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3. The condemnation of contemporary false prophets ch. 13
This chapter follows quite naturally from the previous one. There God corrected the mistaken views of His people, and here He rebuked those who were responsible for those views. In this section God pronounced judgment on the false prophets who were responsible for the Jews’ false sense of security (cf. Ezekiel 12:21-28; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23). He dealt with two groups of false prophets in this chapter: the males (Ezekiel 13:1-16) and the females (Ezekiel 13:17-23).
"The Prophet Ezekiel has already pronounced the judgment of God on the city of Jerusalem, the princes and the king. Now he rebukes the false prophets. . . . This chapter, one of the most important in the Old Testament on the abuses of the phenomenon of prophecy, may be considered an elaboration of the truth in Ezekiel 12:24." [Note: Feinberg, p. 73.]
The Lord gave Ezekiel a message for the prophets who were devising messages for the Jews from their own hearts and calling them prophecies from Yahweh. He was using the word "prophet" ironically; these were not true prophets, but they claimed to be such. Ezekiel was to announce judgment on these false prophets. They were foolish (Heb. nabal) because they disregarded God’s word and relied on themselves. This is the essential mark of this type of fool in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Samuel 25; 2 Samuel 13:13; Psalms 14:1; Psalms 74:18).
It is not clear in this chapter whether the Lord was speaking primarily of the false prophets in Jerusalem or in exile. Probably He meant false prophets in both places.
"In the same way that impersonating a police officer is a crime in modern society, because it harmfully defrauds people who trust and obey the police, impersonating a true prophet of the Lord was, by God’s law, a fraudulent misleading of Israelites in Ezekiel’s day." [Note: Stuart, p. 120.]
The characteristics of these prophets 13:1-7
Condemnation of the male false prophets 13:1-16
Ezekiel first confronted the male false prophets, and then he explained the reasons that God would judge them.
The Lord compared these false prophets to foxes or jackals (Heb. shu’alim) that prowled around among ruins looking for holes in which to hide (cf. Nehemiah 4:3; Lamentations 5:18). The same Hebrew word refers to both animals. They had not tried to repair conditions that had resulted in Israel’s weakness and vulnerability nor had they strengthened the nation spiritually (cf. Ezekiel 22:30). Building the wall around the house of Israel so it could stand in the battle of the day of the Lord refers to preparing the people for the invasion and siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The only concern of foxes and these prophets was their own welfare and self-interests. They contributed nothing to the welfare of other needy people.
When these prophets claimed to speak a message from the Lord they were only uttering falsehood and presenting the results of deceptive pagan divination. The Lord had not sent them, yet they expected their prophecies to come to pass. Yahweh asked them if their claimed revelations from Him were not really just false visions and lying divinations.
"Today there are also many ’false prophets’ ministering in religious places, leading people into judgment rather than turning them to Christ and the security of a life of peace with God and eternity with him (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15)." [Note: Alexander, "Ezekiel," p. 801.]
The Lord told these false prophets that He opposed them for what they had done. He would act against them by removing them from positions of influence among His people, depriving them of the rights of citizenship in Israel (cf. Ezra 2:62; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 20:15), and preventing them from returning to the Promised Land. They had failed as "watchmen" over the house of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-21). The fulfillment of these judgments would prove to them that Yahweh was Lord (cf. Exodus 7:5).
The reasons for their judgment 13:8-16
Judgment would come on them for misleading the Lord’s people by falsely predicting peace when no peace was coming.
There are two interpretations of the references to whitewashing, the literal and the metaphorical. The literal interpretation understands God to be saying that when the residents of Jerusalem built their walls (Heb. hayis, a flimsy partition) and houses, believing that they were secure, the false prophets supported their efforts by adding the whitewash. They should have warned them to prepare for coming judgment rather than helping them beautify the walls of their homes. The coming divine judgment would descend on Jerusalem like a rainstorm with hailstones and violent winds and destroy their beautifully whitewashed walls. [Note: See ibid., pp. 801-2.]
The metaphorical interpretation, which most commentators took and which I prefer, understands God to be saying that these false prophets were putting a good front on the situation in Jerusalem, saying peace rather than judgment was coming. They were compounding Israel’s difficulties by hiding problems that needed to be exposed and corrected. Ezekiel was to tell them that invasion would come, like a rainstorm with hailstones and violent winds, and that their facade of a future for the people would then come crashing down (cf. Matthew 7:24-29).
"The false prophets were compared to those who build an unsafe wall and cover up its defects. The untempered mortar [AV] was actually whitewash, which is useless for strengthening insecure walls. Smooth words of false messengers hid from the people the actual seriousness of their spiritual condition. To daub with untempered mortar [or plaster with whitewash], in the metaphorical sense, is to flatter, to use hypocrisy. When the false prophets confirmed the people in their evil ways, by their approval they were whitewashing the flimsy spiritual structure of Israel." [Note: Feinberg, p. 75.]
When the walls, or the picture of the future that the false prophets had painted, had collapsed, the people would ask a question. They would question the materials out of which they constructed the wall, either the literal wall or the wall of false speculation. It had proved inadequate and unreliable.
"An attractive external appearance is no substitute for intrinsic soundness." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 408.]
The Lord promised to send a violent storm of judgment on His people in Jerusalem because of His anger against them and to destroy the people’s homes and the false prophets’ vision of the future. Then the foundations of their homes and the false prophets’ vision would lie exposed for all to see, and the false prophets themselves would perish in the judgment. Then they would know that the Lord was God.
The Lord would destroy both the people’s homes, or the false vision of the future that these prophets painted, as well as the prophets themselves, those who promised peace to Jerusalem when no peace was coming (cf. Matthew 18:7).
"It is a common failing for preachers to want to speak pleasing and appeasing words to their people, but if they are to be true to their calling they must be sure to receive and to impart nothing but God’s clear word, irrespective of the consequences. When church leaders encourage their people in sub-Christian standards or unbiblical ways they make themselves doubly guilty." [Note: Taylor, p. 122.]
The Lord also directed Ezekiel to speak judgment to the female false prophets who were concocting their own messages and passing them off as divine revelations (cf. Isaiah 3:16 to Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 32:9-13; Amos 4:1-3; Micah 3:5).
Their practices 13:17-19
Condemnation of the female false prophets 13:17-23
There were female as well as male prophets in Israel (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 6:14; Luke 2:36) and in the early church (Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5). However there were far fewer female than male prophets, and there was no formal order or class of female prophets. God raised up female prophets according to His sovereign purposes occasionally, but He usually used males for this ministry. Females who were not true prophets sometimes claimed to be such, just as males did.
"Although a limited number of oracles directed at women are found in the OT, the present prophecy against female false prophets has no equal." [Note: Block, The Book . . ., p. 412.]
He was to announce Yahweh’s judgment on these women who sewed cloth bands to place on the wrists and floor-length veils on the heads of themselves or the objects of their "prophesying." They used these aids to impress people and to cast spells on (to influence) people to bring them under their power (cf. Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:19).
"The activities attributed to these women suggest that they were more like witches or sorcerers than prophets [cf. 1 Samuel 28:7]." [Note: Cooper, p. 157. See also H. W. F. Saggs, "External Souls in the Old Testament [Ezekiel 13:17-21]," Journal of Semitic Studies (1974):1-12.]
Ezekiel was to announce judgment on those who indulged in these occult practices and perverted justice for only a little food or as a means of divination.
"In some cultures barley was used in occult practices either as an offering to the spirits or as a means of trying to determine the future." [Note: Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1252.]
These women had been willing to put some to death who did not deserve to die and to save others from death who did deserve to die. This was the result of their lying to God’s people, who loved to listen to their lies.
The Lord promised to oppose their practice of using magic bands to hunt down innocent lives. He would tear these bands from their arms and release the people that these false prophetesses had snared like birds. He would also tear off the veils they used to hunt the innocent and free those whom they had hunted down. These women were using some sort of magic to control people. Then these false prophetesses would know that the Lord was God.
Their judgment 13:20-23
Because these false prophetesses discouraged the righteous with falsehood without divine authorization and encouraged the wicked to continue in their wickedness, they would no longer see false visions or practice divination. They would die. The Lord would deliver His people from their deadly hands, and they would know that He was the Lord. [Note: For another study of this passage, see W. H. Brownlee, "Exorcising the Souls from Ezekiel xiii, 17-23," Journal of Biblical Literature 69 (1950):367-73.]
"Modern-day fortune tellers are rather similar to the women described in this passage. Fortune tellers, interestingly, are usually women, and they tend to dress in a rather elaborate manner, often wearing clothing or jewelry associated with the occult arts, comparable to the ’muffs’ on the prophetesses in ancient Israel (Ezekiel 13:18). They tend to give their advice in darkened rooms, where the attitude of the inquirer is influenced in an eerie way, and this corresponds to the veil put over the inquirer in Ezekiel’s description (Ezekiel 13:18). They are paid for what they do, just as the ancient women were (Ezekiel 13:19), and their advice is always dangerous (Ezekiel 13:19) because it leads people astray from the truth of God, that truth being the only way to live and not die eternally. They are frauds, who envision ’lies’ (NKJV, ’futility,’ Ezekiel 13:23) because their predictions are fabrications made up from their own minds (Ezekiel 13:17), just as was done in Ezekiel’s time." [Note: Stuart, p. 124.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/