At Ezekiel 20:25 (RSV) we read:

Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life.

How could God's laws or statutes not be good?


5 Answers 5


Gentle Pilgrim,

God does not contradict Himself; nor, from Him may originate ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ (compare Jam 3:12).

In the verses 11 and 13 He speaks about his laws which he gave to Israel. His laws were (and are) just, perfect, suitable for them (Deu 32:4), that “in whose observance people find life” (20:11, 13, The New Jerusalem Bible).

In the verse 25 God does not speak about his laws. In fact, inside the Hebrew wording construction, is omitted there the possessive proniminal suffix (post-fix) ‘-i’.

Moreover, the verse 26 expands the idea of the previous verse, citing one of the most loathing rite of ancient time, the offering - through the fire - of own sons, to heathen divinities. This last aspect confirms that those ‘not-good-laws’ were not God’s, since He said: “And they have put up the high place of Topheth in the valley of the son of Hinnom, burning their sons and their daughters there in the fire; a thing which was not ordered by me and never came into my mind” (Jer 7:31, Bible in Basic English [1965]).

Granted, the verb used in the verse 11 is the same used in the verse 25, but we have to understand that the semantic area of this Hebrew conceptual root is a few different from our usage of the verb ‘to give’. In fact, sometimes in the Bible, the sense of this verb includes the nuance of ‘permission’. See, please, for some examples, the following texts: Num 21:23, Psa 55:23, Job 9:18 (compare also 2The 2:11, 12, for an equivalent concept).

It is interesting to cite the comment of the New American Bible to the Ezekiel text we dissert on (bold is mine through all the following notes).

We read there (Eze 20:25 ft.), “‘I gave them statutes that were not good’: the Lord permitted them to adopt pagan practices, including the abominable sacrifice of their newborn infants, which only merit their destruction […].”; and (Eze 14:9 ft.), “He would say, rather, that God permitted this deceit […].”

Also, the God’s Word translation renders: “I also allowed them to follow laws that were no good and rules by which they could not live.”

John Gill (on Eze 20:25 note) wrote (Exposition of the Entire Bible): “[…] he ‘gave’, that is, he permitted them to observe such statutes; and this sense is countenanced and confirmed by Eze 20:26; to which agrees Jarchi’s note, ‘I delivered them into the hand of their imagination (or corrupt nature) to stumble at their iniquity’ […].”

Bullinger’s Companion Bible (ad locum): “ ‘I gave them also statutes’ […]. In Hebrew idiom = ‘I suffered others to give them statutes’ […]: i.e. in their captivity. Active verbs in Hebrew were used to express not only the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do. The verb nathan, to give, is therefore often rendered to suffer in this sense. See Gen 31:7. Jdg 15:1. 1Sa 24:7. 2Sa 21:10. Where not so actually rendered it means permission. Compare Eze 14:9 Exo 4:21; Exo 5:22. Psa 16:10. Jer 4:10. The some idiom is used in N.T. (Mat 6:13; Mat 11:25; Mat 13:11. Rom 9:18; Rom 11:7, Rom 11:8; 2Th 2:11).

I hope this may help you.


That certainly is a disconcerting statement. When I read back through the rest of the chapter, God reminds His people of the days in the wilderness in verse 11 of the laws, given through Moses, which would lead to life. The "not good" laws which God had given the people of Israel were the ones shared with them by their heathen neighbors which instructed them in child-sacrifice. God gave them these laws the way a father gives his son the rest of a pack of cigarettes after discovering that he's tried one to teach him a lesson. In Romans 1, Paul expresses this sentiment in verse 24 in that God abandoned people to their shameful practices.

  • (-1) I don't think, myself, that this answers the question. It is a difficult question with a number of aspects to it. Personally, I do not think you have touched upon those sensitive aspects.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 2:22
  • Could you elaborate on that? I'm not sure I see what I've missed.
    – Aaron Poet
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 2:46
  • @Aaron Poet Nigel's criticisms are between you and him. As your answer tends in the same direction as various commentators (see post by Landraider) I do not think you should be penalized and have voted you back up. Your answer is weak in that it is not substantiated as is the other post.
    – Pilgrim
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 13:15

In the light of grace and the revelation of Paul in Galatians, Colossians, Romans and other letters the vrs makes perfect since. The law did not bring life but death. Compare the command to take a rebellious child out and stone it to death with the sacrafice of children to a demon God. Is there really any differenc?. What kind of a person would take their kid out and kill it for being rebellious? A good one? A life giving one? God made the law impossible to obey and destructive to life for a purpose. Using a knowledge of Hebrew language structure to explain this vrs away may not do it justice. After all Ezekiel was a prophet and the prophets looked forward to Christ.


In this case, Berean Study Bible translation is better:

25 I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. 26 And I pronounced them unclean through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn in the fire—so that I might devastate them, in order that they would know that I am the LORD.

What were those no-good statues in Ezekiel 20:25?

An example of these is the sacrifice of every firstborn in the fire. These no-good statues were the heathen customs demanded by the local idol gods. They have nothing to do with Moses' laws.

Another instance of such rebellion is found in Romans 1:28

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Why did God do that?

26 in order that they would know that I am the LORD.

So they would learn the difference between trusting God and trusting idols.

  • Very good answer - well balanced. +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 20:16

What were those no-good statutes in Ezekiel 20:25?

It is a shocking thought that God would "give " bad decrees, I found three translations (NIRV, GW, and NWT) that render the verse "I also allowed them". God allowed them to follow the practices of the Canaanites who were left behind in the land to test the Israelites.

Psalm 81:12 NIRV says: So I let them go their own stubborn way. I let them follow their own sinful plans.

Ezekiel 20:25 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

25 I also allowed them to follow laws that were no good and rules by which they could not live.

Ezekiel 20:25 (NIRV)

25 So I let them follow other rules. Those other rules were not good. I let them have laws they could not live by.

Ezekiel 20:25 (NWT)

25 I also allowed them to follow regulations that were not good and judicial decisions by which they could not have life.+ 26 I let them become defiled by their own

Ezekiel 20:25 New English Translation (NET Bible)

25 I also gave[ them decrees[b] that were not good and regulations by which they could not liv

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