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Ezekiel 33:1 The word of Yahweh came to me saying- Ezekiel's prophecies had now been fulfilled about the fall of Jerusalem and the inability of Egypt to save. Now it is his duty in the rest of the prophecy to persuade the Jews in exile and in the land of the need for repentance in order to bring about the reestablishment of the Kingdom God had prepared in potential.

Ezekiel 33:2 Son of man, speak to the children of your people and tell them, When I bring the sword on a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them and set him for their watchman-
Ezekiel personally was the watchman of Israel (Ez. 3:17). This could be read as an encouragement to Ezekiel to keep on in his duty of witnessing as a watchman, and to remember that his own salvation depended upon it. It would seem, as noted on Ez. 3:17, that he at times flagged in the work. The people of the land hadn't appointed a watchman, but God had- taking the initiative by grace.

Ezekiel 33:3 If, when he sees the sword come on the land, he blows the trumpet and warns the people-
The men of Judah blew the trumpet to call their soldiers (Ez. 7:14), but Ezekiel and Jeremiah were blowing God's trumpet of repentance (Jer. 6:1; Ez. 33:3,6). There was a total mismatch between God and His people.

Ezekiel 33:4 Then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and doesn’t take warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head-
This is a metaphor from the animals sacrifices, on the heads of which they laid their hands, to symbolize that their guilt should be upon the sacrifice. Animal sacrifice was therefore not going to take away their guilt; and now with the temple in ruins and in exile, this was impossible anyway.

Ezekiel 33:5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and didn’t take warning; his blood shall be on him; whereas if he had taken warning, he would have delivered his soul-
Ezekiel had been a watchman and had warned them, as Ez. 3 has recorded. Perhaps the exiles were complaining that the death of their relatives at the hands of the Babylonians was somehow unfair. But the point was that Ezekiel had given them warning, as had Jeremiah. Their deaths were completely their own fault.

Ezekiel 33:6 But if the watchman sees the sword come and doesn’t blow the trumpet and the people aren’t warned, and the sword comes and takes away any person from among them; he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand-
There has been a wrong emphasis being placed on the passages in Ezekiel which state that the duty of the prophet was to warn Israel of impending judgment, and if they did that, they would be free of their responsibility. The impression is given that the prophets therefore said " Look out Israel, judgment day is coming!" and then walked away breathing a sigh of relief that they wouldn't be condemned themselves for failing in their duty. But the purpose of the prophets was to plead with Israel to repent, to describe the judgments for sin with the earnest hope that this would bring about repentance among those who heard. If they didn't do this  they would be condemned. The Lord says that we are all  the watchers of the door of the house of the ecclesia (Mk. 13:34,35; Lk. 12:39,40),  as the prophets were the watchmen over the city of Zion, God's Old Testament ecclesia. We all  therefore have a responsibility to guide and warn the ecclesia, not just to scrape out of condemnation for ourselves, but from a genuine, earnest desire to help others to the Kingdom road. This sin of the watchman in not pleading with the sinner would therefore be that of a sin of omission- and most of our sins are likely in that category rather than cold blooded sins of commission.

Ezekiel 33:7 So you, son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me-
This suggests that although the nation hadn't set him as a watchman, God, by grace- see on :2. Ezekiel was still to act as a watchman; judgment was still threatened. After all, God had intended destroying every man and animal in the land, and by grace alone had not done so. Yet instead of being moved by that to repentance, the people remaining in the land and the exiles were continuing in sin.

Ezekiel 33:8 When I tell the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, if you don’t speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hand-
Not only our salvation but that of others can be limited by our exercise of freewill. If others' salvation is not dependent upon our preaching, then there is no meaning to the very concept of preaching. This is true to the extent that a watchman can occasion the death of those he could warn, if he doesn’t do it. And their blood [for they will die] will be required at his hand (Ez. 33:8,13). The wicked will only turn from their ways if the watchmen warns them- and Ez. 33 shows clearly enough that the watchman can be lazy to fulfil his commission, with the result that some will die eternally who need not have done so. It’s not that another watchman is raised up to do the job- it is his responsibility, which he can discharge or not. God's word has been delegated to us; to not speak it forth is therefore in a sense to diminish His word. Hence Jeremiah is told to "keep not back a word" of all God's words (Jer. 26:2 AV; RV: "Diminish not a word"). The requiring of blood at our hands suggests that there will to some degree be a 'going through' of all the sins of the rejected at judgment day. For the Hebrew word translated "require" implies some kind of inquisition / explanation.

Ezekiel 33:9 Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he doesn’t turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul-
Jerusalem had by now fallen, they had not turned from their way, they had died in their iniquity. But it seems that more judgment was threatened to the Jews who remained in the land and also those in exile, and Ezekiel must continue to warn about it. Dan. 12:3 says, in a restoration context, that those who turn people to righteousness shall "shine" for ever. "Shine" is the same word as "warn" here. If we are shining beacons to others, we shall eternally be so. Our attitudes in this life will be eternally established; in this sense we save our souls or personalities.

Ezekiel 33:10 You, son of man, tell the house of Israel: Thus you speak, saying, Our transgressions and our sins are on us, and we pine away in them-
The pining away meant that they had broken the covenant (Lev. 26:39). The AV puts this as a question from them: "If... our sins be upon us...", as Ezekiel had claimed, and as they still denied. "Sins" is put for "punishment for our sins". They still insisted they were suffering unjustly for the sins of their fathers and not for their own sins, despite Ezekiel rebuking this attitude in Ez. 18.

How then can we live?- Their attitude was that if indeed they were guilty of their sins, well, how could they live further? "How shall we live?" is the question answered by the vision of the dry bones reviving (Ez. 37:11 cp. Is. 49:14). Although they were suffering the punishment of death for sin, yet by grace there could be a revival from that death by allowing God's Spirit to operate.

Ezekiel 33:11 Tell them, As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, house of Israel?-
The desire of God for repentance is stronger than His need to punish sin. Hence LXX "Shall I at all desire the death of the sinner, saith the Lord, as I desire that he should turn from his evil way, and live?". This is why He hangs on so long with sinful people, and Israel are the parade example. His desire for repentance, His passion for human reformation, is active and huge. It's not that He has set a bar which must be jumped over, and is passive toward us until that is achieved. God is not passive to human repentance. He wants us to repent and  wills us to do so. Those who refuse to turn or repent will die, and He has no satisfaction or pleasure or will for that to happen. The exiles could have repented, both individually and collectively ["turn yourselves" in Hebrew carries that collective implication], and averted the death which was otherwise planned for them and their brethren back in Judah at the hand of the Babylonians. Peter alludes to these words in saying that for all time, God is not willing ["pleasure" in Hebrew can mean 'will'] that any should perish but that all should repent (2 Pet. 3:9). His work of judging insistent sinners is in this sense for Him a "strange act... a strange work" (Is. 28:21). His passion is for our repentance and salvation, not our condemnation.

Ezekiel 33:12 You, son of man, tell the children of your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save him in the day of his disobedience; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness; neither shall he who is righteous be able to live thereby in the day that he sins-
The "disobedience" in view is not a single act of moral failure. Rather does it seem that the tiny remnant of the righteous at this point were tempted to now break covenant with God as it were in protest at what they saw as unfair treatment of their people. It was the "transgression" of divorce from God, of the adultery which broke the covenant (Is. 50:1; Ez. 21:24 s.w.). The singular "disobedience" of Judah is specifically defined as their idol worship in the name of Yahweh (Mic. 1:5 s.w.). And this kind of thing has been seen so often when previously righteous folk encounter the 'problem of suffering'. Ezekiel had explained the justness of the judgments and revealed the seriousness of sin. But that inspired argumentation was apparently not accepted by them, and that had led them to break covenant with Yahweh.

Ezekiel 33:13 When I tell the righteous that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he has committed, therein shall he die-
As explained on Ez. 18:22, the good deeds of the righteous will be 'gone through' at judgment day. But if they turn away, then those good deeds will not be remembered or gone through, but rather his sins.

Ezekiel 33:14 Again, when I say to the wicked, You shall surely die; if he turn from his sin and do that which is lawful and right-
"Turn" is the word also used for the 'return' of the exiles. Their repentance would lead to their return. They didn't repent, yet by grace God took the initiative and returned them anyway. Yet most didn't want to return and preferred the soft life in Babylon / Persia, and those who did, as the later prophets make clear, didn't repent. Doing justice and right was the characteristic of Abraham's true seed (s.w. Gen. 18:19). Those who did not do so were therefore not the true Israel of God. Again, the Jewish assumption of salvation from the Babylonians on account of their fleshly descent is being deconstructed.

Ezekiel 33:15 If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die-
The "statutes of life" refers to how the law was intended to give life (Rom. 7:10; Lev. 18:5) but in practice, human failure meant that no law gave life (Gal. 3:21). Such sensitivity and generosity to the poor is not a mere optional extra in the spiritual life; it is in fact part of being basically "just" and committed to social justice, part of 'doing right / truly' (:14). The implication is that the wealthy who had gone into captivity were still abusing the poor. They had still not learnt their lesson.

Ezekiel 33:16 None of his sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live-
The not remembering of Judah's sins was part of the new covenant offered to them; the same Hebrew phrase is used (Jer. 31:34; Is. 43:25). Yet here this is made contingent upon specific repentance. It seems that God offered them such not remembering of sin whether or not they specifically repented, in the hope it would provoke them to that specific repentance; and even that didn't work with them.

Ezekiel 33:17 Yet the children of your people say, The way of the Lord is not fair; but as for them, their way is not fair-
The majority of the captives insisted, according to Ez. 18, that they hadn’t sinned, and they were suffering unjustly because of the sins of their fathers; whereas this righteous remnant in Babylon were intended to admit that “we have sinned. Equally with them of old time have we transgressed” (Is. 64:5). They took the message of Ezekiel to heart- unlike the majority. And thus this was the sad end of the great plan developed by the God of all grace for His people in Babylon. They rejected it, and hated His servants who brought that good news to them. The complaint that God is unfair is answered by reminding them that they have sinned. And this finally is one aspect of the answer to 'the problem of suffering'.

Is. 40:3, which is quoted in Lk. 3:4, speaks of “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”, whereas Is. 62:10 speaks of “Prepare ye the way of the people”. Yet tragically, the way / path of Israel was not the way / path of the Lord (Ez. 18:25). We are not only Jesus to this world but also effectively we are the witness to God Himself. We minister His care to others; to the extent that Paul could write both that he was a minister of God, and also a minister of the church (2 Cor. 6:4; Col. 1:24,25).

Ezekiel 33:18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall even die therein-
This was perhaps a warning to the righteous remnant who had so far repented in exile; they were liable to be dragged back into sin by the other exiles and the depressive situation they found themselves in.

Ezekiel 33:19 When the wicked turns from his wickedness and does that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby- The parallel Ez. 18:27 says "Save his soul alive". This implies that judgment is about to come, the death penalty already passed, but his repentance just about averts this at the last moment. It is the term used in Gen. 19:19 of how Lot was just about saved by grace out of Sodom, which was a symbol of Jerusalem under judgment, as Ez. 16 has made clear. This was the desperate urgency of Ezekiel's appeal; and yet he was seen at best as a singer of fairy tales or old time love songs (Ez. 33:32).


Ezekiel 33:20 Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not fair. House of Israel, I will judge every one of you after his ways- God objects to their complaint that He has judged masses of people unfairly because of the sins of a minority. This is the usual human complaint at the 'problem of suffering'. But God insists, then and now, that He judges each person individually. He knows how they would have acted in the future, He weighs fairly the degree of collective guilt they must blame in a society given over to rebellion against Him. And we are to trust His judgment rather than break covenant with Him over it.

Ezekiel 33:21 It happened in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped out of Jerusalem-
We noted on Ez. 24:6 that God had originally threatened total destruction of all within Jerusalem, but in actuality He repented of this. But in Ez. 24:26 Ezekiel is told that in fact one would escape and come to him with the news which by prophecy he already knew. This now happened. The mention of one who escapes is therefore a tacit reflection of God's grace in not doing all He threatened in Ez. 24:6.

The date here given is about a year and a half after the city’s fall. This period is very long. Some manuscripts read the eleventh year, leaving about six months for the news to travel by messenger. Eleven and twelve are easily confused in Hebrews. Or it could be that the "one" who came was not an individual but the group of exiles. In this case, the singular would be used for the plural in a collective sense, as in “the escaped remnant” elsewhere. We have the same thing in “the escaped of Moab” (Is. 15:9); “He that escapeth of them” (Am. 9:1).

Came to me saying, The city has been struck- Ez. 33:21 – 39:29 is a complete section within the book. I understand Ez. 33:21,22 to mean that Ezekiel opened his mouth and gave the six prophetic utterances in this section on the night before the exiles received the news that Jerusalem had fallen. It was on the fifth day of the tenth month of the 12th year of the exile (Ez. 33:21). Ezekiel’s mouth was opened by Divine inspiration that evening, and he gave these messages through the night until the messenger arrived in the morning with the news that Jerusalem had fallen. Each of the six messages begin with the rubric “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying…”.

Ezekiel 33:22 Now the hand of the Yahweh had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and He had opened my mouth by the time the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened, and I was no longer dumb-
The idea may be that now he opens his previously closed lips to the Jews. In the interval he had prophesied to foreign nations, as he had been forbidden to speak to the Jews from Ez. 24:27 onward.

Ezekiel 33:23 The word of Yahweh came to me saying-
This was a revelation presumably added in answer to specific objections to Ezekiel's statements so far.

Ezekiel 33:24 Son of man, they who inhabit those waste places in the land of Israel speak, saying, ‘Abraham was one, and he inherited the land; but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance’-
Clearly "many" remained in the land after the destruction of Jerusalem. They ought to have reflected that by grace, the prophecies of absolute destruction of every person hadn't come true. Instead they argued that if one man Abraham inherited the land, then how much more should they. But Abraham didn't inherit the land in his lifetime as promised (Acts 7:5)- to understand this required a belief in a future resurrection and inheritance in the Kingdom of God on earth. And they lacked that perspective.

Ezekiel 33:25 Therefore tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes to your idols, and shed blood. Shall you possess the land?-
This is the degree to which the Jews in the land and in exile were so deeply in sin, despite seeing all Ezekiel's warnings come true. The intentional eating of blood was part of the demands of pagan idol rituals. And this was leading them to shed blood as part of their lifting up their eyes in worship to the idols; human sacrifice, not just of firstborn children but others too, was apparently still being practiced.

Ezekiel 33:26 You rely on your sword, you work abomination, and every one of you defiles his neighbour’s wife. Shall you possess the land?-
"Abomination" relates usually to idol worship in the Old Testament. This is what was leading them to adultery, and also violence with the sword- perhaps relating to human sacrifice, and not just of babies. The spiritual situation in the land and perhaps also amongst the exiles was extremely bad; and yet at the same time, that generation as none before had a vast, Divinely planned potential before them: if they repented, God would pour out His grace and His Spirit and use them to reestablish His Kingdom, and the repentant victims of Babylonian judgment amongst the Gentiles along with the restored ten tribes would join them in the land. These things had all been spoken about earlier in Ezekiel's prophecies.

Ezekiel 33:27 You shall tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword; and him who is in the open field will I give to the animals to be devoured; and those who are in the strongholds and in the caves shall die of the pestilence-
The reference seems specifically to the Jews who remained in the desolated land of Judah, the urban poor who were now living in the open fields and caves. God had previously through Ezekiel threatened to destroy the majority of them by the sword, animals and plague- but by grace had relented. Maybe fro pure pity, or also in response to the repentance of a remnant and the intercession of the likes of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. But these three judgments were to return upon them as they stubbornly refused to repent. There is no evidence however that this actually happened; there was not another wave of Babylonian invasion and Jer. 41:5 describes some of the people of the land coming to make offerings at the temple site. Perhaps there was some response to Ezekiel's appeal here, which was presumably taken from Babylon to the people in the land. But maybe God was so eager to accept His sinful, stubborn people that He still tried to forge ahead with His plans as far as possible even without their repentance.

Ezekiel 33:28 I will make the land a desolation and an astonishment; the pride of her power shall cease and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, so that none shall pass through-
As noted on :27 this didn't come about to the extent threatened. Even though the Jews were robbed of "power", they still had pride in it. And this is singled out as the reason for their judgment. Breaking "the pride of her power" was one of the curses for breaking covenant (Lev. 26:19). But the covenant had already been broken; yet  it seems God still counts them as being within it, in His earnest grace toward them. "The pride of your power" is the  same phrase used about the Jerusalem temple which was now in ruins (Ez. 24:21). This had already been caused to "cease", but still their pride remained. The intention of the Babylonian judgments had been to humble Israel, but this still hadn't happened.

Ezekiel 33:29 Then shall they know that I am Yahweh, when I have made the land a desolation and an astonishment, because of all their abominations which they have committed-
Judah were to repent, to enter relationship with Yahweh ["knowing" Him in the Hebraic sense] as a result of the desolations. But they didn't. And perhaps God foresaw that, and so as noted on :27,28, He didn't bring all the planned desolations, because He foreknew they would not achieve their effect. These things however will come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 33:30 As for you, son of man, the children of your people talk of you by the walls and in the doors of the houses, speaking one to another, each one to his brother saying, Please come and hear what is the word that comes forth from Yahweh-
The walls refers to the public places where in the shade people talked in groups; in the doors refers to private places. "One to another" uses a Chaldee rather than Hebrew word, suggesting they had already begun to adopt the language and speech of Babylon. They were fascinated by Ezekiel- his prophecies had undoubtedly come true. And yet they still did not know Yahweh, they were out of relationship with Him (:29). We can express interest in God's word, and yet be so far from Him. Relationship with Him is not solely predicated upon Bible study or reading.

Ezekiel 33:31 They come to you as the people come, and they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but don’t do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their gain-
Elsewhere it is idolatry which is cited as the main reason why they didn't respond to God's word. But the attraction of idolatry was "gain"; they were fertility gods, who were thought to give material "gain". This is the same word translated "dishonest gain" which was the characteristic of the leaders as well as the people of Judah (Ez. 22:3,27; Jer. 6:13; 8:10). They considered there was no "gain" in serving Yahweh (Mal. 3:14 s.w. "profit"). Whereas the true gain was in the things of Yahweh's kingdom.

Ezekiel 33:32 Behold, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they don’t do them-
 It was tragic for the prophets that the people were so indifferent. Ezekiel was appealing for each man to "Save his soul alive" (Ez. 18:27), implying that judgment is about to come, the death penalty already passed, but his repentance just about averts this at the last moment. It is the term used in Gen. 19:19 of how Lot was just about saved by grace out of Sodom, which was a symbol of Jerusalem under judgment, as Ez. 16 has made clear. This was the desperate urgency of Ezekiel's appeal; and yet he was seen at best as a singer of fairy tales or old time love songs.

The prophets portrayed the tragic, passionate love of God to His people, they sung of it, wrote of it, made poetry about it [for much of the prophetic writing is poetry]. And yet they passed this off as mere “allegory” in a mocking way (Ez. 20:49), Ezekiel was “to them like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice… for they hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ez. 33:32). They were like buskers singing songs in the subway, which we may listen to with half an ear, even admire them for a few moments, and then walk on in our busy lives. But the prophets were speaking forth the words of passionate love of God Almighty for His people… truly as Paul Simon put it, with an uncanny appropriacy to our train of thought, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”. They thought that “the Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill” (Zeph. 1:12); “the Lord does not see us” (Ez. 8:12; 9:9); “my way is hidden from the Lord” (Is. 40:27; 29:15). This of course is the attitude with which we daily live. The question is, will we perceive it as the prophets did?

However, whilst "lovely song" can legitimately be understood as a love song, the Hebrew used here is unusual if that is what was meant. The word for "love" is used almost exclusively by Ezekiel in describing the unbridled lust in the name of love which had characterized God's people (s.w. Ez. 23:5,7,9,12,16,20, AV "doted"). Perhaps they were blasphemously using Ezekiel's words and poetry as songs used at the time of their idolatry.

Ezekiel 33:33 When this comes to pass (behold, it comes!), then shall they know that a prophet has been among them
- This could equally be translated "It is come". Ezekiel's prophecies had been fulfilled, and they ought to recognize that he was indeed a prophet and not just an interesting person to listen to for entertainment.