KJV Ezekiel 21 : 3

And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.

Why are the righteous cut off together with the wicked?

3 Answers 3


First, cutting off the righteous and the wicked is not quite as bad as it first sounds - the righteous have an eternal reward and the wicked do not.

Second, the wickedness of some places, Jerusalem in this, had become so exceedingly great, that this was the only option left for divine providence. Note the comments of the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

  1. righteous … wicked—not contradictory of Eze 18:4, 9 and Ge 18:23. Ezekiel here views the mere outward aspect of the indiscriminate universality of the national calamity. But really the same captivity to the "righteous" would prove a blessing as a wholesome discipline, which to the "wicked" would be an unmitigated punishment. The godly were sealed with a mark (Eze 9:4), not for outward exemption from the common calamity, but as marked for the secret interpositions of Providence, overruling even evil to their good. The godly were by comparison so few, that not their salvation but the universality of the judgment is brought into view here.

Ellicott provides more detail:

(3, 4) The righteous and the wicked.—This explains the green tree and the dry of Ezekiel 20:47; and “all flesh” of Ezekiel 21:4-5, corresponds to “all faces” of the same. These expressions are meant to show the universality of the approaching desolation. The actual separation in God’s sight between the righteous and the wicked has already been plainly set forth in 9:4-6. But still in this, as in all national judgments, the innocent must of necessity be involved in the same temporal sufferings with the guilty. The general terms of this prophecy are to be limited by what is elsewhere said of the mercy which shall be shown to a remnant.

Indeed, on this side of history we now know that a remnant of Israel was saved and has survived until the present. Part of that remnant became the Christian church according to Rom 11.


The verb "cut off" means "remove something using a sharp implement" in Oxford Languages.

So "cut off" the righteous together with the wicked doesn't mean they all death. A metaphor recorded in Ezekiel 5:1-4 might be appropriate to cope with the understanding.

1 “Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair.

2 When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword.

3 But take a few hairs and tuck them away in the folds of your garment.

4 Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to all Israel.

In this metaphor, the Israelites in Jerusalem were facing four consequences:

  • death during Jerusalem destruction, by famine etc
  • death during the fighting in wars
  • being captive and exile (scatter to the wind)
  • only a few would be chosen and protected by the Lord (a few hairs in the garment)

Whether they were exactly one-third should not be significant. But they were all cut off from the land they dwelled in.


It might be due to the translation. In the Septuagint version, the transgressor are cut off with the unrighteous in Ezekiel 21:3-4:

3 and thou shalt say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I am against thee, and I will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and I will destroy out of thee the transgressor and unrighteous. 4 Because I will destroy out of thee the unrighteous and the transgressor, therefore so shall my sword come forth out of its sheath against all flesh from the south to the north:

From the text, we can see that these words are different.

A translated Septuagint version: https://biblehub.com/sep/ezekiel/21.htm

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