Matthew 7:15

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 7:15 in Other Translations

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.
15 "Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character.
15 "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.

Matthew 7:15 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets
Or false teachers; for not such who pretended to foretell things to come, but such who set up themselves to be teachers of others, are here meant; see ( 2 Peter 2:1 ) . It may be queried, whether our Lord has not respect to the Scribes and Pharisees, who sat in Moses's chair, and taught, for doctrines, the commandments of men? and of whose doctrines he elsewhere bids men beware: for whatever plausible pretences for holiness and righteousness might appear in them, they were repugnant to the word of God, and destructive to the souls of men; such as their doctrines of free will, justification by the works of the law, the traditions of the elders since it follows,

which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous
for these "loved to go in long clothing", ( Mark 12:38 )

(tyljb) , in a garment which reached to the feet, and was made of the wool of sheep. The Babylonish garment Achan saw and stole, Rab says {r}, was (atlymd aljuya) , a garment called "melotes": which is the very Greek word the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews uses for sheep skins, persecuted saints wandered about in, ( Hebrews 11:37 ) and the gloss upon the place, in the Talmud referred to, says, that this was (yqn rmu lv tylj) , "a talith", or "garment of pure wool"; and Jarchi F19 says, that

``it was the way of deceivers, and profane men, to cover themselves, (Mtyljb) , "with their talith", or long garment, "as if they were righteous men", that persons might receive their lies.''

All which agrees very well with the Pharisees, who would have been thought to have been holy and righteous, humble, modest, and self-denying men; when they were inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity, of rapine, oppression, and covetousness; and, under a pretence of religion, "devoured widows' houses". Though, it seems, by what follows, that Christ has respect, at least also, to such, who bore his name, and came in his name, though not sent by him, and called him Lord, and prophesied, and cast out devils, and did many wonderful works in his name; who, that they might get the good will and affections of the people, clothed themselves, not in garments made of sheep's wool, but in the very skins of sheep, with the wool on them, in imitation of the true prophets, and good men of old; pretending great humility, and self-denial, and so "wore a rough garment to deceive", ( Zechariah 13:4 ) when they were inwardly greedy dogs, grievous wolves, of insatiable covetousness; and, when opportunity offered, spared not the flock to satisfy their rapacious and devouring appetites. The Jews speak of a "wolfish humility"; like that of the wolf in the fable, which put on a sheep skin.

``There are some men, (says one of their F20 writers,) who appear to be humble, and fear God in a deceitful and hypocritical way, but inwardly lay wait: this humility our wise men call (tybaz hwne) , "wolfish humility".''

Such is this our Lord inveighs against, and bids his followers beware of.


F18 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 41. 1.
F19 In Zech. xiii. 4.
F20 Abarbinel Nachalath Abot, fol. 192. 1.

Matthew 7:15 In-Context

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

Related Articles

Cross References 2

  • 1. Jeremiah 23:16; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 16:13
  • 2. Ezekiel 22:27; Acts 20:29
Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.