When reading the Bible, one must be careful not to take a verse out of context and place a wrong meaning on it. One must also be aware of errors in interpretation or in faulty wording by the translators. One must also take care in trying to fit something from an ancient culture into his own of today. Such are the dangers when one reads Ezekiel 14: 9.
In many versions of the Bible, it is stated that God deceives a prophet, then punishes him for stating a false prophecy. Here is a passage which can be picked out by Bible critics to discredit God. If God is such a loving Being in whom many Christians have great faith, why would He be so cruel to His prophets?
Is that really what this passage says? If so, many Christians have been deluded by inconsistency in the Bible. If not, how can this passage be justified?
In this essay, I shall show that there has been both taking out of context and translating in an unclear manner. The basic version used is the King James Version. I refer to seven other versions where the translation or explanation is not quite the same. These are the only versions in our family library that give clues within the verse or explanation to a different interpretation. Here is an example of where having access to several versions is helpful. With the help of the Holy Spirit, one can discern the true meaning of the verse.
The verse is quoted from each of these eight versions, followed by what appears to be said. Then I shall attempt to place the verse into its intended context.
- AB – Amplified Bible
- EBR – The Emphasized Bible
- IV – Inspired Version
- KJV – King James Version
- LB – Living Bible
- NAB – New American Bible
- NBV – New Berkeley Version
- SNB – Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible
Ezekiel 14: 9
AB – [The prophet has not been granted permission to give an answer to the hypocritical inquirer] but if the prophet does give the man the answer he desires [thus allowing himself to be a party to the inquirer’s sin], I the Lord will see to it that the prophet is deceived in his answer, and I will stretch out My hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel.
Comment: It is clear that God has not told the prophet to answer the hypocrite. If the prophet does so, he places himself in a position of guilt along with the inquirer. God will cause that a false answer be given. Then God will take action against that prophet.
EBR – <Yea // the prophet himself // when he suffereth himself to be deceived, and speaketh a word, // I, Yahweh // have suffereth that prophet to be deceived > Then will I stretch forth my hand against him, and destroy him out of the midst of my people Israel:
Comment: The prophet has allowed himself to be deceived by someone other than God. When he speaks, God will not interfere to save him. Then God will take action against that prophet.
IV – And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have not deceived that prophet; therefore I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
Comment: God has not caused the deception; but someone else has done so. The punishment is the same as stated in the King James Version.
KJV – And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
Comment: The prophet has prophesied that which is not true. God has deceived the prophet. Because he has spoken falsely, he will be punished by God and will be taken from the people. The versions in our family library not listed here appear to agree with this interpretation.
LB – And if one of the false prophets gives him a message anyway, it is a lie. His prophecy will not come true, and I will stand against that “prophet” and destroy him from among my people Israel.
Comment: He is not a true prophet of God, but a false prophet who is involved. This is the only version that uses the word “false” in the verse. The word “anyway” suggests that the prophet either knew that his prophecy was not true or was not authorized by God to give the prophecy. As a result, God will punish him.
NAB – As for the prophet, if he is beguiled into speaking a word, I, the LORD shall have beguiled that prophet; I will stretch out my hand against him and root him out of my people Israel.
Footnote: I, the LORD, shall have beguiled that prophet: the ancient Israelites attributed to God every action, good or evil; cf. 1 Samuel 18: 10; 2 Samuel 24: 1ff. We would say, rather, that God permitted this deceit.
Comment: The same interpretation can be given as to the King James Version. However, the footnote states that the Israelites believed that God has caused the deception. It also states that it really means that God did not cause it, but He allowed it to occur.
NBV – If that prophet is beguiled to speak a message, it is I, the LORD, who has beguiled that prophet; I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from the midst of My people Israel.
Footnote: v. 5: The prophets saw sin as related to God [cf. Amos 3: 6; Isaiah 45: 7; 1 Kings 22: 20-23]. The Arabs still attribute all that happens, good and bad alike, to God.
Footnote: v. 9a: As He did to mislead King Ahab [1 Kings 22:19-23].
Comment: There is the same implication as is stated in the King James Version. The footnotes point out that it is believed that God is responsible for the deception.
SNB – Yea the prophet himself, when he suffereth himself to be deceived, and speaketh a word, I, YAHVAH, have suffered that prophet to be deceived; then will I stretch forth My hand against him and destroy him out of the midst of My people Israel:
Comment: This version is a revision of Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible. The interpretation is the same as in that one.
Examining the Context
We need to consider all of chapters 13 and 14 to determine why the prophet is deceived. An American Translation (Beck) provides help.
The heading “Against False Prophets” describes 13: 1-16. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy against the prophets of Israel. They prophesy through illusions, not visions. What they say does not come true. They claim that what they say comes from God when it does not. They deceive the people, who look to them for guidance. God condemns these prophets and will remove them.
The heading “Against Witches” describes 13: 17-23. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy against the women who make up prophecies. These women give wrist charms and head veils to people, then state lies to them. They cause good people to die and evil people to live through their power. Their spells have been disastrous for many people. All this has been to provide themselves with a meagre living. God will destroy their power and rescue His people.
The heading “Against Those Who Cherish Idols” describes 14: 1-11. Some leaders of the people come to Ezekiel. The Lord speaks to Ezekiel in regard to them. Everyone who cherishes his idols sets up the source for sinning. When such a person comes to a prophet, the Lord will tell the prophet to advise the person to repent, turn away from his idols, and eliminate all his abominations. When a person who has turned from the Lord and cherishes his idols comes before the Lord in hypocritical fashion, the Lord will oppose that person, making him an example as He destroys him from among His people. If the prophet allows himself to be deceived into prophesying in this case, without the Lord’s counsel, the Lord will not prevent the deception from happening. The prophet has caused his own downfall through his own sin and will be destroyed by the Lord. The hypocritical person who has come to the prophet will also be destroyed. These actions will be taken to protect God’s people from wandering away from Him.
The heading “Noah, Daniel, and Job Could Save Only Themselves” describes 14: 12-23. If a country sins exceedingly against God, He will punish it through such disasters as famine, ferocious animals, war, or plague. Even such righteous men as Noah, Daniel, and Job would be unable to save anyone but themselves. However, God will spare a few people so that it will be known what has happened.
Deception means delusion, falsehood, fraud, hypocrisy, lie, or trickery. God cannot lie (Titus 1: 2; Hebrews 6: 18). Therefore, He does not cause the prophet to be deceived. Satan, or the Devil, deceives the whole world (Revelation 12: 9). Thus, the prophet is deceived by Satan. The two chapters give warning to the children of Israel against the deception of false prophets, witches, and idols. If the people allow themselves to be deceived and do not repent and turn away from their sins, not only the deceivers, but also they themselves will be destroyed. When Ezekiel 14: 9 is put into its proper context, one can see that God will deceive no one, but will punish those who deceive others or who allow themselves to be deceived. He will allow deception to take place when people choose to turn away from Him. Some translators appear to have been lax in translating or in not having included a footnote to avoid a wrong understanding by the reader.