Jackals in the Ruins

Beware of these destructive charlatans:

Yes, an unusual title, so bear with me – but it is quite biblical. Let me explain. In Ezekiel 13:1-7 we read about how the false prophets are soundly condemned. Sadly, wherever there are prophets, there will be false prophets. The true ones will have to challenge the false ones. The true preachers will have to expose and rebuke the false preachers.

That was true in Ezekiel’s day, and it is true in ours. The Old Testament prophets were inspired by God, while the fakes were self-inspired. They spoke from their own imaginations, and offered people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear.

While we all prefer good news to bad, if you go to a doctor to learn about a newly discovered cancer found in your body, you want your doc to be honest with you. You want him to level with you. While you hope he says something like, ‘It is benign and we will keep an eye on it,’ you would insist that he tells you the bad news if needed: ‘Yes, it is an aggressive cancer, and we must deal with it immediately.’

In those cases, it really is a matter of life and death, and you want to be given a true word, even if it is unpleasant to hear. In the spiritual realm we also have things that can be a matter of life and death. Simply sharing biblical truth with other persons – telling them that they are sinners heading to lost eternity unless they repent and come to Christ – will enrage many folks, but it is life and death we are dealing with here – even eternally.

The false preacher or teacher will NOT mention sin or hell or judgment to come or the need to repent. Some of the biggest churches in America are known for having preachers just like this. Their refusal to proclaim the whole counsel of God is a grievous sin.

And then there are Christian pastors and leaders who will never address the vital issues of the day, be it abortion, the assault on marriage and family, the violation of children by the trans agenda, and so on. They steer well clear of these issues, just feeding their flocks on happy and pleasant and non-threatening pep talks and feel-good messages. They too will be held to account for this.

What they have done is left the walls of a city in ruins, allowing the enemy to get in at will. They have not repaired the breaches and the city is fully exposed. Such a situation is simply not sustainable. That is how Ezekiel puts it in this portion of scripture. It goes like this:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”

This shows us the seriousness of the false prophets. They put the lives of everyone at risk. Jackals are known for inhabiting ruined and desolate places, tending to themselves. They do not contribute anything of use, but are just scavengers.

Of interest, some translations call them foxes (and Jesus spoke about ravenous wolves among the people). Just today I learned that I have a fox who has moved in under my house. That is no good. I have a small dog and cat and I would like them to live. Now I need to keep them inside until this matter is resolved.

Melbourne, like many Western cities, is really getting to have big problems with a growing and aggressive population of foxes. We have lost a cat or two and a rabbit over the years because of the predatory foxes. They do not solve problems – they create problems.

Image of The NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel
The NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel by Iain M. Duguid (Author) Amazon logo

That is what these false prophets do. They are only interested in whatever gain they can get. They are not at all interested in the welfare of the people. This must invite the judgment of God. I like what Iain Duguid says in his commentary on this passage, so let me quote him in full:

Because the message of the false prophets originated in their own hearts rather than in the Lord’s revelation, Ezekiel also criticises the content – or rather lack of content – of their messages. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie (13:6); this phrase and its variations form a constant refrain in 13:6-9. What their message consists of is reviewed in verse 10: They have been prophesying “Peace” when in fact no peace is to be expected.


Such false comfort has had catastrophic results. In speaking according to their own hopes rather than the word of the Lord, they have seduced God’s people into a false security that will be devastatingly exposed on the coming day of judgement. This criticism of the prophets is expressed in a series of pictures. (1) They have acted “like jackals among ruins” (13:4). The Hebrew word translated “jackals” also covers smaller scavengers such as “foxes.” Clearly this is not a positive image. The average jackal is not busy among the ruins with a trowel and construction helmet, rebuilding what has fallen down; rather, his presence there is a matter of self-interest, looking to pounce on any small animals hiding in cracks in the rocks. It seems from other passages in the Bible that the picture may be even more negative than that. The jackal/fox may be thought of as an agent of destruction, as in Nehemiah 4:3: “What they are building – if even a fox climbed upon it, he would break down in their wall of stones!”


(2) Intent on pursuing their own prey, these skulking scavengers have failed to take on the dangerous, but necessary, task of standing in the gaps to build up a solid protection for Israel on the Day of the Lord (13:5). In this verse, the picture is changed to that of a besieged city. In ancient warfare, the attackers would build up a siege ramp, frequently to a corner of the city, in order to breach the walls higher up where they were thinner. Meanwhile the defenders would build a counter-ramp on the inside to enable the easy supply of materials to repair any breaches that were made. Only the bravest would be found at the breaches in the wall, for there the fighting would be at its fiercest. The false prophets, however, are more interested in their own personal safety than the safety of the city.


(3) The third picture Ezekiel uses to describe the “prophets of Israel” also involves a wall. In 13:10-16 the image is of a poorly constructed wall, which the prophets rather than rebuilding properly merely cover with “whitewash,” thus giving it a misleadingly solid appearance. Its true nature will be exposed, however, by the coming of the storm. When the rain comes down in floods, with hailstones and violent winds, the wall will collapse to the destruction of all concerned in the venture (13:12-15).


The concern of the passage is not so much the fate of those who trust in the whitewashed wall, but that of those who have whitewashed it, that is, the false prophets. The divine hand will be raised in judgement on them….

This is not a very flattering picture of the false prophets. If God had harsh words for these jackals back then, we can be certain he would have equally harsh words for the jackals of today. Let me close by sharing the next nine verses of Ezekiel 13, and a comment by James Montgomery Boice. Says Ezekiel:

Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God.

And writes Boice:

False prophets do not have disturbing doctrines in their messages, even though the true state of man demands it. Their message is one of false peace. Jeremiah says, ‘They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.’ Apparently Jeremiah thought that this truth was important enough to state more than once, for the identical verse occurs both in Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11. And he would undoubtedly say of all the false prophets, as Arthur Pink does in An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, ‘There is nothing in their preaching which searches the conscience and renders the empty professor uneasy, nothing which humbles and causes their hearers to mourn before God; but rather that which puffs up, makes them pleased with themselves and to rest content in a false assurance.…


True teaching involves the realities of man’s depravity and sin, God’s wrath and coming judgment, the need for repentance, and the answer to man’s sin in Christ’s vicarious atonement. Any teaching that omits these elements is erroneous.

[1871 words]

4 Replies to “Jackals in the Ruins”

  1. While I agree with you that our preachers and those who speak for and lead our churches must be true to Biblical teachings and moral principles, and grasp the great danger you are pointing at, I do still have a concern. Sometimes a church leader will represent their view of a certain political or social issue as God’s view..when that is very much in doubt. I am thinking of some instances here where in NZ. An important leader of a mainstream denomination said from the pulpit in the midst of the Covid hysteria that [paraphrased] “all true Christians, those who really care about their neighbors and fellow citizens, will be getting the Covid vaccinations.” I got up and walked out in the middle of the sermon — rude, I know! But, I thought at the time, warranted. This same leader has since then gone on to preach about and to write articles for church publications (and thus speaking from a position or authority) on ending climate change, supporting Ukraine, and the need for a ceasefire and negotiated peace between Israel and Gaza. My view is that even if you agree with his views on one or more of these issues (as I do), they are not really appropriate topics to speak about as if all in the church MUST agree with his views, as if they are spoken (to use the Catholic term) ex cathedra — with God’s authority. So how and where should is the line between a leader’s “going along to get along” versus imposing their own human assessment of a political or social situation on their congregation? And how do we as laypeople know they have got it right?

  2. Thanks Marla. Great comment. Yes, in some areas we can recognise that there can be room to move on certain social or political issues, eg., Ukraine. I, like you, would have walked out as well on that silly Covid statement. But on some of these things where believers can and do differ, a wise pastor would admit as much, and say that ‘this is my view, but you might want to hold to another view’. As to your last question, some of the core things we have quite clear Scriptural teachings on. So to stand against abortion, the assault on marriage, the sexual revolution, and so on, are things all true believers should agree on and speak out against.

  3. Proverbs 29:18: – “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
    Hosea 4:6: – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge.

    There have been prophetic voices over the fifty decades at least, including Solzhenitzyn, who in 1976 visited Britain and the USA and warned us in vain of the Tsunami coming our way – but to no avail:

    “It is with a strange feeling that those of us who come from the Soviet Union look upon the West of today…. we contemplate the West from what will be your future, or look back seventy years, to see our past suddenly repeating itself. And what we see is always the same, always the same as it was then;…. universal sympathy for revolutionary extremists; people with serious objections unable or unwilling to voice them; the majority passively obsessed by a feeling of doom; feeble governments; societies whose defensive reactions have become paralysed; spiritual confusion leading to political upheaval. What will happen as a result of all this lies ahead of us. But the time is near, and from bitter memory we can easily predict what these events will be…… Our Russian experience is vitally important for the West; because by some chance of history we have trodden the path the West is taking seventy or eighty years, before the West. And now it is with a rather strange sensation that we look at what is happening to you, when many social phenomena are repeating what happened in Russia, before its collapse.”

    David Skinner uk

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