Prophecy did not cease when God's old covenant people were absent from their land, as Daniel and Ezekiel demonstrate. These true prophets of the Lord ministered in Babylon, having been taken there alongside other Judahites. Since these true prophets preached during the Babylonian exile, we are not surprised that false prophets worked during the same period, as today's passage illustrates. Satan ever stands against God's truth, so wolves always prowl among the Lord's sheep (Acts 20:29–31).
Ezekiel condemns these false "prophets of Israel," referring to them as "foolish" (Ezek. 13:1–7). Since the kingdom of Israel did not exist in Ezekiel's day but only the southern kingdom of Judah—and even that nation was about to go into exile—the prophet must mean "prophets of the people of Israel." He speaks generically of anyone claiming to prophesy in Yahweh's name, whether they were part of the exilic community in Babylon or living in Judah during its final days. Ezekiel evaluates their spiritual condition by calling them foolish. The fool says in his heart that "there is no God" (Ps. 14:1); thus, Ezekiel judges these professed prophets as having no true relationship with the Lord, which is confirmed by their "false visions and lying divinations" (Ezek. 13:6).
These prophets are likened to "jackals among ruins" (v. 4), scavengers who profit from the people's awful condition. They are prophets who speak what the people want to hear so that they can make a handsome living, not true prophets who suffer for speaking the truth (Jer. 32:1–5). Ezekiel 13:8–16 probably has in view the lying prophets who gave false comfort to King Zedekiah just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jer. 28). He compares them to those who whitewash a wall to mask its flaws. The people were supposed to build a sound house of truth and love for the Lord, but their sin was actually building a weak and compromised nation. Instead of alerting the people to this, the prophets preferred to ignore the people's sin, telling them everything was just fine and papering over the unsound structure that the nation had built.
Women who claimed to be prophets but who actually practiced witchcraft are addressed in Ezekiel 13:17–23. The prophet condemns these women for seeking to control the people by "magic bands" made for themselves or for people to wear on their arms. Like the male false prophets, they fall under the divine curse.
Sometimes we become discouraged that so many wolves are working among the sheep. False teachers have always been a problem for God's people, however, so we should expect to see theological error raise its ugly head time and again. The focus of our discouragement should be upon those church leaders who refuse to purge false teachers from our midst, and we should channel it in a positive direction by calling church leaders to maintain the gospel's purity in our local congregations.