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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - EZEKIEL 18
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    CHAPTER 18

    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 (Jer 18:6). 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 (Ge 18:25). "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 in Ex 20:5 and Jer 15:4, are justified. The sons, therefore (as the Jews here), cannot complain of being unjustly afflicted by God (La 5:7); 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 (Ex 20:5) 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 (De 24:16), "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 (Ro 5:14) 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.
    - soul that sinneth, it shall die--and it alone (Ro 6:23); not also the innocent.

    5. Here begins the illustration of God's impartiality in a series of supposed cases. The first case is given in Eze 18:5-9, 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.
    - just . . . lawful . . . right--the duties of the second table of the law, which flow from the fear of God. Piety is the root of all charity; to render to each his own, as well to our neighbor, as to God.

    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 Ex 32:6; De 32:38; Jud 9:27; 1Co 8:4, 10; 10:7).
    - lifted . . . eyes to--namely, in adoration (Ps 121:1). The superstitious are compared to harlots; their eyes go eagerly after spiritual lusts. The righteous man not merely refrains from the act, but from the glance of spiritual lust (Job 31:1; Mt 5:28).
    - idols of . . . Israel--not merely those of the Gentiles, but even those of Israel. The fashions of his countrymen could not lead him astray.
    - defiled . . . neighbour's wife--Not only does he shrink from spiritual, but also from carnal, adultery (compare 1Co 6:18).
    - neither . . . menstruous woman--Leprosy and elephantiasis were said to be the fruit of such a connection [JEROME]. Chastity is to be observed even towards one's own wife (Le 18:19; 20:18).

    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).
    - bread to . . . hungry . . . covered . . . naked-- (Isa 58:7; Mt 25:35, 36). After duties of justice come those of benevolence. It is not enough to refrain from doing a wrong to our neighbor, we must also do him good. The bread owned by a man, though "his," is given to him, not to keep to himself, but to impart to the needy.

    8. usury--literally, "biting." The law forbade the Jew to take interest from brethren but permitted him to do so from a foreigner (Ex 22:25; De 23:19, 20; Ne 5:7; Ps 15:5). 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 needy.
    - increase--in the case of other kinds of wealth; as "usury" refers to money (Le 25:36).
    - withdrawn . . . hand, &c.--Where he has the opportunity and might find a plausible plea for promoting his own gain at the cost of a wrong to his neighbor, he keeps back his hand from what selfishness prompts.
    - judgment--justice.

    9. truly--with integrity.
    - surely live--literally, "live in life." Prosper in this life, but still more in the life to come (Pr 3:1, 2; Am 5:4).

    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.
    - robber--or literally, "a breaker," namely, through all constraints of right.
    - doeth the like to any one--The Hebrew and the parallel (Eze 18:18) require us to translate rather, "doeth to his brother any of these things," namely, the things which follow in Eze 18:11, &c. [MAURER].

    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 Eze 18:7 the expression is simply "oppressed any."
    - abomination--singular number referring to the particular one mentioned at the end of Eze 18:6.

    13. shall he . . . live?--because of the merits of his father; answering, by contrast, to "die for the iniquity of his father" (Eze 18:17).
    - his blood shall be upon him--The cause of his bloody death shall rest with himself; God is not to blame, but is vindicated as just in punishing him.

    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).
    - seeth . . . and considereth--The same Hebrew stands for both verbs, "seeth . . . yea, seeth." The repetition implies the attentive observation needed, in order that the son may not be led astray by his father's bad example; as sons generally are blind to parents sins, and even imitate them as if they were virtues.

    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-- (De 24:16; 2Ki 14:6).
    - righteousness . . . wickedness--that is, the reward for righteousness . . . the punishment of wickedness. "Righteousness" is not used as if any were absolutely righteous; but, of such as have it imputed to them for Christ's sake, though not under the Old Testament themselves understanding the ground on which they were regarded as righteous, but sincerely seeking after it in the way of God's appointment, so far as they then understood this way.

    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

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