False Prophets and their empty words

Did you ever watch some celebrity preacher on tv and thought by yourself, is this guy speaking truth or not? let go to the Scripture and see what Scripture tells us…

Jeremiah 23:9-15  9 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.  10 For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.  11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.  12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.  13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.  14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.  15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.

Observation: what does the text say?

Jeremiah 1:1-2  The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  2 The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah,

The author is Jeremiah even though his words was recorded and compiled later, there are external evidence and internal for Jeremiah as the author and the book gives the internal evidence of this. The word of God came literally to Jeremiah and he did not speak out of his own heart and own imagination like the false prophets.

Jeremiah’s ministry was from about 626 to 586 B.C. and he had to proclaim a message of judgement to the people of Israel because of their idolatry, their unfaithfulness to the covenant and their obstinate disobedience of His will.  According to Walton “The purpose of the book is to call the people of Judah back to faithful dependence on the Lord and warns them of the punishment of exile” (Walton, 2000, p. 533)

There are three major literary categories in the book in Jeremiah and that will be recognized as prophetic oracles written in poetry, historical narratives about Jeremiah and lastly the prose speeches of the book, these types are not in a chronological order, but this is spread widely across the book.

We are focusing on the false prophets and their false oracles and this is what Jeremiah 23:9-40 is all about, but how does this fit in the text and where are will this text take us? Well to start with we are in the 3rd section according to scholars and if you study the script you will find that we are in the section (chapter 2-24v10) which is part of the covenant lawsuit – judgement on Judah and Jerusalem. We find ourselves where Jeremiah is giving messages to the royal household and the court and this will lead us into the next section where Jeremiah will speak to the nations as the prophet. In chapter 23v1-8 God speaks against the shepherds who deceives the flock of Israel and that God will raise up a righteous branch of David, and now God wrath will be upon them and the anger of God will not return (v20) until He has executed the thoughts of His heart.

Only in the view verses from 9-40 you will find repetitions which emphasis the urgent and seriousness of these words of the prophet about 7 times “thus says the Lord” and in verse 13 and 14 He says “I have seen” that is two times to let them know that God did see this and then it progress even further to emphasize that God knows is in verse 25 where God said that he “heard the Lies” God saw and he heard what the false prophets have done and said. And in verse 16 God said, “I have not sent them” and this is repeated in verse 21 emphasizing that God really did not sent them. And in verse 26 God says that these are prophets of deceit.

Here we can see it is getting to the climax point and this is getting very serious. In verse 30-32 God repeats 3 times that He is against them, how fearful it must be to fall in the hands of an angry God and this is what is happening, if God is against you, no one on earth and heaven can save you!

And from verse 33-40 God is speaking judgement over them and God says he will even punish them and more than once he will forsake them. In verse 39 and 40 is maybe some of the worst words any man can hear or wants to hear from God. Jeremiah 23:39-40  39 Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your fathers.  40 I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace– everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Painful words indeed.

Interpretation: what does it mean?

Now we might give a high and nervous sigh, with thoughts like “this is a close call” and “lucky that in our time this does not happen” or “this is not applicable to us”. Then you must be blind, look around you, there are many false prophets in our time who we may even think is a man of God or maybe one we claim as the prophet or preacher of south Africa who will free us from this calamity.

There are even churches who plays the roll of these prophets and like Jeremiah 23v1-8 will conclude that there are shepherds who destroy the flock of Israel and scatter them. The very same is happening in our day, there are false preachers and churches, missions, and teachers who is destroying the flock of Christ and who deceives the nation and whom is wicked.


2 Peter 2:14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed– an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey– a beast without speech– who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity– for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.


These are the people who some of us are following. Boastful and empty words and we believe them? And this while God said He did not send them. Then why do we want to believe the words of man above the words of God – God is truth man is not, but we reject the word of God and we believe the lying false messengers who proclaim falsely “I have dreamed” or “God came to me and said to me”

Or “I had a vision”. We rather want to believe every person’s vision and not the BIBLE.


The most common and logical reason for persons to believe any new intriguing message especially if it is a vision etc. is because we do not study the Bible. We do not read it every single day. If we knew God and if we knew what the word of God is saying, we will not be so easily deceived. but our country is and there is one main reason: they do not study the word of God. if they did, they would not be deceived.


The immediate context is about the false prophets and that God’s judgement is upon them and that His anger will not turn away – and what happened, well they got exiled to Babylon. And this makes me fearful, I look at South Africa and see the situation – we are drifting away from God and we are being deceived by false leaders, but we do not care – the words of flattery are good. We do not want to hear about an angry God but only a loving God. God is love but He is always Just and will always punish sin. Israel the chosen nation could not escape His wrath. Now who we are we? If we do not repent from our wicked sins, we will get punished or even worse go into exile and be forsaken by God. I just wonder how long God will still have mercy upon my wicked and unrepented nation.

Generalization: what is the big idea?

The whole idea Jeremiah wants to give us I think is twofold. Firstly, to the prophets: God knows what they are doing, and, in His anger, he warns them – giving them time to repent. That the oracles will not come to pass and that the false prophets are exposed. That everyone will get to know and understand that their words are empty. Secondly it is a warning to the nation (the people) that they must repent from their sins and that they must listen to Jeremiah the true prophet and that they will not lend their ear to the false and empty words of the false prophets. Otherwise there will be consequences. And what happened? They ignored God’s warning because how can one prophet speak the truth if so many prophets speak of good tidings and have these beautiful messages and has this positive and loving outlook. No Jeremiah – this doom and gloom message is not true. Thus, God said to them because you did not listen to me you will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years (Jer. 25v11). They did not repent, and God punished them.

God is warning us here as well, to our churches, government, preachers and leaders, especially the church leaders of our time and then to us as a nation, that we must repent from our evil ways or God will punish us just like his chosen people Israel. If God did not spare them from discipline, why would God spare us. We do not want to repent.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.



Application: what difference does it make?

Jeremiah 23:9  Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words.

There is very specific teaching here. The prophet states that his heart is broken because of these prophets and even more because of God and His holy words. The temple has been defiled by these corrupt prophets and they spoke out of their own heart, they spoke of a false peace where there was no peace. They spoke out of themselves and not of God because God did not send them.

We must be careful and watchful, because there are many so called men of God which God did not sent who speaks out of themselves and not of God, who are corrupt and full of lies even if they seem if they have good intentions – hell is full of persons who had good intentions, good intentions does not get you into heaven and good intentions does not bring salvation . They are defiling the church just like the false prophets in the time of Jeremiah and they are becoming more deceitful and even wise with their words and they do seem spiritual and godly. Even though they are not. We need to listen to these words and if we are teachers we must go back to the word of God and see what it really said, because we can be guilty as well. Speaking something out of our own heart and not preaching what God really meant. Scripture can only mean what the author inspired by God tried to say to the original hearers. Scripture cannot mean something it never could have meant to the author or his/her hearers. And if we preach something different than the intended meaning we are on a path of destruction and becoming false teachers ourselves.

This is a warning to us, that we must observe the scripture and know the content, so we can discern about these things, that we can spot false teachings. That we must repent from our own ways.

We must test the spirit, not just believe anyone but compare them to the word of God

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.


Implementation: what must I change?

There is quite a lot to say but to keep it short and very practical will be very simple: we live in a world and age where the Devil knows his time is basically over. He is like a ravenous lion, very angry and he wants to kill us and if he can deceive is he will be smiling. We live in a time where every second person gets a dream and every 3rd person is a prophet or has a vision, and strange enough we run after them like sheep going to the slaughter house – and the end will be death and that forever. We don’t read the scripture anymore, we want to experience the spirit and these false teachers are giving this kind of emotional experience and we want to follow that and not hear what God has to say. We must compare the teachings of these prophets and then we will realize how many of them do not teach according to the scripture and Christ crucified. Jesus said take up your cross and follow me:

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

And a lot of these false teachers and the world teach “love yourself” and have a good life on earth etc. we must change our habits of believing just anyone and see if they are teaching according to the word of God and the only way for us to do this is to read and study the Bible


Anon., 2011. Bible dictionary. Nashville: common English Bible.

Clarke, A., n.d. Clarke’s commentary volume II. New york: Abingdon press.

Henry, M., 1995. Commentary on the whole Bible. Chicago: OM Literature .

strong, J., 2007. strongs Exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson publishers.

Walton, A. E. H. &. J. H., 2000. A survey of the Old Testament. 3rd edition ed. Michigan: Zondervan.


2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s