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Ezekiel 13:17-18

17. 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,

17. Et tu fliesi hominis, pone faciem tuam contra filias populi tui, quae prophetant ex corde suo: et propheta contra eas.

18. 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?

18. Et dices, sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Vae consuentibus pulvillos super omnes cubitos manus, et facientibus pepla 2020     Or, “veils.” — Calvin. super caput omnis staturae ad venandum animas: in animas venabimini a populo meo, 2121     That is, “you hunt the souls of my people.” — Calvin. et animas quae vobis sunt 2222     That is, “yours.” — Calvin. vivificabitis.

 

WE may gather from this passage that Satan’s lies were not spread among the people so much by men as by women. We know that the gift of prophecy is sometimes though rarely allowed to women, and there is no doubt that female prophets existed whenever God wished to brand men with a mark of ignominy as strongly as possible. I say as much as possible, because the sister of Moses enjoyed the prophetic gift, and this never ceased to the reproach of her brother. (Exodus 15:20.) But when Deborah and Huldah discharged the prophetic office, (Judges 4:4, and 2 Kings 22:14,) God doubtless wished to raise them on high to shame the men, and obliquely to show them their slothfulness. Whatever may be the reason, women have sometimes enjoyed the prophetic gift. And this is the meaning of Joel’s second chapter, (Joel 2:28,)Your sons shall see visions and your daughters shall prophesy. There is no doubt that the Spirit transfers to the kingdom of Christ what had been customary among the ancient people. For we know that Christ’s kingdom is described, or rather depicted, under the image of that government which God formerly held under the law. Since, then, certain women were gifted with the prophetic spirit, Satan, according to his custom, abused this under a false pretense. We know that he always emulates God and transforms himself into an angel of light, because if he were to show himself openly, all would instantly flee from him: hence he uses God’s name deceptively, to ingratiate himself among the simple and incautious. And he not only sends forth false prophets to scatter abroad their lies and impostures, but he turns even females to the same injurious use.

Here we see how anxiously we ought to guard against any corruption which may creep in to contaminate the pure gifts of God. But this contest seems not to have been sufficiently honorable to the servant of God; for it was almost a matter of shame when they engaged with women. We know that those who desire praise for their bravery do not willingly engage with unequal antagonists who have no strength to resist; since there is no praise in a victory when it is too easy: so also Ezekiel could put away from him this undertaking, since it was unworthy of the prophetic office. Hence it appears, that God’s servants cannot faithfully discharge the duties assigned to them, unless they strive to remove all impediments. This then is the condition of all those to whom God assigns the office of teaching, that they may oppose all false doctrines and errors, and never consider or wish for great praise from their victory: it should suffice them to assert God’s truth against all Satan’s devices. Thus we see Paul strove with a workman (Demetrius), (Acts 19:24,) and that was all but ridiculous: and truly he might seem not sufficiently to regard his dignity; for from the time when he saw secret things which it was not lawful for him to utter, and was carried up to the third heaven, (2 Corinthians 12:4,) when he engages in a contest with a craftsman, he seems to forget that dignity to which God had raised him. But we must remember the reason which I have mentioned, that as the duty of teaching is assigned to God’s servants, so they are appointed as his avengers and defenders of the doctrine of which they are heralds. Hence if, so to speak, fleas were to come out of the earth and rail at sound doctrine, none who are influenced by a desire of edification will hesitate to contend even with those fleas. Thus the Prophet’s modesty is conspicuous, because by God’s command he turns to these weak women to refute even them.

It is said, then, woe to those who sew pillows or cushions; it is the same thing — to all armholes, and to those who make covers for the head of every stature. There is no doubt that by these tricks they deluded the minds and eyes of the simple. It is evident from the law that some ceremonies are useful, since God commands nothing superfluous; but Satan by his cunning turns everything useful to man’s destruction. Meanwhile we must remark that false prophets were always immoderately fond of outward signs; for since they have nothing substantial to offer, they have need of ostentation to dazzle all eyes. This then is the reason why men and women who intend to deceive, always heap together a number of ceremonies. Hence Ezekiel says, that those women had sown together pillows, and he adds, for all armholes. Whence it appears that they laid them under the armpits of those by whom they were consulted, although he afterwards seems to hint that they themselves reclined upon these pillows. But now he is treating of the people. The ancients were accustomed when they reclined at table to have cushions under their arms, though this is not our habit. But there is no doubt that they wished to represent a kind of sleep, like the foolish who consult oracles, and think themselves in ecstasies, and snatched away beyond all thoughts of this world. Then they had veils or coverings which they put over their heads. In this way imposture flourished with the Roman augurs; for they veiled their head when they wished to begin their incantations. Livy says, that the augur stood at the threshold with his head covered, and uttered these words, “O Jupiter, hear;” 2323     “Lib. 1. ch. 32. See also chap. 36., ‘statua Atti capite velato, referring to ‘Attus Navius, inclitus ea temptestate augur.” so that it is probable that veils covered the heads of those who wished to consult God, that they might be as it were separated from the world, and no longer look upon human things, but have only spiritual eyesight. With this view these women used such ceremonies that wretched men thought themselves caught up above the world, and all earthly thoughts being laid aside, they dozed so as to receive the oracles, and at the same time had the head covered to avoid everything which might call them off and distract them, and to be wholly intent on spiritual meditations.

As to his saying, upon all arms, and upon the head of every stature. I doubt not that the Prophet teaches by these words that these women exercised a promiscuous trade, making no distinctions, but, gratifying all without choice, so long as they brought their money in their hands, as we shall by and by see. Hence this mark of universality ought to be noticed emphatically, because these women did not attend to the disposition with which persons came, but only grasped at their reward, and thus the gate was as open to all as that of the market-place. For shops are open to all, since all are expected to promote profit and make bargains, and merchants by their allurements entice as many as they can to purchase their goods. So also veils were provided for all heads and cushions for all arms, for there was no difference except in reference to profit from these profane and base transactions. With regard to the word “stature,” the opinion of those who think it used, because the women ordered those who consulted the oracles to stand, appears to me forced, and not in accordance with the Prophet’s intention. I have no doubt that, the Prophet uses the word for “age,” or person, as others correctly interpret it; as if he had said, that they made no difference between old and young, tall and short, but prostituted their answers to all from whom they looked for gain.

It afterwards follows, Is it not to hunt souls? Here God reproves one crime, but he will shortly add another, namely, the profanation of his sacred name. But he here speaks only of the death of souls, as if he said that the women laid those snares to deceive wretched souls. And because Ezekiel was commanded to, prophesy against them, he here addresses them more vehemently — Will ye hunt the souls of my people? It is literally the souls which belong to my people; but it will be more simple to receive it thus — will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye give life to your own souls, unless any one wishes to interpret it so as to make the Prophet repeat the same thing twice. For the souls of the people were also their own. For as we shall afterwards see, no one is deceived by the devil unless he offers himself of his own accord, and entangles himself in his snares on purpose. Since then it is always true that wretched men who catch at vain oracles devote themselves to the devil and his ministers, hence the passage may be explained in this way. But the sense which I have proposed is more simple, namely, that these women must not be yielded to because they have hunted the souls of the people; as if the Prophet had said, the people are precious to God, who has undertaken the care of them. Thus then he reasons; such is your audacity, nay, even fury, that you doubt not to seize upon God’s people: since therefore your impiety is so licentious and bold, will God suffer you to rage with impunity against the souls of which he is the guardian? Lastly, he signifies that punishment is prepared for the women who ensnare God’s people, because although those who are deceived are worthy of death, yet God will still exact punishment of Satan’s ministers who have endeavored to despoil him of his rights. It, follows —


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