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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 13


The reproof of lying prophets, and their untempered mortar. Of prophetesses and their pillows.

Before Christ 594.

Verse 3

Ezekiel 13:3. And have seen nothing Who give their own imaginations for true prophesies, and pretend to have visions, when they never had any.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 13:4. Like the foxes in the deserts Or, as the apostle styles them, 2 Corinthians 11:13 deceitful workers, who craftily insinuate false doctrines into unstable minds, and at the same time are hungry and ravenous, greedily catching at the least appearance of advantage. Houbigant renders it, like the foxes in the walls; for it is usual with these animals in Palestine, we are told, to frequent ruinous walls and places of that sort, in search of the lesser animals for their prey. The next verse seems to allude hereto. Houbigant renders it, You do not ascend the ruins to strengthen the wall for the house of Israel, nor to stand, &c. but merely, like hungry and insidious foxes, to feed yourselves from the vain credulity of the people. Others, however, understand the phrase of standing in the gap, as allusive to the intercession made by Moses for the Israelites; whereby he withheld, as it were, the hand of the Almighty, when it was stretched out to take vengeance on the people in the wilderness. In the 5th verse we may read, You have not stood in the breach, nor repaired the fence, &c.

Verse 9

Ezekiel 13:9. They shall not be in the assembly, &c.— They shall not be in the secret of my people; which is explained by the following words, Neither shall they enter into the land of Israel. The secret of God was, his purpose to bring back the exiles of Israel into their own land.

Verse 10

Ezekiel 13:10. And one built up a wall "The false prophets have deceived my people, by telling them that none of those judgments should overtake them which Jeremiah and the other prophets had foretold; and instead of providing such a defence and bulwark as might secure the people against the judgment threatened them, they raised only a slight fence, without any cement to strengthen it; that is to say, they applied slight and palliating remedies to public calamities, which will never give true peace to the consciences of men, nor be of any service to them." The apostrophe to the hail-stones, in the next verse, is noble and sublime.

Verse 13

Ezekiel 13:13. I will even rend it, &c.— The Chaldee paraphrast expounds this passage in the following manner, as prophetical of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army: "I will bring a mighty king, with the force of a whirlwind, a destroying people resembling an over flowing storm, and powerful princes like great hailstones."

Verses 17-18

Ezekiel 13:17-18. Likewise, thou son of man The prophet is here ordered to direct his discourse against the female pretenders to prophesy, as had been done in the former part of the chapter against the male. There seems no doubt that the expressions in the 18th verse allude to certain magical ceremonies which were made use of in their incantations, by these female pretenders to prophesy: but no commentator has yet been able to ascertain their precise meaning; nor do I think it possible without farther light than the text affords. See 1 Samuel 28:7-8. It is thought by some, that the prophet speaks metaphorically of those, who, by their seducing words, taught men to rest securely in their evil ways, and indulged them in softness and effeminacy. See Houbigant, Calmet, and Pilkington's Remarks, p. 117.

Verse 18

Ezekiel 13:18. To all arm-holes See Jeremiah 38:12. This may be figurative language, designed to express that men were taught to recline at ease on their couches, and to partake of banquets. See what Harmer says concerning the eastern mode of sitting supported by pillows, ii. 98. Carpets, mattresses, and cushions are the furniture of divans. Russell's Hist. of Aleppo, 4to, 101. Sir John Chardin also mentions a mattress with large cushions placed at the back and sides of the person, who uses it as a bed. Harmer, ii. 123. See also Shaw's Travels, 209, 4to; who says that several velvet or damask bolsters were placed on the carpets or matrasses in Barbary.

To hunt souls To destroy men, to expose them to God's vengeance by lulling them into security. See Proverbs 6:26. נפשׁ nepesh signifies a person, or life, as well as soul.

This may be a strong eastern manner of expressing that these women hoodwinked their votaries, and kept them in spiritual darkness.

Or the covering of the head may have been of the ornamental or triumphal kind, to denote prosperity or victory; as pillows denoted tranquillity and plenty: and both may have been significantly applied to the heads and arms of those who consulted the prophetesses. "The prophetesses may be represented as covering the heads of those whom they by their prophesyings destined to death; as the head of Haman was covered when he was really in those circumstances."
"I am nevertheless disposed to understand the clause in a different sense. These prophetesses did the same thing by their flattering words as would have been best expressed if they had thought fit to signify the same thing by actions only, (as the prophets sometimes did,) by making bolsters for the arms, and presenting them to the Israelitish women whom they wanted to assure of the continuance of their prosperity; and embroidering handkerchiefs proper to bind over the ornaments of females in a state of honour, and afterwards putting them on their heads." Harmer, ii. 98.

Perhaps incantations were used. See Chald. on Ezekiel 13:20.: and we learn from 1Sa 28:7 and from the Greek and Roman writers, that women employed themselves in magical rites. It is not impossible that every stature may refer to images of different sizes:

Lanea et effigies erat, altera cerea: major Lanea, quae poenis compesceret inferiorem. HOR. Sat. lib. I. viii. 30, 31.

Of wool and wax the forms were wrought; The woollen was erect and tall, And scourg'd the waxen image small. FRANCIS.

Terna tibi haec primum triplici diversa colore Licia circumdo, terque haec altaria circum Effigiem duco. VIRG. Ecl. viii. 73, &c.

Around his waxen image first I wind Three woollen fillets, of three colours join'd; Thrice bind about his thrice-devoted head, Which round the sacred altar thrice is led. DRYDEN.
The easterns had, and still have, frequent amulets and ribands of charms, which they put principally at their hands and heads. Such charms these female prophets fabricated; and, as appears, attributed to them the power of preserving the life of those who wore them, and of bringing death on their enemies.

See commentary on Eze 13:17

Verse 19

Ezekiel 13:19. And for pieces of bread See Jeremiah 37:21.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The false prophets abounded, both in Judaea and among the captives in Babylon; and by their flattering speeches the hearts of the unwary people were beguiled: against them therefore the prophet is ordered to direct his word. They are called the prophets of Israel: probably they arrogated that title to themselves, and persecuted the few faithful prophets because they remonstrated against and contradicted their falsehood and lies.

1. A heavy charge is laid against them. They were daring impostors, pretended a mission and instruction from God, when he never sent them, forging visions which they never saw, the mere contrivances of their own brain: instead of being guided by the Spirit of truth, they followed their own deceived hearts; and dared to advance, as the dictates of inspiration, that which they knew to be a lie: crafty and ravenous as the foxes of the desert, they preyed on the deluded people; yet, wise as they accounted themselves in their deceits, they were in fact foolish prophets, sunk in spiritual ignorance and sin; they used no efforts to prevent the impending judgments, nor ever stood up in the breach against the overflowings of ungodliness, with sharp and faithful rebukes against the wicked, or fervent and importunate prayer to God, in order to avert his wrath when he arose as an enemy against them. Nay, they widened the gap which they should have made up, by barely betraying men's souls, flattering them to their ruin, promising them peace, and with their solemn pretensions and asseverations emboldening the people to hope that the event would correspond with their predictions; hardening them in sin, and hastening their destruction. Note; (1.) To pretend a mission from the Holy Ghost, when men are conscious that they never were inwardly moved by him, is daring blasphemy and impiety. (2.) They who run, though God never sent them, will shortly be stopped in their career, and perish in their lie. (3.) A foolish prophet had never yet a mission from God: they cannot be called who are not qualified. (4.) A greedy prophet shews who sent him; not God but Mammon. (5.) They who study to please men's ears, instead of faithfully addressing their consciences, are justly to be suspected as deceivers.

2. Vengeance is denounced against them. God is their enemy; and woe unto those against whom he rises up in anger! As they have justly forfeited all the privileges of God's Israel, they are for ever excluded from them; they shall either be cut off by death, or be excommunicated from the church; or, when the issue has proved the falsehood of their predictions, they shall be confounded, and ashamed to look those in the face whom they have deluded: they shall be no more consulted, but abhorred as deceivers; shall die in a miserable exile, and never be enrolled with the other captives when they return to their own land, excluded from their mercy, an earnest of eternal exclusion from the heavenly Canaan. And in these judgments inflicted on the false prophets, God will make known the glory of his justice, holiness, and truth.
2nd, The false prophets are farther rebuked and threatened.
1. They deceived the people. They cried peace, as if God would give them deliverance from the Babylonish yoke, when there was no peace, no prospect as yet of their return from captivity, or hope of their being able to support themselves in rebellion against the Chaldeans. Thus they seduced God's people, those who in profession at least were such, and who had been separated from other nations for his service. One built up a wall, pretending that Jerusalem was impregnable, and that the enemy should never break through; and this being formed pleasing to the people, lo! others daubed it with untempered mortar, supporting with specious arguments the assertion: when, alas! their wall, however solid it appeared, was weak and tottering, and ready to fall before the first attacks of the besiegers. Such are the plausible errors which heretics introduce, and the smooth prophesies of ministers who dare not honestly offend by their simplicity, but court favour by flattering sinners in their false hopes; the end of which will be the ruin of the deceived and the deceiver together.

2. Judgment is passed upon them. The Chaldean army, as an overflowing shower, as great hail-stones, and a stormy wind, shall overturn all their defences, and lay the walls of Jerusalem in the dust; armed with the fury of God, nothing can resist the invaders; and then the vanity of these lying prophets will be seen, and the folly of those who trusted in them be manifest, when they who daubed the wall shall perish under the ruins. Note; (1.) The false refuges of the sinner shall in the end prove his bane. (2.) When God is the enemy, resistance is vain. (3.) They who delude others to their destruction shall receive themselves greater damnation.

3. God ridicules their confidence, and triumphs in their fall. When the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? Those whom they had deceived would abuse them for their false assurances; and the truly pious, who disregarded their predictions, see the hand of God in the whole of these judgments. And it shall be then known and acknowledged that God is the Lord, when his word is thus verified, and his righteous threatenings executed.

3rdly, As women, as well as men, had been favoured with divine revelation, there were such now who pretended to inspiration, and, actuated by the same evil spirit as the false prophets, joined them in their lies. Against these the prophet is commanded to set his face. Impudent sinners need a bold reprover.
1. The crimes of the false prophetesses are charged upon them.
[1.] They published the fictitious visions of their own hearts, yet solemnly avouched God's authority to give weight to their lies. And too many hearkened to them, hoping or fearing according to their word. Note; (1.) Men easily believe what they wish to be true. (2.) When sinners desire to be flattered, and hate to be reproved, it is just in God to give them up to deluders.

[2.] They were vilely mercenary. They meant to fleece the deluded people; and impiously prostituted God's sacred name, to gain credit to their predictions; even for a morsel of bread ready to transgress, and to invent a lying answer, such as would please those who consulted them. Note; (1.) Nothing is more incompatible with a mission from God, than the love of filthy lucre. (2.) Of all impiety that is chief, to abuse the sacred name of God and religion to serve worldly ends and purposes.

[3.] They used every art to ensnare men's souls, and hunt them into their net; sometimes soothing them with pleasing dreams, sewing pillows to all arm-holes, or elbows, and making kerchiefs upon the head of every stature; intimating thereby how securely they might rest, and fear no enemy to strip off their ornaments; engaging to save the souls alive whom God had doomed to die, and hardening thus the wicked in his impenitence by promising him life, when death temporal and eternal awaited him. On the other hand, sometimes they threatened, denouncing destruction on those whom God had determined to save, and seeking to discourage the righteous, and make their hearts sad whom God hath not made sad. And this some refer particularly to the captives, whom they severely censured for yielding to the Chaldeans, while they promised those who rebelled against Nebuchadrezzar all success and prosperity. Note: (1.) Nothing strengthens the hands of the wicked so much as to be bolstered up with hopes that they may be saved, though they persist in their sins. (2.) They who grieve the hearts of God's people, and seek to discourage them, shall severely suffer for it.

2. God threatens them with deserved wrath. He expostulates with them on the daring impiety of their conduct, and denounces a fearful woe upon them. They shall be shortly silenced and confounded, when by the event their lies should be detected; or they should miserably perish in the siege, and God will rescue his poor people whom they hunted into their toils, tear off the pillows and kerchiefs, discover their delusions, expose them to contempt, and make them more abhorred than ever they had been loved or feared; and hereby he will not only deliver his people from their snares, but eminently magnify his own great name. Note; (1.) It is an unspeakable mercy, when God saves his people from those who sought to tyrannize over their consciences. (2.) God will not suffer those who trust in him to be led into essential errors by the delusions of false teachers; but will bring them to the knowledge of his blessed Self, comfort their dejected hearts with the views of his free grace and rich salvation, and, shedding abroad his love in their souls, make them both happy and holy.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.