Questions From Readers
● Ezekiel 24:16, 17 states: “Neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead.” Yet on other occasions the Israelites mourned for the dead, with divine approval. So why does Jehovah forbid it in the text quoted above?—T. M., French Equatorial Africa.
Because it was a special case. To get the setting note the surrounding verses: “The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet thou shalt neither mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud, make no mourning for the dead; bind thy headtire upon thee, and put thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men. 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. And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so? Then I said unto them, The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Speak unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left behind shall fall by the sword. And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away in your iniquities, and moan one toward another. Thus shall Ezekiel be unto you a sign; according to all that he hath done shall ye do: when this cometh, then shall ye know that I am the Lord Jehovah.”—Ezek. 24:15-24, AS.
Ezekiel’s wife may have been unfaithful to him or to Jehovah, and she was suddenly taken away by a divine judgment. Ezekiel was not to mourn or weep for her. Just opposite to Israelites generally, priests uncovered their heads in mourning; but Ezekiel, who was of a priestly family, was told to wear his turban. To remove the shoes and cover the lips indicated mourning. Mourners ate “the bread of men,” which was food sent to them by others that assumed the mourners were too preoccupied with their grief to provide for their physical needs. (Lev. 10:6; 21:1-3, 10; 2 Sam. 15:30; Mic. 3:7) None of these signs or evidences of mourning was Ezekiel to adopt. All of this was a sign to the Israelites then with him in Babylonian captivity. Jerusalem, and especially the sanctuary there, was the desire of their eyes; but Jehovah was going to profane it by allowing the city and the sanctuary to be demolished by the heathen Babylonians. Many of their close relatives in Jerusalem would be killed; the remainder would be taken captive. Yet the Israelites with Ezekiel in Babylon were not to mourn. Jerusalem had become unfaithful and the temple polluted and no repentance had been shown despite years of patient warning. So now this just judgment from Jehovah was not to be grieved against. Just punishment of the wicked should be accepted without mourning for the wrongdoers.
Up in Jerusalem Jeremiah was warning of the coming destruction, just as Ezekiel was doing down in Babylon. Jeremiah records similar instructions concerning mourning: “For thus saith Jehovah, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, neither bemoan them; for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith Jehovah, even loving-kindness and tender mercies. Both great and small shall die in this land; they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them; neither shall men break bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.” Why not? “Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith Jehovah, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my laws; and ye have done evil more than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the stubbornness of his evil heart, so that ye hearken not unto me: therefore will I cast you forth out of this land into the land that ye have not known, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; for I will show you no favor.”—Jer. 16:5-7, 11-13, AS.
The judgments of Jehovah are righteous, and the execution thereof is done in righteousness. Jehovah’s servants, who have his spirit and who love righteousness and hate wickedness, do not mourn the destruction of the wrongdoers at the hand of Jehovah’s appointed executioner. The destruction of the wicked is in vindication of Jehovah’s name, which name they have despised and blasphemed and reproached, and at such vindication Jehovah’s devoted witnesses rejoice rather than mourn. For forty years Jeremiah warned Jerusalem, but it did not repent. Ezekiel’s warnings brought no repentance. Today Jehovah’s witnesses sound a warning concerning the destruction of the “evil slave” and hypocritical religion and of all the wicked; but there is no general repentance and Armageddon will annihilate the evildoers. Armageddon survivors will not mourn the destruction of those Jehovah judges worthy of it: “And the slain of Jehovah shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the face of the ground.”—Jer. 25:33, AS.