Like Jeremiah, another prophet for God, Ezekiel, went through a personal trauma in his love (family) life. On the exact day the King of Babylon started his siege against Jerusalem, a personal tragedy struck Ezekiel. He had his love -his wife taken away from him. God told him not to mourn. (Ezekiel 24:16) We were not told the reason of her death. She could have been in chronic ill health or something. But the strange thing is that Ezekiel is told not to respond like one does in the normal Jewish culture. He was not forbidden to sorrow, and was only prohibited from a loud manifestation of it, which was in contrast to the usual loud wailing on such occasions. He was allowed to sigh in private. What kind of relationship Ezekiel had with his wife? How did this affect him? We don’t know how old he was and how long they have been married when she passed away.
But we know that he really loves her. In 24:16 The wife was described as “the desire of his eyes.” God told him he was to be a sign to the Jewish exiles (captives like him) in Babylon. In 24:24-25, through Ezekiel, the Lord prophesied that Jerusalem, “their stronghold, their joy and their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that on which they set their mind…will be taken from them. This could imply that in the same way Ezekiel has treasured and loved his wife deeply. She was his joy and glory and the desire of his eyes. Instead of saying her name she is called “the desire of his eyes” which points to a dear and loving relationship. Throughout the book Ezekiel is presented to us as a man of deep feeling and emotion who often mourned and wept over the fate of Jerusalem and Judah. He certainly was deeply affected by this sudden loss of a dear companion and spouse.
He really loves her. Yet, in days when public testimony demands that he rises superior to private sorrows, he obeys and rises as he is called and empowered to do so!
We learn from this episode two important things that override our natural emotion. The depth of relationship between the prophet Ezekiel and the Lord, and the work of the Holy Spirit. I summarize below the ministry of Ezekiel so that we can have a clearer understanding of this event.
Ezekiel from Judah was a young priest when he was taken captive to Babylon together with the king and other nobles and leaders. Ezekiel is rather unique among the prophets. God communicated with him in Babylon. He encountered the Holy Spirit and saw visions relevant to God’s plans for reconstructing the present world and restoring His people. Ezekiel received most of his prophesies as visions. He is famous for the vision of the valley of scattered dry bones which resurrected!
37:1-14 the Spirit of God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones and shows him that God can still revive His people even when they are dead for a long time, beyond any hope. The Spirit is also guiding, directing and empowering Ezekiel for his prophetic ministry. As Ezekiel prophesied, the scattered bones came together, sinews and flesh came upon them, the breath came into them, and they lived, an exceeding great army!
The book read like nothing you have ever imagined before. Read as much as you can! Read the first three chapters on what he saw and the Lord’s calling for him to be a watchman for God. He was asked to enact the prophecies with physical actions as visual signs to the people. (Chapters 4-6). 8:3 He was taken by the Lord (the Holy Spirit) to see the defiled Temple where 10:18 God’s glory left. 40:2 The Lord also took him and showed him the future Temple where God’s glory would return.
Returning to the subject of his sudden loss of his beloved wife and him not allowed to mourn the loss the way his people always do, the only explanation given in the Bible is this verse spoken by God, 24:27 “…thus you shall be a sign to them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” Could he have refused to be a prophet? Did he have a choice? The Bible does not record those who were called but rejected the call. In the case of Ezekiel, he made it to the history of God with His people, because he responded to the call.
Unlike Jeremiah, Ezekiel lived in Babylon and was already happily married and had his own house. He had a stable and secure life there. Many Jews did well in business and prospered while in exile. As God had assured, the captivity was for seventy years after which they would return to Israel. Ezekiel could have chosen like others, not to be a prophet/watchman. Then he would not have seen all those visions. These are some of the visions he would have missed,
1:1 the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 1:3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest…and the hand (Spirit) of the Lord was upon him there. 4 Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire… 26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, …28 …This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking…
There are few Ezekiels in this world. If you are one, when the call comes, how would you choose? Jesus expects His disciples to leave all behind and follow Him without looking backward, and He uses the example of a plower. Simple logic, when you are plowing the field, you only see what is ahead and move forward. For Ezekiel too, his wife has died and he believes she will resurrect one day. So he trusts God and moves forward. No, Ezekiel is no ordinary priest. He has a depth of knowledge of God. He sees what others cannot see. This is a man who loves His God, His country, His people, and of course his wife.