Ezekiel 13

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to me: 2“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying. Tell those who are making up their prophesies to hear the word of the LORD. 3Tell them the LORD God says, ‘Woe to you ignorant prophets who claim to have seen the truth, but truly have seen nothing. 4Your prophets, Israel, have been like jackals scrounging among the ruins. 5You have not inspected the breaches on the walls, nor have you repaired a single wall for Israel to stand behind in battle on the LORD’s day.’ 6They only see false and misleading things, and say, ‘Says the LORD,’ when the LORD hasn’t said a word to them, and then they wait for the ‘word’ to be fulfilled! 7When you say, ‘thus says the LORD,’ when I didn’t speak, haven’t you in fact seen a false vision, or simply spoken lies?”

8This is what the LORD God says: “Because you have spoken falsely and seen lies, I am against you. 9My hand will be against those who see false visions and speak lies. They shall not serve in the council of my people, nor will they be listed in the register of the family of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel, and they shall know that I am the LORD God. 10They have misled my people, declaring peace when there is no peace, and they smear whitewash on every wall the people have built. 11Tell them that their whitewash will fail because there is going to be a flood of rain with hailstones and a stormy wind. 12When the wall collapses, won’t people say about you, ‘Now where is the whitewash you smeared on the wall?’ 13So, this is what the LORD says: In my anger I will send a stormy wind and a deluge of rain with hailstones to destroy it. I will break down your whitewashed wall to the ground, and expose its foundation. When it falls you will die with it. You shall know that I am the LORD. 15That is how I will send my anger upon the wall and upon those who smeared it with whitewash. I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone, and those who smeared it. 16This will be the fate of those who prophesied visions of peace for Jerusalem when there was no peace,’ says the LORD God.

17“Look at the daughters of your people, son of man, those who speak prophesies out of their own imaginations. Prophesy against them. 18Tell them the LORD God says that the women who sew bands on wrists and make veils for everyone regardless of their importance are hunting for people’s lives. Will you hunt down my people to maintain your own lives? 19You have lied about me among my people to gain handfuls of barley and slices of bread for yourselves. Because of your lies to people who listen to lies, you have murdered my people who should be still alive, and kept people alive who should not live.

20“So,” says the LORD, “I am against your gangs that hunt lives for you. I will rip them from your arms and let those you’ve hunted down like birds go free. 21I will rip off your veils and protect my people from you. They will no longer be your prey, and you will know that I am the LORD. 22Because you, not I, have disheartened the good people with your lies, and have encouraged the wicked not to repent and save their own lives, 23you will cease the false visions and the practice of divination. I will rescue my people from your hands, and then you will know that I am the LORD.”


1-7: It is an interesting dynamic that, while the religious leaders — priests and prophets alike — have been castigated for turning the people to the worship of false gods and idols, they also have been in a situation in which prophets have been spouting off pronouncements which they claimed were from the LORD, the God of Israel! The word for this is syncretism, the mixing and combining of differing religious traditions.

8-16: Ezekiel is confronted in the exiled community with the same kind of opposition with which Jeremiah had to deal in Jerusalem — prophets who proclaim what the people want to hear instead of what God wants them to hear. I believe the imagery of the wall is figurative. The people build a “wall,” that is, a barrier to the truth. They don’t want to hear that God has more punishment in store. They want to hear that the worst is over, and steeped in that desire they refuse to listen to prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The false prophets have “whitewashed” the “wall” by pronouncing the word of peace the people want to hear. But the “wall” is weak and will collapse at the first onslaught of a storm.

17-19: The previous diatribe was leveled against male “prophets;” now we turn to certain women in the exiled community who are interfering with Ezekiel’s (and God’s) work. Their interference is of a different and more deadly sort, however. The mention of wristbands and veils hints at dark arts of magical incantations and spells. “Handfuls of barley and slices of bread” are probably the fees they charge for their services, although some scholars think these things, too, were part of their rituals. They have the power to put to death “persons who should not die.” The strongest complaint against them, however, is that they have profaned God, apparently using the name of the God of Israel in their magical incantations, thus reducing God to no more than one of the pagan deities.

20-23: The judgment against these women is not as violent as we might have expected. Somehow God will see that their veils and wristbands are removed (or perhaps simply discredited) and that they will no longer receive even false visions (or perhaps the people will cease paying attention).


Even today our world is filled with people who promote lies and benefit from the support of the most gullible among us. Both the liars and their adherents are guilty of denying God’s lordship over our lives. Pleasing God first should always be our course.