Heart of the Story: Some false prophetesses in Ezekiel’s day were magicians. Deluded Israelites bought charms and veils from them to secure a safe future. God warned the false prophetesses that he would pay them for their unrighteous behavior.
Backstory: Ezekiel chapter 13 is God’s words to the prophet Ezekiel regarding false prophets in both Babylon and Jerusalem. God tells these prophets that they prophecy out of their own imaginations, their visions are false and divining a lie. God’s hand is against these prophets because they led Israelites astray by saying there will be peace in Jerusalem. They believed that the flimsy wall around Jerusalem would protect them during a Babylonian attach and siege.
Story Line: In addition to condemning all false prophets, God gave an added warning to false women prophets who used magic. Although Ezekiel didn’t record their number, he says they were Israelite women. Possibly, they associated with each other in a guild-like arrangement as in the days of Elisha in the Northern Kingdom and with Noadiah in the Jewish Restoration period. These prophetesses sold their magic charms and veils at “cut rate” prices, possibly because they were so readily available.
Through Ezekiel, God accused false prophetesses of ensnaring the souls of Israelites by having them tie magic charms around their wrists and wear magic veils of varying lengths. Ezekiel noted that because Israelites believe the prophetesses’ lies, some were killed who shouldn’t have died; while others who should of died were spared. These magician-prophetesses disheartened the righteous with their lies. Further, they encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and save their lives.
God detests magic and the black arts; his clear expectation was for Israelites to have no part of them. Through Ezekiel, God asked the women if they thought to trap others in magic without bringing destruction on themselves. He warned the magician-prophetess that he was going to tear the wrist charms and veils off individuals they ensnared through their magic. Once freed, the people would not again fall prey to magic power. Finally God told the magician-prophetesses that no longer would they see false visions or practice divination.
Relationships of magician-prophetess: God told the Israelites to write his laws on the doorframes of their home and gates; to wear them as symbols on their hands and bind them on their foreheads (Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Throughout history some Jews have taken these verses literally. They tied phylacteries to their foreheads and left arm to remind them to remain faithful to God. Likely, the Israelite women magicians used this commandment by Moses to deluded clients to wear charms on their wrists and conceivably on foreheads hidden by veils.
An Israelites primary relationship was to be with God. Most assuredly a prophet had to stay close to God in order to ascertain what God wanted him or her to say. These magician-prophetesses didn’t do that. They profaned the name of God by claiming they received visions from him when they did not. Their visions were either a product of their own imaginations or given by a dark power. Their primary relationship was with Satan or one of his minions from whom they received power.
The questions rise whether or not, the women were deliberate charlatans? Did they interpret and believe what they read in tarot-like cards and/or the way stars aligned themselves? When they went through a ritual to place a spell on a charm, did they believe that the charm had the ability to influence the outcome for the client? Although it is tempting to think the best of women who were driven to get ahead in the world and discovered a way to provide for themselves, God said that they lied to unsuspecting victims and that he stood opposed to their magic in all and any of its forms.
Throughout this passage and in others about the black arts, writers are careful not to give details about the basis for a magician/diviner spell. The lack of specifics was deliberate. God didn’t want future magicians/diviners to have information to use as the basis of spells.
Conclusion: Ezekiel was a prophet-priest exiled to Babylon. He saw first-hand the magician-prophetesses hold on Israelites in Babylon. Through visions he perceived the same despicable acts were occurring in Jerusalem. Ezekiel believed rightly that the future of the Israelite people was in the people exiled to Babylon. Both Ezekiel and YWAH rightly abhorred magicians-prophetesses who held sway over Israelites through black arts