Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Against the False Prophets and Prophetesses
The way was already prepared for the address in this chapter by the announcement in Eze 12:24. It divides itself into two parts, viz., vv. 1-16, directed against the false prophets; and Eze 13:17-23, against the false prophetesses. In both parts their conduct is first described, and then the punishment foretold. Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, and sometimes still more strongly, denounces the conduct of the false prophets, who are therefore to be sought for not merely among the exiles, but principally among those who were left behind in the land (vid., Jer 23:9.). A lively intercourse was kept up between the two, so that the false prophets extended their operations from Canaan to the Chaboras, and vice versa.
Against the False Prophets
Their conduct. - Eze 13:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 13:2. Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to the prophets out of their heart, Hear ye the word of Jehovah. Eze 13:3. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe upon the foolish prophets, who go after their spirit, and that which they have not seen! Eze 13:4. Like foxes in ruins have thy prophets become, O Israel. Eze 13:5. Ye do not stand before the breaches, nor wall up the wall around the house of Israel to stand firm in the battle on the day of Jehovah. Eze 13:6. They see vanity and lying soothsaying, who say, "Oracle of Jehovah;" and Jehovah hath not sent them; so that they might hope for the fulfilment of the word. Eze 13:7. Do ye not see vain visions, and speak lying soothsaying, and say, Oracle of Jehovah; and I have not spoken? - The addition הנּבּאים, "who prophesy," is not superfluous. Ezekiel is not to direct his words against the prophets as a body, but against those who follow the vocation of prophet in Israel without being called to it by God on receiving a divine revelation, but simply prophesying out of their own heart, or according to their own subjective imagination. In the name of the Lord he is to threaten them with woes, as fools who follow their own spirit; in connection with which we must bear in mind that folly, according to the Hebrew idea, was not merely a moral failing, but actual godlessness (cf. Psa 14:1). The phrase "going after their spirit" is interpreted and rendered more emphatic by לבלתּי, which is to be taken as a relative clause, "that which they have not seen," i.e., whose prophesying does not rest upon intuition inspired by God. Consequently they cannot promote the welfare of the nation, but (Eze 13:4) are like foxes in ruins or desolate places. The point of comparison is to be found in the undermining of the ground by foxes, qui per cuniculos subjectam terram excavant et suffodiunt (Bochart). For the thought it not exhausted by the circumstance that they withdraw to their holes instead of standing in front of the breach (Hitzig); and there is no force in the objection that, with this explanation, בּחרבות is passed over and becomes in fact tautological (Hvernick). The expression "in ruins" points to the fall of the theocracy, which the false prophets cannot prevent, but, on the contrary, accelerate by undermining the moral foundations of the state. For (Eze 13:5) they do not stand in the breaches, and do not build up the wall around the house of Israel (לא belongs to both clauses). He who desires to keep off the enemy, and prevent his entering the fortress, will stand in the breach. For the same purpose are gaps and breaches in the fortifications carefully built up. The sins of the people had made gaps and breaches in the walls of Jerusalem; in other words, had caused the moral decay of the city. But they had not stood in the way of this decay and its causes, as the calling and duty of prophets demanded, by reproving the sins of the people, that they might rescue the people and kingdom from destruction by restoring its moral and religious life. לעמד בּמּלחמה, to stand, or keep ground, i.e., so that ye might have kept your ground in the war. The subject is the false prophets, not Israel, as Hvernick supposes. "In the day of Jehovah," i.e., in the judgment which Jehovah has decreed. Not to stand, does not mean merely to avert the threatening judgment, but not to survive the judgment itself, to be overthrown by it. This arises from the fact that their prophesying is a life; because Jehovah, whose name they have in their mouths, has not sent them (Eze 13:6). ויחלוּ is dependent upon שׁלחם: God has not sent them, so that they could hope for the fulfilment of the word which they speak.The rendering adopted by others, "and they cause to hope," is untenable; for יחל with ל does not mean "to cause to hope," or give hope, but simply to hope for anything. This was really the case; and it is affirmed in the declaration, which is repeated in the form of a direct appeal in Eze 13:7, to the effect that their visions were vain and lying soothsaying. For this they are threatened with the judgment described in the verses which follow.
Punishment of the False Prophets
Eze 13:8. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye speak vanity and prophesy lying, therefore, behold, I will deal with you, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 13:9. And my hand shall be against the prophets who see vanity and divine lies: in the council of my people they shall not be, and in the register of the house of Israel they shall not be registered, and into the land of Israel shall they not come; and ye shall learn that I am the Lord Jehovah. Eze 13:10. Because, yea because they lead my people astray, and say, "Peace," though there is no peace; and when it (my people) build a wall, behold, they plaster it with cement: Eze 13:11. Say to the plasterers, that it will fall: there cometh a pouring rain; and ye hailstones fall, and thou stormy wind break loose! Eze 13:12. And, behold, the wall falleth; will men not say to you, Where is the plaster with which ye have plastered it? Eze 13:13. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I cause a stormy wind to break forth in my wrath, and a pouring rain will come in my anger, and hailstones in wrath, for destruction. Eze 13:14. And I demolish the wall which ye have plastered, and cast it to the ground, that its foundation may be exposed, and it shall fall, and ye shall perish in the midst of it; and shall learn that I am Jehovah. Eze 13:15. And I will exhaust my wrath upon the wall, and upon those who plaster it; and will say to you, It is all over with the wall, and all over with those who plastered it; Eze 13:16. With the prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem, and saw visions of peace for her, though there is no peace, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - In Eze 13:8 the punishment which is to fall upon the false prophets is threatened in general terms; and in Eze 13:9 it is more specifically described in the form of a climax, rising higher and higher in the severity of its announcements. (1) They are no longer to form part of the council of the people of God; that is to say, they will lose their influential position among the people. (סוד is the sphere of counsellors, not the social sphere.) (2) Their names shall not be registered in the book of the house of Israel. The book of the house of Israel is the register in which the citizens of the kingdom of God are entered. Any one whose name was not admitted into this book, or was struck out of it, was separated thereby from the citizenship of Israel, and lost all the privileges which citizenship conferred. The figure of the book of life is a similar one (cf. Exo 32:32). For Israel is not referred to here with regard to its outward nationality, but as the people of God; so that exclusion from Israel was also exclusion from fellowship with God. The circumstance that it is not the erasure of their names from the book that is mentioned here, but their not being entered in the book at all, may be accounted for from the reference contained in the words to the founding of the new kingdom of God. The old theocracy was abolished, although Jerusalem was not yet destroyed. The covenant nation had fallen under the judgment; but out of that portion of Israel which was dispersed among the heathen, a remnant would be gathered together again, and having been brought back to its own land, would be made anew into a holy people of God (cf. Eze 11:17.). But the false prophets are not to be received into the citizenship of the new kingdom. (3) They are not even to come into the land of Israel; i.e., they are not merely to remain in exile, but to lose all share in the privileges and blessings of the kingdom of God. This judgment will come upon them because they lead astray the people of God, by proclaiming peace where there is no peace; i.e., by raising and cherishing false hopes of prosperity and peace, by which they encourage the people in their sinful lives, and lead them to imagine that all is well, and there is no judgment to be feared (cf. Jer 23:17 and Mic 3:5). The exposure of this offence is introduced by the solemn יען וּביען, because and because (cf. Lev 26:43); and the offence itself is exhibited by means of a figure.
When the people build a wall, the false prophets plaster the wall with lime. והוּא (Eze 13:10) refers to עמּי, and the clause is a circumstantial one. תּפל signifies the plaster coating or cement of a wall, probably from the primary meaning of תּפל, to stick or plaster over (= טפל, conglutinare, to glue, or fasten together), from which the secondary meaning of weak, insipid, has sprung. The proper word for plaster or cement is טיח (Eze 13:12), and תּפל is probably chosen with an allusion to the tropical signification of that which is silly or absurd (Jer 23:13; Lam 2:14). The meaning of the figure is intelligible enough. The people build up foolish hopes, and the prophets not only paint these hopes for them in splendid colours, but even predict their fulfilment, instead of denouncing their folly, pointing out to the people the perversity of their ways, and showing them that such sinful conduct must inevitably be followed by punishment and ruin. The plastering is therefore a figurative description of deceitful flattery or hypocrisy, i.e., the covering up of inward corruption by means of outward appearance (as in Mat 23:27 and Act 23:3). This figure leads the prophet to describe the judgment which they are bringing upon the nation and themselves, as a tempest accompanied with hail and pouring rain, which throws down the wall that has been erected and plastered over; and in connection with this figure he opens out this double thought: (1) the conduct of the people, which is encouraged by the false prophets, cannot last (Eze 13:11 and Eze 13:12); and (2) when this work of theirs is overthrown, the false prophets themselves will also meet with the fate they deserve (Eze 13:13-16). The threat of judgment commences with the short, energetic ויפּל, let it (the wall) fall, or it shall fall, with Vav to indicate the train of thought (Ewald, 347a). The subject is תּפל, to which יפּל suggests a resemblance in sound. In Eze 13:12 this is predicted as the fate awaiting the plastered wall. In the description of the bursting storm the account passes with ואתּנה (and ye) into a direct address; in other words, the description assumes the form of an appeal to the destructive forces of nature to burst forth with all their violence against the work plastered over by the prophets, and to destroy it. גּשׁם שׁוטף ., pouring rain; cf. Eze 38:22. אבני אלגּבישׁ here and Eze 38:22 are hailstones. The word אלגּבישׁ, which is peculiar to Ezekiel, is probably גּבישׁ (Job 28:18), with the Arabic article אל; ice, then crystal. רוּח , wind of storms, a hurricane or tempest. תּבקּע (Eze 13:11) is used intransitively, to break loose; but in Eze 13:13 it is transitive, to cause to break loose. The active rendering adopted by Kliefoth, "the storm will rend," sc. the plaster of the wall, is inappropriate in Eze 13:11; for a tempest does not rend either the plaster or the wall, but throws the wall down. The translation which Kliefoth gives in Eze 13:13, "I will rend by tempest," is at variance with both the language and the sense. Jehovah will cause this tempest to burst forth in His wrath and destroy the wall, and lay it level with the ground. The suffix in בּתוכהּ refers (ad sensum) to Jerusalem not to קיר (the wall), which is masculine, and has no תּוך (midst). The words pass from the figure to the reality here; for the plastered wall is a symbol of Jerusalem, as the centre of the theocracy, which is to be destroyed, and to bury the lying prophets in its ruins. וכלּיתי (Eze 13:15) contains a play upon the word לכלה in Eze 13:13. By a new turn given to klh כלה, Ezekiel repeats the thought that the wrath of God is to destroy the wall and its plasterers; and through this repetition he rounds off the threat with the express declaration, that the false prophets who are ever preaching peace are the plasterers to whom he refers.
Against the False Prophetesses
As the Lord had not endowed men only with the gifts of prophecy, but sometimes women also, e.g., Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; so women also rose up along with the false prophets, and prophesied out of their own hearts without being impelled by the Spirit of God. Eze 13:17-19. Their conduct. - Eze 13:17. And thou, son of man, direct thy face towards the daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their heart and prophesy against them, Eze 13:18. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe to those who sew coverings together over all the joints of my hands, and make caps for the head of every size, to catch souls! Ye catch the souls of my people, and keep your souls alive. Eze 13:19. And ye profane me with my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay souls which should not die, and to keep alive which should not live, by your lying to my people who hearken to lying. - Like the prophets in Eze 13:2, the prophetesses are here described as prophesying out of their own heart (Eze 13:17); and in Eze 13:18 and Eze 13:19 their offences are more particularly described. The meaning of these verses is entirely dependent upon the view to be taken of ידי, which the majority of expositors, following the lead of the lxx, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, have regarded as identical with ידים or יד, and understood as referring to the hands of the women or prophetesses. But there is nothing to justify the assumption that ידי is an unusual form for ידים, which even Ewald takes it to be (Lehrbuch, 177a). Still less can it stand for the singular יד. And we have not sufficient ground for altering the text, as the expression זרועתיכם in Eze 13:20 (I will tear the כּסתות from your arms) does not require the assumption that the prophetesses had hidden their arms in כסתות; and such a supposition is by no means obviously in harmony with the facts.
The word כּסתות, from כּסת, with ת fem. treated as a radical letter (cf. Ewald, 186e), means a covering or concealment = כּסוּת. The meaning "cushion" or "pillow" (lxx προσκεφάλαια, Vulg. pulvilli) is merely an inference drawn from this passage, and is decidedly erroneous; for the word תּפר (to sew together) is inapplicable to cushions, as well as the phrase על כּל־אצּילי ידי, inasmuch as cushions are not placed upon the joints of the hands, and still less are they sewed together upon them. The latter is also a decisive reason for rejecting the explanation given by Hvernick, namely, that the kesâthōth were carpets, which were used as couches, and upon which these voluptuous women are represented as reclining. For cushions or couches are not placed upon, but under, the arm-joints (or elbows) and the shoulders, which Hvernick understands by אצּילי יד. This also overthrows another explanation given of the words, namely, that they refer to carpets, which the prophetesses had sewed together for all their arm-joints, so as to form comfortable beds upon splendid carpets, that they may indulge in licentiousness thereon. The explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, and adopted by Hitzig, namely, that the kesâthōth were amulets or straps, which they would round their arm-joints when they received or delivered their oracles, is equally untenable. For, as Kliefoth has observed, "it is evident that there is not a word in the text about adultery, or amulets, or straps used in prayer." And again, when we proceed to the next clause, the traditional rendering of מספּחות, as signifying either pillows (ὑπαυχένια, Symm.; cervicalia, Vulg.) or broad cloaks = מטפּחות (Hitzig, Hvernick, etc.), is neither supported by the usage of the language, nor in harmony with על ראשׁ. Mispâchōth, from sâphach, to join, cannot have any other meaning in the present context than a cap fitting close to the head; and על must denote the pattern which was followed, as in Psa 110:4; Est 9:26 : they make the caps after (answering to) the head of every stature. The words of both clauses are figurative, and have been correctly explained by Kliefoth as follows: "A double charge is brought against the prophetesses. In the first place, they sew coverings together to wrap round all the joints of the hand of God, so that He cannot touch them; i.e., they cover up and conceal the word of God by their prophesying, more especially its rebuking and threatening force, so that the threatening and judicial arm of God, which ought above all to become both manifest and effective through His prophetic word, does not become either one or the other. In the second place, they make coverings upon the heads of men, and construct them in such a form that they exactly fit the stature or size or every individual, so that the men neither hear nor see; i.e., by means of their flattering lies, which adapt themselves to the subjective inclinations of their hearers at the time, they cover up the senses of the men, so that they retain neither ear nor eye for the truth." They do both of these to catch souls. The inevitable consequence of their act is represented as having been intended by them; and this intention is then still further defined as being to catch the souls of the people of God; i.e., to allure them to destruction, and take care of their own souls. The clause הנּפשׁות תּצודדנה is not to be taken as a question, "Will ye catch the souls?" implying a doubt whether they really thought that they could carry on such conduct as theirs with perfect impunity (Hvernick). It contains a simple statement of what really took place in their catching of souls, namely, "they catch the souls of the people of God, and preserve their own souls;" i.e., they rob the people of God of their lives, and take care of their own (Kliefoth). לעמּי is used instead of the genitive (stat. constr.) to show that the accent rests upon עמּי. And in the same way we have לכנה instead of the suffix. The construction is the same as in Sa1 14:16. Eze 13:19 shows how great their sin had been. They profane God among His people; namely, by delivering the suggestions of their own heart to the people as divine revelations, for the purpose of getting their daily bread thereby (cf. Mic 3:5); by hurling into destruction, through their lies, those who are only too glad to listen to lying; by slaying the souls of the people which ought to live, and by preserving those which ought not to live, i.e., their own souls (Deu 18:20). The punishment for this will not fail to come.
Punishment of the False Prophetesses
Eze 13:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with your coverings with which ye catch, I will let the souls fly; and I will tear them away from your arms, and set the souls free, which ye catch, the souls to fly. Eze 13:21. And I will tear your caps in pieces, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall no more become a prey in your hands; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. Eze 13:22. Because ye grieve the heart of the righteous with lying, when I have not pained him; and strengthen the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his evil way, to preserve his life. Eze 13:23. Therefore ye shall no more see vanity, and no longer practise soothsaying: and I will deliver my people out of your hand; and ye shall learn that I am Jehovah. - The threat of judgment is closely connected with the reproof of their sins. Eze 13:20 and Eze 13:21 correspond to the reproof in Eze 13:18, and Eze 13:22 and Eze 13:23 to that in Eze 13:19. In the first place, the Lord will tear in pieces the coverings and caps, i.e., the tissue of lies woven by the false prophetesses, and rescue the people from their snares (Eze 13:20 and Eze 13:21); and, secondly, He will entirely put an end to the pernicious conduct of the persons addressed (Eze 13:22 and Eze 13:23). The words from אשׁר אתּנּה to לפרחות (Eze 13:20), when taken as one clause, as they generally are, offer insuperable difficulties, since it is impossible to get any satisfactory meaning from שׁם, and לפרחות will not fit in. Whether we understand by kesâthōth coverings or cushions, the connection of שׁם with אשׁר (where ye catch the souls), which the majority of commentators prefer, is untenable; for coverings and cushions were not the places where the souls were caught, but could only be the means employed for catching them. Instead of שׁם we should expect בּם or בּהם; and Hitzig proposes to amend it in this way. Still less admissible is the proposal to take שׁם as referring to Jerusalem ("wherewith ye catch souls there"); as שׁם would not only contain a perfectly superfluous definition of locality, but would introduce a limitation altogether at variance with the context. It is not affirmed either of the prophets or of the prophetesses that they lived and prophesied in Jerusalem alone. In Eze 13:2 and Eze 13:17 reference is made in the most general terms to the prophets of Israel and the daughters of thy people; and in Eze 13:16 it is simply stated that the false prophets prophesied peace to Jerusalem when there was no peace at all. Consequently we must regard the attempt to find in שׁם an allusion to Jerusalem (cf. Eze 13:16) as a mere loophole, which betrays an utter inability to get any satisfactory sense for the word. Moreover, if we construe the words in this manner, לפרחות is also incomprehensible. Commentators have for the most part admitted that פּרח taht is used here in the Aramaean sense of volare, to fly. In the second half of the verse there is no doubt about its having this meaning. For שׁלּח is used in Deu 22:7 for liberating a bird, or letting it fly; and the combination שׁלּח is supported by the expression שׁלּח לחפשׁי in Exo 21:26, while the comparison of souls to birds is sustained by Psa 11:1 and Psa 124:7. Hence the true meaning of the whole passage לפרחות... שׁלּחתּי את־הנּפשׁות is, I send away (set free) the souls, which ye have caught, as flying ones, i.e., so that they shall be able to fly away at liberty. And in the first half also we must not adopt a different rendering for לפרחות, since את־הנּפשׁות is also connected with it there.
But if the words in question are combined into one clause in the first hemistich, they will give us a sense which is obviously wrong, viz., "wherewith ye catch the souls to let them fly." As the impossibility of adopting this rendering has been clearly seen, the attempt has been made to cloak over the difficulty by means of paraphrases. Ewald, for example, renders לפרחות in both cases "as if they were birds of passage;" but in the first instance he applies it to birds of passage, for which nets are spread for the purpose of catching them; and in the second, to birds of passage which are set at liberty. Thus, strictly speaking, he understands the first לפרחות as signifying the catching of birds; and the second, letting them fly: an explanation which refutes itself, as pârach, to fly, cannot mean "to catch" as well. The rendering adopted by Kimchi, Rosenmller, and others, who translate לפרחות ut advolent ad vos in the first hemistich, and ut avolent in the second, is no better. And the difficulty is not removed by resorting to the dialects, as Hvernick, for the purpose of forcing upon פּרחות the meaning dissoluteness of licentiousness, for which there is no authority in the Hebrew language itself. If, therefore, it is impossible to obtain any satisfactory meaning from the existing text, it cannot be correct; and no other course is open to us than to alter the unsuitable שׁם into שׂם, and divide the words from אשׁר אתּנּה to לפרחות into two clauses, as we have done in our translation above. There is no necessity to supply anything to the relative אשׁר, as צוּד is construed with a double accusative (e.g., Mic 7:2, צוּד חרם, to catch with a net), and the object to מצדדות, viz., the souls, can easily be supplied from the next clause. שׂם, as a participle, can either be connected with הנני, "behold, I make," or taken as introducing an explanatory clause: "making the souls into flying ones," i.e., so that they are able to fly (שׁוּם ל, Gen 12:2, etc.). The two clauses of the first hemistich would then exactly correspond to the two clauses of the second half of the verse. וקרעתּי אתם is explanatory of הנני אל כסת, I will tear off the coverings from their arms. These words do not require the assumption that the prophetesses wore the לסתות on their arms, but may be fully explained from the supposition that the persons in question prepared them with their own hands. 'ושׁלּחתּי וגו corresponds to 'שׂם את־הנּפשׁות וגו; and לפרחות is governed by שׁלּחתּי. The insertion of את־הנּפשׁים is to be accounted for from the copious nature of Ezekiel's style; at the same time, it is not merely a repetition of את־הנּפשׁות, which is separated from לפרחות by the relative clause 'אשׁר אתּם מח, but as the unusual plural form נפשׁים shows, is intended as a practical explanation of the fact, that the souls, while compared to birds, are regarded as living beings, which is the meaning borne by נפשׁ in other passages. The omission of the article after את may be explained, however, from the fact that the souls had been more precisely defined just before; just as, for example, in Sa1 24:6; Sa2 18:18, where the more precise definition follows immediately afterwards (cf. Ewald, 277a, p. 683). - The same thing is said in Eze 13:21, with regard to the caps, as has already been said of the coverings in Eze 13:20. God will tear these in pieces also, to deliver His people from the power of the lying prophetesses. In what way God will do this is explained in Eze 13:22 and Eze 13:23, namely, not only by putting their lying prophecies to shame through His judgment, but by putting an end to soothsaying altogether, and exterminating the false prophetesses by making them an object of ridicule and shame. The reason for this threat is given in Eze 13:22, where a further description is given of the disgraceful conduct of these persons; and here the disgracefulness of their conduct is exhibited in literal terms and without any figure. They do harm to the righteous and good, and strengthen the hands of the wicked. הכאות, Hiphil of כּאה, in Syriac, to use harshly or depress; so here in the Hiphil, connected with לב, to afflict the heart. שׁקר is used adverbially: with lying, or in a lying manner; namely, by predicting misfortune and divine punishments, with which they threatened the godly, who would not acquiesce in their conduct; whereas, on the contrary, they predicted prosperity and peace to the ungodly, who were willing to be ensnared by them, and thus strengthened them in their evil ways. For this God would put them to shame through His judgments, which would make their deceptions manifest, and their soothsaying loathsome.