The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (7)
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- Some Preliminary Observations
- The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
- The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
- The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
- Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
- The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
- Prophecy and Idolatry
- Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
- The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
- God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
- The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
- Israel's Past and Future Experiences
- The Sword of Jehovah
- Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
- The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
- The Boiling Caldron
- Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
- The Oracle Concerning Tyre
- The Oracles Concerning Egypt
- The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
- The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
- The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
- The Judgment upon Edom
- The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
- Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
- The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
- The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
- The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
- The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
- The Millennial Jerusalem
- The Millennial Temple
- The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
- The Land of Israel in the Millennium
Prophecy and Idolatry
In last month's study we looked at the subject of prophecy in general and at false prophets. This was done in connection with the message of chapter 12. The section of Ezekiel, chapters 12-19, shows the necessity for the judgments that were pronounced in the first eleven chapters. Chapter 13 continues the discussion of false prophets and false prophetesses, whereas chapter 14 deals with idolaters who sought confirmation of their positions in the messages of false prophets. It concludes with the thought that the presence of the righteous is no guarantee of security for the wicked.
In this chapter we are to study the subject relating to false prophets and false prophetesses.
I. The Typical False Prophet
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own heart, Hear ye the word of Jehovah: 3 Thus saith the Lord ...”
The Lord calls the men of this prediction “the prophets of Israel.” In speaking of them in this manner, Ezekiel was emphasizing the thought that they were not the prophets of Jehovah, but were the ones whom the situation and the people brought forth. It is true that certain situations produce a given type of men. In other words, they are the product of their age and environment. They arise and fit into the local situation, preying upon the credulity of the people and the times. To illustrate by a modern example: Between the Great War of 1914 - 1918 and World War II and even to the present time, we have the period of dictators. The conditions, politically and economically, as well as spiritually, demanded dictators. There are always opportunists who take advantage of all situations. Thus these dictators are the products of their age and at the same time they lead the people and control them. Thus such men were the prophets of Israel who ministered to the masses. Micah recognized this fact and thus spoke in 2:11:
If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood do lie,
saying I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink;
he shall even be the prophet of this people.”
The age of Isaiah and of Micah demanded prophets of this type, those who would cater to the feelings and the desires of the people. Hence there arose those who would fit into the situation and would soothe the conscience of the people and encourage them to go in the way in which they were determined to proceed. Jeremiah the prophet sounded the same keynote in the following passage:
A wonderful and horrible thing is come to pass in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means;
and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:30,31)
Jeremiah thought that it was a wonderful and horrible thing that had come to pass in the land when the prophets prophesied falsely and the priests bore rule by their means and the people were perfectly satisfied with such a regime as that. In fact, they loved just such conditions. There are always opportunists and time-servers who arise and who give the mad world what it wants. There are men today, unfortunately for us, who are of the same caliber, and who are entering the ministry, purporting to be ministers of the Word of God, whereas they preach to suit the people. They are time-servers, but not messengers of God at all.
These prophets of Israel, said the Lord, prophesied “out of their own heart.” They were not studying the Word of God to see what was the mind and thought of God as He had revealed it through His true and inspired prophets that had gone before. But these prophets, seeking to please the people, spoke out of their own heart and did not give a message from the Lord.
II. The False Prophets Compared to Foxes
and to Workmen Daubing a Wall with Untempered Mortar
In verse 3 Ezekiel pronounced a woe upon the foolish prophets that followed their own spirit but had not received anything from Jehovah. Then turning to the people of Israel, he compared their prophets to foxes in waste places. In desolate places and among ruins the foxes burrow here and there and cause more devastation. Continuing his speech to the people, Ezekiel declared that the people had not gone up into the gaps, neither had they built the walls for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of Jehovah. But these false prophets, time-servers, had seen falsehood and lying divination. The Lord had not sent them. Yet they had made men to hope that the word which was spoken by them might be confirmed. Then turning to the prophets, he asked them if they had not seen false visions, if they had not spoken lying divinations, in their claiming that Jehovah had spoken through them. Nevertheless, declared Ezekiel, God had not spoken through them.
In verses 8 and 9, the Lord declared that they had spoken falsehood and seen lies, and that therefore He was against them.
And my hand shall be against the prophets that see false visions, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the council 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 Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 13:9)
There were registers in which the people were written. For instance, when Israel returned from Babylonian captivity, certain ones claimed that they were of the Levitical priesthood. But when the genealogical tables were examined, their names did not appear there. Thus they were denied the privilege of officiating in the priestly capacity, because they were not written in the register. In the great Millennial Age the people will be written in the book, as we see in Isaiah 4:3. See also Psalm 87:6 and Isaiah 44:5. Thus God declared that these false prophets would not be written among the citizens of His people in the future. In other words, they will be lost.
If the Lord were speaking of those preachers of the present day who are time-servers, and who are just giving messages to please the people and are not speaking faithfully His Word, He would say that they shall not be written in the Lamb's book of life. They therefore, when they pass out of this life, will go into outer darkness from which they shall never emerge. It is indeed a fearful thing for anyone to attempt to speak for God, unless he has been called of God, and unless he will study faithfully the whole Word of God and speak fearlessly the message as it is recorded in the Word.
In verses 10-16 Ezekiel compared the false prophets — who were seducing the people and declaring that there were no indications of a threatened judgment, but that, on the contrary, there were signs of peace whereas there was no peace — to those masons who build up a wall but daub it with untempered mortar. Of course, such a wall would not stand, but in time would simply lean and eventually topple over, since the mortar used was not the proper kind and would not hold the rocks together. He was therefore instructed to speak to these unfaithful workmen, who thus daubed the wall with untempered mortar, that it might fall, saying:
There shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, 0 great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. 12 Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? 13 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my wrath; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in wrath to consume it. 14 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 uncovered; and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. 15 Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered mortar; and I will say unto you. The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; 16 to wit, the prophets of Israel that prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and that see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 13:11b-16)
The day of reckoning always comes to every evildoer, just as the day of reward will come to the faithful servants of God. All work that is rendered in the cause of God by men who are of the same type as the false prophets whom Ezekiel condemned will come to naught, and all those who have thus labored will suffer loss throughout all eternity.
Having exposed and denounced the false prophets, Ezekiel then turned his attention to the prophetesses who were engaged in all types of divination and deception in connection with their misleading the people. To them the prophet declared:
And thou, son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, that prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them, 18 and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe to the women that sew pillows upon all elbows, and make kerchiefs for the head of persons of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and save souls alive for yourselves? 19 And ye have profaned 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 hearken unto lies.” (Ezekiel 13:17-19)
Ezekiel was to take a definite stand against these women who were prophesying, like the false prophets, out of their own hearts. They made pillows or bands to tie on the joints — possibly the elbows, wrists, and shoulders — of those whom they were attempting to deceive. They likewise made kerchiefs for the head or some kind of covering, for the persons who would come to them for advice and for messages from God. They made these little pillows for people of different stature and build.
Concerning these women the prophet declared that they were hunting the souls of the people, and that they were saving souls alive for themselves. They would render their service to the unsuspecting, deluded 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 hearken unto lies” (vss. 17-19).
According to verse 20 God declared, “I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms; and I will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly.” Moreover, He promised to deliver these people out of the hands of these wicked, false prophetesses. Ezekiel charged them with grieving the hearts of the righteous with lies and making them sad. At the same time they strengthened the hands of the wicked “that he should not return from his wicked way, and be saved alive; 23 therefore ye shall no more see false visions, nor divine divinations: and I will deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” Jehovah, the God of truth, loves truth and hates lies and deception. He therefore is against all false and wicked people who lead others astray by their deceptions and lies.
In chapter 14 we are told that certain of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel and sat before him. When Israel was in Egypt, she had her elders and leaders who carried on and conducted the communal life of the nation. Even in Babylonian captivity the Jews had their semi-political organizations presided over by their elders. In modern Jewry, especially in orthodox circles in Europe, there exists a semi-political and religious organization of a communal life. The life of the people to a certain extent — but always under the superior power of the country in which they resided — has always been governed by the authority of this semi-political organization in Israel.
God knows the hearts of all. He understands the motives which prompt every action. There is nothing hidden from Him with whom we have to do. The Lord therefore informed Ezekiel as to the type of people who had appeared before him. Those who can read human nature can look into the face of others and can tell the general type of character they are. But not all people can thus read character. At the same time it is possible to misread a person's face. Because of this fact the Lord urges people not to judge lest they be judged.
But Ezekiel did not have to judge these people. God who knew their hearts revealed to him the very type of people they were.
They had taken their idols into their hearts and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Nevertheless they came and inquired of the Lord concerning His will. There are people like this today. They espouse a cause; they are determined to maintain and retain their position regardless of circumstances. At the same time they want confirmation of their position and desire approval of the course which they are pursuing. When any such people come to a true servant of God, a minister of the Word, he should not respect the person of those appearing before him; but he should, after deep prayer and thorough thought, deal with such upon the principles of God's Word. That is all that one can do today. But let us see how Ezekiel dealt with these wicked ones. Having been given the message of God he declared:
Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Every man of the house of Israel that taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him therein according to the multitude of his idols; 5 that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.” (Ezekiel 14:4,5)
If a man wants truth, God will give it to him. On the other hand, if he wants error and is determined to continue in his wickedness, God will answer him according to the desire and motive of his heart.
On this very point let us see how the Spirit of God spoke through Jeremiah:
Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls: but they said, We will not walk therein. 17 And I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet; but they said, We will not hearken. 18 Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, 0 congregation, what is among them. 19 Hear, 0 earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it. 20 To what purpose cometh there to me frankincense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing unto me. 21 Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people; and the fathers and the sons together shall stumble against them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish.”
Through Isaiah we have a similar revelation:
Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations: 4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did that which was evil in mine eyes, and chose that wherein I delighted not.” (Isaiah 66:3b-4)
The Lord through Ezekiel urged those men who had taken their idols to their heart to “Return ye, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). In the following two verses He warned everyone who put the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face and came to the prophet to inquire from him of the Lord, that He, Jehovah, would answer him and would set His face against him and make him an astonishment, a sign, and a proverb. Moreover, He threatened that He would cut him off from the people.
According to verse 9 of this chapter the Lord declared that, if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, He, Jehovah, had deceived that prophet, and that He would stretch forth His hand and destroy that man from the midst of Israel. God always gives truth and light to the honest, sincere, and seeking soul. But for those who receive not a love of the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, God sends delusions that they might believe a lie, be deceived, and eventually be condemned. Read II Thessalonians 2:1-12 on this point.
In Ezekiel 14:12-23 the Lord showed that the people of a land could commit trespasses and continue in them until He, the Lord, would stretch forth His hand, break the staff of bread, and bring famine upon the country, so that there would be nothing for man or for beast. The Lord, who is Sovereign of the universe, frequently does this to punish the people. But in sending such a judgment, He does it in love. All of His judgments are designed as corrective measures and executed for the eventual good of all concerned.
According to verse 15 the Lord does send wild beasts through a land to ravage it. According to verse 17 He at times causes a sword to come against a land and leave destruction and wreckage in its wake. Then, according to verses 19 and 20, He sends pestilences on lands at times. According to the Lord Jesus He causes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good and sends His rain upon the just and unjust. But regardless of what the Lord sends, all are designed for man's good.
When, however, the Lord sends any judgments upon a land, even though “Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they ... they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” The prayer of the righteous man availeth much in its working. When Israel sinned, Moses stepped into the breach and interceded in behalf of the people. Doubtless many other countries have been spared by the faithful prayers of some one giant of faith, one of God's noblemen or noble women, or by the united prayers of God's faithful servants. But when the circumstances require the Lord to send forth His four sore judgments in punishment for sin, even though these three giants of faith and prayer should be there and intercede, they would only deliver themselves; they could not alleviate the national crisis. There are things that God can forgive and times when he can forgive and avert calamities, as in the case of the people of Nineveh, to whom Jonah preached. There are times, however, when nations, like individuals, go beyond all hope. Then there is only one thing that can be done, and that is to let punishment fall.
In verses 12-20 Ezekiel was discussing the general proposition of God's sending His judgments upon a wicked population, deliverance from which could not be procured by the faithful prayers of men like Noah, Daniel, and Job. We must not, however, confuse this threat with the instructions found in II Chronicles, chapter 7, regarding the nation of Israel. In Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple, the king, inspired by the Spirit of God, declared:
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent, unto the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now have I chosen and hallowed this house, that my name may be there for ever; and mine eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually.”
(II Chronicles 7:13-16)
This passage referred to Israel when she was in her land with the Temple standing intact. If God should punish the nation for some evil, then the people should come to this house of God, humble themselves before Him and seek His face, turning from their wicked ways. The Lord assured them that, if they did that, He would hear from heaven, would forgive their sins, and heal their land. This promise was one made only to Israel while she was in the land, and while the Temple was standing intact.
It is a misinterpretation of the Word of God to take II Chronicles 7:14 out of its connection and apply it to any nation. Let us not warp the Word of God nor make it to mean something that it does not say. God will not honor this promise when it is wrested out of its connection and applied to someone other than Israel. The passage which applies to any nation in general, and which deals with such a point as this is found in Jeremiah 18:5-10:
Then the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, 6 0 house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, 0 house of Israel. 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; 8 if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10 if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”
Returning now to the last paragraph of Ezekiel, chapter 14, I wish to quote this statement:
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the evil beasts, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! 22 Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be carried forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings; and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. 25 And they shall comfort you, when ye see their way and their doings; and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 14:21-23)
It is God who sends His four sore judgments upon Jerusalem and at times upon other nations. If, whenever God sent one of His sore judgments upon a nation, the presence and prayers of any of His saints could not cause Him to spare the wicked on account of the righteous; how much more shall the wicked not be spared if God sends at one time His four sore judgments upon the land? Nevertheless, the Lord promised that there would be a remnant both of sons and daughters that would be left when He sent His four sore judgments upon Jerusalem. These would escape and would show by their lives and their conduct that God was just and righteous in bringing His judgments upon the city. Thus the people in the captivity to whom Ezekiel was speaking would be comforted in seeing the justice and the righteousness of God in sending His judgments to purge the nation of the evil. But seeing the lives of even those wicked who escaped they would know that God had not done what He did without a cause. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?