9

Ezekiel does a lot of strange things at the behest of Yahweh. One of the most poignant is set out in 24:16 (ESV):

"Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down."

The text goes on to explain the details of how he is to refrain from mourning, the report of how he carried out his instructions, and an explanation that Ezekiel's wife's death prefigures the destruction of the temple, "the delight of your eyes". Yahweh himself claims responsibility for this.1 Verses 22-24 either command or predict that they too will not mourn:

... you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do.

  • What is the point of Ezekiel not mourning his wife and his audience not mourning the temple?

  • Is the latter meant as a command or a prediction?

  • Are there related texts where the people are told (or witnessed) not to mourn the loss of the temple?

  • Does Yahweh elsewhere depict himself profaning his own sanctuary like this?


1. Verse 21: "Behold, I will profane my sanctuary"; hinənî məḥallēl ʾet–miqdāšî.

  • Hopefully I can get away with those last two Qs which are, in a way, "searching for a text". The implied (and real) motive is rather to understand this text -- why here? (If necessary we could limit it to references within Ezekiel itself or Jeremiah ( ...and maybe Nahum/Zephaniah/(Isaiah?)).) The questions are closely related enough for me, but this too is open for discussion/revision. I wouldn’t mind answers that do a thorough job at explaining even one of these. – Susan Dec 13 '15 at 7:19
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Regarding your four questions:

  1. I believe the text notes that Ezekiel's not mourning (אֵ֫בֶל; funeral mourning) his wife was a sign (Ezek 24:24a-b) for what Israel would do (i.e. God is not commanding them to not mourn, but is in fact prophesying of what their response to the news of the Temple falling would be). This, to me, seems clear because of the final statement in Ezek 24:24c, "and when this comes, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD" (NKJV). This purpose of knowing God as the true God is a phrase used throughout Ezekiel (about 57 times), and it is contingent upon God prophesying things ahead of time about what He is going to do or that will come about after He has forecast it. He is not relying on Israel's obedience (i.e. to obey a command to not mourn) to make this revelation known, but relying on the reality of what will be that He has forecast ahead (their hearts will be so hard against God and His sanctuary, what they had held in such high esteem verbally [Jer 7:4], but not actually [Jer 7:30, Ezek 8:1-17], that they will not mourn the loss); but they that escape to the mountains at the fall of Jerusalem will mourn their iniquity (Ezek 7:16, 18) and they in captivity with Ezekiel will "pine away [מקק; melt/dissolve] in your iniquities and mourn [נהם; groan/roar] with one another" (Ezek 24:23c).

  2. As I stated in #1, a prediction.

  3. Not that I am aware of; I can't think in Scripture of another circumstance where such a prediction would be valid (as the Temple was only destroyed this once in their history, prior to the 70 A.D. destruction of the second temple, and circumstances were different between those two events). However, the seller not mourning at the destruction to come on Israel somewhat parallels (in a broader sense) a lack of mourning for the destruction (Ezek 7:12).

  4. Yes, He forecasts His "profaning" (though the term is not used there) in Jer 7:12-15 (all bolding in this section is added):

    12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it [cf. Ps 78:60] because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these works,” says the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh [cf. Jer 26:6]. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren—the whole posterity of Ephraim.

    The ark was moved from Shiloh without God's sanction, by disobedient priests, and God brought judgement upon Eli and his family, for God's glory had departed (1 Sam 4:10-22); after that, Shiloh was no longer the place, as it had been, where God had put his name (Dt 12:11, Josh 18:1).

    Then again Jeremiah speaks of this in Lam 2:7 (some believe this is prophecy, some believe it is reflection after the fact of the events):

    The Lord has spurned His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary; He has given up the walls of her palaces Into the hand of the enemy. They have made a noise in the house of the LORD As on the day of a set feast.

    Then God mentions previously in Ezekiel (7:22, 24) that He would do such to Temple, because of the abominations they placed there:

    22 I will turn My face from them, And they will defile My secret place; [the Temple] For robbers shall enter it and defile it. ... 24 Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles, And they will possess their houses; I will cause the pomp of the strong to cease, And their holy places shall be defiled. [which were in the Temple]

    And then in Ezek 9:5-7 God mentions defiling the temple with the slain of the wicked elders:

    5 To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; fdo not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. 7 Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city.

That is all I can muster at this time to answer your questions in the way I think the passage is intended to be taken.

3

I've read this passage a few times and admit to being awed by it. I can't imagine Ezekiel's pain, but feel very deeply for him. My heart cries for him. However, this really isn't all just about Ezekiel or his pain although it has some relevancy as a secondary consideration. It's about the Temple that would be destroyed, which is compared to his wife, of whom we are given no other information. As she was the "desire of thine eye" in the sight of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 24:16), so was the Temple "the desire of your eyes" (speaking to the people in Ezekiel 24:21).

The primary point then is, I believe, Ezekiel would lose something important to him, and the people would lose something important to them ... the Temple, which the people profaned (Ezekiel 8). Because they had done so, God could not allow the Temple, which was dedicated to Him (1 Kings 9:3), to remain. He had already departed from it (Ezekiel 10-11), so there was no use for it, nor would He allow it to experience more abominable practices therein.

Secondarily, the emotion attached to Ezekiel's loss would be felt by the people who would feel the loss of sons and daughters during the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 24:21). Like Ezekiel, they were not to mourn either (Ezekiel 24:22-23). The reason for not being allowed to mourn, as suggested by the passages, was just punishment for their iniquities. In other words, they brought it upon themselves. Can we rightly lament over being punished for what we know we deserve? Jeremiah begged them to repent and avoid being displaced from the land (Jeremiah 4:1-4). He told them again and again what would happen if they continued their unrighteous ways. He even told them Nebuchadnezzar would come if they didn't repent (Jeremiah 5:15-17). They didn't listen. Israel, therefore, would suffer for their iniquities and pine over it (Ezekiel 24:23). Time and time again, God tried to get Israel to repent (Ezekiel 24:13), but they would not, so just punishment was given. So in this regard, Ezekiel, who had to bear the burden of the sins of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms before (Ezekiel 4:4-6), and his silent suffering was a sign of what was to come (Ezekiel 24:24).

2

Rashi explains, at verse 22, and others explain that God commanded Ezekiel to not follow any of the restrictions of mourning (from these verses, Jews actually learn the Torah's restrictions on mourners) because of the coming destruction of the Temple (which God reveals He will cause strangers to do because of Israel's iniquities) and the exile of the nation. Since everyone was going to be a mourner, there would be no non-mourners to comfort them, so they might as well go on and act as they would normally. When the people saw Ezekiel act in this way, they realized that there must be a lesson for them.

Rashi, there, also suggests that the Jews were not to appear to mourn so as not to give satisfaction to the Chaldeans who were celebrating.

0

The Book of Ezekiel is notable for the careful way in which the author regularly tells us the exact date on which he receives his visions. Either Ezekiel was attempting to assure his sceptical readers that he really did experience these visions before the related prophecies came to pass, or he kept a series of journal notes, dating each one as written, for future reference.

Verses 24:1-2 place this chapter during the final Babylonian assault on Jerusalem, in the "tenth day of the tenth month, in the ninth year," which a NAB footnote says is January 15, 588 BCE. Although the Temple has not yet been destroyed, Babylon has already occupied Jerusalem just a few years earlier and it is not hard for Ezekiel to predict what will happen this time.

Ezekiel was a priest in the service of Yahweh. In verse 8:14-16, he criticises continued worship of Tammuz and solar worship in the Jerusalem temple. There would undoubtedly have been priests who led the worship of the other deities, but Ezekiel believes that Yahweh is a jealous God who has allowed disaster to befall Jerusalem because the people fail to worship him. To convince the people of this, he calls upon Yahweh to speak through him and warn them of the consequences of their wrongdoing.

It is likely that verses 24:15-17 form a vaticinium ex eventu. After all, Ezekiel says the word of the Lord came to him just one day before the death of his wife, and long before he could have written his book.

Some of the symbolism in the Book of Ezekiel is obscure, and just as some of it is extremely offensive to modern readers (cf chapter 23, which is rarely translated literally), so it would have been equally offensive to early Jews not to mourn their dead. Ezekiel is trying to shock his countrymen so as to bring them to their senses. Just as he has not mourned the death of his wife, so they need not mourn the desecration or destruction of the Temple when the Babylonians return. And he hopes the symbolism of failing to mourn such a terrible loss will finally convince the people that the desecration or destruction of the Temple is a real possibility.

In partial answer to the last question, the author of Lamentations provides somewhat similar symbolism:

Lamentations 2:7: The Lord has disowned his altar, rejected his sanctuary; The walls of her towers he has handed over to the enemy, Who shout in the house of the LORD as on a feast day.

  • (haven’t voted yet) The second-to-last paragraph seems to be aimed at the first question (not sure about the rest), but I don’t follow it. “Ezekiel is trying to shock his countrymen" (agreed). “Just as he has not mourned....they need not mourn....” (OK, the text says as much, though I hadn’t taken it as permissive.) “And he hopes the symbolism of failing to mourn will finally convince....” (This is the sentence that seems to address the question, but I don’t follow it.) For Q4, the Lam. quote may indeed be as close as it comes (thanks!), but I'm specifically interested in √ḥll = to profane. – Susan Dec 14 '15 at 1:35
  • @Susan Thank you for your comments, which I find useful. You say you don't follow “And he hopes the symbolism of failing to mourn will finally convince....” The sandwich (if I can call it that) is between " Ezekiel believes that Yahweh is a jealous God who has allowed disaster to befall Jerusalem because the people fail to worship him" and that sentence. In other words, the only hope for the Jews is to worship Yahweh and abandon their other gods. Do you think this needs to be more apparent in my answer? – Dick Harfield Dec 14 '15 at 3:14
  • Right, that’s sort of what the book is about more generally (no, I don’t think it needs further explication here), but his other symbolic actions (done for the purposes you mention) have a connection to Israel’s future that is either readily apparent or made explicit in the text. The destruction of the temple was adequately symbolized by the death of the prophet’s wife, without a need to forbid mourning, and I guess I don’t see why either this or the proscription on (vs. prediction about) mourning the temple that it symbolizes should be necessary. – Susan Dec 14 '15 at 3:53
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Earlier in the text, a previous chapter, it says Ezekiel's wife had commanded the prophet to stop prophesying in Babylon for she feared the safety of her and her son, but no mention of the prophet's safety and was fine with it when they get back to Jerusalem.

The command by God not to mourn, then, is a reflection of her lack of faith and obstruction. She "got in God's way" because her opinion of the circumstance was an idol, a choice to fear and not trust God, or respect the prophet as husband and priest of the home as well as prophet unto the Lord.

It is like Delilah who believed her family would be harmed if she didn't discover Sampson's source of strength. It's a "suckers choice", forgetting that Sampson was her family and to be put first.

  • Hi Stephen! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer. If you quote the passage you are referring to, it would make your point stronger. I do not have Ezekiel memorized and do not know which chapter you are referring to. – Jack Oct 20 '18 at 13:43
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What is the point of Ezekiel not mourning his wife?

God said to Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 24:16 (AMP)

16 “Son of man, listen carefully, I am about to take away from you the desire of your eyes [your wife] with a single stroke. Yet you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not flow.

The scriptures do not tell us the reason for her death,perhaps she was unfaithful to Ezekiel. God commanded Ezekiel to sigh and groan in silence, and to avoid doing the unusual mourning rituals:

Ezekiel 24:17-19 (AMP)

17 "Sigh and groan in silence; do not mourn for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your sandals on your feet, and do not cover your mustache or eat the bread of [mourners furnished by other] men.”

18 "So I spoke to the people in the morning, and [a]in the evening my wife died. And the next morning I did as I was commanded. 19 The people said to me, “These things that you are doing—tell us, what do they mean for us?”

At the time of making his prophecy Ezekiel was taken prisoner by the Babylonians and was prophesying to the Jews in exile , in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar.( Ezekiel 1:1-3.) The Israelites took great pride in the Temple build by Solomon ,and it was unthinkable on their part that God, would allow it to be looted and destroyed by the pagan Babylonians

God prophecises the profaning of the Temple.

Ezelkiel 24:20-25 (NASB)

20 "Then I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me saying, 21 ‘Speak to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am about to profane My sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes and the delight of your soul; and your sons and your daughters whom you have left behind will fall by the sword."

Ezekiel is a sign to them,(a prophecy) they will not mourn the joy of their pride-the destruction of the Sanctuary.

22 "You will do as I have done; you will not cover your mustache and you will not eat the bread of men. 23 Your turbans will be on your heads and your shoes on your feet. You will not mourn and you will not weep, but you will rot away in your iniquities and you will groan [a]to one another."

24 "Thus Ezekiel will be a sign to you; according to all that he has done you will do; when it comes, then you will know that I am the Lord God.’”25 ‘As for you, son of man, will it not be on the day when I take from them their stronghold, the joy of their [b]pride, the desire of their eyes and [c]their heart’s delight, their sons and their daughters."

-Are there related texts where the people are told (or witnessed) not to mourn the loss of the temple?

Have not been able to find related texts where people are told not to mourn.

-Does Yahweh elsewhere depict himself profaning his own sanctuary like this? A key word search "profane" on Bible Gateway , found that the psalmist Asaph prophecised the destruction of the sanctuary:

Psalm 74:7 (NASB)

" They have [a]burned Your sanctuary [b]to the ground; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name." (Also Psalm 79:1)

King Solomon also prophecies the destruction of the Sanctuary.

Lamentations 2:7 (NASB)

"The Lord has rejected His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary; He has delivered into the hand of the enemy The walls of her palaces.They have made a noise in the house of the Lord .As in the day of an appointed feast." (Also Lamentations 1:10)

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