17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.
20 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds. 21 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, 23 therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 13:17-23 ESV
Contrary to popular opinion the prophet fraternity was not a male-only club. While men were the primary members of this elite group of divinely commissioned messengers, the Old Testament does indicate that women also served as prophets. In Exodus 15:20, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, is listed as a prophetess. According to Judges 4:4, Deborah was a prophetess who also served as a judge over Israel. In 2 Kings 22:14, Hilkiah the priest, and a number of royal officials in King Josiah’s court, consulted the prophetess Huldah, who gave them a message from the Lord. Finally, Nehemiah 6:14 provides the name of Noadiah the prophetess. Each of these women was recognized as an official spokesperson for God and treated with the same respect and honor as their male counterparts, but it would appear that the number of female prophets was relatively small.
Yet, while they may have represented a tiny segment of the overall population, this didn’t stop them from populating the ranks of the false prophets who were leading the people of Judah astray. For those living in Judah during Ezekiel’s day, the presence of a female prophet would not have been unexpected. But God found these women to be unacceptable and intolerable because what they were doing was deceptive and deadly. So, He gave Ezekiel a message aimed directly at them.
“…son of man, speak out against the women who prophesy from their own imaginations…” – Ezekiel 13:17 NLT
God makes it clear that they were not acting on His behalf. Their words were their own and had not come from the Lord. And He exposes their so-called prophecies as a form of witchcraft or sorcery.
“What sorrow awaits you women who are ensnaring the souls of my people, young and old alike. You tie magic charms on their wrists and furnish them with magic veils.” – Ezekiel 13:18 NLT
God accuses these women of hunting the souls of His people. It’s unclear just exactly what this phrase means or what role the “magic” wristbands and veils played in their actions, but it would seem to involve some sort of occult practices. Whether they were using these magical items to bring others under their control or in an attempt to cast spells is uncertain.
But what is clear is that these women were offering their services in exchange for payment. They were making a profit from prophesying.
“You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.” – Ezekiel 13:19 ESV
It may be that these women were promoting their magical trinkets as talismans that could ward off evil or protect their wearer from harm. Perhaps they were marketing their products as a way to escape the coming judgment of God. In doing so, they were offering people the false hope of salvation. Rather than repent of their sins, their customers could simply rely on the prophylactic effects of their magic wristband or veil.
Whatever it was that they were doing was leading the people of Judah astray. Instead of listening to the warnings of Ezekiel, the true prophet of God, the people were buying into the lies of these women. They were selling hope in the form of magic. They were assuring their customers that they were safe from harm and free from worry. But in doing so, they were condemning these people to certain death and destruction. No piece of cloth was going to stay God’s hand, and no magic spell was going to protect anyone from His wrath.
So, God declares that He will expose their true identity as charlatans. He will rip the wristbands and veils off the arms and heads of His people, setting them free from their captivity to these false forms of hope.
“I will tear them from your arms, setting my people free like birds set free from a cage. I will tear off the magic veils and save my people from your grasp. They will no longer be your victims. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 13:20-21 NLT
The actions of these women had changed nothing about God’s plans for Judah and Jerusalem. The Babylonians were still going to destroy the city and take captive thousands of its inhabitants. The temple would be destroyed. Many would die of starvation during the siege. Others would fall by the sword when the Babylonians entered the city.
These self-proclaimed prophetesses were guilty of false advertising. They were telling their customers that they were safe and secure. And they were assuring all those who refused to buy their products that they were condemned to certain death. But God assures Ezekiel that these women had no power and their products offered no lasting benefits. The only thing these women had managed to accomplish was to lead the people astray. Their efforts had produced discouragement and disillusionment among the godly because they refused to buy their products. And those who purchased their magic clothing lived under a false delusion of invincibility, inducing them to continue their sinful lifestyles unabated and unafraid.
“You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins.” – Ezekiel 13:22 NLT
Whatever these women were doing had left God extremely displeased. He had seen enough and was going to deal with their behavior once and for all.
“Because of all this, you will no longer talk of seeing visions that you never saw, nor will you make predictions. For I will rescue my people from your grasp. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 13:23 NLT
When God states that they will no longer talk of seeing visions they never saw, He is predicting their deaths. He would no longer tolerate their aberrant behavior. The problem inherent with all false prophets is the fact that their prophecies are untrue and, therefore, unreliable. They talk a good game and promote a product with a long list of attractive benefits, but they can’t ever produce what they promise. Their ad copy doesn’t ever add up. Their sales pitch never quite delivers. Because they don’t speak on behalf of God. Like all the other false prophets, they are selling lies. They offer peace instead of warning about God’s punishment. They promise deliverance from His discipline. They encourage a false sense of hope when God is demanding true repentance and a spirit of humility among His people.
It didn’t matter whether the false prophets were male or female. They all faced the same stinging indictment from God because they were all guilty of the same thing.
“They have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord.” – Ezekiel 13:5 NLT
They had failed to do the job of a prophet. Rather than call the people to repentance, they had encouraged further rebellion. Instead of standing on the walls and warning the people of coming judgment, they had promoted the status quo. Judgment was coming and they did everything in their power to refute it and convince the people to ignore it. But in the end, they would know that Yahweh was Lord.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.