2 Samuel 17; 2 Corinthians 10; Ezekiel 24; Psalm 72
THE SECOND PART OF EZEKIEL 24 (Ezek. 24:15-27) is perhaps the most wrenching passage in the entire book. Elsewhere we catch glimpses of Ezekiel the faithful prophet, Ezekiel the stern witness to the truth of God, Ezekiel the man prepared to act out extraordinary symbol-laden parables. Here we read of Ezekiel the husband. Some observations:
(1) A tiny hint of how Ezekiel viewed his wife peeps through the expression that God uses: “the delight of your eyes” (Ezek. 24:16). If Ezekiel was thirty years of age in the fifth year of the exile (Ezek. 1:1-2), then now in the ninth year (Ezek. 24:1) he could not have been more than thirty-four or thirty-five, and probably his wife was no older. Ezekiel is not the only leader of God’s people to suffer devastating personal bereavement. Here he is told in advance that the blow will come (to know in advance is both a blessing and an agony), but he is also commissioned not to grieve: his silence on such an occasion, in a society known for its uninhibited expressions of grief, becomes another symbolic prophetic action.
(2) One can almost feel the massive restraint in the terse words, “in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded” (Ezek. 24:18, italics added). His silence might have been misunderstood as callousness, but in this case not for long. The people know what sort of man he is, and discern that his utter self-restraint carries a message for them (Ezek. 24:19).
(3) Ezekiel conveys to the people the significance of his silence (Ezek. 24:20-24). The delight of their eyes, their heart’s desire, that on which they still pin their hopes, is the city of Jerusalem. From there, they have thought, God will break out and rescue them. But Jerusalem will be taken away, just as Ezekiel’s wife has been taken away. And when this happens, they are not to weep any more than Ezekiel has mourned the death of his wife.
What does this mean? (a) Some think this is a condemnation of the people: they are so callous and insensitive that they will not bother to mourn the fall of the city. This interpretation is entirely out of tune with the book as a whole. (b) Others think that the tragedy of Jerusalem’s destruction is too deep for any expression of grief to be appropriate. That is possible, but Ezekiel is not silent because of the depth of his loss but because of the command of God. (c) It may be, then, that the people are here commanded not to grieve for the fall of the city, since the judgment is so richly deserved (cf. Ezek. 14:22-23; 1 Sam. 16:1).
Regarding Ezek. 24:25-27, reflect on Ezek. 3:26-27 and Ezek. 33:21-22.