The false prophets, who are here prophesied against, were some of them at Jerusalem (Jer. 23:14): I have seen in the prophets at Jerusalem a horrible thing; some of them among the captives in Babylon, for to them Jeremiah writes (Jer. 29:8), Let not your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you. And as God’s prophets, though at a distance from each other in place or time, yet preached the same truths, which was an evidence that they were guided by one and the same good Spirit, so the false prophets prophesied the same lies, being actuated by one and the same spirit of error. There were little hopes of bringing them to repentance, they were so hardened in their sin; yet Ezekiel must prophesy against them, in hopes that the people might be cautioned not to hearken to them; and thus a testimony will be left upon record against them, and they will thereby be left inexcusable.
Ezekiel had express orders to prophesy against the prophets of Israel; so they called themselves, as if none but they had been worthy of the name of Israel’s prophets, who were indeed Israel’s deceivers. But it is observable that Israel was never imposed upon by pretenders to prophecy till after they had rejected and abused the true prophets; as, afterwards, they were never deluded by counterfeit messiahs till after they had refused the true Messiah and rejected him. These false prophets must be required to hear the word of the Lord. They took upon them to speak what concerned others as from God; let them now hear what concerned themselves as from him. And two things the prophet is directed to do:—
I. To discover their sin to them, and to convince them of that if possible, or thereby to prevent their proceeding any further, by making manifest their folly unto all men, 2 Tim. 3:9. They are here called foolish prophets (Ezek. 13:3), men that did not at all understand the business they pretended to; to make fools of the people they made fools of themselves, and put the greatest cheat upon their own souls. Let us see what is here laid to their charge. 1. They pretend to have a commission from God, whereas he never sent them. They thrust themselves into the prophetic office, without warrant from him who is the Lord God of the holy prophets, which was a foolish thing; for how could they expect that God should own them in a work to which he never called them? They are prophets out of their own hearts (so the margin reads it, Ezek. 13:2), prophets of their own making, Ezek. 13:6. They say, The Lord saith; they pretend to be his messengers, but the Lord has not sent them, has not given them any orders. They counterfeit the broad seal of heaven, than which they cannot do a greater indignity to mankind, for hereby they put a reproach upon divine revelation, lessen its credit, and weaken its credibility. When these pretenders are found to be deceivers atheists and infidels will thence infer, They are all so. The Lord has not sent them; for though crafty enough in other things like the foxes, and very wise for the world, yet they are foolish prophets and have no experimental acquaintance with the things of God. Note, Foolish prophets are not of God’s sending, for whom he sends he either finds fit or makes fit. Where he gives warrant he gives wisdom. 2. They pretend to have instructions from God, whereas he never made himself and his mind known to them: They followed their own spirit (Ezek. 13:3); they delivered that as a message from God which was the product either of their subtle invention, to serve a turn for themselves, or of their own crazed and heated imagination, to give vent to a fancy. For they have seen nothing, they have not really had any heavenly vision; they pretend that what they say the Lord saith it, but God disowns it: “I have not spoken it, I never said it, never meant any such thing.” What they delivered was not what they had seen or heard, as that is which the ministers of Christ deliver (1 John 1:1), but either what they had dreamed or what they thought would please those they coveted to make an interest in; this is called their seeing vanity and lying divination (Ezek. 13:6); they pretended to have seen that which they did not see, and produced that as a divine truth which they knew to be false. To the same purport (Ezek. 13:7): You have see a vain vision and spoken a lying divination, which had no divine original and would have no effect, but would certainly be disproved by the event; the words are changed (Ezek. 13:8): You have spoken vanity and seen lies; what they saw and what they said was all alike, a mere sham; they saw nothing, they said nothing, to the purpose, nothing that could be relied on or that deserved regard. Again (Ezek. 13:9), They see vanity and divine lies; they pretended to have had visions, as the true prophets had, whereas really they had none, but either it was the creature of their own fancy (they thought they had a vision, as men in a delirium do, that was seeing vanity) or it was a fiction of their own politics, and they knew they had none, and then they saw lies, and divined lies. See Jer. 23:16 Note, Since the devil is universally know to be the father of lies, those put the highest affront imaginable upon God who tell lies, and then father them upon him. But those that had put God’s character upon Satan, in worshipping devils, arrived at length at such a pitch of impiety as to put Satan’s character upon God. 3. They took no care to prevent the judgments of God that were breaking in upon the kingdom. They are like the foxes in the deserts, running to and fro, and seeming to be in a great hurry, but it was to get away and shift for their own safety, not to do any good: The hireling flees, and leaves the sheep. They are like foxes that are greedy of prey for themselves, crafty and cruel to feed themselves. But (Ezek. 13:5), “You have not gone up into the gaps, nor made up the hedge of the house of Israel. A breach is made in their fences, at which judgments are ready to pour in upon them, and then, if ever, is the time to do them service; but you have done nothing to help them.” They should have made intercession for them, to turn away the wrath of God; but they were not praying prophets, had no interest in heaven nor intercourse with heaven (as prophets used to have, Gen. 20:7) and so could do them no service that way. They should have made it their business by preaching and advice to bring people to repentance and reformation, and so have made up the hedge, and put a stop to the judgments of God; but this was none of their care: they contrived how to pleased people, not how to profit them. They saw a deluge of profaneness and impiety breaking in upon the land, waging war with virtue and holiness, and threatening to crush them and bear them down, and then they should have come in to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty, by witnessing against the wickedness of the time and place they lived in; but they thought that would be as dangerous a piece of service as standing in a breach to make it good against the besiegers, and therefore they declined it, did nothing to stem the tide, stood not in the battle against vice and immorality, but basely deserted the cause of religion and reformation, in the day of the Lord, when it was proclaimed, Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers? Ps. 94:16. Those were unworthy the name of prophets that could think so favourably of sin, and had so little zeal for God and the public welfare. 4. They flattered people into a vain hope that the judgments God had threatened would never come, whereby they hardened those in sin whom they should have endeavoured to turn from sin (Ezek. 13:6): They have made others to hope that all should be well, and they should have peace, though they went on still in their trespasses, and that the event would confirm the word. They were still ready to say, “We will warrant you that these troubles will be at an end quickly, and we shall be in prosperity again.” as if their warrants would confirm false prophecies, in defiance of God himself.
II. He is directed to denounce the judgments of God against them for these sins, from which their pretending to the character of prophets would not exempt them. 1. In general, here is a woe against them (Ezek. 13:3), and what that woe is we are told (Ezek. 13:8). Behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. Note, Those are in a woeful condition that have God against them. Woe, and a thousand woes, to those that have made him their enemy. 2. In particular, they are sentenced to be excluded from all the privileges of the commonwealth of Israel, for they are adjudged to have forfeited them all (Ezek. 13:9): God’s hand shall be upon them, to seize them and bring them to his bar, to shut them out from his presence, and they will find it a fearful thing to fall into his hands. They pretend to be prophets, particular favourites of heaven, and authorized to preside in the congregation of his church on earth; but, by pretending to the honours they were not entitled to, they lost those that otherwise they might have enjoyed, Matt. 5:19. Their doom is, (1.) To be expelled from the communion of saints, and not to be looked upon as belonging to it: They shall not be in the secret of my people; their folly shall be so clearly manifested that they shall never be consulted, nor their advice asked; they shall not be present at any debates about public affairs. Or, rather, they shall not be in the assembly of God’s people for religious worship, for they shall be ashamed to show their heads there, when they are proved by the events to be false prophets, and, like Cain, shall go out from the presence of the Lord. The people that are deceived by them shall abandon them, and resolve to have no more to do with them. Those that usurped Moses’s chair shall not be allowed so much as a door-keeper’s place. In the great day they shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous (Ps. 1:5), when God gathers his saints together to him (Ps. 50:5, 16), to be for ever with him. (2.) To be expunged out of the book of the living. They shall die in their captivity, and shall die childless, shall leave no posterity to take their denomination from them, and so their names shall not be found among those who either themselves or their posterity returned out of Babylon, of whom a particular account was kept in a public register, which was called the writing of the house of Israel, such as we have Ezra 2:1-70 They shall not be found among the living in Jerusalem, Isa. 4:3. Or they shall not be found written among those whom God has from eternity chosen to be vessels of his mercy to eternity. We read of those who prophesied in Christ’s name, and yet he will tell them that he never knew them (Matt. 7:22, 23), because they were not among those that were given to him. The Chaldee paraphrase reads it, They shall not be written in the writing of eternal life, which is written for the righteous of the house of Israel. See Ps. 69:28. (3.) To be for ever excluded from the land of Israel. God has sworn in his wrath concerning them that they shall never enter with the returning captives into the land of Canaan, which a second time remains a rest for them. Note, Those who oppose the design of God’s threatenings, and will not be awed and influenced by them, forfeit the benefit of his promises, and cannot expect to be comforted and encouraged by them.