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Those Who Sin Will Die

18 The Lord said:

Ezekiel, I hear the people of Israel using the old saying,

“Sour grapes eaten by parents
leave a sour taste
in the mouths
    of their children.”

Now tell them that I am the Lord God, and as surely as I live, that saying will no longer be used in Israel. The lives of all people belong to me—parents as well as children. Only those who sin will be put to death.

Suppose there is a truly good man who always does what is fair and right. He refuses to eat meat sacrificed to foreign gods at local shrines or to worship Israel’s idols. He doesn’t have sex with someone else’s wife or with a woman having her monthly period. He never cheats or robs anyone and always returns anything taken as security for a loan; he gives food and clothes to the poor and doesn’t charge interest when lending money. He refuses to do anything evil; he is fair to everyone and faithfully obeys my laws and teachings. This man is good, and I promise he will live.

10 But suppose this good man has an evil son who is violent and commits sins 11 his father never did. He eats meat at local shrines, has sex with someone else’s wife, 12 cheats the poor, and robs people. He keeps what is given to him as security for a loan. He worships idols, does disgusting things, 13 and charges high interest when lending money. An evil man like that will certainly not live. He is the one who has done these horrible sins, so it’s his own fault that he will be put to death.

14 But suppose this evil man has a son who sees his father do these things and refuses to act like him. 15 He doesn’t eat meat at local shrines or worship Israel’s idols, and he doesn’t have sex with someone else’s wife. 16 He never cheats or robs anyone and doesn’t even demand security for a loan. He gives food and clothes to the poor 17 and refuses to do anything evil[a] or to charge interest. And he obeys all my laws and teachings. Such a man will live. His own father sinned, but this good man will not be put to death for the sins of his father. 18 It is his father who will die for cheating and robbing and doing evil.

19 You may wonder why a son isn’t punished for the sins of his father. It is because the son does what is right and obeys my laws. 20 Only those who sin will be put to death. Children won’t suffer for the sins of their parents, and parents won’t suffer for the sins of their children. Good people will be rewarded for what they do, and evil people will be punished for what they do.

21 Suppose wicked people stop sinning and start obeying my laws and doing right. They won’t be put to death. 22 All their sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they did right. 23 I, the Lord God, don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live.

24 But when good people start sinning and doing disgusting things, will they live? No! All their good deeds will be forgotten, and they will be put to death because of their sins.

25 You people of Israel accuse me of being unfair! But listen—I’m not unfair; you are! 26 If good people start doing evil, they must be put to death, because they have sinned. 27 And if wicked people start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 28 They will think about what they’ve done and stop sinning, and so they won’t be put to death. 29 But you still say that I am unfair. You are the ones who have done wrong and are unfair!

30 I will judge each of you for what you’ve done. So stop sinning, or else you will certainly be punished. 31 Give up your evil ways and start thinking pure thoughts. And be faithful to me! Do you really want to be put to death for your sins? 32 I, the Lord God, don’t want to see that happen to anyone. So stop sinning and live!

A Funeral Song for Israel’s Leaders

The Lord said:

19 Ezekiel, sing a funeral song for two of Israel’s leaders:[b]

Your mother was a brave lioness
who raised her cubs
    among lions.
She taught one of them to hunt,
    and he learned to eat people.
When the nations heard of him,
    they trapped him in a pit,
then they used hooks
    to drag him to Egypt.

His mother waited
    for him to return.
But soon she lost all hope
and raised another cub,
    who also became fierce.
He hunted with other lions
    and learned to eat people.
He destroyed fortresses[c]
    and ruined towns;
his mighty roar
    terrified everyone.
Nations plotted to kill him,
and people came from all over
    to spread out a net
    and catch him in a trap.
They put him in a cage
    and took him to Babylonia.
The lion was locked away,
    so that his mighty roar
would never again be heard
    on Israel’s hills.

10 Your mother was a vine[d]
    growing near a stream.
There was plenty of water,
so she was filled with branches
    and with lots of fruit.
11 Her strong branches
    became symbols of authority,
and she was taller
    than all other trees—
everyone could see how strong
    and healthy she was.
12 But in anger, I pulled her up
    by the roots
and threw her to the ground,
where the scorching desert wind
    dried out her fruit.
Her strong branches wilted
    and burned up.
13 Then she was planted
    in a hot, dry desert,
14 where her stem caught fire,
and flames burned
    her branches and fruit.
Not one strong branch is left;
    she is stripped bare.

This funeral song must be sung with sorrow.

Israel Keeps On Rebelling

20 Seven years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, some of Israel’s leaders came to me on the tenth day of the fifth month.[e] They sat down and asked for a message from the Lord. Just then, the Lord God said:

Ezekiel, son of man, these leaders have come to find out what I want them to do. As surely as I live, I will not give them an answer of any kind.

Are you willing to warn them, Ezekiel? Then remind them of the disgusting sins of their ancestors.

Tell them that long ago I, the Lord God, chose Israel to be my own. I appeared to their ancestors in Egypt and made a solemn promise that I would be their God and the God of their descendants. I swore that I would rescue them from Egypt and lead them to a land I had already chosen. This land was rich with milk and honey and was the most splendid land of all. I told them to get rid of their disgusting idols and not to sin by worshiping the gods of Egypt. I reminded them that I was the Lord their God, but they still rebelled against me. They refused to listen and kept on worshiping their idols and foreign gods.

In my anger, I decided to punish the Israelites in Egypt. But that would have made me look like a liar, because I had already promised in front of everyone that I would lead them out of Egypt. 10 So I brought them out and led them into the desert. 11 I gave them my laws and teachings, so they would know how to live right. 12 And I commanded them to respect the Sabbath as a way of showing that they were holy and belonged to me. 13 But the Israelites rebelled against me in the desert. They refused to obey my laws and teachings, and they treated the Sabbath like any other day.

Then in my anger, I decided to destroy the Israelites in the desert once and for all. 14 But that would have disgraced me, because many other nations had seen me bring the Israelites out of Egypt. 15 Instead, I told them in the desert that I would not lead them into the beautiful, fertile land I had promised. 16 I said this because they had not only ignored my laws and teachings, but had disgraced my Sabbath and worshiped idols.

17 Yet, I felt sorry for them and could not let them die in the desert. 18 So I warned the children not to act like their parents or follow their evil ways or worship their idols. 19 I reminded them that I was the Lord their God and that they should obey my laws and teachings. 20 I told them to respect my Sabbath to show that they were my people and that I was the Lord their God. 21 But the children also rebelled against me. They refused to obey my laws and teachings, and they treated the Sabbath as any other day.

I became angry and decided to punish them in the desert. 22 But I did not. That would have disgraced me in front of the nations that had seen me bring the Israelites out of Egypt. 23 So I solemnly swore that I would scatter the people of Israel across the nations, 24 because they had disobeyed my laws and ignored my teachings; they had disgraced my Sabbath and worshiped the idols their ancestors had made. 25 I gave them laws that bring punishment instead of life, 26 and I let them offer me unacceptable sacrifices, including their first-born sons. I did this to horrify them and to let them know that I, the Lord, was punishing them.

27 Ezekiel, tell the people of Israel that their ancestors also rejected and insulted me 28 by offering sacrifices, incense, and wine to gods on every hill and under every large tree. I was very angry, because they did these things in the land I had given them! 29 I asked them where they went to worship those gods, and they answered, “At the local shrines.”[f] And those places of worship are still called shrines.

30 Then ask the Israelites why they are following the example of their wicked ancestors 31 by worshiping idols and by sacrificing their own children as offerings. They commit these sins and still think they can ask me for a message. As surely as I am the living Lord God, I will give them no answer. 32 They may think they can be like other nations and get away with worshiping idols made of wood and stone. But that will never happen!

The Lord Promises To Restore Israel

The Lord said to the people of Israel:

33 As surely as I am the living Lord God, I will rule over you with my powerful arm. You will feel my fierce anger 34 and my power, when I gather you from the places where you are scattered 35 and lead you into a desert surrounded by nations. I will meet you there face to face. Then I will pass judgment on you 36 and punish you, just as I punished your ancestors in the desert near Egypt.[g] 37 I will force each of you to obey the regulations of our solemn agreement. 38 I will separate the sinful rebels from the rest of you, and even though I will bring them from the nations where they live in exile, they won’t be allowed to return to Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

39 Go ahead and worship your idols for now, you Israelites, because soon I will no longer let you dishonor me by offering gifts to them. You will have no choice but to obey me![h] 40 When that day comes, everyone in Israel will worship me on Mount Zion, my holy mountain in Jerusalem. I will once again call you my own, and I will accept your sacred offerings and sacrifices. 41 When I bring you home from the places where you are now scattered, I will be pleased with you, just as I am pleased with the smell of the smoke from your sacrifices. Every nation on earth will see that I am holy, 42 and you will know that I, the Lord, am the one who brought you back to Israel, the land I promised your ancestors. 43 Then you will remember your wicked sins, and you will hate yourselves for doing such horrible things. They have made you unacceptable to me, 44 so you deserve to be punished. But I will treat you in a way that will bring honor to my name, and you will know that I am the Lord God.

Fire from the South

45 The Lord said, 46 “Ezekiel, son of man, turn toward the south and warn the forests 47 that I, the Lord God, will start a fire that will burn up every tree, whether green or dry. Nothing will be able to put out the blaze of that fire as it spreads to the north and burns everything in its path. 48 Everyone will know that I started it, and that it cannot be stopped.”

49 But I complained, “Lord God, I don’t want to do that! People already say I confuse them with my messages.”

Footnotes

  1. 18.17 evil: One ancient translation; Hebrew “for the poor.”
  2. 19.1 two of Israel’s leaders: Probably Jehoahaz (ruled three months in 609 B.C.) and Jehoiachin (ruled three months in 598 B.C.) or Zedekiah (598-586 B.C.).
  3. 19.7 He destroyed fortresses: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 19.10 Your mother was a vine: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 20.1 Seven years. . . fifth month: Probably August of 591 B.C.
  6. 20.29 where they went to worship those gods. . . local shrines: In Hebrew “where they went” sounds like “local shrines.” These were places to worship foreign gods.
  7. 20.36 the desert near Egypt: The Sinai Desert.
  8. 20.39 me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 39.