KEY THOT: In Ezekiel's time, there was a proverb that went around that says, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge". We are familiar with the effect of eating anything sour as it makes us bite our teeth together in reaction to the sour taste. This proverb implies that God is unfair: the children suffer the consequences of their fathers' sins. While there is some truth in this proverb, it was not the whole truth. The children suffered the consequences of their fathers' sins (conquest by Babylonians and exile) because they themselves had also participated in the sins of their fathers. It's just that God's patience has run out in Ezekiel's generation. But had they listened to the prophets God sent to them (especially Jeremiah) and repented, the national disasters would have been averted:
- Ezekiel 18:29-32 "Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live."
In the case of Israel, the reason why their fathers did not suffer the consequences of their own sins is because of God's patience and mercy towards them. But Ezekiel's generation suffered the consequences of God's wrath, not because of their fathers' sins but their own participation in the same sins as their fathers. If they have repented, they would not have suffered the effects, for they bear responsibility too for the national disasters that came upon them: "Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die" (v.4).