Ezekiel 13:19
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?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Handfuls of barley.—It was an ancient custom to bring presents to a prophet on consulting him (1Samuel 9:7-8; 1Kings 14:3); but as barley was a cheap grain, and handfuls a very small quantity, these words show the exceedingly small gains for which these false prophetesses were willing to pervert the truth, and lead the people to destruction. God was “polluted” by attaching His name and authority to that which was not true, and would not come to pass, thus “making Him a liar” like themselves. Like all falsehood, their lies tended both ways—to entice the upright to their ruin, and to give false security to the wicked. It is always impossible that a perversion of the truth, especially in regard to the Divine judgments, can be harmless.

Hear your lies.—Or, hearken to a lie. The words imply a willingness to listen to the pleasing falsehood, and the state of things is that described by Jeremiah 5:31. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so.”

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.Pollute me - Profane Me by your false words, which ye pretend to be from Me.

Handfuls of barley - Such were the gifts with which men used to approach a seer (compare 1 Samuel 9:7-8; 1 Kings 14:3).

19. handfuls—expressing the paltry gain for which they bartered immortal souls (compare Mic 3:5, 11; Heb 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 Pr 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 (2Co 2:15, 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 (Joh 3:19).

Will ye pollute me? profanely contradicting what is indeed spoken in my name, and pretending my name for that I never spake, nor will do.

Among my people; who are my peculiar, who have my word and true prophets, by which your lies are discovered, and further will be. What shameless impudence is this, to abuse my name, counterfeit my hand and seal, to them, that do or might know both!

For handfuls of barley; for a mean reward, tell fortunes for a penny! but there may be herein a provision made against the famine which was threatened and would come; this grain might be kept.

For pieces of bread; bread and morsels of bread. Mercenary sorceresses! that thus make sale of their predictions to feed their hungry bellies.

To slay the souls that should not die; you denounce evil to the best, perhaps threatened those in Babylon with death, whom God will keep alive there.

To save the souls alive that should not live; declaring safety, plenty, prosperity, peace, without war, or victory in the war, included in that they live.

By your lying; most falsely flattering those that come to you, and most maliciously threatening those that come not, because they know you speak your own lies. You save whom I will kill, and kill whom I will save.

And will ye pollute me among my people,.... Defile the name of the Lord, by abusing it, to cover their wicked designs and practices, pretending they were seat by him, when they were not; that what they said came from him, though he spoke not by them; and that it was his will they declared, when it was their own, and what came out of their own hearts and heads: so the Targum, "will ye pollute my will among my people"; to profane his name among the Gentiles was a great sin, but to pollute it among his own people was greater; attempting to draw them aside from his fear and worship, and that for gain, for small gain too:

for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread; which shows them to be abandoned creatures, that were ready to do or say anything for the meanest trifle; their consciences were seared; they gave up themselves to work wickedness with greediness, and for filthy lucre's sake, and for a small portion of that; which exaggerates their sin and folly; see Proverbs 28:21;

to slay the souls that should not die; by threatening the captives in Babylon, who had surrendered themselves in Jehoiachim's time, with destruction and death; who ought to have been comforted in their exile, and whom the Lord in his own time would deliver:

and to save the souls alive that should not live; by promising the inhabitants of Jerusalem long life, safety, and prosperity; when they should either die by the sword, famine, and pestilence; or be carried captive, which was as death; for so they did, or attempted to do, both the one and the other, by their false prophecies, as follows:

by your lying to my people that hear your lies? their false prophecies, which some hearkened to, and believed; and others were intimidated by, and feared that so it would be.

And will ye profane me among my people for handfuls of {k} barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and {l} to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?

(k) Will you make my word serve your bellies?

(l) These sorcerers made the people believe that they could preserve life or destroy it and that it would come to everyone according as they prophesied.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. and will ye pollute] Rather, directly: and ye profane me. To “profane” the Lord is to bring him down from the high sphere of purity or truth or power, where men’s thoughts should place him, into the region of the impure, the false or unworthy—the sphere of the common (ch. Ezekiel 20:39). To “profane” is the opposite of to “sanctify.”

for handfuls of barley] may signify, for mean and trifling hire. Others think that the offerings may be described which were presented in order to obtain the oracular response. In this case the rendering would be: with handfuls of barley (see W. R. Smith, Journal of Philology, vol. xiii.). But comp. 1 Samuel 2:36; 2 Kings 23:9 with 1 Samuel 9:8; 1 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 4:42; Micah 3:5. In Jeremiah 44:15 the women are represented as baking cakes to be offered to the queen of heaven.

the souls that should not die] The righteous; cf. Ezekiel 13:22, ye have made the heart of the righteous sad. The meaning appears to be that the tendency and direction of their prophecies, like those of the false prophets, was in support of the wicked and adverse to those like-minded with the true prophets. They “slay” by their prophetic word (Hosea 6:5; Jeremiah 1:10, I have set thee to pluck up &c.) when they threaten evil; and so they make the heart sad (faint and despondent) of those whom the Lord hath not made sad.

Ezekiel 13:20-23. Chastisement of the prophetesses.

where with ye there hunt] Or, where (or, wherein) ye hunt. A slight change of reading gives, wherewith ye hunt (Targ. Syr.).

to make them fly] Or, as R.V. marg. like birds (Ew.). LXX. omits.

For “pillows” as above fillets. The expression “from your arms” is not to be forced so as to imply that the bands or fillets were bound upon the arms of the prophetesses themselves (cf. Ezekiel 13:18).

even the souls that ye hunt] The reading here is no doubt corrupt. The easiest change is to read: I will let the souls go, whose life (naphshäm) ye hunt as birds; cf. Proverbs 6:26 “the adulteress hunteth for the precious life.” Cornill makes the excellent suggestion: “I will let the souls go free [reading othân ḥophshim] that ye hunt.”

Verse 19. - 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 Balsam (Numbers 22:7), but for gifts like those bestowed on the harlot or the beggar (l 1 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 (1 Samuel 9:8), of Jeroboam's wife (1 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. Ezekiel 13:19Against the False Prophetesses

As the Lord had not endowed men only with the gifts of prophecy, but sometimes women also, e.g., Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; so women also rose up along with the false prophets, and prophesied out of their own hearts without being impelled by the Spirit of God. Ezekiel 13:17-19. Their conduct. - Ezekiel 13:17. And thou, son of man, direct thy face towards the daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their heart and prophesy against them, Ezekiel 13:18. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to those who sew coverings together over all the joints of my hands, and make caps for the head of every size, to catch souls! Ye catch the souls of my people, and keep your souls alive. Ezekiel 13:19. And ye profane me with my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay souls which should not die, and to keep alive which should not live, by your lying to my people who hearken to lying. - Like the prophets in Ezekiel 13:2, the prophetesses are here described as prophesying out of their own heart (Ezekiel 13:17); and in Ezekiel 13:18 and Ezekiel 13:19 their offences are more particularly described. The meaning of these verses is entirely dependent upon the view to be taken of ידי, which the majority of expositors, following the lead of the lxx, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, have regarded as identical with ידים or יד, and understood as referring to the hands of the women or prophetesses. But there is nothing to justify the assumption that ידי is an unusual form for ידים, which even Ewald takes it to be (Lehrbuch, 177a). Still less can it stand for the singular יד. And we have not sufficient ground for altering the text, as the expression זרועתיכם in Ezekiel 13:20 (I will tear the כּסתות from your arms) does not require the assumption that the prophetesses had hidden their arms in כסתות; and such a supposition is by no means obviously in harmony with the facts.

The word כּסתות, from כּסת, with ת fem. treated as a radical letter (cf. Ewald, 186e), means a covering or concealment equals כּסוּת. The meaning "cushion" or "pillow" (lxx προσκεφάλαια, Vulg. pulvilli) is merely an inference drawn from this passage, and is decidedly erroneous; for the word תּפר (to sew together) is inapplicable to cushions, as well as the phrase על כּל־אצּילי ידי, inasmuch as cushions are not placed upon the joints of the hands, and still less are they sewed together upon them. The latter is also a decisive reason for rejecting the explanation given by Hvernick, namely, that the kesâthōth were carpets, which were used as couches, and upon which these voluptuous women are represented as reclining. For cushions or couches are not placed upon, but under, the arm-joints (or elbows) and the shoulders, which Hvernick understands by אצּילי יד. This also overthrows another explanation given of the words, namely, that they refer to carpets, which the prophetesses had sewed together for all their arm-joints, so as to form comfortable beds upon splendid carpets, that they may indulge in licentiousness thereon. The explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, and adopted by Hitzig, namely, that the kesâthōth were amulets or straps, which they would round their arm-joints when they received or delivered their oracles, is equally untenable. For, as Kliefoth has observed, "it is evident that there is not a word in the text about adultery, or amulets, or straps used in prayer." And again, when we proceed to the next clause, the traditional rendering of מספּחות, as signifying either pillows (ὑπαυχένια, Symm.; cervicalia, Vulg.) or broad cloaks equals מטפּחות (Hitzig, Hvernick, etc.), is neither supported by the usage of the language, nor in harmony with על ראשׁ. Mispâchōth, from sâphach, to join, cannot have any other meaning in the present context than a cap fitting close to the head; and על must denote the pattern which was followed, as in Psalm 110:4; Esther 9:26 : they make the caps after (answering to) the head of every stature. The words of both clauses are figurative, and have been correctly explained by Kliefoth as follows: "A double charge is brought against the prophetesses. In the first place, they sew coverings together to wrap round all the joints of the hand of God, so that He cannot touch them; i.e., they cover up and conceal the word of God by their prophesying, more especially its rebuking and threatening force, so that the threatening and judicial arm of God, which ought above all to become both manifest and effective through His prophetic word, does not become either one or the other. In the second place, they make coverings upon the heads of men, and construct them in such a form that they exactly fit the stature or size or every individual, so that the men neither hear nor see; i.e., by means of their flattering lies, which adapt themselves to the subjective inclinations of their hearers at the time, they cover up the senses of the men, so that they retain neither ear nor eye for the truth." They do both of these to catch souls. The inevitable consequence of their act is represented as having been intended by them; and this intention is then still further defined as being to catch the souls of the people of God; i.e., to allure them to destruction, and take care of their own souls. The clause הנּפשׁות תּצודדנה is not to be taken as a question, "Will ye catch the souls?" implying a doubt whether they really thought that they could carry on such conduct as theirs with perfect impunity (Hvernick). It contains a simple statement of what really took place in their catching of souls, namely, "they catch the souls of the people of God, and preserve their own souls;" i.e., they rob the people of God of their lives, and take care of their own (Kliefoth). לעמּי is used instead of the genitive (stat. constr.) to show that the accent rests upon עמּי. And in the same way we have לכנה instead of the suffix. The construction is the same as in 1 Samuel 14:16. Ezekiel 13:19 shows how great their sin had been. They profane God among His people; namely, by delivering the suggestions of their own heart to the people as divine revelations, for the purpose of getting their daily bread thereby (cf. Micah 3:5); by hurling into destruction, through their lies, those who are only too glad to listen to lying; by slaying the souls of the people which ought to live, and by preserving those which ought not to live, i.e., their own souls (Deuteronomy 18:20). The punishment for this will not fail to come.

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