The substance of the communication in either place is this: man must in all cases live or die according to his own personal righteousness or sinfulness; but such a responsibility rests upon the watchman, that if he die unwarned his blood will be required at the watchman's hand. The responsibility extends only, however, to the giving of the warning, not to its results: when the warning is given the watchman has "delivered his soul," whether it is heeded or not. The word soul in Ezekiel 3:19; Ezekiel 3:21, as also in Ezekiel 33:5; Ezekiel 33:9, is not to be understood distinctively of the immortal part of man, but is equivalent to life, and forms here, as often in Hebrew, little more than a form of the reflective, thy soul = thyself.
In this charge the individual and personal relation in which every Israelite stood to God is strongly emphasised, that they may neither feel themselves lost because their nation is undergoing punishment, nor, on the other hand, think that no repentance is required of them individually because they "had Abraham to their father." The gradual bringing out more and more fully the individual relation of man to God, at the expense of the comparative sinking of the federal relation, is one of the most strongly marked features of the progress of revelation, and at no other time was this progress so great as under the stern discipline of the captivity. In Ezekiel's office of "watchman," there is even an approach to the pastoral "cure of souls" under the Christian dispensation. Such an office had almost no place under the Old Testament, and. Ezekiel is the only one of the prophets who is charged to exercise this office distinctly towards individuals. Habakkuk, indeed, speaks of standing upon his watch on the tower (Habakkuk 2:1); Jeremiah, of the watchmen whom the people would not hear (Jeremiah 6:17); and Isaiah, of the "blind watchmen" (Isaiah 56:10); but the duty of all these was far more collective and national.
that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying; the Targum is,
"the word of prophecy from before the Lord.''