“the prophets.” In this context, “the prophets” are the false prophets. Sadly, there were so many false prophets that Jeremiah could just call them “the prophets.” In those days of trouble when Judah had been under threat and assault by Babylon, and would end up being destroyed by her, the number of false prophets grew like weeds. For example, the word “prophet” occurs over 90 times in Jeremiah, whereas in Isaiah, which is a longer book, it occurs less than ten times.
In times of danger it is natural for people to want to know what is going to happen and so arrogant people step forward and claim to speak for God even though God has not spoken to them. The Devil assists in that deception because many of those “prophets” acquire a demon that feeds them information, some of which is false and misleading, although some of it is true, which is how they get credibility in the first place (cp. the slave girl who had a “python spirit” and prophesied about the future; Acts 16:16-18). According to Jeremiah 23, the false prophets were not sent by God and were ungodly, wicked, liars, and adulterers. They prophesied by Baal and led Judah astray, and they filled people with false hope as they spoke from their own minds, not from Yahweh. Zephaniah 3:4 adds that these false prophets were arrogant and treacherous. They were deceivers, and a person who believed their words and followed their advice eventually was ruined.
It is sad that so many times in history the sound of the large number of ungodly and misleading voices is a huge roar while the godly voices seem to be a quiet whisper in comparison, but that is the nature of our fallen world, which is mostly controlled by the Devil and his people (1 John 5:19). Truth is available, and although it can sometimes seem hard to find it can be found. But that is why the Bible has kept repeating the message that godly people must seek and keep seeking God and truth, and that if they do seek Him from the heart, they will find Him (Deut. 4:29; Prov. 2:3-6; 8:17; Jer. 29:13; Matt. 7:7). God-seekers and truth-seekers must be courageous, however, because once you find truth you will find that living it openly in the world can be very challenging (2 Tim. 3:12).