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. 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.”
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.
Then the people asked me, “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us?”
So I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me: Say to the house of Israel, ‘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 the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.’” (Ezekiel 24:15-22)
What if you weren’t allowed to cry? Ezekiel was taken into Babylonian captivity a few years before the Babylonians had burned Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Ezekiel prophesied to Israelites who had been carried off around the same time. God often had him act out his prophetic messages. For instance, Ezekiel once went outside, put a brick down in the dirt, and laid siege to it as a child might play with toy soldiers. It illustrated what Babylon was going to do to Jerusalem. This time, the illustration of God’s message was personally devastating for Ezekiel. God told him his beloved wife would die. Worse, he wouldn’t even be permitted the normal Jewish mourning rituals: no torn garments, no outward weeping.
What Ezekiel was asked to do was something strange. It served to illustrate the nature of the coming disaster: when Jerusalem fell, the people of Israel would feel sorrow, but they would not have the opportunity to express it. God wanted them to recognize the sheer horror of what was to come.
Keeping his sorrow bottled up inside was a nearly unbearable burden for Ezekiel.