The following passage is not available in any lectionary, although the beginning and end of this chapter of Ezekiel are.  I don’t know why they don’t read the whole chapter, unless it’s because menstruation is mentioned.  Maybe it just takes too much time away from the Sign of Peace or singing another praise anthem.   

You can find past Forbidden Bible Verses here. Today’s reading comes from the New International Version.

Ezekiel 18:5-24

5 “Suppose there is a righteous man
       who does what is just and right.

 6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines
       or look to the idols of the house of Israel.
       He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
       or lie with a woman during her period.

 7 He does not oppress anyone,
       but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
       He does not commit robbery
       but gives his food to the hungry
       and provides clothing for the naked.

 8 He does not lend at usury
       or take excessive interest. [a]
       He withholds his hand from doing wrong
       and judges fairly between man and man.

 9 He follows my decrees
       and faithfully keeps my laws.
       That man is righteous;
       he will surely live,
       declares the Sovereign LORD.

 10 “Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things [b] 11 (though the father has done none of them):
       “He eats at the mountain shrines.
       He defiles his neighbor’s wife.

 12 He oppresses the poor and needy.
       He commits robbery.
       He does not return what he took in pledge.
       He looks to the idols.
       He does detestable things.

 13 He lends at usury and takes excessive interest.
      Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head.

 14 “But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:

 15 “He does not eat at the mountain shrines
       or look to the idols of the house of Israel.
       He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.

 16 He does not oppress anyone
       or require a pledge for a loan.
       He does not commit robbery
       but gives his food to the hungry
       and provides clothing for the naked.

 17 He withholds his hand from sin [c]
       and takes no usury or excessive interest.
       He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.
      He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.

18 But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.

 19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

 21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

 24 “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.”


We are each responsible for our own sins but not for those of others.  But, what about the sins of the fathers which shall be visited on their sons (Exodus 20:5)?  The two verses — and other similar ones — are not entirely unrelated.

This passage from Ezekiel examines the legalistic aspects of bearing punishment in Jewish courts.  There was a reason for examining it from a generational point of view, as lineage was highly important — the notion of being descended from Abraham, for example.  Therefore, who would bear the brunt of breaking the Law as laid out in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament?

Verses 5 – 9 look at the grandfather of the family, who has been righteous and obeyed Jewish law, including those involving the Ten Commandments, hygiene, lending and charity.  God finds favour with this man. 

Now, suppose the father — second generation — lives a life of sin, doing the opposite of what his father did (verses 10-13).  This man must die for the ‘detestable’ sins he commits.  However, his father will live.

Suppose the sinful man has a son — third generation (verses 14-17).  This grandson of the first man sees what his father has done and ends up living the way his grandfather did, at one with the Lord and the Law.  This man will live because he is living a good life.  He will not be punished for his father’s sins (verses 19-20).  Yet, anyone who repents — turns from — his sins and looks towards God will live (verse 21) and his transgressions forgiven (verse 22).  The Lord delights when sinners turn from their evil ways.  He wants as many of us as possible to share eternal life with Him (verse 23).

Yet, we need to remember that if we turn away from the Lord and embrace sin, we as individuals will be lost souls because of our unfaithfulness (verse 24).

So, sins will be judged individually.  However, just as with original sin, our families can be tainted.  If a father goes to prison, his family suffers socially and economically.  However, his children may go on to receive a university education and do well in life.  Therefore, his children will not be judged on their father’s transgression, only he will.  Sin can influence one’s descendents adversely, yet, only the person who has committed the sin will be held responsible and be judged for it.

There is always room for forgiveness in God’s heart.  We have only to ask.

You can read more about legality as far as the individual is concerned and what is known as Federal Headship, whereby the actions of the head of a family influences those of his descendants.  Think of original sin.  Eve sinned by eating the apple but, as head of the family, Adam bore the sin, too, and it is through him that we are all descended — and carry original sin.  Yet, baptism cleanses us of that original sin — God pardons us of that — and gives us the opportunity to become one of His adopted children here on Earth.

You can read more here and here.