Ezekiel 13:18
And say, Thus said the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs on the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of my people, and will you save the souls alive that come to you?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Souls.—This word is used in the Old Testament in a variety of significations. Here and in the following verses it is nearly equivalent to persons.

13:17-23 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.A rebuke to the false prophetesses, and a declaration that God will confound them, and deliver their victims from their snares. Women were sometimes inspired by the true God, as were Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, and Huldah; but an order of prophetesses was unknown among the people of God, and the existence of such a class in the last days of the kings of Judah was a fresh instance of declension into pagan usages.

Ezekiel 13:18-21. Render thus: "Woe to the women that" put charms on every finger-joint, that set veils upon heads of every height to ensnare souls. "Will ye" ensnare "the souls of my people," and keep your own souls alive, and will ye profane my name "among my people for handfuls of barley and pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to" keep alive "the souls that should not live, by lying to my people" who listen to "a lie? Wherefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold" I will come upon your charms, where ye are ensnaring the souls like birds; "and I will tear them from your arms and will let the souls go" free, "even the souls" which ye are ensnaring like birds. "Your" veils "also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be" ensnared; "and ye shall know that I am the Lord."

Most ancient interpreters and many modern interpreters have understood the "pillows" (or charms) and "kerchiefs" (or veils), as appliances to which the sorcerers had resort in order to attract notice. The veil was a conspicuous ornament in the east - women whatever their "stature" (or, height) putting them on - and it was worn by magicians in order to seem more mysterious and awful.

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 (Eze 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 (Pr 6:26; 2Pe 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 (Eze 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 (Eze 13:19) of the false prophetesses promising life to the impenitent, so that English Version and Grotius explain it best.

Woe; calamities of all sorts shall fall upon them.

That sew pillows; a figurative speech, expressing their flatteries and security, which the women promised to every one that came to them to know the fate of themselves and others; in token of which safety and ease, either these women did put them for these inquirers to sleep on; or else to lean on as they lay on their side at meat; or else these gypsies, fortune-tellers, did sleep or pretend to sleep on those pillows, and thereby signify the peace, safety, and ease which this people should have.

To all arm-holes; all comers had the same answer, these women made not any difference.

Kerchiefs; either veils, or triumphal hats or caps, which were made by these prophetesses, and these were put upon the head of every one who consulted them; and by these habits the deceived inquirer was either persuaded he was made fit to receive the oracle, or was to interpret the sign as promise of victory over the Babylonian, and a triumphant rest in Judea. Perhaps they might use both; the veils were put on to signify the shame with which their enemies’ faces should be covered, the triumphant caps to note the joys of the Jews; but the event showed which belonged to the one and other.

Of every stature, i.e. of every age, whether younger or elder, which usually is somewhat seen by their stature or growth.

To hunt: all this is a pretence, while really it is spreading a net, as hunters do, to catch the prey and devour it.

Souls; the persons, life, estate; and all to enrich or maintain themselves.

Will ye hunt the souls of my people? dare you promise they shall live when I do promise no such thing? Or can you preserve them alive whom you deceive by your promises? Are you no whit afraid thus to profane my name, and to insnare my people? And say, thus saith the Lord God, woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes,.... Or, "put pillows to all elbows" (l); thereby signifying that they might be at ease, and rest secure, and look upon themselves as in the utmost safety, and not fear any enemy, the invasion of the Chaldeans; or that their city would be destroyed, and they carried captive, as the prophets of the Lord had foretold:

and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature; whether taller or lower; the word stature, according to Kimchi, is used, because the people stood when they inquired of these prophetesses whether they should have peace or not, or good or evil should befall them: or, "of every age", as the Septuagint version; young or old; they put these kerchiefs, or "veils" (m), as some render the word, upon all sorts of persons (for they refused none that came to them they could get any thing by), upon their heads, either as a token of victory and triumph, signifying that they should have the better of their enemies, and rejoice over them; or to make them proud, and suggest to them that they should never be stripped of their ornaments; or else, as the former sign shows that they lulled them asleep upon pillows, and led them on in a carnal security, so they kept them in blindness and ignorance: and this they did,

to hunt souls; to bring them into their nets and snares; to catch them with their false prophecies, and deceive them by their fallacious signs, and superstitious rites and ceremonies, and so ruin and destroy them (n);

will ye hunt the souls of my people; that cleave to me, and regard my prophets; will ye endeavour to ensnare those, and seek to destroy their peace and comfort, and even their souls? ye shall not be able to do it:

and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you? and inquire of you how things will be, and listen to your lying divinations; can you save them from the ruin and destruction that is coming upon them? no, you will not be able to do it; and what wickedness is it in you to attempt the one or the other? The Targum is,

"the souls of my people can ye destroy or quicken? your souls, which are yours, can you quicken?''

the sense is they could neither do the one nor the other; and yet such was their iniquity, that they sought to do both.

(l) "applicantibus, sive accommodantibus", Gataker; "conjungentibus, vel adunantibus", Gussetius, Ebr. Comment. p. 947. "pulvillos super omnes cubitos manus", Calvin; "pro omnibus cubitis manuum", Piscator. (m) "Velamina", Polanus. So Kimchi and Ben Melech. (n) Gussetius thinks that by the words rendered "pillows" and "kerchiefs" are meant "nets", with which they covered their heads and arms; for, otherwise, what connection is there between the above things and hunting? Ebr. Comment. p. 395, 565.

And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew {i} magic charms upon all wrists, 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 to you?

(i) These superstitious women for money would prophecy and tell every man his fortune giving them pillows to lean on, and kerchiefs to cover their heads, to the intent they might the more allure them and bewitch them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. pillows to all armholes] Probably: fillets or bands to all joints of the hand. Heb. appears to read “my hands,” which is no doubt an error of transcription; none of the ancient versions reproduces the reading. The term rendered “kerchiefs” probably means veils or coverings to the head, which fell down over the whole body, and were adapted in size to the person to be covered, whether young or old. The language is to be understood literally, and not as a metaphor, with the meaning, to lull into ease and security. Ephrem Syrus already considered the reference to be to amulets worn on the arms, from which responses were brought forth, and the translation cited in the Hexapla as the “Hebrew” renders “phylacteries.” Fried. Del. (Baer’s Ezek., pp. xii., xiii.) quotes a Babylonian formula of incantation in which reference is made to such fillets and cloths.

souls alive that come unto you] Lit., save souls alive for yourselves, i.e. to your advantage or profit. R.V. marg., souls that are yours, may represent a sense not unusually put upon the words; your own souls—by the earnings of false prophecy.Verse 18. - 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 of 1 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 LXX. gives προσκεφάλαια, 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. Against the False Prophets

Their conduct. - Ezekiel 13:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 13:2. Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to the prophets out of their heart, Hear ye the word of Jehovah. Ezekiel 13:3. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe upon the foolish prophets, who go after their spirit, and that which they have not seen! Ezekiel 13:4. Like foxes in ruins have thy prophets become, O Israel. Ezekiel 13:5. Ye do not stand before the breaches, nor wall up the wall around the house of Israel to stand firm in the battle on the day of Jehovah. Ezekiel 13:6. They see vanity and lying soothsaying, who say, "Oracle of Jehovah;" and Jehovah hath not sent them; so that they might hope for the fulfilment of the word. Ezekiel 13:7. Do ye not see vain visions, and speak lying soothsaying, and say, Oracle of Jehovah; and I have not spoken? - The addition הנּבּאים, "who prophesy," is not superfluous. Ezekiel is not to direct his words against the prophets as a body, but against those who follow the vocation of prophet in Israel without being called to it by God on receiving a divine revelation, but simply prophesying out of their own heart, or according to their own subjective imagination. In the name of the Lord he is to threaten them with woes, as fools who follow their own spirit; in connection with which we must bear in mind that folly, according to the Hebrew idea, was not merely a moral failing, but actual godlessness (cf. Psalm 14:1). The phrase "going after their spirit" is interpreted and rendered more emphatic by לבלתּי, which is to be taken as a relative clause, "that which they have not seen," i.e., whose prophesying does not rest upon intuition inspired by God. Consequently they cannot promote the welfare of the nation, but (Ezekiel 13:4) are like foxes in ruins or desolate places. The point of comparison is to be found in the undermining of the ground by foxes, qui per cuniculos subjectam terram excavant et suffodiunt (Bochart). For the thought it not exhausted by the circumstance that they withdraw to their holes instead of standing in front of the breach (Hitzig); and there is no force in the objection that, with this explanation, בּחרבות is passed over and becomes in fact tautological (Hvernick). The expression "in ruins" points to the fall of the theocracy, which the false prophets cannot prevent, but, on the contrary, accelerate by undermining the moral foundations of the state. For (Ezekiel 13:5) they do not stand in the breaches, and do not build up the wall around the house of Israel (לא belongs to both clauses). He who desires to keep off the enemy, and prevent his entering the fortress, will stand in the breach. For the same purpose are gaps and breaches in the fortifications carefully built up. The sins of the people had made gaps and breaches in the walls of Jerusalem; in other words, had caused the moral decay of the city. But they had not stood in the way of this decay and its causes, as the calling and duty of prophets demanded, by reproving the sins of the people, that they might rescue the people and kingdom from destruction by restoring its moral and religious life. לעמד בּמּלחמה, to stand, or keep ground, i.e., so that ye might have kept your ground in the war. The subject is the false prophets, not Israel, as Hvernick supposes. "In the day of Jehovah," i.e., in the judgment which Jehovah has decreed. Not to stand, does not mean merely to avert the threatening judgment, but not to survive the judgment itself, to be overthrown by it. This arises from the fact that their prophesying is a life; because Jehovah, whose name they have in their mouths, has not sent them (Ezekiel 13:6). ויחלוּ is dependent upon שׁלחם: God has not sent them, so that they could hope for the fulfilment of the word which they speak.The rendering adopted by others, "and they cause to hope," is untenable; for יחל with ל does not mean "to cause to hope," or give hope, but simply to hope for anything. This was really the case; and it is affirmed in the declaration, which is repeated in the form of a direct appeal in Ezekiel 13:7, to the effect that their visions were vain and lying soothsaying. For this they are threatened with the judgment described in the verses which follow.

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