The Lord Appoints Ezekiel To Stand Watch
1The Lord said:
2Ezekiel, son of man, warn your people by saying:
Someday, I, the Lord, may send an enemy to invade a country. And suppose its people choose someone to stand watch 3and to sound a warning signal when the enemy is seen coming. 4-5If any of these people hear the signal and ignore it, they will be killed in battle. But it will be their own fault, because they could have escaped if they had paid attention.
6But suppose the person watching fails to sound the warning signal. The enemy will attack and kill some of the sinful people in that country, and I, the Lord, will hold that person responsible for their death.
7Ezekiel, I have appointed you to stand watch for the people of Israel. So listen to what I say, then warn them for me. 8When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways. But if you refuse to warn them, you are responsible for their death. 9If you do warn them, and they keep sinning, they will die because of their sins, and you will be innocent.
The Lord Is Always Fair
10The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, the people of Israel are complaining that the punishment for their sins is more than they can stand. They have lost all hope for survival, and they blame me. 11Tell them that as surely as I am the living Lord God, I don't like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. So if the Israelites want to live, they must stop sinning and turn back to me.
12Tell them that when good people start sinning, all the good they did in the past cannot save them from being punished. And remind them that when wicked people stop sinning, their past sins will be completely forgiven, and they won't be punished.
13Suppose I promise good people that they will live, then later they start sinning and believe they will be saved by the good they did in the past. These people will certainly be put to death because of their sins. Their good deeds will be forgotten.
14Suppose I warn wicked people that they will die because of their sins, and they stop sinning and start doing right. 15For example, they need to return anything they have taken as security for a loan and anything they have stolen. Then if they stop doing evil and start obeying my Law, they will live. 16Their past sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they have done right.
17Ezekiel, your people accuse me of being unfair. But they are the ones who are unfair. 18If good people start doing evil, they will be put to death, because they have sinned. 19And if wicked people stop sinning and start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 20But the Israelites still think I am unfair. So warn them that they will be punished for what they have done.
The News of Jerusalem's Fall
21 Twelve years after King Jehoiachin and the rest of us had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia, a refugee who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me on the fifth day of the tenth month. He told me that the city had fallen.
22The evening before this man arrived at my house, the Lord had taken control of me. So when the man came to me the next morning, I could once again speak.
What Will Happen to Those Left in Israel?
23Then the Lord said:
24Ezekiel, son of man, the people living in the ruined cities of Israel are saying, “Abraham was just one man, and the Lord gave him this whole land of Israel. There are many of us, and so this land must be ours.”
25So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying:
How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder 26and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours!
27As surely as I am the living Lord God, you people in the ruined cities will be killed in battle. Those of you living in the countryside will be eaten by wild animals, and those hiding in caves and on rocky cliffs will die from deadly diseases. 28I will make the whole country an empty wasteland and crush the power in which you take such pride. Even the mountains will be bare, and no one will try to cross them. 29I will punish you because of your sins, and I will turn your nation into a barren desert. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
The People Listen, but Don't Change
The Lord said:
30Ezekiel, son of man, the people with you in Babylonia talk about you when they meet by the city walls or in the doorways of their houses. They say, “Let's ask Ezekiel what the Lord has said today.” 31So they all come and listen to you, but they refuse to do what you tell them. They claim to be faithful, but they are forever trying to cheat others out of their money. 32They treat you as though you were merely singing love songs or playing music. They listen, but don't do anything you say.
33Soon they will be punished, just as you warned, and they will know that a prophet has been among them.