Thus said the Lord GOD; Woe to the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Foolish prophets.—They were certainly foolish who undertook to forge the name of the Omniscient, as it were, to utterances of their own devising. Folly according to the use of the word in the Old Testament, was not merely an intellectual failing, but was always associated with moral obliquity. (See Psalm 14:1, and Proverbs throughout.) The last clause of the verse is better expressed in the margin: these prophets were. “seers of that which they have not seen.”
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" (Isa 2:1; 13:1; Am 1:1; Mic 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].
Foolish prophets; either in a moral sense, i. e. wicked; or in a literal sense, unwise. It is both foolishly wicked and imprudent to pretend revelations, and yet have none from God.
Their own spirit; in contradistinction to the Spirit of God, the true Spirit of prophecy, they strongly fancy what they would have, and then presumptuously prophesy that it shall come to pass.
Have seen nothing; God hath showed them no vision, nothing of all they pretend to is from God.
that follow their own spirit; or "walk after it" (c); and not the Spirit of God, who leads into all truth; they pretended to a spirit of prophecy, but it was their own spirit and the dictates of it they followed, and not the Spirit of the Lord; and therefore it is no wonder that they prophesied false things, and led the people wrong; as all such teachers do, who give way to their own fancies and imaginations, and forsake the word of God, and do not implore the assistance and teachings of the blessed Spirit:
and have seen nothing; no vision, as the Syriac version renders it; they pretended to have revelations of things future from the Lord, but they had none; what they saw were vain visions and lying divinations, and were as nothing, and worse than nothing; yea, they said what they never saw.Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. foolish prophets] The word, not used again by Ezekiel, is rather a moral term, meaning destitute of that wisdom the beginning of which is the fear of the Lord (Psalm 13:1). Jeremiah charges the prophets of his day with shameful vices, “They commit adultery with their neighbours’ wives” (Jeremiah 29:23; cf. Jeremiah 23:14, and pass.); but, without supposing that all the “false” prophets were so bad, it characterized them in general that they were superficial men in a moral sense. Their notions of religion and life were not high or strict, and hence they saw nothing in the condition of the people or the state calling for the judgment of God, and prophesied “peace.” This was what distinguished them from Jeremiah and other prophets whom we call “true.” Micah says in opposition to them: “I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord to declare unto Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin” (ch. Ezekiel 3:8); and Jeremiah goes so far as to declare it to be the mark of a true prophet that he threatens judgment upon the nation (Jeremiah 28:8-9). A true prophet is one by whom the Lord speaks, and a “false” prophet (the expression is not used in the Old Testament, though the prophets are said to speak “falsely”) is one by whom he does not speak. This is true: but the converse has also its truth—the Lord did not speak by these prophets because they were “false” (1 Kings 22:6 seq.). There is a spirit of false prophecy as well as a spirit of true prophecy. The spirit of true prophecy is the spirit of the theocracy and of the religion of Jehovah, the spirit that comprehends its principles, sympathises with its lofty morality, understands its aims, and therefore can perceive the true means to be used for fulfilling them. The spirit of false prophecy is the untheocratic spirit, which, even when speaking in the name of Jehovah, has not entered with any profoundness into the nature and aims of his kingdom, and consequently misapprehends the means needful to further it. In his encounters with the prophets of his day Jeremiah opposes them in three spheres: that of policy; that of morals; and that of personal experience. In policy the genuine prophets had some fixed principles, all arising out of the idea that the kingdom of the Lord was not a kingdom of this world. Hence they opposed military preparation (Psalm 20:7), riding on horses and building of fenced cities (Hosea 14:3; Micah 5:10-11; Isaiah 31:1), and counselled trust in Jehovah (Isaiah 7:9; Isaiah 10:20-21; Isaiah 17:7; Isaiah 30:15). These prophets were moving forward (often unconsciously) towards that conception of the kingdom of God which has been realized in the “Church;” and external providence was shaping the history of the nation on lines parallel to this conception, which eventually received form by the destruction of the state and the reduction of the people to be a mere religious community. The false prophets, on the other hand, desired their country to be a military power among the powers around, they advocated alliances with the Eastern empires and with Egypt, and relied on their national strength (Amos 6:13). Again, the true prophets had a stringent personal and state morality (see above). In their view the true cause of the destruction of the state was its immoralities. But the false prophets had no such deep moral convictions, and seeing nothing unwonted or alarming in the condition of things, prophesied of “peace.” They were not necessarily irreligious men, but their religion had no truer insight into the nature of the God of Israel than that of the common people (Amos 5:18); hence they pointed to the Temple as the house of the Lord, which he must protect; while Jeremiah told them that they had made it “a cave of robbers,” in which they thought themselves safe after committing their crimes, and threatened it with the fate of Shiloh (Jeremiah 7, 26). And finally Jeremiah expresses his conviction that the prophets whom he opposed did not stand in the same relation to the Lord as he did; they had not his experiences of the word of the Lord, into whose counsel (Amos 3:7) they had not been admitted, and they were without that fellowship of mind with the mind of Jehovah which was the true source of prophecy (Jeremiah 23 pass.). Hence he satirizes their pretended supernatural “dreams,” and charges them from conscious want of any true prophetic word with “stealing” words from one another. Cf. Ezekiel 13:6-7 and ch. 14.
their own spirit] The term is used in opposition to the “spirit” of the Lord which inspired the true prophet, who is called “a man of the spirit” (Hosea 9:7). As distinct from heart “spirit” is rather the force or power moving the prophet. In early times the prophets were the subjects of considerable excitation; and looking on them thus powerfully affected men recognised the influence of the spirit of God upon them.
and have seen nothing] Rather: and (go after) that which they have not seen. They did not see, though no doubt they thought they saw. They were self-deceived.
Ezekiel 12:17. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 12:18. Son of man, thou shalt eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and trouble; Ezekiel 12:19. And say to the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, They will eat their bread in trouble, and drink their water in amazement, because her land is laid waste of all its fulness for the wickedness of all who dwell therein. Ezekiel 12:20. And the inhabited cities become desolate, and the land will be laid waste; that ye may learn that I am Jehovah. - The carrying out of this sign is not mentioned; not that there is any doubt as to its having been done, but that it is simply taken for granted. The trouble and trembling could only be expressed by means of gesture. רעשׁ, generally an earthquake or violent convulsion; here, simply shaking, synonymous with רגזה, trembling. "Bread and water" is the standing expression for food; so that even here the idea of scanty provisions is not to be sought therein. This idea is found merely in the signs of anxiety and trouble with which Ezekiel was to eat his food. אל־אדמת equals 'על־אד, "upon the land," equivalent to "in the land." This is appended to show that the prophecy does not refer to those who had already been carried into exile, but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were still in the land. For the subject-matter, compare Ezekiel 4:16-17. למען indicates not the intention, "in order that," but the motive, "because."
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