The word of the LORD came to me again, saying,…
"The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." The declaration of God, in the second commandment, that He would visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, for three or four generations, had been translated into this quaint proverb. Manasseh and they which were seduced by him to wickedness, greater than that of the Amorites, have been long dead; why, they still argued, why should we be punished for their sins? Surely the ways of God are unequal in this thing, that the children's teeth should be set on edge by the sour grapes which not they, but their fathers have eaten; and that a man's sins should be visited upon his innocent posterity. Ezekiel's answer is two fold.
1. "What mean ye to use this proverb?" Ye, who have been at no pains to reform yourselves, and by such reformation avert the woes and the captivity denounced against your country for the sins of Manasseh, and those of his people; ye can with no reason complain, who are no better than they. What mean ye, saith the prophet, "that ye use this proverb? For have not ye, and your fathers, yes, both your fathers and ye also, have rebelled against the Lord?"
2. However, he tells them that they shall not have occasion to use this proverb any more in Israel. Concerning the meaning of this declaration there is some diversity of opinion. The most probable opinion is, that Ezekiel speaks of the times that were coming, when the doctrine of a future state should be generally entertained, and of the punishments which will be awarded in that state, to every individual, for his own sins and no other, according to their proper malignity. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," it only shall perish everlastingly. The prophet might also mean, that the great cause of men's sins being visited upon their posterity, so far as that punishment was the consequence of a special providence, was shortly to cease from among his people. That sin was the sin of idolatry. Of so many of the children of the captivity as were incapable of being reclaimed by the punishments all of them now suffered, the end would be, that they should die, by the sword, the plague, or famine, or, at all events, die in captivity, while those of the better sort, who were weaned from the practice of this great offence, should see their native land again, build again the wails of their city, and, whatever their other offences might be, should offend God no more by idolatry.
3. But the declaration of the text, that there should be no more occasion to use this proverb, may mean, that the times were coming, the times of the Messiah, when the old system of laws and ordinances should be superseded, the temporal sanctions of the law of Moses be forgotten and lost, in the thought of the everlasting rewards and punishments of a future state; concerning which punishments, if Ezekiel is, as we believe, speaking of them, he declares that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father. Each man, in that state, shall suffer only for his own sins. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." It is not natural death that is meant. Both the bad and the good suffer that. It is what is called in Revelation, "the second death," eternal misery after death, of which it is declared, that the carnally minded shall suffer it, and the righteous and the good never taste it.
4. Undoubtedly, there is a sense in which it will never cease to be true, that the son shall suffer for the sins of the father. The effects of every man's sins, as regards this world, are felt by his family, both while he fives and often long after.Lessons —
1. The evidence, brought daily before our eyes, how severely the misconduct of parents is wont to be felt by their children, should reconcile us to the declarations of Scripture upon the subject.
2. The knowledge of this should be an availing consideration to deter us from evil courses, and show us the exceeding sinfulness, the madness also, and folly of sin; that by giving way to it we not only become enemies to our own souls, but cruel enemies to those whom we most love.
3. If we are ourselves suffering through the misconduct of those who have gone before us, let us by no means tread in their steps; let them be a warning to us, and not an example, and let us be very careful that we do not, by imitating their bad example, lose our own souls, which can only be through our own fault.
(A. Gibson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,