Ezekiel 13 concerns the time just before the day of the Lord (verse 5), a time many believe we are living in today. The subject is the false religious leaders of the present-day house of Israel—the United States and Britain.
Ezekiel 13:1-16 mentions false prophets, the men who are deceiving the people. However, an increasing number of women are becoming preachers and missionaries. This prophecy would not be complete if it did not include the expanding group of "false prophetesses."
These false teachers prophesy (or as the meaning should be, "preach") out of their own heart (verse 17). They are not preaching God's message, neither has God sent them. What kind of message do they preach that causes God to denounce them? It is exactly the opposite of the message God's true ministers are preaching. God has commissioned His ministers to lift up their voices like a trumpet and show the people their sins (Isaiah 58:1), for they face a future of impending destruction if they fail to respond and repent of them (Ezekiel 3:19; 4:2-3; 5:2-4, 8-10, 12-17; 6:11-14; 12:10-16).
Though all false ministers are an abomination in God's sight, the fact that women choose for themselves the office of religious leadership—usurping authority over men—is particularly distasteful to Him (I Corinthians 14:33-35; I Timothy 2:11-12).
The false ministers and the false prophetesses preach the same thing. They refuse to point out sin. They have "plastered [the wall] with untempered mortar," "whitewashing" the people and failing to convict them of their sins. Because of this, the wrath of God will be poured out upon these false ministers. They have preached a message of peace, when there is no peace! (verse 10).
God characterizes them as "hunt[ing] souls" (verse 18)! They travel the far reaches of the earth in their missionary efforts to "save souls." Yet, God asks them, "Will you hunt the souls of My people, and keep yourselves alive?" In other words, they will not have the power even to save themselves from the destruction Almighty God has decreed will come (Jeremiah 14:12-14), which they say is not coming.
The reference to "magic charms" ("pillows," KJV) and "veils" ("kerchiefs," KJV) is obscure. Some believe "charms" or "pillows" is better translated "fillets" or "headbands." A long veil held by a headband perfectly describes part of the garments worn by members of some female religious orders. Others feel that they symbolize the soft, feminine nature of the religion preached by these false prophetesses.
A number of commentators believe the Hebrew indicates that these terms are not literal—that the "charms" or "pillows" refer to a figurative covering these women are trying to place over God's hands to conceal His power to rebuke sin, and the "veils" represent the spiritual blindness they place over their followers. Some Hebrew scholars argue against the translation "magic charms," saying that this is not at all supported by the original language.
In their activities these women profane God among the people with (the Hebrew can be translated either "for" or "with") "handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread" (verse 19). This can mean that they either use food to attract "converts" or actively solicit donations for their preaching. However, they do not teach their followers that the cause for their plight lies in their failure to keep God's laws. God reveals His severe punishment on these false women religionists (verses 20-23).