Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”
“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
Ezekiel in Babylon was writing
primarily to denounce the lies of the false prophets congregated in Jerusalem
who were leading the people to expect a soon return of the exiles from
Babylon. Having countered the lies of the false prophets with truth, God then
directed His servant to expose the charlatans themselves, men and women who
posed as prophets, but whose pronouncements were conjured up by their own evil
minds, and foisted on the people as revelations from God. They were about to
hear from the lips of a genuine prophet God’s denunciation of them and their
The counterpart of the OT
prophet is the teacher of this present Church age, see 2 Pe 2:1, “But there
were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false
teachers among you, who privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the
Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” so it is
clear that what is written concerning the prophets has also an application to
the teachers, and the first thing common to both is their number. There were
few genuine prophets, but many false claimants to that high honor, and the
same holds good today relative to teachers, God has bestowed the gift of
teaching with the same discretion as He did the gift of prophecy, as James
has written “... be not many masters (teachers),” Jas 3:1, but in spite of
that command, Christendom swarms with false teachers.
It can’t be emphasized too much
that since teaching is a God-given gift, it cannot be acquired in any other
way. A lifetime spent in a Bible school or seminary cannot endow the student
with the gift of teaching. Unfortunately the general belief - with disastrous
results - is that it can.
“Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own
spirit, and have seen nothing!”
God pronounces upon the false
prophets, woe, i.e., judgment that will cause lamentation, because they were
proclaiming lies, pretending that they had received a revelation from God,
when what they declared to be His word, was simply a lie conjured up in their
own wicked minds.
Their sin is repeated by their
NT counterparts: today’s false teachers, whose so-called interpretation of
Scripture gives license for virtually every form of sin, and the assurance
that God is too loving to send anyone to hell. The same judgment as befell
the false prophets and their duped followers, will break upon the heads of
today’s false teachers and their deluded adherents; and as the judgment in
Ezekiel’s day came in the form of the 586 BC Diaspora, so will the judgment on
today’s apostate Christendom and her false teachers come in the form of the
impending Great Tribulation cataclysms that will leave the whole world in the
same state of desolation as the Babylonian invasion did Israel in 586 BC.
The false prophets of Ezekiel’s
day contradicted him, and made God a liar, by declaring that the foretold
judgments either wouldn’t come, or would come only in the far distant future.
They painted a pleasant picture of continued safety and prosperity; and so do
today’s false teachers. They encourage the view that man, by his own efforts,
will produce a Utopian world, thus contradicting God Who says that He will
usher in such a world, but only after His terrible Great Tribulation judgments
will have reduced this present evil world to a state of desolation.
Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes (jackals) in the deserts (ruins).”
As jackals skulk in desolate
places, so did Israel’s false prophets, for their own aggrandizement, prowl
amongst the sinful people whose spiritual state was one of desolation,
proclaiming only what the people wanted to hear. And so is it with today’s
false teachers: they too pronounce platitudes in the desert of apostate
“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.”
The language is metaphoric.
Israel’s vulnerability was spiritual, but because of it she had also become
easily assailable physically. When brought out of Egypt she had been
surrounded by a spiritual wall consisting of the knowledge of Jehovah, her
obedience being all that was needed to ensure His blessing; and as a flock of
sheep are safely bedded down for the night within the protection of a thorn
bush enclosure, so was she safe and secure even when circumstances seemed at
their blackest, her disobedience alone forfeiting God’s protection.
The “gaps” mentioned here were
those made in that protective wall and hedge by instances of disobedience.
Her false prophets had permitted the number of those gaps to increase by their
failure to rebuke her sin, and call her back to repentant obedience. They had
likewise failed to keep the protecting “hedge” intact by their failure to
instruct her relative to God’s will as set forth in His Word. The end result
of their negligence was that Israel wantonly passed out through the gaps,
learning the evil ways of their idolatrous neighbors, each succeeding
generation becoming more ignorant of God, and more practiced in wickedness.
And the evil prophets, courting the favor of the rebels, not only failed to
warn them of coming judgment, but actively encouraged the rebellion, they
themselves having come to believe that God’s gracious withholding of
punishment which was designed to produce repentance, meant that it would never
The end of all this wickedness
on the part of prophets and people alike, was that the guilty nation would
fall in the battle, i.e., when God would deliver them into the hand of the
Babylonians whom He used as His instrument of chastisement.
“... the day of the Lord” in the
present context appears to be the day when He would deliver rebel Israel into
the hand of the Babylonians, and not that which is described in The
Scofield Reference Bible as that activity of God that “... will begin with
the translation of the Church and will terminate with the cleansing of the
heavens and the earth preparatory to the bringing into being of the new
heavens and the new earth.”
The activity of Israel’s false
prophets is being duplicated by today’s false teachers; and as the result of
that evil activity was the destruction of rebel Israel, so will that of these
so-called teachers end in the destruction of apostate Christendom in the
quickly approaching Great Tribulation.
“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.”
What the false prophets claimed
to be revelations from God, were simply the product of their own deceived
minds, by which they in turn deceived their credulous dupes.
The latter part of the verse
“they have made ... confirm the word” is variously translated, e.g., they
have made men hope that their words would be confirmed: they expect God to
fulfil their word.
“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?”
Here the Lord interrogatively
charges the charlatan prophets with deceit. They claimed falsely that they
had been given visions from Him; that truth had been revealed to them by their
use of divination; and that the Lord had spoken to them directly.
The false prophets had failed to
warn Israel of the dangers inherent in her practicing the idolatry of her
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold ye have spoken vanity, and seen
lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God.”
“... vanity” is also translated
lies: delusions: words without substance, while their having seen lies
means that their alleged visions were false: they had never had them, or if
they had they were the product of their own deluded evil minds. They had been
given nothing from God. Their wickedness had made Him their enemy.
“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.”
God’s hand would be upon them,
not for good, but for destruction.
“... assembly” is translated
council or councils. The false prophets would have no part in the
deliberations of those who would guide God’s people according to His Word, nor
would their names be inscribed in the book containing the names of those whom
God acknowledged as His own.
Their exclusion from “the land
of Israel” may refer to their exclusion at the return of the exiles at the end of the seventy
year captivity, but clearly the ultimate application is to the establishment
of the people in Palestine in the Millennium.
“... and ye shall know that I am
the Lord God.” The fulfillment of His words would be incontrovertible proof
that He Who had uttered them was the Lord God. The lack of fulfillment of
their words would just as conclusively expose the false prophets as imposters.
“Because, even because they have seduced (misled) my people, saying, Peace;
and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it
with untempered mortar:”
“Say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: There
shall be an overflowing shower; And ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a
stormy wind shall rend it.”
The charlatan prophets had
misled Israel by assuring them that there would be enduring tranquility, when,
in fact, a dreadful storm of Divine wrath was about to destroy them.
The pronouncements of the lying
prophets were a flimsy wall around the gullible people, to whom it seemed to
be an impregnable bulwark against any foe; and in addition the idle promises
of peace and security had made it also a thing of beauty; but the loveliness
was mere tinsel, untempered mortar (whitewash) disguising the fragility of the
God had a very different message
for the deceived rebels. Ezekiel was to warn them that the “wall” was about
to fall. The fair promises were to be revealed for what they were: lies!
“... shower” is far too weak a
word here, for in the original it means deluge: lashing rain: pouring
torrents. As the Flood of Noah’s day had devastated the antediluvian
world, so also would this storm of God’s wrath destroy the wicked generation
addressed by the prophet, the Babylonians being the Divine instrument in His
Hailstones are one of God’s
agents of destruction, as is also violent wind, but here the terms are used
metaphorically to indicate the violence of the destruction that would
accompany Babylon’s invasion of the land. Since wind is a biblical symbol of
the Holy Spirit, the mention of it here may be an oblique reminder of His part
in the destruction of rebel Israel.
We are reading this chapter
wrongly, however, if we fail to see in the destruction of that rebellious
generation of Israel a foreshadowing of that which overtook a later generation
of the same nation in AD 70, and to see in both a foreshadowing of that which
will break upon apostate Christendom and the whole world in the coming Great
“Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the
daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?”
Only when the judgment came
would the foolish dupes realize that the promises of the false prophets had
been lies, that realization prompting their bitter question to the deceivers,
“Where are now the peace, prosperity, and safety you assured us would continue
for many generations?”
Innumerable multitudes in hell
ask a similar question of the false teachers who now share their torment in
that dreadful place, and who on earth taught that God is too loving to send
anyone to hell, except perhaps human monsters like Hitler.
“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.
Since wind is one of the
biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, it may be that we are to see in this
“stormy wind” the symbolic announcement of His activity in the destruction of
that wicked generation of Israel.
The word that has been here
translated “shower” fails to convey the full extent of the Divine wrath, for
in the original it means deluge: torrential rain, and is akin to the
Deluge that destroyed the antediluvian world. The generation addressed by the
prophet would be also destroyed, not by a literal flood, but by the
Babylonians whom God was about to use as His instrument of annihilation.
Hailstones are another
expression of God’s anger, e.g., they were one of the plagues inflicted upon
Egypt. Here the reference is not to literal hail, but rather to the
expression of God’s fury, the emphasis being upon the withdrawal of His love,
for as warmth is associated with His affection, so is cold with His wrath.
“So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, 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.”
The language continues to be
metaphoric. The assurance of security, and the continuation of prosperity,
based on the mendacity of the false prophets, was the beautiful “wall” within
which deluded Israel dwelt, but God was about to destroy that wall, and expose
its foundation, i.e., He would expose the falsity of the assurances upon which
it had been built. Instead of their continuing to enjoy peace and prosperity,
the people and the prophets who had deceived them, were about to be destroyed,
coming in that destruction to know Jehovah as the God of wrath and judgment,
when by obedience they could have known Him as the God of love and the Source
of every blessing.
Apostate Christendom and a
godless world are about to learn the same lesson in the fast approaching
dreadful judgments of the Great Tribulation.
“Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed
it with untempered mortar, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither
they that daubed it;”
As that euphoric delusion,
behind which Israel sheltered, was about to be shattered, so also is that
behind which today’s world feels so secure. Her false teachers have distorted
the truth of Scripture, while her statesmen and business moguls talk of
lasting peace and prosperity in a worldwide society created by human
ingenuity; but like the beautiful metaphoric wall behind which deluded but
doomed Israel dwelt, in the enjoyment of a false peace, so also is the great
edifice erected by modern man, about to lie in catastrophic ruin at the end of
the now imminent Great Tribulation. Of that “wall” too it will be said, “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.”
This verse is in the nature of a
disgusted exclamation from God relative to the lying profits, and has also
been translated, “Those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem, who
saw visions of prosperity when there was no prosperity ...” The New English
“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,”
Just as there were legitimate
prophets, so were there also legitimate prophetesses in Israel, but these were
not among them, for they were guilty of the same wickedness as their male
counterparts: they proclaimed as Divine revelations what were simply the
product of their own evil minds; but now they were to hear from the lips of
Ezekiel God’s denunciation of their prevarication.
Today’s Apostate Christendom
abounds with their modern counterparts: women presuming to teach in the Church
in brazen defiance of God’s command forbidding such activity, see 1 Cor 14:34,
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto
them to speak; but they are commanded to be under silence ... for it is a
shame for women to speak in the church.” See also 1 Tim 2:11-12, “Let the
woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to
teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
“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?”
The enigmatic language of the KJ
version is clarified by other translations which reveal that what God was here
denouncing was the practice of the false prophetesses of placing upon people’s
wrists “pillows,” i.e., amulets (bands supposedly endowed with magical power
to bring good luck and ward off evil).
What is written about
“kerchiefs” is better translated, “... putting veils over the heads of persons
of every age,” The New English Bible, the purpose being to thus
distinguish them as proselytes of the fraudulent prophetess.
“Will ye hunt the souls of my
people ...?” is God’s indignant question addressed to the frauds who pretended
to speak in His name; and “... will ye save the souls alive that come unto
you?” is also translated, “... to make a living for yourselves,” The Bible:
An American Translation.
The very same language is as
applicable to the religious chicanery practiced in today’s Christendom as in
the Israel of Ezekiel’s day.
“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?”
Most scholars agree that “for
handfuls ... for pieces” should be “with, etc.,” that is, the offerings which
the lying prophetesses presented to their false gods in order to obtain the
“oracles” with which they then deceived the foolish people.
Opinion is divided as to the
meaning of their slaying souls that should live, and keeping alive souls that
ought to die, but it seems that their sin lay in the fact that the eternal
salvation of souls was made dependent on acceptance or rejection of their
lies, for by that criterion there were those they pronounced as being on the
way to heaven but who by God’s standard were on the way to hell.
“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
“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
God here declares His abhorrence
of all their witchcraft by means of which they hunted souls as men hunt birds
- hence the reference to making them fly - this being generally understood to
indicate the pleasure they took in ensnaring souls.
Scholars are disagreed as to
what God will tear from the arms of the lying prophetesses, some taking it to
be the amulets they wore on their arms; others understanding it to be the
souls captivated by their lies. Since verse eighteen seems to indicate that
the amulets were sold to, and were worn by the dupes of the lying
prophetesses, then those whom God would tear from the arms of the wicked
enchantresses can scarcely be any other than the victims held under their
“Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad; and
strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his
wicked way, by promising him life:”
It grieved the righteous to see
the harm being wrought by the lies of the false prophetesses; but it
encouraged the wicked to continue in his evil way, by assuring him that
obedience to their lies was the way of life, when, on the contrary, it was the
way of death.
The same holds good today. It
grieves the hearts of believers to see the havoc being wrought by the activity
of false teachers who condone every form of evil, and assure their dupes that
God is too loving to send anyone to hell.
“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.”
While certainly this followed
the Babylonian invasion of Israel in 586 BC, the ultimate fulfillment is still
future, and will result from the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation
just prior to the inauguration of Christ’s millennial kingdom. And again, the
fulfillment of the promise would validate the claim of the One Who gave it: He
is the eternal God.