The distinction between the true and the false prophecy and prophets is very difficult to state. Broadly speaking, the false prophesying related itself to the national ideal independently of any spiritual quality, while the true prophesying ever kept uppermost the spiritual conception of the national life. Among those given to false prophesying were the ones who spoke after "the deceit of their own heart" (Jeremiah 14:13,14); those who without real prophetic gift borrowed a message and assumed the speech of prophecy (Jeremiah 23:28,31); and those who sought the prophet's role in order to gain the material gifts which came from the people to their prophets (Micah 3:5). These, when discovered, were counted worthy of punishment and even death. There were, however, false prophesyings from men who honestly believed themselves to have a message from Yahweh. These prophecies from self-deceived prophets often led the people astray. The dream of national greatness was substituted for the voice of Yahweh. It was against such prophesying that the true prophets had to contend. The only test here was the spiritual character of the utterance, and this test demanded a certain moral or spiritual sense which the people did not always possess. Consequently, in times of moral darkness the false prophets, predicting smooth things for the nation, independent of repentance, consecration and the pursuit of spiritual ideals, were honored above the true prophets who emphasized the moral greatness of Yahweh and the necessity of righteousness for the nation. In New Testament times false prophesying did much injury in the church.
C. E. Schenk
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