The only mention of the prophet Ezekiel being married in the book of the Bible bearing his name is where God warns him one day in advance that He will take away "the delight of thine eyes" as a symbol to the exiles from Judah in Babylon that their beloved home capital of Jerusalem would be conquered and razed. The prophet wrote that he spoke to the people in the morning and in the evening his wife died.
I am taking a little time to consider this woman and what she went through in what I deduce to be patient and loyal support of her prophet/priest husband in a most difficult ministry to his people. I also am taking this opportunity to express one or two personal beliefs about what the Bible says in the Book of Ezekiel which are not entirely in accordance with what I usually hear preached. The intent is not to cast doubt on the value of everything else I have learned from textbooks or sermons about Ezekiel, but merely to call attention to why some small things have been hard to reconcile with the text itself. It all fits together. If I did not hold these views on what is probably considered a minor issue, I would not be thinking the way I do of his wife.
God used the prophet Ezekiel and his renowned, colorful visions to deliver certain messages to a subset of the people of Judah, (the southern kingdom that had remained from the former domain of Israel), namely those carried off in a first wave of exile by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. Living in exile a long distance from their country, which was to their knowledge still ruled by a vassal king set up from their royal family by Babylon, they had no postal service and certainly no broadcast news facilities. News from home was rare because of the distance and the difficulties of travel, (not limited to hostile terrain). Speculation, wishful thinking, and false prophecy that they soon would return and Jerusalem would still be there abounded. Through the prophet, God sought to make clear to them that His many prophetic warnings of judgment were now on the path to inexorable fulfillment. Redemption and grace for the people was still available; reprieve for the physical city and state was not. Those who told them that nothing would happen to Jerusalem and it would always be there to return to were wrong.
One of the things God called on Ezekiel to do in his ministry was to set up a model of a besieged Jerusalem and later to lie on his left side for 390 days, and then his right side for 40 days. Although God said each day of these periods represented a year of their sinful resistance and idolatrous unfaithfulness to Him, in Judah and in Israel respectively, it is apparently difficult to find exactly how 390 years and 40 years fit into the chronicled history in Scripture. I'm not arguing with that.
What I wonder about is why it is so often taught that this lying on one side and then the other was something that Ezekiel did for only part of each day, going back in his house at night and returning to his prophetic "post" in the daytime, when God made the statement to Ezekiel that He would "put bands" on him to prevent him from turning from one side to the other before the time was fulfilled. If the reason for this is to allow for how he fulfilled other parts of God's orders, such as how to mix and prepare his food every day, (he was given a very specific multi-grain recipe for bread of which he was to only eat small amounts every day, drinking limited amounts of water, symbolizing the shortage of food and water during Jerusalem's siege), I am surprised that the answer which is really most logical, especially in light of their culture, is overlooked: his wife did it.
The statement God made about "placing bands" on the prophet to keep him in one position for 390 days, especially since he was lying down, sounds to me very much like a stroke or some other such ailment, whose effects God still limited or healed after the appointed time. This is why I deduce that Ezekiel's wife may have cared for him during this ailment, during which he continued delivering his unpopular message to their exile community, possibly causing her to be unpopular and isolated as well. (Strokes do not always take away speech when they limit motor function, explaining how he could continue his preaching.) For 390 days, she continued to follow the instructions he passed down to her about his food, faithfully bringing him the correct amount each day or each meal. Then she went through it for another 40 days before he got up again and returned to normal.
Being a caregiver for a stroke victim in advanced Western society, in a free country, is difficult. Add to it the burdens of primitive levels of technology and of living in exile in a strange country with limited means. Clearly Ezekiel's wife bore a massive burden of stress in addition to what was already imposed on her simply by being carried off into exile in the first place. Sometimes a person who has borne a tremendous burden who suddenly has it released cannot cope and this may be what happened to Mrs. Ezekiel, for it was not long after her husband's imposed immobility ended that she died suddenly.
There is a well-recognized "gallery of heroines" in the Bible recognized by many Christians for their faith, their obedience to God and cooperation with their husbands, and other virtues. I suppose I can understand why Ezekiel's wife is so seldom included because she is so little mentioned in Scripture and because we can only guess at her role through deduction. She is not explicitly praised for her faith or virtue - but neither does Ezekiel or God say a word about her being fractious, rebellious, or refusing to trust God. When Job's wife had spiritual problems it got mentioned. Especially since part of Ezekiel's message already included comparing the nation to an unfaithful wife, it would not have distracted from it to mention his wife having problems. I may be bringing an American notion of "innocent until proven guilty" into this, but since we Christians so often say that American principles have roots in Scripture, I will do so.
Many Christians remark that they look forward to meeting certain personalities from Scripture in Heaven. While I'm waiting for my appointment, (or having somebody hold my place in line), to meet Moses or Joshua or Joseph, perhaps I'll look up Ezekiel's wife and see if I was right. The line should be short.
It has only been two weeks and two days since the tragic bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, so it is not surprising that information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and their parents continues to unfold. The Russians apparently encouraged us to be watchful regarding their mother, as well as the older son Tamerlan himself.
When information from a former customer of the mother for facials indicated that she herself started to show increased Islamic sincerity before returning to Dagestan, I began to wonder if she might have played some role in the "radicalization" of one or more of her sons. "The hand that rocked the cradle" may have helped rock our world as well. My main suspicion was that she might have exerted pressure on the younger son to go along with the elder.
Sometimes the names people choose for their children can be revealing. The similarity between Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name and that of the ancient Mongol warlord Tamerlane was obvious. The younger brother's name, Dzhokhar, is very possibly in honor of Dzhokhar Dudayev, a tremendously popular Chechen political leader who was killed in a Russian rocket attack in 1996.
Since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is older than 17 years, he was named for Dudayev while he was still alive. Dudayev was a man of many accomplishments, among them being the first Soviet general of Chechen origin and a commander of a nuclear-armed bomber squadron at a base in Estonia, where he made himself highly popular with the Estonians by not following certain Kremlin orders to suppress their independence movement and even flying the Estonian flag at his airbase. His later efforts to establish Chechen independence from Russia under Yeltsin earned him the Russian leader's deepest hostility.
I think that such a choice of names says something about who was admired and respected by one or both of the senior Tsarnaevs. They seem to reveal a deep passion for Chechen independence and perhaps a willingness to stop at nothing to achieve it - the choice of Tamerlan's name being more a sign of that than the other. I have been wondering from the beginning what it means when someone names their son after a Mongol warlord renowned for brutal conquest. It may indeed have been an anti-Russian choice, understandable among an ethnic group that was forcibly relocated by Stalin to central Asia with tens of thousands of lives lost. (They were finally returned to their homeland in 1957, I believe.) Even Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the philosopher, spoke of enduring scars on the Russian psyche from their long domination by the Tatar hordes - the Mongols. A Russian history professor I had in college spoke of his ancestor being known as "Oleg the Condemned" of Ryazan, so named because they suspected him of arriving conveniently late to a battle with the Mongols so he could line up with the winning side. The Russians have not forgotten the Mongols and naming a son after a Mongol warlord would indeed be an effective gesture.
How this would all translate into the tragic actions of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston on April 15, 2013, is perhaps something we should wait to find out, if we do, rather than speculating so early in the process. I still think that if their parents' choice of names had any influence in the matter, it was not a good one.
(See "About Me")