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Ezekiel 13

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
False Prophets Condemned Woe to Foolish Prophets Of Prophets and People
(12:21-14:23)
Prophecy Against False Male Prophets Against the False Prophets
13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-4
        13:5-7
13:8-16 13:8-16 13:8-16 13:8-9 13:8-14
      13:10-12  
      13:13-14  
      13:15-16 13:15-16
      Prophecy Against False Female Prophets Against the False Prophetesses
13:17-19 13:17-19 13:17-19 13:17-18a 13:17-19
      13:18b-19  
13:20-23 13:20-23 13:20-23 13:20-21 13:20-21
      13:22-23 13:22-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:1-7
 1Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2"Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, 'Listen to the word of the Lord! 3Thus says the Lord God, "Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord. 6They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, 'The Lord declares,' when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, 'The Lord declares,' but it is not I who have spoken?"'"

13:1 "Then the word of the Lord came to me saying" This chapter is an amplification of 12:24, dealing with "false" prophets.

13:2 "prophesy against the prophets of Israel" Another category of Judean society is condemned! There are six charges brought against these prophets.

1. they prophesied from their own inspiration

2. they followed their own spirit

3. they have seen nothing

4. they have not gone into the breaches for My people

5. they see falsehood

6. they have misled My people

The question, "How do you know a false prophet?" is extremely important (cf. Deut. 13:1-5; 18:21-22; Matt. 7; 1 John 4:1-6). This passage in Ezekiel is reminiscent of Jeremiah, chapters 23,28,29.

The verb "prophesy" (BDB 612, KB 659) is used twice in this verse.

1. Niphal imperative

2. Niphal participle

The noun "prophets" (nabi, BDB 611) is also used. See Special Topic following.

A good discussion of the characteristics of false prophets is found in The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant R. Osborne, pp. 210-211.

SPECIAL TOPIC: OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY

▣ "who prophesy from their own inspiration" See II Pet. 2:1-3. The Hebrew term behind "inspiration" is "hearts" (BDB 524). See Special Topic at 11:19.

13:2 "‘Listen to the word of the Lord'" The verb "listen" is literally "hear" (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative). YHWH is addressing the false prophets. This is a common verb in the prophets. Notice a sample of who/what is addressed.

1. 3:17 - Ezekiel

2. 6:3; 36:1,4 - the mountains of Israel

3. 13:2 - false prophets

4. 16:35 - harlot

5. 18:25; 33:7,30 - house of Israel

6. 20:47 - forest of the Negev

7. 25:3 - sons of Ammon

8. 34:7,9 - shepherds (i.e., leaders)

9. 37:4 - the dry bones

 

13:3 "the Lord God" This title is a combination of the terms

1. Adon - BDB 10

2. YHWH - BDB 217

For a full discussion of these terms see the SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 2:4.

▣ "‘Woe'" This is the literary marker (BDB 222) for a prophetic literary form known as a funeral dirge. It is common in Isaiah (e.g., 5:8,11,18,20,21,22) and Jeremiah (e.g., 22:13,18[four times]), but found in Ezekiel only in 13:3,18 and 34:2. Several of the chapters in Isaiah begin with "Woe" (cf. Isaiah 28; 29; 30; 31; 33).

▣ "foolish prophets" This seems to refer to self deception (cf. Jer. 23:21-22), not low intelligence. The adjective (BDB 614) is used to describe Israel in Deut. 32:6,21.

▣ "who are following their own spirit" Here is the problem! It is their own spirit that is leading them, not God's Spirit! They speak their word in God's name!

13:4 "your prophets have been like foxes among ruins" Their only concern was for themselves (v. 5). The word "foxes" (BDB 1043) may be a theological wordplay on

1. "ruins" (BDB 352) - places where foxes live (i.e., Jerusalem will be a place of ruins)

2. "foxes" - some desert animals that lived in the ruins of destroyed cities became associated with the demonic (NEB)

3. "foxes" - this term may also imply that these false prophets fed on the people (cf. Ps. 63:10)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

13:5 This verse uses several siege metaphors to describe the false prophets' lack of action on behalf of the covenant people.

1. did not go into the breaches - BDB 829, "breaches" were holes made in the walls of cities by the enemy (cf. Isa. 58:12; Amos 4:3; 9:11)

2. did not fortify the wall - BDB 154, a good parallel to both metaphors is Ezek. 22:30

Israel's only hope is in their God. These false religionists do not know Him.

▣ "the day of the Lord" This is a metaphor for the coming of YHWH's personal presence (cf. 7:10,19; 30:3; Isa. 2:2; 13:6,9; 22:5; 34:8; Jer. 46:10). Israel often expected it to be a day of blessing and affirmation, but in reality it was a day of judgment. Israel was not in compliance with the Mosaic Covenant.

13:6-7 These false prophets are characterized by several terms.

1. they see falsehood (literally "vanity" or "nothingness," BDB 996)

2. they see lying divination (BDB 890 construct 469), cf. 22:28

3. the Lord has not sent them (BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal perfect)

4. their message is not from YHWH, v. 7 (BDB 180, KB 210, Piel perfect)

They claim to be YHWH's representatives, but they knowingly speak their own messages (cf. v. 6c).

▣ "the Lord declares" This is exactly the prophetic formula that Ezekiel and Jeremiah used. It was so difficult to know who was/is from God and who was/is not (cf. Jeremiah 28 - 29). See note at 13:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:8-16
 8Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you," declares the Lord God. 9So My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will have no place in the council of My people, nor will they be written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel, that you may know that I am the Lord God. 10It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, 'Peace!' when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash; 11so tell those who plaster it over with whitewash, that it will fall. A flooding rain will come, and you, O hailstones, will fall; and a violent wind will break out. 12Behold, when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked, 'Where is the plaster with which you plastered it?'" 13Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume it in wrath. 14So I will tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare; and when it falls, you will be consumed in its midst. And you will know that I am the Lord. 15Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, 'The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, 16along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,' declares the Lord God."

13:9 "My hand is against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations" There are three things God says He will do to these false prophets.

1. they will lose their leadership ("council of My people," cf. Ps. 111:1)

2. their names will be taken out of the register of the people of God (cf. Ps. 87:6)

3. they will not enter the Promised Land (this message is addressed to false prophets in both Babylon and Judah).

They are completely removed from God's people!

13:10

NASB, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"they have misled My people"
NKJV"they have seduced My people"

The verb (BDB 380, KB 390, Qal perfect) is found only here in the prophets. It occurs only one other time in Song of Songs 1:7, where it is translated "veils," NASB; "wanders," REV. In Arabic the root means "to exceed just limit" or "one who deviates from the right path." In Ethiopian it means "apostasy," "superstition," or "idolatry." The Septuagint has "they have caused My people to err" and the Peshitta has "they have deceived my people."

It seems that the term is used metaphorically of not following the right path or way. God's word was seen as a clearly marked path/road. To deviate from this path was to knowingly violate YHWH's covenant (e.g., Job 6:18; Ps. 16:11; 17:4; 25:4,10; Pro. 2:8,13,19,20; 3:6; 4:18; Isa. 2:3; 3:12). The prophets are willfully self-deluded!

▣ "saying ‘Peace' when there is no peace" This was the problem of the false prophets (cf. v. 16). They were preaching the destruction of Babylon and the restoration of Israel (possibly following Isaiah's insistence that Jerusalem would not fall, but things had changed, the covenant promises were conditional on covenant obedience!) and yet, the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah were prophesying judgment and destruction (cf. Jer. 8:18; 28-29).

▣ "a wall" This is a rare term (BDB 300) used only here in the OT. Kimchi (a Jewish commentator of the Middle Ages) says it means "an inferior partition." It is used in the sense of pretending to build something strong, but which is really very weak. It is used symbolically for the theological pronouncements of these false prophets.

▣ "they plastered over the whitewash" They hid their false religious pronouncements with a thin coating of religious language (cf. v. 11)! There may be a wordplay between "plaster" (BDB 1074) and "foolish" or "unsatisfying things" (BDB 1074, cf. Lam. 2:14).

13:11 YHWH will expose the weakness of their false prophecies (cf. 38:22) using metaphors from nature.

1. flooding rain, v. 13

2. hailstones, v. 13

3. a violent wind, v. 13

Against these three the true nature of the wall (i.e., prophecies) of these false prophets will be clearly revealed (i.e., "fall," BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect, twice in v. 11 and the Qal perfect in v. 12).

In the MT these three natural occurrences are not grammatically parallel, but from the context they are.

13:13 "in My wrath. . .in wrath" Wrath (BDB 404, cf. v. 15) is anthropomorphic language. See Special Topic at 1:3.

13:14 "its foundation is laid bare" This is an idiom of total destruction (cf. Micah 1:6 and possibly Hab. 3:13). The phrase is a Niphal perfect (BDB 162, KB 191). The term in the Niphal is often used of nakedness (cf. Ezek. 16:36; 23:29). YHWH will show the true nature of the false prophets' (male and female) messages of hope and security.

13:15 This is a proverb that YHWH directs to these false prophets. All of their efforts and words will come to naught. No lasting results! Their words and they themselves are no more!

13:16 "peace" The term "peace" (BDB 1022) is used in two senses in this verse.

1. The false teachers used it in the sense of the political autonomy of Judah.

2. Ezekiel uses it in the sense of a restored relationship with YHWH.

Judah will fall and become a vassal nation to Babylon, but the exiles who trust and obey will be restored (i.e., in their heart and one day to their land)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:17-19
 17"Now you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who are prophesying from their own inspiration. Prophesy against them 18and say, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Woe to the women who sew magic bands on all wrists and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature to hunt down lives! Will you hunt down the lives of My people, but preserve the lives of others for yourselves? 19For handfuls of barley and fragments of bread, you have profaned Me to My people to put to death some who should not die and to keep others alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies."'"

13:17 "set your face against" The verb (BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative) is used here in the sense of "direct your intention against" (i.e., 6:2; 14:8; 15:7; 21:2; 29:2; 35:2; Lev. 20:5; Jer. 21:10; 44:11). The face symbolized the person and thereby one's personal attention to someone or some thing.

YHWH repeats His opposition to these false prophets (men and women) by using the phrase "prophesy against them" (BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal imperative) at the end of v. 17!

▣ "the daughters of your people who are prophesying from their own inspiration" Apparently, along with the false prophets, there were false prophetesses (cf. v. 23). Women active in God's service was/is not an unusual thing. However, as there are false prophets, there are also false prophetesses.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

13:18 "sew magic bands on all their wrists" This group is seen more like sorceresses than prophetesses. The word "magic band" (BDB 492) is found only here in the OT and has been interpreted several ways.

1. as amulets

2. as phylacteries (Origen's Hexapla)

3. as pillows (LXX, JPSOA, KJV)

The phrase "on all their wrists" is literally "all joints of the hands" (BDB 69 construct 388). This seems to be similar to modern voodoo with its spells and incantations.

▣ "make veils for the heads of persons of every stature" The noun "veils" (BDB 705) appears only here and in v. 21 in the OT. KB (607) calls it a robe of coarse material, while LXX has "scarf," or "head covering." Whatever these items were, they were attempts to control the destinies of people (both negatively as curses and positively as charms, cf. v. 19). This is the essence of divination and the occult. It is an expression of egocentric fallen humanity!

▣ "but preserve the lives of others for yourselves" This shows that whatever their occultic practices were, they were done for self interest! These false prophets/prophetesses wanted to destroy some people and protect others, but not for the glory of YHWH rather for their own selfish, manipulative purposes! Religion can be superstitious and destructive!

13:19 "for a handful of barley and fragments of bread" It seems improbable that this refers to the payment that these false prophetesses will receive because it is so meager. However, this phrase is very ambiguous because of the rarity of the words "handful" (BDB 1043) and "fragments" (BDB 837). In Anatolia and later in Syria handfuls of barley and bread were used as a means of divination and this seems to be the possible historical allusion.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:13:20-23
 20Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against your magic bands by which you hunt lives there as birds and I will tear them from your arms; and I will let them go, even those lives whom you hunt as birds. 21I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people from your hands, and they will no longer be in your hands to be hunted; and you will know that I am the Lord. 22Because you disheartened the righteous with falsehood when I did not cause him grief, but have encouraged the wicked not to turn from his wicked way and preserve his life, 23therefore, you women will no longer see false visions or practice divination, and I will deliver My people out of your hand. Thus you will know that I am the Lord."

13:20-21 YHWH will destroy these false spiritualists! He will free their deluded followers!

13:20 "birds" The term (BDB 827 III) occurs twice. It is translated "birds" or "flying things" because of the context of "hunt" (BDB 844, KB 1010, Polel participle, twice). However, the term normally means "to break out" (BDB 827 II, like leprosy, cf. Lev. 13:39) or "to bud" or "to sprout" (BDB 827 I, cf. Exod. 25:31-34; 37:17-20; Isa. 18:5). This passage is the only place in the OT that the translation "buds" is used. Because of the occultic context it may refer to giving people diseases by means of incantations! See the TEV translation.

13:22 This verse assumes that the superstition or magic had some psychological effect!

The verbal "disheartened" (BDB 456, KB 454, Hiphil infinitive construct) is found only here in this form. Many (KB 454) have assumed it could be a Hiphil perfect of a similar root meaning "to cause pain."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why were the Jewish people (who had the OT) so reluctant to hear the voice of God?

2. What is divination?

3. Did the lying false prophets know they were false prophets?

4. Does God speak through women?