Prophecy regarding "everyone shall die for his own sin"

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Puritan Board Senior
What relationship does this prophecy have to the atoning sacrifice of Christ? Does this simply mean that we are individually culpable for sin?

"In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge." -Jeremiah 31:29-30

There also seem to be some parallels in Ezekiel 18:

"What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (v. 2-4)

"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (v. 20)


Puritan Board Junior
I would take it that their national captivity because of sin, naturally included their children. But their protest using a proverb was unfounded, and as their exile was drawing to a close, Jeremiah shows that each would be culpable for his own sin. The immediate following verses introduces the gospel dispensation. But the 2nd commandment is still upheld as shown in Jeremiah 32:18. A nations judgment brings sorrow and pain upon its children, but personal sin demands personal satisfaction by God. And the only deliverance is to individually experience so great salvation through the atoning work of Chtist.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It certainly does not mean that God accepts NO sacrifice, no substitute and no atonement, that there is no forgiveness of sins; but only death.

It is the divine reply to the allegation, the accusation leveled (by the man in the dock!) against the righteousness and fairness of God. "I shouldn't be under judgment; but because my parents or friends or people were condemned, I'm stuck here! God, if you were fair, I would not be answering this 'charge.'"

God is pure graciousness in even allowing the outburst in his courtroom. His rebuttal is simply that, whatever the circumstances are in which one finds himself--even caught up in the swirling devastation brought on by another's sin--each one is answerable on his own account. Every man must deal with his own crimes, and either die for them, or turning, be pardoned and reckoned one of the faithful.

But anyone playing the part of the faithful, who shows his true colors by offending and turning against God--he should not think that all his earlier obedience amounts to considerable goodwill on his account. He has no right to complain if he is judged and accounted a rebel. The whole passage is a "defense of God's righteousness and fairness" as seen from the standpoint of men.


Puritan Board Freshman
The phrases "every one shall die for his own iniquity" and "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" I have often seen used without considering the context in which they are given.

Who were those 2 prophets correcting? The Isrealites! God's own people. Believers. In that context God was telling the prophets of God to rebuke God's people for looking for a way to sin without having to personally suffer the consequences. (Consider also that some sins in the law required the death penalty and some did not.)

The equally famous phrase "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:22) is given in the same context. King Saul disobeyed God, thought nothing wrong with it, and thought offering sacrifices was all God wanted anyway. There seems to be the same idea of sinning is OK because I am covered.

Consider also Isaiah.

KJV said:
Isaiah 1:10-17 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

In these passages from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 1 Samuel, and Isaiah, God is rebuking unrepentant believers who have developed excuses to justify themselves as they continue to sin against God.


Puritan Board Senior
In these passages from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 1 Samuel, and Isaiah, God is rebuking unrepentant believers who have developed excuses to justify themselves as they continue to sin against God.

I think this may go beyond what is clear in the passages. Israelites, yes. Believers, probably not. It may be helpful to compare God's dealings with unbelieving Israel through the OT (Psalm 81, for example). Also:

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! (Rom. 3:1-4a)

God demonstrated His mercy to them, in part, by giving the Jews His Word and calling them to repentance. Even in the incarnation, He was first sent to His people after the flesh (John 1:11).

I don't think we need to understand God's dealings with Israel as believers to understand the context of all these verses and God's patience with them.


Puritan Board Freshman
I think this may go beyond what is clear in the passages.
OK, that give me something to think about today.

I can see how my unexplained terminology can confuse what I was pointing out about context. Just as "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6) so to now all "believers" who call themselves Christians are not all Christians. (Matt. 25:31-46) I was attempting to point out who God was talking to. God was not addressing the rest of the world, but only the Israelites. These were people who knew God existed, who had God's law, who were God's chosen people. We will see that God was not addressing the righteous Israelites but the unrepentant sinners.

Let's consider all of Ezekiel chapter 18 (ESV).

Who was God speaking to?
  • "the land of Israel" v.2
  • "you in Israel" v.3
  • "the house of Israel" v.29
  • "house of Israel" v.31
Specifically God was addressing those who had false views of God's ways and were telling God,
  • 'The way of the Lord is not just.' v.25
  • 'The way of the Lord is not just.' v.29
And what were these false views? Well, the opposite of what God describes as His ways. The scenarios God lays out are:
  • If a man is righteous then he shall live. vv.5-9
  • If a sinner repents then he shall live. vv.21-22
  • If a righteous man sins and does not repent then he shall die. v.24
  • If a righteous man has a sinful son then the son shall die and the father shall live. vv.10-13
  • If a righteous son has a sinful father then the son shall live and the father shall die. vv.10-14
Remember that people in Israel were saying in all of these things God is unfair and unjust. In one case Israel is saying that the death resulting from an unrepentant sinner is also applied to a righteous man. In another case Israel is also saying that the life resulting from a righteous man is also applied to an unrepentant sinner.
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