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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Biblical Passages, Nice and Not-So-Nice: Ezekiel 18


I think it would be a huge understatement to say that the Bible is a controversial book, especially as regards its significance for how we should live our lives.  Believers are, for the most part, committed to thinking that biblical passages which concern moral issues, or at any rate a great deal of them, contain sound moral teaching, while unbelievers are, for the most part, committed to thinking the opposite. When discussing this issue, it is tempting to quote only those passages which support your own views. In an attempt to treat both sides fairly and (hopefully) provoke some thoughtful discussion about this issue, I have decided to start a series of posts containing some of the nice biblical passages and some of the not-so-nice ones—but in the interest of having a good discussion I’ll leave it to my readers to decide for themselves which are which.

To start things off, here’s an excerpt from Ezekiel 18: 

21 But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 22None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. 23Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? 24But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die.

25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29Yet 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?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

--Ezekiel 18: 21-32, NRSV,  http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Ezekiel+18