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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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EZEKIEL 13

AGAINST LYING PROPHETS AND FALSE PROPHETESSES

Keil divided this chapter into only two divisions, namely, (1) prophecies against false prophets (Ezekiel 13:1-16), and (2) prophecies against the false prophetesses (Ezekiel 13:17-23). Bruce further divided the first division as 1st and 2nd denunciations of the false prophets in Ezek. 13:1-9 and Ezek. 13:10-16, respectively.

THE FIRST DENUNCIATION AGAINST FALSE PROPHETS

Ezek. 13:1-9


 
Verses 1-9
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own heart, Hear ye the word of Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets have been like foxes in the waste places. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither built up the wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of Jehovah. They have seen falsehood and lying divination, that say, Jehovah saith; but Jehovah hath not sent them: and they have made men to hope that the word would be confirmed. Have ye not seen a false vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, in that ye say, Jehovah saith; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because ye have spoken falsehood, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord Jehovah. And my hand shall be against the prophets that see false visions, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the council of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah.

Against the prophets…
(Ezekiel 13:2). Ezekiel had already prophesied against Jerusalem, against the cities of Judah, against the priests and against the king; and now he directs the prophecies against the false prophets.F1 Howie noted that there were at least three reasons for these denunciations: (1) they were prophesying out of their own subjective desires and imaginations and were not following God's Spirit at all; (2) they were doing nothing whatever to help Israel, neither building up the wall, nor helping to repair the breaches (gaps) in it; and (3) they were deliberate liars who prophesied lies and then expected God to confirm their lying words.F2

The foolish prophets that follow their own spirit…
(Ezekiel 13:3). The Biblical conception of the fool is the man who says in his heart that, there is no God. Much more than a lack of intelligence is indicated: (1) The fool is ignorant; (2) he is stupid, and (3) he is wicked (John 3:19).

Like foxes in the waste places…
(Ezekiel 13:4). Plumptre gave the meaning of this comparison as follows.

"The fox is cunning (Luke 13:32); it spoils the vine and its fruits (Song of Solomon 2:15); and it burrows among ruins (Nehemiah 4:3). So, (1) the false prophets were crafty; (2) they laid waste the vineyard of the Lord; (3) they profited from the ruin of Israel and made that ruin worse."F3

Neither built up the wall for the house of Israel…
(Ezekiel 13:5). The wall here, is not the literal wall of Jerusalem, but the wall of integrity, truth, honor, and love of the true God, which alone could afford any protection to the house of Israel in the disaster coming upon them. The false prophets were no help at all in this sector.

Have ye not spoken a lying divination…
(Ezekiel 13:6)? Divination is a reference to the superstitious method of procuring information or receiving an oracle by reading omens, drawing lots, or by some other such device.F4 It would appear from Ezekiel's use of the interrogative here that the false prophets did not even deny his charge of falsehoods on their part.

They have made men hope that the word would be confirmed…
(Ezekiel 13:6). The word here is the word of the false prophets. The Good News Bible renders this place, Yet they expect their words to come true. Plumptre noted this possible meaning of the text, adding that, In their deceiving of others, they came to deceive themselves, and were really expecting a fulfillment.F5

Bunn summarized the six charges against these false prophets as follows: "(1) their alleged prophecies were produced by their own minds; (2) they followed their own spirit, not God's; (3) they have seen nothing (Ezekiel 13:3); (4) they do nothing to help the people (Ezekiel 13:5); (5) they are deliberate liars (Ezekiel 13:6); and (6) they have misled God's people (Ezekiel 13:10)."F6

The sins of the false prophets having been boldly proclaimed, the prophet announced their punishment in Ezek. 13:9.

My hand shall be against the prophets that see false visions…
(Ezekiel 13:9) The following punishments are spelled out in this verse. (1) They shall not be in the council of my people. (2) Neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel. This was thought by Plumptre to be a reference to the Book of Life.F7 (3) Neither shall they enter into the land of Israel. This refers to the return of the righteous remnant following the end of the captivity. The false prophets shall have no part in the restored Israel.


 
Verses 10-16
Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there is no peace; and when one buildeth up a wall, behold, they daub it with untempered [mortar]: say unto them that daub it with untempered [mortar], that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my wrath; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in wrath to consume it. So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered [mortar], and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be uncovered; and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered [mortar]; and I will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; [to wit], the prophets of Israel that prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and that see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord Jehovah.

THE SECOND DENUNCIATION OF FALSE PROPHETS

The utter lack of integrity among the false prophets is here illustrated by the work of a foolish, incompetent builder who uses worthless mortar in the construction of a wall. We do not know exactly what the "untempered mortar" actually was, but it makes no difference. Whatever it was, it was worthless, and the first shower totally ruined it; but God promised them that it would be no ordinary shower at all, but an "overflowing one" in God's anger, with great hailstones and a tornadic wind. Their wall would fall ... fall ... fall ... come down to the ground... be consumed ... its foundation uncovered ... and even. the builders of it consumed with it!

This is not a reference to any literal wall, but to the rotten, worthless, and unbelieving "prophecies" these sinful men were preaching in place of the true Word of God; and we must add that there is today, in our society, a lot of daubing going on with the same kind of untempered mortar! Keil identified the daubing with untempered mortar as, "A figurative description of deceitful flattery and hypocrisy, the covering up of inward corruption with outward appearances, as in Matt. 23:27, and Acts 23:3."F8


 
Verses 17-19
And thou, son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, that prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe to the women that sew pillows upon all elbows, and make kerchiefs for the head of [persons of] every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and save souls alive for yourselves? And ye have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hearken unto lies.

PROPHECIES AGAINST THE FALSE PROPHETESSES

A number of prophetesses are mentioned in the Bible: Miriam in Exo. 15:20; Deborah, Judg. 4:4; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14; Noadiah, Neh. 6:14; Elizabeth, Luke 1:41-45, Anna, Luke 2:36-38, the four virgin daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9, and Jezebel, Rev. 21:20. Isaiah's wife is also called "a prophetess" (Isaiah 8:3); but in her case, the title is usually construed as meaning merely, "the prophet's wife."

The evil prophetesses mentioned here were a strange lot indeed, and Cooke stated that, "Prophetesses is too good a word for them; witches or sorceresses would suit the description better."F9 "These people were the ancient forerunners of the palmists, phrenologists, madams, fortune-tellers, card readers, and crystal ball watchers that ply their nefarious trade today in every large city on earth."F10

It is not known exactly what is meant by the pillows and kerchief's mentioned here; but whatever they were, Bruce stated: "They evidently belonged to the paraphernalia of witchcraft."F11 "It seems that the kind of witchcraft practiced by these "prophetesses" exercised a certain amount of control over individuals, like one sees in the West Indies in the voodoo cults. It was an art practiced solely from the profit motive (Ezekiel 13:19)."F12 Of course, the connecting of the holy name of the Lord Jehovah with such a crooked and shameful art was a profanation indeed.

"They did it for poor gain. If they could get no more for it, rather than refuse, they would sell you a false prophecy that would please you for the beggar's dole, a handful of barley, or a piece of bread."F13 The meaning of this paragraph is somewhat obscure, but Cooke said that, as rendered, "The passage describes the malicious, self-interested designs of these women, who victimized others by means of Witchcraft, and make a living by it for themselves."F14

As Leal noted, "Ignorance of exactly what those women were doing derives from the fact that a number of expressions used in this chapter are used nowhere else in the Bible."F15

Although Feinberg rejected the idea, he reported that some have suggested these women could also have engaged in harlotry and licentiousness, a suggestion that we accept as reasonable enough. After all, the New Testament prophetess, Jezebel, "Taught God's servants to commit fornication, seducing them into this sin" (Revelation 2:20); and the ambiguity of our passage here in Ezekiel makes us very reluctant to rule out this same possibility in the evil prophetesses mentioned here.

To slay souls that should not die…
(Ezekiel 13:19). This reference to the ability of those false prophetesses to slay or keep alive persons as their pleasure dictated cannot be a reference to what any of them could really do, but a sarcastic reference to what those evil women claimed they could do!


 
Verses 20-23
Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make [them] fly, and I will tear them from your arms; and I will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make [them] fly. Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Because with lies ye have grieved the heart of the righteous, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, and be saved alive: Therefore ye shall no more see false visions, nor divine divinations: and I will deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.

Hunt the souls to make them fly…
(Ezekiel 13:20). The the Good News Bible renders this sentence, I hate the wristbands you use in your attempt to control life and death. James Moffatt's Translation of the Bible, 1929, has this: I am against those amulets you use to snare poor human souls. Douay has it this way, I am against your cushions wherewith you try to catch flying souls. The NIV translates: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds. The Septuagint (LXX) has, I am against your pillows, whereby ye there confound souls.

The most attractive to us of all such renditions was mentioned by Canon Cook, who thought that, "hunting souls to make them fly" (Ezekiel 13:20) means "causing souls to fly into your gardens."F16 All of these serve to show the confusion that results from a damaged or uncertain text. The wonderful fact is that whatever the passage means, the message of God is plain enough. Those wicked prophetesses were rejected and punished by God who delivered his people from their power. Is that not sufficient anyway?

Howie summed up the teaching here as follows.

"God condemned the sorceresses. He destroyed the badges of their art (the pillows, cushions, or whatever they were); he freed the souls they hunted and allowed them to escape like birds. Such women claimed powers over the living and the dead; the effect of that was to discourage the righteous and to aid and abet the wicked; and that is always the way it is when magic, witchcraft, and sorcery are permitted to usurp the place in men's hearts that belongs to true religion."F17


Footnotes for Ezekiel 13
1: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Moody Press), p. 73.
2: Carl G. Howie in the Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 36.
3: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 228.
4: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 672.
5: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 229.
6: John T. Bunn in the Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1871), pp. 267,268.
7: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 229.
8: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 168.
9: International Critical Commentary, p. 144.
10: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 725.
11: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 873.
12: John T. Bunn in the Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1871), p. 268.
13: Matthew Henry Commentary (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell), p. 823.
14: International Critical Commentary, p. 146.
15: Thomas H. Leal in The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (Funk and Wagnalls), p. 142.
16: Albert Barnes' Commentary, p. 333.
17: Carl G. Howie in the Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 38.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=eze&chapter=013>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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