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BURNING OF JERUSALEM; AND WITHDRAWAL OF GOD'S PRESENCE
Here we have a continuation of the major theme of Ezekiel 8-11, which particularly deals with the final departure of the presence of God from the apostate capitol of the Once Chosen people. Ezekiel 10:1-8 prophesy the burning of Jerusalem; and Ezekiel 9:9-22 show preparations for the withdrawal of God's presence, his final departure being revealed in the next chapter.
GOD'S COMMAND TO BURN THE CITY
"Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was over the head of the cherubim there appeared above them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. And he spake unto the man clothed in linen, and said, Go in between the whirling wheels, even under the cherub, and fill both thy hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight. Now the cherubim stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. And the glory of Jehovah mounted up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of Jehovah's glory."
"Coals of fire ... scatter them over the city ..." (Ezekiel 10:2). This sentence of Jerusalem's destruction took place in the Temple itself, "Thus making it manifest that the judgment is in vindication of the affronted holiness of God, caused by the sins of Israel against his covenant."
"And he spake ..." (Ezekiel 10:2). The speaker here is the person enthroned, namely, God.
The fire spoken of in this passage is far different from the fire of the altar. "That fire spoke of God's grace (Leviticus 6:12,13); here it speaks of the destruction of the wicked."
Pearson noted that in Ezekiel 10:2 a singular noun is used to describe the whole complex of whirling wheels, etc., supporting the sapphire throne. This indicates that the entire apparatus had the utility of standing as a representation of the presence and glory of the Almighty.
"The glory of Jehovah mounted up from the cherub ..." (4). Cook used the past perfect tense here. "'The glory of the Lord had gone up from the cherub to the threshold of the house,' to describe what had happened before the man went in (v. 3)." This description runs through verse 6.
"And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of God Almighty when he speaketh. And it came to pass when he commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim, that he went in and stood beside a wheel. And the cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim unto the fire that was between the cherubim, and took fire thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed in linen, who took it and went out. And there appeared in the cherubim the form of a man's hand under their wings."
"The sound of the wings ..." (Ezekiel 10:5). This great sound is variously described as very loud, as the voice of the Almighty, as of a "rushing mighty wind," etc. Significantly, in the New Testament on the Day of Pentecost, when God's glory was manifested by the appearance of the Holy Spirit upon the holy apostles, that event also was marked by forked flames as of fire and the "sound of a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2).
The great significance of this chapter is that the very manifestation of God's glory which had appeared to Ezekiel in Babylon at the Chebar river (canal) is here seen in the process of deserting the Temple in Jerusalem, strongly indicating that God's concern in the future from the destruction of Jerusalem would rest with the exiles in Babylon and not with any stragglers left in Jerusalem.
"Who took it and went out ..." (Ezekiel 10:7). "Nothing is said here of the actual scattering of fire over the city." The same author explained that no account of his actually doing so is necessary, "Because, it often happens in Scripture that a prophet mentions a command without describing the actual execution of it." It must always be assumed, if not stated to the contrary, that God's commandments were executed exactly as commanded.
"The form of a man's hand ..." (Ezekiel 10:8). "The appearance of this indicates that human agencies would be utilized in the execution of God's judgment upon Israel." It would never have been necessary for the Angel of Jehovah himself, the one clad in linen, to scatter coals of fire in any personal sense over Jerusalem. As Beasley-Murray stated it, "This vision prophesies the fires that destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C. (2 Kings 25:9), by the armies of the Chaldeans." In a very similar way, the fires that again destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. were prophetically identified by Jesus Christ himself as "God's armies" (Matthew 22:7).
Such passages as these indicate that God is the prime agent in all human history, whatever human agencies may be employed from time to time in the achievement of God's eternal purpose.
"The most significant thing here is the identity of the Destroyer as God." "The maneuvering of God's Glory in this chapter shows that God, whom men thought to be inseparably bound to his sanctuary and to his city of Jerusalem is about to destroy both of them and to abandon their ruins."
"And I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside one cherub, and another wheel beside another cherub; and the appearance of the whole was like a beryl stone. And as for their appearance, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been within a wheel. When they went, they went in their four directions: they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and the wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing the whirling wheels. And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub, and the second was that of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle."
FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF THE VISION
Ezekiel 10:9-12 is nearly identical with Ezekiel 1:15-18; and this writer cannot visualize any consistent apparatus that fits the vision. Wheels that are whirling, but do not turn as they go, and that go in four directions somehow fail to form any clear picture. The complex, complicated vision is here changed in the particular of so many eyes so widely distributed, and "the face of the cherub," is apparently substituted for the "face of an ox" in Ezekiel 1. Perhaps we are not supposed to be able thoroughly to understand it. Dummelow is the only author we have studied who offered an adequate explanation of why the face of "the cherub" is not referred to as the "face of an ox." "The whole vision was about to move Eastward; and from where Ezekiel stood, the face of the cherub on the east side was that of an ox (as in chapter 1); but it is here called "the face of the cherub, because that was the direction in which the vision would move, and so might be called `the cherub.'"
If the vision should have been poised to move in any other direction, the man, the lion, or the eagle would have been the "face of the cherub," depending on the direction indicated, whether North, West, or South. It was the eastward projection here that made the "ox face" the "face of the cherub."
All of the eyes depicted here is a reference to the all-knowing, all-seeing God. Cooke tells us that the pagans also illustrated this characteristic of their gods by making idols covered with eyes.
Another example of this is found in Zechariah 3:9, where one reads of the Stone that had seven eyes, which stands for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The actions of the great Vision in this second appearance of it to Ezekiel, "Enable us here to witness the beginning of the gradual withdrawal and departure of the glory of the Lord from the city. God was not leaving it permanently, some day he would return."
Yes, this was true; (see Ezekiel 43); but only in a typical sense. God's glory would never again dwell in "a temple made with hands." God's glory would indeed dwell with Israel forever; but it would be within the holy temple, namely, the Church, the New Israel of God, and not in any sense whatever with the old racial Israel that so long had denied and rebelled against God Himself. That return of God's glory to the "temple of God" occurred on the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of God's church.
As Matthew Henry said, "It was sad to see that God was forsaking his sanctuary, where his honor and glory had so long dwelt; but it was pleasant to see that God was not forsaking the earth, as the idolaters had proclaimed (Ezekiel 9:9)."
Where was God's glory, or the manifestation of his Presence, located during that time between the destruction of Jerusalem until the Day of Pentecost? Its appearance in Babylon in Ezekiel 1 indicates very strongly that God's presence was with the "righteous remnant," with those "Israelites indeed," who waited for the kingdom of God (John 1:47). There does not appear to have been a very large number of those "true Israelites." The apostles of Christ, Nathaniel, Elizabeth and Zecharias, Mary and Joseph, some of the brothers of Jesus, Zacchaeus, Simeon, Anna and others were some whom we can identify.
"And the cherubim mounted up: this is the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar. And when the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the wheels also turned not from beside them. When they stood, these stood, and when they mounted up, these mounted up with them: for the spirit of the living creature was in them. And the glory of Jehovah went forth from over the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight when they went forth: and they stood at the door of the east gate of Jehovah's house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above."
THE DEPARTURE OF GOD'S GLORY
"Cherubim ... this is the living creature ..." (Ezekiel 10:15). Note how the cherubim (plural), along with all of the other details of the vision, nevertheless refer only to One, namely, the enthroned One, who is God.
"The living creature that I saw by the river Chebar ..." (Ezekiel 10:15). "It was a matter of importance that the identities of these two theophanies should have been established, in order to show their real meaning." Bluntly stated, those appearances meant simply that God's glorious presence was forsaking the old racial Israel, and forever afterward concentrating upon the "righteous remnant," at that time identified with the captives in Babylon.
Only when we come to Ezekiel 10:15, here, does Ezekiel identify the "living creatures" of Ezekiel 1:5ff as "cherubim." It is not surely known exactly why this was not made known earlier. See article at end of this chapter regarding the creatures called "cherubim,"
"The cherubim lifted up from the earth ..." (Ezekiel 10:18). As Plumptre noted, "From that hour, the temple would be what Shiloh had been, a God-deserted place."
As for the notion that the second temple received the same honor as the first as the resting place of the Glory and the Spirit of God, Jesus Christ took care of that falsehood forever when he denominated the temple as "a den of thieves and robbers," which it most assuredly was. Furthermore the sons of Satan who had charge of that Second Temple were the principal agents in the contrived execution of the Son of God.
In Ezekiel 10:18, "The glory of Jehovah now moves from the threshold of the temple and stands upon the Cherubim, ready to leave." Indeed, God's presence had forsaken the temple, but it would not depart from the area until the event recorded in the next chapter (Ezekiel 11:22-23). The episode recorded in Ezekiel 11:1-21 have the effect of delaying the account of the final departure.
"This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chebar; and I knew that they were cherubim. Every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the faces which I saw by the river Chebar, their appearances and themselves; they went every one straight forward."
The purpose of Ezekiel in this reiteration of what has already been revealed surely indicates the importance of this identity of the two visions, an importance which we have already stressed.
"And I knew that they were cherubim ..." (Ezekiel 10:20). We are indebted to Anton T. Pearson for most of the information cited here. Cherubim are emblematic, composite figures representing glorified human life, or angelic life, spiritualized and exalted to have a part in the service of God Himself. In the sacred Scriptures, they are seen as performing a number of functions: (1) Here, they are bearers of the sapphire throne of God. (2) They guard the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). (3) They are honored with a place above the Mercy Seat in the ancient Tabernacle (Exodus 25:18-20; 37:7-9). (4) They are personified as wind or cloud. (5) They form the chariot of Deity (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalms 104:3; 1 Chronicles 28:18). They worship God perpetually (Revelation 4:6; 5:6; and Revelation 6:1). In our opinion, there is no way to be absolutely certain about the nature and work of these creatures, which seem to this writer to have many characteristics which lift them above any connection with humanity.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27