And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
I. The sewing of the pillows under the arms or elbows of those who came to consult the prophetesses was a symbolical act, intended to convey an answer by way of parable. The prophetesses wished to assure the people who came to them, of peace and ease and emancipation from slavery; what more likely than that they should not only give promises of these good things to come by word of mouth, but cause the people, who applied to them, to sit at ease, to be propped up with pillows as a sign and token of the condition of peace and rest and ease, which they promised in their prophecies. In like manner I think it probable that the handkerchiefs which the prophetesses put on the heads of their votaries, "on the heads of persons of all ages," were probably an emblem of liberty. And when the prophetesses placed these handkerchiefs on the heads of those who came to them, it was probably intended to declare by a parable, that the people would soon be free, and not subject to the king of Babylon any more.
II. The dealing of the prophetesses is particularly blamed because it was the same to all; there was only one message, and that one of peace for Jerusalem, one of joy in the future. There was no examination of the spiritual condition of those who came, and adapting of the message accordingly. The penitent and the impenitent had the same pillow to rest upon, and the same cap of liberty put upon the head. When we consider the utter confusion that would be produced, and the fearful manner in which the lessons of Ezekiel and his messages of lamentation and mourning and woe would be neutralised and made of none effect, we shall not be surprised that God pronounced a very grievous woe against these prophetesses, and promised as a special boon to His people that they should be delivered out of their hands.
III. We all have our Ezekiels to tell us the truth, and we all have our false prophets and prophetesses ready to contradict the truth, and to substitute lies in place of it. Ezekiel tells us that we must repent; he assures us that God does not wish the death of a sinner, that God has, in fact, sent His Son into the world that we might live and not die. But still he tells us that we must repent; that we must correct what is amiss; that we must examine what our sins are, and forsake them. The ministers of Christ's Gospel make a fearful and dangerous mistake, if they ever cry, "Peace, peace," and nothing else.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 154.
Ezekiel 13:22I. Where the way of life was broad the false prophets strove to make it narrow, and where it was narrow they strove to make it broad; by their solemn and superstitious lies they frightened and perplexed the good, while by their lives of ungodliness they emboldened and encouraged the wicked. The tendency of either evil to produce the other is sure and universal. We cannot exist without some influences of fear and restraint on the one hand, and without some indulgence of freedom on the other. God has provided for both these wants, so to speak, of our nature; He has told us whom we should fear, and where we should be restrained, and where, also, we may safely be in freedom; there is the fruit forbidden, and the fruit which we may eat freely. But if the restraint and the liberty be either of them put in the wrong place the double evil is sure to follow. Superstition is the rest of wickedness, and wickedness is the breaking loose of superstition.
II. Nothing is more common than to see great narrowness of mind, great prejudices, and great disorderliness of conduct, united in the same person. Nothing is more common than to see the same mind utterly prostrated before some idol of its own, and supporting that idol with the most furious zeal, and at the same time utterly rebellious to Christ, and rejecting with scorn the enlightening, the purifying, the loving influences of Christ's spirit. Every one of us has a tendency to some idol or other, if not to many; and our business is especially each to watch ourselves, lest we be ensnared to our particular idol.
III. Things good, things noble, things sacred, may all become idols. To some minds truth is an idol, to others justice, to others charity or benevolence; and others are beguiled by objects of a different sort of sacredness; some have made Christ's mother their idol; some Christ's servants; some, again, Christ's sacraments, and Christ's own body, the Church. If these may all be idols, where can we find a name so holy as that we may surrender up our whole souls to it; before which obedience, reverence without measure, intense humility, most unreserved adoration, may be duly tendered? One name there is, and one only; one alone in heaven and in earth; not truth, not justice, not benevolence, not Christ's mother, not His holiest servants, not His blessed sacraments, not His very mystical body, but Himself only, who died for us, and rose again, Jesus Christ, both God and man. As no idol can stand in Christ's place, or in any way save us, so whoever worships Christ truly is preserved from all idols and has life eternal.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv.
Reference: Ezekiel 14:1-3.—Bishop How, Plain Words, 2nd series, p. 252.
Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.
Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.
They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.
Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.
And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:
Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it.
Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it.
So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered morter, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered morter, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it;
To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD.
Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them,
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you?
And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?
Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly.
Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:
Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.