Ezekiel 14:9
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) And if the prophet be deceived.—The exact sense of the original is, “If a prophet be persuaded and speak a word, I the LORD have persuaded that prophet.” The thought is thus in close connection with what precedes; in Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7, the Lord has refused to allow an answer through the prophet to the hypocritical enquirer; but if the prophet, by giving the desired answer, allows himself to become a partaker of the sin which God abhors, then God will treat him according to that general method of dealing with sin which is here described. He “persuades” the prophet in the same sense in which He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, by making such persuasion the natural consequence of the immutable moral laws which He has ordained. Men are held back from sin only by God’s own Holy Spirit drawing them towards Himself. When they set this aside by transgressing God’s commands, the inevitable tendency—the tendency under the moral laws God has established—is to further sin. Hence the prophet who allowed himself to be persuaded, contrary to God’s command, to answer the hypocritical enquirer at all, would inevitably be persuaded further to answer him according to his desires. God does not force men either to receive the truth or to act righteously. If, notwithstanding His remonstrances, their hearts are set upon wrong, He will even give them up and “send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” (2Thessalonians 2:11). We are too often told in Scripture of this method of the Divine dealing to leave any room for us to misunderstand the principle. The result is a terrible one, but it is quite in keeping with all we can observe of the Divine work in nature. The man that refuses the medicine, must sink under the disease. The principle is clearly exemplified in the case of Ahab (1Kings 22:19-23), where the Lord is represented as sending a lying spirit into the mouths of the prophets, that they might counsel the king to the wrong course he was already determined to take. God is declared to do this because it was the result under His moral laws of the wicked and domineering spirit of the king who had driven away the true prophets and gathered around himself those who were willing to pervert their office and prophesy falsely to gratify his wishes. Of course this is not to suppose that God can ever be the author of sin and deceit; but He has ordained that sin shall punish itself, and when the heart rejects Him, He withdraws His Spirit from it and gives it up to its own delusions. Thus when Saul’s heart became alienated from God, and “the Spirit of the Lord departed from” him, the evil spirit, which came instead, is said to be “from the LORD” (1Samuel 16:14). This kind of judgment is necessarily more common in times of great and general declension from the right. Hence false prophets were especially abundant towards the close of the kingdom of Judah, and form a marked characteristic in the New Testament prophecies of “the last days.” No more terrible judgment can be imagined than that of thus giving up the sinner to the consequences of his own sin.

Will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.—This is not the word which is so often used in the penalties of the law, “will cut him off from my people.” The latter refers only to excommunication, to exclusion from the privileges of the chosen people; but this means that the untrue prophet shall literally be destroyed, like Balaam (Numbers 31:8), among the enemies of God with whom he had cast in his lot.

Ezekiel 14:9-12. And if the prophet be deceived — Or, seduced. This is to be understood of the false prophets, whose practices are reproved throughout the whole foregoing chapter. I the Lord have deceived that prophet — I Jehovah have suffered him to be deceived; I have given him up to strong delusions, as a just judgment upon him for going after idols, and setting up false pretences to inspiration, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Or the words may signify, I will disappoint the expectations of those prophets who seduce my people, by speaking peace to them. For I will bring upon them those evils which they, with great assurance, have declared shall never come to pass. Thus Bishop Newcome, “When any false prophet is deceived, the probable event proving contrary to his prophecy, I Jehovah have so superintended the course of things as to deceive that prophet.”

And I will, &c. — Or, Yea, I will stretch out my hand upon him — Remarkably punish his falsehood, and in severity destroy him. And they — Both the deceiver and the deceived; shall bear the punishment of their iniquity — There is so great a parity in the folly and impiety of both the seducing prophets and the seduced people, that it is hard to say, whose sin is greatest. The punishment of the prophet shall be, &c. — Their punishments shall be as similar as they made their sins: both shall be cut off and destroyed. That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me — The judgments I will inflict upon the false prophets, and those that consult them, shall be an instruction to my people to continue steady to me and my worship, and not hanker after the idolatrous practices of the neighbouring nations.

14:1-11 No outward form or reformation can be acceptable to God, so long as any idol possesses the heart; yet how many prefer their own devices and their own righteousness, to the way of salvation! Men's corruptions are idols in their hearts, and are of their own setting up; God will let them take their course. Sin renders the sinner odious in the eyes of the pure and holy God; and in his own eyes also, whenever conscience is awakened. Let us seek to be cleansed from the guilt and pollution of sins, in that fountain which the Lord has opened.I the Lord hare deceived that prophet - A deep truth lies beneath these words, namely, that evil as well as good is under God's direction. He turns it as He will, employing it to test the sincerity of men, and thus making it ultimately contribute to the purification of His people, to the confirmation of the righteous, to the increase of their glory and felicity. The case of the false prophets who deceived Ahab 1 Kings 22 is a striking representation of this principle. The Lord sends forth an evil spirit to persuade Ahab to his ruin. Toward the close of the kingdom of Judah false prophets were especially rife. The thoughts of men's hearts were revealed, the good separated from the bad, and the remnant of the people purged from the sins by which of late years the whole nation had been defiled. 9. I the Lord have deceived that prophet—not directly, but through Satan and his ministers; not merely permissively, but by overruling their evil to serve the purposes of His righteous judgment, to be a touchstone to separate the precious from the vile, and to "prove" His people (De 13:3; 1Ki 22:23; Jer 4:10; 2Th 2:11, 12). Evil comes not from God, though God overrules it to serve His will (Job 12:16; Jas 1:3). This declaration of God is intended to answer their objection, "Jeremiah and Ezekiel are but two opposed to the many prophets who announce 'peace' to us." "Nay, deceive not yourselves, those prophets of yours are deluding you, and I permit them to do so as a righteous judgment on your wilful blindness." The prophet, viz. the prophet who makes this his trade and gain, the false prophet, who speaks all serene and quiet, in hope of reward for his kind answer to those that desired to hear what might please them more than what God commanded, promised, or threatened.

Have deceived; permitted him to err, or. iustly left him in his blindness, that he shall not discern his own self-deceivings; or else when such prophet promiseth good, and thinks concurrence of all second causes tend to it, yet I will disappoint and frustrate, as Isaiah 44:25, if the confederacies to save were in likelihood sufficient, and it were no presumption to hope the best; and if your prophets on this ground promised you success, yet they shall deceive you, for I would defeat and disappoint them and you; so the sense would not carry a moral and culpable deceiving, but a just defeating and disappointing, or disabling, second causes, on which disappointment of hopes will follow. If Egypt’s arms had so weakened the Babylonians, that none but wounded men remained, yet the promise of your escape should fail you, O Israelites, for, Jeremiah 37:10, these should rise up and burn your city.

Stretch out my hand upon him; remarkably punish his falsehood, and in severity destroy him.

And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing,.... That is pleasing to men, and is not true, in hope of reward and applause, but it never comes to pass, and his expectations are not answered:

I the Lord have deceived that prophet; by sending a lying spirit to him, as to Ahab's prophets, 1 Kings 22:22; by giving him up to strong delusions, to believe a lie, and publish it, 2 Thessalonians 2:11; and to his own heart's lusts; being willing, for the sake of gain, to prophesy smooth things, though false to the people, promising them peace when there was none; and then by frustrating his predictions, and disappointing him of his ends and views. R. Saadiah interprets this, as Kimchi observes, of God revealing and making it manifest that he was deceived; but more is meant by it than this, or even a bare permission; for though God is not the author of sin, yet he wills it to be done for wise ends and purposes, and sometimes in a way of judgment, as a punishment for sin; and which was the case here; both with respect to the prophet that deceived, who as the fruit of his sin, his covetousness, was given up in just judgment to a reprobate mind; and the people that were deceived, who, rejecting the true prophets of the Lord, were willing to have smooth things prophesied to them:

and I will stretch out my hand upon them; his avenging hand; the stroke of his power, as the Targum; a heavy one, and that for giving heed to a lying spirit; for uttering falsehood, and that with a wicked design, to gain the applause of the people, or for filthy lucre's sake:

and I will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel; by some sore judgment or sudden death, and so be made a public example of.

And if the prophet be {f} deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

(f) The prophet declares that God for man's ingratitude raises up false prophets to seduce them that delight in lies rather than in the truth of God, and thus he punishes sin with sin, 1Ki 22:20,22 and destroys those prophets as well as the people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9–11. Fate of the prophet who gives an answer to idolatrous inquirers: he and they shall perish together

9. be deceived when he hath spoken] Rather, be deceived (or, enticed) and speak a word, i.e. a prophetic word, ch. Ezekiel 12:25 seq. The meaning appears to be: if the prophet, entering into the “heart” of the idolaters, the circle and direction of their thoughts, and the general spirit which animates them, gives them a prophetic oracle which coincides with the line of their thoughts, and thus helps to foster their delusions, that prophet himself has been seduced or enticed; and it is the Lord who has enticed him. The passage has a resemblance to 1 Kings 22:20. There a lying spirit came forth from the Lord and entered into the prophets of Ahab and deceived them, so that they entered into the designs of the wicked king and gave an answer favourable to him. Here it is the Lord himself who entices the prophet. In both cases this enticement or deception was in punishment for previous sin. Ezekiel does not appear to reflect upon the point whether the prophet before being deceived was true or false. The “prophet” became false when deceived, when he entered into the spirit and purposes of the idolaters, and spoke a word to them in the line of their sinful conduct and hopes. And this word merely hardened them in their mind and was a step towards taking them in their own heart (Ezekiel 14:5).

Verse 9. - I the Lord have deceived that prophet, etc. The teaching of modern thought is to soften language like this into "I have permitted him to be deceived." The distinction was seldom, if ever, present to the mind of the Old Testament, or indeed of the New Testament, writers. It is Jehovah who sends the "lying spirit" in 1 Kings 22:20 -23. It is he who in the latter days shall send men "strong delusions" that they shall believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11). In both cases it is implied that the delusion is a righteous punishment, is indeed the natural, because the divinely appointed, punishment of the sin. Populus vult decipi et decipiatur, but the very deception is a means for undeceiving them. At last their eyes shall be opened. The punishment of the false prophet and of those who trust him is at once retributive, and a discipline, and, if the discipline fails for them, at least a warning for others. Ezekiel 14:9No prophet is to give any other answer. - Ezekiel 14:9. But if a prophet allow himself to be persuaded, and give a word, I have persuaded this prophet, and will stretch out my hand against him, and cut him off out of my people Israel. Ezekiel 14:10. They shall bear their guilt: as the guilt of the inquirer, so shall the guilt of the prophet be; Ezekiel 14:11. In order that the house of Israel may no more stray from me, and may no more defile itself with all its transgressions; but they may be my people, and I their God is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The prophet who allows himself to be persuaded is not a prophet מלּבּו (Ezekiel 13:2), but one who really thinks that he has a word of God. פּתּה, to persuade, to entice by friendly words (in a good sense, Hosea 2:16); but generally sensu malo, to lead astray, or seduce to that which is unallowable or evil. "If he allow himself to be persuaded:" not necessarily "with the hope of payment from the hypocrites who consult him" (Michaelis). This weakens the thought. It might sometimes be done from unselfish good-nature. And "the word" itself need not have been a divine oracle of his own invention, or a false prophecy. The allusion is simply to a word of a different character from that contained in Ezekiel 14:6-8, which either demands repentance or denounces judgment upon the impenitent: every word, therefore, which could by any possibility confirm the sinner in his security. - By אני יהוה (Ezekiel 14:9) the apodosis is introduced in an emphatic manner, as in Ezekiel 14:4 and Ezekiel 14:7; but פּתּיתי cannot be taken in a future sense ("I will persuade"). It must be a perfect; since the persuading of the prophet would necessarily precede his allowing himself to be persuaded. The Fathers and earlier Lutheran theologians are wrong in their interpretation of פּתּיתי, which they understand in a permissive sense, meaning simply that God allowed it, and did not prevent their being seduced. Still more wrong are Storr and Schmieder, the former of whom regards it as simply declaratory, "I will declare him to have gone astray from the worship of Jehovah;" the latter, "I will show him to be a fool, by punishing him for his disobedience." The words are rather to be understood in accordance with 1 Kings 22:20., where the persuading (pittâh) is done by a lying spirit, which inspires the prophets of Ahab to predict success to the king, in order that he may fall. As Jehovah sent the spirit in that case, and put it into the mouth of the prophets, so is the persuasion in this instance also effected by God: not merely divine permission, but divine ordination and arrangement; though this does not destroy human freedom, but, like all "persuading," presupposes the possibility of not allowing himself to be persuaded. See the discussion of this question in the commentary on 1 Kings 22:20. The remark of Calvin on the verse before us is correct: "it teaches that neither impostures nor frauds take place apart from the will of God" (nisi Deo volente). But this willing on the part of God, or the persuading of the prophets to the utterance of self-willed words, which have not been inspired by God, only takes place in persons who admit evil into themselves, and is designed to tempt them and lead them to decide whether they will endeavour to resist and conquer the sinful inclinations of their hearts, or will allow them to shape themselves into outward deeds, in which case they will become ripe for judgment. It is in this sense that God persuades such a prophet, in order that He may then cut him off out of His people. But this punishment will not fall upon the prophet only. It will reach the seeker or inquirer also, in order if possible to bring Israel back from its wandering astray, and make it into a people of God purified from sin (Ezekiel 14:10 and Ezekiel 14:11). It was to this end that, in the last times of the kingdom of Judah, God allowed false prophecy to prevail so mightily, - namely, that it might accelerate the process of distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked; and then, by means of the judgment which destroyed the wicked, purify His nation and lead it on to the great end of its calling.
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