Consider helping today!
(4.) OF FALSE PROPHETS AND PROPHETESSES (Chap. 13)
Condemnation of the Prophets (Ezekiel 13:1-16)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—The declaration in Ezekiel 12:24 was that unsubstantiated and delusive prophecy should cease by the fulfilment of the true, and in this chapter a description and denunciation of the former are given. The men and women who had taken upon themselves to announce “salvation without repentance, grace without judgment,” were found both in Judea and among the captive Jews. The utterance of Ezekiel is akin to that of Jeremiah (chap. 23.). Both indicate that the wishes of the people framed a mould for conclusions as to the will of the Lord. They made the prophets they believed in.
Ezekiel 13:1-7 describe the characteristics of the unauthorised prophets. Ezekiel 13:2. Ezekiel is enjoined to prophecy “to the prophets of Israel;” they had popular sympathy and acceptance. The spirit of the age approved of them, although they were “prophets out of their own hearts.” They might sincerely hold what they said as true, but their words were nothing except the products of their imaginations; anything but the communications of God. “Hear the word of the Lord.” That which they had not within they shall obtain from without, and to their shame. If false representations of God are powerful He will raise up a standard against them.
Ezekiel 13:3. They are threatened. “Woe to the prophets, fools,” not merely in going where they were not sent, but actually godless men (Psalms 14:1), and consequently “who walk after their own spirit, and that which they have not seen.” Not by the insight which the Lord gives (Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:11, &c.) A twofold aspect of a revelation of God is presented. Its starting-point. It begins in an impression made on a man’s spirit, and is not originated by his own thoughts and fancies. Its goal. The statement of truth accordant with God’s justice and love. The light of the face of God, not the man’s inner light, is to satisfy the calls for guidance in right thoughts and ways. Christ, and not humanity, must be our test of truth.
Ezekiel 13:4. “As foxes among ruins thy prophets, O Israel, are.” Deserted places are a favourite resort of foxes. “Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it” (Lamentations 5:18). And those who were counted messengers of the Lord found their sphere of profit in the omens of the desolation of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 13:5. Israel by sins had become exposed to the assaults of divine penalties; but its favoured prophets had acted like unpatriotic cowards in the crisis of danger. “Ye have not gone up into the breaches, nor made up a wall about the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.” The moral and spiritual evils of the people were as gaps in the wall of Jerusalem; but the prophets had done nothing by reproof and personal conduct to urge to repentance and reformation. They had nothing of that self-humiliation and intercession for the guilty which was manifested by Abraham (Genesis 18:23-33), Moses (Exodus 32:11-13), Paul (Romans 9:3).
Ezekiel 13:6. All pseudo-prophets might not be deceiving, but though “the Lord had not sent them,” yet “they hoped to establish the word,” i.e., they tried to persuade the people that the unsupported promises made to them would be fully realised, with this result alone, that the falsity would be all the more painfully brought home.
Ezekiel 13:8-16. Announce the consequences of prophesying without divine impulse. Ezekiel 13:8 states that the Lord is against the prophets; and Ezekiel 13:9 intimates three calamities which shall befall them in relation to the new theocratic regime. They shall neither be numbered “in the council of my people,” they will not be members of the influential and ruling circle; nor “be written in the register of the house of Israel,” they will not be struck out of that roll which has given them a name and place among the citizens of Israel, but they will not be entered into the roll of the Israel which shall arise from the faithful remnant; and the portion which is in exile “shall not come into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 13:10). The erring prophets had brought condemnation upon themselves, and produced such a state that “it,” the people, “built a wall, and behold, they,” the prophets, “coat it with plaster” (or whitewash, Fair., who refers to Paul’s indignant charge on the high priest, “Thou whited wall!” Acts 23:3); ministering to the deceptive hopes of the people instead of exposing their worthlessness. The deluding of the prophets would not last (Ezekiel 13:11). “It,” the wall, daubed “with whited plaster, shall fall” by means of agencies controlled by God the Lord: the “rain,” “hail-stones,” and “storm,” which should be launched against it. Ezekiel 13:14 applies the figure to the reality, and threatens the destruction of those who believed a lie. “I cast it to the ground, and its foundation is laid bare and it falls, and ye are consumed in the midst of it,” i.e. of Jerusalem (comp. Matthew 7:24-27). Ezekiel 13:15. Both deceived and deceivers would be overwhelmed: “And I will say unto you, The wall is not, and they who coated it are not.” Ezekiel 13:16. Ezekiel rounds off this portion of his utterance with a thrust at “the prophets of Israel” who affirmed that they saw “a vision of peace for her,” Jerusalem, “and there is no peace.”
MISLEADING HOPES OF FREEDOM FROM FUTURE EVILS
The Jews entertained delusive hopes regarding the future welfare of their city and land, and observation proves that, where the Gospel is preached in town or country, many hearers indulge in ungrounded trust as to their escape from the judgment of God against their doings. The reasons which are at work to produce this mistake are similar in the present age to those which operated in the past. They are—
I. Slighting notions as to the evil of sin. People may neglect to follow a prescribed course of obedience, or may openly take the course which cuts across it; but they are not humbled for so doing. They make up excuses. “I am not like this publican.” “I have a good heart.” “I have not done things worthy to suffer destruction.” At the base of all wrong thoughts, at the base of all erroneous teachings as to man’s position before God, lies a misconception of the guilt of secret or presumptuous sins. All unrighteousness is sin and a gap through which unknown penalty rushes on the guilty.
II. Listening to one’s own wishes. We do not wish to count ourselves really “miserable sinners,” or to look at the signs which show that we are moving down the hellward slopes of sin; so we evade the accusations which the true and faithful witness brings against us. His voice is not heard, or, if we cannot ignore it, we easily suppose that its warnings must be meant for others, not for us. How needful to arm ourselves with the mind which will ask, Am I regulating my convictions by what I wish or by what the Lord wishes? Are the teachings to which I listen such as I like to have, or are they based upon the truth and holiness of God?
III. Influenced by misguiding teachers. This influence is exerted by self originated doctrines. They speak from their own heart. They propound and defend opinions grounded on their views of things, and not on the reality. They can evolve worlds, form conscience, do away with all necessity of a living God. They promise smooth things to a people who have a form of godliness. They hide the present damnation of sin under statements which excuse defective and immoral conduct, and its future under explanations which impugn eternal justice. By plausible help. They covered over ugly and dangerous inlets of evil, and they seemed safe; but the covering was of too flimsy a kind. It did not show lives lived differently from those of the transgressors. It did not indicate effectual prayer for the people. It did not denounce sin and warn of its impending punishment: or it did so in such general terms that none are convinced that they are the evildoers who are doomed to the overwhelming wrath of Him before whom evil cannot stand. By their professed authorisation. They prophesied in the name of the Lord though He knew them not. They had so far regard to God as to believe that they ought to say only what He commanded. They may speak what they think; sincerely suppose that they have right on their side; but they are deceived. They see that which might be perceived to be a lie, thus they buoy up their hearers with false hopes and do untold harm to bodies and souls by their errors.
“Some teach men to expect safety from a comparative decency of moral character; some on account of formal and superstitious observances; some because they belong to an orthodox part of the Church and have got some notions of certain important doctrines; some because of their impressions and enthusiastic reveries; and others even by a direct abuse of the gospel and making Christ the minister of sin.… All are alike distant from Christ the true foundation: they build not on Him by a penitent faith that worketh by love, and produceth obedience; they either leave out His merits and atonement, or the work of His new-creating Spirit, or the substantial fruits of righteousness; and in different ways endeavour to varnish, paint and repair the old building, instead of erecting a new one on a new foundation, for ‘an habitation of God through the Spirit.’ ”—W. F.
1. Judgment will come notwithstanding hopes of escaping it. Nothing of man can avail to resist it. The daubed wall shall fall and overwhelm misleaders and misled.
2. Beware lest thou flatter with a trust to hopes of safety which are not drawn from God’s will revealed in Christ. Thou hast the knowledge given of Him. Be true and faithful to Him only.
CONDEMNATION OF THE PROPHETESSES (Ezekiel 13:17-23)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—A disposition to prophecy was in the air; so women as well as men, in Jerusalem and among the exiles, were influenced by it. Naturally it assumed different forms in the one from what it did in the other. Men daub walls, women sew, make veils, &c. Both are deceiving, and shall certainly be set at nought. There seems no weight to be accorded to the suggestion that the existence of these prophetesses was proof of “a fresh instance of declension into heathen usages.” The gift of true prophecy came to holy women in the earlier history of Israel before Christ and also in the later, and might be pretended to.
Ezekiel 13:18. Ignorance of the practices alluded to here stands in the way of clearing up the meaning of this verse. We can decide only by probabilities. “Woe unto the women who sew coverings on every joint of the hands.” Whether these coverings were cushions or amulets or other objects, their use seems to have been to make an appearance which would impress the people. So with the following, “And who make veils on the head of every stature;” under the envelopment of clothing on the head adapted to their varying size—figure, age, condition—they fitted themselves to act upon their hearers, “to hunt [as bird-catcher’s] souls,” and thus ensnare to their ruin. The verse condemns sensational methods of divination resorted to by the prophetesses, whether the method was by gesture or dress or word. Hence the question of surprise at the infatuation which would use such means. “The souls of my people will ye hunt and the souls of yourselves will ye keep alive?” Persuading themselves of their own security, they entered on practices intended to persuade the Israelites to the same confidence, while destruction only would result to them.
Ezekiel 13:19. “And will ye profane me among my people,” by prophesying in my name, for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, offerings such as were brought when consulting a seer (1 Samuel 9:7-8; 1 Kings 14:3; cf. Micah 3:5); and by declaring that ye speak the words of the Lord when they are not, the result of such profaning the Lord being “to slay souls which should not die and to keep alive souls which should not live, by your lying to my people, hearers of lying.
Ezekiel 13:20. Punishment of the women. “Behold I [come] to your coverings with which ye hunt souls as [if they were] flying [birds], and I tear them off your arms.” Their snares shall be spread in vain, “I set free the souls which ye hunt, the souls” which ye deal with “as flying [birds].”
Ezekiel 13:21. “And I tear your veils and deliver my people from your hand.” Ye seduce them by your various artifices, so as to destroy the people, and I would expose your pretences so as to save them.
Ezekiel 13:22. Because the prophetesses have acted so that false impressions of God are produced on the mind of the righteous and wicked, disheartening the former in good and confirming the latter in evil ways, “Therefore ye shall not see vanity and shall not divine divinations any more, and I will deliver my people out of your hand.” It is with God they are in conflict, and the utter failure of their prophecies will so appear that “ye shall know that I am the Lord:” knowledge of God is for the guilty a doom, for the righteous a security.
WOMEN IN RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
Serious events were about to occur in Israel. The shadow of them was cast over women as well as men. Spiritual influence knows no sex. Women “show piety at home,” in the more retired ways along which the little ones, the weak, the downcast of the world make their journey, but the groundswell of religious emotion rolling over a people impels some of its women into open and even audacious appearances.
I. The women assume deceptive methods. By dresses, or gestures, or other devices they pander to the senses so as to attract and impress those who hear them. If women are naturally more disposed to such methods than men, yet the warning is of unrestricted interest, that external representations in religion are of uncertain tendency; strong to promote error, they are poor allies in advancing truth.
II. Women are induced to act from unworthy motives. There is desire for power. They strive to move and control souls, and thus, as in later days, to “glory in the flesh” with their adherents. There is self regard. They persuade themselves that things will turn out so as to bring security for themselves, to save their own souls, even though they shrink from the narrow way of life and endure no hardness. There is greed. A very trifling present gets them to say that all is well when all is not well; that that is right which is wrong before God.
III. They are held responsible for their procedure. They hide the threatenings of the Lord, or pare down their awful meaning. They comfort souls in sin; distress souls seeking God. The painful result of their lies is that they hunt into peril those whom God would rescue; seize and kill souls whom God would save. Standing thus against God’s love and grace, they are counted out for condemnation, as the false prophets were. She who sins must suffer loss.
ERROR PREACHED (Ezekiel 13:22)
I. The painful effects of erroneous teachings. The good are disheartened by scruples, perplexities, fears, and weakened to pursue their journey in the ways of the Lord: the evil are emboldened to go on the broad road by opiates to conscience and confirmation to unbelief.
II. The contrariety to God in them. He is the God of all comfort to those that fear His name; but this teaching breaks the inflow of His promises. He would make the dead in trespasses and sins to live through faith in Christ the Truth; but this teaching prevents faith, and He can do no mighty work of salvation.
III. The valid test for them. When high pretensions, dogmatic operations, fascinating proffers act so as to relax supreme regard to truth, righteousness, purity, and a true follower of Christ is depressed; or when hopes are produced in the mind of those who are not yielding themselves unto God that they will live, then each class may know that the words they hear are opposed to those of Him who is the true and living One, and are condemned by Him.
1. A people professing to know the Lord are not unaffected by the popular erroneous teaching of their day.
2. They may hope for His interference in their behalf, for He lays their real interest deeply to heart.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter