Ezekiel’s Silent Torment

Posted on May 23, 2019

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By David Ettinger

A fictional account based on Ezekiel 24:15-27.

Suffocating Pain
The longest 24 hours of his life had ended, leaving Ezekiel with a void the likes of which he could scarcely bare.

The evening before, his wife died. The following morning he buried her. In the afternoon he told his fellow Jewish exiles what it all meant. That night he lay on his bed in silence. He was prohibited from crying. Or mourning. Groaning was permitted, so long as it was not accompanied by sound.

He felt as if he would burst, and relied on God to sustain him through this darkest day of his life. He wanted to cry out, but knew he could not. God would not let him. But what God prohibited on the outside, He granted on the inside, deep down where it couldn’t be stopped anyway. So Ezekiel grieved, and grieved hard.

And yet, despite his sorrow, he knew it was all part of his calling. From the moment Ezekiel received God’s command to serve Him as His spokesman to God’s people in exile, he knew the task would be brutal.

He knew that because the Lord had told him so. “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites … to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

He was age 30 and felt overwhelmed.

Cherished Partner
Fortunately, he was blessed to have at his side the delight of his life, the wife he absolutely adored and cherished. They had walked as one through the slow, agonizing stages of Israel’s downfall, two righteous souls living among a sinful people destined for severe punishment.

When the Babylonians came to deport them, Ezekiel and his wife were included. In Babylon, they quickly settled in, but being away from their beloved Jerusalem was torture, even if the city was marked for destruction. But there was one source of comfort for them: no matter where they were, they had each other, which was saying a lot.

And then came the most crushing moment of Ezekiel’s life, one he knew would never again be equaled, though he was still a young man.

One early morning as he slept, darkness consuming the Babylonian skies, the prophet heard God speak to him, as he had heard him frequently over the past few years.

“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.”

Ezekiel rose with a terrifying start. His wife stirred at his unexpected jolt, but did not wake. Barely able to breathe, the young prophet leapt from bed and ran out the door to the chilled silence outside. He felt like screaming at the Lord, to unleash the onslaught of disbelief and objection that raged within him.

Ezekiel knew exactly what the Lord was telling him: by that night, his beloved wife would be dead. There was more to the prophecy, Ezekiel knew, that his wife’s death would symbolize the destruction of Israel’s temple and the slaughter of the people of Jerusalem.

On this very day!

And just as Ezekiel would not be allowed to mourn outwardly for his wife, so would the exiles’ grief be so unspeakable at the news of fallen Jerusalem that they, also, would be too devastated to mourn.

The Final Day
And yet, Lord … Ezekiel felt like objecting, but knew he couldn’t.

He spent the next few hours gathering his wits and waiting for the people to begin milling in the town square. When the crowd was large, he told them what was about to happen to Jerusalem, but knew they didn’t believe him. It didn’t matter.

He arrived back home in the late afternoon, where his wife was preparing dinner. At first sight of her he felt his entire being consumed in a wave of furious sorrow which threatened to engulf him.

His wife smiled broadly when she saw him, and kissed him.

 “You left so early today that I did not even have the opportunity to say good-bye,” she said. “Your business must have been urgent.”

Speech was impossible for the shattered man of God; all he could do was grab his beloved and embrace her with all his might. She knew something was wrong.

“Let’s walk,” he said.

Within 10 minutes, Ezekiel told her everything. He wanted so much for her to rail at God over the injustice of it all, to roll around in the dust and throw dirt on her head. All the things he wanted to do but couldn’t.

But she didn’t do any of that. He knew she wouldn’t.

Once the shock had passed, she looked up at Ezekiel, smiled reassuringly, took his hands in hers, and simply said, “May God’s will be done. And may you obey as He has commanded you.”

They went to bed early that night, her nestled in his embrace. No words passed between them. Ezekiel prayed for the event to pass quickly and painlessly.

It did – he heard her final, long exhale. And that was it. She was now with God. And he was all alone. And yet he could not cry.

He rose and began to prepare her for burial the next morning. The morning came and he buried her. The people watched in bewilderment. He told them that Jerusalem had fallen the day before ­– a messenger would soon confirm it.

And he went home. And groaned with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. But without uttering a sound. God helped him survive. But one day, he promised himself, when the time of his silence was lifted, he would send forth a cry of mourning thunderous enough to shake the earth.

She deserved it.

His beloved.

His strength.

His life.