Individual Retribution

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by quoting this proverb concerning the land of Israel,

‘The fathers eat sour grapes
And the children’s teeth become numb?’1

3As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord,2 you will not quote this proverb in Israel anymore! 4 Indeed! All lives are mine – the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine. The one3 who sins will die.

5Suppose a man is righteous. He practices what is just and right, 6 does not eat pagan sacrifices on the mountains4 or pray to the idols5 of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not have sexual relations with a6 woman during her period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but gives the debtor back whatever was given in pledge,7 does not commit robbery,8 but gives his bread to the hungry and clothes the naked, 8 does not engage in usury or charge interest,9 but refrains10 from wrongdoing, promotes true justice11 between men, 9 and follows my statutes and observes my regulations by carrying them out.12 That man13 is righteous; he will certainly live,14 declares the sovereign Lord.

10Suppose such a man has15 a violent son who sheds blood and does any of these things16 mentioned previously 11 (though the father did not do any of them).17 He eats pagan sacrifices on the mountains,18 defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and the needy,19 commits robbery, does not give back what was given in pledge, prays to20 idols, performs abominable acts, 13 engages in usury and charges interest. Will he live? He will not! Because he has done all these abominable deeds he will certainly die.21 He will bear the responsibility for his own death.22

14But suppose he in turn has a son who notices all the sins his father commits, considers them, and does not follow his father’s example.23 15 He does not eat pagan sacrifices on the mountains, does not pray to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone or keep what has been given in pledge, does not commit robbery, gives his food to the hungry, and clothes the naked, 17 refrains from wrongdoing,24 does not engage in usury or charge interest, carries out my regulations and follows my statutes. He will not die for his father’s iniquity;25 he will surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practices extortion, robs his brother, and does what is not good among his people, he will die for his iniquity.

19Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not suffer26 for his father’s iniquity?’ When the son does what is just and right, and observes all my statutes and carries them out, he will surely live. 20 The person who sins is the one who will die. A son will not suffer27 for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer28 for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness.29

21But if the wicked person turns from all the sin he has committed and observes all my statutes and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the sins he has committed will be held30 against him; because of the righteousness he has done, he will live. 23 Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked, declares the sovereign Lord? Do I not prefer that he turn from his wicked conduct and live?

24But if a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing according to all the abominable practices the wicked carry out, will he live? All his righteous acts will not be remembered; because of the unfaithful acts he has done and the sin he has committed, he will die.31

25Yet you say, ‘The Lord’s conduct32 is unjust!’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my conduct unjust? Is it not your conduct that is unjust? 26 When a righteous person turns back from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing, he will die for it;33 because of the wrongdoing he has done, he will die. 27 When a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life. 28 Because he considered34 and turned from all the sins he had done, he will surely live; he will not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The Lord’s conduct is unjust!’ Is my conduct unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your conduct that is unjust?

30Therefore I will judge each person according to his conduct,35 O house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord. Repent36 and turn from all your wickedness; then it will not be an obstacle leading to iniquity.37 31 Throw away all your sins you have committed and fashion yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!38 Why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no delight in the death of anyone,39 declares the sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

118:2tn This word only occurs here and in the parallel passage in Jer 31:29-30 in the Qal stem and in Eccl 10:10 in the Piel stem. In the latter passage it refers to the bluntness of an ax that has not been sharpened. Here the idea is of the “bluntness” of the teeth, not from having ground them down due to the bitter taste of sour grapes but to the fact that they have lost their “edge,” “bite,” or “sharpness” because they are numb from the sour taste. For this meaning for the word, see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:197. 218:3tn This expression occurs often in Ezekiel (5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; 17:16, 19; 20:3, 31, 33; 33:11, 27; 34:8; 35:6, 11). 318:4tn Heb “life.” 418:6tn Heb, “on the mountains he does not eat.” The mountains are often mentioned as the place where idolatrous sacrifices were eaten (Ezek 20:28; 22:9; 34:6). 518:6tn Heb, “does not lift up his eyes.” This refers to looking to idols for help. 618:6tn Heb, “does not draw near to.” “Draw near” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse (Lev 18:14; Deut 22:14; Isa 8:3). 718:7tn Heb “restores to the debtor his pledge.” The root occurs in Exod 22:25 in reference to restoring a man’s garment as a pledge before nightfall. 818:7tn The Hebrew term refers to seizure of property, usually by the rich (Isa 3:14; 10:2; Mic 2:2 [see Lev 5:21, 22]). 918:8sn This law was given in Lev 25:36. 1018:8tn Heb, “turns back his hand.” 1118:8tn Heb “justice of truth.” 1218:9tc The MT reads לַעֲשׂוֹת אֱמֶת (laasotemet, “to do with integrity”), while the LXX reads “to do them,” presupposing לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתָם (la’asot ’otam). The ם (mem) and ת (tav) have been reversed in the MT. The LXX refelcts the original, supported by similar phrasing in Ezekiel 11:20; 20:19. 1318:9tn Heb “he.” 1418:9tn Heb “living, he will live.” The infinitive absolute precedes the finite verb for emphasis. 1518:10tn Heb “begets.” 1618:10tn Heb “and he does, a brother, from one of these.” If “brother” is retained, it may be an adverbial accusative, “against a brother” (i.e., fellow Israelite). But the form is likely dittographic (note the אח [aleph-heth] combination in the following form). 1718:11tn Heb “and he all of these did not do.” The parenthetical note refers back to the father described in the preceding verses. 1818:11sn See note on “mountains” in v. 6. 1918:12sn The poor and needy are often mentioned together in the OT (Deut 24:14; Jer 22:16; Ezek 14:69; Ps 12:6; 35:10; 37:14). 2018:12tn Heb “lifts up his eyes.” 2118:13tn Heb “be put to death.” The translation follows an alternative reading that appears in several ancient textual witnesses. 2218:13tn Heb “his blood will be upon him.” 2318:14tn Heb “and he sees and does not do likewise.” 2418:17tc This translation follows the LXX. The MT reads “restrains his hand from the poor,” which makes no sense here. 2518:17tn Or “in his father’s punishment.” The phrase “in/for [a person’s] iniquity/punishment” occurs fourteen times in Ezekiel: here and in vv. 18, 19, 20; 3:18, 19; 4:17; 7:13, 16; 24:23; 33:6, 8, 9; 39:23. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” may also mean the “punishment for iniquity.” 2618:19tn Heb “lift up, bear.” 2718:20tn Heb “lift up, bear.” 2818:20tn Heb “lift up, bear.” 2918:20tn Heb “the righteousness of the righteous one will be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked one will be upon him.” 3018:22tn Heb “remembered.” 3118:24tn Heb “because of them he will die.” 3218:25tn Heb “way.” 3318:26tn Heb “for them” or “because of them.” 3418:28tn Heb “he saw.” 3518:30tn Heb “ways.” 3618:30tn The verbs and persons in this verse are plural whereas the individual has been the subject of the chapter. 3718:30tn Or “leading to punishment.” 3818:31sn In Ezek 11:19, 36:26 the new heart and new spirit are promised as future blessings. 3918:32tn Heb “the death of the one dying.”