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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 13

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-16

False Prophets Described and Judged (13:1-16)

This well-known passage is an analysis in depth of the prophetic failure in Judah’s time of distress. Ezekiel is ordered by God to speak against the prophets of Israel for three reasons : ( 1 ) They prophesied out of their own minds and followed their own spirit; (2) in Israel’s distress they did not stand; and (3) they deliberately lied and then expected God to fulfill their words.

A genuine prophet spoke on behalf of another and not in his own right; he was a medium for God’s word, not for man’s wisdom. False prophets spoke what came to their minds at the moment and followed the inclinations of their own hearts. Yet, for this human wisdom they claimed the authority of "Thus saith the Lord." They had "seen nothing," yet they proclaimed much. These men were as useless as "foxes among ruins," They had not "gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel." In other words, they fulfilled no function in a crisis. Actually the reference to the wall describes the spiritual vitality of the people, which was part of the prophetic responsibility. Later the Pharisees spoke of the "fence of the law" which protected them against mundane intrusions. The wall of spiritual defense had not been built by the prophets, hence they are adjudged false prophets.

The initiative which must always be reserved for God is taken by the prophets. Instead of receiving the word from God which he then will perform, they speak their own word and expect him to fulfill it lest failure should embarrass his standing. A rhetorical question sums up and closes the paragraph.

On account of their delusive visions and blasphemous attitudes the Lord is against the prophets. Judgment is spelled out in three categories : "They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel" (vs. 9b). To put it simply, they are disinherited because they have been unworthy of their true heritage. Their message has been what people wanted to hear: "Peace." But the problem was, ". . . there is no peace," because the prophets and people had not done those things which make for peace. The word "peace" stands for that condition of balance and happiness in life which proceeds out of the Covenant relationship with God, Peace, as most students of the Bible know, refers not so much to absence of conflict as to completeness of life. That kind of fulfillment can be had only through harmonious relationship with Almighty God, a relationship which was woefully absent in Judah’s corporate life.

The pretense of religious strength and security typified by these prophets is magnificently described in the figure of a crumbling wall which is about to fall. Instead of repairing it properly, "these prophets daub it with whitewash" (vs. 10) . When the storm comes the "whitewash" (pretense) will be washed off and the wall will tumble in rubble to the ground. The wall is identified with the prophets who will themselves be destroyed in the destruction of their own handiwork (vss. 14-16). The last sentence of the paragraph has a genuine finality about it. Thus the shallow optimism which when nothing was right loudly proclaimed that all was well, was utterly liquidated, together with its purveyors.

Verses 17-23

Prophetesses Doomed (13:17-23)

When true religion does not fulfill its assigned role properly, substitutes for it begin to appear in numerous places and countless forms. The women described in verses 17-23, obviously soothsayers, witches, or sorceresses, are good examples of such perverse substitutes for religion. We should not be surprised that this type of activity was found alongside the high religion of Israel; even church people today are fascinated by such expressions of the occult as crystal-ball and horoscope readings. The exact meaning of verse 18 escapes us. It is probable that the "bands" were symbols of the power with which these sorceresses made people their captives. We do not know what kind of practice may be described in the words "and make veils ... in the hunt for souls." That the main purpose of these witches was to make a profit is stated plainly and unmistakably. "For handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread" these misguided and evil women sought to influence God’s people in matters of life and death (vs. 19).

For these reasons God condemns the deceit of sorcery and the sorceresses. He will destroy the badges of their art ("magic bands") and will let the souls that they have hunted "go free like birds." It is possible that such women claimed a power over the dead as well as over the living. The effect of such a claim would be to dishearten the righteous and to encourage the wicked (vs. 22). It is always so with the magical rites of false religion which have no relation to moral values.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 13". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-13.html.
 
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