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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 1

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary



Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 24:27

Vision and Call (1:1-3:27)

Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet of God was preceded by a vision of God’s chariot moving where it would across the heavens. The framework of this vision suggests a thunderstorm in the Tigris- Euphrates Valley. This may be discerned in the natural sequence of a dark cloud from the north, lightning, the sound of waters, and finally the appearance of a rainbow.

What the time span is in these chapters is hard to determine, but it would appear to be brief. Basically this introductory part of the book consists of a vision and a call in Mesopotamia rather than a series of calls in various places at different times (see Introduction).

Verses 1-3

Introduction (1:1-3)

The two dates in the superscription refer to two different events. As has been pointed out in the Introduction, the date of Jehoiachin’s accession to the throne and the date for the beginning of the Exile is the same year, 598 B.C. Hence, by dating from the beginning of captivity, the exiles were able secretly to date according to the regnal years of King Jehoiachin. The "fifth year" of the Captivity when Ezikiel had his inaugural vision at Tel-abib by the River Chebar would be 593 B.C. These two places have been discovered in upper Mesopotamia where, according to established tradition, Ezekiel lived, thus demonstrating the accuracy of geographical detail in the prophetic work.

The enigmatic "thirtieth year" is also the thirtieth year of the Exile, hence the thirtieth year of Jehoiachin’s reign. Through recent archaeological study the fact has been established that Jehoiachin lived and reared a family in captivity. Zedekiah, who succeeded Jehoiachin on the throne of Judah in 597 B.C., was apparently never accepted as the legitimate king by his own subjects and hence his reign was not used for dating. In any case, "the thirtieth year" is a second superscription referring to the occasion when the prophet gathered his prophecies together as a record of God’s dealings with men. The record was designed to exonerate the Lord and to help the Chosen People, at least a remnant of them, to understand better the heritage they possessed and the mission which they had been given.

Verses 4-28

Vision (1:4-28)

A detailed discussion of the vision is not necessary or vital to the understanding of its meaning. Central to the thought are a heavenly chariot, living creatures, and a life-giving Spirit. The chariot is the mobile throne of God, which could move in any and all directions and could go wherever it would. The wheels are full of eyes, which symbolize God’s all-seeing power in the world. In these forms the prophet proclaimed that the God of Israel, who had been thought to occupy a stationary throne in the Temple and who by popular conception had been limited to the land of Palestine, was sovereign and omniscient in any place. The living God who meets man in history cannot be limited by historical circumstances — a lesson which needs repeated emphasis.

The living creatures who have four faces are the functional equivalent of the cherubim who supported the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies (Ezekiel 1:5-14). Their four faces — those of a man, an ox, an eagle, and a lion —represent the major areas of created life. Man is God’s ultimate creation commissioned to subdue the earth; the lion is the king of wild beasts; the ox is the strongest of domesticated animals; and the eagle rules the air. The chariot was borne aloft above the totality of creation, a symbol of the fact that nature is under the dominion of the Lord.

The figure of God seated on a great sapphire throne is part of the rainbow motif which was afterward frequently used as a model for divine visions in Christian and Jewish writing. Note, however, that the prophet did not look upon the face of God (vss. 26-28).

In the context of the Exile, this was a crucial vision, perhaps a turning point in the drama of Hebrew faith. People uprooted from their homes, who had seen their homeland pillaged and the Temple destroyed, who had themselves been taken captive, might well wonder if God himself had not been destroyed. This vision gave historical and spiritual perspective to the Chosen People. God still rode upon his chariot where and when he willed. He ruled in all creation, both in and above history, and beheld the works of men wherever they were. The God of Ezekiel is the God of all life and history. In any time of great historic change there is always a temptation to believe that God has been caught up in or destroyed by the change itself. This danger is ever present when men do not really accept God as in control of history, but rather see him as controlled by events.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-1.html.
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