Heavy judgments against lying prophets. (1-9) The insufficiency of their work. (10-16) Woes against false prophetesses. (17-23)
Verses 1-9 Where God gives a warrant to do any thing, he gives wisdom. What they delivered was not what they had seen or heard, as that is which the ministers of Christ deliver. They were not praying prophets, had no intercourse with Heaven; they contrived how to please people, not how to do them good; they stood not against sin. They flattered people into vain hopes. Such widen the breach, by causing men to think themselves deserving of eternal life, when the wrath of God abides upon them.
Verses 10-16 One false prophet built the wall, set up the notion that Jerusalem should be victorious, and made himself acceptable by it. Others made the matter yet more plausible and promising; they daubed the wall which the first had built; but they would, ere long, be undeceived when their work was beaten down by the storm of God's just wrath; when the Chaldean army desolated the land. Hopes of peace and happiness, not warranted by the word of God, will cheat men; like a wall well daubed, but ill built.
Verses 17-23 It is ill with those who had rather hear pleasing lies than unpleasing truths. The false prophetesses tried to make people secure, signified by laying them at ease, and to make them proud, signified by the finery laid on their heads. They shall be confounded in their attempts, and God's people shall be delivered out of their hands. It behoves Christians to keep close to the word of God, and in every thing to seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Let us so trust the promises of God as to keep his commandments.
Ezekiel 13:1-23 . DENUNCIATION OF FALSE PROPHETS AND PROPHETESSES; THEIR FALSE TEACHINGS, AND GOD'S CONSEQUENT JUDGMENTS.
1. As the twelfth chapter denounced the false expectations of the people, so this denounces the false leaders who fed those expectations. As an independent witness, Ezekiel confirms at the Chebar the testimony of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 29:21 Jeremiah 29:31 ) in his letter from Jerusalem to the captive exiles, against the false prophets; of these some were conscious knaves, others fanatical dupes of their own frauds; for example, Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemaiah. Hananiah must have believed his own lie, else he would not have specified so circumstantial details ( Jeremiah 28:2-4 ). The conscious knaves gave only general assurances of peace ( Jeremiah 5:31 , 6:14 , 14:13 ). The language of Ezekiel has plain references to the similar language of Jeremiah (for example, Jeremiah 23:9-38 ); the bane of false prophecy, which had its stronghold in Jerusalem, having in some degree extended to the Chebar; this chapter, therefore, is primarily intended as a message to those still in the Jewish metropolis; and, secondarily, for the good of the exiles at the Chebar.
2. that prophesy--namely, a speedy return to Jerusalem.
out of . . . own hearts--alluding to the words of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 23:16 Jeremiah 23:26 ); that is, what they prophesied was what they and the people wished; the wish was father to the thought. The people wished to be deceived, and so were deceived. They were inexcusable, for they had among them true prophets (who spoke not their own thoughts, but as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, 2 Peter 1:21 ), whom they might have known to be such, but they did not wish to know ( John 3:19 ).
3. foolish--though vaunting as though exclusively possessing "wisdom" ( 1 Corinthians 1:19-21 ); the fear of God being the only beginning of wisdom ( Psalms 111:10 ).
their own spirit--instead of the Spirit of God. A threefold distinction lay between the false and the true prophets: (1) The source of their messages respectively; of the false, "their own hearts"; of the true, an object presented to the spiritual sense (named from the noblest of the senses, a seeing) by the Spirit of God as from without, not produced by their own natural powers of reflection. The word, the body of the thought, presented itself not audibly to the natural sense, but directly to the spirit of the prophet; and so the perception of it is properly called a seeing, he perceiving that which thereafter forms itself in his soul as the cover of the external word [DELITZSCH]; hence the peculiar expression, "seeing the word of God" ( Isaiah 2:1 , 13:1 , Amos 1:1 , Micah 1:1 ). (2) The point aimed at; the false "walking after their own spirit"; the true, after the Spirit of God. (3) The result; the false saw nothing, but spake as if they had seen; the true had a vision, not subjective, but objectively real [FAIRBAIRN]. A refutation of those who set the inward word above the objective, and represent the Bible as flowing subjectively from the inner light of its writers, not from the revelation of the Holy Ghost from without. "They are impatient to get possession of the kernel without its fostering shell--they would have Christ without the Bible" [BENGEL].
4. foxes--which cunningly "spoil the vines" ( Solomon 2:15 ), Israel being the vineyard ( Psalms 80:8-15 , Isaiah 5:1-7 , 27:2 , Jeremiah 2:21 ); their duty was to have guarded it from being spoiled, whereas they themselves spoiled it by corruptions.
in . . . deserts--where there is nothing to eat; whence the foxes become so ravenous and crafty in their devices to get food. So the prophets wander in Israel, a moral desert, unrestrained, greedy of gain which they get by craft.
5. not gone up into . . . gaps--metaphor from breaches made in a wall, to which the defenders ought to betake themselves in order to repel the entrance of the foe. The breach is that made in the theocracy through the nation's sin; and, unless it be made up, the vengeance of God will break in through it. Those who would advise the people to repentance are the restorers of the breach ( Ezekiel 22:30 , Psalms 106:23 Psalms 106:30 ).
hedge--the law of God ( Psalms 80:12 , Isaiah 5:2 Isaiah 5:5 ); by violating it, the people stripped themselves of the fence of God's protection and lay exposed to the foe. The false prophets did not try to repair the evil by bringing back the people to the law with good counsels, or by checking the bad with reproofs. These two duties answer to the double office of defenders in case of a breach made in a wall: (1) To repair the breach from within; (2) To oppose the foe from without.
to stand--that is, that the city may "stand."
in . . . day of . . . Lord--In the day of the battle which God wages against Israel for their sins, ye do not try to stay God's vengeance by prayers, and by leading the nation to repentance.
6. made others to hope, &c.--rather, "they hoped" to confirm (that is, 'make good') their word, by the event corresponding to their prophecy. The Hebrew requires this [HAVERNICK]. Also the parallel clause, "they have seen vanity," implies that they believed their own lie ( 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ). Subjective revelation is false unless it rests on the objective.
8. I am against you--rather understand, "I come against you," to punish your wicked profanation of My name (compare Revelation 2:5 Revelation 2:16 ).
9. mine hand--My power in vengeance.
not . . . in . . . assembly--rather, the "council"; "They shall not occupy the honorable office of councillors in the senate of elders after the return from Babylon" ( Ezra 2:1 Ezra 2:2 ).
neither . . . written in . . . Israel--They shall not even have a place in the register kept of all citizens' names; they shall be erased from it, just as the names of those who died in the year, or had been deprived of citizenship for their crimes. were at the annual revisal erased. Compare Jeremiah 17:13 , Luke 10:20 , Revelation 3:5 , as to those spiritually Israelites; John 1:47 , and those not so. Literally fulfilled ( Ezra 2:59 Ezra 2:62 ; compare Nehemiah 7:5 , Psalms 69:28 ).
neither . . . enter . . . land--They shall not so much as be allowed to come back at all to their country.
10. Because, even because--The repetition heightens the emphasis.
Peace--safety to the nation. Ezekiel confirms Jeremiah 6:14 , 8:11 .
one--literally, "this one"; said contemptuously, as in 2 Chronicles 28:22 .
a wall--rather, "a loose wall." Ezekiel had said that the false prophets did not "go up into the gaps, or make up the breaches" ( Ezekiel 13:5 ), as good architects do; now he adds that they make a bustling show of anxiety about repairing the wall; but it is without right mortar, and therefore of no use.
one . . . others--besides individual effort, they jointly co-operated to delude the people.
daubed . . . with untempered mortar--as sand without lime, mud without straw [GROTIUS]. FAIRBAIRN translates, "plaster it with whitewash." But besides the hypocrisy of merely outwardly "daubing" to make the wall look fair ( Matthew 23:27 Matthew 23:29 , Acts 23:3 ), there is implied the unsoundness of the wall from the absence of true uniting cement; the "untempered cement" answering to the lie of the prophets, who say, in support of their prophecies, "Thus saith the Lord, when the Lord hath not spoken" ( Ezekiel 22:28 ).
11. overflowing--inundating; such as will at once wash away the mere clay mortar. The three most destructive agents shall co-operate against the wall--wind, rain, and hailstones. These last in the East are more out of the regular course of nature and are therefore often particularly specified as the instruments of God's displeasure against His foes ( Exodus 9:18 , Joshua 10:11 , Job 38:22 , Psalms 18:12 Psalms 18:13 , Isaiah 28:2 , 30:30 , Revelation 16:21 ). The Hebrew here is, literally, "stones of ice." They fall in Palestine at times an inch thick with a destructive velocity. The personification heightens the vivid effect, "O ye hail stones." The Chaldeans will be the violent agency whereby God will unmask and refute them, overthrowing their edifice of lies.
12. shall it not be said--Your vanity and folly shall be so manifested that it shall pass into a proverb, "Where is the daubing?"
13. God repeats, in His own name, as the Source of the coming calamity, what had been expressed generally in Ezekiel 13:11 .
14. The repetition of the same threat to awaken the people out of their dream of safety by the certainty of the event.
foundation--As the "wall" represents the security of the nation, so the "foundation" is Jerusalem, on the fortifications of which they rested their confidence. GROTIUS makes the "foundation" refer to the false principles on which they rested; Ezekiel 13:16 supports the former view.
16. prophesy concerning Jerusalem--With all their "seeing visions of peace for her," they cannot ensure peace or safety to themselves.
17. set thy face--put on a bold countenance, fearlessly to denounce them ( Ezekiel 3:8 Ezekiel 3:9 , Isaiah 50:7 ).
daughters--the false prophetesses; alluded to only here; elsewhere the guilt specified in the women is the active share they took in maintaining idolatry ( Ezekiel 8:14 ). It was only in extraordinary emergencies that God bestowed prophecy on women, for example on Miriam, Deborah, Huldah ( Exodus 15:20 , Judges 4:4 , 2 Kings 22:14 ); so in the last days to come ( Joel 2:28 ). The rareness of such instances enhanced their guilt in pretending inspiration.
18. sew pillows to . . . armholes--rather, elbows and wrists, for which the false prophetesses made cushions to lean on, as a symbolical act, typifying the perfect tranquility which they foretold to those consulting them. Perhaps they made their dupes rest on these cushions in a fancied state of ecstasy after they had made them at first stand (whence the expression, "every stature," is used for "men of every age"). As the men are said to have built a wall ( Ezekiel 13:10 ), so the women are said to sew pillows, &c., both alike typifying the "peace" they promised the impenitent.
make kerchiefs--magical veils, which they put over the heads of those consulting them, as if to fit them for receiving a response, that they might be rapt in spiritual trance above the world.
head of every stature--"men of every age," old and young, great and small, if only these had pay to offer them.
hunt souls--eagerly trying to allure them to the love of yourselves ( Proverbs 6:26 , 2 Peter 2:14 ), so as unwarily to become your prey.
will ye save . . . souls . . . that come unto you--Will ye haul after souls, and when they are yours ("come unto you"), will ye promise them life? "Save" is explained ( Ezekiel 13:22 ), "promising life" [GROTIUS]. CALVIN explains, "Will ye hunt My people's souls and yet will ye save your own souls"; I, the Lord God, will not allow it. But "save" is used ( Ezekiel 13:19 ) of the false prophetesses promising life to the impenitent, so that English Version and GROTIUS explain it best.
19. handfuls--expressing the paltry gain for which they bartered immortal souls (compare Micah 3:5 Micah 3:11 , Hebrews 12:16 ). They "polluted" God by making His name the cloak under which they uttered falsehoods.
among my people--an aggravation of their sin, that they committed it "among the people" whom God had chosen as peculiarly His own, and among whom He had His temple. It would have been a sin to have done so even among the Gentiles, who knew not God; much more so among the people of God (compare Proverbs 28:21 ).
slay . . . souls that should not die, &c.--to predict the slaying or perdition of the godly whom I will save. As true ministers are said to save and slay their hearers, according to the spirit respectively in which these receive their message ( 2 Corinthians 2:15 2 Corinthians 2:16 ), so false ministers imitate them; but they promise safety to those on the broad way to ruin and predict ruin to those on the narrow way of God.
my people that hear your lies--who are therefore wilfully deceived, so that their guilt lies at their own door ( John 3:19 ).
20. I am against your pillows--that is, against your lying ceremonial tricks by which ye cheat the people.
to make them fly--namely, into their snares, as fowlers disturb birds so as to be suddenly caught in the net spread for them. "Fly" is peculiarly appropriate as to those lofty spiritual flights to which they pretended to raise their dupes when they veiled their heads with kerchiefs and made them rest on luxurious arm-cushions ( Ezekiel 13:18 ).
let . . . souls go--"Ye make them fly" in order to destroy them; "I will let them go" in order to save them ( Psalms 91:3 , Proverbs 6:5 , Hosea 9:8 ).
21. in your hand--in your power. "My people" are the elect remnant of Israel to be saved.
ye shall know--by the judgments which ye shall suffer.
22. ye have made . . . the righteous sad--by lying predictions of calamities impending ever the godly.
strengthened . . . wicked--( Jeremiah 23:14 ).
heart of . . . righteous . . . hands of . . . wicked--Heart is applied to the righteous because the terrors foretold penetrated to their inmost feelings; hands, to the wicked because they were so hardened as not only to despise God in their minds, but also to manifest it in their whole acts, as if avowedly waging war with Him.
23. ye shall see no more vanity--The event shall confute your lies, involving yourselves in destruction ( Ezekiel 13:9 , Ezekiel 14:8 , 15:7 , Micah 3:6 ).