|@September 23, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- Ezekiel Is Israel’s Watchman
- Why Will You Die, Israel?
- Jerusalem Struck Down
The chapter opens with Ezekiel being told by God to prophesy about a watchman to warn the people. In ancient times every major town had a watchman stationed at a high point, either at the city gate (2 Sam. 18:24) or on a lookout tower (2 Kings 9:17). The task of the watchman may be seen in several biblical passages (Isaiah 21:6–9; Jer. 6:1, 17; Hosea 8:1; Amos 3:6; Hab. 2:1). The watchman was not responsible for the fate of the people in the city if he warned them of pending danger. Conversely, he was responsible if he failed to raise the alarm. The watchman is used here as a prophetic agent calling for repentance.
In Ezek. 33:2-6, God gives scenarios of the watchman warning and not warning the people and the people either taking or not taking the warning:
- Warning given but not taken = blood is on the hands of the person (Ezek. 33:4)
- Warning given and taken = life saved (Ezek. 33:5)
- Warning not given and people not warned = blood is on the hands of the watchman (Ezek. 33:6)
In Ezek. 33:7-9, God clarifies that Ezekiel is this watchman for the house of Israel. Ezekiel is to speak God’s words to the people whenever they are given to him (Ezek. 33:7). The actions and consequences described previously to the watchman in Ezek. 33:2-6 are subsequently applied to Ezekiel in Ezek. 33:8-9.
In Ezek. 33:10-11, God responds to the despondency of the people over their own sin. Ezekiel first reports the people’s remarks, then refutes them. Their complaint centers on their suffering for sin in 18:2, but here they take ownership of the sins as their own. In God’s response, He shows compassion that He would rather no one die but to live and turn back from their evil ways (Ezek. 33:11).
Ezek. 33:12-16 are of futility of self-righteousness as well as the fact that those who is wicked shall not fall by it when their turn from their wickedness. Those who walk in righteousness but turn to wickedness shall die and none of his righteous deeds will be remembered (Ezek. 33:12-13). Conversely, those who walk in wickedness but repent and turn to righteousness shall live (Ezek. 33:14-15). God will forget the prior sins of those who turn from their wickedness (Ezek. 33:16).
In Ezek. 33:17-20, the people claimed that God was unjust, but God rebukes them and says that is their ways that is unjust. God makes clear that each person will be judged according to his own ways (Ezek. 33:20).
In Ezek. 33:21-22, a fugitive came to Ezekiel and reported that the city of Jerusalem had be struck down. Based on the dates provided, the journey from Palestine to Babylonia took four to six months, although scholars differ in their interpretation of this. This fugitive probably was not a survivor who escaped the destruction and brought word to the community. He more likely was an exile brought with those deported by Babylon in 586 BC. By the time the fugitive had come to Ezekiel, his mouth was opened and was no longer mute (Ezek. 33:22).
Ezek. 33:23-29 presents the self-assuredness of the people of their rightful possession of the land to be given to them, but God provides several examples to the contrary. God states a list of behaviors espoused the by the people that exemplified their violation of God’s statutes: eating flesh with blood, idolatry, child sacrifice and defiling a neighbor’s wife (Ezek. 33:25). After listing their transgressions, God rhetorically asks if they shall then possess the land, the clearly implied answer being “no”. God then declares judgment on the people for their rebellion in the same sequence of punishments that echo Ezek. 14:21 with sword, beasts and pestilence. Through God’s making their land a desolation and a waste, they will come to know that God is LORD (Ezek. 33:29).
The final section (Ezek. 33:30-33) is how the people came to Ezekiel and heard what he said but will not do it. They did not take him seriously since they did not see God’s words as lessons to be applied to their lives. Ezekiel’s parables and allegories were nothing more to them than entertainment. However, this will all change when the prophecies come true as God makes certain they will. At this point, they will know that a prophet had been among them (Ezek. 33:33).
The details of Israel’s judgment continue to play out in this chapter and there were a few practical points of application that seemed to emerge.
First was Ezekiel’s call to be a watchman for the people, to sound a trumpet of warning (Ezek. 33:7-9). There were repercussions of whether he sounded the trumpet and whether they listened. It is hard not to read this and think of our own command as Christ-followers to represent Him in evangelism. While we are not told that blood will be on our hands if we fail to speak of Him in the way it is for Ezekiel here, we are still commissioned to convey the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.
Next was the demonstration of God’s heart in His taking no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:10). This to me illuminates to the lovingkindness of God as a faithful Father. No father wants to discipline their children but understands its importance in bringing about healthy growth. Much like a vine not reaching its full potential unless properly pruned, we as God’s children need course corrections along our path toward full glorification.
Lastly was the accusation among the Israelites that God was unjust (Ezek. 33:17). For us today, this is often seen in those who charge God with allowing suffering and evil. They look at mass poverty and injustice and think that, if there is a God, He must be a heartless tyrant. They fail to grasp the sovereignty of God and of His work toward a perfect and eternal resolution. Going back to the first point, this speaks of our need as Christ’s ambassadors to help others in seeing the bigger picture and of the loving, gracious God behind it all.
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)