Ezekiel 33:12
Therefore, you son of man, say to the children of your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sins.
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33:10-20 Those who despaired of finding mercy with God, are answered with a solemn declaration of God's readiness to show mercy. The ruin of the city and state was determined, but that did not relate to the final state of persons. God says to the righteous, that he shall surely live. But many who have made profession, have been ruined by proud confidence in themselves. Man trusts to his own righteousness, and presuming on his own sufficiency, he is brought to commit iniquity. If those who have lived a wicked life repent and forsake their wicked ways, they shall be saved. Many such amazing and blessed changes have been wrought by the power of Divine grace. When there is a settled separation between a man and sin, there shall no longer be a separation between him and God.Again - And. For Ezekiel 33:1-20, compare Ezekiel 18 notes. 12. not fall … in the day that he turneth—(2Ch 7:14; see Eze 3:20; 18:24). As for the wickedness of the wicked, & c.: see Ezekiel 3:20 18:20-22,24, where the same things are explained. Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people,.... See Gill on Ezekiel 33:2. The purport of what the prophet is bid to say in this and some following verses is, that the righteousness of a man that trusts in it, he sinning and not repenting, shall not save him; and that the wickedness of a repenting sinner shall not damn him:

the righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; this must be understood, not of a truly righteous man, or of the righteousness of Christ, by which such an one is made so; for that righteousness does deliver those to whom it is imputed, from sin and the condemnation of it, even in the day of his transgression, which is every day of his life; for there is not a just man that does good, and sinneth not; and in the day when his sin is shown him, and he is convinced of it, this removes the guilt of it; and in the day it will be sought for, or he may be charged with it, and when the sins of others will be brought to an account, the righteousness by which he is justified will deliver him from avenging justice; from the curse of the law; from the wrath of God; from eternal death, and everlasting damnation; but this is to be interpreted of one that is not truly righteous, and of a man's own righteousness; and which he trusts to, as is afterwards expressed; and may and does turn from: this can never deliver a man in the day of his transgression from the guilt and condemnation of it; for a man's own righteousness is but what he ought to do; and, was it ever so perfect, yet, should he commit one single sin, it would not justify him from it, or deliver him from the curse of the law and wrath of God due unto it:

as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; when he is truly convinced of his sin, and the evil of it; is heartily sorry for it, after a godly sort; ingenuously confesses it, and departs from it; applies to Christ, to his blood and righteousness, for pardon and acceptance; though his wickedness has been ever so great, or attended with ever such aggravating circumstances, yet it shall not damn him; or he shall not fall by it into hell and everlasting perdition; but shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation:

neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth; he cannot live by it, nor for it; as it cannot justify him, it cannot save him, or bring him to heaven, or entitle him to eternal life; he is not able to live comfortably now; when his sin is charged upon him, his righteousness will not relieve him; and much less will he be able to live happily hereafter; he must and will die in his sins, being found in them, for anything his own righteousness can do for him: this is the same with the former clause, and is repeated in different words for the confirmation of it; self-righteous persons not being easily convinced of the truth of these things.

Therefore, thou son of man, say to the children of thy people, The {g} righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

(g) Read of this righteousness, Eze 18:21,24.

12. It would have been enough to illustrate the earnest exhortation, Turn ye, why will ye die? (Ezekiel 33:11) by the assurance that if the wicked turns his past sins will not be remembered against him (Ezekiel 33:16). But the prophet states the truth in a more general form. His purpose is to teach also the general truth that the past of one’s life does not of necessity determine the future either in itself or in the judgment of God. This, next to the assurance of God’s gracious will regarding men (Ezekiel 33:11), was the truth most needed to comfort the people and awaken them out of the stupor which lay on them into a moral life and activity again.

It is merely to distort the prophet’s words to say that he teaches that a man’s past life goes for nothing, and that he will be judged merely according to what he is found doing “at the moment” of the judgment. The prophet is not speaking of moments. He speaks to men overwhelmed by a judgment of God which seemed to leave no hope for the future, and he lays down the principle needful for the moral awakening of the people that the past is not irrevocable, that a future of possibility lies before them. It is too true that the evil of a man’s past life prolongs itself into the future and that sin cannot at once be done with. Yet we “believe in the forgiveness of sins;” and this is the truth which the prophet desires to teach his countrymen, over whelmed with the thought of their own evil past. When he says the righteous shall “live” he means by living the complex thing, having the favour of God and having an external felicity corresponding to this.

Old Testament prophets and saints were hardly able to conceive the first of these two things existing apart from the second. And the prophet probably still considers them inseparably connected. And hence, when teaching that the son shall not suffer for the sins of the father, and that the righteous shall “live” and the wicked “die,” he has been charged with inculcating a doctrine more false to reality than the old one which it was designed to supersede. But here again a certain injustice is done to the prophet. No doubt when he uses the word “live” he employs it in the pregnant sense, viz. to enjoy the favour of God and to have this favour reflected in outward felicity. But just as Jeremiah relegates the principle that the children shall not suffer for the sins of the father to the new era about to dawn, so Ezek. agrees with him. Neither prophet is laying down a new principle which is to obtain in the world, the world going on as it had done before. Ezek. feels himself, as all the prophets do, on the threshold of a new Epoch, the era of the perfect kingdom of God, and it is in this new era that the principle which he enunciates shall prevail. See at the end of ch. 18.His overthrow fills the whole world with mourning and terror. - Ezekiel 32:7. When I extinguish thee, I will cover the sky and darken its stars; I will cover the sun with cloud, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. Ezekiel 32:8. All the shining lights in the sky do I darken because of thee, and I bring darkness over thy land, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 32:9. And I will trouble the heart of many nations when I bring out thine overthrow among the nations into lands which thou knowest not, Ezekiel 32:10. And I will make many nations amazed at thee, and their kings shall shudder at thee when I brandish my sword before their face; and they shall tremble every moment, every one for his life on the day of his fall. - The thought of Ezekiel 32:7 and Ezekiel 32:8 is not exhausted by the paraphrase, "when thou art extinguished, all light will be extinguished, so far as Egypt is concerned," accompanied with the remark, that the darkness consequent thereupon is a figurative representation of utterly hopeless circumstances (Schmieder). The thought on which the figure rests is that of the day of the Lord, the day of God's judgment, on which the lights of heaven lose their brightness (cf. Ezekiel 30:3 and Joel 2:10, etc.). This day bursts upon Egypt with the fall of Pharaoh, and on it the shining stars of heaven are darkened, so that the land of Pharaoh becomes dark. Egypt is a world-power represented by Pharaoh, which collapses with his fall. But the overthrow of this world-power is an omen and prelude of the overthrow of every ungodly world-power on the day of the last judgment, when the present heaven and the present earth will perish in the judgment-fire. Compare the remarks to be found in the commentary on Joel 3:4 upon the connection between the phenomena of the heavens and great catastrophes on earth. The contents of both verses may be fully explained from the biblical idea of the day of the Lord and the accompanying phenomena; and for the explanation of בּכבּותך, there is no necessity to assume, as Dereser and Hitzig have done, that the sea-dragon of Egypt is presented here under the constellation of a dragon; for there is no connection between the comparison of Egypt to a tannim or sea-dragon, in Ezekiel 32:2 and Ezekiel 29:3 ( equals רהב, Isaiah 51:9), and the constellation of the dragon (see the comm. on Isaiah 51:9 and Isaiah 30:7). In בּכבּותך Pharaoh is no doubt regarded as a star of the first magnitude in the sky; but in this conception Ezekiel rests upon Isaiah 14:12, where the king of Babylon is designated as a bright morning-star. That this passage was in the prophet's mind, is evident at once from the fact that Ezekiel 32:7 coincides almost verbatim with Isaiah 13:10. - The extinction and obscuration of the stars are not merely a figurative representation of the mourning occasioned by the fall of Pharaoh; still less can Ezekiel 32:9 and Ezekiel 32:10 be taken as an interpretation in literal phraseology of the figurative words in Ezekiel 32:7 and Ezekiel 32:8. For Ezekiel 32:9 and Ezekiel 32:10 do not relate to the mourning of the nations, but to anxiety and terror into which they are plunged by God through the fall of Pharaoh and his might. הכעיס , to afflict the heart, does not mean to make it sorrowful, but to fill it with anxiety, to deprive it of its peace and cheerfulness. "When I bring thy fall among the nations" is equivalent to "spread the report of thy fall." Consequently there is no need for either the arbitrary alteration of שׁברך into שׂברך, which Ewald proposes, with the imaginary rendering announcement or report; nor for the marvellous assumption of Hvernick, that שׁברך describes the prisoners scattered among the heathen as the ruins of the ancient glory of Egypt, in support of which he adduces the rendering of the lxx αἰχμαλωσίαν σου, which is founded upon the change of שׁברך into שׁביך. For Ezekiel 32:10 compare Ezekiel 27:35. עופף, to cause to fly, to brandish. The sword is brandished before their face when it falls time after time upon their brother the king of Egypt, whereby they are thrown into alarm for their own lives. לרגעים, by moments equals every moment (see the comm. on Isaiah 27:3).
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