18 Then the Lord’s message came to me again.
2 “Why do people use this proverb about the land of Israel: The children are punished for their fathers’ sins?[a] 3 As I live,” says the Lord God, “you will not use this proverb anymore in Israel, 4 for all souls are mine to judge—fathers and sons alike—and my rule is this: It is for a man’s own sins that he will die.
5 “But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right, 6 and has not gone out to the mountains to feast before the idols of Israel and worship them, and does not commit adultery nor lie with any woman during the time of her menstruation; 7 if he is a merciful creditor, not holding onto the items given to him in pledge by poor debtors, and is no robber but gives food to the hungry and clothes to those in need; 8 and if he grants loans without interest,[b] stays away from sin, is honest and fair when judging others, 9 and obeys my laws—that man is just,” says the Lord, “and he shall surely live.
10 “But if that man has a son who is a robber or murderer and who fulfills none of his responsibilities, 11 who refuses to obey the laws of God but worships idols on the mountains and commits adultery, 12 oppresses the poor and helpless, robs his debtors by refusing to let them redeem what they have given him in pledge, loves idols and worships them, 13 and loans out his money at interest[c]—shall that man live? No! He shall surely die, and it is his own fault.
14 “But if this sinful man has, in turn, a son who sees all his father’s wickedness, so that he fears God and decides against that kind of life; 15 he doesn’t go up on the mountains to feast before the idols and worship them and does not commit adultery; 16 he is fair to those who borrow from him and doesn’t rob them, but feeds the hungry, clothes the needy, 17 helps the poor, does not loan money at interest, and obeys my laws—he shall not die because of his father’s sins; he shall surely live. 18 But his father shall die for his own sins because he is cruel and robs and does wrong.
19 “‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the son pay for his father’s sins?’ No! For if the son does what is right and keeps my laws, he shall surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who dies. The son shall not be punished for his father’s sins, nor the father for his son’s. The righteous person will be rewarded for his own goodness and the wicked person for his wickedness. 21 But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins and begins to obey my laws and do what is just and right, he shall surely live and not die. 22 All his past sins will be forgotten, and he shall live because of his goodness.
23 “Do you think I like to see the wicked die?” asks the Lord. “Of course not! I only want him to turn from his wicked ways and live. 24 However, if a righteous person turns to sinning and acts like any other sinner, should he be allowed to live? No, of course not. All his previous goodness will be forgotten and he shall die for his sins.
25 “Yet you say: ‘The Lord isn’t being fair!’ Listen to me, O people of Israel. Am I the one who is unfair, or is it you? 26 When a good man turns away from being good, begins sinning, and dies in his sins, he dies for the evil he has done. 27 And if a wicked person turns away from his wickedness and obeys the law and does right, he shall save his soul, 28 for he has thought it over and decided to turn from his sins and live a good life. He shall surely live—he shall not die.
29 “And yet the people of Israel keep saying: ‘The Lord is unfair!’ O people of Israel, it is you who are unfair, not I. 30 I will judge each of you, O Israel, and punish or reward each according to his own actions. Oh, turn from your sins while there is yet time. 31 Put them behind you and receive a new heart and a new spirit. For why will you die, O Israel? 32 I do not enjoy seeing you die,” the Lord God says. “Turn, turn and live!