I hadn’t given this passage much thought in the past. Then I got an email asking who hunts souls and what that is talking about.
Ezekiel 13:18-23 talks about false prophetesses who “hunt for souls.” These false prophetesses were involved in occult practices. The word occult means hidden or secret. They used magic charms (vv 18, 20) and likely used spells and incantations, for a price, to keep the people who came to them alive and well.
Souls (in “you hunt the souls of My people”) does not refer to the immaterial part of people. In the Tyndale commentary on Ezekiel, John Taylor says,
“It means the total person, the self, not just a part of him. By their sorceries these women were trying to possess and dominate those who came under their influence, and like so many witch-doctors they held the power of life and death over them”(p. 124).
The point is that they were seeking to gain followers and supporters, financially and spiritually. So we might say they were hunting for people whom they could influence, dominate, etc.
Taylor says that they offered “a spurious salvation” from calamity in this life (p. 125). Instead of telling people that they must turn from their wicked ways to escape temporal judgment, which was the message of true prophets, they called them to occult practices to be delivered from enemies, illness, and ultimately death.
I remember a missionary kid in a course on salvation I was teaching at Woodcrest College (formerly, Dallas Bible College). He told me that the tribal people his parents worked with in South America nearly all had charms and amulets they wore. He asked me, “Do you think they need to give up those things in order to be born again?” I responded with this question, “Are they looking to the charms and amulets to give them eternal salvation?” “No,” he said. “They look to them to ward off evil spirits in this life.”
They used these things to save them from calamities in this life. The occult practices did not stop in Ezekiel’s day. I told the student that the answer to his question is no. While it is foolish and harmful even simply to carry around a charm or amulet—or even a St. Christopher or a little figurine of Mary, the condition of everlasting life is faith in Christ. It is possible to believe in Jesus for everlasting life and yet somehow illogically think that charms and amulets can help him ward off evil in this life. Of course, if one is heavily involved in the occult, he will probably not come to faith in Jesus unless he gives up those practices. But the reason is not because giving up those things is required. It is because the beliefs of the occult are antithetical to faith in Jesus for everlasting life. After all, if I do not think that Jesus will save me from difficulties in this life, it is hard to believe that He will save me from eternal condemnation.
What about the person who is already a believer in Jesus Christ? Might not such a person be duped by the occult? Sadly, the answer is yes. It might start as simply as reading the horoscopes online or in the newspaper. Friends might seek to draw you in. Of course, if a believer goes down this path, he is on the path of suffering and death. While the eternal destiny of the believer is secure, his health and wellness in this life is not guaranteed.
Voodoo. Santeria. Witchcraft. Magic. Kulam. New Age Mysticism. There are lots of people today who are hunting for people’s lives. While He who is in us (if we are believers) is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), we must not get involved with the occult. The occult destroys lives.