1 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying,
2 "What do you mean, that you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'?
3 As I live," says the Lord GOD, "you shall not have occasion anymore to use this proverb in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine. As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine. The soul who sins, he shall die.
5 "But if a man is just and does that which is lawful and right, 6 Has not eaten upon the mountains, neither has lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither has defiled his neighbor's wife, neither has come near to a polluted woman, 7 Has not oppressed any, but has restored to the debtor his pledge, has stripped no one by violence, has given his bread to the hungry, has covered the naked with a garment, 8 Has not given forth upon interest, neither has taken any increase, has withdrawn his hand from iniquity, has executed true judgment between man and man, 9 Has walked in my statutes and has kept my judgments to deal truly, he is just and he shall surely live," says the Lord GOD.
10 "If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood, who does the like of any one of these things, 11 Who does not do any of those duties, but even has eaten upon the mountains, defiled his neighbor's wife, 12 Has oppressed the poor and needy, has stripped by violence, has not restored the pledge, has lifted up his eyes to the idols, has committed abomination, 13 Has given forth upon interest, and has taken increase, shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations. He shall surely die. His blood shall be upon him.
14 "Now behold, if he begets a son, who sees all his father's sins which he has done, and considers, and does not do such things, 15 Who has not eaten upon the mountains, neither has lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, has not defiled his neighbor's wife, 16 Neither has oppressed any, has not withheld the pledge, neither has stripped by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry, has covered the naked with a garment, 17 Who has taken off his hand from the poor, who has not received interest nor increase, has executed my judgments, and has walked in my statutes, he shall not die for the iniquity of his father. He shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, stripped his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, behold, even he shall die in his iniquity.
19 "Yet you say, 'Why? Does the son not bear the iniquity of the father?' When the son has done that which is lawful and right, has kept all my statutes, and has done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins, he shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
21 "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all my statutes and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned to him. In his righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die," says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should return from his ways and live?
24 "But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned. In his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them he shall die. 25 Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not equal.' Hear now, O house of Israel. Is my way not equal? Are your ways not unequal? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and dies in them, for his iniquity that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. 28 Because he considers and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live. He shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not equal.' O house of Israel, are my ways not equal? Are your ways not unequal?
30 "Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so that iniquity is not your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions by which you have transgressed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore, turn, and live."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains an answer to an objection of the Jews to the dealings of God with them in a providential way. The objection is expressed in a proverb of common use among them, and complained of as being without cause (Ezekiel 18:1-2); however, for the future, no occasion should be given to them to use it, for, though God could justify his proceedings upon the foot of his sovereignty, all souls being his, yet he has determined none but the sinner himself should suffer (Ezekiel 18:3-4); and puts various cases for the illustration and vindication of his proceedings, as that a just man, who is described by his proper characters, as abstaining from several sins specified and doing what is right and good, should surely live (Ezekiel 18:5-9); but that the son of such a just man, being the reverse of his father's character, should surely die (Ezekiel 18:10-13); and again, the son of such a wicked man, observing the heinousness of his father's sins and abstaining from them, though his father should die in his iniquities, he should not die for them, but live (Ezekiel 18:14-18); by which it appears that the dealings of God with the Jews were not according to the proverb used by them, but quite agreeable to his resolution, that the sinner, be he a father or a son, shall die for his own sins, and that the righteous man's righteousness shall be upon him, and the wicked man's sin upon him, and accordingly both shall be dealt with (Ezekiel 18:19-20); which is further illustrated by a wicked man's turning from his sinful course and doing righteousness, and living in that righteousness he has done, which is more agreeable to God that he should live and not die in sin (Ezekiel 18:21-23); and by a righteous man turning from his righteousness and living a vicious life and dying in it (Ezekiel 18:24); from both which instances this conclusion follows, that God is to be justified, and that his ways are equal, and the Jews' ways were unequal, and their complaint unjust (Ezekiel 18:25); and the same instances are repeated in a different order, and the same conclusion formed (Ezekiel 18:26-29); upon which the Lord determines to judge them according to their own ways, their personal actions, good or bad, and exhorts them to repentance and reformation, and closes with a pathetic expostulation with them (Ezekiel 18:30-32).