Bible Study: Ezekiel 18 – Just shall Live, Wicked shall Die

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel is about God’s assurance that the just will live while the wicked will die. The just will not die because of the wicked father and the wicked will not live because of the just father.

Just shall live & wicked shall die

Ezek 18:1-9 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, What do you mean when 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’? [As] I live,” says the Lord GOD, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die. But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right; If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity; If he has not oppressed anyone, [But] has restored to the debtor his pledge; Has robbed no one by violence, [But] has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing; If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, [But] has withdrawn his hand from iniquity [And] executed true judgment between man and man; [If] he has walked in My statutes And kept My judgments faithfully– He [is] just; He shall surely live!” Says the Lord GOD.

Who is just?

  1. Does what is lawful and right
  2. Has not eaten on the mountains (i.e., eating things sacrificed to idols),
  3. Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
  4. Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife,
  5. Nor approached a woman during her impurity;
  6. Not oppressed anyone
  7. Restored to the debtor his pledge
  8. Has robbed no one by violence
  9. Given his bread to the hungry
  10. Covered the naked with clothing;
  11. Has not exacted usury nor taken any increase
  12. Has withdrawn his hand from iniquity
  13. Executed true judgment between man and man;
  14. Walked in My statutes
  15. Kept My judgments faithfully

If anyone followed the above, he is just and he shall surely live, even if the man’s father was wicked.

Exod 32:33 And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Deut 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.

God reiterates the Law which He gave to Moses for Israelite people to follow.

Ezek 18:10-13 “If he begets a son [who is] a robber Or a shedder of blood, [Who] does any of these [things] And does none of those [duties,] But has eaten on the mountains Or defiled his neighbor’s wife; If he has oppressed the poor and needy, Robbed by violence, Not restored the pledge, Lifted his eyes to the idols, [Or] committed abomination; If he has exacted usury Or taken increase– Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him.

Then, God expands the same law by giving a different scenario where the just man had a wicked son. Even here, the wicked son will surely die.

Ezek 18:14-18 “[If,] however, he begets a son Who sees all the sins which his father has done, And considers but does not do likewise; [Who] has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife; Has not oppressed anyone, Nor withheld a pledge, Nor robbed by violence, [But] has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing; [Who] has withdrawn his hand from the poor [And] not received usury or increase, But has executed My judgments And walked in My statutes– He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live! [As for] his father, Because he cruelly oppressed, Robbed his brother by violence, And did what [is] not good among his people, Behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

Again, God expands the same law to clarify further that the just son shall live while his wicked father will surely die. In short, God is providing different scenarios to explain the same thing. i.e., The soul that sins shall die.

Guilt is not inherited

Ezek 18:19-20 “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The guilt of the father shall not be upon the children, nor the guilt of the children shall be upon the father. The soul who sins shall die.

Wicked turned to just shall live, Righteous turned to wicked shall die

Ezek 18:21-23 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “[and] not that he should turn from his ways and live?

If a wicked man turns from all his sins to do what is lawful and right, he shall surely live.

Ezek 18:24-29 “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked [man] does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? When a righteous [man] turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. Again, when a wicked [man] turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?

But if a righteous turned to do wicked things, he shall surely die.

Repent, and turn from all your transgressions

Ezek 18:30-32 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but they repent, turn from their wicked ways and live. God will judge everyone according to his ways. Therefore, turn and live.

Generational Curses

This chapter makes it extremely clear that the soul which sins against God shall surely die. The guilt of the father cannot  be upon the children nor the guilt of the children be upon the father.  As we saw earlier, the message of this chapter was mentioned in the law.

Deut 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.

A person shall be put to death for his own sin. Yet, the same law given by God also mentions of God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the third and fourth generations if those who hate Him.

Deut 5:9-10 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Hence, if you sin you will die in your sin. But if you hate God, He will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon you but you will not die for your father’s sins. In short, the sins of the fathers will not be placed upon children nor the sins of the children upon the fathers, only the soul that sins will die. But God clearly shows a difference to the generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments and to the generations of those who hate Him often referred as generational curses.