Question: Why did Ezekiel’s wife have to die just so God could make a sign?
Answer: In Ezekiel 24:16, God tells Ezekiel this, “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.” God ends Ezekiel’s wife’s life and uses it to instruct Israel. This is no doubt a difficult sign. To answer, I will explain the point of the sign first. Then I will try to show how God has every right to do this. Lastly, I’ll attempt to express how this was a good thing.
The entire story of this sign is contained in Eze. 24:15-27. God is speaking to Israel through Ezekiel and is telling them that soon their beloved temple will be destroyed (vs. 21). He uses the death of Ezekiel’s wife to point to this. Just as she was the delight of his eyes (vs. 16) the temple is the delight of Israel’s eyes (vs. 21). Furthermore, they will not have the opportunity to mourn for the loss of their temple or for the death of their loved ones because they will be captives in a foreign land where their mourning rituals will not be granted. To illustrate this, Ezekiel is told by God to not mourn his wife using the customs of his day, such as shaving his head, walking barefoot, or covering his lips. As is typical of God, he uses the prophets to illustrate something very visibly that will later happen on a much greater scale.
Naturally, for those of us who are in a deep loving relationship with their spouse (myself included), the question begging to be asked is “What gives God the right to kill a man’s wife to prove a point!?” We might ask if he could have used something different to get across what he wanted to say. First, we must acknowledge that God is the Creator of every single life and as such he is the owner. He has the right to do with his creation whatever he pleases (Ps. 135:6). Neither our life nor our spouse’s life nor our children’s lives belong to us. They are each a gift that God has granted to us to steward for a time. And the one who gives life has every right to take it away (Job 1:21).
Lastly, we might admit that God has the right to do this, but nonetheless isn’t it a cruel thing to do? If he loved Ezekiel and his wife, wouldn’t he choose otherwise? I don’t believe so. For those who love God, we have made it our goal to give up our lives for the sake of spreading his gospel and his glory to the ends of the world. Throughout church history those revered as the greatest lovers of God’s kingdom are those who were martyred for the sake of preaching it. Psalm 116:15 says “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” not because God loves killing people, but because he loves the faith that is willing to abandon everything for the gospel. Ezekiel’s wife’s death has successfully pointed others to God for thousands of years. Eze. 24:24 says, “When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord God” and again in vs. 27 “they will know that I am the Lord.” She died so that others might see God and in doing so her life was given as the most glorious sacrifice imaginable.
In researching this answer, I found this poem by an anonymous Scottish author:
He needed me,
To be a sign for Him; my death to stand
A figure to my people of the things
Which He will do to them, except they turn
And seek his face. I am so content
To die for this. I could not speak for God
As thou hast done so well; but I can be
To God and for my people, and for thee
To aid in the great work—a sign