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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 13

The Second Cycle—Chapters 8-19

THE second cycle (ch. Ezekiel 8:1 to Ezekiel 19:14) is separated from the first by an interval of a year and two months. The date is here the sixth year after the captivity of Jehoiachin, the sixth month, the fifth day, about five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. A vision here also forms the introduction, a song the close in ch. Ezekiel 19, in the midst of prophetic discourses that elucidate the vision, obviate objections, and form a bridge between it and the mind. The historical starting-point and the tendency also are similar. The prophet here also strives against the political dreams, represents the destruction as inevitable, and points to repentance as the only way of safety.

The vision is here far more comprehensive than in the first cycle. It occupies four whole chapters. It gives a complete representation of the sins of the people; and here accordingly is unfolded what in the first vision is only indicated concerning the punishment. Common to both visions is the delineation of the theophany itself, and in particular the description of the cherubim. The former delineation is supplemented by that here given only in details.

Ch. Ezekiel 8 contains the exposition of the guilt—the delineation of the four abominations of Jerusalem; ch. Ezekiel 9, the first punishment—Jerusalem filled with dead bodies; ch. Ezekiel 10, the second punishment—Jerusalem burnt; ch. Ezekiel 11:1-12, the third—God’s vengeance follows the survivors of the catastrophe. The close consists of comfort for the captives, who are already in exile with Ezekiel, and on whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem proudly look down; of these will God Himself take care, after the total disappointment of all human hopes (vers. Ezekiel 11:13-21). The prophet then sees still (vers. Ezekiel 11:22-23) how the glory of the Lord leaves the temple; and then the ecstasy comes to an end (vers. Ezekiel 11:21, Ezekiel 11:25).

Verses 1-16

Ezekiel 13. In the endeavour to remove the hindrances which opposed the reception of the important contents of the vision in ch. Ezekiel 8:11 into the minds of the people, the prophet here comes to the false prophets, who in Jerusalem and among the exiles (comp. Jeremiah 29) announced salvation without repentance, grace without judgment. He describes them in the first section as bad daubers, in the second ( Ezekiel 13:17 f.) as women on account of their feebleness. The introduction to this rebuke of the false prophets is already found in ch. Ezekiel 12:24, where the prophet announces that all deceitful vision and flattering divination will be overturned by the events of the future. In another respect also this chapter stands in connection with the foregoing section. To the recommendation there of the true prophecy, corresponds here the warning against the false. We have here the parallel to the classical passage of Jeremiah against the false prophets (ch. Jeremiah 23:9 f.). The false prophecy, against which the prophet contends, continues substantially to exist in the church of the New Testament. There, through all ages, along with the true theology, descends a false theology, which in varying forms divests God of the energy of His righteousness, and presents to view salvation without genuine renewal of heart, without washing away the defilement of the daughter of Zion by the sternness of judgments.

Ezekiel 13:1 to Ezekiel 16:1. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2. Son of man, prophesy unto the prophets of Israel, who prophesy, and say unto the prophets out of their own hearts. Hear ye the word of the Lord. 3. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe unto the foolish prophets, that walk after their own spirit, and after that which they see not! 4. Like foxes in the ruins are thy prophets, O Israel. 5. Ye have not gone up into the breaches, nor built up a wall round the house of Israel, to stand in the war in the day of the Lord. 6. They behold deceit and lying divination, who say, Thus saith the LORD, though the Lord hath not sent them, and expect the confirmation of the word. 7. Have ye not seen a deceitful vision, and spoken a lying divination, when ye say, Thus saith the Lord, although I have not spoken? 8. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye speak deceit, and see a lie, therefore, behold, I am upon you, saith the Lord Jehovah. 9. And my hand shall be upon the prophets that see deceit, and divine a lie: they shall not be in the community 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. 10. Because, even because they have led my people astray, saying, Peace, and there is no peace; and one builds a wall, and, lo, they daub it with absurdity. 11. Say unto those who daub with absurdity, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower, and ye hailstones shall fall; and a stormy wind thou shalt rend. 12. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you. Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed? 13. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will send a stormy wind in my fury, and there shall be an overflowing shower in my wrath, and hailstones in fury to consume. 14. And I will break down the wall that ye have daubed with absurdity, and cast it to the earth, and the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it (Jerusalem [66] ) shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. 15. And I will accomplish my fury upon the wall, and upon those who daub it with absurdity; and will say to you. The wall is not, neither are they who daub it. 16. The prophets of Israel, who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and see for it a vision of peace, and there is no peace, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[66] Luther, “and it shall fall,” referred to the wall, to which, however, the following words, “in the midst thereof,” do not suit.

The prophet is first commanded, in Ezekiel 13:1, to prophesy against the “prophets of Israel.” This is explained by the fact that the false prophets had at that time absolutely the upper hand, and demeaned themselves simply as the prophets. Jeremiah in Jerusalem, and Ezekiel among the exiles, stood as individuals over against a great multitude; and not only so, but the false prophets alone had public recognition as “prophets of Israel,” at least in the capital; while the true prophets were regarded as peculiar, and had the government and the spirit of the age and the people absolutely against them. “Who prophesy:” this points back to the word “prophesy.” Prophecy against “prophecy”—the prophecy from above against the “prophecy” from beneath: this is the perpetual order in the kingdom of God. When the powers of falsehood puff themselves up, then the truth must enter the lists. The prophets of Israel are then more exactly designated as prophets out of their own hearts—those who follow the inclinations of their hearts, and give these out as divine revelations. To these the prophet shall announce the true word of God, that proves itself to be such by its harmony with the eternal law of God, and the conscience corresponding thereto. What Jesus says, “If any man will do His will,” etc., holds also in reference to the true prophets. The foxes come into regard in Ezekiel 13:4, as “the dangerous foes and destroyers of the coverts,” as a zoologist calls them. Thus they stand already in ch. Song of Solomon 2:15 of the Song of Songs; and in Luke 13:31-32, the Lord calls Herod a fox, as the destroyer of God’s people. The foxes nowhere come into regard for their craft, as in heathen antiquity. The foxes here correspond to the ravening wolves in Matthew 7:15, and the grievous wolves in Acts 20:29, representing false teachers. “Ruins” are a favourite resort of foxes. So also the spiritual foxes: the false teachers flourish the better, the more degraded the condition of the people. At no time were the false prophets rifer than in the last days of the Jewish state. The “breach” in Ezekiel 13:5 is the sinful condition of the people, which withdraws from them the grace of God, and opens the way to all hostile powers. To enter the breach, and withal draw a wall round the people of God, is to preach repentance, which alone can give security against the wrath to come. To walk in the spirit of repentance, which must take its beginning from the preacher of repentance himself—this is to stand or be stedfast in the war in the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is the time of decision, the crisis, the arrival of the judgment. The hostile power is sin. When this gains the upper hand, the crisis has a fatal issue. From the proposed combat against this destructive power, the false prophets withdrew themselves as miserable deserters; nay, as traitors, they lent a helping hand to the enemy, and looked upon it as the proper business of their lives to counteract the true warriors. The question in Ezekiel 13:7 is a question of conscience. If there be any shred of truth still in the false prophets, they must answer in the affirmative. The false prophets, according to Ezekiel 13:9, shall not come into the land of Israel, either because they shall perish in the downfall of Jerusalem, or they shall be smitten by the avenging hand of God in exile. “And ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah:” the knowledge is such as even the ungodly cannot shake off, being forced upon them by the event. On the downfall of the false prophets, over whom the avenging hand of God prevails, it will be known that He who speaks by Ezekiel is God in the fullest sense. The strong expression of causality by “because, even because,” in Ezekiel 13:10, is taken from Leviticus 26:43. The building of the wall by the people denotes the political activity whereby they sought to raise themselves up—the effort made by the coalition. The false prophets daubed this wall; they gave to the impious and ungodly movement of the people, that was condemned by the word of the true prophets, the appearance of a higher sanction, and confirmed them in it. The wall is a spiritual one; and so the absurdity suits it as a spiritual mortar. The attempt to put, instead of the spiritual, a material mortar, has arisen only from the so often observable want of capacity in expositors to understand the interchange of figure and reality. Nothing can be more absurd than to announce safety to a people living in sin, and to promise success to counsels that are in open contradiction to the revealed counsels of God. [67] Ezekiel 13:11 forms the ground for the close of the sermon on the mount ( Matthew 7:25, Matthew 7:27). “Thou wilt rend” is, in accordance with the address to the hailstones, an address to God, as Ezekiel 13:13 shows. “To rend asunder something hitherto closed, is the same as to open, that the enclosed may burst forth.” Shower, hail, stormy wind, denote the Chaldean catastrophe, the approach of which the people, by their political intrigues, instead of preventing, only invite. In the falling of the wall ( Ezekiel 13:12) God Himself appears as theologian; and those miserable false theologians, who have misused His name, come into deep disgrace. The foundation of the wall is discovered ( Ezekiel 13:14); it is overturned to the very ground. “It falls”—that is, Jerusalem. With the political intrigues designated by the wall, which were intended to stand between the city and its foes as a partition wall ( Ephesians 2:14), falls also the city; and with the city go down also the false prophets, who madly impressed the seal of God on their bad measures. “And will say unto you” ( Ezekiel 13:15): we have here the triumphant contempt which God heaps upon the false prophets who have misused His name, and made it a covert for their wickedness. And shall a man hearken at present to those whose disgrace will so soon be manifest? Ezekiel 13:16 is in apposition with the closing words of Ezekiel 13:15.

[67] The meaning “absurd, unreasonable,” is ascertained for תפל , and there is no reason to exchange it for the not sufficiently ascertained meaning “lime,” especially as תפל and תפלה occur in the sense of absurdity in Lamentations 2:14 and Jeremiah 23:13, expressly in reference to the false prophets. Lime also would scarcely suit, as a designation of the bad quality of the mortar must be expected, as even Luther acknowledged, who translates “loose lime.” The absurdity is here the mortar, exactly is in Isaiah 5:18 the deceit is the cord.

Verses 17-23

In Ezekiel 13:17-23 we have the effeminate movement of the false prophets. Ezekiel 13:17. And thou, son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them, 18. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to those who sew cushions to all joints of my hands, [68] and make kerchiefs upon the head of every rank, to hunt souls! Ye hunt souls among my people, and ye make souls alive for you. 19. And ye profane me among my people for handfuls of barley, and for pieces of bread, that ye may slay souls that should not die, and make souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hearken to a lie. 20. Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against your cushions, where ye hunt the souls as birds; and I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls free, where ye hunt the souls as birds. 21. And I will tear your kerchiefs, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand for a prey; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. 22. Because ye trouble the heart of the righteous with falsehood, whom I have not troubled, and strengthen the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way and be kept in life; 23. Therefore ye shall no more see deceit, nor divine divination: and I will deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

[68] Luther, “under the arms of the people,” whereas the text speaks of the hands of God.

It is one of the many occidentalisms and prosaisms of our exegesis, if we refer to ordinary women what is here said of the effeminate nature and movement of the “prophets.” The masculine pronouns designedly interspersed point the other way, of which no less than three occur in Ezekiel 13:19-20. By this the prophet all but expressly says that he has to do with women in men’s clothes. Further, only three or four real prophetesses occur in all the Old Testament—Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and perhaps also the wife of Isaiah; but a false prophetess is nowhere mentioned. But even if one such had appeared here and there, so serious a punishment would have been out of place. The prophet is directed to fix his eye upon the properly national wickedness. What the prophet here ascribes to the prophesying women as characteristic, belonged also to the false prophets, whose whole endeavour was to ingratiate themselves with the people, and flatter the spirit of the age ( Micah 3:5); and to them Micah opposes himself as a man (ch. Micah 3:8, “But I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of manhood, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin”). Effeminate is all accommodation theology. In Revelation 2:20 the false teaching which would blend heathenism with the church, instead of meeting it with a manful resistance, appears as the woman Jezebel. “All joints of my hands” ( Ezekiel 13:18); so that my, that is, the Lord’s hands, cannot sharply grasp any one. It is the nature of all accommodation theology to set aside, as in general all that is inconvenient to the old Adam and gives him pain, so especially the energy of the requiring and punishing divine righteousness—the severity of God ( Romans 11:22). Where Ezekiel puts the cushions, there we put perhaps the icy glove. Besides the cushions for the hands of the Lord, which in their natural state touch many very ungently, as surely as our God is a jealous God, a consuming fire, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, they make also for the same purpose kerchiefs for the heads of their penitents, that the hand of God may not touch them ungently; and indeed for heads or people (persons are represented by the head, as the part that comes in the way of the descending hand must before all be secured, especially as the stroke, when it smites here, has fatal effect) of every rank, always according to the greatness of the reward to be expected—the greatest for the king. The higher any one is placed, more zealously do they endeavour to clear his conscience, as Jesuits before the Jesuits, differing from their successors in this, that the latter had in view the interest and maintenance of the church, while the former only served their own appetites. Souls must perish by such false theology, which brings ruin on the land and the people, as God, notwithstanding these endeavours to conceal His true form, remains what He is. Yet this troubles them not: they make their own souls alive by the destructive deadly hurt; they procure for themselves earthly fortune and well-being. Certainly they also at last come to an end with terror, as truly as God lives, who is a revenger of blood, and cannot let those go unpunished who misuse His name. The words, “The souls ye hunt among my people, and souls for you ye make alive,” besides the explanation given, admit of another: they make the souls for themselves, living for their own interest, [69] and even thereby hand them over to death. They profane God among the people ( Ezekiel 13:19), inasmuch as they assign Him a friendly position towards sin; and this they do for filthy lucre ( Titus 1:11), and to fill their own belly ( Romans 16:18). While they thus lead the people away from repentance, they cause the death of those who, according to the will of God, should return and live, and provide for themselves a pleasant life at their cost, as it were, for the price of their blood. The souls who should not live are, according to the explanation of Ezekiel 13:18 given in the first place, those of these public betrayers. According to others, the killing and making alive refer to the prophetic announcement of death and life. The false prophets set death before the pious—for ex. a Jeremiah (comp. Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah 26:7)—and life before the ungodly. With the words, “While ye lie to my people, that hearken to a lie,” is to be compared Micah 2:11, “If a man walking with wind and falsehood lie,” ‘I will prophesy unto thee of wine and strong drink,’ he would be the prophet of this people.” This delight of the people in falsehood lessens not the guilt of the false prophets, but at the same time demonstrates the ruin of the people to be deserved. The cushions in Ezekiel 13:20 denote the effeminate doctrines concerning God that strip Him of His righteousness. God destroys the cushions by the events, the great impending facts, in which the energy of His righteousness displays itself. “Where ye hunt the souls:” the cushions are, as it were, the ground on which the hunt takes place. “As birds:” the hunters are more precisely defined as fowlers; comp. Psalms 124:7, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are escaped.” “And I will tear them from your arms:” the arms are those of the fowlers, from whose power the poor souls are torn, after their miserable theology has been annihilated by facts. They hunt the souls as birds; but God at length makes an end of this shameful hunt ( Habakkuk 1:15), when He actually appears in His true form and lets the souls free. “Because ye trouble the heart of the righteous” ( Ezekiel 13:22): an example of such a righteous one is Jeremiah, against whom the false prophets kindled the fire of persecution.

[69] Tremellius: quum utile vobis futurum sit, eis pronunciate vitam.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 13". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-13.html.