Son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou Against them. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovih; Woe to the women who sew pillows to all arm-holes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of persons of every stature, to hunt souls. Will ye hunt the souls of My people; and will ye save alive the souls 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 which should not die, and to save alive the souls which should not live, by your lying to My people who hear your lies?
Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovih; 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, 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 Jehovah.
Because, with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and [ye have] strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked ways, by promising him life: therefore ye shall see no more vanity nor divine divinations: for I will deliver My people out of your hand.-EZEKIEL xiii. 17-2 3.
THE love of falsifying the Divine Truth induces false persuasions, which mislead the mind, until, spiritually, it perishes in evils. And those who are in this mental condition seek to mislead others, to their spiritual destruction. But every mind which resists such misleading, is protected by the Divine Providence.
THE LITERAL FACTS.
“The daughters of thy people, who prophesy out of their own heart,” were the false prophetesses of ancient Israel, who, at the time of our text, were a class of corrupt women, who pretended to prophesy from the Lord, but who actually spoke from their own hearts, i.e., from their own purposes, hypocritically, cunningly, and to deceive and victimize those who carne to inquire of the Lord. They were women of loose character, but keen and cunning in their ways, who hid their corrupt occupation behind the cloak of the church, Such hypocrites could flourish in such times, because those were times in which the rulers, and almost all others, were equally corrupt, and yet were professing very rigid adherence to the rules of the church. And such general conditions well exemplified the statement in the twelfth Psalm, “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.”
SEW PILLOWS, ETC.
The Orientals were naturally a very sensuous people, loving physical ease, and delighting in all the pleasures of the senses. The rich persons especially lived at ease, and in great luxury, and studied the science of physical comfort. Especially at the time of our text, they exerted themselves as little as possible; and, as far as possible, they left all labor to their slaves. The women had no intellectual education; and their chief duty was to please their husbands, or their fathers. The rich women spent most of their time reclining on couches, supported by pillows.
When an inquirer came to the prophetess, to inquire of the Lord, concerning his luck, or his fate, she first gained influence over him, by placing him in sensuous ease, among soft pillows, or cushions; and she sewe small pillows under his arms, from the arm-holes of his tunic down to his wrists, that even his arms might lie in luxurious ease. And these things served, also, another purpose; for after she pretended to inquire for him, as to his future, she pointed out these things of ease and luxury, as symbols of the good fortune awaiting him.
And she placed upon his head a kerchief, or head covering, which was regarded as a fine adornment, and as a symbol of freedom, and of plenty, such as are enjoyed by rich persons.
In the case of the Jews when under captivity to Babylon, this liberty-cap would symbolize their approaching delivery from such captivity.
As the text reads, in the common version of the Bible, it is somewhat obscure at this point, when it says that these women “make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature, to hunt souls.” But the sense is made clear by adding two words, “persons of,” and reading it thus, “upon the head of persons of every stature;” i.e., all ages of men, down to lads scarcely full-grown, who are thus drawn into the evil influence of these bad women.
In the figurative literal sense, to hunt souls is to seek men, in order to gain something by deceiving them and corrupting them. And it is easy to see how these women, by subtle flattery, and by favorable prophecies, could gain great influence in the community; for it was a community in which there was no spiritual perception of truth, and no rational judgment, Old men, middleaged men, and youths were thus beguiled into an easy: security, and the indulgence of every natural wish. And the false prophetess then reaped a large reward in gifts, and in personal, influence, and in every indulgence.
And, in such circumstances, it is not wonderful that the true prophet of the Lord went unheeded, because he prophesied disasters, of which the people did not wish to hear. And thus the name of the Lord was polluted, in the minds of the people, because the words of the Lord were drowned in the fallacies of men’s senses. Even those who pretended to be prophetesses of the Lord, covered the people with lies, to make them evil, also. And this was often done for merely trifling rewards, from such men as inquired. These trifling rewards are indicated by the words, ” And will ye pollute Me, among My people, for handfuls of barley and pieces of bread?”
“To slay the souls which should not die,” is to corrupt those who were trying to do well. And “to save alive the souls which should not live,” is to encourage the evil in their iniquity, by promising them continued life and prosperity, and thus “strengthening the hands of the wicked,” and preventing them from repenting and amending their life.
As the serpent in Eden persuaded Eve that it would not be dangerous for her, but profitable, to eat the forbidden fruit, so these evil prophetesses lured men to destruction by false persuasions; and thus saddened the hearts and lives of many men, whom the Lord was seeking to make glad; because such women were holding out promises of greater life, even while dragging their victims into a sure death.
DIVINE OPPOSITION TO EVIL.
But it is said that the Lord is opposed to all such doings, and that He would overcome them and destroy their influence, by a general judgment upon that evil church; and that He would deliver from such evils all who would remain His people, following His laws of life. And, in pursuance of this work of the Lord, the prophet is commanded to expose all such evils, and to proclaim the Lord’s truth.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
But all these things belong to the literal sense of the text. Turning, now, to the spiritual meaning, we shall find the scene laid not merely in ancient Israel, but also in our own hearts and lives. And the warnings of the Lord’s prophet, four thousand years ago, are equally needed warnings to us, in these, our days. For the prophet of the Lord, spiritually speaking, is the Divine Truth, itself, walking through the streets of our minds, and calling us to repentance, reformation and regeneration. The voice of our Lord, Himself, speaks in His truths, as they meet us, in the letter of His holy Word, and speak to our natural minds, with warnings against sinful conduct; while, at the same time, they speak to our open spiritual minds, of the holy principles of heaven, which will form in us “the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.”
And, in our text, the Divine Truth, as the Lord’s prophet, warns us against the deadly wiles of our own unregenerate natural affections. In Israel, which figuratively represented the Spiritual Church, in which Truth is the dominant element, women represented affection for truth, and men represented rational understanding of truth; and their true union represented the spiritual marriage of regeneration. But, in the case of our text, the women were evil; and hence, they represented natural affection, when corrupted into self-love. Thus, the corrupt false prophetess represents our natural affection, when thoroughly evil and selfish, and setting up itself instead of the Lord; and speaking from its own evil lusts, and in opposition to the revealed will of the Lord.
And when a man’s natural affections thus pretend to be good, when they are intentionally evil, they exert themselves to beguile, and to mislead, the man’s rational judgment; and to drag the whole mind down into their own low condition. And their cunning practices are exposed in the spiritual meaning of our text.
Here, hunting souls, as men hunt gatne, for its destruction, spiritually means influencing men, in order to destroy their spiritual character. And this may be done by us, towards other persons, or in our own hearts and lives. In the Scriptures, the term “soul” has. Many different meanings, as the equivalent of several different Hebrew and Greek words. Soul may mean any living creature, or a human being, or the life of the natural body, or the life of the spirit of man, or the characteristic life of man’s understanding, or the Divine Truth.
In our text, spiritually, the soul means the spiritual life of a man. And the spiritual life is in the soul, the spirit. A false prophetess in a man’s mind hunts his soul, when his evil natural affections mislead his rational judgment, by perverting his knowledges of truth, and explaining them in favor of his natural lusts; and by persuading him that the truth is not true, but false; and that sin is not evil, but allowable. In this way, the man is flattered into the indulgence of his evil inclinations, while imagining himself to be seeking real life.
Many persons do not know what spiritual goodness and truth are; but they are in natural-minded states immersed in the life of their natural senses. Being without spiritual perception, they do not clearly recognize the character of the doctrines and arguments set before them. And sometimes they are misled by plausible arguments, which are urged by an external and persuasive faith, which is without charity, or regenerate love. But, ” Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah v. 20.)
To kill a man, spiritually, is to destroy his spiritual life; i.e., to destroy the spirituality of his life. In this way, the church in man is destroyed. Spiritually, to bear false witness against the neighbor, is intentionally to try to deceive him, and to prevent his regeneration, by persuading him to confuse good and evil, and truth and falsity, and righteousness and sin. In this way, “Evil shall hunt the violent man, to overthrow him. (Psalm cxl, 11.) For the spiritual violence which we do to others inevitably returns upon ourselves. And this false witnessing may occur in our own minds, when our natural affections intentionally deceive our judgment. Our natural affections, when unregenerate, are false prophetesses, who supply us with the pillows of ease, and the indulgence of our natural desires, and lull us into a false sense of security, In a selfish and sensuous life. And they cover our heads, our rational thought, with their own kerchiefs, their plausible arguments in favor of self-indulgence, with promises of prosperity.
That they put such kerchiefs upon the heads of persons of all statures, means that they persuade persons in all stages of mental growth, deceiving them as to their own conditions, and their spiritual needs. And, in our individual minds, our unregenerate natural affections cunningly seek to cover our heads, i.e., to obscure our highest principles, at every step in our spiritual growth, by subtle appeals to our self-love.
POLLUTING THE LORD.
And thus the Lord is polluted, in our minds, when His Divine principles, which should be the head of all our thoughts, are covered over with sensuous notions. To slay souls which should not die, is to deprive the mind of the life of truth, which should never die in any human mind. And to save alive the souls which should not live, is to maintain the power and influence of false principles, which should not be allowed to live in any human mind.
And these wrong things are done by accepting evil and falsity for goodness and truth, and rejecting these Divine principles. In this way, evil is encouraged, and its hands, its power, strengthened, while goodness and truth are discouraged, and rendered powerless in the unregenerate mind, For, while the corrupt natural affections promise life and prosperity in indulgence, yet they cannot give any life to the spirit, because they are spiritually dead.
And yet these evils are brought about by the unregenerate natural affections, for a merely trifling reward, “handfuls of barley, and for pieces of bread ;”i.e., for a small amount of indulgence in the things which feed the sensuous life. But the Lord is against all these evil things; and He will overcome their influence, in every mind which remains steadfast to the Divine principles.
SETTING THE FACE.
No one may expect to be regenerated without meeting severe temptation; but that temptation will be used for our good, and for the destruction of evil in us, if we bravely stand by the Lord’s commandments, in spite of the wiles of the false prophetesses in our own natural affections, or in the efforts of other persons to mislead us.
In our minds, the prophet, which is the Lord’s truth, will set its face against these evil prophetesses; i.e., the Divine Truth will reveal to us its inward and spiritual form, and will thus protect us against the sensuous allurements of our own disorderly natural affections, And thus our interior minds, our spiritual minds, will be opened to spiritual life, which is clearly opposed to disorderly natural life. And the clear spiritual truth, as a prophet of the Lord, will proclaim the things of spiritual life, in all the streets of our minds.
It should be one of the most effective warnings against evil, that, in sinking into evil, we tend to drag down others with us, by our influence, and by our example. When there is so much of sorrow and suffering in this world, it is amazing how anyone can be willing deliberately to add to the enormous sum of human trouble. As we walk along the path of life, we may, if we will, often lend a helping-hand to our fellow-travellers. We may distribute love and kindness along our path, instead of sorrow and distress. The way of life is a common road, for the use of all. And we have no right to demand the whole road, and all its privileges, for ourselves; or to jostle others, whom we may imagine to stand in our way. There is room enough for all, if allwill be reasonable and fair.
It is in the nature of regenerate love, and of all other good and true things, that they increase for us, in the measure in which we share them with others. But all selfishness narrows and dwarfs the man whom it controls; and it shuts out from his evil heart all the kingdom of heaven. “See, I have set before thee, this day, life and good, and death and evil. . . . Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deuteronomy xxx. 15, 19.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903