Ezekiel 18:4
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
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(4) All souls are mine.—This is the basis of the subsequent teaching. Since all alike belong to God and are absolutely in His power. He has no occasion to punish one lest another should escape; and again, since all are His, He loves and would save them all, and inflicts punishment only when it is deserved and His grace is rejected. Four cases are now discussed separately: (1) That of the righteous man who honestly seeks to follow the ways of the Lord (Ezekiel 18:5-9); (2) that of his wicked son (Ezekiel 18:10-13); (3) that of the righteous son of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:14-20); (4) that of a change of character in the individual, whether from sin to righteousness or the reverse (Ezekiel 18:21-29). The word “soul” throughout the chapter does not mean exclusively the immortal part of our nature, but, as so often in Scripture, is equivalent to man, or person, or self; and the word “die” is used, as often elsewhere, in the broad sense of suffer punishment.

Ezekiel 18:4. Behold, all souls are mine — As they are all equally my creatures, and in my power, so my dealings with them shall be without prejudice or partiality. The soul that sinneth, it shall die — The very same man that committeth sin shall be punished for it. Some commentators explain this of the temporal death which was about to come on the wicked Jews by the sword, famine, and pestilence; and they would confine the whole chapter to these events. “But,” as Mr. Scott justly observes, “it cannot be proved that every righteous man escaped those temporal judgments, or that all who survived them were righteous: without which this whole interpretation must fall for want of a foundation. Many, indeed, of the pious Jews had

‘their lives given them for a prey,’ but even what Jeremiah, Baruch, and others endured in the siege, and after the taking of Jerusalem, nearly equalled the external sufferings of many wicked men among them; and none of those who survived the siege escaped captivity or exile. So that facts, in this particular, did not so fully ascertain the equality of the divine conduct toward these distinct characters, as this hypothesis requires.” Temporal death, therefore, which, as the consequence of the first transgression, passes equally upon all men, cannot be only, or even chiefly, if it be at all, intended here. But, as life signifies in general all that happiness which attends God’s favour, so death denotes all those punishments which are the effects of the divine displeasure, (see 2 Samuel 12:13,) under which are comprehended the miseries of the next world. And these shall be allotted to men according to their deeds, (Romans 2:6,) without any regard to the faults of their ancestors, which shall not then be laid to their charge, or taken into account to aggravate their guilt. This the prophets well knew, and therefore, as they instruct men in the practice of inward and evangelical righteousness, and in order to it speak slightingly of the mere external duties of religion, (see Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:22-23,) so they raise men’s minds to look beyond the temporal promises and threatenings of the law, to the eternal rewards and punishments of another life, Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2. In both which respects they prepared men’s minds for the reception of the gospel when it should be revealed. See Lowth.

18:1-20 The soul that sinneth it shall die. As to eternity, every man was, is, and will be dealt with, as his conduct shows him to have been under the old covenant of works, or the new covenant of grace. Whatever outward sufferings come upon men through the sins of others, they deserve for their own sins all they suffer; and the Lord overrules every event for the eternal good of believers. All souls are in the hand of the great Creator: he will deal with them in justice or mercy; nor will any perish for the sins of another, who is not in some sense worthy of death for his own. We all have sinned, and our souls must be lost, if God deal with us according to his holy law; but we are invited to come to Christ. If a man who had shown his faith by his works, had a wicked son, whose character and conduct were the reverse of his parent's, could it be expected he should escape the Divine vengeance on account of his father's piety? Surely not. And should a wicked man have a son who walked before God as righteous, this man would not perish for his father's sins. If the son was not free from evils in this life, still he should be partaker of salvation. The question here is not about the meritorious ground of justification, but about the Lord's dealings with the righteous and the wicked.All souls are mine - Man is not simply to ascribe his existence to earthly parents, but to acknowledge as his Father Him who created man in His own image, and who gave and gives him the spirit of life. The relation of father to son is merged in the common relation of all (father and son alike) as sons to their heavenly Father. 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.

There can be no colour of partial judgment in the proceedings of God, who is equally God to all; who hath as great interest in the son as in the father, and as kindly would deal with the son as with the father: and how can it be thought likely I should punish the son for the father’s offence, or the father for the son’s offence?

All souls; all persons, which are frequently called souls, Leviticus 7:18,20,21 Jos 20:3; and so it is Ezekiel 18:20, and Jeremiah 31:30.

The soul; the person, whether father or son, shall die, shall bear his own punishment: this text gives no colour for the opinion of the mortality of man’s soul.

That sinneth, i.e. obstinately, and yet will pretend his own innocency; whoso sinneth shall suffer for his own sin. You querulous Jews suffer then for your own sins and had you been, as you say you are, innocent, the sins of your fathers should not have hurt you; and for the future know I will keep to that rule of equity; no innocent person shall be prejudiced by the guilt of guilty ones. And if one that is, for aught we can discern, absolutely innocent, yet suffers for another man’s sin, it is most certain such a sufferer is not absolutely innocent, but some way or other is guilty of the sin for which he suffers.

Behold, all souls are mine,.... By creation; they being the immediate produce of his power; hence he is called "the Father of spirits", Hebrews 12:9, or the souls of men; these he has an apparent right unto; a property in; a dominion over; they are accountable to him, and will be judged impartially by him:

as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; and therefore must be thought to have as great a respect and affection for the one as for the other; for the soul of a son as for the soul of a father; and not deal partially in favour of the one, and cruelly and unrighteously with the other:

the soul that sinneth, it shall die; the soul that continues in sin, without repentance towards God, and faith in Christ, shall die the second death; shall be separated from the presence of God, and endure his wrath to all eternity: or the meaning is, that a person that is guilty of gross sins, and continues in them, shall personally suffer; he shall endure one calamity or another, as the famine, sword, pestilence, or be carried into captivity, which is the death all along spoken of in this chapter; the Lord will exercise no patience towards him, or defer punishment to a future generation, his offspring; but shall immediately execute it upon himself.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
4. all souls are mine] i.e. every individual soul stands in immediate relation to God; Numbers 16:22, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” All souls alike belong to God, and this “alike” guarantees the treatment of each by itself, the soul of the son no less than the soul of the father. According to former modes of thought the son had not personal independence, he belonged to the father, and was involved in the destiny of the father.

sinneth, it shall die] It and not another because of its sin. “Live” and “die” are used by the prophet of literal life and death, continuance in the world and removal from it. They have, however, a pregnant meaning arising from the other conceptions of the prophet. He feels himself and the people standing immediately before that perfect kingdom of the Lord which is about to come (ch. 33, 37), and “live” implies entering into the glory of this kingdom, while “die” implies deprivation of its blessedness; for of course, like all the Old Testament writers, Ezekiel considers the kingdom, even in its perfect condition, an earthly one.

Verse 4. - Behold, all souls are mine, etc. The words imply, not only creation, ownership, absolute authority, on the part of God, but, as even Calvin could recognize (in loc.), "a paternal affection towards the whole human race which he created and formed." Ezekiel anticipates here, and yet more fully in ver. 32. the teaching of St. Paul, that "God willeth that all men should be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The sentence, though taken from the Law, which ordered capital punishment for the offences named, cannot be limited to that punishment. "Death" and "life" are both used in their highest and widest meaning - "life" as including all that makes it worth living, "death" for the loss of that only true life which is found in knowing God (John 17:3). Ezekiel 18:4In the word of God contained in this chapter, the delusion that God visits the sins of fathers upon innocent children is overthrown, and the truth is clearly set forth that every man bears the guilt and punishment of his own sins (Ezekiel 18:1-4). The righteous lives through his righteousness (Ezekiel 18:5-9), but cannot save his wicked son thereby (Ezekiel 18:10-13); whilst the son who avoids the sins and wickedness of his father, will live through his own righteousness (Ezekiel 18:14-20). The man who repents and avoids sin is not even charged with his own sin; and, on the other hand, the man who forsakes the way of righteousness, and gives himself up to unrighteousness, will not be protected from death even by his own former righteousness (Ezekiel 18:21-29). Thus will God judge every man according to his way; and it is only by repentance that Israel itself can live (Ezekiel 18:30-32). The exposition of these truths is closely connected with the substance and design of the preceding and following prophecies. In the earlier words of God, Ezekiel had taken from rebellious Israel every support of false confidence in the preservation of the kingdom from destruction. But as an impenitent sinner, even when he can no longer evade the punishment of his sins, endeavours as much as possible to transfer the guilt from himself to others, and comforts himself with the thought that he has to suffer for sins that other shave committed, and hardens himself against the chastisement of God through such false consolation as this; so even among the people of Israel, when the divine judgments burst upon them, the delusion arose that the existing generation had to suffer for the fathers' sins. If, then, the judgment were ever to bear the fruit of Israel's conversion and renovation, which God designed, the impenitent generation must be deprived even of this pretext for covering over its sins and quieting its conscience, by the demonstration of the justice which characterized the government of God in His kingdom.

The proverb and the word of God. - Ezekiel 18:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 18:2. Why do you use this proverb in the land of Israel, saying, Fathers eat sour grapes, and the sons' teeth are set on edge. Ezekiel 18:3. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, this proverb shall not be used any more in Israel. Ezekiel 18:4. Behold, all souls are mine; as the father's soul, so also the soul of the son, - they are mine; the soul which sinneth, it shall die. - On Ezekiel 18:2 compare Ezekiel 12:22. מה־לּכם, what is to you, what are you thinking of, that...? is a question of amazement. על־אדמת , in the land of Israel (Ezekiel 12:22), not "concerning the land of Israel," as Hvernick assumes. The proverb was not, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes," for we have not אכלוּ, as in Jeremiah 31:29, but יאכלוּ, they eat, are accustomed to eat, and אבות has no article, because it applies to all who eat sour grapes. Bōsĕr, unripe, sour grapes, like bēsĕr in Job 16:33 (see the comm. in loc.). The meaning of the proverb is self-evident. The sour grapes which the fathers eat are the sins which they commit; the setting of the children's teeth on edge is the consequence thereof, i.e., the suffering which the children have to endure. The same proverb is quoted in Jeremiah 31:29-30, and there also it is condemned as an error. The origin of such a proverb is easily to be accounted for from the inclination of the natural man to transfer to others the guilt which has brought suffering upon himself, more especially as the law teaches that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children (Exodus 20:5), and the prophets announce that the Lord would put away Judah from before His face on account of the sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3; Jeremiah 15:4), while Jeremiah complains in Lamentations 5:7 that the people are bearing the fathers' sins. Nevertheless the proverb contained a most dangerous and fatal error, for which the teaching of the law concerning the visitation of the sins of the fathers, etc., was not accountable, and which Jeremiah, who expressly mentions the doctrine of the law (Jeremiah 32:18), condemns as strongly as Ezekiel. God will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children who hate Him, and who also walk in the footsteps of their fathers' sins; but to those who love Him, and keep His commandments, He will show mercy to the thousandth generation. The proverb, on the other hand, teaches that the children would have to atone for their fathers' sins without any culpability of their own. How remote such a perversion of the truth as to the transmission of sins and their consequences, viz., their punishment, was from the law of Moses, is evident from the express command in Deuteronomy 24:16, that the children were not to be put to death with the fathers for the sins which the latter had committed, but that every one was to die for his own sin. What God here enjoins upon the judicial authorities must apply to the infliction of his own judgments. Consequently what Ezekiel says in the following verses in opposition to the delusion, which this proverb helped to spread abroad, is simply a commentary upon the words, "every one shall die for his own sin," and not a correction of the law, which is the interpretation that many have put upon these prophetic utterances of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 18:3, the Lord declares with an oath that this proverb shall not be used any more. The apodosis to 'אם יהיה וגו, which is not expressed, would be an imprecation, so that the oath contains a solemn prohibition. God will take care that this proverb shall not be used any more in Israel, not so much by the fact that He will not give them any further occasion to make use of it, as by the way in which He will convince them, through the judgments which He sends, of the justice of His ways. The following is Calvin's admirable paraphrase: "I will soon deprive you of this boasting of yours; for your iniquity shall be made manifest, so that all the world may see that you are but enduring just punishment, which you yourselves have deserved, and that you cannot cast it upon your fathers, as you have hitherto attempted to do." At the same time, this only gives one side; we must also add the other, which is brought out so prominently in Jeremiah 31:29., namely, that after the judgment God will manifest His grace so gloriously in the forgiveness of sins, that those who are forgiven will fully recognise the justice of the judgments inflicted. Experience of the love and compassion of the Lord, manifesting itself in the forgiveness of sin, bows down the heart so deeply that the pardoned sinner has no longer any doubt of the justice of the judgments of God. "In Israel" is added, to show that such a proverb is opposed to the dignity of Israel. In Ezekiel 18:4, the reason assigned fore the declaration thus solemnly confirmed by an oath commences with a general thought which contains the thesis for further discussion. All souls are mine, the soul of the father as well as that of the son, saith the Lord. In these words, as Calvin has well said, "God does not merely vindicate His government or His authority, but shows that He is moved with paternal affection towards the whole of the human race which He created and formed." There is no necessity for God to punish the one for the other, the son for the father, say because of the possibility that the guilty person might evade Him; and as the Father of all, He cannot treat the one in a different manner from the other, but can only punish the one by whom punishment has been deserved. The soul that sinneth shall die. הנּפשׁ is used here, as in many other passages, for "man," and מוּת is equivalent to suffering death as a punishment. "Death" is used to denote the complete destruction with which transgressors are threatened by the law, as in Deuteronomy 30:15 (compare Jeremiah 21:8; Proverbs 11:10). This sentence is explained in the verses which follow (vv. 5-20).

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