1 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”
Another interval follows, and then a fresh and fuller burst of
inspiration, manifestly in close connection with ch.12:21-28, and
to be read in combination with Jeremiah 23., especially vs. 20-22,
which, as Jeremiah was in communication with the exiles (Jeremiah 29:1),
Ezekiel may probably have seen. There were false prophets and prophetesses
among the exiles as well as in
his long pent up indignation.
2 “Son of
man, prophesy against the prophets of
and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear
ye the word of the LORD; 3 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto
the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!”
Son of man, prophesy, etc. The sin of the men whom Ezekiel denounced was
that they prophesied out of their own hearts (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16, 26), and
followed their own spirit instead of the Spirit of Jehovah. All was human and
of the earth. Not a single fact in the future, not a single eternal law governing
both the future and the past, was brought to light by it. To one who was
conscious that he had a message which he had not devised himself, and which
he had not been taught by men (Galatians 1:12); that he had no selfish ends in
what he said and did; that he was risking peace, reputation, life itself, for the
truth revealed to him, — nothing could be more repulsive than this claim to
have seen a vision of Jehovah, by men who had in reality seen nothing.
For foolish prophets, read, with the stronger Hebrew, the prophets, the
fools, the words deriving their force from a kind of paronomasia of
alliteration. The nabiim are also the n’balim.
Prophesying Against the Prophets (v. 2)
TAUGHT. No man is a perfect fountain of original knowledge. The
teacher must not only be a scholar in his early days, he must be a learner all
through his life. Moreover, in regard to his own experience he needs light
and help. He is not merely a voice for other souls. He too has a soul which
may be in darkness, even while he is striving to illumine his hearers. There
is great danger in the professionalism of the pulpit. It comes to be taken for
granted too readily that familiarity in handling the words of eternal life
presupposes a healthy possession of that life. Preachers hear but few
sermons. We want missionaries to the pulpit of our land, that the leaders of
the people’s religion may be led by THE TRUTH OF GOD!
professional prophets of
false prophets. They were not simply blind and in error. They made lying
pretences to an inspiration which they did not possess, and they flattered
people with vain visions which they had themselves cunningly devised.
Their’s was guilt of deepest dye. The teacher may fall into error
unintentionally, for he is a fallible man; and then his mistake will not be
culpable. But deception and moral failure are fatal sins. Surely every one
who stands in the responsible position of a leader of others has a double
motive for searching his own soul to see that he is not a false prophet.
ACCOUNT BY GOD. God has been watching the false prophets, and
now Ezekiel is sent with a special message to them. What, then, is the
advantage of prostituting the high mission of a servant of God for the sake
of popular favor? The flatteries of a deluded multitude will not save the
deceiver when he is called to account by his great Master. Nay, those
flatteries will turn to curses when the victims of his base deception have
their eyes open to the snare which he has laid for them. Of all pursuits, that
of preaching simply for popularity is the most dangerous and degrading.
THE NAME OF GOD ARE THE MOST FALSE TEACHERS. The
they carried that teaching out of their own hearts, and then ascribed it to
God. Now, the prophet was an inspired man, or he was nothing. His SOLE
BUSINESS was TO DECLARE THE DIVINE MESSAGE — “Thus
saith the Lord.” But in speaking only out of his own heart he knew that he
had no such message. Yet by professing to be a prophet he claimed to be
giving it. Here was his great sin. He was forging the name of God for his
own inventions (see v. 6). Similar is the sin of the preacher in a Christian
pulpit who uses that vantage ground to expound his own private ideas to
the neglect of, or even in opposition to, the teachings of the Bible, and yet
on the authority of the Christian ministry. This is treason against Christ.
Like the foxes in the deserts, etc. The points of comparison are
manifold. The fox is cunning (Luke 13:32, where the term is applied to
Herod Antipas). It spoils the vine and its fruits (Song of Solomon 2:15);
it burrows among ruins (Nehemiah 4:3; Lamentations 5:18). So the false
prophets were crafty, laid waste the vineyard of the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 5:7),
made their profit out of the ruin of
Matthew 7:15 and Acts 20:29 wolves appear as the types of the false prophet.
Foxes (v. 4)
Ezekiel here likens the false prophets to foxes in waste places. This cutting
comparison shows the daring of the true prophet, the extremity of the evil
of false prophecy, and the crying need of exposure of this evil. There is a
limit to the reserve of politeness when truth is dishonored and God
insulted by those whom a culpable charity still flatters with terms of
friendliness. Christ called Herod a fox (Luke 13:32). Still, it needs the
grace of Christ or the inspiration of an Ezekiel to be sure that one’s use of
such a title for a fellow man is not misapplied. Consider in what respects
false teachers may be compared to foxes.
untamed and practically untamable. Now, to all appearance the false
prophets were very different, were the very opposite in manners and
demeanor. They were the trained sophists of an ancient civilization, court
preachers well skilled in the use of oily phrases, masters of polite diction.
To call such men foxes would seem to be an extravagant insult.
Nevertheless, beneath the gracious exterior there was the heart of the
untamed animal. These teachers were not submissive to the guidance of the
Spirit of God. All who refuse that guidance are wandering in the wilderness
of life. They are not the sheep of God’s flock, but like the foxes that range
at large outside the fold.
were not celebrated for the cunning for which they were famous in Greek
fables, but for their wasting mischief. False teachers are compared to these
ravenous beasts. The willful teachers of error are like the wreckers who
hang out false lights to draw ships to the rocks. The destruction is twofold.
Ø By driving from the true pastures. Thus the flock is starved in the
wilderness. Error draws men off from the wholesome food of truth.
Ø By direct injury. The foxes tear and devour the lambs of the flock.
Error has deadly fangs in spite of its gracious aspect.
among ruins. False teaching flourishes when the Church has fallen into
decay. A low moral tone prepares the way for error. If the soul were in a
vigorous condition, the deceitfulness of an unworthy teacher would be
speedily detected. It is only spiritual degeneracy that can give an
opportunity for the religious charlatan.
night. Deceitful teachers prey upon the ignorant and superstitious. Like the
wild animals that only creep out under shelter of night, they prowl about in
the shadows of dark times. They dread the day. (Jesus said “this is the
condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every
one that doeth evil hateth the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
(John 3:19-20) Therefore the remedy is to be found in THE SPREAD
OF LIGHT! We cannot conquer error by directly refuting it so well as
by fortifying people against it with A CLEAR, STRONG TEACHING
OF THE TRUTH! The foxes of error are on the look out for their victims.
Let the shepherds of light be to the fore in keeping the pure truth of the
New Testament well in the minds and hearts of the people.
5 “Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for
the house of
The verse contains two distinct images. There were breaches in
not been as “repairers of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12; Psalm 106:23).
The hedge of the vineyard of
and they had done nothing to restore it (ch.22:30). The day
of battle, the day of the Lord, had come, and they were betraying the
people instead of helping.
The Breaches of Sin, and the Duty of Closing Them (v. 5)
“Ye have not gone up, into the gaps,” etc. Our text suggests the following
DANGERS. The text suggests the figure of a besieged city, in the walls of
which breaches have been made, through which the enemy rushes in to
fight with its inhabitants and to take possession of its treasures. There is
perhaps a reference to the approaching siege of
Chaldeans, in which that city would fall because of the sins of its
inhabitants. So sin makes wide gaps in the defenses of a people, deprives
them of the Divine protection, and exposes them to the assaults of their
enemies. The sins of the
breaches which let in the fiery flood which consumed them. The sins of the
Israelites in the wilderness on one occasion made a gap in their defenses
through which the plague entered and slew fourteen thousand and seven
hundred persons (Numbers 16:41-50). The sin of Achan in coveting,
stealing, and concealing some of the spoils of
express commands, opened a wide breach through which the enemies of
Of them (Joshua 7.). And when David sinned in numbering the people he
made a gap through which the pestilence entered and destroyed seventy
thousand men (II Samuel 24.; compare Isaiah 42:24-25).
IN WHICH JUDGMENT WILL BE EXECUTED UPON SINNERS.
That crisis is here called “the day of the Lord.” The day of Jehovah is the
time fixed by Him with reference to the reckoning to be given in to Him.
It seems to us more correct to say that it is “the time of the arrival of the
judgment.” This crisis was rapidly drawing near to the inhabitants of
that their punishment will enter thereat and seize upon them. Sinful
character and conduct advance towards maturity, and when that is attained,
if not before, the sinner, or the community of sinners, will meet with just
retribution. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
(Galatians 6:7) The forbearance and long suffering of God with the wicked
are very great; but if these be trifled with and presumed upon, He will cease
to exercise them, and will appear for the execution of His judgment
(See Romans 2:4-11).
ENDEAVOR TO GUARD THE IMPERILLED PEOPLE AGAINST
THE DANGERS WHICH THREATEN THEM. When the people by their
sins have exposed themselves to their enemies, it behoves the faithful to go
up into the gaps, and to make “up the fence for the house of
in the battle in the day of the Lord.” This may be done:
Ø By preaching repentance to the guilty people. When the people of
Threatened because of their sins, was averted. If the prophets had
summoned the people to repentance, and the people had responded
truly to that summons, then would the breach in the fence have been
made up, and they would have been able “to stand in the battle in the
day of the Lord.” There is no better wall than REFORMATION OF
LIFE! “If they have stood in my council, then had they caused my
people to hear my words,” etc. (Jeremiah 23:22).
Ø By presenting intercession for the guilty people. There are a number of
impressive examples in the sacred Scriptures of the servants of God
stepping into the gap and saving the imperiled people by their prayers
(Exodus 32:11-14, 31-34; Psalm 106:23; Numbers 14:13-24; 16:41-48;
I Samuel 7:8-10). God has often graciously heard the cry of
His faithful servants on behalf of the guilty, and turned aside from
them the stroke of His judgment. He has spared the wicked for the
sake of the righteous.
DUTY. These false prophets had “not gone up into the gaps, neither made
up the fence for the house of
Lord.” They had neither preached repentance to the people, nor pleaded
with God on their behalf; but had positively encouraged them in their sinful
and false security; therefore the judgment of the Lord fell upon them TO
THEIR UTTER OVERTHROW!” “I sought for a man among them,
that should make up the fence, and stand in the gap before me for the
land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none,” etc. (ch.22:30-31).
False prophets cannot pray.” They have neither interest in heaven nor
intercourse with heaven. And they have no heart to make a stand against
the sins of their people, and so save them from ruin.
6 “They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD
saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made
others to hope that they would confirm the word. 7 Have ye not
seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas
ye say, The Lord saith it; albeit I have not spoken? 8 Therefore thus
saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies,
therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God.”
The Lord saith. The verb is that specially used for the
utterance of prophets, and the deceivers used it without the authority of a
true mission. For they have made others (or, men) to hope, etc., as in the
Authorized Version and Revised Version, read, with the margin of Revised
Version, they hope to confirm their word, taking the verb as in Psalm
119:43, 49; Job 6:11, et al.). So the Vulgate, persereraverunt
confirmare. Through deceiving others, they came to DECEIVE
THEMSELVES and were really expecting a fulfillment.
9 “And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that
divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither
shall they be written in the writing of the
shall they enter into the
the Lord GOD.” Mine hand shall be, etc. After Ezekiel’s manner, the
thought of v. 6 is repeated in an altered form in vs. 7-8. What had been a
statement appears as a question to which there could be but one answer.
The prophet, as it were, cross examines his rivals. Could they deny the
charge? Was not every word of it true? Then, after the statement of the sin
of the false prophets, comes the proclamation of the punishment. The hand
of Jehovah would be upon them for evil and not for good. In the assembly
of my people. The Hebrew word indicates not a large popular gathering,
but a secret council of those who deliberate together to carry out their
plans (Psalm 89:7; 111:1; Jeremiah 6:11). The prophets who had
acted together, and been looked up to by the people as forming such a
council, should lose that position of authority. The words that follow point
to a yet lower degradation. They should be in the strictest sense of the
word excommunicated. The city of
had its register of citizens. In such a register were inscribed also the names
of proselytes of other races (Psalm 87:6), and so men came to think of
a like register as kept by the King of kings, containing the names of those
were heirs of the “life” of the true
Daniel 12:1). In neither of those registers, the earthly and the
heavenly (but stress is probably laid upon the former), shall the false
prophets find a place. Ezra 2:62 gives an example of the use made of
such registers on the return from the Captivity. One notes the contrast
between the “my people” which recognizes
Jehovah, and the “thy people” used in ch.3:11 of the rebellious
house of the Captivity. For the false prophets there should be no return to
faithful and the penitent (ch.37:21; compare Isaiah 57:13). Here
there is no specific mention of the name being struck out. The prophet
contemplates a new register, in which their names will never even have
10 “Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying,
Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo,
others daubed it with untempered morter:” Peace, when there was no
peace. This, as in Micah 3:5; Jeremiah 6:14; 23:17; Zechariah 10:2, was
the root evil of the false prophet’s work. He lulled men into a false security,
and so narcotized their consciences. One built up a wall. The imagery starts
from the picture of a ruined city already implied in vs. 4-5, and expands into
a parable in which we note a parallelism”
(Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49).
With an incisive sarcasm, Ezekiel describes what we should call the
“scamp-work” of their spiritual building. They profess to be “repairers of
the breach” (Isaiah 58:12) in the walls of the spiritual
how they set about it. One built up a wall. This may point to a false
prophet, but the “one” (Hebrew, “he”) is probably indefinite, like the
French on, equivalent to “some one.” Some scheme is devised, an Egyptian
alliance or the like, to which the people look for safety. It is, as in the
margin of the Authorized Version, a “slight wall,” such as was used for
partition walls inside houses. They make it do duty as an outside wall (kir
in v. 12). It has no sure “footings,” and materials and workmanship are
alike defective. The false prophets would smear it over with untempered
mortar (the Hebrew word is found only here and in ch. 22:28, and
is probably an example of Ezekiel’s acquaintance with the technical
vocabulary of his time) — with a stucco or plaster, which is hardly better
than whitewash (compare the “whitened” or plastered wall or sepulchre of
Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44; Acts 23:3), used to hide its detects and give
it a semblance of solidity. They come, that is, with smooth words and
promises of peace.
False Peace (v. 10)
“Peace; and there was no peace.”
War stands with famine and plague as one of the three great scourges of
man, and it is the greatest of the three. There is a worse war than that of
man with his fellow:
Ø the war of sin against the soul, and
Ø the war of the soul against God.
This spiritual war wounds, slays, devastates, terrorizes. It is true that many
who wage it never confess its hurtfulness, and even profess a joy in their
condition. But when men retire into the silence of their own souls they
must feel that the unrest within, which perhaps they do not yet ascribe
to their sinful alienation from God, is a source of utter weariness,
perhaps even of soul agony. Cowper exclaims:
“Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more!”
contemporary prophets promised peace, though
threatened with destruction by the true prophets of God.
Ø The peace of unbelief. The threatenings of judgment are discredited.
Future punishment is regarded as an invention of the priests to keep
their dupes in subjection.
Ø The peace of self-satisfaction. The true prophets denounced sin; but the
false prophets flattered with smooth words. There is a teaching which
minimizes sin and guilt, and so lulls the alarmed conscience to sleep.
Ø The peace of presumption. The false teachers taught their hearers to
presume on the favor of God, and to assume that God would never
of God’s love by assuming that He will never smite in anger.
might say “peace;” but there would be no more peace for all their
reiteration of the pleasant message. Smooth doctrines do not make smooth
facts. We may enjoy a rosy theology with no shadows in its ideas; but if
there are shadows in life, they will not be softened thereby. The future is
not shaped by our notions of what it should be; neither is real peace given
in the present by mere words of peace. The need is deeper than that which
any assuring language can satisfy. The unrest of the soul calls for an active,
powerful pacifying. Till that is experienced the soul will be restless still.
but it is not to be got through flattering words and pleasant assurances.
Perhaps storms and trouble will precede it. At least there must be the break
up of the false peace in the revolution of complete repentance. Then Christ
will not only speak peace; He comes to make peace (Ephesians 2:15).
His peace is brought about by His victory over sin, which is the one
fundamental cause of war between the soul and God, and of unrest in the
soul itself. Christ reconciles us to God by His cross, and brings our souls
into harmony with the will of God. This is the only sure and solid peace.
11 “Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall
fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall
fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. 12 Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it
not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?
13 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even rend it with a
stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower
in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it.
14 So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with
untempered morter, and bring it down to the ground, so that the
foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye
shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I
am the LORD. 15 Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and
upon them that have daubed it with untempered morter, and will say
unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it;
16 To wit,
the prophets of
peace, saith the Lord GOD.” In words which would almost seem to have
been in our Lord’s thoughts in Matthew 7:25, we have the picture of an
Eastern storm, torrents of rain passing into hail, accompanied by a tornado
of irresistible violence (compare like pictures in Exodus 9:22; Joshua 10:11;
Isaiah 30:30; 28:2, 17). And when the disaster comes men will turn to those
who professed to be master builders and repairers of the breach, with derision,
and ask, “Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed?” And then men
shall see that through all this it is Jehovah’s hand that has been working.
It is He who “rends” the wall; He who “brings it down to the ground;” He who
“accomplishes His wrath” (vs. 13-15). That shall be the end of the false
“visions of peace.”
Untempered Mortar (vs. 11-16)
The teaching of the false prophets of peace is here compared to a wall built
of untempered mortar, which is overthrown in a tempest.
Ø It offers protection. The wall is built, and it endures long enough to
invite the threatened people to take shelter behind it. It stands between
them and the enemy. So a false hope is planted between men and their
danger, like a city wall, and it encourages them to despise the danger.
Ø It presents a fair appearance. The wall may be well designed with
towers, and bastions, and battlements, and all the latest improvements
in plans of fortifications. It has a certain mortar holding the stones
together, which may appear to be of the very best quality. So false
hopes charm with an appearance of solidity.
Ø It contains solid materials. It is not a mere mound of earth. There are
good hewn stones in the structure. Hence its deceptive appearance.
A lie that is half a truth is the most deadly lie. We may have certain
solid truths of the Christian religion. Yet if these are not united by
personal faith they hang loosely together, and will not save us.
Ø It lacks an essential element. The mortar is rotten. Then all the rest goes
for nothing. “One thing thou lackest” (Mark 10:21). Yet that one thing
may be so vital that the absence of it may lead to utter failure. Our
system of religion, like the teaching of the false prophets, may have
every commendable element, beauty, symmetry, fullness, etc., except
one — TRUTH. Then, alas! there is nothing to hold it together, and
the whole is no better than a heap of rubbish.
When we see people who are comfortably concealed in a neat little system
of religious conceptions, though we know that that system is only held
together by the friable mortar of fancy, not by the Portland cement of truth,
at first it might seem cruel to unsettle them. But it should be remembered
that they are certain to be unsettled at length, and the only questions are as
to when and how this will take place. If the rotten wall is not pulled down,
some day it will be thrown down.
Ø The tempest of trial will come. God sends His hailstorm, His
hurricane. It came to
It visits every soul at some time, for “man is born to trouble”
(Job 5:7). If our bark is only made for fair weather, it is
doomed to shipwreck, because the storm will break at
last on every life. If it does not come during our earthly
course, it will visit us at the close. Death will then come
as a howling tempest.
Ø The false hope will then crumble away. Hail and hurricane dash down
the feeble, pretentious wall. Trouble overthrows false hopes. We may be
content to live in the dreamland of illusion during the drowsy summer
days of prosperity. But trouble compels us to be real. Then we are forced
to ask ourselves in solemn earnestness, “What is truth?” Then the refuge
of lies tumbles into a hopeless ruin.
Ø The builder of the false hope will suffer in its overthrow. “Ye shall be
consumed in the midst thereof.” (v. 14). False teachers will suffer
with the overthrow of their teachings. They who take refuge in
falsehood will be BURIED IN THE RUIN OF THEIR DELUSIONS!
The greater the hope, the more fearful will be its fall, and the more
dreadfully will they be bruised and crushed who take up their abode
Ø The false hope is overthrown that we may TURN TO THE TRUE
HOPE. “Christ our Hope.”
17 “Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy
people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou
against them,” Set thy face against the daughters of thy people. Here we
note that the formula, “thy people,” of ch. 3:11 reappears. The
section which follows (vs. 17-23) throws an interesting side light on the
position of women in the religious life of
influence was stronger there than in most other nations. Miriam had led the
way (Exodus 15:21), and had been followed by Deborah (Judges 5:1).
Huldah had been almost as prominent in Josiah’s reformation as
Hilkiah the high priest (II Kings 22:14-20; II Chronicles 34:22). It
was but natural that there should be women on the other side also, guiding
their own sex; and it is probable that Ezekiel had in his thoughts some
special leaders who headed the women of
Jeremiah, as afterwards at Pathros (Jeremiah 44:15-19). So, later on, we
have the prophetess Noadiah heading the opposition to Nehemiah
(Nehemiah 6:14); and in the New Testament, on the one hand, Anna
(Luke 2:36) and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and on the
other, the ill-regulated prophetesses of
and the woman Jezebel, who called herself a prophetess (Revelation 2:20).
18 “And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew
pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every
stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will
ye save the souls alive that come unto you?” Woe to the women who sew pillows,
etc. Ezekiel’s minute description, though it is from a different standpoint, reminds
us of that in Isaiah 3:18-26. In both cases there are the difficulties inseparable from
the fact that he had seen what he describes, and that we have not; and that
he uses words which were familiar enough then, but are now found nowhere else.
So that (as in the case of the ἐξουσία – exousia – authority; power -of I Corinthians
11:10) we have to guess their meaning. The picture which he draws of a
false prophetess is obviously taken from the life, and the dress, we can
scarcely doubt, was one that belonged to her calling. The word for “sew”
meets us in Genesis 3:7; Job 16:15; Ecclesiastes 3:7; and the English is an
adequate rendering. For the word rendered “pillows,” the Septuagint gives
προσκεφάλαια – proskephalaia - the Vulgate pulvilli (equivalent to
“cushions”). The word here obviously denotes an article of dress,
something fastened to the arms. For arm-holes read joints of the two
hoods, which may mean either knuckles, wrists, or (as in the Revised
Version) elbows. Possibly these may have been, like the phylacteries of
Matthew 23:5, cases containing charms or incantations, and used as
amulets. Something analogous to, if not identical with, these ornaments, is
found in the “seeress wreaths,” and “divining garments” of Cassandra
(AEsch., ‘Agamemnon,’ 1237-1242), and in the “garlands” or “fillets” of
the Pythian priestess in AEsch., ‘Eumeu.,’ 39. By some writers
(Havernick) the word has been taken, as, perhaps, in the Authorized
Version, for “pillows” in the larger sense, either literally as used in wanton
luxury, like the “tapestry” of Proverbs 7:16, or figuratively, like the
“wall” of the preceding section, for counsels that lulled the conscience into
the slumber of a false security. Strangely enough, the Hebrew noun
rendered “arm-holes” has the pronominal suffix “my arms,” or “my hands.”
Keil accepts this rendering, and explains it as meaning that the
prophetesses sought to “bind the arms,” i.e. to restrain the power of
Jehovah. On the whole, it is safer to follow Ewald and Hitzig, as I have
done above. Make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature. The word
for “kerchiefs” is again unique, but is, perhaps, a variant of the word in
Isaiah 3:22, and rendered “wimples” in the Authorized Version. There
is a fair consensus of interpretations that it means, as “kerchief” means,
some covering for the head, a veil that hangs down over it, like the Spanish
mantilla. Its use is, perhaps, explained by the words that follow, which
suggest that the veils were not worn by the prophetesses themselves, but
by those who came to consult them. The former had, as it were, a whole
wardrobe of such veils adapted to persons of various heights, so that in all
cases it shrouded their whole form. We may, perhaps, read between the
lines the thought that their utterances, like their veils, were adapted to suit
every age and every taste. Analogous usages present themselves in the
tallith of later Judaism, and the veil worn by the Roman augurs. Ezekiel
paints, we may believe, what he had seen. And in those veils he had seen a
net cast over the victims of the false prophetesses, a snare from which they
could not escape. Will ye hunt, etc.? The question (that form is preferable
to the affirmative of the margin of the Revised Version) is one of burning
indignation. Omitting the words, “that come” (which have nothing in the
Hebrew corresponding to them), the second clause will run, “Will ye make
your own souls live?” and the question is explained by what follows. The
prophetesses were living upon the credulity of the victims over whom they
cast their nets.
19 “And will ye pollute 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 hear your lies?” Will ye pollute me, etc.? rather, with the Revised Version,
ye have profaned, the interrogative form not being continued in the Hebrew.
The prophet dwells with scorn on the miserable pay for which the
prophetesses were guilty of so great a sin. Not for rewards of divination,
like those of Balaam (Numbers 22:7), but for gifts like those bestowed
on the harlot or the beggar (l Samuel 2:36; Hosea 3:2) — for handfuls
of barley and pieces of bread — they plied their wretched trade. For
examples of the lower gifts in kind offered to prophets, compare those of
Saul (I Samuel 9:8), of Jeroboam’s wife (I Kings 14:3), the false
prophets in Micah 3:5. And they did this in direct opposition to the will
of Jehovah. They “slew,” i.e. drew on to destruction, the souls that were
meant for life. They “saved the souls alive,” i.e. “their own, which were
worthy of death.” That was the outcome of their “lying” divinations.
20 “Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; 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 will let the souls go, even the
souls that ye hunt to make them fly.” 21 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 the LORD.”
To make them fly, etc.; rather, with the Revised Version and
Ewald, as if they were birds, carrying out the thought that the amulets on
the arms of the prophetesses, and the veil cast over the heads of the
votaries, were like the snare of the fowler. So the threat that follows, that
the amulets should be torn off and the veil rent, is practically equivalent to
the promise that the victims should be “delivered out of the snare of the
fowler” (Psalm 91:3; 124:7). They should no longer be in the power of
those who traded on their credulity. They too shall know that HE WHO
SPEAKS IS INDEED JEHOVAH!
Effeminate Religion (vs. 17-20)
If Ezekiel is not to be read with prosaic literalness as referring to the
metaphor, the false prophets as daughters of
has here given us a picture of effeminate religion.
Ø There is a noble sphere for woman in religion. The women of the
Bible give us many a fine example of exalted piety. From Deborah,
“the mother in
have appeared on the sacred page as inspiring examples. The Bible
elevates the position of woman, and teaches us to treat her with
Ø There is something feminine in the highest character of men. We
see it in Jeremiah and John. Christ combines in His own Person
the perfection of a woman’s character with the perfection of a man’s.
Ø Nevertheless, there is an effeminacy of religion. Effeminate is all
accommodation theology. The present inclination to shun the stern
facts of revelation, and confine attention to what is pleasing,
runs in the direction of effeminacy. If we adapt our religion to the
inclinations of people, instead of declaring the whole counsel of God,
whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, we betray a sad
lack of virile strength.
spent their time in sewing pillows when they should have been forging
swords or building solid walls; for they were only whispering soft words
of hollow consolation when they should have been RENOUNCING
SIN and PREPARING TO FACE CALAMITY!
Ø There are pillows for evil consciences. Men desire to escape from the
stabs of conscience. They would lay the restless conscience at ease.
An effeminate religion helps to do this by lulling the alarmed sense
of guilt and danger.
Ø There are pillows for indolence. When called to action effeminate souls
prefer ease and comfort. We meet with consoling promises in Scripture,
but not for such. It is the mistake of many that they convert the religion
which should be a stimulant into an opiate.
It is cruel. The prophets of
the expense of their neighbors, and preserving their own lives by
destroying the lives of other people (v. 18).
Ø It is mercenary. God is “polluted” for “handfuls of barley and pieces
of bread.” This “preaching to the times” in meek submission to the
zeitgeist (spirit of the times) is a profitable thing for the popular preacher,
but it means unfaithfulness to the Master when pleasant words only
are spoken, and hard truths are hidden in order to bring “grist to the mill.”
Ø It is fatal. God says, “Behold, I am against your pillows.” The present
age has a horror of pain. But SIN IS WORSE THAN PAIN and rough
dealing which saves from sin is better than pillows of ease for impenitent
souls. They who trust to artificial comfort now will be awakened by the
terrible arm of judgment. The pillows are supposed to be made for God’s
arms, so that He may act softly. But no softened doctrine will destroy
the stern facts of judgment.
22 “Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad,
whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the
wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by
promising him life: 23 Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor
divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand:
and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” Because with lies, etc.
What specially stirred Ezekiel’s indignation was that the false prophetesses
saddened the hearts of the righteous (of those who looked to him and
Jeremiah for guidance) with prophecies of evil and deluded the evil door
by false hopes, so that he should not turn from his evil way and live. For by
promising him life, read, with the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Luther and the
Revised Version, that he should live, as he would do, if he turned from
his wickedness (ch.3:21; 18:9, 17).
Misplaced Sorrow (v. 22)
We have here set before us the twofold mischief of the false preaching of
peace. The righteous are made needlessly sad, and the wicked are spared
the sorrows which they need to drive them from their evil ways, and are
thus confirmed in their wickedness.
GOOD PEOPLE. One particular aspect of this mischief is here brought
before us — that of the triumph of sin and the prospect of its immunity,
together with the persecution of men who resist it. Such was the condition
of things at
days of Jeremiah; and a similar state appears to have prevailed when
Ezekiel was writing. But we may see other aspects of the same mischief.
Ø Doubt as to Divine justice. If sin is to be unrestrained, goodness may
fail. It looks then as though the world were left to drift without
Ø Doubt as to the Fatherly care of God. This is an opposite mistake in
appearance, and yet the two lie near together. They both come from
losing the perception of God’s active presence. In the second case,
however, good people may trouble themselves by dwelling exclusively
on the stern features of judgment, through a reaction against the laxity
of popular notions.
Ø Misapplication of the doctrine of election. Good people have feared
they might not be among the elect. A false fatalism has hung like a pall
over their hopes. They have not seen the freedom of grace, the perfect
love of God for every soul, the open door for return.
Ø A horror of the unpardonable sin. Yet they who fear they have
committed this sin prove by their very distress that they have not,
because that distress shows that they are not dead to spiritual things.
FROM BAD PEOPLE. Sorrow for sin is a wholesome experience, and
nothing can be more dangerous than to be able to do evil without
experiencing any feeling of compunction. The flattering theology which
would encourage such a condition is the most deadly enemy to its dupes,
and while it professes kindness to the sinners whom it lulls to sleep as they
float down the rapids of increasing wickedness, it is really murdering their
souls by rendering them deaf to the thunders of the cataract. Let us note
some of the delusions which lead to this fatal result:
Ø Disbelief in judgment to come. Soothed by such a notion, reckless men
imagine that they can sin with impunity. It would be better for them if
they were pained by visions of judgment. No doubt the extravagant,
coarse pictures of a medieval hell have led to a revolt against the idea
of future punishment. Yet whatever may be the nature of that
punishment, justice requires some terrible retribution for terrible sin.
Ø The belief that God is only mild. His love is infinite. But therefore it
must include wrath against sin. Soft-hearted benevolence is not
Ø Light views of sin. The evil being slightly regarded, its punishment is
not expected to be great. Moreover, apart from slavish fears of future
suffering, sin itself should be sorrowed over as a hateful thing. But
while it is painted in flattering hues it will not be followed by
wholesome anxiety of guilt!
False Prophetesses (vs. 17-23)
Women have always played an important part in the religious history of
every nation, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil. The Scriptures, with
their proverbial impartiality, record instances of both kinds of:
whom their power extended.
Of the prophetesses whose pretensions are exposed in this passage we know nothing
from other sources of information. But if curiosity is unsatisfied, enough is here
revealed to justify us in thinking of these women as a very pernicious element in the
Hebrew nation at the era of the Captivity.
us to understand all the allusions in this passage. Whatever were these
pillows and kerchiefs, it seems clear that they were used in connection with
superstitious divinations, and were intended to impress all beholders with a
sense of the dignity and mysterious powers of these sorceresses. The
mystic veil that robed the tall form of the prophetesses, the paraphernalia
with which such persons were wont to invest themselves, tended to inspire
reverence and awe, as if for a supernatural power revealed in the stately
presence and authoritative voice.
striking in the description given by the prophet of the poor, deluded victims
who resorted to the sorceresses, carrying with them “handfuls of barley and
pieces of bread” — the common tribute paid in such cases and to such
persons. Probably the women loved to exercise power and to exact
respect; yet with most of them the motive was mercenary, and they were
content to deceive others if they could enrich, or even support, themselves.
their utterances in irony. For it is evident:
Ø that their inspiration came from their own heart, and
Ø that the substance of their so called prophecies was false.
They were animated by a desire to please those who resorted to them; and
this they did to gratify their own prejudices or to display their own worldly
wisdom. In such communications there was nothing that deserved the name
of prophecy; for a prophet is one who speaks in the place of God, and who
shows no regard to the person or to the wishes of those addressed. It was
no spirit of rivalry or of jealousy which induced the Prophet Ezekiel to
speak thus severely of these female impostors; it was for the public good
that their deceptions should be exposed.
have hunted the souls of the Lord’s people; and this they did by their
perverse and unjust oracles. The language used concerning them is very
remarkable, and it could not have been used through mere delight in
antithesis. It is said that the ministry of the “prophetesses” was “to slay the
souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live.”
They were reproached with their attempt to subvert God’s righteous
providence: “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.” A more scathing denunciation
could not have been uttered than this; these women strove to OVERTURN
THE MORAL ORDER (Perhaps a predecessor of The National Organization
of Women – CY – 2014) to encourage the rebellious, and to depress the just
rectitude declared Himself opposed to these seducers of His people. The
symbols of their delusive arts should be stripped from them. Their
hypocrisy should be unveiled, and their pretences should be ridiculed. The
means by which they had been wont to ensnare men should be taken from
them. Their reputation and their power should be destroyed, and their
influence should come to an end. (Consider the import of this in
the 21st Century concerning the misconstrued emphasis by the national
media on the so-called “War on Women!” – CY – 2014)
prophetesses sought to entangle and to capture were the Lord’s people;
and the Lord claimed His own. It was His purpose to deliver them out of
the hand of their spiritual foe, and to let the hunted souls go free. The
means by which this result was to be brought about are not stated; but the
resources of the Omnipotent were sufficient to ransom and liberate His
own. Thus it should be made apparent to all observers that the Lord
reigneth, and that He is ever mindful of His own.
Effeminate Religion (vs. 17-23)
Moral evil is sadly contagious. The boastful, arrogant temper of the false
prophets spread to the women also. It was a time of great excitement — a
national crisis, in which all political considerations were intermingled with
religion. Amid the general panic of fear, women as well as men were stirred
to action. The party who sought God and desired to know His will were a
small minority. The major part of the people, both men and women, were
carried away by a spirit of carnal wisdom. They cared far more to secure
personal advantage than to please God. But the gravity of their offence
was that they falsely presumed to speak in the stead of God.
invent for themselves religious creeds and forms. The human mind has
chafed against God’s requirements as being irksome and severe, and the
world has carved out a religion that shall be self-pleasing, a lullaby to
conscience, a sedative to fear. The doctrines and creeds have been spun out
of men’s self-consciousness, and have had no foundation outside
themselves. In the pride of their heart they have imagined that Reason was
a god, and that this internal god was supreme. They see vanity and
practices are regulated by pleasure. What ministers to present enjoyment is
tolerated; what is unpleasant is denounced. “They sew pillows to all arm-
holes.” Bodily ease is paramount. To crucify the flesh is a heresy. To wear
a jeweled cross upon the breast is an ornament, and is therefore approved;
but to obey commands which are a burden to the flesh, to bear Christ’s
cross of pain and reproach, this is contemned. He who really desires
acceptance with God may well suspect any religion that panders to bodily
pleasure. “He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” (James
ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of
bread?” These self-styled servants of God really cared nothing for the
honor of God. They did not scruple to profane His Name, and to trample
on sacred things, if only they could gain a pitiance of bread thereby. They
made merchandise of religion. It was a religion for the body, not for the
soul. They acted as if gain were godliness (I Timothy 6:5). So is it oft times
now. If religion would ensure prosperity to secular business, many men
would profess to be religious. But if religion frowns upon fraud and deceit,
they will eschew it as unfriendly to their worldly prospects. Yet, in the long
run, godliness is favorable to every human interest. “It is profitable for all
things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come!”
(I Timothy 4:8)
These false prophets sought “to slay the souls that should not die, and to
save the souls alive that should not live.” It seeks to frustrate all God’s
purposes, to overturn the very foundations of righteousness. God’s plan of
government is to make righteousness contribute to life. “The just shall live
by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38); “The soul that
sinneth, it shall die” (ch. 18:20). But this self-made religion of
proud men strives to arrest the processes of God’s rule, and endeavors to
make the worst things appear the best. “It puts darkness for light, and light
for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). It would fain slay the righteous; for the godly
are as thorns in the sides of the hypocrite. (This is why Cain slew his brother,
Abel! - I John 3:12) It seeks to confuse men’s ideas of truth and
error, of right and wrong.
WICKED AND TO THE RIGHTEOUS. “Ye have made the heart of the
righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of
the wicked, that he should Lot return from his wicked way.” It is God’s
wise intention that, in proportion as men are righteous, they should have
joy. This is their encouragement and, in part, their reward. He who seeks
to prevent this IS FIGHTING AGAINST GOD! But it is a greater wrong
still to encourage the wicked in their evil ways (Matthew 18:6). The pains and
disappointments which the wicked experience are the thorns with which God
would hedge up their way and turn them back. He who promises heaven to
sinners is a confederate in their sin, and shall share their punishment. Such
a one is a soul-murderer. On his skirts is indelibly fixed the blood of human
souls. To encourage false hopes is treason against humanity.
or later the bubble will burst, for it has no foundation in truth or in reality.
It is a mirage of men’s heated imagination, and cannot long endure. The
God of truth will, in His own time, appear; will scatter to the winds the
flimsy fancies of men; and the mischief they have sought to do to others
shall return in tenfold disaster upon their own heads. If men will not know
and acknowledge God in the day of His kindness, they shall recognize Him
in the night time of His vengeance. Falsehood cannot perpetuate itself. Like
Jonah’s gourd, it springs up in a night, and in a night it perishes. But the
truth, like its Author, is omnipotent, and must prevail.
“Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again,
The eternal years of God are hers.
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
And dies amid her worshippers.”
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