Ezekiel 29:17-21: False Prophet?

God’s Message came to me:
“Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel
who are making things up out of their own heads
and calling it ‘prophesying.’
Ezekiel 13:1-2 (The Message)


Imagine God told you that he was going bring about justice by condemning some evil people. Imagine that God told you this in no uncertain terms. Imagine that God had spoken many things like this to you in the past, and each time they came true. Imagine that you boldly stepped out and declared God’s impending judgment on these evil people.

Then nothing happens.

This was the predicament that Ezekiel was in. When you pay attention to the details of this passage, it is very troubling.

. . .

We know that God declared his judgment on Tyre. Yahweh had spoken. Yahweh will act. We know from historical records, that Tyre did not fall to the Babylonians like it was supposed to. It was not until the time of Alexander the Great that the city of Tyre was finally conquered.

The penalty for false prophets in the Old Testament was death. Ezekiel had already condemned those prophets who had spoken out of their own imaginations instead of hearing from God first (Chapter 13). How must Ezekiel have felt, knowing that Tyre didn’t fall to Babylon like Yahweh told him it would?

This passage is the oldest dated oracle in Ezekiel: April 26, 571 B.C. The message was delivered 22 years after Ezekiel was commissioned by God, and a full 17 years after the oracle that preceded it. After almost two decades, Tyre had not fallen—they had repelled Babylon, Yahweh’s chosen executioner.

The logic in this passage borders on the absurd. Since Babylon (an evil nation that God used) worked hard to plunder Tyre and was turned back, God would give them Egypt as their consolation prize. Egypt, too, tried to aid Judah and prevent Babylon from doing her Yahweh-appointed work.

. . .

As a disclaimer, I should mention that nothing on this blog relates to the current crisis in the between Israel and Lebanon. This is a commentary on events that happened some 2600 years ago. The current Middle-East crisis demands our prayers for peace.

. . .

It’s not easy to understand how this could have happened. Did Ezekiel mishear God when he spoke of Tyre’s downfall? Did God intend for Tyre to fall to Babylon, and Babylon not complete the task? Didn’t God know what would happen? Was God testing Ezekiel’s resolve by telling him to prophecy something that wouldn’t happen for another couple centuries?

Sometimes difficult passages like this can offer a peculiar comfort to us. Maybe God has told you something that does not seem to be happening. Maybe you’ve put your neck on the line for God—like Elijah with the prophets of Baal—yet no fire fell. Prayers for healing, in particular, often end in tragedy.

Our part is to remain faithful to God—who does have a firm grasp on the situation. In Ezekiel’s case, God’s word to him didn’t come true for hundreds of years! Do we have that sort of patience?  Are we able to wait for God to act, even if the answer comes long after our lives are over?

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Psalm 139:17-18 (NRSV)

. . .

Mysterious God, when we come to the end of our ability to understand you, remind us that you are still with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 29:1-16 | Nile’s Crocodile

Ezekiel 30:1-19 | Divine Drama >

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