In the ninth year. We pass from the date of Eze_20:1 to B.C. 590, and the very day is identified with that on which the army of Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem (Jer_39:1; 2Ki_25:1-12). To the prophet’s vision all that was passing there was as plain as though he saw it with his own eyes. The siege lasted for about two years. The punishments threatened in Eze_23:1-49, had at last come near. We may probably infer that a considerable interval of silence had followed on the Aholah and Aholibah discourse. Now the time had come to break that silence, and it was broken, after the prophet’s manner, by a parable. In the “rebellious house” we find, as in Eze_2:3 and elsewhere, primarily Ezekiel’s immediate hearers, secondarily the whole house of Israel as represented by them.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.
Behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes – his wife: representing the sanctuary (Eze_24:21) in which the Jews so much gloried. The energy and subordination of Ezekiel’s whole life to his prophetic office is strikingly displayed in this narrative of his wife’s death. It is the only memorable event of his personal history which he records, and this only in reference to his soul-absorbing work. His natural tenderness is shown by that graphic touch, “the desire of thine eyes.” What amazing subjection, then, of his individual feeling to his prophetic duty, as manifested in the simple statement (Eze_24:18), “So I spake unto the people in the morning; and at even my wife died: and I did in the morning as I was commanded.”
With a stroke – a sudden visitation. The suddenness of it enhances the self-control of Ezekiel in so entirely merging individual feeling, which must have been especially acute under such trying circumstances, in the higher claims of duty to God.
Behold, I take away from thee, etc. The next word of the Lord, coming after an interval, is of an altogether exceptional character, as giving one solitary glimpse into the personal home life of the prophet. The lesson which the history teaches is, in substance, the same as that of Jer_16:5. The calamity that falls on the nation will swallow up all personal sorrow, but it is brought home to Ezekiel, who may have read those words with wonder, by a new and terrible experience. We are left to conjecture whether anything in the prophet’s home life furnished a starting-point for the terrible message that was now borne in upon his soul. Had his wife been ill before? or, as the words, with a stroke, suggest, did it fall on him, as a thunderbolt “out of the blue”? I mention, only to reject, the view that the wife’s death belongs as much to the category of symbolic visions as the boiling cauldron. To me such a view seems to indicate an incapacity for entering into a prophet’s life and calling as great as that which sees nothing but an allegory in the history of Gomer in Hos_2:1-23; Hos_3:1-5. We, who accept the Scripture record as we find it, may believe that Ezekiel was taught, as the earlier prophet, to interpret his work by his own personal experience. To Ezekiel himself the loss of one who is thus described as the desire (or, delight) of his eyes (the word is used of things in 1Ki_20:6, of young warriors in Lam_2:4, of sons and daughters in Verse 25), must have been, at first, as the crowning sorrow of his life; but the feelings of the patriot-prophet were stronger even than those of the husband, and his personal bereavement seemed as a small thing compared with the desolation of his country. He was to refrain from all conventional signs of mourning, from weeping and wailing, from the loud sighing (for forbear to cry, read, with the Revised Version, sigh, but not aloud), from the head covered or sprinkled with ashes (Isa_61:3), and from the bare feet (2Sa_15:30; Isa_20:2), from the covered lips (Le 13:45; Mic_3:7), which were “the trappings and the garb of woe” in such a case. Eat not the bread of men. The words point to the custom, more or less common in all nations and at all times, of a funeral feast, like the parentalia of the Romans. Wine also was commonly part of such a feast (Jer_16:7). The primary idea of the custom seems to have been that the mourner’s friends sent the materials for the feast as a token of their sympathy.
So I spake unto the people in the morning, etc. In yet another way the calling of the prophet superseded the natural impulses of the man. He knew that his wife’s hours were numbered, yet the day was spent, not in ministering at her deathbed, but in one last effort to impress the teachings of the time upon the seared consciences and hardened hearts of his countrymen and neighbors. I cannot help referring to the poem ‘Ezekiel,’ by B.M; published in 1871, as expressing the meaning of the history better than any commentary.
We must read between the lines what had passed in that eventful night of sorrow. The rumor must have spread among the exiles of Tel-Abib that the prophet had lost the wife whom he loved so tenderly. They were ready, we may imagine, to offer their consolations and their sympathy. And, behold, he appears as one on whom no special sorrow had fallen. But that strange outward hardness had the effect which it was meant to have. It roused them to ask questions, and it was one of the cases in which the prudens interrogatio, which if not in itself the dimidium seientiae, at least prepared the way for it. The form of their question implies that they had a forecast that the strange conduct was, in some way, connected with the prophet’s work. Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us?
The desire of your eyes. There is something exquisitely pathetic in the iteration of the phrase of Eze_24:17. To the priest Ezekiel himself, to the people whom he addressed, the temple was as dear as the wife to the husband. It was also “the pride of their power” (Revised Version), the “pity of their soul” (margin). The former phrase comes from Le Eze_26:19. When that temple should be profaned, when sons and daughters should fall by the sword, then they would do as the prophet had done. They would learn that there is a sorrow which is too deep for tears, something that passeth show. The state which the prophet describes is not one of callousness, or impenitence, or despair. The people shall mourn for their iniquities;” this will be the beginning of repentance. Le 26:39, 40 was obviously in the prophet’s thoughts. We note that Verse 24 is the one solitary passage since Eze_1:3 in which Ezekiel names himself. As single acts and gestures had before (Eze_4:1-12) been a sign of what was coming, so now the man himself was to be in that hour of bereavement.
Eze_24:22 And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover [your] lips, nor eat the bread of men.
Ver. 22. And ye shall do as I have done.] Your grief shall be above tears, you shall be so overgone with it; besides you shall have neither leisure nor leave of your enemies to bewail your losses, &c.
And ye shall do as I have done,…. When his wife died, and as he was ordered by the Lord; the meaning of Which they were now inquiring:
ye shall not cover your lips; as a token of mourning; nor use any other of their country rites and ceremonies, for fear of provoking their enemies, in whose hands they shall be:
nor eat the bread of men; or “of mourners”, as the Targum; there shall be none to comfort them, or send bread to them; they shall all be alike mourners.
And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet….. As will be necessary while travelling, and when carrying captive to a foreign country, as now will be their case:
ye shall not mourn nor weep; shall not dare to do it, because of their enemies; and, moreover, so great should be their miseries and calamities, that they should be struck dumb, and quite astonished and stupefied with them; that they should not be able to vent their sorrow by an outward act of mourning:
but ye shall pine away for your iniquities; without any true sense of them, or godly sorrow for them, but in wretched hardness of heart, and black despair:
and mourn one towards another; not to God, confessing their sins, being contrite and penitent; but to one another, fretting, murmuring, and complaining at the hand of God upon them: this seems to denote the private way of mourning they should use for fear of the enemy, when they could get together by themselves, as well as their disregard to God, against whom they had sinned.
23.Ye shall not mourn nor weep — Does this mean that the people shall be stunned and speechless over the destruction of Jerusalem as was Ezekiel over the loss of his wife, or that they are forbidden to complain at this blow which comes from God?
Mourn — Rather, moan.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign – a typical representative, in his own person, of what was to befall them (so Isa_20:3).
And when this cometh – alluding probably to their taunt, as if God’s word spoken by His prophets would never come to pass: “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now” (Jer_17:15).
Ye shall know that I am the Lord God. When the prophecy is fulfilled, “ye shall know (to your cost) that I am the Lord,” who thereby show my power and fulfill my word spoken by my prophet (Joh_13:19; Joh_14:29).
Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day,…. This question is to be answered in the affirmative:
when I take from them their strength; their king and kingdom, their princes and nobles, their soldiers and men of might and war, their wealth and substance, their city and the inhabitants of it; or rather their temple, in which they placed their strong confidence: so the Targum,
“in the day when I shall take from them the house of their sanctuary;”
and which is called “the joy of their glory”; what they rejoiced and gloried in:
the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their mind, their sons and their daughters; for to these may those phrases be applied; as well as to the temple; they being desirable to them, to be spared and continued, and on whom the affections of their hearts were set, and for whose welfare they were very solicitous. So some render it “the burden or care of their souls” (p); though the Targum applies this, as the other to the temple, paraphrasing it,
“and the delight of their eyes shall be taken from them, and the beloved of their souls, which is better to them than their sons and their daughters.”
(p) את משא נפשם “onus animae eoram”, Munster; “curam, vel solicitudinem”; so some in Vatablus.
Yet another sign was given, not to the people, but to the prophet himself. For the present there was to be the silence of unutterable sorrow, continuing, day after day, as there had been before (Eze_3:26). Then there should come a messenger from Jerusalem, reporting its capture and destruction, and then his mouth should be opened. The messenger does not come till nearly three years afterwards (Eze_33:21); and we must infer that there was no spoken message during the interval, but that from Eze_25:1 onward we have the written words of the Lord that came to him from time to time, not as messages to Israel, but as bearing on the fate of the surrounding nations. We have, i.e; what is, strictly speaking, a paten-thesis in the prophet’s work.