The Prophet as Sentinel. 1The word of the LORD came to me: 2Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: When I bring the sword against a land, if the people of that land select one of their number as a sentinel* for them,a 3and the sentinel sees the sword coming against the land, he should blow the trumpet to warn the people.b 4If they hear the trumpet but do not take the warning and a sword attacks and kills them, their blood will be on their own heads.c 5They heard the trumpet blast but ignored the warning; their blood is on them. If they had heeded the warning, they could have escaped with their lives. 6If, however, the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the sword attacks and takes someone’s life, his life will be taken for his own sin, but I will hold the sentinel responsible for his blood.
7d You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. 8When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 9If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life.
Individual Retribution. 10As for you, son of man, speak to the house of Israel: You people say, “Our crimes and our sins weigh us down; we are rotting away because of them. How can we survive?”e 11f Answer them: As I live—oracle of the Lord GOD—I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! Why should you die, house of Israel?
12As for you, son of man, say to your people: The justice of the just will not save them on the day they sin; the wickedness of the wicked will not bring about their downfall on the day they turn from their wickedness. No, the just cannot save their lives on the day they sin.g 13Even though I say to the just that they shall surely live, if they, relying on their justice, do wrong, none of their just deeds shall be remembered; because of the wrong they have done, they shall die.h 14And though I say to the wicked that they shall die, if they turn away from sin and do what is just and right— 15returning pledges, restoring stolen goods, walking by statutes that bring life, doing nothing wrong—they shall surely live; they shall not die.i 16None of the sins they committed shall be remembered against them. If they do what is right and just, they shall surely live.
17Your people say, “The way of the LORD is not fair!” But it is their way that is not fair. 18When the just turn away from justice and do wrong, they shall die for it.j 19When the wicked turn away from wickedness and do what is right and just, because of this they shall live. 20But still you say, “The way of the LORD is not fair!” I will judge each of you according to your ways, house of Israel.
The Survivor from Jerusalem. 21On the fifth day of the tenth month,* in the twelfth year of our exile, the survivor came to me from Jerusalem and said, “The city is taken!”k 22The hand of the LORD had come upon me the evening before the survivor arrived and opened my mouth when he reached me in the morning. My mouth was opened, and I was mute no longer.l
Those Left in Judah.* 23The word of the LORD came to me: 24Son of man, these who live among the ruins in the land of Israel are saying: “Abraham was only one person, yet he was given possession of the land. Since we are many, the land must be given to us as our possession.”m 25Therefore say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: You eat on the mountains, you raise your eyes to your idols, you shed blood—yet you would keep possession of the land?n 26You rely on your swords, you commit abominations, each defiles his neighbor’s wife—yet you would keep possession of the land? 27Say this to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, those among the ruins shall fall by the sword; those in the open field I have made food for the wild beasts; and those in rocky hideouts and caves shall die by the plague. 28I will make the land a desolate waste, so that its proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will cross them. 29Thus they shall know that I am the LORD, when I make the land a desolate waste because of all the abominations they committed.
Popular Misunderstanding. 30As for you, son of man, your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doorways of houses. They say to one another, “Let’s go hear the latest word that comes from the LORD.” 31My people come to you, gathering as a crowd and sitting in front of you to hear your words, but they will not act on them. Love songs are on their lips, but in their hearts they pursue dishonest gain.o 32For them you are only a singer* of love songs, with a pleasant voice and a clever touch. They listen to your words, but they do not obey them. 33But when it comes—and it is surely coming!—they shall know that there was a prophet among them.
* [33:2] Sentinel: the theme of the sentinel’s duty initiates a new commission to announce salvation (chaps. 33–48), just as the same command (3:17–21) opened Ezekiel’s ministry to announce judgment (chaps. 3–24).
* [33:21–22] The fifth day of the tenth month: January 8, 585 B.C. According to Jeremiah (39:2), Jerusalem was taken in July, 587. Some manuscripts read “eleventh” for “twelfth” year (January, 586); even so, there was ample time between the fall of Jerusalem and the arrival of the survivor from that city to journey to Babylon. However, this is the survivor sent to fulfill the promise of Ez 24:25–27, the eyewitness whose arrival would release Ezekiel from his muteness; cf. 3:26–27.
* [33:23–29] News brought by the survivor furnished the occasion for this prophecy. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel rejects the idea that those left in Judah have any claim to the land. The new Israel is to be formed from the exiles.
* [33:32] Singer: perhaps the term indicates an entertainer whom one enjoys and then forgets.