1 A message from the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “What's this proverb you people are quoting about the country of Israel:
‘The fathers ate the unripe grapes, but their children got the sour taste’?* In other words, “it's not our fault this is happening to us; it's due to our forefathers' sins, not ours.” See also Jeremiah 31:29.
3 As I live, declares the Lord God, you won't quote this proverb in Israel any more. 4 Can't you see that everyone belongs to me? Whether parents or children, they are all mine. It's the person who sins who will die.
5 Take the example of a man who is a good person, doing what is fair and right.
6 He doesn't go to the pagan shrines in the mountains to eat a religious meal, or worship Israel's idols. He doesn't have sex with someone else's wife or with a woman during her period. 7 He doesn't exploit anyone. He gives back what a debtor has given him as security. He doesn't rob others. He feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. 8 He doesn't lend with interest or make a profit from loans. He refuses to do wrong and makes sure he's truly fair in his decisions between people. 9 He follows my rules and keeps my regulations faithfully. Such a man lives by what's right and he will certainly live, declares the Lord God.
10 What if that man has a son who is a violent criminal, who kills and does do such evil things just listed 11 even though the father doesn't act like that at all. The son goes to the pagan shrines in the mountains to eat a religious meal. He has sex with someone else's wife. 12 He exploits the poor and those in need. He robs others, and he doesn't give back what a debtor has given him as security. He worships idols. He commits disgusting sins. 13 He lends with interest and makes a profit from loans. Is someone like this going to live? No, he won't! Because he has done all these offensive things, he will die for certain, and he will be responsible for his own death.
14 Now what if this man has a son who sees all the sins his father has committed. He sees them but doesn't do the same. 15 He doesn't go to the pagan shrines in the mountains to eat a religious meal, or worship Israel's idols. He doesn't have sex with someone else's wife. 16 He doesn't exploit anyone. He doesn't demand security for a loan. He doesn't rob others. He feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. 17 He refuses to do wrong and does not charge interest or make a profit on loans. He keeps my regulations and follows my laws. A man like that won't die because of his father's sins, he will certainly live! 18 But his father will die for his own sins, because he exploited others, robbed his relatives, and did wrong to his own people. 19 You ask, ‘Why shouldn't the son pay for his father's sins?’ If the son has done what is fair and right, keeping all my laws, then he'll live, he won't be punished.† “He won't be punished”: supplied for clarity.
20 It's the person who sins who will die. A son won't pay for his father's sins, and a father won't pay for his son's sins. The good consequences of living right will come to those who are good; the evil consequences of wickedness will come to those who are evil.
21 However, if someone who is wicked stops sinning and keeps my laws, doing what is fair and right, they will certainly live—they won't die. 22 None of their sins will be held against them. Because they are now doing what's right, they will live. 23 Do I like it when wicked people die? declares the Lord God. Of course not—I would be delighted if they stopped sinning and lived!
24 But if someone who is living according to what's right stops and does wrong, doing the same offensive things as the wicked, will that person live? Of course not! In fact, all the good things they did previously will be forgotten. That person will die because of their betrayal of me and the sins they've committed.
25 Even so you say, ‘What the Lord does isn't right.’
People of Israel, listen to me! Is it what I'm doing that isn't right? Isn't it what you're doing that isn't right?
26 If someone who lives according to what's right stops doing right and does wrong, they will die. They will die because of wrong things they've done.
27 But if someone wicked stops doing wrong and does what is fair and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they thought about it and gave up their wicked ways, they will certainly live—they won't die.
29 But the people of Israel say, ‘The Lord's way isn't right.’
Are my ways unfair, people of Israel? Isn't it your ways that aren't fair?
30 Consequently I'm going to judge you, people of Israel! I will judge each of you depending on what you've done, declares the Lord God. Repent and stop rebelling so that your sins won't bring you down. 31 Get rid of all your rebellious sins! Change your way of thinking and have a new spirit. Why do you want to die, people of Israel?
32 I don't like it when anybody dies, declares the Lord God. So repent so you can live!”
*18:2 In other words, “it's not our fault this is happening to us; it's due to our forefathers' sins, not ours.” See also Jeremiah 31:29.
†18:19 “He won't be punished”: supplied for clarity.