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Ezekiel Israel’s Watchman

33 The Lord’s message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people,[a] and say to them, ‘Suppose I bring a sword against the land, and the people of the land take one man from their borders and make him their watchman. He sees the sword coming against the land, blows the trumpet,[b] and warns the people,[c] but there is one who hears the sound of the trumpet yet does not heed the warning. Then the sword comes and sweeps him away. He will be responsible for his own death.[d] He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, so he is responsible for himself.[e] If he had heeded the warning, he would have saved his life. But suppose the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people. Then the sword comes and takes one of their lives. He is swept away for his iniquity,[f] but I will hold the watchman accountable for that person’s death.’[g]

“As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman[h] for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them on my behalf. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you must certainly die,’[i] and you do not warn[j] the wicked about his behavior,[k] the wicked man will die for his iniquity, but I will hold you accountable for his death.[l] But if you warn the wicked man to change his behavior,[m] and he refuses to change,[n] he will die for his iniquity, but you have saved your own life.

10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you have said: “Our rebellious acts and our sins have caught up with us,[o] and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behavior[p] and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds![q] Why should you die, O house of Israel?’

12 “And you, son of man, say to your people,[r] ‘The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him if he rebels.[s] As for the wicked, his wickedness will not make him stumble if he turns from it.[t] The righteous will not be able to live by his righteousness[u] if he sins.’[v] 13 Suppose I tell the righteous that he will certainly live, but he becomes confident in his righteousness and commits iniquity. None of his righteous deeds will be remembered; because of the iniquity he has committed he will die. 14 Suppose I say to the wicked, ‘You must certainly die,’ but he turns from his sin and does what is just and right. 15 He[w] returns what was taken in pledge, pays back what he has stolen, and follows the statutes that give life,[x] committing no iniquity. He will certainly live—he will not die. 16 None of the sins he has committed will be counted[y] against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live.

17 “Yet your people[z] say, ‘The behavior[aa] of the Lord is not right,’[ab] when it is their behavior that is not right. 18 When a righteous man turns from his godliness and commits iniquity, he will die for it. 19 When the wicked turns from his sin and does what is just and right, he will live because of it. 20 Yet you say, ‘The behavior of the Lord is not right.’ House of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his behavior.”[ac]

The Fall of Jerusalem

21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth of the month,[ad] a refugee came to me from Jerusalem saying, “The city has been defeated!”[ae] 22 Now the hand of the Lord had been on me[af] the evening before the refugee reached me, but the Lord[ag] opened my mouth by the time the refugee arrived[ah] in the morning; he opened my mouth and I was able to speak once more.[ai] 23 The Lord’s message came to me: 24 “Son of man, the ones living in these ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land, but we are many; surely the land has been given to us for a possession.’[aj] 25 Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You eat the meat with the blood still in it,[ak] pray to[al] your idols, and shed blood. Do you really think you will possess[am] the land? 26 You rely[an] on your swords and commit abominable deeds; each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Will you possess the land?’

27 “This is what you must say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those living in the ruins will die[ao] by the sword, those in the open field I will give to the wild beasts for food, and those who are in the strongholds and caves will die of disease. 28 I will turn the land into a desolate ruin; her confident pride will come to an end. The mountains of Israel will be so desolate no one will pass through them. 29 Then they will know that I am the Lord when I turn the land into a desolate ruin because of all the abominable deeds they have committed.’[ap]

30 “But as for you, son of man, your people[aq] (who are talking about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses) say to one another,[ar] ‘Come hear the word that comes[as] from the Lord.’ 31 They come to you in crowds,[at] and they sit in front of you as[au] my people. They hear your words, but do not obey[av] them. For they talk lustfully,[aw] and their heart is set on[ax] their own advantage.[ay] 32 Realize[az] that to them you are like a sensual song, a beautiful voice and skilled musician.[ba] They hear your words, but they do not obey them.[bb] 33 When all this comes true—and it certainly will[bc]—then they will know that a prophet was among them.”


  1. Ezekiel 33:2 tn Heb “sons of your people.”
  2. Ezekiel 33:3 tn Heb “shofar,” a ram’s horn rather than a brass instrument (so throughout the chapter).
  3. Ezekiel 33:3 tn Sounding the trumpet could warn of imminent danger (Neh 4:18-20; Jer 4:19; Amos 3:6).
  4. Ezekiel 33:4 tn Heb “his blood will be on his own head.”
  5. Ezekiel 33:5 tn Heb “his blood will be on him.”
  6. Ezekiel 33:6 tn Or “in his punishment.” The phrase “in/for [a person’s] iniquity/punishment” occurs fourteen times in Ezekiel: here and in vv. 8 and 9; 3:18, 19; 4:17; 7:13, 16; 18:17, 18, 19, 20; 24:23; 39:23. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” may also mean the “punishment” for iniquity or “guilt” of iniquity.
  7. Ezekiel 33:6 tn Heb “his blood from the hand of the watchman I will seek.”
  8. Ezekiel 33:7 sn Jeremiah (Jer 6:17) and Habakkuk (Hab 2:1) also served in the role of a watchman.
  9. Ezekiel 33:8 tn The same expression occurs in Gen 2:17.
  10. Ezekiel 33:8 tn Heb “and you do not speak to warn.”
  11. Ezekiel 33:8 tn Heb “way.”
  12. Ezekiel 33:8 tn Heb “and his blood from your hand I will seek.”
  13. Ezekiel 33:9 tn Heb “from his way to turn from it.”
  14. Ezekiel 33:9 tn Heb “and he does not turn from his way.”
  15. Ezekiel 33:10 tn Heb “(are) upon us.”
  16. Ezekiel 33:11 tn Heb “turn from his way.”
  17. Ezekiel 33:11 tn Heb “ways.” This same word is translated “behavior” earlier in the verse.
  18. Ezekiel 33:12 tn Heb “the sons of your people.”
  19. Ezekiel 33:12 tn Heb “in the day of his rebellion.” The statement envisions a godly person rejecting what is good and becoming sinful. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 2:247-48.
  20. Ezekiel 33:12 tn Heb “and the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble in it in the day of his turning from his wickedness.”
  21. Ezekiel 33:12 tn Heb “by it.”
  22. Ezekiel 33:12 tn Heb “in the day of his sin.”
  23. Ezekiel 33:15 tn Heb “the wicked one.”
  24. Ezekiel 33:15 tn Heb “and in the statutes of life he walks.”
  25. Ezekiel 33:16 tn Heb “remembered.”
  26. Ezekiel 33:17 tn Heb “the sons of your people.”
  27. Ezekiel 33:17 tn Heb “way.”
  28. Ezekiel 33:17 tn The Hebrew verb translated “is (not) right” has the basic meaning of “to measure.” For a similar concept, see Ezek 18:25, 29.
  29. Ezekiel 33:20 tn Heb “ways.”
  30. Ezekiel 33:21 tn January 19, 585 b.c.
  31. Ezekiel 33:21 tn Heb “smitten.”
  32. Ezekiel 33:22 tn The other occurrences of the phrase “the hand of the Lord” in Ezekiel are in the context of prophetic visions.
  33. Ezekiel 33:22 tn Heb “he”; the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  34. Ezekiel 33:22 tn Heb “by the time of the arrival to me.” For clarity the translation specifies the refugee as the one who arrived.
  35. Ezekiel 33:22 sn Ezekiel’s God-imposed muteness was lifted (see 3:26).
  36. Ezekiel 33:24 sn Outside of its seven occurrences in Ezekiel the term translated “possession” appears only in Exod 6:8 and Deut 33:4.
  37. Ezekiel 33:25 sn This practice was a violation of Levitical law (see Lev 19:26).
  38. Ezekiel 33:25 tn Heb “lift up your eyes.”
  39. Ezekiel 33:25 tn Heb “Will you possess?”
  40. Ezekiel 33:26 tn Heb “stand.”
  41. Ezekiel 33:27 tn Heb “fall.”
  42. Ezekiel 33:29 sn The judgments of vv. 27-29 echo the judgments of Lev 26:22, 25.
  43. Ezekiel 33:30 tn Heb “sons of your people.”
  44. Ezekiel 33:30 tn Heb “one to one, a man to his brother.”
  45. Ezekiel 33:30 tn Heb “comes out.”
  46. Ezekiel 33:31 tn Heb “as people come.” Apparently this is an idiom indicating that they come in crowds. See D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 2:264.
  47. Ezekiel 33:31 tn The word “as” is supplied in the translation.
  48. Ezekiel 33:31 tn Heb “do.”
  49. Ezekiel 33:31 tn Heb “They do lust with their mouths.”
  50. Ezekiel 33:31 tn Heb “goes after.”
  51. Ezekiel 33:31 tn The present translation understands the term often used for “unjust gain” in a wider sense, following M. Greenberg, who also notes that the LXX uses a term that can describe either sexual or ritual pollution. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 2:687.
  52. Ezekiel 33:32 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.
  53. Ezekiel 33:32 tn Heb “one who makes playing music well.”
  54. Ezekiel 33:32 sn Similar responses are found in Isa 29:13; Matt 21:28-32; James 1:22-25.
  55. Ezekiel 33:33 tn Heb “behold, it is coming.”