Ezekiel was a prophet of God who lived most of his life in Babylon during the time of the exile. In addition to the trauma of losing his homeland, Ezekiel lost his wife suddenly. The circumstances of Ezekiel’s wife’s death were divinely orchestrated, and her death was used by God to teach His people in captivity a lesson.
Why did God kill Ezekiel’s wife? Scripture never frames it in those terms, but it’s clear that her death was according to God’s plan—as everyone’s death is (see Psalm 31:15; 139:16; Ecclesiastes 3:2). Here is Ezekiel’s record of the event, starting with God’s announcement to Ezekiel that his wife would die: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes’” (Ezekiel 24:15–16).
So Ezekiel has a warning before the sudden death of his beloved wife—God was going to take away “the delight of his eyes.” We naturally question why this had to be, but God’s further instructions to Ezekiel prompt even more questions: “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 your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners” (Ezekiel 24:16–17).
The prophet Ezekiel obediently followed through on his difficult instructions: “So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded” (Ezekiel 24:18). In other words, Ezekiel’s wife died, but he did not weep openly or observe the traditional mourning rituals. As per God’s command, he kept his emotions bottled up inside.
God used the death of Ezekiel’s wife as a sign to the people of Judah. Those around Ezekiel began asking him to explain his silent sorrow: “Why are you acting like this?” they said (Ezekiel 24:19).
Ezekiel’s answer came straight from God: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. And you will do as I have done. You will not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners. You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 24:21–24).
The prophecy occasioned by the death of Ezekiel’s wife was a dire one. Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem—the delight of the people’s eyes—would be suddenly destroyed. And the people, when they heard the news in Babylon, would respond in stunned, sorrowful silence. Their grief would be so overwhelming that groaning and pining away would be all they could do. They would act this way because of their sins (Ezekiel 24:23); that is, they would remember the national sins that led to the tragedy.
Ezekiel obviously had tremendous faith in God to obey such an assignment. Most likely, he looked to the future resurrection of the dead, as Abraham had done when offering Isaac (see Hebrews 11:17–19). Ezekiel was faithful to his divine task, but he felt keenly the suffering endured by his people in consequence of their sins. The sign of Ezekiel’s wife’s death was ultimately God’s way of showing the Jews that He is God (Ezekiel 24:24). He is true to His word and faithful in His judgments.
We, like Ezekiel, must remain humble and submit ourselves to God’s supreme knowledge in everything (see James 4:7–10). God chose to take the life of Ezekiel’s wife for His own reasons, which He revealed to Ezekiel. As the source of life and as the One who holds the keys of death, God doesn’t need to ask for our permission to take anyone’s life. He is the sovereign ruler, and He has the final say on all matters concerning life and death.
May we choose in faith to adopt Job’s attitude after tragedy beset him: “Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20–22).