Ezek 33.1-33 tells us about the duties of a watchman in general terms and to Ezekiel personally; a vindication of God’s justice; a threat of destruction to those who remain in the land after Jerusalem falls and a revelation about the hypocrisy of Ezekiel’s listeners. The Jewish Midrashim teaches that this alludes to Yom Teruah, a Yom Ha Din or “day of judgment.”
v 1…And the word of the Lord (Yehovah) came to me saying,
v 2…”Son of man (mortal human being; Ezekiel representing the people), speak to the sons of your people, and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land (a foreign army or any judgment); and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman;
v 3…and he sees the sword coming (an army marching) upon the land, and he blows the trumpet (shofar) and warns the people (by blowing the shofar as agreed upon),
v 4…then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head (he is responsible for his own carelessness).
v 5…He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself (his fault), he would have delivered his life (soul).
v 6…But if the watchman sees the sword (those that kill with the sword and danger) coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity (surprised and had no time to repent and is slain); but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand (punished for not doing his duty and did not give ample warning).
v 7…Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from my mouth, and give them warning from me (there were many sinners then and they needed to be warned).
v 8…When I say to the wicked (rasha), ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked of his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand (he will be held responsible for the bloodshed).
v 9…But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn (repent) from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life (soul- no blame will be attached to him).
v 10…Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel (those with him in captivity), ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us and we are rotting away in them; how can we survive (they thought it was too late for them)?”
v 11…”Say to them, ‘As I live!” declares the Lord God (Adonai Yehovah), ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live (his will of command). Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
v 12…And you, son of man, say to the sons of your people, ‘The righteousness of a righteous man (not the true righteousness by faith, but a basic morality-Ezek 18.24) will not deliver him in the day of his transgression (save his soul), and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he returns from his wickedness (will not perish on account of his sins if he repents); whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his (not God’s) righteousness on the day when he commits sin.’
v 13…When I say to the righteous he will surely live (have mercy from God in faith), and he so trusts in his righteousness (has a false hope) that he commits iniquity (thinking he will not be charged with it), none of his righteous deeds (his own works) will be remembered (faith in his own works will not justify him); but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die (an eternal death-Ezek 18.24-28).
v 14…But when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die (for unbelief); and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness (as defined by the Torah),
v 15…a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes of life without committing iniquity (this is not living without sin, but not guilty of gross sin like before), he will surely live (a spiritual life); he shall not die (the second death).
v 16…None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him (imputed to him, put on his account, not charged or indicted). He has practiced justice and righteousness (as defined by the Torah, a genuine repentance); he will surely live (a life of faith and inherit eternal life).
v 17…Yet the sons of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord (Torah) is not right (according to the rules of justice and equity)’ when it is their own way that is not right (their ways were not according to the rules of justice and equity in the Torah).
v 18…When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it (does not have a genuine conversion; is not a new creature; he only has a profession of faith-v 13).
v 19…But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness (as defined by the Torah and has possession of eternal life), he will live by them (eternal life).
v 20…Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right (Torah not equitable).’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways (Now, the way to understand these verses is to understand Matt 5.17 through 7.29, what is called the “Sermon on the Mount.” Yeshua is destroying their self-righteousness in this sermon so that they will listen about the righteousness by faith through grace. They will realize they can’t be saved by their own righteousness and live up to the expectations in these verses. They need a redeemer and he is letting them know what it would be like to stand before God in their own righteousness. But, if they want to establish their own righteousness, then they must keep these verses perfectly without exception. The point of these verses is not so much a “how to live” teaching because people cannot live up to what Yeshua is saying. You can go ahead and try but it will destroy you. But the Torah is a guide and has the goal of convicting us once we recognize our sin because there are two aspects to the Torah, the judicial and the educational. Then we can call upon our redeemer because there is no way to be saved without him. That is the background to what Ezekiel is saying in 33.1-20, and to what Yeshua is communicating in Matt 5.17 through 7.29).”
v 21…Now it came to pass in the twelfth year of our exile (of Yehoichins’s captivity), on the fifth of the tenth month (Tevet 5), that the refugees from Jerusalem came to me, saying, “The city has been taken (it was foretold that they would in Ezek 24.26).
v 22…Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me in the evening, before the refugees came (he knew what his message to them was going to be).
v 23…Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,
v 24…”Son of man (mortal human being), they who live in these waste places in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one, yet he possessed the land; so to us who are many the land has been given as a possession (in other words, since God gave him the land, the survivors living there thought that because they are many and “escaped” the exile, it was a blessing and they would possess the land again, but it was just the opposite. They thought if Abraham sacrificed one son and inherited the land, they who had sacrificed many sons should surely inherit it).”
v 25…”Therefore, say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God (Adonai Yehovah), “You eat with blood (Lev 19.26), lift up your eyes to your idols (idol worship), as you shed blood (innocent blood), should you then possess the land (these things Abraham did not do)?
v 26…You rely on your sword (for security), you commit abominations and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife; should you then possess the land (they were just as vile as the dispossessed Canaanites. These verses were the basis for the injunctions in Acts 15.20, 28 and 21.25)?”
v 27…”Thus you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “As I live (an oath), surely those who are in the waste places (back in the land) will fall by the sword (Jer 41.2 after Gedaliah was murdered), and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured (the depopulated land would be overthrown by wild animals), and those who are in the strongholds and in the caves will die of pestilence.
v 28…And I shall make the land a desolation and a waste, and the pride of her power will cease (through judgment); and the mountains of Israel will be desolate, so that no one will pass through (no one will travel through it because of the sword, beasts, disease and barrenness because it is too dangerous).
v 29…Then they will know that I am the Lord (Yehovah foretold all of this and that will be proof, and it will be acknowledged), when I make the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations which they have committed (this judgment came for a reason).
v 30…But as for you, son of man, the sons of your people who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses (secretly gossiping against Ezekiel), speak to one another, saying, ‘Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord (to amuse themselves).
v 31…And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you (as students/disciples) as my people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them. For they produce much love with their mouth, but their heart goes after their unjust gain (Matt 13.22).
v 32…And behold (see for yourself), you are to them like a sensual (lovely) song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them (he sounds good, like a great musician, but he is not taken seriously).
v 33…So when it comes to pass (the prophecy he just delivered about the desolation in the land of Israel)-as it surely will (it is certain)-then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst (that his prophecy was not a joke but it was the word of Yehovah, and it has surely come to pass).”