Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Ordinary A44


1 The wordA of the LordB came to me: What do you mean by repeatingC this proverbD concerning the landE of Israel,F

Notes on verses 1-2a

A “word” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
B “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
C “repeating” = mashal. 17x in OT. From mashal (proverb, parable, taunt, discourse, maxim, adage, poem). This is to compare, speak in a proverb or riddle – to speak in allegory or liken.
D “proverb” = mashal. Related to “repeating” in v2. See note C above.
E “land” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
F “Israel” = yisrael. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god). This is God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.

“The parentsG have eaten sour grapes,H and the children’sI teethJ are set on edge”?K 

Notes on verse 2b

G “parents” = ab. Literally “fathers.”
H “sour grapes” = boser. 4x in OT. Perhaps from beser (unripe grape; root may mean to be sour). This is an unripe or sour grape.
I “children’s” = ben. This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
J “teeth” = shen. Form shaman (to sharpen, point, pierce; figuratively to teach). This is a tooth, ivory, something sharp, or, figuratively, a cliff.
K “set on edge” = qahah. 4x in OT. This is to be dull or set on edge.

As I live,L saysM the LordN God, this proverb shall no more be usedO by you in Israel. 

Notes on verse 3

L “live” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
M “says” = neum. From na’am (to speak a prophecy; properly, to whisper, which implies saying an oracle). This is an utterance or speaking an oracle.
N “Lord” = Adonai. From adon (lord, master, owner); root means to rule or be sovereign. This is the actual Hebrew word for Lord used (in a different form) of humans and (in the present form) of God. It means someone who is in control.
O “used” = mashal. Same as “repeating” in v2. See note C above.

4 KnowP that all livesQ are mine; the lifeR of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the personS who sinsT that shall die.

Notes on verse 4

P {untranslated} = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.
Q “lives” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
R “life” = nephesh. Same as “lives” in v4. See note Q above.
S “person” = nephesh. Same as “lives” in v4. See note Q above.
T “sins” = chata. This is properly to miss, and so figuratively it is used for sinning, bearing the blame. It implies a forfeiture or loss of something.

25 Yet you say, “The wayU of the LordV is unfair.”W HearX now,Y O houseZ of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 

Notes on verse 25

U “way” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
V “Lord” = Adonai. Same as “Lord” in v3. See note N above.
W “is unfair” = lo + takan. Literally “is not unfair.” Takan is 18x in OT.  This is to balance, weigh, measure out. Figuratively, it can be to arrange or make level as in doing an estimate or making a test.
X “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
Y “now” = na. This particle is used for requests or for urging. It can be we pray, now, I ask you, oh. This is the same “na” in “hosanna.”
Z “house” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.

26 When the righteousAA turn awayBB from their righteousnessCC and commit iniquity,DD they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 

Notes on verse 26

AA “righteous” = tsaddiq. From the same as tsedeq (rightness, righteousness, just cause, vindication; that which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense; abstractly equity; figuratively prosperity). This is just, innocent, righteous, righteous one, or lawful.
BB “turn away” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
CC “righteousness” = tsedaqah. Related to “righteous” in v26. From the same as tsedeq (see note AA above). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
DD “iniquity” = evel. Perhaps from aval (to deal unjustly, act in a wrongful way, a wrongdoer). This is injustice, wrong, moral evil, acts of violence, or unrighteousness.

27 Again, when the wickedEE turn away from the wickednessFF they have committed and do what is lawfulGG and right,HH they shall saveII their life.JJ 

Notes on verse 27

EE “wicked” = rasha. This is morally wrong so it refers to someone who is actively bad as wicked, criminal, an evil person, offender, condemned, or ungodly.
FF “wickedness” = rishah. 15x in OT. From the same as rasha (see note EE above). This is wickedness, guilt. It is wrong, particularly a moral wrong.
GG “what is lawful” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
HH “right” = tsedaqah. Same as “righteousness” in v26. See note CC above.
II “save” = chayah. Related to “live” in v3. See note L above.
JJ “life” = nephesh. Same as “lives” in v4. See note Q above.

28 Because they consideredKK and turned away from all the transgressionsLL that they had committed, they shall surely live;MM they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Notes on verses 28-29

KK “considered” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
LL “transgressions” = pesha. From pasha (to rebel, offend, quarrel; making a break from proper authority so can also refer to an apostate). This is transgression, rebellion, or sin. It could be a revolt on a national scale or an individual moral one.
MM “surely live” = chayah + chayah. Same as “save” in v27. See notes L & II above. The word is repeated twice – the first time as an Infinitive Absolute. The Infinitive Absolute serves to emphasize the sentiment of the word. It is rather like Foghorn Leghorn’s speech pattern, “I said, I said.”

30 Therefore I will judgeNN you, O house of Israel, allOO of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turnPP from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquityQQ will be your ruin.RR 

Notes on verse 30

NN “judge” = shaphat. Related to “what is lawful” in v27. See note GG above.
OO “all” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
PP “repent and turn” = shub + shub. Same as “turn away” in v26. See note BB above.
QQ “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
RR “ruin” = mikshol. 14x in OT. From kashal (to stumble, fail, be weak or decayed, be overthrown, to totter; weak legs or ankles so to falter, faint, or fall). This is a stumbling or something that causes one to stumble like an obstacle literal or figurative.  It can also refer to an offense, an idol, or to ruin.

31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committedSS against me, and get yourselves a newTT heartUU and a new spirit!VV Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasureWW in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Notes on verses 31-32

SS “committed” = pasha. Related to “transgressions” in v28. See note LL above
TT “new” = chadash. From chadash (to renew or restore, to repair or rebuild). This is something fresh or new.
UU “heart” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
VV “spirit” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
WW “have…pleasure” = chaphets. Properly, this means inclined towards or bending to. Figuratively, it means to desire, delight in, or be pleased with.

Image credit: “A Miser” a study for Timon of Athens by Thomas Couture, 1876.

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