And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verse 1. - Another interval follows, and then a fresh and fuller burst of inspiration, manifestly in close connection with Ezekiel 12:21-28, and to be read in combination with Jeremiah 23, which, as Jeremiah was in communication with the exiles (Jeremiah 29:1), Ezekiel may probably have seen. There were false prophets and prophetesses among the exiles as well as in Jerusalem, and an utterance is now found for his long pent up indignation.
Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
Verses 2, 3. - Son of man, prophesy, etc. The sin of the men whom Ezekiel denounced was that they prophesied out of their own hearts (Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:16, 26), and followed their own spirit instead of the Spirit of Jehovah. All was human and of the earth. Not a single fact in the future, not a single eternal law governing both the future and the past, was brought to light by it. To one who was conscious that he had a message which he had not devised himself, and which he had not been taught by men (Galatians 1:12); that he had no selfish by-ends in what he said and did; that he was risking peace, reputation, life itself, for the truth revealed to him, - nothing could be more repulsive than this claim to have seen a vision of Jehovah, by men who bad in reality seen nothing. For foolish prophets, read, with the stronger Hebrew, the prophets, the fools, the words deriving their force from a kind of paronomasia of alliteration. The nabiim are also the n'balim.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.
Verse 4 - Like the foxes in the deserts, etc. The points of comparison are manifold. The fox is cunning (Luke 13:32, where the term is applied to Herod Antipas). It spoils the vine and its fruits (Song of Solomon 2:15); it burrows among ruins (Nehemiah 4:3; Lamentations 5:18). So the false prophets were crafty, laid waste the vineyard of the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 5:7), made their profit out of the ruin of Israel, and made that ruin worse. The 'Reineke Fuchs,' in satirizing the monks and priests of the sixteenth century under the same comparison, presents a curious, though probably unconscious, analogue. In Matthew 7:15 and Acts 20:29 wolves appear as the types of the false prophet.
Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.
Verse 5. - The verse contains two distinct images. There were breaches in the walls of Jerusalem, literally and spiritually, and the false prophets had not been as "repairers of the breach" (Isaiah 58:12; Psalm 106:23). The hedge of the vineyard of Israel had been broken through (Isaiah 5:5), and they had done nothing to restore it (Ezekiel 22:30). The day of battle, the day of the Lord, had come, and they were betraying the people instead of helping.
They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.
Verse 6. - The Lord saith. The verb is that specially used for the utterance of prophets, and the deceivers used it without the authority of a true mission. For they have made others (or, men) to hope, etc., as in the Authorized Version and Revised Version, read, with the margin of Revised Version, they hope to confirm their word, taking the verb as in Psalm 119:43, 49; Job 6:11, et al.). So the Vulgate, persereraverunt confirmare. Through deceiving others, they came to deceive themselves, and were really expecting a fulfilment.
Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.
And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
Verse 9. - Mine hand shall be, etc. After Ezekiel's manner, the thought of ver. 6 is repeated in an altered form in vers. 7, 8. What had been a statement appears as a question to which there could be but one answer. The prophet, as it were, cross examines his rivals. Could they deny the charge? Was not every word of it true? Then, after the statement of the sin of the false prophets, comes the proclamation of the punishment. The hand of Jehovah would be upon them for evil and not for good. In the assembly of my people. The Hebrew word indicates not a large popular gathering, but a secret council of those who deliberate together to carry out their plans (Psalm 89:7; Psalm 111:1; Jeremiah 6:11). The prophets who had acted together, and been looked up to by the people as forming such a council, should lose that position of authority. The words that follow point to a yet lower degradation. They should be in the strictest sense of the word excommunicated. The city of Jerusalem, perhaps every city of Judah, had its register of citizens. In such a register were inscribed also the names of proselytes of other races (Psalm 87:6), and so men came to think of a like register as kept by the King of kings, containing the names of those who were heirs of the "life" of the true Israel (Exodus 32:32; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1). In neither of those registers, the earthly and the heavenly (but stress is probably laid upon the former), shall the false prophets find a place. Ezra 2:62 gives an example of the use made of such registers on the return from the Captivity. One notes the contrast between the "my people" which recognizes Israel as still the heritage of Jehovah, and the "thy people" used in Ezekiel 3:11 of the rebellious house of the Captivity. For the false prophets there should be no return to the land of Israel such as that which the prophet anticipated for the faithful and the penitent (Ezekiel 37:21; comp. Isaiah 57:13). Here there is no specific mention of the name being struck out. The prophet contemplates a new register, in which their names will never even have appeared.
Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:
Verse 10. - Peace, when there was no peace. This, as in Micah 3:5; Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 23:17; Zechariah 10:2, was the root evil of the false prophet's work. He lulled men into a false security, and so narcotized their consciences. One built up a wall. The imagery starts from the picture of a ruined city already implied in vers. 4 and 5, and expands into a parable in which we note a parallelism
(1) to Isaiah's picture of dishonest and unsafe building (Ezekiel 30:13);
(2) to our Lord's parable at the end of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:24, 25: Luke 6:47-49).
With an incisive sarcasm, Ezekiel describes what we should call the "scamp-work" of their spiritual building. They profess to be "repairers of the breach" (Isaiah 58:12) in the walls of the spiritual Zion, and this is how they set about it. One built up a wall. This may point to a false prophet, but the "one" (Hebrew, "he") is probably indefinite, like the French on, equivalent to "some one." Some scheme is devised, an Egyptian alliance or the like, to which the people look for safety. It is, as in the margin of the Authorized Version, a "slight wall," such as was used for partition walls inside houses. They make it do duty as an outside wall (kir in ver. 12). It has no sure "footings," and materials and workmanship are alike defective. The false prophets would smear it over with untempered mortar (the Hebrew word is found only here and in Ezekiel 22:28, and is probably an example of Ezekiel's acquaintance with the technical vocabulary of his time) - with a stucco or plaster, which is hardly better than whitewash (compare the "whitened" or plastered wall or sepulchre of Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44; Acts 23:3), used to hide its detects and give it a semblance of solidity. They come, that is, with smooth words and promises of peace.
Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it.
Verse 11. - In words which would almost seem to have been in our Lord's thoughts in Matthew 7:25, we have the picture of an Eastern storm, torrents of rain passing into hail (LXX., λίθοι πετρόβολοι), accompanied by a tornado of irresistible violence (compare like pictures in Exodus 9:22; Joshua 10:11; Isaiah 30:30; Isaiah 28:2, 17). And when the disaster comes men will turn to those who professed to be master builders and repairers of the breach, with derision, and ask, "Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed?" And then men shall see that through all this it is Jehovah's hand that has been working. It is he who "rends" the wall; he who "brings it down to the ground;" he who "accomplishes his wrath" (vers. 13-15). That shall be the end of the false "visions of peace."
Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it.
So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered morter, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered morter, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it;
To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD.
Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them,
Verse 17. - Set thy face against the daughters of thy people. Here we note that the formula, "thy people," of Ezekiel 3:11 reappears. The section which follows (vers. 17-23) throws an interesting side light on the position of women in the religious life of Israel. For good as for evil, their influence was stronger there than in most other nations. Miriam had led the way (Exodus 15:21), and had been followed by Deborah (Judges 5:4). Huldah had been almost as prominent in Josiah's reformation as Hilkiah the high priest (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22). It was but natural that there should be women on the other side also, guiding their own sex; and it is probable that Ezekiel had in his thoughts some special leaders who headed the women of Jerusalem in their opposition to Jeremiah, as afterwards at Pathros (Jeremiah 44:15). So, later on, we have the prophetess Noadiah heading the opposition to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:14); and in the New Testament, on the one hand, Anns (Luke 2:36) and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and on the other, the ill-regulated prophetesses of Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:5) and the woman Jezebel, who called herself a prophetess (Revelation 2:20).
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, 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 unto you?
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.
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?
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.
Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly.
Verse 20 - To make them fly, etc.; rather, with the Revised Version and Ewald, as if they were birds, carrying out the thought that the amulets on the arms of the prophetesses, and the veil cast over the heads of the votaries, were like the snare of the fowler. So the threat that follows, that the amulets should be torn off and the veil rent, is practically equivalent to the promise that the victims should be "delivered out of the snare of the fowler" (Psalm 91:3; Psalm 124:7). They should no longer he in the power of those who traded on their credulity. They too shall know that he who speaks is indeed Jehovah.
Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:
Verse 22. - Because with lies, etc. What specially stirred Ezekiel's indignation was taut the false prophetesses saddened the hearts of the righteous (of those who looked to him and Jeremiah for guidance) with prophecies of evil and deluded the evil door by false hopes, so that he should not turn from his evil way and live. For by promising him life, read, with the LXX., Vulgate, and Luther and the Revised Version, that he should live, as he would do, if he turned from his wickedness (Ezekiel 3:21; Ezekiel 18:9, 17).
Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.