Reflecting on Ezekiel 18 1-9, 30-32

We are studying Ezekiel 18:1-9 and 30-32 for Sunday, May 23. The text is part of an uncompromising statement of God’s concern with individual righteousness or transgression, along with a plea to choose repentance and righteousness, as the way of life. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to ask ourselves, or discuss in class:
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Our text opens with a proverb. What’s the meaning of the proverb in this context, and why does God, speaking through the prophet, object to it, do we think?

How does the proverb seem to relate to God’s declaration in Exodus 34:6-7? [We could compare Deuteronomy 24:16, while we’re at it. There’s a discussion of the rabbinic interpretation related to this problem here.]

[A speculative question, but with some real implications for people today:] How much do people – the proverb quoters – seem to be relying on what they think they know about God here, possibly from existing scripture, and how much from their own self-examination and their assessment of the reality surrounding them?
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Individual behavior is described as a matter of life and death in this text. Do we think this text is talking about literal physical life and death? Or something else? Why do we think that?

What difference does it make which way we answer that question, do we think? Does it make a difference in the way we ourselves behave? In the way we think about God? In the way we understand the world? Any difference? What difference, and why?
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Verses 5-9 are a catalog of righteous behavior. How is the righteous behavior Ezekiel describes here similar to what we think of as righteous behavior today? How is it different?

[More speculative, but again, some real implications] Do we discern any principles in this catalog of righteous behavior, or think there must surely be one? For instance, do we suppose these are particularly serious sins, or sins that all have something in common, or are just a random collection, or ones that were on Ezekiel’s mind at the time, maybe for some reason? What difference does it make how we answer this question?
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Especially in light of the final verses, how would we describe this text? For instance, hopeful? Judgmental? Encouraging? Discouraging? What? Why?
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[More personal, perhaps, and definitely more “hermeneutical”] Given that we know that Ezekiel’s primary audience was the exiles in Babylonia more than two thousand years ago, do we ourselves hear this text as addressed to us in any way as well? What way? What do we understand it to be saying to us, here and now? Why?
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Image: “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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