Ezekiel 13-24

Ezekiel 13-24…False prophets

Prophecy did not cease when God’s old covenant people were absent from their land, as Daniel and Ezekiel demonstrate. These true prophets of the Lord ministered in Babylon, having been taken there alongside other Judahites. Since these true prophets preached during the Babylonian exile, we are not surprised that false prophets worked during the same period, as today’s passage illustrates. Satan ever stands against God’s truth, so wolves always prowl among the Lord’s sheep (Acts 20:29–31).

Ezekiel condemns these false “prophets of Israel,” referring to them as “foolish” (Ezek. 13:1–7). Since the kingdom of Israel did not exist in Ezekiel’s day but only the southern kingdom of Judah—and even that nation was about to go into exile—the prophet must mean “prophets of the people of Israel.” He speaks generically of anyone claiming to prophesy in Yahweh’s name, whether they were part of the exilic community in Babylon or living in Judah during its final days. Ezekiel evaluates their spiritual condition by calling them foolish. The fool says in his heart that “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1); thus, Ezekiel judges these professed prophets as having no true relationship with the Lord, which is confirmed by their “false visions and lying divinations” (Ezek. 13:6).

These prophets are likened to “jackals among ruins” (v. 4), scavengers who profit from the people’s awful condition. They are prophets who speak what the people want to hear so that they can make a handsome living, not true prophets who suffer for speaking the truth (Jer. 32:1–5). Ezekiel 13:8–16 probably has in view the lying prophets who gave false comfort to King Zedekiah just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jer. 28). He compares them to those who whitewash a wall to mask its flaws. The people were supposed to build a sound house of truth and love for the Lord, but their sin was actually building a weak and compromised nation. Instead of alerting the people to this, the prophets preferred to ignore the people’s sin, telling them everything was just fine and papering over the unsound structure that the nation had built.

Jeremiah 14-16

Jeremiah 14-16…False Prophets.

That God speaks is a privilege we dare not take for granted. Certainly, the Lord does not owe men and women a revelation of Himself, especially because in Adam we basically told our Creator to be silent when we refused to obey His word to our first parents (Gen. 2:15–17; 3:1–13). In His grace, however, the Lord continued revealing Himself to humanity in creation and through His prophets and Apostles (Ps. 19; 2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Because of this general revelation, we can never make an absolute claim in the presence of God that we did not know any better. Paul tells us as much in Romans 1:18–32 when he explains that all people suppress and deny what the Lord has said about His character and what He requires of us. True, the extent of our knowledge of God’s special revelation, and the circumstances of any given situation can mitigate the consequences of our actions (Ex. 21:28–32; Matt. 11:20–24). The more light one has, the more one is accountable for his actions. Nevertheless, even those who break God’s commandments unknowingly incur guilt (Lev. 5:14–19). In Adam we willingly chose not to know better, so the “I did not know any better” will never finally get us off the hook before the Lord.

Despite their obstinance, Jeremiah loved his fellow Judahites, as seen in his attempt to get God to reconsider His intent to send sword, famine, and pestilence against Judah (Jer. 14:1–12). The prophet tried to excuse the people by stating that false prophets had deceived them, but the Lord had none of it (vv. 13–18). If the plea “I did not know any better” cannot finally cover our sin, how much more will the Lord refuse to reconsider His judgments when we do, in fact, “know better”? The ancient Judahites had general revelation but also the Mosaic law, which told them how to discern false prophecy (Deut. 18:15–22). Moreover, Jeremiah ministered during Josiah’s recovery of the Mosaic law. Even if the people for a time did not “know better,” their claim had no merit post-Josiah (2 Kings 22:1–23:27). Matthew Henry comments, Jeremiah’s “excuse would have been of some weight if they had not had warning given them, before, of false prophets, and rules by which to distinguish them; … if they were deceived it was entirely their own fault.”

The old covenant community did not love the truth, rejecting it when false prophets gave them false comfort in their rejection. So, God gave them over to their love of the lie, as He is wont to do (Rom. 1:18–32). This would result in their destruction (Jer. 14:16).