Prophets of the Bible

False Prophets and Suchlike

Beware of false prophets, necromancers, diviners, soothsayers, and child-slayers
Leviticus 19:31, 20:27; 2 Kings 21:1-9
1 Samuel 28:3-25
Deuteronomy 18:9-22
2 Peter 1:16 – 2:3
1 John 4:1-16

400 Prophets of Samaria vs. Micaiah
1 Kings 22:1-14
1 Kings 22:15-39, They were wrong; he was right.

Other scriptures about false prophets
Ezekiel 13:1-16, False prophets proclaim peace when there is no peace
Ezekiel 13:17-23, Equal opportunity in false prophecy
Acts 19:1-20, Exorcism isn’t as easy as it looks
Micah 3:1-7, Getting paid to prophesy doesn’t necessarily make you a prophet
Jeremiah 23:9-24, False prophets are in trouble with the LORD
Jeremiah 23:25-40, False prophets are in trouble with the LORD
Matthew 7:15-23, How to recognize a false prophet
Matthew 24:23-31, Also beware of false messiahs; the real Messiah will be unmistakable

More Prophets of the Bible

Copyright information, disclaimers, and sponsors
Return to homepage

Beware of false prophets, necromancers, diviners, soothsayers, and child-slayers

Leviticus 19:31, 20:27; 2 Kings 21:1-9 (4/18/16)

The New Testament has a word, “pseudoprophet,” that the Old Testament doesn’t have. The OT calls both true prophets and false prophets “prophets.” Both Testaments tell you not to believe the false prophets, however. They also tell you how to tell them apart, and they warn you against a variety of other practitioners of various prophecy-looking arts, e.g., necromancy or divination.

Now, the Bible doesn’t a lot give reasons for this prohibition, other than “Because I’m God, and I say so” (see Leviticus 19:31). So here I’m going to give you my opinion. Divination, necromancy, idol-worship, and so on, attempt to coerce God, the gods, or spirits into doing the will of the practitioner. (As an aside, they are usually practiced for profit.) God can’t be coerced, and it irritates him when we try. Like I say, my opinion. Certainly the Old Testament accepts the existence of other gods (real or not) and spirits (e.g., demons and angels), and it also irritates God when we try to enlist their aid instead of his, either by coercion or by worship (e.g., 2 Kings 1).

Not just my opinion, but just a plain reading of scripture: we should neither practice nor consult the practitioners of divination, necromancy, idol worship, or child sacrifice.


1 Samuel 28:3-25 (4/19/16)

Somewhat to my surprise, the Bible doesn’t say that mediums and the spirits they summon aren’t real. It just says it’s against God’s law to consult mediums or to summon spirits. Saul had outlawed mediums and necromancers (again – Moses had already done this), but when he couldn’t get an answer from God, he decided to consult Samuel, who was dead. He went to a medium, commonly known as “the witch of Endor,” even though she wasn’t what we would call a witch. Samuel’s spirit tells Saul that it’s no use asking him anything, for two reasons. First, if God isn’t answering, Samuel hasn’t got anything to say. And second, Saul and his sons will be dead tomorrow, so what’s the point? However, you’ve got to hand it to Saul. Lots of guys would have skedaddled, but Saul led his army out the next day as usual. And died.


Deuteronomy 18:9-22 (4/20/16)

Two parts of these instructions from Moses interest me. First is that apparently divination, fortune telling, sorcery, necromancy, or being a medium are just as bad as burning children as offerings. Necromancy, which is the use of death to practice magic, sure; I can see how that’s right in there with child sacrifice. But fortune telling? Really? Stay away from all this stuff; they are bad for your spiritual health.

Second, remember when Samuel went to Bethlehem to visit Jesse, and everybody came out to him trembling with fear (1 Samuel 16:4)? People knew that prophets spoke for God, and usually God only sends a prophet when he’s upset. So naturally, the question arises of how you can tell a false prophet from a true prophet (Deuteronomy 18:21 below). The simple answer is that if their prophecies come true, they speak for God, and if their prophecies don’t come true, they don’t. And in vs. 22, it clearly says that if they don’t speak for God, you don’t have to be afraid of them.


2 Peter 1:16 – 2:3 (4/21/16)

Peter confirms what we read yesterday from Deuteronomy. All true prophecy comes from God (vss. 19-21). There are also false prophets, however, who speak destructive messages and try to exploit you (vss. 1-3).

Notice that the business about prophets, true and false, spans the chapter break. Always read at least 10 verses before and after what you are interested in, just to make sure you are getting the whole picture.


1 John 4:1-16 (4/22/16)

John tells us how to identify false prophets. They speak with a spirit that is not from God. First, they don’t acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, and second, they aren’t loving. When you think “the Spirit” is urging you to do something, apply this test. Is it loving? If it isn’t loving, Jesus wouldn’t do it, and neither should we. Probably that urge is coming from “a spirit,” not “the Spirit.”

400 Prophets of Samaria vs. Micaiah

1 Kings 22:1-14 (4/25/16)

After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom split into two parts, which were at war with each other for roughly 40 years. King Jehoshaphat made peace between the two kingdoms and cemented the alliance by marrying his heir to the daughter of King Ahab of Israel. Meantime, Ahab had married a Philistine princess named Jezebel (yes, that Jezebel), and between them they introduced the worship of Baal into Israel. So when Jehoshaphat “goes down” (that is, downhill from Jerusalem) to visit Ahab, it’s not surprising that Jehoshaphat has to ask that they consult a prophet of the LORD, as opposed to all the prophets surrounding the court of King Ahab. Ahab is grumpy about it, because the only available prophet of the LORD is Micaiah, who never has anything good to say about him.


1 Kings 22:15-39, They were wrong; he was right (4/26/16)

Back in the old days when I worked for a living, I occasionally had to get some co-worker to review one of my papers. If they had no comments other than “It’s fine as is; send it to the print shop,” I would never have them review another paper. I’m a good writer, but not that good. On the other side of the coin, several people had me review their papers precisely because they knew I’d cover them in red ink.

King Ahab was just the opposite of me and my favorite reviewers. All of the prophets that he likes have told him, “Yes, do what you want to do! You will be victorious!” This is why he likes them. At King Jehoshaphat’s request, he finally sent for Micaiah, his least favorite prophet. At first Micaiah repeats the party line, but something about the way he says it convinces Ahab that this isn’t the truth. When he demands the truth, Micaiah says that if Ahab goes through with his plan, he’ll be killed. He adds a few critical words about the other prophets. Micaiah is jailed for his trouble, and Ahab dies in battle. This is one lesson on how to tell false prophets from true prophets, although Ahab didn’t live long enough to profit from it.

Other scriptures about false prophets

Ezekiel 13:1-16, False prophets proclaim peace when there is no peace (4/27/16)

I’m reading Nancy Bowen’s commentary on Ezekiel, and I have to tell you that Ezekiel is a hard book. Hard to read, hard to understand, and hard to accept. Thank God for scholars who help us through the difficulties!

Anyway, God takes an especially hard line with the false prophets who proclaim peace when there is no peace, who whitewash the truth, and who claim to speak for God when they speak only for themselves.


Ezekiel 13:17-23, Equal opportunity in false prophecy (4/28/16)

Not all prophets were men. Among others, Moses’ sister Miriam and the judge Deborah were both prophets. And as it turns out, some of the false prophets were women as well. Notice in vs. 29 that some of them were prophesying for money, which was always a sign of a false prophet.


Acts 19:1-20, Exorcism isn’t as easy as it looks (4/29/16)

Although consulting evil spirits is against the rules, casting out evil spirits is definitely allowed. It’s apparently not as easy as Jesus and the apostles make it look, however. Since priesthood was a hereditary office, the sons of Sceva were probably either priests or in training to be priests; nevertheless, the evil spirit not only wasn’t subject to them, it overpowered them. The spirit didn’t recognized their authority, even though it admitted it would recognize the authority of Jesus or Paul. The people of Ephesus, apparently assuming that the sons of Sceva had been trying to use magic, burned all their books on magic, just to be on the safe side. Not a bad idea.


Micah 3:1-7, Getting paid to prophesy doesn’t necessarily make you a prophet (5/2/16)

You need to be a little skeptical about paid advertisements when every product is either “the best quality” or “the best value.” The LORD says the same thing about prophets who say everything is fine when they are being paid, but who are vindictive against anyone who refuses to pay. Such seers will receive no visions from God.


Jeremiah 23:9-24, False prophets are in trouble with the LORD (5/3/16)

Jeremiah 23 is apparently the longest indictment of false prophets in the Bible. I find it especially interesting that prophesying falsely in the name of the LORD is worse than prophesying falsely in the name of Baal. I guess if someone tells me a lie in the name of Baal, I should expect that, but if someone tells me a lie in the name of the LORD, I might believe it. The deception is greater in the latter case.

Another interesting item is found in vs. 18. True prophets had to be in the presence of God when they were called. (See, for example, Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 1, Ezekiel 1 and 2, Hosea 1, etc.) God says that because he hasn’t spoken with the false prophets, their messages cannot be from him. Other clues that they are false prophets are that their messages are “don’t worry, be happy” (vs. 17) and that their messages have not led to repentance (vs. 22).


Jeremiah 23:25-40, False prophets are in trouble with the LORD (5/4/16)

The LORD continues to criticize the false prophets through the true prophet Jeremiah. Apparently God was getting real tired of hearing false prophets report that they had received “the burden of the LORD,” although I can’t explain why those words were so irritating to him. One way of telling a false prophet, however, is that they have dreams instead of hearing the word of God. Remember I said yesterday that God speaks personally to real prophets, and if the person hasn’t heard that voice, most likely he or she is a false prophet.

But how are you and I to know whether he or she is telling the truth about hearing God? Easy. Do the short-term prophecies come true? If the “prophet” says “Peace,” and what you see the next day is war: false prophet. If the prophet says, “Such and such will happen tomorrow,” and it happens: true prophet. We’ve read several scriptures telling us that a prophetic utterance should be judged in the light of the fairly short-term reality. Otherwise, we have no way of determining the value of the long-term predictions.


Matthew 7:15-23, How to recognize a false prophet (5/5/16)

Another way to recognize false prophets and true prophets is by observing how they live their own lives. Actions speak louder than words. Is a person doing the will of God and encouraging others to do the same through the voice of prophecy? True prophet. (Note the “voice of prophecy” there. A person living a Godly life and encouraging others to do the same could also be a preacher, teacher, or fellow-believer.) Is a person living a life without God but demanding that you do the will of God? False prophet (vss. 22-23).

Also, remember that God rarely sends a prophet when we don’t need one. A prophet who says, “God thinks everything is just fine; you don’t need to change,” is almost certainly a false prophet. God usually sends a prophet to bring us back. A prophet who says, “God is angry and will never forgive you even if you change,” is certainly a false prophet. The prophet who says, “God is angry; change your ways NOW, and God will take you back,” is almost certainly a true prophet.


Matthew 24:23-31, Also beware of false messiahs; the real Messiah will be unmistakable (5/6/16)

While you are avoiding false prophets, take a moment to avoid false messiahs as well. I never quite know what to say when I’m told that the latest war, earthquake, or famine is a sign that the end is near. Jesus says specifically in Matthew 24:6-7 that they are not signs that the end is near. I also don’t know what to make of some “messiah” who makes a splash for a day or two and gathers up 10 or 20 believers while the rest of us are saying, “Who?” When the real Messiah comes for the real end, everybody, everywhere will know about it immediately.

I hope you’ve learned as much as I have from our study about false prophets; the main lesson has been that we can’t learn anything from false prophets.


More Prophets of the Bible

Major Prophets:
Isaiah

Minor Prophets:
Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk
Haggai, Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel

False Prophets

Prophets without Books:
Elijah


Copyright 2016, 2017 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

Our Sponsors:

St. John’s United Methodist Church, “Transforming Lives Through Christ.”
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
Traditional worship services are held Sundays at 8:15 and 11:00 a.m. in the sanctuary.  Casual worship services are held Sundays at 9:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center.  Jazz Vespers are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John’s feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program.

Storm Dragon SoftwareTM
Get a free demo of our computer adventure game, full of hidden-object puzzles, tiling and jigsaw puzzles, cycling puzzles, and more.

Age Games: Animal ReaderTM
Computer games that children can play all by themselves!

Ducks in a Row, Inc., developers of Home Safe SoftwareTM.
Keep It SafeTM - Home inventory software so easy anybody can use it.