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Eze 18:1-32. THE PARABLE OF THE SOUR GRAPES REPROVED.
Vindication of God's moral government as to His retributive righteousness from the Jewish imputation of injustice, as if they were suffering, not for their own sin, but for that of their fathers. As in the seventeenth chapter he foretold Messiah's happy reign in Jerusalem, so now he warns them that its blessings can be theirs only upon their individually turning to righteousness.
2. fathers . . . eaten sour grapes, . . . children's teeth . . . set on edge--Their unbelieving calumnies on God's justice had become so common as to have assumed a proverbial form. The sin of Adam in eating the forbidden fruit, visited on his posterity, seems to have suggested the peculiar form; noticed also by Jeremiah (Jer 31:29); and explained in La 5:7, "Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities." They mean by "the children" themselves, as though they were innocent, whereas they were far from being so. The partial reformation effected since Manasseh's wicked reign, especially among the exiles at Chebar, was their ground for thinking so; but the improvement was only superficial and only fostered their self-righteous spirit, which sought anywhere but in themselves the cause of their calamities; just as the modern Jews attribute their present dispersion, not to their own sins, but to those of their forefathers. It is a universal mark of corrupt nature to lay the blame, which belongs to ourselves, on others and to arraign the justice of God. Compare Ge 3:12, where Adam transfers the blame of his sin to Eve, and even to God, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."
3. ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb--because I will let it be seen by the whole world in the very fact that you are not righteous, as ye fancy yourselves, but wicked, and that you suffer only the just penalty of your guilt; while the elect righteous remnant alone escapes.
4. all souls are mine--Therefore I can deal with all, being My own
creation, as I please
As the Creator of all alike I can have no reason, but the principle of
equity, according to men's works, to make any difference, so as to
punish some, and to save others
"The soul that sinneth it shall die." The curse descending from father
to son assumes guilt shared in by the son; there is a natural tendency
in the child to follow the sin of his father, and so he shares in the
father's punishment: hence the principles of God's government, involved
and Jer 15:4,
are justified. The sons, therefore (as the Jews here), cannot complain
of being unjustly afflicted by God
for they filled up the guilt of their fathers
(Mt 23:32, 34-36).
The same God who "recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the
bosom of their children," is immediately after set forth as "giving to
every man according to his ways"
(Jer 32:18, 19).
In the same law
which "visited the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the
third and fourth generation" (where the explanation is added, "of them
that hate me," that is, the children hating God, as well
as their fathers: the former being too likely to follow their parents,
sin going down with cumulative force from parent to child), we find
"the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither the
children for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own
sin." The inherited guilt of sin in infants
is an awful fact, but one met by the atonement of Christ; but it
is of adults that he speaks here. Whatever penalties fall on
communities for connection with sins of their fathers,
individual adults who repent shall escape
(2Ki 23:25, 26).
This was no new thing, as some misinterpret the passage here; it had
been always God's principle to punish only the guilty, and not
also the innocent, for the sins of their fathers. God does not here
change the principle of His administration, but is merely about to
manifest it so personally to each that the Jews should no longer
throw on God and on their fathers the blame which was their own.
5. Here begins the illustration of God's impartiality in a series of
supposed cases. The first case is given in
the just man. The excellencies are selected in reference to the
prevailing sins of the age, from which such a one stood aloof; hence
arises the omission of some features of righteousness, which, under
different circumstances, would have been desirable to be enumerated.
Each age has its own besetting temptations, and the just man
will be distinguished by his guarding against the peculiar defilements,
inward and outward, of his age.
6. not eaten upon . . . mountains--the high places,
where altars were reared. A double sin: sacrificing elsewhere than at
the temple, where only God sanctioned sacrifice
(De 12:13, 14);
and this to idols instead of to Jehovah. "Eaten" refers to the feasts
which were connected with the sacrifices (see
1Co 8:4, 10; 10:7).
7. restored . . . pledge--that which the poor debtor absolutely needed;
as his raiment, which the creditor was bound to restore before sunset
(Ex 22:26, 27),
and his millstone, which was needed for preparing his food
(De 24:6, 10-13).
8. usury--literally, "biting." The law forbade the Jew to take
interest from brethren but permitted him to do so from a foreigner
De 23:19, 20;
The letter of the law was restricted to the Jewish polity, and is not
binding now; and indeed the principle of taking interest was even then
sanctioned, by its being allowed in the case of a foreigner. The
spirit of the law still binds us, that we are not to take
advantage of our neighbor's necessities to enrich ourselves, but be
satisfied with moderate, or even no, interest, in the case of the
10-13. The second case is that of an impious son of a pious father.
His pious parentage, so far from excusing, aggravates his guilt.
11. those duties--which his father did (Eze 18:5, 9).
12. oppressed the poor--an aggravation to his oppressions, that
they were practised against the poor; whereas in
the expression is simply "oppressed any."
13. shall he . . . live?--because of the merits of his father;
answering, by contrast, to "die for the iniquity of his father"
14-18. The third case: a son who walks not in the steps of an
unrighteous father, but in the ways of God; for example, Josiah, the
pious son of guilty Amon; Hezekiah, of Ahaz
(2Ki 16:1-20; 18:1-37; 21:1-22:20).
17. taken off his hand from the poor--that is, abstained from oppressing the poor, when he had the opportunity of doing so with impunity.The different sense of the phrase in Eze 16:49, in reference to relieving the poor, seems to have suggested the reading followed by FAIRBAIRN, but not sanctioned by the Hebrew, "hath not turned his hand from," &c. But Eze 20:22 uses the phrase in a somewhat similar sense to English Version here, abstained from hurting.
19. Here the Jews object to the prophet's word and in their objection seem to seek a continuance of that very thing which they had originally made a matter of complaint. Therefore translate, "Wherefore doth not the son bear the iniquity of his father?" It now would seem a consolation to them to think the son might suffer for his father's misdeeds; for it would soothe their self-love to regard themselves as innocent sufferers for the guilt of others and would justify them in their present course of life, which they did not choose to abandon for a better. In reply, Ezekiel reiterates the truth of each being dealt with according to his own merits [FAIRBAIRN]. But GROTIUS supports English Version, wherein the Jews contradict the prophet, "Why (sayest thou so) doth not the son (often, as in our case, though innocent) bear (that is, suffer for) the iniquity of their father?" Ezekiel replies, It is not as you say, but as I in the name of God say: "When the son hath done," &c. English Version is simpler than that of FAIRBAIRN.
20. son shall not bear . . . iniquity of . . . father--
21-24. Two last cases, showing the equity of God: (1) The penitent sinner is dealt with according to his new obedience, not according to his former sins. (2) The righteous man who turns from righteousness to sin shall be punished for the latter, an