Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)All souls are mine.—This is the basis of the subsequent teaching. Since all alike belong to God and are absolutely in His power. He has no occasion to punish one lest another should escape; and again, since all are His, He loves and would save them all, and inflicts punishment only when it is deserved and His grace is rejected. Four cases are now discussed separately: (1) That of the righteous man who honestly seeks to follow the ways of the Lord (Ezekiel 18:5-9); (2) that of his wicked son (Ezekiel 18:10-13); (3) that of the righteous son of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:14-20); (4) that of a change of character in the individual, whether from sin to righteousness or the reverse (Ezekiel 18:21-29). The word “soul” throughout the chapter does not mean exclusively the immortal part of our nature, but, as so often in Scripture, is equivalent to man, or person, or self; and the word “die” is used, as often elsewhere, in the broad sense of suffer punishment.Ezekiel 18:4. Behold, all souls are mine — As they are all equally my creatures, and in my power, so my dealings with them shall be without prejudice or partiality. The soul that sinneth, it shall die — The very same man that committeth sin shall be punished for it. Some commentators explain this of the temporal death which was about to come on the wicked Jews by the sword, famine, and pestilence; and they would confine the whole chapter to these events. “But,” as Mr. Scott justly observes, “it cannot be proved that every righteous man escaped those temporal judgments, or that all who survived them were righteous: without which this whole interpretation must fall for want of a foundation. Many, indeed, of the pious Jews had
‘their lives given them for a prey,’ but even what Jeremiah, Baruch, and others endured in the siege, and after the taking of Jerusalem, nearly equalled the external sufferings of many wicked men among them; and none of those who survived the siege escaped captivity or exile. So that facts, in this particular, did not so fully ascertain the equality of the divine conduct toward these distinct characters, as this hypothesis requires.” Temporal death, therefore, which, as the consequence of the first transgression, passes equally upon all men, cannot be only, or even chiefly, if it be at all, intended here. But, as life signifies in general all that happiness which attends God’s favour, so death denotes all those punishments which are the effects of the divine displeasure, (see 2 Samuel 12:13,) under which are comprehended the miseries of the next world. And these shall be allotted to men according to their deeds, (Romans 2:6,) without any regard to the faults of their ancestors, which shall not then be laid to their charge, or taken into account to aggravate their guilt. This the prophets well knew, and therefore, as they instruct men in the practice of inward and evangelical righteousness, and in order to it speak slightingly of the mere external duties of religion, (see Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:22-23,) so they raise men’s minds to look beyond the temporal promises and threatenings of the law, to the eternal rewards and punishments of another life, Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2. In both which respects they prepared men’s minds for the reception of the gospel when it should be revealed. See Lowth.
soul that sinneth, it shall die—and it alone (Ro 6:23); not also the innocent.
All souls; all persons, which are frequently called souls, Leviticus 7:18,20,21 Jos 20:3; and so it is Ezekiel 18:20, and Jeremiah 31:30.
The soul; the person, whether father or son, shall die, shall bear his own punishment: this text gives no colour for the opinion of the mortality of man’s soul.
That sinneth, i.e. obstinately, and yet will pretend his own innocency; whoso sinneth shall suffer for his own sin. You querulous Jews suffer then for your own sins and had you been, as you say you are, innocent, the sins of your fathers should not have hurt you; and for the future know I will keep to that rule of equity; no innocent person shall be prejudiced by the guilt of guilty ones. And if one that is, for aught we can discern, absolutely innocent, yet suffers for another man’s sin, it is most certain such a sufferer is not absolutely innocent, but some way or other is guilty of the sin for which he suffers. Hebrews 12:9, or the souls of men; these he has an apparent right unto; a property in; a dominion over; they are accountable to him, and will be judged impartially by him:
as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; and therefore must be thought to have as great a respect and affection for the one as for the other; for the soul of a son as for the soul of a father; and not deal partially in favour of the one, and cruelly and unrighteously with the other:
the soul that sinneth, it shall die; the soul that continues in sin, without repentance towards God, and faith in Christ, shall die the second death; shall be separated from the presence of God, and endure his wrath to all eternity: or the meaning is, that a person that is guilty of gross sins, and continues in them, shall personally suffer; he shall endure one calamity or another, as the famine, sword, pestilence, or be carried into captivity, which is the death all along spoken of in this chapter; the Lord will exercise no patience towards him, or defer punishment to a future generation, his offspring; but shall immediately execute it upon himself.Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. all souls are mine] i.e. every individual soul stands in immediate relation to God; Numbers 16:22, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” All souls alike belong to God, and this “alike” guarantees the treatment of each by itself, the soul of the son no less than the soul of the father. According to former modes of thought the son had not personal independence, he belonged to the father, and was involved in the destiny of the father.
sinneth, it shall die] It and not another because of its sin. “Live” and “die” are used by the prophet of literal life and death, continuance in the world and removal from it. They have, however, a pregnant meaning arising from the other conceptions of the prophet. He feels himself and the people standing immediately before that perfect kingdom of the Lord which is about to come (ch. 33, 37), and “live” implies entering into the glory of this kingdom, while “die” implies deprivation of its blessedness; for of course, like all the Old Testament writers, Ezekiel considers the kingdom, even in its perfect condition, an earthly one.Verse 4. - Behold, all souls are mine, etc. The words imply, not only creation, ownership, absolute authority, on the part of God, but, as even Calvin could recognize (in loc.), "a paternal affection towards the whole human race which he created and formed." Ezekiel anticipates here, and yet more fully in ver. 32. the teaching of St. Paul, that "God willeth that all men should be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The sentence, though taken from the Law, which ordered capital punishment for the offences named, cannot be limited to that punishment. "Death" and "life" are both used in their highest and widest meaning - "life" as including all that makes it worth living, "death" for the loss of that only true life which is found in knowing God (John 17:3).
Ezekiel 17:11. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 17:12. Say to the refractory race: Do ye not know what this is? Say, Behold, the king of Babel came to Jerusalem and took its king and its princes, and brought them to himself to Babel. Ezekiel 17:13. And he took of the royal seed, and made a covenant with him, and caused him to enter into an oath; and he took the strong ones of the land: Ezekiel 17:14. That it might be a lowly kingdom, not to lift itself up, that he might keep his covenant, that it might stand. Ezekiel 17:15. But he rebelled against him by sending his messengers to Egypt, that it might give him horses and much people. Will he prosper? will he that hath done this escape? He has broken the covenant, and should he escape? Ezekiel 17:16. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, surely in the place of the king, who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he broke with him, in Babel he will die. Ezekiel 17:17. And not with great army and much people will Pharaoh act with him in the war, when they cast up a rampart and build siege-towers, to cut off many souls. Ezekiel 17:18. He has despised an oath to break the covenant, and, behold, he has given his hand and done all this; he will not escape. Ezekiel 17:19. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As I live, surely my oath which he has despised, and my covenant which he has broken, I will give upon his head. Ezekiel 17:20. I will spread out my net over him, so that he will be taken in my snare, and will bring him to Babel, and contend with him there on account of his treachery which he has been guilty of towards me. Ezekiel 17:21. And all his fugitives in all his regiments, by the sword will they fall, and those who remain will be scattered to all winds; and ye shall see that I Jehovah have spoken it.
In Ezekiel 17:12-17 the parable in Ezekiel 17:2-10 is interpreted; and in Ezekiel 17:19-21 the threat contained in the parable is confirmed and still further expanded. We have an account of the carrying away of the king, i.e., Jehoiachin, and his princes to Babel in 2 Kings 24:11., Jeremiah 24:1, and Jeremiah 29:2. The king's seed (זרע המּלוּכה, Ezekiel 17:13, as in Jeremiah 41:1 equals זרע המּלך, 1 Kings 11:14) is Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah, whom Nebuchadnezzar made king under the name of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17), and from whom he took an oath of fealty (2 Chronicles 36:13). The strong of the land (אילי equals אוּלי, 2 Kings 24:15), whom Nebuchadnezzar took (לקח), i.e., took away to Babel, are not the heads of tribes and families (2 Kings 24:15); but the expression is used in a wide sense for the several classes of men of wealth, who are grouped together in 2 Kings 24:14 under the one term כּל־גּבּורי ח (אנשׁי חיל, 2 Kings 24:16), including masons, smiths, and carpenters (2 Kings 24:14 and 2 Kings 24:16), whereas the heads of tribes and families are classed with the court officials (סריסים, 2 Kings 24:15) under the title שׂריה (princes) in Ezekiel 17:12. The design of these measures was to make a lowly kingdom, which could not raise itself, i.e., could not revolt, and to deprive the vassal king of the means of breaking of the covenant. the suffix attached to לעמדהּ is probably to be taken as referring to ממלכה rather than בּריתי, although both are admissible, and would yield precisely the same sense, inasmuch as the stability of the kingdom was dependent upon the stability of the covenant. But Zedekiah rebelled (2 Kings 24:20). The Egyptian king who was to give Zedekiah horses and much people, in other words, to come to his assistance with a powerful army of cavalry and fighting men, was Hophrah, the Apries of the Greeks, according to Jeremiah 44:30 (see the comm. on 2 Kings 24:19-20). היצלח points back to תּצלח in Ezekiel 17:9; but here it is applied to the rebellious king, and is explained in the clause 'הימּלט וגו. The answer is given in Ezekiel 17:16 as a word of God confirmed by a solemn oath: he shall die in Babel, the capital of the king, who placed him on the throne, and Pharaoh will not render him any effectual help (Ezekiel 17:17). עשׂה אותו, as in Ezekiel 15:1-8 :59, to act with him, that is to say, assist him, come to his help. אותו refers to Zedekiah, not to Pharaoh, as Ewald assumes in an inexplicable manner. For 'שׁפך סללה , compare Ezekiel 4:2; and for the fact itself, Jeremiah 34:21-22, and Jeremiah 37:5, according to which, although an Egyptian army came to the rescue of Jerusalem at the time when it was besieged by the Chaldeans, it was repulsed by the Chaldeans who marched to meet it, without having rendered any permanent assistance to the besieged.
In Ezekiel 17:18, the main thought that breach of faith can bring no deliverance is repeated for the sake of appending the further expansion contained in Ezekiel 17:19-21. נתן ידו, he gave his hand, i.e., as a pledge of fidelity. The oath which Zedekiah swore to the king of Babel is designated in Ezekiel 17:19 as Jehovah's oath (אלתי), and the covenant made with him as Jehovah's covenant, because the oath had been sworn by Jehovah, and the covenant of fidelity towards Nebuchadnezzar had thereby been made implicite with Jehovah Himself; so that the breaking of the oath and covenant became a breach of faith towards Jehovah. Consequently the very same expressions are used in Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:18, and Ezekiel 17:19, to designate this breach of oath, which are applied in Ezekiel 16:59 to the treacherous apostasy of Jerusalem (Israel) from Jehovah, the covenant God. And the same expressions are used to describe the punishment as in Ezekiel 12:13-14. נשׁפּט אתּו is construed with the accusative of the thing respecting which he was to be judged, as in 1 Samuel 12:7. Jehovah regards the treacherous revolt from Nebuchadnezzar as treachery against Himself (מעל); not only because Zedekiah had sworn the oath of fidelity by Jehovah, but also from the fact that Jehovah had delivered up His people and kingdom into the power of Nebuchadnezzar, so that revolt from him really became rebellion against God. את before כּל־מברחו is nota accus., and is used in the sense of quod adtinet ad, as, for example, in 2 Kings 6:5. מברחו, his fugitives, is rendered both by the Chaldee and Syriac "his brave men," or "heroes," and is therefore identified with מבחרו (his chosen ones), which is the reading in some manuscripts. But neither these renderings nor the parallel passage in Ezekiel 12:14, where סביבותיו apparently corresponds to it, will warrant our adopting this explanation, or making any alteration in the text. The Greek versions have πάσας φυγαδείας αὐτοῦ; Theodoret: ἐν πάσαις ταῖς φυγαδείαις αὐτοῦ; the Vulgate: omnes profugi ejus; and therefore they all had the reading מברחו, which also yields a very suitable meaning. The mention of some who remain, and who are to be scattered toward all the winds, is not at variance with the statement that all the fugitives in the wings of the army are to fall by the sword. The latter threat simply declares that no one will escape death by flight. But there is no necessity to take those who remain as being simply fighting men; and the word "all" must not be taken too literally.
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