While there was a lull in Babylon’s assault on Jerusalem, people began to prophesy, saying they had a word from the Lord. This is the time period between the two sieges. In the first siege, recorded in 2 Kings 24, Babylon conquered the city, took king Jehoiachin, his family and others as prisoners and looted the temple. Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiachin’s uncle on the throne and changed his name to Zedekiah.
In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar attacked again, due to Zedekiah’s rebellion. This is recorded in 2 Kings 25.
In the period between attacks, the Lord sent word through Jeremiah that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. (Jeremiah 1:3) Ezekiel prophesied during this time also, but from his captivity in Babylon.
But other men claimed to be prophets, speaking for God, and declaring that Jerusalem would not fall and would be at peace.
The counterfeit prophets were in Babylon, misleading the exiles and their leaders as to what would happen to their homeland. They also undermine Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry by contradicting his message.
In this chapter, God presents his charges against two groups of counterfeit prophets, followed by announcements of judgment.
The Lord describes these men in several different ways:
They make stuff up (prophesy from their own hearts) (2);
They claim their words are the words of the Lord (2);
they are foolish (3);
“foolish” (nabal) in the Old Testament wisdom literature means one who is spiritually and morally dumb or obtuse.
Psalm 14:1 says the fool denies the existence of God.
they follow their own spirit, or impulse, rather than the Spirit of God (3);
they have seen nothing, as in no visions from God; (3);
they have no divine insight
they use their imaginations
they have seen false visions & lying divinations (6); and
they expect God to fulfill their word anyway (6).
But you cannot manipulate God by attaching his name to your thoughts. Neither can you command God to do something. (Is. 45:11)
God used two metaphors to describe these counterfeit prophets. First, he said they were “jackals among the ruins”. (4) A jackal will prowl through ruins to eat the left overs and attack the weak. These so called prophets are taking advantage of the people and the situation to their own benefit.
The second metaphor is a deteriorating wall. A wall might be built to protect a city or even a vineyard. Over time it disintegrates. So, you must either repair the wall or physically stand in the breach. The false prophets did neither. They did not protect the people. Rather they exposed them to harm.
Sadly, both of these metaphors show Jerusalem as a society in ruins.
In contrast to these men, Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw vision from the Lord and received the word of the Lord. We know that they were prophets because God did perform his word as he spoke it through them.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 sets out the law regarding a false prophet:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die...when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
Ezekiel returned to the metaphor of the wall, but this time the wall represents a message of peace. The people wanted to believe they would not be attacked again by Babylon. This is the wall they built: a false hope in peace despite God’s word that there would be war. The counterfeit prophets played upon and encouraged that belief: that is represented by the claim they white washed the wall. Despite this belief, God makes it clear again that there will not be peace. That is represented by his statement that he will break down the wall.
As a result of their misleading the people into thinking there would be peace, God said the false prophets would be removed from the rolls or census of the people of Israel. They are blotted out. This would have the effect of taking away their place in Israel. They are excommunicated. They will perish when the city is taken. Again in contrast, Jeremiah was actually rescued by the Babylonians when they took the city. God preserved him because he was God’s true prophet. You can read about that in Jeremiah 39:11-14.
There are not many oracles against women in the Bible. I know of only two others: Amos 4:1-3 and Isaiah 3:16-4:1.
In this passage, God condemns women who prophesy falsely and practice magic. They made up prophecies as the men did. (17) But they also practiced magic. They made magic wrist bands, they created ceremonies to hunt souls. These were magic related ceremonies designed to make people think they had special powers. They did this for money (barley and bread). They also seemed to cause good people to be killed and bad people to live. (19) The encouraged the wicked not to repent and discouraged the righteous. (22)
God promised to end their magic and deliver his people from them.
Magic and evil ceremonies are a perversion of God’s use of prophets and his word. Balaam was paid to curse Israel, Saul consulted a witch who purported to raise Samuel. The satanic mass of today is a perversion of the Roman Catholic mass.
There are two things going on with the practitioners of magic. First, some of them are fakers who do what they do for money, fame and power. They do not believe they have power, but they work to fool others. Second, some actually seek power from the devil, or other forces they believe in. Those who will not bow the knee to the God of Heaven, seek power elsewhere.
The same two categories exist for false prophets. Some are fakers, some believe they have some form of power.
False prophets appeared in the early church. Paul warned against those who perverted the message of Jesus. Magicians also were active.
False prophets often tell people what they want to hear. In Ezekiel’s time, they told of peace that did not exist. Today, the speak of wealth and success.
False prophets tend to aggrandize themselves rather than God. They tell stories of their great successes. They live lavish lifestyles. They expect people to believe them, trust them and support them.
Since we have God’s word in written form, we have a good weapon against a counterfeit prophet. If a prophet purports to have a message from God that contradicts God’s word, we know the prophet is false. This includes books. We cannot assume that, because a book claims to be Christian or is sold in a Christian book store, its message is from God. We must weight the message of the book against scripture.