A review of the characteristics of false prophets and prophetesses as presented by Ezekiel helps to show how these men and women led a whole nation astray. This passage stands out in the Old Testament as one clear description of the characteristics of these false prophets and prophetesses and of the jealousy and compassion God feels for his people when they are being led astray (note the repeated “my people” throughout chaps. 13–14). This is a message that needs to be reviewed in every generation because everyone is vulnerable to the leadership of those who claim to have a word from God but who in fact have none.
These false representatives of God exhibited at least ten negative characteristics. First, they spoke out of their own will, not God’s will (vv. 1–3, 17). Second, they made the people a prey instead of performing a ministry for them (v. 4). They scavenged among ruined lives for personal gain and self-gratification. Third, they had no crisis ministry (v. 5). They could not strengthen the breaks in the walls (i.e., people or nations) or fortify broken lives. Fourth, they claimed their revelations were divine to deceive their followers (vv. 6–7) and easily deceived others because they were deceived themselves. Fifth, they failed to stand against sin (vv. 6–9) and declared an empty message without truth. Sixth, they preached a message of peace, prosperity, and safety in the face of imminent judgment (vv. 10–12) because they failed to relate the consequences of sin. Seventh, their ministry provoked the wrath of God and invited his judgment (vv. 13–16). Eighth, they often used false methods and occult practices to legitimize their work and control their victims (vv. 17–21). Ninth, they encouraged iniquity by word and personal example (vv. 22–23). Tenth, they set up the worst idols, their own self-will (14:1–7).
Through their methods, messages, and ministries these men and women led the nation to believe that those in Babylon would soon be returned and Israel restored. They condemned Ezekiel and Jeremiah as troublemakers. Instead of impending judgment they preached peace, prosperity, freedom, and a do-as-you-please (really a do-as-we-please) philosophy that kept the people under their control. They appealed to what the people wanted to hear as a means of maintaining control. All this sounds uncomfortably familiar when applied to many self-styled “prophets” today. In days of moral crisis there are always those who seek personal profit by establishing counterfeit ministries, who preach man-made systems instead of divine truth, proclaim peace instead of repentance, use materialistic methods, and set up idols in human hearts (14:1–11). (Lamar Eugene Cooper, Ezekiel, vol. 17, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 157–158.)