Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now hold on here. So far, Ezekiel has been talking about specific people, more specifically the MEN in charge of all things religions and governmental. That’s 13 and a half chapters of all kinds of wrong-doing, etc. The wrongs are addressed and the folks responsible are,…well held responsible. But there is a certain focus to it all. These groups, this situation, etc. But there is no all-out blanket of judgment against men as a gender. Culturally, there seems to be an un-spoken “boys will be boys” when it comes to bringing on the entire downfall of your respective city-state / country / village. In other words, “men, you were bad, you got punished, lets try again.” To be clear, I’m speaking about cultural bias here, not accusing God of lackadaisical justice. Again to be clear, in all instances, it is our own limitations that prevent us from understanding the fullness of what God is about.
That said, what about the women folk?
I’m thinking back through passages of history that stand in contrast. Early Renaissance period and the Witch hunts through out Europe. The establishment of the principle that women must be kept under lock and key because universally there is trouble to be had if they can just do what they want. The outright ban on educating women for several centuries, and not to be left out, the Salem Witch Trials. All of these, and many more, instances of fanatic adherence to supposed religious principles are all directed uniformly at a gender, rather than the specific persons as we see in Ezekiel’s oracles. So it begs the question, what does Ezekiel have to say on the subject of women who trespass the law?
To be honest, biblical scripture has been used to justify the actions I just described. Some of that scripture comes from this very chapter of Ezekiel. But is that really what Ezekiel was intending with his prophecy?
Well, if we are irrationally predisposed to accept that all women have the potential to mysteriously become soul-trapping dark magic dealers, it might seem reasonable to turn to Chapter 13: 17-23. Suddenly we have grounds to fly off the handle, convene pop-up courts throughout the dark ages and start sentencing women to death for witchcraft. That’s one half of one chapter of text,…..seven verses folks. There are websites out there right now on the internet that cite this exact portion of this chapter as part of the combined Biblical condemnation of women as religious leaders. Additionally, the implication, historically, is that women are some how more susceptible to the enticements of witchery and must constantly be on guard against their own dark nature, etc. etc.
The problem is that readers from other centuries tended to skip through much of this chapter and just string together little bits of the text into a preconceived picture than can be applied as a stereotype. For instance, it is a section that is specifically addressed to women – whoa that’s different. Later on in the chapter it mentions veils of different lengths. This then tied together with the phrase, “…ensnare souls”. Finish it off with mention of “magic charms” and voila, you have an instant indictment against any female person who doesn’t quite fit in. These charges are so vague that they can be applied to almost anyone who is not in the popular crowd, or who is inconvenient in their opinions. Yes indeed, these are serious witchcraft like charges, etc. etc. However…..
To be blunt, that is not what Ezekiel Chapter 13: 17-23 is about at all. Not even close.
This section starts with a very clear sentence which exactly states the Lord’s objection to the behavior of certain women of the community. So right away, we see that Ezekiel is addressing a specific situation, just like he had to do with the male leaders of the community. These women that Ezekiel is addressing are the one’s who prophesy out of their “own imagination”. They are making stuff up. They do this in order to make themselves look good, to gain prestige, or to meddle with someone else’s emotional/spiritual crisis.
In modern times, when people do that, it is usually for some kind of profit. I am guessing that people were pretty much the same back then as well. Ezekiel calls this out too. He criticizes the women who lie to the people all for the payment of bowls of barley or other grain. Think about that. Their clientele is so poor, that they have to pay for services with the food off of their own table. What kind of a holy person would demand some give up food, meals that are probably intended for children of the house.
And by what methods do these particular women use to distinguish themselves? How do they make themselves stand out from the poor and lower classes?
They use head drapes like the men who are actual officials. The thinking is: See – I’m like them, so you should listen to me.
They use Magic charms: mysterious talismans whose purpose is to confuse the onlooker into thinking you know more than you really do. The trap here is that the victim has to rely on your interpretation – which gives you control.
In effect, talismans (charms, tokens, et al) are all miniature forms of idols. Does this mean that every charm bracelet sold in your local mall is some kind of perverse religion? Not really. It is only in the faith you give to such man-made things, or the control you give to someone else which makes this a thing of folly. And magic charms and talismans come in many, many more forms these days. Whatever gives you a false strength over someone else – that is the charm you tie to your wrist for all to see.
I was recently in a rather well known coffee shop for lunch with my wife. Sitting in the booth adjacent to us was a pair of women. It was of interested because they both had study bibles out and a pile of highlighters and study materials. One of them was somewhat younger than the other. The older of the two seemed to be in the role of an instructor. It was a bit surreal though as the “instructor” had the stereotypical froo-froo hair, several layers of makeup, Jewelry on both wrists, and a study guide facsimile that was clearly part of a larger program which she waved around and dramatically referred to. I remember seeing the confused expression on the younger woman’s face at what was being “explained” to her by the instructor who spoke in the again stereotypical southern accented bible-speak. She was using all the sales techniques I’ve been trained in – and I could see the lost expression on the “student’s” face, I could imagine how disheartened she must be feeling. I felt so sorry for her because this was, in part, what Ezekiel was talking about. A minister’s job is not to confuse, overwhelm, and bully the timid inquirer. A minister isn’t supposed to be building himself or herself up. Quite the contrary. Ask yourself if you can remember a single verse where Jesus sought to build up his public image with trinkets, taxation, or excessive presentation.
But getting back to Ezekiel 13, one could ask why does this matter anyway? Wasn’t it enough for Ezekiel to just condemn all the false prophets in the beginning of the chapter…’nough said? Why the extra detail here? The answer is found by asking the next question: Who were these false female prophets affecting? Ezekiel provides the answer: Those who died but who were not supposed to die. Additionally, these specific women lied and disheartened those who were seeking the truth, and with their lies THEY ENABLED those who brought disaster upon Jerusalem.
And for that, they did earn a special place in the wrath being set loose upon Jerusalem. But,…we do not, as a corollary, have a condemnation against all women, nor a judgment that they cannot participate in faith.
People, the message here is that true Prophecy is about Truth.