have formed a fitting close to this divine oracle. But as the prophet was not merely concerned with the correction of the error contained in the proverb which was current among the people, but still more with the rescue of the people themselves from destruction, he follows up the refutation with another earnest call to repentance. - Ezekiel 18:27. If a wicked man turneth from his wickedness which he hath done, and doeth right and righteousness, he will keep his soul alive. Ezekiel 18:28. If he seeth and turneth from all his transgressions which he hath committed, he shall live and not die. Ezekiel 18:29. And the house of Israel saith, The way of the Lord is not right. Are may ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not rather your ways that are not right? Ezekiel 18:30. Therefore, every one according to his ways, will I judge you, O house of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Turn and repent of all your transgressions, that it may not become to you a stumbling-block to guilt. Ezekiel 18:31. Cast from you all your transgressions which ye have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! And why will ye die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:32. For I have no pleasure in the death of the dying, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Therefore repent, that ye may live. - For the purpose of securing an entrance into their hearts for the call to repentance, the prophet not only repeats, in Ezekiel 18:27 and Ezekiel 18:28, the truth declared in Ezekiel 18:21 and Ezekiel 18:22, that he who turns from his sin finds life, but refutes once more in Ezekiel 18:29, as he has already done in Ezekiel 18:25, the charge that God's ways are not right. The fact that the singular יתּכן is connected with the plural דּרכיכם, does not warrant our altering the plural into דּרכּכם, but may be explained in a very simple manner, by assuming that the ways of the people are all summed up in one, and that the meaning is this: what you say of my way applies to your own ways, - namely, "it is not right; there is just measure therein." לכן, "therefore, etc.;" because my way, and not yours, is right, I will judge you, every one according to his way. Repent, therefore, if ye would escape from death and destruction. שׁוּבוּ is rendered more emphatic by השׁיבוּ, sc. פניכם, as in Ezekiel 14:6. In the last clause of Ezekiel 18:30, עון is not to be taken as the subject of the sentence according to the accents, but is a genitive dependent upon מכשׁול, as in Ezekiel 7:19 and Ezekiel 14:3; and the subject is to be found in the preceding clause: that it (the sinning) may not become to you a stumbling-block of iniquity, i.e., a stumbling-block through which ye fall into guilt and punishment. - The appeal in Ezekiel 18:31 points back to the promise in Ezekiel 11:18-19. השׁליך, to cast away. The application of this word to transgressions may be explained from the fact that they consisted for the most part of idols and idolatrous images, which they had made. - "Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit:" a man cannot, indeed, create either of these by his own power; God alone can give them (Ezekiel 11:19). But a man both can and should come to God to receive them: in other words, he can turn to God, and let both heart and spirit be renewed by the Spirit of God. And this God is willing to do; for He has no pleasure בּמות המת, in the death of the dying one. In the repetition of the assurance given in Ezekiel 18:23, המּת is very appropriately substituted for רשׁע, to indicate to the people that while in sin they are lying in death, and that it is only by conversion and renewal that they can recover life again.
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