Ezekiel 13



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 Jerusalem, and an utterance is now found for

his long pent up indignation.


2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy,

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 nbalim.


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!



THEMSELVES. The professional prophets of Israel were many of them

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.




prophets of Jerusalem did not only flatter the people with popular teaching,

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


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.


4 “O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.”

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 Israel, and made that ruin worse. In

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.


  • FOXES ARE WILD ANIMALS. The comparison is with creatures

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.


  • FOXES ARE DESTRUCTIVE ANIMALS. Among the Hebrews they

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.


  • FOXES HAUNT RUINOUS PLACES. Ezekiel imagines the foxes

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.


  • FOXES ROAM ABOUT IN THE DARK. They are creatures of the

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 Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.”

The verse contains two distinct images. There were breaches in

the walls of Jerusalem, literally and spiritually, and the false prophets had

not been as “repairers of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12; Psalm 106:23).

The hedge of the vineyard of Israel had been broken through (Isaiah 5:5),

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 Jerusalem by the

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 people of Sodom and Gomorrah made the wide

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 Jericho, in defiance of

express commands, opened a wide breach through which the enemies of

Israel rushed, and put them to ignominious flight, and slew six and thirty

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).




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

Jerusalem.  If sinners PERSIST IN MAKING THE GAPS,  it is certain

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).




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 Israel to stand

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

Nineveh repented, the destruction of their city, which had been

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 Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the

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 house of Israel, neither

shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am

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 Jerusalem, perhaps every city of Judah,

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

who were heirs of the “life” of the true Israel (Exodus 32:32; Isaiah 4:3;

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 Israel as still the heritage of

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

the land of Israel such as that which the prophet anticipated for the

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”


  • to Isaiah’s picture of dishonest and unsafe building (Isaiah 30:13);


  • to our Lord’s parable at the end of the sermon on the mount

(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 Zion, and this is

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.”


  • MEN CRAVE PEACE. A city is alarmed at the prospect of an attack.

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 Jerusalem was

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

suffer Jerusalem to be destroyed. So men now abuse the revelation

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.


  • CHRIST ALONE BRINGS TRUE PEACE. There is a peace of God,

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 Israel which prophesy concerning

Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no

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

 oneTRUTH.   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 Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.

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


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

in it.


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 Israel. For good as for evil, their

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 Jerusalem in their opposition to

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 Corinth (I Corinthians 11:5)

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 exousiaauthority; 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

προσκεφάλαιαproskephalaia -  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




Effeminate Religion (vs. 17-20)


If Ezekiel is not to be read with prosaic literalness as referring to the

women of Jerusalem, but is to be understood to describe, in scornful

metaphor, the false prophets as daughters of Jerusalem sewing pillows, he

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 Israel,” to the Marys of the gospel story, women

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.



COMFORT. These “daughters of Jerusalem,” the effeminate prophets,

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



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.





Ø      It is cruel. The prophets of Jerusalem were fattening themselves at

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 Jerusalem under the influence of the popular prophets in the

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

perfect love.


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:


  • women who rendered signal service to their people by their fidelity to God,
  • women who used their influence to corrupt and to mislead those over

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.


  • THEIR SEDUCTIVE AND IMPOSING ARTS. It is not important for

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.


  • THEIR MERCENARY ENDS. There is something picturesque and

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 PROPHECIES. The term could only have been applied to

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

and godly!


  • THEIR UNMASKING AND EXPOSURE. The God of truth and

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)


  • THE DELIVERANCE OF THEIR VICTIMS. Those whom the false

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.


  • SELF-MADE RELIGION IS VAIN. In every age men have ventured to

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

prophesy falsehood.



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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