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John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.
Ezekiel 33:1INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 33
This chapter treats of the prophet's duty, and the people's sins; contains a vindication of the justice of God; a threatening of destruction to those who remained in the land after the taking of the city; and a detection of the hypocrisy of the prophet's hearers. The duty of a watchman in general is declared, Eze 33:1, an application of this to the prophet, Eze 33:7: the sum of whose business is to warn the wicked man of his wickedness; and the consequence of doing, or not doing it, is expressed, Eze 33:8, an objection of the people, and the prophet's answer to it, Eze 33:10, who is bid to acquaint them, that a righteous man trusting to his righteousness, and sinning, should not live; and that a sinner repenting of his sins should not die,
Eze 33:12, the people's charge of inequality in the ways of God is retorted upon them, and removed from the Lord, and proved against them,
Eze 33:17, then follows a prophecy, delivered out after the news was brought of the taking of the city, threatening with ruin those that remained in the land, confident of safety, and that for their sins, which are particularly enumerated, Eze 33:21, and the chapter is closed with a discovery of the hypocrisy of those that attended the prophet's ministry, Eze 33:30.
Ver. 1. Again the word of the Lord came unto me,.... After the delivery of various prophecies concerning the ruin of other nations, the Ammonites, Tyrians, and Egyptians, a fresh prophecy comes from the Lord concerning the Jews:
saying; as follows:
Ver. 2. Son of man, speak to the children of thy people,.... The Jews, of whom the prophet was; and designs those who were with him in the captivity; and who, having behaved so ill, the Lord will not own them for his people, but calls them the prophet's people, and the children of them:
and say unto them, when I bring the sword upon a land; a foreign enemy with an army to invade it, or any other judgment; for there is no public calamity whatever that comes upon a people, but what is by the order, direction, or permission of the Lord. The Targum is,
"those that kill with the sword;''
an army of men that enter into a land sword in hand, with an intent to conquer and destroy: if the people of the land take a man of their coasts: that lives upon their borders, and so is acquainted with all the places where it is most likely an enemy should enter; or a man out of the midst of them, as the Targum; so this phrase sometimes signifies, Ge 47:2, one of their own people, who might be thought to have their good and safety at heart, and might be trusted:
and set him for their watchman: on some place of eminence; on the walls, or in a tower of a frontier town, from whence he might descry the enemy coming at a distance.
Ver. 3. If what he seeth the sword come upon the land,.... Or those that kill with the sword, as the Targum; as soon as he observes a body of armed men, more or less, marching towards the borders of the land with a manifest intention to enter and invade it:
he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; warn the people by blowing the trumpet, the signal agreed on; by which they would understand that an enemy was at hand, or danger near; or warn them by word of mouth, as well as by the trumpet, where he could do it, and when it was necessary.
Ver. 4. Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh no warning,.... Does not mind the notice given him; is incredulous of the danger he is in, or negligent of providing for his safety; fancies it is an alarm, and nothing else; and imagines there is no real danger, or what is a mere trifle; or, that the enemy is at a great distance, and it is time enough to provide for his defence:
if the sword come and take him away; those that kill with the sword, as the Targum, come suddenly on him, and take away his life, or carry him captive: his blood shall be upon his own head; the guilt of his slaughter, as the Targum; the sin will be his own; it must be brought in wilful murder; no blame can be laid upon any but himself; the watchman will be clear.
Ver. 5. He heard the sound of the trumpet,.... The alarm of the enemy being at hand, and so was inexcusable:
and took not warning; which that gave him:
his blood shall be upon him; the fault shall be imputed to himself, and not another; and he must bear it himself, and answer for it, and not the watchman:
but he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul; who, hearing the sound of the trumpet, prepares for his own defence, and provides for his safety, he shall save his life, and not fall into the enemies' hands.
Ver. 6. But if the watchman see the sword come,.... Or those that kill with the sword, as the Targum is; so far doing the duty of his office as to be in the watchtower, and not asleep:
and yet blow not the trumpet: to give the people notice of the enemy, and of their danger:
and the people be not warned; but in the utmost security, not apprehending themselves to be in any danger at all:
if the sword come and take any person from among them; even though but a single person:
he is taken away in his iniquity: having had no time to have it set before him, and to be convinced, and to repent of it, and seek for pardoning mercy for it; it is a dreadful thing thus to be taken out of the world, and snatched into hell at once:
but his blood will I require at the watchman's hands; he shall be punished for not doing his duty, for not giving the due warning of danger, on which account the man was surprised with the enemy, and taken away unawares; and therefore his death shall be laid to the watchman, and he must be answerable for it.
Ver. 7. So thou, O son of man,.... Here begins the application of the parable to the prophet himself, describing his office and his duty:
I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; which is repeated from Eze 3:17,
See Gill on "Eze 3:17". The Targum is,
"I have appointed thee a teacher;''
a spiritual watchman; so pastors, teachers, ministers of the Gospel, are watchmen, 2Ti 4:5:
therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and warn them from me. The Targum is,
"thou shalt receive the word from my Word, and warn them from sinning before me.''
Ver. 8. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man,.... Order the prophet to say so to him, and as follows; See Gill on "Eze 3:18".
Ver. 9. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way,....
See Gill on "Eze 3:19".
Ver. 10. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel,.... Such of them as were with him in the captivity: thus ye speak, saying; reasoning and arguing within and among themselves; which the Lord heard, and made known to the prophet, who is bid to repeat it to them in order to give an answer:
if our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them; as the prophet said they should, Eze 24:23, with which he had concluded his prophecies to them; and now they take it up, and argue against themselves, and against him; if our sins and transgressions are laid upon us, and we must answer for them; if the guilt of them is charged on us, and they are unexpiated and unatoned for; and the punishment of them is, or will be, inflicted on us, and we do, and must pine away, and be consumed in them, and by them:
how should we then live? as thou promisest us upon repentance; it is all over with us; there is no hope for us; what signify our repentance, or thy promises of life unto us? these things can never hang together, that we should live, and yet pine away in our sins; so that these are the words of persons both despairing, and making the prophet to say things opposite and contradictory, and which would not admit of a reconciliation; see Eze 37:11.
Ver. 11. Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord,.... The following is the answer returned from the Lord by the prophet to their above complaint and reasoning; to which is premised the oath of God, showing the certainty, reality, and sincerity of what is said, which might be depended on as true:
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, &c.;
See Gill on "Eze 18:23",
See Gill on "Eze 18:31",
See Gill on "Eze 18:32":
Ver. 12. Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people,.... See Gill on "Eze 33:2". The purport of what the prophet is bid to say in this and some following verses is, that the righteousness of a man that trusts in it, he sinning and not repenting, shall not save him; and that the wickedness of a repenting sinner shall not damn him:
the righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; this must be understood, not of a truly righteous man, or of the righteousness of Christ, by which such an one is made so; for that righteousness does deliver those to whom it is imputed, from sin and the condemnation of it, even in the day of his transgression, which is every day of his life; for there is not a just man that does good, and sinneth not; and in the day when his sin is shown him, and he is convinced of it, this removes the guilt of it; and in the day it will be sought for, or he may be charged with it, and when the sins of others will be brought to an account, the righteousness by which he is justified will deliver him from avenging justice; from the curse of the law; from the wrath of God; from eternal death, and everlasting damnation; but this is to be interpreted of one that is not truly righteous, and of a man's own righteousness; and which he trusts to, as is afterwards expressed; and may and does turn from: this can never deliver a man in the day of his transgression from the guilt and condemnation of it; for a man's own righteousness is but what he ought to do; and, was it ever so perfect, yet, should he commit one single sin, it would not justify him from it, or deliver him from the curse of the law and wrath of God due unto it:
as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; when he is truly convinced of his sin, and the evil of it; is heartily sorry for it, after a godly sort; ingenuously confesses it, and departs from it; applies to Christ, to his blood and righteousness, for pardon and acceptance; though his wickedness has been ever so great, or attended with ever such aggravating circumstances, yet it shall not damn him; or he shall not fall by it into hell and everlasting perdition; but shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation:
neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth; he cannot live by it, nor for it; as it cannot justify him, it cannot save him, or bring him to heaven, or entitle him to eternal life; he is not able to live comfortably now; when his sin is charged upon him, his righteousness will not relieve him; and much less will he be able to live happily hereafter; he must and will die in his sins, being found in them, for anything his own righteousness can do for him: this is the same with the former clause, and is repeated in different words for the confirmation of it; self-righteous persons not being easily convinced of the truth of these things.
Ver. 13. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live,.... A happy life, here and hereafter; an eternal life, and not die the second death: this must be understood, should he appear a truly righteous person; one that does not trust to his own righteousness, but to the righteousness of Christ, and lives by faith on that; looking for the hope of righteousness through it, and behaving agreeably to his character:
but if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity; as he will by trusting to it; if he trusts to it for acceptance with God, and justification in his sight, and thinks himself proof against all temptation to sin on account of it; and that he has righteousness enough to make amends for sins committed, or for other sins he may commit; and which he may venture upon through this false notion, and so be led on to an open course of sinning, and series of committing iniquity:
all his righteousness shall not be remembered; God will take no notice of it; it shall be of no avail to justify him from sin, and secure him from wrath; it will be as if it never had been:
but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it; an eternal death, which is the just wages of sin; from which a man's own righteousness can never deliver him, though the righteousness of Christ does deliver from it; see Pr 10:2.
Ver. 14. Again, when I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die,.... That is, provided he continues in the same course of life, impenitent and unbelieving:
but if he turn from his sin; repent of it, and forsake it:
and do that which is lawful and right; or "judgment and justice"; do that which is agreeably to the law of God, and what is right between man and man; lives soberly, righteously, and godly, as well as denies ungodliness and worldly lusts; whereby it appears that his repentance is genuine and true.
Ver. 15. If the wicked restore the pledge,.... His neighbour's raiment, which he has taken as a pledge for money lent him; and which, according to the law, was to be restored before sunset, Ex 22:26 which wicked men did not attend unto; but when such a man is brought to a sense of his wickedness, and repentance for it, as an evidence of it he would restore the pledge:
and give again that he had robbed; to him whom he had robbed; as a thief was obliged to do, four or five fold, according to the law, Ex 22:1, and which, when a man did voluntarily, from the convictions of his own mind, and not by force of the civil magistrate, it was a sign of true repentance; see Lu 19:8:
and walk in the statutes of life; the rule of life and conversation, and to the keeping of which the promise of long life is annexed; and which preserve persons from dying a shameful death by the hand of the civil magistrate; statutes, which, if a man do, he shall live in them; see
without committing iniquity; not living entirely without sin, which the best of men do not; but without committing grosser sins, as before; and without making a trade of sinning, and living in it:
he shall surely live, he shall not die; he shall live comfortably now, and happily hereafter; he shall live a spiritual life, and not die the second death.
Ver. 16. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him,.... Imputed to him; placed to his account; charged upon him, or ever be spoke of to him, either now, or at the day of judgment, by way of accusation and complaint, or to his condemnation:
he hath done that which is lawful and right; has repented of his sin; looked to Christ by faith for the pardon of it; and laid hold on his righteousness for his justification; and being influenced and assisted by the grace of God, has done that which is right and good in the sight of God and man:
he shall surely live; he now lives a life of faith and holiness; he shall continue to live, and persevere to the end, and inherit eternal life; see Eze 18:21.
Ver. 17. Yet the children of thy people say,.... "Not my people"; for surely the children of God could never say what follows; and one would think that even no man could say it, after so much had been said by the Lord concerning the righteous and the wicked, and his dealings with them, which must appear to be just and right, good and gracious; and yet such were the atheism, the perverseness and peevishness of these people, they went on to say as they had done before:
the way of the Lord is not equal: is not according to the rules of justice and equity. The Targum is,
"the ways of the goodness of the Lord are not made plain (or exposed) unto us.''
The answer to which is,
but, as for them, their way is not equal; according to the rule of the divine word; as for God, his way and methods, both of providence and grace, were right and good; See Gill on "Eze 18:25".
Ver. 18. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness,.... This and what is said in the following verse are clear instances of the equality, justness, and goodness of the ways of God; and are again repeated, if possible, to make it clear and plain to them that their charge and complaint were groundless; See Gill on "Eze 18:24",
See Gill on "Eze 18:26".
Ver. 19. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness,....
See Gill on "Eze 18:27".
Ver. 20. Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal,.... Still obstinately persisting in their false charges, notwithstanding plain proofs to the contrary:
O ye house of Israel, I will judge you everyone after his ways;
See Gill on "Eze 18:30".
Ver. 21. And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity,.... Of Jeconiah's captivity, when Ezekiel with others were carried into Babylon; see Eze 1:2
in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month; which was a year, four months, and some days, after the city of Jerusalem was taken; for that was destroyed in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, and so of the captivity, and in the fifth month, and tenth day of the month.