4. O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.
4. Tanquam vulpes in locis solitaries prophetae tui, Israel, fuerunt.
Hence Ezekiel exposes the snares of the false prophets. The ten tribes had been dispersed, just as if a field or a vineyard had been removed from a habitable neighborhood into desert regions, and foxes held their sway there instead. For they have many hiding-places; they insinuate themselves through hedges and all openings, and so break into the vineyard or field, and lay waste its fruits. Such, as I have said, was the condition of the people from the time of its dispersion. While the Israelites dwelt at home, they were in some way retained within their duty, as if fortified by certain ramparts. At Jerusalem, too, the high Priest presided over spiritual trials, that no impious doctrine should creep in: but now, since the people were so dispersed, greater license was given to the false prophets to corrupt the people, since the miserable exiles were exposed to these foxes; for they were liable to injuries just as if desert regions surrounded them. Being thus destitute of protection, it was easy for foxes to enter by clandestine arts, and to destroy whatever good fruits existed. Meanwhile Ezekiel obliquely reproves the people's carelessness. Although they were dispersed, and were so open to the snares of the false prophets, yet they thought to have been attentive and cautious, and God would doubtless have afforded them aid, as he promises to his people the spirit of discretion and judgment whenever they need it. (1 Corinthians 12:10.) But when the Israelites were wandering exiles, and attention to the law no longer flourished among them, it came to pass that foxes, meaning their false prophets, easily entered. Whence it follows that the people were not free from faults, since they exposed themselves to the snares of these false prophets. It follows --
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