Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lcc/ ezekiel-1.html. 1857-84.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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A. FIRST PRINCIPAL PART.—Ezekiel 1:24
THE PROPHECY OF JUDGMENT
I. THE DIVINE MISSION OF EZEKIEL.—Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:11
1. The Vision of Glory (Ch. 1)
It has been customary, as at Isaiah 6:0 and Jeremiah 1:0, so also here, to read Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet as if it were his ordination or consecration to office. But even in the case of Isaiah 6:0., where the official activity of the prophet does not certainly first begin, but where we find ourselves already in the midst of his labours, one has been compelled for this reason to individualize and to define more exactly; and instead of making it a call to the prophetic office in general, has made it a call to a special mission. This necessity, which is occasioned there by the position of the 6th chapter, would not indeed be present here; for the history of Ezekiel’s call would be found exactly in the right, or at least in an unexceptionable place, namely, at the commencement of his official activity. It would be just as in the case of Jeremiah (Ezekiel 1:4 sqq.), only not in equally simple circumstances, so far as the vision is concerned. But as regards Jeremiah’s case, the historical call at a definite period of his life is from the first the element that falls into the background; what above all is prominent, is the divine consecration and appointment of Jeremiah as a prophet even before his appearance and birth in time. It is a thoroughly ideal history the history of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, and not to be compared with what Ezekiel relates to us in these chapters (1–3.). If then we keep by that which lies before us, is it anywhere a call to the prophetic office that is spoken of? If we bring closely together the detailed vision of Ezekiel 1:0., and the more compressed, briefer one of Isaiah 6:1-4, then also Ezekiel 2:3 sqq. contains merely the mission of Ezekiel, which is represented as a divine one, just as Isaiah 6:8 sqq. contains that of Isaiah. It is this, and by no means to tell us how Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, that is the essential element in the opening chapters of our book. So much does the idea of the prophetic mission from God dominate the whole, that neither does the real incongruity of how a sinner among sinners is permitted to be the seer of the holy God (comp. Isaiah 6:5 sqq.), nor the seeming incongruity of how a man who is not eloquent, and too young, is sent as a prophet (comp. Jeremiah 1:6 sqq.), come to a solution, but Ezekiel has simply to open his mouth and to eat what is given him by God (Ezekiel 2:8 sqq.). The question, therefore, is not, how he becomes qualified for the office of a prophet,—thus Isaiah, if such a view is held in his case, in the relation alleged, but more correctly perhaps for his special commission, is qualified by the removal of sin (Isaiah 6:6 sqq.); or Jeremiah, by means of the touch of Jehovah’s hand (Jeremiah 1:9);—the question rather turns on this point simply, in what capacity Ezekiel will have to discharge his prophetic office, to execute his mission. The distinction between the call in general and a mission in particular might admit of being expressed as that between something more subjective and what is more objective, in some such way as this: that, in the call, the prophet as subject stands in the foreground; in the mission, the objective matter of fact preponderates, in which and through which the prophet has to develope his activity, which is Ezekiel’s case. For the more general call, of course in its individual character in the case of each, one might have to confine himself in the case of Ezekiel as well as of Isaiah to their names (§ 1), while Jeremiah’s name seems rather to express his mission. The divine legitimation of the mission of Ezekiel is the primary meaning of Ezekiel 1-3. On the whole, it approximates too much the peculiar nature of the prophetic office to the priestly and the kingly, when we speak in this way of the consecration of a prophet. The mission of a prophet is at all events in actual fact equivalent to his consecration to the prophetic office.
1And it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was in the midst of the captivity, by the river Chebar, that 2the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year [from the time] of the carrying away captive of king Jehoiachin—3The word of Jehovah came in reality unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of 4Jehovah came upon him there. And I saw, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, and fire flashing into itself, and brightness round about it [the cloud], and out of the midst of it [the fire] as the look of the brightness 5of gold, out of the midst of the fire. And out of the midst thereof [of the fire] appeared the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6And every one had four faces, and every one of them four wings. 7And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and sparkling like the look of bright brass. 8And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and 9they four had their faces and their wings. Joined one to another were their wings; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. 10As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; 11and they four had the face of an eagle. And their faces and their wings were separated above; in every one two were joined, and two covering their bodies. 12And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; they turned not when they went. 13As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like kindled, burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: this [the fire] was going round between the living creatures; and the fire had brightness, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. 15And I saw the living creatures, and, behold, one wheel was upon the earth beside the living creatures, for its four faces. 16The appearance of the wheels and their make was like unto the look of the precious stone of Tartessus: and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their make was as it were a wheel in the midst of a wheel. 17When they went, they went upon their four sides: they turned not when they went. 18As for their felloes, there was a highness about them, and fearfulness was about them; and their felloes were full of eyes round about them four. 19And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they [the living creatures] went, thither Was also the Spirit to go [in the wheels]; and the wheels were lifted up beside them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 21When those went, they also went; and when those stood, these also stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted 22up beside them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And a likeness was over the heads of the living creature [Ezekiel 1:20]—an expanse, like unto the look of the terrible crystal, stretched out over their heads above. 23And under the expanse were their wings straight, the one toward the other: to every 24one two which covered, to every one two which covered their bodies. And I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, as the voice of the Almighty, to wit, in their going, the noise of tumult, as the noise of an host: 25when they stood, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse which was over their head: when they stood, they let down their wings. 26And above the expanse that was over their head was there as the appearance of a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne: and upon the likeness of the throne the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. 27And I saw as the look of the brightness of gold, as the appearance of fire, a house round about it; from the appearance of his loins and upwards, and from the appearance of his loins and downwards, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and brightness round about Him. 28As the appearance of the bow that will be in the cloud on the day of heavy rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah. And I saw, and fell upon my face, and heard the voice of one that spake.
Ezekiel 1:2. Sept.: ... της αἰχμαλωσιας Ιωαχειμ—
Ezekiel 1:3. ... ἐπ̓ ἐμε χειρ χυριου. (Syr., Arab., and some MSS.: עלי.)
Ezekiel 1:4. ... πυρ εξεστραπτον … ὡς ὁρασις ἠλεχτρου … χ. φεγγος ἐυ αὐτω. Vulg.: ignis involvens…
Ezekiel 1:5. ... ώς ὁμοιωμα … ζωων—animalium.
Ezekiel 1:6. Other readings: להנה ,להן ,להמה ;מהן ,מהם.
Ezekiel 1:7. ... χ. πτερωτοι οἱ ποδες αν̓των, κ. σκινθηρες ὡς ὁ ἐζεστραπτων χαλκος, κ. ἐλαφραι αἱ πτερυγες αὐτων.—et Scintillae quasi aspectus aeris candentis.
Ezekiel 1:9. ἐχομεναι ἑτερα της ἑτερας. Κ. τα προσωπα αὐτων οὐκ ἐπεστρεφοντο ἐν τω βαδιζειν αὐτα (anoth. read.: בלכתם).
Ezekiel 1:10. Anoth. read.: לארבעתן.
Ezekiel 1:11. Κ. αἱ πτερυγες αὐτων ἐκτεταμεναι�–
Ezekiel 1:12. Anoth. read.: בלכתם.
Ezekiel 1:13. Κ. ἐν μεσω των ζωων ὁρασις ὡς� ... λαμπαδων συστρεφομενων� … (anoth. read.: מדאיהן).
Ezekiel 1:14. ... ὡς εἰδος του βεζεχ.
Ezekiel 1:16. Other readings: ומעשיהן ;ומראה, wanting in Sept.; ומדאיהן.
Ezekiel 1:17. Anoth. read.: דבעיהם.
Ezekiel 1:18. ... οὐδε οἱ νωτοι αν̓των ... κ. ἰδον αὐτα, κ. οἱ νωτοι—
Ezekiel 1:20. Οὑ� (ילבו שמה׳ ללכת are wanting in some MSS. The Greek and Syriac translators and the Targ. (?) omit הרוח ללכת).
Ezekiel 1:22. Sept., Vulg., Syr., Chald., Arab, read החיות.
Ezekiel 1:23. ... αἱ πτερυγες αὐτων ἐκτεταμεναι, πτερυσσομεναι ἑτερα τη ἑτερα, ἑκαστω δυο συνεζευγμεναι,—(מב׳ להנהולאיש שת׳ are wanting in some MSS., Vulg., Sept., and Arab.)
Ezekiel 1:24. ... ὑδατος πολλου, ώς φωνην ἱκανου ... φωνη του λογον ὡς φωνη παρεμβολης.
Ezekiel 1:25. בעמדם תר׳ כנפיהן are wanting in some MSS., in Sept.?, Syr., and Arab.
Ezekiel 1:27. ... ὡς ὁρασιν πυρος ἐσωθεν αὐτου κυκλω—
Ezekiel 1:1-3 a preface, which contains introductory matter in general—specially to the vision which immediately follows, what is most necessary respecting the time, person, place, and subject-matter on hand. This latter, the subject-matter, is “visions of God” in the plural, which are separated by means of the expression: “and I saw, and, behold” (Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:15), properly into two visions only, Ezekiel 1:4-28; but it will commend itself to treat Ezekiel 1:22-28 as a separate conclusion completing both visions.
Ezekiel 1:1-3.—Preface, Introductory
Ezekiel 1:1. “And it came to pass.”—The imperf. with ו consecut., as usual without Dagesh forte, indicating a continuation, an advance, connection with something going before, begins, as often elsewhere, so also here the book of Ezekiel. Since there is no real connection, as in the case of Exodus, Ezra, a connection in thought is to be assumed, as in the case of Ruth, Esther. The chronology, still more the inner relationship (comp. the Introduction, §§ 2, 3, 4), suggests a connection with Jeremiah. Hengstenberg, while he lays stress upon the similar commencements, by which Joshua is connected with the Pentateuch, the book of Judges with Joshua, the books of Samuel and also Ruth with the book of Judges, understands, besides a special connection of Ezekiel with Jeremiah (whose letter (Jeremiah 29:0.), directed shortly before to the exiles, formed as it were the programme for the labours of our prophet), in general (as in the case of the book of Esther) the incorporation (represented by such a commencement) in a chain of sacred books, a connection with a preceding sacred literature. In a more definite way Athanasius brought into connection with this the passage in Josephus (Antiq. 10.)—comp. Introd. § 5—and made out that the one book of Ezekiel, with which the present one is here connected by means of ו, had gone amissing through the negligence of the Jews. Pradus cites Augustine (on Psalms 4:0.) and Gregory the Great in support of a view according to which this ו is intended to connect the outward word of the prophet with what he had heard inwardly, with the inward vision (Corn. a. Lapide: “What he had formerly seen in his spirit or heard from God he connects by means of ‘and’ with something else which he saw and heard thereafter, and which he now relates”). Very many expositors have been quite content with a pleonastic Hebrew idiom, and with changing the sense of the future into that of the preterite. (According to Keil, appealing to Ewald (Ausf. Lehrb. § 231, b), it is merely “something annexed to a circle of what is finished—a circle already mentioned, or assumed as known.”)—In the thirtieth year, etc. Where the divine legitimation of Ezekiel for his labours about to be described, and at the same time for his literary labours—this book of his—is to be shown, and where accordingly the prophet speaks of himself in the first person, going on immediately to say: “as I,” so that ואני in such close juxtaposition with בשלשים שנה looks like the usual phrase בן שלשים שנה, there it ought to appear as simple as it is natural to think, with Origen and Gregory, of the thirtieth year of Ezekiel’s life. There was no necessity whatever for Hengstenberg (comp. Introd. § 3) to urge the significance “as respects the man of priestly family.” The appointment of the thirtieth year in Numbers 4:0., with a view to “the carrying of the sanctuary during the journey through the wilderness—a work requiring the full vigour of manhood,” cannot in actual fact be applied to Ezekiel; and we must then in a figurative way compare his prophetic labours in exile, especially his preaching of the glory of the Lord, and the circumstance that through Ezekiel’s exercise of the prophetic office the Lord became to the exiles as a sanctuary in the captivity (Ezekiel 11:16), with that carrying of the tabernacle during the time of the wilderness. For “theological exposition,” of course, “the entrance on office of the Baptist and of Christ after completing their thirtieth year” may be kept in view. The indefiniteness of the statement of time, “in the thirtieth year,” is not greater than the indefiniteness with respect to the person: “as I.” As the latter indefiniteness is removed in Ezekiel 1:3 by the mention of the name, etc., so (according to Kliefoth, and also Keil) the corresponding addition: in the fourth month, on the fifth day, by the repetition in Ezekiel 1:2 of the fifth of the month, viz. the fifth day of the forementioned fourth month, is brought into connection with the objectivity of the “fifth year from the carrying away captive of king Jehoiachin,” and in this way relieved of all want of clearness, while at the same time expressly separated from the date: “in the thirtieth year,” just as this latter itself is so much the more evidently left to its simplest, natural acceptation of the thirtieth year of the prophet’s life. If then Ezekiel 1:2 afterwards supplies the period according to which Ezekiel adjusts his first, subjective date, the supposition of another so-called “publicly current era” is superfluous, apart from the fact, that no such era has hitherto been pointed out. Recourse has been had (1) to a Jewish era, and (2) to a Babylonian one. (1) Thus Hitzig adheres to the opinion of many Jewish expositors, that the reference is to the thirtieth year from a jubilee1 (comp. on Ezekiel 40:1), but combats what is yet so necessary, the more exact definition, e.g., of Raschi, that in this way the reckoning is from the eighteenth year of king Josiah, important on account of the finding of the book of the law, etc. (2 Kings 22:0. sqq.; 2 Chronicles 34:0. sqq.); while Hävernick declares this reckoning (already that of the Chaldee Paraphrast, Jerome, Grotius, and also Ideler) “the only tenable one,” as also that which is “alone suited to the context:” “that with the last period of prosperity there stands contrasted the last period of misfortune (under Jehoiachin): the numbers are prophetically significant statements, pointing to the weighty circumstance of the prophet’s making his appearance in a memorable, fatal time.” We must therefore assume a “priestly” mode of reckoning. Calvin lays stress upon the Greek analogy of Olympiads, as well as the Roman one of reckoning according to consulates, and in favour of the jubilee under Josiah brings forward the peculiarly solemn passover-feast at that time. (2) For accepting a Babylonian era one might urge the sojourn of Ezekiel in Babylon, especially his peculiar attention to chronology, which, dates from this seat of astronomical science. In this case the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin has been reckoned, as the year b.c. 595, and the thirtieth year from that as the year b.c. 625, when Nabopolassar ascended the Chaldean throne; and either the eighteenth year of Josiah has been taken as contemporaneous therewith, or the era of Nabopolassar merely has been clung to (e.g. by Scaliger, Perizonius). But the reckoning does not agree; according to Bunsen, at least, the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin would be the year b.c. 593. Perizonius wished therefore to be at liberty to read in Ezekiel the thirty-second instead of the thirtieth year. J. D. Michaelis helps himself by making the reckoning start not from Nabopolassar’s ascending the throne, but from the conquest of Nineveh and Babylon by him. Comp. besides in Hitzig.—The fourth month, since the first (Nisan) coincides for the most part with our March, corresponds to our June, or, according to J. D. Michaelis, Hitzig, Bunsen, to July nearly. The (probably Babylonian) name of it would be Tammuz; but the prophet follows still the custom of antiquity, which, with only some exceptions, did not give names to the separate months, but merely numbered them.—ואני בתוך־הגולה. As the time is indicated by “in the thirtieth year,” so also next the place is indicated in a personal way: as I was, etc. That the clause might by itself mean, cum essem in medio captivorum, is beyond a doubt; but that the LXX. in this case translate more correctly than the Vulgate is not less undoubtedly clear from Ezekiel 3:11; Ezekiel 3:15. Hitzig’s solution (favoured by Klief., Keil): “in the district (region) of their (the exiles’) dwelling-places (settlements),” is superfluous; more accurate is his remark: “and besides he himself was a captive.” Rightly Ewald: in the midst of the captivity. The historical dates in the prophetic books have a certain designedness, something symbolic about them,—are at all events not simply historical notices; they are intended to be understood in the light of the idea, exactly as that was to be realized in the case in hand, and hence characteristically as regards the prophet in question. In the midst of the misery the prophet was to behold the glory of God for his people (comp. Introd. § 5). Calvin on this occasion enters into a polemic against the notion of the Jews, as if the hand of God were shortened towards the holy land, etc. Ezekiel was, according to Ezekiel 3:11; Ezekiel 3:15, alone by the river, and did not go, till he had had the vision, among the multitudes of his countrymen who dwelt or happened to be nearest him.—By the river Chebar, comp. Introd. § 4 (Calvin attaches indeed no importance to it, but he mentions the opinion of those who regard the rivers as places consecrated for revelations, inasmuch as they give prominence to their symbolical character [“the lighter element of water,” while “the earth appears heavier”], or inasmuch as others think of the “cleansing” power of water and the like. A kind of spiritual reference to Psalms 137:1 Calvin looks upon as forced.) Hengstenberg compares Daniel 8:2; Daniel 10:4; Ezekiel is “removed to the Chebar, because there he is far from the bustle of men, and allured to great thoughts by the rushing of the water.”2 And then it is alleged he was “there only in vision,” as is clear from Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14! As if, forscoth, the Spirit could not have carried him to and from the actual river! Then we must understand “in the midst of the captivity” likewise as being in vision. In Daniel it is expressly said at Ezekiel 8:2 to be in vision, and at Ezekiel 10:4 as well as here it is to be conceived of as not being so. At Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:24, the definition as to its being in vision is expressly added. (Some have also formed to themselves a conception of the sojourn by the water after the analogy of the Romish Ghetto, as Martial says instead of Jew transtiberinus.)—The personal reference is kept up still in the description of the subject in hand, of what took place: the heavens were opened, and I saw—; so much is the divine authorization of Ezekiel the leading thought. The opening of the heavens refers, as respects the form, as regards the character of the vision, to this vision which follows. There is in this respect nothing more general intended by it (John 1:32), as Keil seems to hint. Comp., however, Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21; Acts 7:56; Acts 10:10-11; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 19:11. As regards what is essential in all ways and forms, Calvin will be right in maintaining, that “God opens His heavens, not that in reality they are cleft asunder, but inasmuch as, after the removal of all hindrances, He enables the eyes of believers to penetrate to His heavenly glory.” As Jerome has already said: fide credentis intellige, eo quod cœlestia sint illi reserata mysteria. (Grotius makes the heavens to be rent open by repeated flashes of lightning.) “He who says this, testifies that what he has seen he has not seen as something which has come out of the earth or existed first on the earth, but that it has descended from heaven, and consequently been visions of God” (Cocceius). If the opening of the heavens depicts the manner of the thing, how it happened, then the expression, visions of God (Ezekiel 40:2), specifies the thing itself under discussion, and that first of all in accordance with what follows, where the next thing is vision. The genitive relation cannot be rendered by: sublime visions, or the like (as Calvin already rejects as frigid the interpretation: visiones præstantissimas, quia divinum vocatur in scriptura quidquid excellit), but it might perhaps, in accordance also with linguistic usage elsewhere, pass as equivalent to: divine visions, i.e. in the manner of Isaiah 6:0., 1 Kings 22:19, 2 Kings 6:17, etc. (Hitzig: heavenly visions). Quia ex cœlo demonstratas, ideoque divinas et a Deo ostensas (Cocceius). As genitive of the subject (auctoris) it might be interpreted in accordance with Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16, either: visions which God (as well as they) sees, or: visions which God gives to see (which proceed from God); which would correspond with the aim of the following vision, that of legitimating Ezekiel’s call as a divine one. “The divine visions stand opposed to the visions of one’s own heart, the empty fancies of false prophets, Jeremiah 23:25-26” (Hengstenberg). “Otherwise it would have been incredible, that a prophet should have arisen out of Chaldea. Nazareth even (John 1:47) was still situated in the promised land. Thus the divine call needed to be confirmed as such in a special way” (Calv.). As genitive of the object the meaning would be, visions which have reference to God, have Him as their object; which suits the contents of the vision as expressed at Ezekiel 1:28. Here: visions of God; in Jeremiah 1:1 : words of Jeremiah.—וָאֶרְאֶה is the complete form without apocope, as after the ו consecut. not seldom in the first person and in the later books.
Ezekiel 1:2 is occupied with a reference to the dates. It was the fifth year from the carrying away captive of ting Jehoiachin, and it is meant of the “objective common era” (Hengstenberg),3 just as also in the sequel of this notice (Ezekiel 1:3), which is better inserted immediately than later. Ezekiel—a thing which does not occur elsewhere in the book (Ezekiel 24:24!)—speaks of himself in the third person. Without verses 2, 3, with Ezekiel 1:1 simply pushed forward to Ezekiel 1:4, we would have the impression that a private document, a leaf of the prophet’s journal, lay before us. The explicit statement of Ezekiel 1:2 was the more necessary, where already in Ezekiel 1:1 the fifth of the fourth month was to be explained with reference to this fixed period, the most important of course for the immediate hearers of the prophet, and therefore easily intelligible for them, and also retained by the prophet throughout, but for others not equally clear. That Ezekiel 1:2-3 “interrupt” (Ewald) the connection cannot be alleged; we shall find the opposite.—נּוֹלָה in Ezekiel 1:1 is essentially the same as נָּלוּח in Ezekiel 1:2, the distinction to be made being perhaps this, that the former refers more to the condition, the latter to the action.—As to the historical fact, see 2 Kings 24:6 sqq., 2 Chronicles 36:9 sqq.—יוֹיכִין as here, in 2 Kings, 2 Chron. יְהוֹיָכִין, is called in Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28 כָּנְיָהוּ, in Ezekiel 24:1 of the same book יְכָנְיָהוּ, and in Ezekiel 27:20 יְכָנְיָה.—Kliefoth, on the basis of the detailed exposition in Hävernick, gives prominence as regards this period, on the one hand, to the unpleasant impression of the first circular letter (Jeremiah 29:0.) to the exiles, and on the other hand, to the inflaming of their minds by the later prophetic announcement in Jeremiah 51:59 sqq. Comp. in the remainder of the Introd. § 5. “That it was already the fifth year, is held up as a reproach to the stiffneckedness of the Jews” (Calv.). The appearance of Ezekiel took place in the most hopeful period of the reign of Zedekiah, when false prophecy was making its voice heard at home and abroad. To all this seeming and fancied glory, opposed as it was to the divine word of the true prophets, Ezekiel’s vision of glory formed the divine antithesis.
Ezekiel 1:3. הָיֹה היה, inf. absol., in solemnly rhetorical fashion emphasizing the divine attestation of the prophet: really, expressly, quite certainly. The full unquestionable reality of the transaction is to be indicated.—Though Ezekiel 1:1 spoke of the person, time, place, subject-matter, all the elements of the introduction, yet Ezekiel 1:2 reverted to the time; and so Ezekiel 1:3 speaks anew first of all of the subject-matter as דבר יי׳, which came to Ezekiel, by which expression this same subject-matter, linking itself on to Ezekiel 1:1 (there, “visions of God;” here, “the word of Jehovah”), is now designated according to its intrinsic, its essential character as the product of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is at the same time the exact announcement of what follows, and the introduction thereto; for at Ezekiel 1:28 there is a transition from the “I saw” to the “I heard the voice of one that spake,” and this latter is shown from Ezekiel 2:4 to be “the Lord Jehovah.”—As to the name of the prophet and that of his father, as well as the priestly rank of both, with which the personal description is completed, comp. Introd. §§ 1, 3. For the purpose in a quite objective way of making more prominent his divine legitimation, Ezekiel speaks of himself as of a third person. (Like the LXX., the Syriac and Arabic versions presuppose צלי, the reading of several Codd.) Humility also, in a case where he had been deemed worthy of such a revelation (comp. the similar mode of expression in 2 Corinthians 12:2 sqq.), recommended his speaking in the third person.—The renewed mention of the place is not a mere repetition of the words: by the river Chebar, but a more exact definition alike of this river, and especially of the phrase: “in the midst of the captivity,” both being defined by בארץ בשדים,—in the sense, however, of land of the Chaldeans=land of the enemy, to which at the close of the verse שם again points back, emphatically, as Calvin remarks. This locality was only too significant a corrective of presumption on the one hand, as of despair on the other, or rather of fleshly narrow-mindedness in general.—If then, finally, the subject-matter is again brought into prominence, and that as respects its producing cause, viz. that the hand of Jehovah came upon him, this certainly is not said without reference to the statement: “and I fell upon my face,” in Ezekiel 1:28, and might indeed have preceded the words: the word of Jehovah came in reality (Hitzig); but the immediately following subject-matter (Ezekiel 1:4) demanded this or some such transition at the close of the verse. Thus verses 2, 3 complete the section. The formula of transition used is one that occurs again (Introd. § 7), Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1. Comp. 2 Kings 3:15. The expression the hand of Jehovah always means a divine manifestation of power, but in the sense of action, consequently with will and intention, by means of which self-will and refusal on the part of man are laid in the dust, and the man is prepared for the divine purpose. For whatever may be the natural basis subjectively (intellectually, morally, and spiritually), as well as objectively (as respects the nexus in the history of the time, or of the individual), the prophetic word as God’s word, as visions of God, is neither a product of one’s own effort and exertion, reflection and investigation, nor a result of mere human instruction. It is not gifts, not study that makes the prophet, just as also we do not meet with inclination as a prophetic factor, but constraint must be put upon them,—the prophets needed to be overpowered. Thus something lies in the צליו יד יי׳. Comp. Jeremiah 20:7. If this appears in a still stronger form where instead of וַהְּהִי, e.g. at Ezekiel 8:1, we have וַחִּמֹּל, Ezekiel 11:5 certainly explains יד יי׳ by רוּחַ יי׳; it is the power of the Spirit. “He has thus expressed the energy of the divine Spirit” (Theodoret). Hence the prophetic preparation in consequence of this is rightly given by Oehler in the first place as a divine knowledge (comp. Jeremiah 23:18 with Amos 3:7), to which there cannot be wanting as a second element the sanctifying as well as strengthening efficacy (Psalms 1-16 sqq.; Micah 3:8). J. Fr. Starck quotes: impulsus inopinatus, illuminatio extraordinaria, spiritus prophetiæ vehemens, afflatus Spiritus Sancti singularis. “Thus he saw what other men did not see, then he recollected all that he had seen and heard, and understood the meaning of the Lord and did His commandment.” Cocc. (On old pictures of the prophets, as well as in the frescoes of the church at Schwarz-Rheindorf, a hand is painted, which is stretched from heaven.)
Ezekiel 1:4-28.—Ezekiel’s Vision of the Glory of Jehovah
Isaac Casaubon, in his once far-famed Exercitationes, 16. de reb. sacr. et eccl. adv. Baronium (Geneva 1655), asserts: “in the whole of the Old Testament there is nothing more obscure than the beginning and the end of the book of Ezekiel.” Under the same impression Calvin declares, that “he acknowledges that he does not understand this vision.” Jerome had pronounced that “in its interpretation all the synagogues of the Jews are dumb, giving as their reason that it transcends man’s capacity, et de hoa et de œdificatione templi, quod in ultimo hujus prophetœ scribitur, aliquid velle conari.” The Jewish designation for the following vision is מֶרְכָּבָה, “chariot” or “team of four,” in accordance with the four living creatures and the four wheels. Hävernick: “It formed the basis and the point of support for the later mystic theology in its endless gnostic speculations about the divine essence and the higher spirit-world.” As their natural theology is called among the Jews בְּרֶאשִׁיח, so-the mystic is called מֶרְכָּב. One is not to read before reaching his thirtieth year either the beginning of Genesis, or the Song of Songs, or the beginning and end of the book of Ezekiel; such is the admonition of Jewish tradition. Comp. Zunz, Die gottesdienstl. Vortr. d. Juden, p. 162 sqq. (the most important work of more recent times in this department).
Umbreit, while he denies him the poetic gift, ascribes to Ezekiel “in the rarest degree the ability which is characteristic of the painter, of making visible to the eye what he has seen.” But even the celebrated picture of Raphael in the Pitti Gallery at Florence may pass as a criticism of this assertion. There there is more than one feature quite passed over: what is separate appears grouped together; what is united, on the other hand, appears divided. To the artistic conception of the greatest painter the vision of Ezekiel presented itself with difficulty. We shall be compelled to assert even more positively, that with all the “exactitude of delineation, and with the plastic art in the giving of details” (Umbreit), an obscurity remains over the whole, even merely as respects the setting it before the eye, an invisibility, which is not certainly to be ascribed to “overcrowding,” but which lies in the subject-matter, the object of the vision, which results from the thing itself. The representation of Ezekiel wrestles with its subject, as the amplification, the repetition and recurrence again to what has been said, shows. It must indeed be the case, according to Exodus 33:0, that (Ezekiel 1:22-23) only the “back parts” of the glory of God are capable of being seen by man here upon earth. Comp. 1 John 3:2. Certainly, if Ezekiel, because he had been carried out of the body, were to have seen the “face” of the glory of God, his after-remembrance in the body of what he had seen would not have been capable of being expressed. Comp. 2Co 12:4; 2 Corinthians 12:3. The “unapproachable light,” in which God dwells (1 Timothy 6:16), remains from the time of the Sinaitic keynote theophany onwards for the whole of the Old Testament. Exodus 19:9; Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:20-21 (Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:19); Lev 16:2; 1 Kings 8:12; Psalms 97:2 (Ezekiel 18:12).
We may quote the remark of Umbreit, that Ezekiel “repeats more frequently than any other prophet the statement: the word of Jehovah was thus made known to me, as if he had felt the word like a burden, and was unable to reproduce it as such in a very worthy manner; it is only to set down its symbol that he feels himself called in his inmost being.” There is also to be found in Ezekiel as compared with the older prophets a greater complication in the symbolism, in which the following vision especially is expressed in its plastic art. Comp. Introd. § 7.
Inasmuch as it is vision, and consequently the divine element is represented visibly in pictures, these pictures have a divine import, are symbols, so that there belongs to them at the same time a concealing, relatively veiling character, especially as regards the people. The word of God must accordingly come in addition to the vision of God, in order to explain it for the prophet and the people. Comp. the distinction between ὀπτασἰας and ἀποκαλύψεις κυρίου, 2 Corinthians 12:1.
But it is not so much a peaceful picture which presents itself to our prophet, as rather a phenomenon of a very excited character inwardly as well as outwardly; a circumstance which must not remain unnoticed in the interpretation. The storm brings great clouds therefore. A strong brisk fire, which spreads its brightness round about, forms the interior of the cloud brought by the storm. Such is the first, outermost part of the vision, its porch as it were, which the prophet first of all enters (Ezekiel 1:4). On a nearer view there are formed out of the intensive fire of the cloud as it were four “living creatures,” which have at first sight the appearance of a man, and are therefore to be carried back in thought to this in general, whatever else in detail more exact description perceives in them. And so the fourfold group of the creatures is individualized in a fourfoldness of each of them: man, lion, ox, eagle. In spite of such fourfoldness, which is perhaps also clear from other circumstances (thus they have wings, and at the same time the foot-soles of a calf, and yet the hands of a man, comp. at Ezekiel 1:7), prominence is given expressly to a mutuality of relation, the unity of a whole, Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:20-22 (Ezekiel 1:5-14). Then, further, as the direction out of the north (Ezekiel 1:4) has given the tendency of the vision in its immediate historical reference, so the wheels also bring the whole into connection with the earth. The more expressive connecting link will be the number four, the symbolic number (passing over from the living creatures to the wheels) of the cosmical relations, in which God reveals Himself. (Bähr, Symbolism of the Mosaic Cultus, 1 p. 341.) The glory of Jehovah from heaven manifests itself with this second part of the vision as a glorifying of Jehovah upon earth, inasmuch as “the spirit of the living creature” unites in the closest way wheels and creatures (Ezekiel 1:15-21). Lastly, the holy of holies of the vision is opened with the vault as of heaven over the heads of the chajah. The living creatures, into union with which the wheels are taken up by means of the “spirit,” are by means of the “voice,” which comes from above the vault, and that while they are at rest, united to Him who is enthroned there, who looked like a man. From Him ultimately everything proceeds, just as to Him ultimately everything tends. As in the holy of holies of the tabernacle and of the temple, the vision culminates in the enthroning of Jehovah in His glory. Hence, too, it cannot be passed over without remark, that in this very excited phenomenon a thrice-repeated advance makes itself known. The first time the fire-cloud כְּצֵין הַחַשְׁמַל מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ (Ezekiel 1:4). The second time the fire-picture of the chajoth כֹּצְַרוֹת כְּמַרְאֵה הַמִּידִים כְּנַחַלֵי־אֵשׁ (Ezekiel 1:13; Ezekiel 1:7), with the height and dreadfulness and כְּצֵין תַּרשִׁישׁ of the wheels (Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 1:16). The third time: the רָקִיצַ כְּצֵין הַקֶּרַח הַנּוֹרָה, and the throne אֶבֶן םַמִּיר כְּמַרְאֶה, and the fire-bright appearance of the Glorious One thereon, the description of which, however, at last terminates significantly in: “As the appearance of the bow,” etc. Fire, brightness, light,—this remains the common feature all three times; it forms consequently the fundamental characteristic of the vision as respects its interpretation, in which, however, the meaning of the closing rainbow in the cloud must not be left out.
Let us now attempt to get at the meaning of the vision. Although the separate symbols must be left over to the exegesis, yet the symbolism as a whole must be understood beforehand, according to which the import of the vision, especially in comparison and connection with other similar visions of the Old Testament, will come to light. Ezekiel himself leaves us in no doubt as to the meaning of his vision, for he says expressly at the close: הוּא מַרְאֵה דּמוּת כּבוֹר יי׳. It is therefore Jehovah’s glory that presented itself to him, and presents itself to us in the vision. In so far as this can be distinguished more in its personal relation to Himself, and on the other side more in its active manifestation and execution of His will, as Jehovah’s glory and as His glorification, the הוּא of Ezekiel 1:28 may, by a glance at Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:19, be more precisely explained by Keil (following Hitzig), but for the interpretation of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0 it is not advisable. As to the idea כבוד for “glory,” comp. on Ezekiel 1:28. Although the כָּבוֹד of God stands for the appearance, hence for what is manifest (Introd. § 10), yet the figurative representation of the same must not be taken as a matter of course for the essential idea. Gesenius says incorrectly in his Pocket Dictionary: “The Hebrew conceives (?) of it as a clear shining fire, from which fire issues, and which is usually enveloped in smoke;” for the Hebrew conceives of it rather (comp. Ges. himself) as “weight, dignity, gravitas.” To the divine essence there belongs a corresponding sovereign dignity and sovereign power,—a glory (Herrlichkeit from “hehr”), as well as a dominion (Herrschaft from “Herr”). The two things conceived of as one idea, and not merely in antithesis to the world, but in the world as the light and the life of the world, is the כָּבוֹד of God—the significance of God for the world. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:1), and the whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3). Without it there is nothing but “power and matter” (Büchner), and our view of the world is an atomistic one. Although the manifest aim of creation has been turned by reason of sin into the goal, yet Psalms 97:6 says and prophesies: “The heavens declare His righteousness, and all nations see His glory;” and in Numbers 14:21 Jehovah swears by His life, that the glory of Jehovah shall fill the whole earth. If with this far-reaching look at the world’s goal, and on the broad foundation of the divine aim as regards the world (“Jehovah” is certainly everywhere “Elohim”), Ezekiel’s vision of Jehovah’s glory shapes itself first of all and predominantly as the righteousness of the Holy One, who will execute the judgment upon Jerusalem, and thus also upon that portion of Israel not yet in banishment by the Chebar, such a thing is easily understood as being necessary for that historical period, alike from the situation of affairs and as regards the persons. And this it is that is symbolized by the fire-cloud in particular, as well as in general by the fire-style, in which the whole is kept. Nevertheless there comes forth as the kernel of the fire-cloud the fire-picture of the four chajoth, whose meaning is as little reached when one goes back and gives them a Judaistic interpretation as the cherubim in the tabernacle or in the temple, as when one christianizes them by anticipation, as Kliefoth does, as the “universality of the economy of salvation founded by Christ when He appeared, in contrast with the particularism and territorialism of the previous economy of salvation.” It might rather be nearer the mark to adopt a third view which would keep fast hold of the glory of God as the original aim of the creation of heaven and earth is well as the ultimate goal of the history of the world; in connection with which the idea of life, so frequent with Ezekiel, pervading as it does the whole book, must not be overlooked (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11; the whole of Ezekiel 37:0; Ezekiel 18:9; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 18:19; Ezekiel 18:21; Ezekiel 18:24; Ezekiel 18:28; Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:12-13; Ezekiel 33:15-16; Ezekiel 3:18; Ezekiel 3:21; Ezekiel 16:6; Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:21; Ezekiel 20:25; Ezekiel 47:9; Ezekiel 13:18-19; Ezekiel 13:22; Ezekiel 7:13; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16; Ezekiel 14:18; Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 17:16; Ezekiel 17:19; Ezekiel 18:3; Ezekiel 20:3; Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 33:11; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8; Ezekiel 35:11 : comp. Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 32:23-27; Ezekiel 32:32). For as God’s glory has its side for Him, according to which it is the self-representation of His life in a majesty invisible for man, so, on the other side, heaven and earth and the world of creatures mirror forth the divine life in a visible glory of God, inasmuch as through them God’s peculiar nature and power come to be seen in a manifoldness and fulness of life. This is His “fame,” His “honour,” which become known from creation conformably to its original design, according to which the investigation of nature was meant to be, as Prof. Fichte says, “an uninterrupted worship, a rational and intelligent glorification of that uncreated wisdom which manifests itself in nature.” And in like manner (according to Beck), “all the threads of life, which the divine faithfulness in revelation preserves within the circle of sinful mankind from the beginning onwards, and evermore strengthens and perfects in a part of the same, converge at the end in a central manifestation of life: ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, 1 John 1:2. The revelation of life in actual fact breaks the death-power of sin, 2 Timothy 1:10; life is the substance of salvation” (Lehrwissenschaft, 1 p. 448); and this life-development of salvation exercises, on the one hand, a preserving, renewing, and perfecting influence on the still remaining life-power of the world, and on the other hand, a relaxing, judging, and annihilating influence on the death-power of sin, works creatively, so that man and the earthly system come forth as a new creation in eternal and unchangeable life from the catastrophe of conflict and judgment. As arising from such a connection of the life and glory of God, must the spiritual symbolism of the chajoth also be understood in Ezekiel. The retrospective reference to the cherubim of the ark has certainly its truth, but not till Ezekiel 10:0 (comp. at Ezekiel 9:3 the explanation with respect to the cherubs in general), where Ezekiel also (Ezekiel 1:20) expressly brings them forward; and even there (Ezekiel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:17; Ezekiel 1:20) they are called, as here and at Ezekiel 3:13, “chajoth” or “chajah.” Their symbolic character is necessarily clear even from the symbolic connection in which they appear. The prophet saw also merely a “likeness” of four living creatures, consequently what looked like four living creatures. To their symbolic character corresponds also their designation; the biblical ideas of life and death have a symbolic colouring. But, in particular, support is entirely wanting in Holy Scripture for conceiving of these “living creatures,” as Keil would have us, as “beings who of all the creatures of heaven and earth possess and exhibit life in the fullest sense of the word, and who on this very account of all spiritual beings stand the nearest to the God of the spirits of all flesh, who lives from eternity to eternity, and surround His throne on every side.” What would thus be affirmed of “creatures,” is applicable properly to the Son alone (John 1:4); and how would such “representatives and bearers of the eternal blessed life” harmonize even with the uniquely prominent position of man made in the image of God in the Bible! In opposition to actual individual beings of such a kind, in opposition to “angelic beings of a higher order,” there speaks too evidently their fourfold form, whose meaning, as already settled by the Rabbins, is this, that the vital power according to four types (of man above all and in general because of his life being in highest potency, because of his spirit and its eternal destiny),—comp. Bähr, Symb. 1 p. 342 sqq.,—is to find an expression, is to be represented in a fulness of the highest possible significance. From the reproach of being “abstract ideas or ideal forms of the imagination,” which would thus be “represented as living beings,” the purely symbolic view is released by this circumstance, that certainly the four types are taken from real life, only the manner of their application and their juxtaposition being ideal. There can be no question of abstraction, where rather the individual element is specially realized by means of the idea of the whole, viz. life. Hengstenberg [“The Cherubim” at the close of his “Ezekiel,” Clark’s Trans.], who in Bähr’s interpretation emphasizes not so much the “ideal creature” as “the living creation,” limits it, however, to the earth, holding that it must be viewed altogether apart from the heavenly creature. Passages, however, such as Genesis 2:7; Genesis 9:16, which he cites, leave sufficient room for the idea of the living creature in general, since, according to Genesis 2:7, there by no means belongs to the living creature “a double element, the earthly material and the quickening breath of God;” but these two constitute merely the earthly man, and he rather becomes “a living soul” from the fact that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” just as Genesis 9:16 also limits “every living creature” by means of the words “among all flesh that is upon the earth,” the thing spoken of being life upon earth. Theodoret, however, may be right, that the angels likewise are living creatures, and that the relation of mortality is the distinction between their life and that of man. The contrast with death is not less justified than that “with what is lifeless,” and the expression the “living” God scarcely allows the idea of the living creature to be confined to man and beasts. Neither does “the number four in itself” point exclusively to the earth; comp. Bähr in the work quoted, 1 p. 156 sqq. Only the composition of the number four, consisting as it does of man, lion, ox, and eagle, has, according to the ingenious exposition of Hengstenberg, much of an earthly appearance. That ox and calf alternate in Ezekiel 1:7 (Revelation 4:7), does indeed make the representation of the (tame) cattle by means of the ox and that of the wild animals by means of the lion very probable. But the flying of the eagle would certainly be sufficiently represented by two wings, while the four wings expressly mentioned (Ezekiel 1:6) point beyond this requisite, and in their parallel (Ezekiel 1:8) with the hands of a man—which give prominence to the human element—allow us on their side to conjecture something superterrestrial beyond man and beast, as Keil has rightly remarked. When Hengstenberg makes use of the cherubs of the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple for his exposition, one does not easily understand how the furnishing of their human form with wings is to spring from this cause, that the class of birds “in the history of creation opens the series of living creatures, just as man closes it;” for in Genesis 1:20 the aquatic animals still take the precedence, and in fact the large ones (Ezekiel 1:21), which play such a part in Holy Scripture. Just as little can “the bird” take “the last place,” as being also that which is relatively “lower,” which is contradicted, as has been said, by the four wings. There is to be noticed in Ezekiel 1:11 (23) the parallel to Isaiah 6:2 (comp. Ezekiel 3:12). Perhaps, also, when speaking of “the noise of their wings” (Ezekiel 1:24), the comparison כְּקוֹל מַחֲנֶה (after Genesis 32:2-3) is worthy of notice. The cherubs in Solomon’s temple (and also on the stands of the basins,4 1 Kings 7:29) represented not life upon earth, according to its two extremities, but the terrestrial and superterrestrial life of creation. Thus only do the “lions and oxen” before us gain their significance: wild animals and cattle, the strictly animal world as contrasted with the earthly and heavenly spiritual world in their combination in the winged human figure. Otherwise they would not be necessary representations, inasmuch as they were certainly already represented by means of the irrational bird. With the “palm trees” and “flowers” (1 Kings 6:29; Ezekiel 41:18-19; Ezekiel 41:25), the significant vegetable world, too, was added to the earthly creation; while, in the following vision, storm, clouds, fire, light (Ezekiel 1:4) set before our eyes almost literally passages like Psalms 104:0 : “O Lord, my God, Thou art very great. Thou clothest Thyself with splendour and glory, wrapping Thyself round with light as a garment,—who maketh clouds His chariot, walketh upon the wings of the wind, making His messengers winds, His servants flaming fire.” Psalms 50:0 : “Our God shall come, etc. Fire devoureth before Him, and round about Him it is very tempestuous; He calleth the heavens from above, and the earth, to judge His people,—and the heavens declare His righteousness.” Psalms 18:0 : “He bowed the heavens and came down, and cloudy darkness was under His feet, and He rode upon the cherub, and did fly, and was poised upon the wings of the wind, made darkness His covering, etc. At the brightness that was before Him His clouds passed away, hail and coals of fire.” Although it will have to be conceded to Hengstenberg, that the earthly reference of the life of creation preponderates in the vision of Ezekiel, quite similarly as on the other side the human type preponderates, yet the whole continues to have an undeniably superterrestrial character. The fire-cloud with the four living creatures appears to the prophet (comp. Ezekiel 1:1) out of the opened heavens, and it is only the wheels (Ezekiel 1:15 sqq.) that intentionally set down the heavenly phenomenon as being at the same time something earthly. It is meant to be the human-earthly creation in the fulness of its vital power, as appearing from the background of the heaven-stirred, and also spirit-like elemental powers (air, fire), and still more (comp. Revelation 4:8-9; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 19:4) as offering itself continually after the manner of the heavenly messengers and servants in obedience and voluntary surrender (ὡς ἐν ον̓ρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, Matthew 6:10), in unceasing activity of service to His honour, and thus continually glorifying Him (Ezekiel 1:19 sqq.). This we may suppose to be the most intrinsically heavenly element in the vision. It is certainly the case with the spectacle at the revelation on Sinai, which, moreover, unmistakably furnishes the keynote here, that the law was given in fire and cloud, but not less through the mediation of angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:53; Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19). Hengstenberg speaks strikingly of Ezekiel 1:0 as “the great panorama of the universe;” and there, certainly, the reference indicated could not be wanting. If the “spirit” (Ezekiel 1:12) determines the first vital operation of the chajoth, their motion, and if (Ezekiel 1:20-21) it is also the determining element for the motion of the wheels, then the (as one may express it) more spiritual motion of the whole, but especially of the chajoth, viz. “the noise of their wings” (Ezekiel 1:24), is determined negatively, i.e. is brought to silence, to rest, by the voice from above (Ezekiel 1:25); so that with this voice from the throne, and therefore with Him who is upon it (Ezekiel 1:26 sqq.), each and all are united, and express themselves as well as move as He pleases (Ezekiel 1:24), or rest according to His intimation. In this way the God of hosts, whom Hengstenberg only co-ordinates with Him who is enthroned upon the chajoth, is rather at the same time declared to be this latter, or the chajoth seem in such manner to be embraced in the idea of the heavenly hosts. To see in the wheels, then, “the powers of nature,” is certainly not so natural as to abide by the view of Hitzig, who appeals in support of it to Daniel 7:9. Keil also must after all admit the idea of a throne-chariot. A throne which is to move upon the earth can hardly be conceived of without wheels. It is not so much, however, “to show the possibility and the ease with which the throne moves to all the four quarters of the world,” as rather to express the motion in the most living manner and expressly for the earth, specially in the first place with a view to Jerusalem, corresponding to the historical circumstances: it is for this reason that we have to do with wheels. The eyes in the wheels are parallel with the faces in the chajoth, and both are to be understood in connection with the “spirit” (רוּחַ), and perhaps also not without reference to “the noise of the wings” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The sovereignty of Him who rules in heaven, whom all serve as to Him all live, as it is ready from heaven to manifest itself livingly upon earth, is represented at the close as being the sovereignty “as of a man,” which, when we take into account the rainbow of Ezekiel 1:28 (notwithstanding the preponderating judicial character of the whole), allows of the coming forth full of promise—as the ultimate goal, as the victory of righteousness—of the kindness and love of God toward man (Titus 3:4), in grace and mercy toward Israel, and for the salvation of the world, so that the vision would have its fulfilment in Christ (comp. John 12:41 with Isaiah 6:0), Revelation 4:0.
After this interpretation of the symbolism of the vision as a whole, its meaning for the prophetic mission of Ezekiel (comp. the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1-3) must be clear thus far, that above all the prophet will have to announce judgment, not merely in the first place upon Jerusalem, but farther upon the heathen also. To this the fire-characteristic points, which remains with the vision from beginning to end, and behind which whatever promise of mercy if in it steps into the background for the time, so that the prophet falls down under the impression received (Ezekiel 1:28). For a so-called “consecration as a prophet,” this certainly would be too special in its tenor. For this one would be under the necessity of extracting, and that at the same time under a misapprehension “of the dependence of our theophany on that manifestation of God at Sinai,” as Keil does, “in a more general way the symbols of that righteousness, holiness, and grace which God manifests in the upholding, governing, and perfecting of His kingdom.” On the other hand, by means of the fire-character of judgment, which expressed its special tendency, this vision was an introduction of Ezekiel forth-with into his sphere of labour. Nothing else had the prophet at first to testify to the exiles, for their obstinacy with all its ungodly hopes was still founded on the apparent continuance of Jerusalem. The more such high ecstasy—a throwing inwards or spiritualizing, which has its sphere on the boundary of corporeal life (Ezekiel 1:28), as Oehler brings out prominently—along with the mission of Ezekiel attested his call as a prophet, the less need was there of an official consecration for him; his mission under such a vision was so in the highest degree, or at least made a call, calling, consecration to the prophetic office be presupposed in a decided manner in his case, as the Talmudists, even in reference to הָיָההָיֹה in Ezekiel 1:3 (in the interest certainly of the prophecy, as they assert, being attached to the ark), show therefrom, that Ezekiel was already before a prophet in the holy land. The vision does not by any means consecrate him as a prophet, but it certainly does transfer him to those banished to Tel-Abib (Ezekiel 3:12 sqq.); it thus realizes itself as a mission. And pervading as it does the whole book, it likewise stamps and illustrates the prophetic activity of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 3:23; Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 43:2. The vision is, however, not merely as regards its fire-character, a programme for our prophet, but its much more essential contents informed him that he would have to represent the glory of Jehovah. Judgment in the first place, from the very beginning, however, not without mercy, but rather a glorification of the living God in His people to be accomplished in a glory of vital power, on the basis of creation, and thus from the outset with a view to the whole earth.5 The meaning of the chajoth in the vision, whence their designation (purposely not called cherubim in Ezekiel 1:0), and their so-varied form, and the accompaniment of spirit-moved wheels full of eyes are explained, cannot be settled by pointing to the Lord’s dwelling among His people in the holy of holies of the temple, nor explained by the “œcumenical character of the new economy of salvation, for the setting up of which the Lord shall appear upon earth” (which is said to be represented in the fourfold figure of the cherubs and wheels); nor even can it be expressed characteristically enough with Keil in this way, that “the moving of the throne to all quarters of the world is made conspicuous, not merely in order to indicate the spread of the kingdom of God over the whole earth, but in order to reveal the Lord and King, whose power stretches over the whole world,” etc. (p. 28). The prophecy of glory is the characteristic of Ezekiel, whereby he stands distinguished from all prophets. With its destination for the exile,—this too must be added in reference to the meaning of the following vision for the prophetic mission of Ezekiel,—harmonizes the making God prominent, on the ground of the manifold fulness of life in His creation, as Himself the Living One in ruling, reigning, as well as all-filling uniqueness of life and glory. And so He must break forth in judgment on Jerusalem, where He is degraded to a lifeless, powerless, and therefore no longer believed in idol, side by side with other false gods. And as such He must manifest Himself to the heathen world, into whose power His people have been already, will be completely, given. The living God, and as such glorious, has, however, no pleasure in the death of the wicked, of him that dieth, as Ezekiel repeatedly testifies to the exiles; rather is the quickening of Israel to new life (Ezekiel 37:0), the stream of life (Ezekiel 47:0), His significant promise. As I live, why will ye die, O house of Israel? may be pronounced in this connection to be the prophetic voice of Ezekiel in the exile.
If we compare other similar visions in the Old Testament, in order to throw more light on the characteristic of Ezekiel’s, the Talmudists have identified that of Isaiah in Ezekiel 6:0. with that of Ezekiel, the only difference being as if a townsman and a countryman were to behold a king. But apart from the circumstance (introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1-3), that in the case of Isaiah it is after the self-legitimation in actual fact by means of the preceding discourses, which are designated as חָזוֹן (Ezekiel 1:1), הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה (Ezekiel 2:1), and which thus presuppose his consecration as a prophet, and not till Ezekiel 6:0 that the divine confirmation and introduction of the judicial mission of the prophet is related, so characteristically winding up what goes before as well as introducing what follows, while in the case of Ezekiel the vision opens his book; the theme with Isaiah is the thrice-Holy One over against the sin which has become ripe for the judgment of hardening, whereas, on the other hand, Ezekiel sees the glory of Jehovah in the midst of the misery of the exile. For Him who visibly appears as above the world, there is something becoming in the “holy, holy, holy” (comp. on the other hand, Ezekiel 3:12), in holiness He manifests Himself in the heavens; and the circumstance that His glory fills the whole earth (Ezekiel 1:3), shows how His intramundane manifestation (Introd. § 10), in accordance with His heavenly holiness, must take shape in righteousness upon the earth. In accordance therewith, in accordance with the character of holiness belonging to Isaiah’s vision, it is also seraphim that hover around the throne, that call one to another the “holy,” etc., and one of whom must hallow the prophet, who declares himself personally, and as a member of the community, unclean. How different what is said in Ezekiel as to the chajoth! And, accordingly, Ezekiel becomes like a dead man, whereas Isaiah became conscious to himself of being a sinner. As regards the visions of the Mosaic period, which are likewise appearances in glory, Exodus 24:17 resembles the vision of Ezekiel in its pervading fire-character, and Ezekiel 1:10 of the same chapter resembles the closing picture in Ezekiel 1:26; but in Moses’ vision (Exodus 33, 34) the glory of Jehovah is spoken of as “all His goodness” (בל טובי. Comp. Ezekiel 33:19 with Ezekiel 33:22-23), with which corresponds also the revelation in word (Ezekiel 33:19; Ezekiel 34:6-7) in its main import. The preponderance of revelation in word and of the fulness of God’s love is in this case the distinguishing element on the one hand from Ezekiel’s vision, and on the other from that of Isaiah. Lastly, the vision of Daniel in Ezekiel 7:0 is closely related to that of Isaiah by means of the fulness of majesty of the divine holiness in Ezekiel 1:9, just as it in so far coincides with Ezekiel’s, when at Ezekiel 1:12 mention is made of “respite of life for a season and time,” while to the Son of man in Ezekiel 1:14 is given an “everlasting dominion.” The four beasts out of the sea (Ezekiel 1:3) present themselves, on the contrary, as the antithesis to the four chajoth. (Comp. in the New Testament, besides Rev. at the passage already quoted, Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17.)
The different interpretations of the following vision, from the multitude of persons and views, and because many of the differences are in matters of subordinate importance, can be brought forward in passing survey merely. Vitringa (in the work already quoted, 4.Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 2:2) makes Abarbanel divide the interpretation of the Jewish teachers into three classes: (1) The traditional interpretation of the ancient school, viz. angels, in which mention is made of the four classes of the heavenly hosts, as leaders of which Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael are named, and the wheels also, by comparison with Daniel 7:10, are held to be spiritual beings of higher or lower rank than the chajoth. (2) The philosophizing interpretation e.g. of Maimonides, who brought in the Aristotelian physics. (3) The historical interpretation (Kimchi), viz. of the four world-monarchies, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which are said to be meant by the wheels, while the chajoth are the heavenly spirits of these kingdoms. The Christian expositors held fast in general the idea of Divine Providence, as it manifests itself either in nature or in the kingdom of grace. The former is, for example, the opinion of Calvin even, of a Lapide, of Bochart: the chajoth are to them heavenly spirits, the wheels, the great movements in the world and the church in accordance with God’s decrees. The interpretation of the kingdom of grace more specially is the almost universal one in the ancient Church, according to which the chajoth are the four evangelists. Luther: “The vision of Ezekiel is. nothing else but a revelation of the kingdom of Christ here upon earth in all the four quarters of the whole world.” So also Osiander, Cocceius. If not the evangelists, then the apostles or certain things predicated of Christ (Arnd.: Incarnation, Sacrifice, Resurrection, Ascension) are dragged in. The wheels, according to some, are meant to symbolize the Church, and that in her apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors; while, according to others, the chajoth represent the lining Church of the New Testament, and the wheels the holy angels. (Origen found the four human passions represented. Some also have wished to find the four ensigns of the camp of Israel therein. According to others, Nebuchadnezzar himself; the king as a man, flew like an eagle, imposed the yoke of an ox, and became cruel like the lion! and more of the like sort. Comp. Jerome.) The œsthetico-theologizing interpretation of Umbreit is as follows: “The life-creating Spirit brings the Almighty, but He is not in the storm, nor in the cloud,—it is only His chariot-throne,—nor in the fire—that is only the power of the natural life;—but neither is He the light, not even the gleam (eye) of the metal in its look of greatest splendour is the eye of God. Even the four living creatures, the old well-known Mosaic pictures of the cherubim over the ark of the covenant, are not Himself, but the natural life of the creatures in its endlessly divided multiplicity and unity, as well as in its restlessly moving power, reaching in the likeness of man the phenomenon of highest beauty. The destination of the four living creatures is shown by the wheels, the elements, which the free, formative principle of the divine Spirit appropriates to itself in the creation of the creatures; we see into the soul of nature. The third part of the vision lifts us up to heaven: My thoughts are not your thoughts, etc. (Isaiah 55:8-9). The firmament, even with its crystal splendour, does not give us the likeness of God. It is the fourth part of the prophetic vision that first lets us see the glory of the Eternal King; we sink down with the prophet before this spectacle, but man bears God’s image, and the Word was made flesh, full of grace and truth, surrounded with the light of the rainbow of grace.”
Ezekiel 1:4-14.—The Fire-Cloud (Ezekiel 1:4) and the Fire-Picture of the Four Living Creatures (Ezekiel 1:5-14)
The Fire-Cloud, Ezekiel 1:4. That which is set in motion in what presents itself to the prophet in vision (and I saw), and must rouse his attention as well as ours (and, behold), is described in the outset by means of the moving cause, viz. דוח םערה, which, by reason of the repeatedly emphasized דוח in what follows, is by no means = םערה (Isaiah 29:6). דוּחַ, in place of רְוֻחַ, is properly “a drawing together,” in manifold applications, but always with the idea of life in the background, figuratively or in actual fact, which cannot be without significance for the already mentioned fundamental idea of the vision as a keynote,—a keynote which we have pointed out in Ezekiel generally. We might almost translate: spirit of storm. (Umbreit: “The storm announces the approach of the life-producing Spirit, who moved creatively upon the waters, poured His breath into the creatures, and who ever renews the face of the earth” (Psalms 104:30). But comp. Jeremiah 23:19. Swiftly and violently, irresistibly devastating! Maldonatus: “Such were the Chaldeans, and harsh besides, cruel, heartless, unfeeling people.”) םערה, of the violent impulse, the dashing, roaring along; in Jonah 1:11 םער, of the raging violence of the sea when roused by the storm. (And I saw, viz. visions of God; and, behold, this was specially the vision which I saw.) מן־הצכּון—the article, because of this quarter of the heavens being universally known and standing alone, and perhaps also because to his circle o! hearers and readers under the existing historical circumstances the quarter could not be a matter of question, but was determined by these. At all events, although צָפוֹן from a verb “to hold back,” “to conceal,” “to hide” (צָפוּן, Ezekiel 7:22), might be conjectured to be something mysterious, yet “the idea of the hill of the gods” is not rendered probable by anything here; and Hitzig is under the necessity of paving the way for it in our passage by saying: “As the course of the sun makes the south appear inclined downwards, the north, it is conjectured (!!), lies higher, rises up to heaven with its high mountain chains, Lebanon, Caucasus, etc.” A “sacred quarter of the heavens in the north” (Ewald) is not to be seen in the Bible. Nor are we necessitated to think of the north, as the land of gold of many of the nations of antiquity, by the mere comparison בעין החשמל; and Zechariah 6:1 sqq. (Herder, Umbreit) belongs still less to this category, since in that passage there is just as much mention of south as of north, and the abode of God is in some quite different place; comp. Ezekiel 1:5 with Ezekiel 1:1. Rather is the fundamental idea of what is concealed justified by the darkness which appears to the senses, alike by reason of the beclouding of the northern heavens, in contrast with the south, which is richer in light and poorer in rain, and also in respect of distance, of remoteness. This natural view of the north is, as is well known, the common one with the poets; but the mediating idea of darkness is also here, where a “great cloud” stands next at least for the outer part of the symbol, without our being compelled on that account to think of the dark holy of holies with the ark of the covenant and the cherubim, and that in a similar way the theophany presents itself here to our prophet; but perhaps for the meaning, the inner sense, we may, with Kliefoth, compare Ezekiel 8:1 sqq., Ezekiel 10:19, Ezekiel 11:23, Ezekiel 43:2, as showing that God comes from the north when He comes to judgment, and, on the other hand, that He comes from the east for salvation and grace; only we must not overlook as the ultimate reason for this the historical situation of Israel, as well as of the prophet and the vision, and consequently it is to be explained with Bunsen: “an allusion to the Chaldeans coming from the north against Jerusalem, Jeremiah 1:14; comp. Ezekiel 26:7.” And therefore the prophet does not need to have been transported in spirit to Jerusalem (Hävernick), “into the temple, where one naturally expects the priest,” for the prophets, as Hävernick even does not deny, assign to the north the Assyrians and Babylonians, that is, “the region pregnant with destiny” (Hengstenberg); from Syria usually the inroad of the Asiatic world-powers was made, because the east side of the holy land was protected by means of the great trackless Arabia Deserta. We shall also certainly have to take into account the relation of Ezekiel to Jeremiah (comp. Introd. § 4), and along with that the parallel of the seething pot, Jeremiah 1:13; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1. (“Against the north was the coalition of Jeremiah 27:0., Ezekiel 25:0. sqq. directed, which gave occasion for Ezekiel making his appearance. The storm from the north drives all the sanguine hopes which were founded on this coalition like withered leaves before it.”—Hengstenberg.) The moving cause manifests its working by means of the phenomenon of a great cloud (Hitzig: “a thunder cloud;” the chariot of God afterwards appearing more prominently), with its far-reaching and compact bulk covering the heavens; but not so much a cloud of a veiling character, as a cloud to serve as a visible sign of the impending judgment, Nahum 1:3; Joel 2:2; Psalms 97:2; Psalms 18:10 sqq. Grotius: “The great host of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 4:13; comp. also Ezekiel 38:9.”—We are not, with a Lapide, to think of rain, hail, and still less of the arrows of the Chaldeans. The divine judicial character of the cloud is indicated by the well-known metaphor of fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 32:22), here אש מתלקחת—Exodus 9:24 (the parallel with Egypt is not unimportant): catching itself mutually (Hithp.), i.e. not merely; formed into a ball, a lump of fire, but at the same time flashing through and through itself, the flashes seizing one another, and as it were kindling themselves on one another. (Polanus: “The fire which consumed the city was in itself, its own sins.” J. Fr. Starck thinks of the camp-fire, and even of the sacred fire which the Chaldeans carried before them!) This fire in the cloud, because unceasingly, “livingly,”6 as Ewald expresses it, “moving hither and thither in it,” is the abiding characteristic kernel of the cloud. Comp. Ezekiel 1:13 sqq. Hence, also, brightness round about it. לו refers to ענן, because אש, although not without exception, is as a rule feminine. The cloud is the subject at present under discussion; and as its size determines the form, so the fire determines its substance, which, while it makes the cloud a fire-cloud, imparts to it also brightness round about. But with this “brightness round about it,” the light, and consequently the well-founded hope of love, grace, mercy, comes to its rights over the alarm-producing fire, cloud, and storm. The illusions of the transgressors and of a dead faith must not be destroyed to the injury of the believers. It is not yet indeed the “cheerful” brightness, as in Ezekiel 1:28, for it proceeds immediately from the fire, but this fire is an abiding, essential one; and the sun pierces through the stormy element of his immediate mode of manifestation, and in its deepest ground the light is God, who is love. Hitzig and Hengstenberg also refer לו to the whole. Why? Storm and brightness do not tally; the fire has brightness of itself (Ezekiel 1:13); thus, in fact, the cloud only remains. According to Hengstenberg, we have certainly to think of a brightness contrasted with the fire(!). The older expositors keep firmly and exclusively by the terrible majesty and glory of the presence of God. In quite an opposite direction, Umbreit: “The light which pours forth the joy of existence on every side; for in the brightness of light life steps forth from its dark fire-ground into manifestation, and unfolds itself in its immeasurable fulness; God said at first: Let there be light.” מתוכה, as מתוך־האש afterwards shows, refers to אש, which is thereby at the same time proved to be feminine. But מתוך־ is not a mere resumption of מתוכה, which, especially as the latter occurs again in Ezekiel 1:5, would certainly be too pleonastic. The contents of the cloud, by way of preparation for what follows, present themselves to the seer in such a form that he uses the comparison as to the effect of the internal fire upon him—כעין החשמל. (“To look like—because the matter in hand is not realities, but only the imperfect forms of realities.”—Hengstenberg.) הַחַשְׁמַל only here, חַשְׁמַל in Ezekiel 1:27, החשמלה in Ezekiel 8:2 with ה paragogic, a word which has been the subject of much comment, perhaps formed by Ezekiel himself (Introd. § 7). [According to Bochart (Hieroz. iii.), it is to be looked upon as a compound of =חשׁ נְחשֶׁת=נְחָשׁ, “brass,” and a Chaldaic word (questionable, however) מְלָלָא, “gold;” while, according to Gesenius, with more certainty (?) it is to be regarded as = נְחשֶׁת קָלָל in Ezekiel 1:7 (Hitzig: this is the Hebrew translation of the word), and a compound of נְחָשׁ with נ thrown off and the syllable מַל “smooth” = “shining;” and thus in the former case it would mean “gold-brass,” in the latter, “shining brass.” Hävernick and Maurer have recourse to the Syriac, in order to get in this way “a metallic product wrought in the fire, and therefore (?) emitting sparks,” which does not at all suit the context here. E. Meier holds it to be a (perhaps dialectic) expansion of כַּתְמַל=חַתְמַל=חַשְׁמַל ׃כֶּתֶם, “pure, solid gold.” Fürst, in the Concordance, explains it as from הֶשֶׁם, like כֶּתֶם, “brightness,” with the termination al affixed: “bright metal;” Keil, according to the analogy of בּרְמֶל and כֶּרֶם, as from חשׁם, “probably to glow, with ל affixed: glowing brass.” That חָשׁם “probably” means “to glow,” is a statement that goes for nothing, and just as unproved is the derivation of the meaning “to be bright,” from כּתַם, although the interchange of שׁ and ת, and of ח and כ, would have nothing surprising in it, for the root כתם, which occurs as a verb only once in the Niphal in Jeremiah 2:22, might there perhaps mean: to be engraved, much the same as: to be recorded, were not this meaning generalized, as Hupfeld (on Psalms 16:1) convincingly shows, from the more correct one: to be soiled, stained, which is also proved by the old translations, and which, besides, suits best the antithesis in Jeremiah 2:0, and if it did not need to support itself on the similarity of the fundamental idea of כתם and כתב (to write). Because כֶּתֶם is gold, to assume for כתם, paid thus for השׁם, a meaning: to be bright, or: to be red-hot, is mere arbitrariness, inasmuch as, if the fundamental meaning: to conceal, to keep safe as a jewel or secret, is incapable of proof from the Arabic, a meaning synonymous to the Hebrew and Aramaic one (to be soiled), viz. to be dark-coloured, lies before us in Arabic, just as it alone corresponds to the usual designation of gold in all languages as the yellow, the dark metal, in contrast with the white silver. Besides, כתם properly signifies: to hold back, which is traced back to a fundamental idea like: to divide, to separate, so that כֶּתֶם, “gold,” might perhaps mean what is separated, as being what is purified, pure, held back. For השׁם Meier seeks to point as a kindred meaning to the fundamental idea: to be firm, strong (hence in Arabic: to be fat, thick, and hard), so that חשׁמל might originally have designated: what is hard, firm, hence: brass, solid metal in general, while it would then have been transferred more definitely to a peculiarly bright brass.] To an impression of peculiar brightness the context of our passage points with indisputable necessity; nor must this brightness be conceived of apart from the fire, since it proceeds out of the midst of it, and כעין ה־ has the more exact definition מתוך האש side by side with it. The question may, however, be asked, whether what is glaringly bright and destructive is to be indicated thereby, or not rather a glory of look that is full of life, which is favoured not merely by the immediately appearing kernel of fire and the picture of the “chajoth,” but also by the ingenious remark of Keil, that in all the three passages חשמל has its reference to Him who is enthroned above. We shall thus be compelled to abide by the view hinted at above on the “brightness round about it,” inasmuch as in the whole vision the “brightness” appears not indeed separated from the fire, but yet distinct from it, although not contrasted with it. [The Syriac translator has simply omitted the difficult word in question here, but at Ezekiel 1:27 and Ezekiel 8:2 he has given a conjectural interpretation: “divine look.” The Chaldee Paraphrase keeps it as it stands. The Sept. and Vulg. translate it by ἥλεκτρον, electrum, which must not be confounded with “amber” (sucinum). Neither can the name be given to this latter from ἤλεκτρον, nor (as Buttmann, Mythologus II., will have it) can the converse be the case, for the colour of amber is of too mild a brightness for it, the comparison of the same with the precious metals may rest on much else, and the meaning: amber, leads to a derivation from ἕλκειν,ἕλκητρον,ἕλκτρον (the drawer, draw-stone), while ἤλεκτρον is derived from ἠλέκτωρ (the beaming sun, ἥλιος, Empedocles so named the element of fire), or at least a more fiery brightness than that of amber was the synonym. The brightness of amber does not certainly correspond sufficiently to the comparison in our verse, where a metal, not precious stones of any kind, is thought of; nor does the transparency of its brightness suffice here. Now the ἥλεκτρον, everywhere mentioned along with gold and silver, was, according to the testimonies of the ancients (see Pape, Greek Lexicon), a natural metallic mixture of three or four parts of gold and one part of silver, which was also artificially prepared. (According to Oken, the “electrum” of the Mountain of Serpents in Siberia is gold, with an alloy of 36 per cent, of silver.) Hitzig, Bleek (Vorles. über die Apokalypse), and others mention the peculiar χαλκολίβανον (Revelation 1:15; Revelation 2:18), which is said to be compounded of the Greek χαλκὸς and the Hebrew לָבָן (= white-shining brass), but which might also mean “brass from Lebanon” (Ebrard, Peschito, Ethiopic Vers.). The Talmudists explain חשׁמל as from חש, “quickness,” and מל, “rest” (or “speaking” and “silence”). It passed also for the name of an angel with the Rabbins, and in fact for that of Ezekiel’s teacher. (See Leigh, Crit. S. p. 174) It has even been read backwards: למשח, and understood of the Messiah (Calov. Bib. Ill.), who united the divine and human natures in Himself (Maldonatus, Pradus). J. F. Starck compares also the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 3:2), specially for the exiles!] Usage always employs עין only of things, never of persons. “As the look of chasmal” means, moreover, not merely: as the aspect thereof, as it looks, but this as well: as it, so to speak, looks, looks on us. In the most poetic way, Umbreit, at all events, understands כעין ה־: “the eye of metal, as the same concentrates itself when melting in a look of the greatest brightness (the so-called silver look!); perhaps it was a technical expression of the smelters, possibly compounded of נחשׁ and מלא: fulness of brass, when the brass appears in the fulness of its brightness.” J. D. Michaelis translates: “a great cloud, under which the lightnings flashed through one another, and gilded its edge by the reflection (an aurora round about it), but in the middle it looked like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.”
The Fire-Picture of the Four Living Creatures (Ezekiel 1:5-14)
Ezekiel 1:5. Not only what the prophet sees, but even his seeing itself is something progressive. It is by no means as if Ezekiel had first sketched the outlines, and were now depicting the interior also, for he has reproduced for us in Ezekiel 1:4 alike inside and outside what was first seen, but his seeing itself grows more penetrating, and what looked upon him out of the midst of the fire (hence the repetition ומתוכה), like chasmal looking out of the fire, shapes itself in the progressive advance of the vision to דמות־. Derived as it is from דמה, and cognate with the Sanscrit sama (similis), דמות is not so much: form, as: likeness, similitude, a substantival “like as,” and is used of what is living, but also of what is without life (Ezekiel 1:26).—With respect to the four חיות (not “beasts,” as Luther makes them, following the Vulg.), see what is said in the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28. (According to Hofmann, Ezekiel was in this way “to become aware that what he saw was not a thing, but a life. The intention was to represent to the prophet what there is about the presence of Jehovah: the judgment on His unholy people announced itself therein. Creature life, into which the unbroken fulness of the being of God pours itself, in order therein to become a manifoldness of power, serves the eternal God for the purpose of making Himself present to His world.”) Formerly: the judgment of God rushing on, now: how not merely the power of the Chaldeans, against which one hoped at Jerusalem to accomplish everything with human leagues (Introd. § 4, 2) and one’s own prudence, but the whole creation in the entire universe, heaven and earth, is ready to execute this judgment of the living God! This threatening character the vision obtained from its connection with Ezekiel 1:4, and from the circumstance that the chajoth came forth out of the fire (Hengstenberg). But in this way, at the same time, its symbolical character is manifest: life out of fire!—מַרְאָה (Ezekiel 1:1) is “vision,” what is seen (הָזוֹה); מַרְאֶה: how it is seen, hence: “appearance.” As to the plural form מראֵיהן here and in Ezekiel 1:13, and with מעשֵׂהם in Ezekiel 1:16, comp. Ewald, Ausf. Lehrb. § 256; Gesenius, Gram. § 91. 9.—What first struck the prophet as being prominent in the vision, was “the likeness of a man.” (לָהֵנָּה with the full tone.) Likeness to man, where God has made man like God, is just the fulness of the times, Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7-8. The angels also assume the ways of man; for man is a microcosm. “All forms of the creature reach in his person a phenomenon of the highest beauty” (Umbreit). At all events, man stands among the living creatures of the earthly world in the first, as in the highest place. In this way, first of all, the impression in general is stated, as Ezekiel received it from the four chajoth. What special feature in them produced this impression in his case, will become clear in the further progress of his description. And just because it will be expressly stated, a limit is drawn against arbitrariness in the application of man’s corporeal form as a rule.
Ezekiel 1:6. Just as, on the one hand, man, i.e. (inwardly considered) what is spiritual, what has spiritual life, characterizes the vision, so, on the other hand, in a more outward respect it is significantly defined by its fourfold character. Not only are there “four chajoth” in all (Ezekiel 1:5), but “four faces” (Ezekiel 1:10) are found “in each, and four wings” (Ezekiel 1:8-9; Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 1:23; comp. Ezekiel 10:8) likewise “in each of them.” If the number 3, as the designation of the true, highest, most perfect being, is the number of God, then must the number 4 represent the conditional, dependent being, which has proceeded from the true being, and be the number of the world, as the sum of all created things. Time and space, the two most general forms of the universe, bear the number 4 in themselves, etc. (According to Bähr, comp. Symb. i. p. 156 sqq.)—להם masculine form, which Hengstenberg here, as in what follows, explains from the masculine name cherubim standing in the background, which, however, here lies as yet too far off. The more probable supposition, as a Lapide has already shown, is the collective אָדָם masc., this being the impression in general of the chajoth. As happens so frequently in looking at the sense, the reference to the grammatical form is let go—פָּנִים and also the dual כְּנָפַיִם: stand as plurals. Some have incorrectly translated פנים form, guise, so that each had only one, and that a human face and head, but had besides a fourfold figure, or expression of countenance, or headornament. No less incorrectly, some have assigned to every face 4 wings, and thus to each of the 4 chajoth 16, which would give a sum total of 64 wings. The Chaldee paraphrast understands just as many faces, and 256 wings in all.
Ezekiel 1:7. Now that we have passed from the faces to the wings, in going downwards their legs (masc. suff.) come into consideration, not merely in the sense of the lower part only, the foot proper, which is distinguished as כף ר־. ורגליהם is either conceived of distributively (Hitzig): and each of their legs was רגל ישרה, without bending inwards of the knee, rising straight up (comp. Ezekiel 1:23), or the dual is to be understood thus: as respects their 2 legs, it was (generically, without reference to the number, so Keil) a leg standing erect. ישר is, what is firm, “does not need to bend, to turn” (Ewald), without joints (Maimonides), without front and back, smooth and symmetrical (Philippson): with which also the calf’s foot agrees. Thus there is nothing of likeness to man in this connection, except the upright carriage in general, which results therefrom, but is not made prominent here. On the contrary, for the sole of the foot, even in special contrast to what is human, the comparison is taken from the beast, from the calf, i.e. the foot proper stood firmly, symmetrically rounded off (עָגֹל), while the human foot is extended lengthwise. (Hitzig makes the circumstance that “they present in no direction a decided front,” as also the “want of distinction” in the legs, parallel with the chajoth “facing towards the four quarters of heaven.” Similarly Hävernick before him: “These feet fulfil the object of being able to move in all directions, without turning round (Ezekiel 1:9); they symbolize the idea of freedom of motion.” The human element of the vision, which in general is prominent, will be strengthened, next to the upright carriage, by the legs also being two in number, which is not indeed stated, but is certainly to be understood. This human element is represented, because of the bestial element as well as in spite of it, by the masc. suffix. As the the lion also—which, according to Bähr, is to come into consideration because of his strength, power, and fearful character—is not mentioned in the detail, the substitution of the calf for the bull (Ezekiel 1:10) may possibly here set the latter also aside, so far as regards the power of generation, just as Hengstenberg takes into consideration “only the representation of cattle, to ward off all heterogeneous ideas.” “Although each has a lion’s face, yet none has a lion’s feet or claws for tearing in pieces, nor those of the eagle, not even the foot of a man.”—Cocc.)—ונצצים masc. is meant, according to Hitzig, also to refer to the cherubim, yet Hengstenberg (because of Revelation 1:15) admits that “the reference, in point of fact, is specially to the feet,” and as Gesenius maintains that רגל is masc., although “rarely,” the explanation of Keil is at all events more probable: and the legs sparkled, etc. Hengstenberg’s limitation to the “sole of the foot:” “they were (there, on the sole of the foot) sparkling,” is not forced, although it would apply to the legs also. Philippson: shining like a brazen hoof. (Ewald takes נצצים as “feathers,” as already the Sept., which omits what is said of the sole of the foot, but instead makes the feet “feathered.”)—נחשת, brass, is also in Daniel 10:6 masc.; Gesenius: χαλκός, copper. קָלָל, Gesenius: shining; Bochart: polished, burnished; Hengstenberg (with a reference to Revelation 1:15), “properly: light [in weight]; but because what is light [in colour] is represented as lighter [in weight] than what is dark, just as what is sharp is represented as lighter than what is blunt, equivalent to: glowing, light brass.” Hitzig grants the possibility of a derivation of “light” [in colour] from “to be light” [in weight], but asserts that קלל is manifestly a substantive in the genitive, possibly from קלה (to burn), meaning the red-hot or smelting furnace, akin to עֲלִיל, a crucible. “The sending forth of sparks refers to the special mission in hand, which is one of wrath” (Hengstenberg). But the comparison with the effect of light brass attributes to them (Hävernick), at the same time, something glorious, according to Umbreit, “imperishable freshness.” (?)—If the faces in general serve to express the quality in view, then, from the fact of there being four of them, this quality is expressly shown to have its sphere in the world; and the four wings in general portray the prompt, rapid dexterity towards the respective sides. (Umbreit: “The living motion and the unceasing vibration of creaturely existence.”) In addition, there is the firmness, the steadiness of the carriage, the sure and certain tread (βοείῳ ποδὶ). Umbreit: “The forcibly-pressed sole of the ox.” A mere symbol of fitness for service, viz. as regards God, although of “any kind of rendering of service (as messengers or ambassadors of God) for men” nothing is said (Häv.). It is the creation glorifying the living God in its ever ready power and fulness of life.
Ezekiel 1:8. For וידו the Qeri reads וידֵי. Hengstenberg, on the other hand, upholds (comp. Ezekiel 10:8) the singular ידוֹ, either: “his man’s hand,” or: “his hand, that of a man,” because of the ideal comprehension of the quaternity in the unity of the cherub. Hitzig. likewise conjectures the singular; the suffix, according to him, pre-supposes (Ezekiel 10:3; Ezekiel 3:21) the genitive אדם. Ewald accepts the Qeri: “and man’s hands,” as also Keil, who declares ו to be an old mistake of the transcriber for י. Häv., Maurer, and before them Kimchi, explain the concise form of the Kethibh by understanding an ellipse, punctuating ויָד, and taking the suffix distributively, thus: and his (each one of the four’s) hands were hands of a man (יְדֵי אָדָם). Keil: “The wings sat accordingly on the shoulders, from, which the hands proceeded.” Hence four wings, and are there not also four hands? and this also because of the four sides? The designation as man’s hands determines nothing as to their number. Comp. on Ezekiel 1:9. Umbreit: “By means of the man’s hands the mention of the bestial appearance is meant to be weakened.” With the “hands” the description will ascend to the “faces;” for just as on occasion of the hands, the “wings,” as we saw, were very suitably mentioned “on their four sides,” so, because the “four sides” are formed by means of the four faces on each of the chajoth, mention may be made of the “faces” as well as of the “wings:” and they four had their faces and their wings (רבע, as is known, from ארבע, “four,” signifies the fourth part, or here: one side of four (Ezekiel 1:17). The emphasizing of the number four down to the minutest detail is to be noted). Häv. connects the last words with Ezekiel 1:9-10 : “and as regards their faces and their wings in the four, their wings were,” etc. Similarly Ewald. It cannot be objected to this, that here the topic is no longer the faces; even in Ezekiel 1:9 the contrary is the case, but still more so in Ezekiel 1:10.
Ezekiel 1:9. But the wings which come into consideration here (comp. Ezekiel 1:11) reach still higher than the faces; a more exact description, therefore, which (as in Ezekiel 1:6) likewise proceeds from above downwards, will have to begin with these wings. There is a going down (Ezekiel 1:7), and a going up (Ezekiel 1:8), and a going down again (Ezekiel 1:11), just as the eye is accustomed to do in such an act of looking. The joining is (with Kliefoth, Keil) to be conceived of in this way: that the right upper wing of the chajoth was joined to the left upper wing of its neighbour at the tip. Hengstenberg: “This pair of wings is stretched upwards, so that the one wing stands over against the other, and is in so far (!) joined to it.” One does not see how this can still be called a joining. The connection of the joining of the wings with the going straight forward, which Hitzig holds to be impossible, is pointed out by Ewald in the words: “The wings of all so firmly interlaced with one another, that all moved straight forward with wonderful coherence.” Comp. for the joining of the wings, Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 1:23, also Exodus 25:20, 1 Kings 6:27, for the expression חברות אשׁה אל־אחותה, Exodus 26:3.—יִסַּבּוּ (Niph. of סבב) shows that it is meant to be a joining of all together, not a joining of the wings of each separate chajoth-form just for itself. That they needed not to turn בלכתן (fem. suff.), when they went (Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:17), is of course at once intelligible from the joining of their wings, but is expressed still more strongly (and for this reason the face of each is spoken of) by means of איש אל עבר פניו, i.e. in whatever direction they went they always followed their face. Similarly with על in Exodus 25:37.—The change in the gender of the suffixes in this way in one and the same line, makes one almost think that the diversity of the life of creation in this respect is to be characterized in the chajoth.
Ezekiel 1:10. Now comes the detailed description of the four faces. First, the face of a man, which, as being turned toward the prophet, had determined his impression of the vision as a whole (Ezekiel 1:5). Maimonides understood it even of the other three also, and distinguished in these only an expression corresponding to the animals named. Just as the man’s face in front is put without this definition, so similarly the eagle’s face also is not defined more exactly as being the one behind. The definition לארבעתן at the close applies to the man’s face also, and besides, this latter is immediately preceded by the general פניהם. Hengst. claims for it the east side, as being the principal side, for the lion on the right the south, for the ox on the left the north. The position of the eagle behind shows (as against Hengst.) a background pointing higher up. Comp. the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28. The right and left of the description may be fixed either with respect to the man’s face, or to the quarter of the heavens (יָמִין, south side, just as שְׁמֹאול, north), or to the prophet. As to the meaning of the faces,—the part of the body which, as may be understood, is capable of expressing more than any other what is characteristic, and that in the way that is most spirited, most in accordance with the idea in view,—see the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28. Bähr: The ox (bull), the symbol of the generative, creative power of God; the lion, the symbol of the royal majesty of the Sovereign and Judge; the eagle, the symbol of the divine omnipresence and omniscience; man, the symbol of the absolute spirituality of God, of the divine wisdom. Grotius: Man denoting the goodness, the lion the wrath (punitive justice) of God, the eagle His swiftness to do good, the ox His slowness to wrath. Bochart: The ox the emblem of constancy and firmness; man, of humanity, gentleness, and φιλανθρωπία; the lion, of generosity and strength; the eagle, of vigour, and of the sublimity of a heavenly nature. De Wette: The strength, power, wisdom of God, and His nearness. Umbreit: The reason, sovereignty, creative power, and omnipresence of God. (What becomes of the veto of the second commandment !?)
Ezekiel 1:11. The description, which might now have done with the “faces,” nevertheless repeats them (remaining, as they certainly do, the principal subject),—at Ezekiel 1:8 in moving upwards, now in coming down to the lower parts—along with the wings: ופיהס וכנפיהם, which Häv., Klief., Keil rightly refuse to translate: “and (these are) their faces; and their wings were” (Hengst.), since the clause belongs rather to what follows, as already Ewald has taken it, inasmuch as the faces also were separated (the root-meaning of פָּרַד,—“spread out,” because of the reference to the nearer וכנפיהם) “from above” (מלמעלה, which likewise gives greater prominence to this reference), i.e. were not (à la Janus) on the same head, but on four heads, or rather necks. Ewald: “Both faces and wings not hanging down loosely, but stretched upwards.” In this way an act of worship is depicted in the heads, just as a soaring is intended to be expressed by means of the wings.—With the reference to the wings, by means of which the description goes downwards, there is a return to what has already been said (Ezekiel 1:9), but it is conceived of more definitely, and joined with new matter. Every one (not of the four chajoth, but of what is spoken of in Ezekiel 1:10, viz. the four faces, inasmuch as the description gives what the prophet saw, who, standing before each of the four faces, always beheld two wings, alike on the right and on the left, joined to one another) had two joined, viz. wings: חוברות איש, either belonging to לאיש, or as Keil: איש, an abbreviation for the אשה אל־ found in Ezekiel 1:9. The meaning is clear, according to Ezekiel 1:9. Since, then, the joining is expressed only as regards the four pairs of wings (in all) above, which together represent a square, the pairs of wings lower down are to be conceived of without such connection, each with its neighbour, which would also have no object. With these pairs of wings the chajoth covered their bodies. גְּוִיָּה properly belly, denotes the body in this respect. As this is covered, the conjecture readily suggests itself, that it is conceived of neither as feathered nor as covered with hair, hence not like an animal, but likewise after the similitude of a man. Bunsen: “which served for covering the body, and are to be conceived of as before and behind.” Umbreit: “in order to show their holy fear and reverence.” Comp. Isaiah 6:2, where, however, this [ne videant] seems to be expressed by the covering of their faces; while the covering of the feet there, corresponding to the covering of the bodies here [ne videantur], symbolizes the profound distance of the creature.
Ezekiel 1:12. The lower part being now quite reached, taking up what has been said in Ezekiel 1:9, their going, their movement is described, but along with the mention of the moving principle. Ezekiel 1:4 (comp. there) רוח סערה, here הרוח, which in any case does not denote the wind. Hitz.: the instinct, which does not suit the human element of the chajoth; but also not: the will or the like (Umbreit: “most unrestricted freedom”), since it is exactly such a movement that is meant to be set aside throughout the whole context. The spirit is conceived of manifestly according to its divine reference and power of influencing, although not as the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ. Comp. Ezekiel 1:20-21. (Hengst.: “The life-breath of God, who dwells in the creature, and leads it according to the laws which He prescribes for it, to the ends which He sets for it.—Numbers 16:22.”) All quarters of the world are facing them, whether they go backward or forward, to the right or to the left. The facility of movement given in this way is—by means of the fastening of the wings outwardly, by means of “the spirit” (absolutely), i.e. “the spirit of the living creature” (Ezekiel 1:20-21) inwardly—united to the whole.
Ezekiel 1:13. The completed description of the chajoth, going back to Ezekiel 1:5, merely adds what corresponds to the מתוכה of Ezekiel 1:5 : out of the midst of the fire, their appearance was first of all in themselves: like kindled coals (from גָּחַל, to kindle) of fire, burning. Is it primarily as depicting the lightning of the kindled wrath of God (following Psalms 18:8)? or is it to be referred specially to the eyes of the chajoth? (Grot.: “after God’s long patience, eager for vengeance.”)—בערות cannot easily be referred with Bunsen to חיות. The accumulation of synonymous expressions is still more unmistakable than the gradation of the same remarked by Häv.; it is rather like a movement from the beginning of the fire to its rising up like flames, and to its breaking forth in lightning (Genesis 15:17). לַפִּיד (λαμπάδες, lampas, lamp) is that which sends up light in motion, that which sends forth flame quickly, flickeringly toward us; hence what already resembles lightning. אש may, in accordance with the fiery element of all these comparisons, and where the chajoth themselves come forth from the fire, be looked upon as that to which היא refers. So Keil, Ewald. It can neither refer to דמות, by reason of the meaning, nor to מראה (masc.), for a linguistic reason. Hengst. correctly remarks that the fire appears separated from the living creatures (Ezekiel 1:4). It forms the power that gives the keynote, just as the spirit is the moving principle. And along with this the brightness is emphasized, as in Ezekiel 1:4 also. Comp. there.—לאש and ומן־האש confirm the reference of היא given above. ברק, from to break through, to break forth: lightning, denoting the threatening effect outwards. (Hofm. compares Genesis 3:24.)
Ezekiel 1:14. Next we have the appearance of the movement of the chajoth. רצוא ושוב, infin. absol. for the finite verb, here with the noun-subject (Gesen. Heb. Gram. p. 215, Bagster’s edit.). A mere indication of what they did, not a “short description” as well (Ew.). רצוא, from רוּץ=רצא, according to Häv.: an Aramaistic form. Their שׁוּב, however, was no נָסַב, their return (i.e. going back) no turning. Comp. on Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:12.—בָּזָק only here, in sound like בָּרָק in Ezekiel 1:11, akin in meaning also, but not identical with it, Häv., Hengst.: “spark-fire;” Klief., Keil: denoting the zigzag of lightning. It is perhaps meant to be an individualizing of the lightning.
Ezekiel 1:15-21.—The Wonderful Wheels upon the Earth
Ezekiel 1:4-14, which contain the first vision which Ezekiel saw, hang directly suspended between heaven and earth; there is need of connection alike with what is above and with what is below. The fire-cloud, as regards the spirit of the storm which impels it, and out of its midst the fire-picture of the chajoth, as regards the principle which mores them, are certainly governed from a higher region, and are no less certainly destined for the earth. It is, in the first place, this latter destination which is furnished by Ezekiel 1:15-21.
Ezekiel 1:15 introduces the second vision in a way similar to that in which Ezekiel 1:4 introduces the first. But the fact that it is said: and I saw the living creatures, and, behold, a wheel, brings into immediate prominence the connection, which what follows will have to bring out in detail and to give the reason for. The wheel shows itself בארץ, which is not to be thought of, with Kliefoth, in the case of the chajoth also, for these, forming as they certainly do the kernel of the cloud, are to be conceived of rather as being above the earth. There is thus for the second vision, in its look towards the earth (and the historical scene of events), a repetition of the idea, which was symbolized at the close by the movement of the chajoth. The simplest, most natural symbolism of this idea, i.e. in reference to earthly affairs, is the wheel, appearing as it does as mere motion, which only waits for the moment (comp. Ezekiel 10:13; Ezekiel 10:2). This is, as regards the idea,7 the connection of the in no wise “disturbing” החיות with אופן; and in accordance with this linking together of the second and primarily earthly vision with the first, that connection is also localized by means of אצל ה־, not = “neighbourhood” (Hitzig), but: beside.—As one wheel is spoken of, so also the chajoth in the vision are conceived of together as a unity; hence the singular suffix פניו. So already the Syriac. Nor are sixteen wheels meant to be indicated, with reference to each of the four faces of each of the four chajoth, but four wheels (Ezekiel 1:16, Ezekiel 10:9), corresponding to the four front sides, the human faces of the chajoth. Each being always between two faces of the separate chajoth on the right and on the left, the four wheels formed an outer square round the four chajoth. First of all Ezekiel had to say, although in general merely, where, in what position as regards the chajoth he saw the wheels; the relative position of “wheel” and chajoth took the precedence, not “the nature of an individual wheel,”—which would be the case, according to Häv., Maurer, Klief., if פניו were to be referred to אופן: “according to its fourfold face,” equivalent to: “with fourfold face,”—for then we should have here already the wheel within a wheel specially mentioned, which comes after in Ezekiel 1:16. As to the meaning of the wheels, comp. the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28. How little in this connection the basin-stands of 1 Kings 7:0 come into consideration, Klief. on Häv. and Keil has pointed out exhaustively (1. p. 91). To refer to “heathen works of art of Babylon,” as Häv. does, explains nothing, while the conception of a throne-chariot rolling along over the earth gives a vivid unity to what goes before and what follows. It is to misunderstand the characteristic of these visions, this predominance of the ideas over everything, when one brings as an objection to such a conception partly the רָקִיעַ of Ezekiel 1:22, partly the chariot not being named. Hengst. indicates very correctly the “impression as a whole” as being that of “a kind of vehicle, in which the Lord took the place of the charioteer, the living creature the place of the chariot, the wheels lowermost, as usual in a chariot.” Züllig, in his pamphlet The Cherubim-Chariot (Heidelb. 1832), fears that “these wheels, standing there detached, might perhaps also some day roll away by themselves, and leave the throne standing,” and therefore adopts the supposition, referring to 1 Kings 7:0 (like Vitringa before him), of a connection with the wheels, in opposition to which Umbreit: “the prophet was in spirit for the spirit, but not for the eye.”
Ezekiel 1:16. The general is followed by the special.—Make, not: the material of which, but: the way in which they were made, added to the appearance, because we are dealing here not with what is living—כעין, comp. on Ezekiel 1:4.—תרשיש, “the chrysolite, which with the ancients undoubtedly had a yellow colour” (Bähr, Ezekiel 10:9). “Probably of clear fire” (Hitzig). Perhaps from Tartessus, a Phœnician possession in Spain (similarly אוֹפִיר, for gold of Ophir). But whether is it so named because from thence, or on account of its solidity? The probable root, תָּרַשׁ (not רָשַׁשׁ), means, according to the Arabic: to be hard, solid (comp. תִּרְוָה תָּרַז); the word formed by doubling the third radical, as so frequently, means a fortified place, fortress. Spain is, however, rich in precious stones. It is said to be the modern topaz (gold-topaz), which commonly has small four-sided columns, whose surfaces are again divided into two, and which also appears bluish and quite white; according to Hengst. the jasper, which, however, has mostly a beautiful red, and also a brown and green colour. The chrysolite is pistachio-green, beautifully transparent and shining. That they four had one likeness, i.e. that the wheel apparently alike was found with all the four chajoth, explains the plural of the wheels as being four, but also how the same could before be conceived of as one, when a general statement was made.—לאדבעתָּן may also be referred to דמות; Keil: “All four had one sort of shape.” Comp. Ezekiel 1:8. Appearance and make are repeated, as it is the latter especially that now comes to be spoken of: not for the purpose of expressing superfluously a second time the likeness of the wheels, as Ewald (and before him Sanctius): “the one and the other of the foresaid four,” or as Umbreit: “coinciding as well in their relation,” but as Bunsen and the most: “each one consisted of two wheels, which intersected each other at right angles;” “double wheels, the one set into the other” (Hengst.). Cruciform! Such a construction had the effect—
(Ezekiel 1:17) That they could go in all four directions (Grotius: the dispersion of the Jews into all the four quarters of the world, Isaiah 43:5-6) without turning. Comp. Ezekiel 1:8-9; Ezekiel 1:12. The fem. suff. lets the reference to the chajoth peep through here also, so that the wheels, as already from the commencement in Ezekiel 1:15, are conceived of throughout along with the chajoth, and as determined by them. Hence first בלכתם, and at the end בלכתן. It is certainly to be noticed that in the description of the chajoth the masc. gend. has its turn, and with the wheels the fem. gend. As in the former case the human element predominates, so in the latter the connection with the chajoth; and this the more necessarily, as the wheels are here described by themselves.
Ezekiel 1:18 concludes this description in parallel terms with the chajoth of the vision, וְגַבֵּיהֶן וְגֹבַח alliteratively: “height,” in the sense of sublimity, first of all characterized the rings of the wheels. What the wings were in the chajoth, that the גֹּבַח was in the wheels; as in the former fire and the like, so in the latter fearfulness; lastly, to the faces of the chajoth corresponded the eyes round about, where we are to think of the nails glancing like eyes. (Instead of גביהן we have now גבתם. Ewald for the latter: spokes? 1 Kings 7:33. J. D. Mich., according to another punctuation: “could see, for the felloes of the four wheels were quite full of eyes.”) The face has its life plastically in the eye. Häv.: “the most beautiful evidence of the power of life.” With the fearfulness (Keil) the being full of eyes has as little to do as it has with intelligence and wisdom (Häv.), or with the circumstance that “on the power of nature everywhere the stamp of reason is impressed” (Hengst.). But perhaps we have in this way represented to us—visible, of course, it could not be made—the idea of the “spirit,” how it moved the living creatures; as will also be immediately explained in detail.
Ezekiel 1:19. Mention was already made in Ezekiel 1:17 of the movement of the wheels by themselves, although not without relation to the chajoth, comp. there; now their relation to the chajoth is spoken of in detail. Umbreit: “The wheels stand beside the living creatures, but when the latter move, the former must of themselves follow the impulse.”
Ezekiel 1:20 : על, not “weaker,” for אֶל (Häv.); but the מעל going before has an influence, as being the last mentioned and most significant direction, and it is therefore again adopted. The LXX. have, instead of על, read עָב, “cloud-darkness”!—הרוח is the spirit of Ezekiel 1:12, as it is also expressly called; but the chajoth are gathered up in the unity of the singular רוח החיה :חיה. Ezekiel 1:21, comp. Ezekiel 1:22, where certainly it cannot be taken otherwise. Hence neither: the living spirit (or wind), nor: breath of life, living soul, nor: spirit of life, principle of life, nor even: the spirit of the living creatures. The repetition of the description not only depicts to us the simultaneous movement, but lays emphasis on this simultaneousness, and quite peculiarly on the circumstance, that the simultaneous movement is based on there being one spirit (כי): whither the spirit of the chajoth went, just thither went the spirit in the wheels, which was identically the same. Bunsen encloses in brackets as a gloss the words: thither was the spirit to go. Hengst.: “if the spirit impelled to go thither, then the wheels were lifted up,” etc. Klief.: “whither the wind stood to go, thither they went (having the wind for going, i.e.) under the wind, driven by the wind.”(!)—At Ezekiel 1:21, in connection with the repetition of the simultaneousness of the movement of chajoth and wheels, and as an important preparation for Ezekiel 1:24-25, the new element of rest is added; it was hitherto, of course, only motion.
Ezekiel 1:22-28.—The Heavenly Enthroned One
After Ezekiel 1:15-21 have connected the first vision with what is below, with the earth, the whole vision of glory is now (Ezekiel 1:22-28) completed in this second vision by connecting it with what is above, and thus receives a heavenly conclusion. “Now comes the culminating point of the theophany” (Häv.). Ezekiel 1:22 : It was not heaven, it was only something like it; and this is strongly emphasized; hence ודמות (comp. on Ezekiel 1:4) put first. But not as Hengst.: “the likeness of a vault,” in a genitive relation; the latter is an explanatory apposition (Keil).—רקיע, an expanse, without the article; J. D. Mich.: “a floor!” (from רקע, to push, to stamp, to beat flat, to extend, to stretch), from Genesis 1:0 onwards a technical term for the firmament dividing what is above from what is below, but which, as the atmosphere of the earth, remains in the background. In this way the transition to the heavenly enthroned One is indicated. Comp. Ezekiel 10:1.—החיה, comp. on Ezekiel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:20. כעין, comp. on Ezekiel 1:4.—הקרח הנורא: the article, because of סַפִּיר being universally known (from סָפַר, “to make smooth”), from its likeness to ice: the crystal. The pellucid transparency is the point of the comparison (Exodus 24:10; Revelation 4:6). The dazzling clearness and purity is the occasion of the epithet fearful. (“The crystal is designated as fearful, because it excites awe by its splendour, in which that of the Creator is reflected. Fearfulness had also already, Ezekiel 1:18,; been attributed to the wheels. There the comparison is with the chrysolite, here with the crystal.” Hengst.) Keil also remarks that it was not the vault of heaven that was over the heads of the chajoth,—it neither stretched over them, nor did it even sink down over them, but that it was merely a covering like it, looking fearful as the crystal, that appeared; Ewald: “no ordinary chariot-frame” (comp. Ezekiel 1:11). (“Stretched out, a standing expression for the relation of heaven to earth, Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Jeremiah 10:12. We have here a mere over, not that the heads supported it; they are not at all immediately under the vault, for the wings project above them [Ezekiel 1:19; Ezekiel 1:23].” Hengst.)
Ezekiel 1:23. Now הָרקיע, viz. the forementioned. Under it were the wings of the chajoth straight (comp. on Ezekiel 1:7), raised aloft, standing erect. The legs down, the wings up, a firm, imposing attitude.—Since, according to Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:11, one wing was joined to the other wing, the four chajoth may be taken together in pairs for the representation, but not that every two wings downwards (Kliefoth), analogous to the connection above, likewise covered each other as neighbours; but the representation is rather an intentional and impressive repetition, in order, as a preparation for what follows, to portray solemnly the covering of the bodies (comp. on Ezekiel 1:11). According to Hengst. the representation is meant to express merely: every separate cherub, so that without it the sense might be, that only one (“one had two which covered him”) had two wings covering his body. (?) More correctly Keil: להגה corresponds to לאיש, analogously to the לאחת להם of Ezekiel 1:6. Ewald supplies after the first להנה (quoting Isaiah 6:2), פְּנֵיהֶם. In opposition to this, Hengst. rightly remarks: “The tips of the wings (of the pair of wings serving for flight) reach along to the vault. For support they are not adapted, and particularly for this reason, that the wings (Ezekiel 1:24) make a loud noise, and are therefore in free motion; and further, because upon occasion they are let down. The wheels also do not support the chariot. The local proximity seems only to indicate the connection between the several provinces of creation, is meant to represent the creation as a united whole.”
Ezekiel 1:24. Not less vividly than the covering of the under part is the movement in the upper part (hence קול־כנפים) depicted, and that as a loud, powerful one (comp. Ezekiel 1:14). “Hitherto the prophet was describing only what he saw, now also what he heard” (J. H. Michaelis). The quickening influence of the “spirit” gets here as its expression the noise (voice), Ezekiel 10:5. Do they show in this way a “longing to fulfil their mission, and that consequently the time of this fulfilment draws near” (Hengst.)? Calvin makes the command in this voice bring about the movement of the wheels corresponding to the living creatures. The comparison is a threefold one: (1) as the noise (voice) of many waters, Ezekiel 43:2 (Revelation 14:2; Revelation 19:6); Isaiah 17:12-13; (2) as the voice of the Almighty, which may mean the thunder, as also every other similar manifestation of God (Revelation 14:2; Revelation 19:6; Psalms 29:3 sqq.); (3) noise (voice) of tumult (הֲמֻלָּה, of the sound which is produced with lips brought together and closed, “to hum;” a dull, confused noise, Jeremiah 11:16), as the noise (voice) of an host. (Arbitrarily and strangely, J. D. Michaelis: “as the rushing of a waterfall, as a thunder of the Most High, their words, as the voice of a whole army;” and in connection therewith he remarks: “just such a representation, as when in Homer Mars cries [only in Hebrew it is no god, but merely a team of the thunder-chariot of God], and so cries as if 10,000 men cried at once. I do not look upon Ezekiel in other respects as a beautiful writer, but every one certainly must find the picture here beautiful, and still more so with the distinction between God, of whom it is somewhat unworthy, and the draught beast before His thunder-chariot.”) The “voice” (the sounding קוֹל), however, which Ezekiel hears in this way, accompanied the movement of the chajoth, with which also that joining of the wings in Ezekiel 1:9 took place; for when they rested (Ezekiel 1:21) they let down their wings (Piel).
Ezekiel 1:25. This remark with respect to the resting of the chajoth enables us to form a conjecture as to what determines their resting; for as regards their motion the already repeatedly mentioned “spirit” might suffice. The “noise of their wings” also, especially where it was represented as “like the voice of the Almighty,” admonishes us to listen higher, as indeed the “expanse” (Ezekiel 1:22-23) even must direct our looks upward. “And there came a voice,” etc. (J. D. Mich.: “Above the floor which was over their heads it thundered.”) In this way our conjecture is verified, what we had to expect as following up what goes before is realized. There is no statement here as to the quarter from which the loud sound came which was heard during the motion of the wings, as Keil maintains. It is a “voice” also which comes, but the circumstance that “it came” (ניהי) depicts something making its appearance suddenly, so that, the vision up to the last brings before us an occurrence of an exceedingly stirring character (comp. introd. remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28).—In their standing (now equivalent to: when they stood, when their motion ceased at the voice) they let down their wings (which were of course raised when they walked or rose up from the earth, Ezekiel 1:19 sqq.), which is repeated verbatim from Ezekiel 1:24, not, however, “in order to round off this subject” (Keil), but in order now at the same time to explain it to us as respects its cause. (“A voice issues from above the vault, which yet for a time puts a restraint on the impetuosity of the instruments of the divine wrath.” Hengst.) Although in what follows we are to reach a goal hitherto aimed at, mention may well be made here even of grace charging the judgment in general to stand still.—The letting down of the upper wings corresponds to their covering themselves with the lower wings. As the latter represents in general reverential distance, and that of the creature when in motion, so the former represents in particular their most submissive silence, their deep reverential rest before the only living God, as soon as His voice is heard, Psalms 76:9; Psalms 46:7; Psalms 46:11. (Umbr.: “Is this not, in short, an allusion to the death of the creature? It is the voice of Him who kills and makes alive.”)
Ezekiel 1:26. וממעל, the strongest expression for: above; “the highest Object in the vision” (Hengst.) is meant to be expressed.—סבִּיו, from סָפַר, to make smooth, shining, that which gives forth light. “It cannot be decided whether the ancients gave this name to a sky-blue, or dark blue, or violet stone” (Bähr). Hengst.: “on account of the heaven-like colour, Exodus 24:10, where the whiteness or bright lustre of the sapphire stands in connection with the purity of the heavens, and denotes the infinite eminence of God’s dominion over the earth with its impotence, sin, unrighteousness.” Hitzig: “The sapphire of the ancients is our lapis lazuli, as in Exodus 24:10 an opaque stone, and on account of the light blue colour of the heavens, a blue one.” (J. D. Mich.: “The throne had thus the colour of the pure heaven which is above the clouds; beneath it all that is gloomy, or fire and lightning, the throne itself bright and pure, heaven-like blue.”) The sapphire is perfectly transparent; at all events, it is on account of its bright lustre that it is taken as a comparison. The beautiful blue colour is merely incidental. But it is more worthy of notice how Ezekiel, where the Most High is in question, as already at Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 1:24, so especially here, repeats and emphasizes in the strongest way the merely analogical, purely emblematic character of his representation; דמות ,בְּ three times, and yet again בְּ. As in the case of the chajoth what first made its appearance was “the likeness of a man” (Ezekiel 1:5), so here it is said, the likeness as the appearance of a man (Daniel 7:13). Comp. on Ezekiel 1:5. The human element is thus up to the end, just as on the other hand the fiery element is throughout, characteristic of the vision. (Comp. introd. remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28.)
Ezekiel 1:27. וארא, as in Ezekiel 1:15 and Ezekiel 1:4; parallel to ואשמע, Ezekiel 1:24.—בעין חשמל, comp. on Ezekiel 1:4.—There is thus also a retrospective reference to the fire-cloud, viz. by means of what formed the climax of its impression. But farther, the “chasmal-look” effects the transition from the human element of Him who sits upon the throne to the other side of His appearance, in order, finally, however, in a manner corresponding to the first human impression, to bring, about the conclusion at the culminating point of the whole. The intermediate term betwixt “as the appearance of a man” and as the appearance of fire, etc., is thus the bright lustre of the chasmal, as was brought out on Ezekiel 1:4; and brightness also will, as we shall see, form the medium of transition at the close. בֵּית־לָהּ סָבִיב, belonging most naturally to =בְּמַרְאֵה־אֵשׁ as the appearance of fire, of a house round about it, i.e. of a fire which takes the shape of a house enclosing round; Hitzig: “which has an enclosure round;” Hengst.: “a house round about it, i.e. which is enclosed round, in order to indicate the extent of its burning.” Perhaps also it is meant in this way to depict a fire that is hemmed in. To refer לה to דמות בםא, in Ezekiel 1:26, lies too far off, and gives no sense; and there is just as little in favour of translating בית־לה by: “within the same,” for which certainly the expression is מִבַּיִת לְ. We have to go back in thought to the fire-cloud in Ezekiel 1:4. (Ewald makes out of בית something white, clear, בֵּיץ [?].) In this way mention is made generally of the brightness of light and the form of fire, i.e. of two different things.—There follows the application to Him who sits upon the throne, alike in an upward and in a downward direction. ו is explicative. The loins come into consideration, because He sits. As, then, from the appearance of these, looking downwards, the prophet says: I saw as the appearance of fire, there must remain self-evidently (and Ezekiel 8:2 puts it beyond doubt) for the upwards the brightness of light, which is not expressly added for this reason, because it is understood of itself after the separation and application of the fire, because, farther, “as the look of chasmal” had been the first thing which was spoken of before mention of the “as the appearance of fire,” and because the “brightness” is mentioned in a way thoroughly sufficient in Ezekiel 1:28. לוֹ refers, without doubt, expressly to Him who sits upon the throne; comp. on the other hand, on Ezekiel 1:4, from which the words are borrowed. The brightness must accordingly be understood as being above, round the upper part of the body. On the other hand J. D. Mich.: “Like glowing metal inwardly, encircled round and round with fire, so the upper part of the body; the lower part of the body like fire, which produced a reflection round itself, and the reflection looked like a rainbow.”
Ezekiel 1:28. The bow is that in the cloud, hence, as is also indicated still more definitely, the rainbow, whose meaning is fixed from Genesis 9:13 sqq. onwards. We might almost describe the substance of the whole vision physically as a thunderstorm, which melts away in a rainbow, in which case the significance of this latter natural phenomenon in Holy Scripture throughout might be the thought in view. Thus simple, after all, is the tout ensemble, with all its complication in detail. But perhaps the mention of the cloud refers back likewise to Ezekiel 1:4, just as the manifold retrospective references to the commencement of the vision are characteristic of its rounded close. The fire-cloud is changed, by means of the sun-like brightness round about Him who sits upon the throne, into a bearer of the bow of peace and of the covenant, the token of grace after and (springing) out of judgment. In this way the gospel and Christ break through, as in a grammatico-historical way exegesis even may expound the letter (Revelation 4:3; Revelation 10:1). “From the north the vision appears to Ezekiel, but in the rainbow it vanishes from him; for he is to prophesy of judgment and ruin first, but of grace and everlasting salvation afterwards” (Kliefoth). This harmony of the vision, as it appears in the tout ensemble, and in the detail, and entirely confirmed as it is by the remainder of the Book of Ezekiel, is obliterated, if the rainbow is to signify nothing but “royal dignity,” or is to come into consideration as the “most beautiful picture,” i.e. on account of the beauty of its colours, to which, however, according to Hitzig, there is no second reference. J. D. Mich, asserts that the reflection, like a rainbow, is drawn from the smelting-furnaces of the precious metal, that when silver is smelted, there shows itself, at the moment of the separation of the vitrified dross, lead, or the like, over the pure, glowing metal something resembling a rainbow (the silver-gleam, comp. Umbr. on Ezekiel 1:4). But Häv. also passes by the main thing, when he limits the human form, celebrating as it does its heavenly manifestation in brightness generally, and such a brightness as this, to a divine condescension for the prophet merely.—Keil, Klief., Hengst., Hitzig, and others, because of Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:19, confine הוא to the appearance of Him who sits upon the throne, including the veil of light, but “excluding the throne and cherubim.” Comp. introd. remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28, where already it is brought out, that the application which is made of our vision in Ezekiel 10:0 must not be permitted to influence the interpretation of the much more general contents of Ezekiel 1:0. This only may be said: The vision of glory in Ezekiel 1:26 sqq. likewise points to His Deity itself, which still infinitely transcends all His glory in the creature and its impending glorification upon earth (pp. 39, 40). Hence also דמות בבוד־. “Strictly speaking, the prophet conceives of the δόξα τοῦ κυρίου as in itself so sublime that it cannot be described; it is a reflection, which only suggests the reality” (Häv.). בבוד(see as to the meaning p. 40), linguistically from בָּבַד (בָּבֵד), to be “drawing together,” “drawing down,” “heavy.” This fundamental idea is in itself one derived from the senses, and even where, by transference to human relations, it becomes a metaphysical one, something abstract, like gravis, gravitas, pondus, βαρύς (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:17, βάρος δόξης), and means intellectual weight, importance, significance, it rests on real power, as money-power (riches), or high position, etc., without בבוד, on this account being=riches or royalty; rather does it continue to be the weight which one is able to put in the scale on the ground of such power.
If in consequence of this a nimbus gathers round the possessor of the power, because power adorns itself as readily as it is wont to be adorned through recognition and service on the part of others, it is natural that, for the purpose of expressing the weight of him who is powerful, and in order to represent, to give visibility to this power, the idea of brightness, splendour, greatness, dignity, respect, renown may enter, without בבוד itself having this meaning radically. Thus it is used κατ̓ ἐξοχήν of God’s showing forth of His power, of His manifestation and presence (the “Shechinah,” according to Jewish terminology), where the thought of the principal sphere of His manifestation, viz. the bright heavens, also exerts its influence; but the בבוד יי׳ is, according to the fundamental idea of the word: the power of life belonging to God, in light that is invisible for man, except in that reflected splendour which adorns the creatures, man pre-eminently, but also the whole creation of God in genera!: God’s sovereignty in glory, as it belongs to Him alone.—ואראה, comp. on Ezekiel 1:1. The close of the vision. At the same time we have set before us the impression which it produced in the prophet’s case, its immediate, first result. Hengst.: “He falls down before the majesty of God in His wrath.” Häv.: “Although Jehovah did not suffer to be wanting tokens of His grace and love, yet he could not bear to look upon His glory.” Hitzig: “He is thrown down in a state of unconsciousness.” Keil: “Having fallen to the ground before the terrible revelation of the glory of Jehovah under a feeling of his own impotence and sinfulness.” (Luke 5:8.) [“In the first place: because of the extraordinary vision, and from astonishment thereat. Secondly: from fear and humility; for if the seraphim veil their face before God, how should not mortal man fall to the earth when he sees the glory of God? Thirdly: in adoration of God” (a Lapide).] It is an overpowering impression, hence the power of God shown in the בבוד יי׳ (comp. on the other hand Isaiah 6:5), quite corresponding to the fundamental idea. Ezekiel 3:23; Ezekiel 43:3; Daniel 8:17-18; Daniel 10:7 sqq.; comp. especially Matthew 17:6 (Acts 9:7-8); Revelation 1:17.—ואשמע, now something else than in Ezekiel 1:24; but the “voice” was that of Ezekiel 1:25. In this way a transition is made to what follows. “He says, however: of one that spake, and not of God, because, lying upon his face, he could not see and recognise the speaker. Acts 9:4 sqq.” (a Lapide). As is clear otherwise from the context, the falling down and hearing, like all that has preceded, are to be conceived of within the sphere of the vision.
Additional Note on Ezekiel 1:4-28
[To gather up now the leading features and symbolic purport of this wonderful vision, we can easily perceive that the groundwork of it was derived from the patterns of divine things in the most holy place in the temple; yet very considerably modified and changed, to adapt it to the present occasion. Here also there is the throne of the divine Majesty, but not wearing the humble and attractive form of the mercy-seat; more like Sinai, with its electric clouds, and pealing sounds, and bursting effusions of living flame. Here, too, are the composite forms about the throne—the cherubim with outstretched wings touching each other; but instead of the two cherubic figures of the temple, four, each with four hands, four wings, four faces, looking in so many directions, doubtless with respect to the four quarters of the earth toward which the divine power and glory was going to manifest itself. These four are here further represented as peculiarly living creatures, full of life and motion, and not only with wings for flight, but wheels also of gigantic size beside them, revolving with lightning speed, and all resplendent with the most intense brightness. The general correspondence between what Ezekiel thus saw in the visions of God and what was to be found in the temple, indicated that it was the same God who dwelt between the cherubim in the temple, and who now appeared to His servant on the banks of the Chebar; while the differences bespoke certain manifestations of the divine character to be now at hand, such as required to be less prominently displayed in His ordinary procedure.
1. That He appeared specially and peculiarly as the God of holiness; this, first of all, was intimated by the presence of the cherubim. For here, as in the temple, the employment of these composite forms pointed back to their original destination in the garden of Eden, to keep the way to the tree of life, from which man had been debarred on account of sin; ideal creatures, as the region of pure and blessed life they occupied, had now become to men an ideal territory. Yet still they were creatures, not of angelic, but of human mould; they bore the predominant likeness of man, with the likenesses superadded of the three highest orders of the inferior creation (the lion, the ox, the eagle). “It is an ideal combination; no such composite creature as the cherub exists in the actual world, and we can think of no reason why the singular combination it presents of animal forms should have been set upon that of man as the trunk or centre of the whole, unless it were to exhibit the higher elements of humanity in some kind of organic connection with certain distinctive properties of the inferior creation. The nature of man is immensely the highest upon earth, and towers loftily above all the rest, by powers peculiar to itself. And yet we can easily conceive how this very nature of man might be greatly raised and ennobled, by having superadded to its own inherent qualities, those of which the other animal forms here mentioned stand as the appropriate types.”—“These composite forms are here called הַיּוֹת, for which the Septuagint, and John in the Apocalypse, use the synonymous term ζῶα, living ones. The frequency with which this name is used of the cherubim is remarkable. In Ezekiel and the Apocalypse together it occurs nearly thirty times, and may consequently be regarded as peculiarly expressive of the symbolical meaning of the cherubim. It presents them to our view as exhibiting the property of life in its highest state of power and activity; as forms of creaturely existence, altogether instinct with life. And the idea thus conveyed by the name is further substantiated by one or two traits associated with them in Ezekiel and the Apocalypse. Such, especially, is the very singular multiplicity of eyes attached to them, appearing primarily in the mystic wheels that regulated their movements, and at a later stage (Ezekiel 10:12), in the cherubic forms themselves. For the eye is the symbol of intelligent life, the living spirit’s most peculiar organ and index; and to represent the cherubim as so strangely replenished with eyes, could only be intended to make them known as wholly inspirited. Hence, in Ezekiel 1:20, ‘the spirit of the living creatures’ is said to have been in the wheels; where the eye was, there also was the intelligent, thinking, directive spirit of life. Another and quite similar trait is the quick and restless activity ascribed to them by Ezekiel, who represents them as ‘running and returning’ with lightning speed, and then by John, when he describes them as ‘resting not day and night.’ Incessant motion is one of the most obvious symptoms of a plenitude of life. We instinctively associate the property of life even with the inanimate things that exhibit motion—such as fountains and running streams, which are called living in contradistinction to stagnant pools, that seem comparatively dead. So that creatures which appeared to be all eyes, all motion, are, in plain terms, those in which the powers and properties of life are quite peculiarly displayed; but life, it must be remembered, most nearly and essentially connected with God—life as it is or shall be held by those who dwell in His immediate presence, and form, in a manner, the very enclosure and covering of His throne—pre-eminently, therefore, holy and spiritual life.”8
2. But this idea of holy and spiritual life, as connected with the presence and glory of God, was greatly strengthened in the vision by the fervid appearance, as of metallic brightness and flashes of liquid flame, which shone from and around all the parts and figures of the vision. It denoted the intense and holy severity in God’s working, which was either to accomplish in the objects of it the highest good, or to produce the greatest evil. Precisely similar in meaning, though somewhat differing in form, was the representation in Isaiah’s vision (Ezekiel 6:0), where, instead of the usual name cherubim, that of seraphim is applied to the symbolical attendants of God—the burning ones, as the word properly signifies—burning forms of holy fire, the emblems of God’s purifying and destroying righteousness. Hence their cry one to another was, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts.” And in token of the twofold working of this holiness, it was by the application of a burning coal to his lips that the prophet, as the representative of the elect portion of the people, was hallowed for God’s service, while in the message that follows, the ungodly mass are declared to be for burning (as the word literally is in Ezekiel 1:13). The same element that refined and purified the one for God’s service, was to manifest itself in the destruction of the other. And it is this also that is symbolically taught here by the dazzling light, the glowing embers, and fiery coruscations, with which all was enveloped and emblazoned. It made known God’s purpose to put forth the severer attributes of His character, and to purify His Church by “the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.”
3. Even these fiery appearances, however, in the cherubim and the other objects of the vision, did not sufficiently express what was here meant to be conveyed; and, therefore, to make out the idea more completely, wheels of vast proportions were added to the cherubim. The prophet would thus render palpable to our view the gigantic and terrible energy which was going to characterize the manifestations of the God of Israel. A spirit of awful and resistless might was now to appear in His dealings; not proceeding, however, by a blind impulse, but in all its movements guided by a clear-sighted and unerring sagacity. How striking a representation did such a spirit find for itself in the resolute agency and stern utterances of Ezekiel! In this respect he comes nearest of all the later prophets to Elijah.
4. Finally, above the cherubim of glory and their wonderful wheel-work was seen, first, the crystal firmament, and then, above the firmament, the throne of God, on which He Himself sat in human form—a form, as here displayed, beaming with the splendour of heavenly fire, but, at the same time, bearing the engaging aspect of a man, and surrounded with the attractive and pleasing halo of the rainbow. In this shone forth the mingled majesty and kindness of God—the overawing authority on the one hand, and the gracious sympathy and regard on the other, which were to distinguish His agency as now to be put forth for the reproof of sin among the covenant-people, and the establishment of truth and righteousness. The terror which the manifestation was fitted to inspire, was terror only to the guilty, while, for the penitent and believing, there was to be the brightest display of covenant love and faithfulness. Especially was this indicated by the crowning appearance of the rainbow, which, from being the token of God’s covenant with Noah, in respect to the future preservation of the earth, was like the hanging out from the throne of the Eternal of a flag of peace, giving assurance to all, that the purpose of Heaven was to preserve rather than to destroy, and to fulfil that which was promised in the covenant. Even if the divine work now to be carried forward in the spiritual world should require, as in the natural world of old, a deluge of wrath for its successful accomplishment, still the faithfulness and love of God would be sure to the children of promise, and would only shine forth the more brightly at last, in consequence of the tribulations which might be needed to prepare the way for the ultimate good.
Such, then, was the form and import of this remarkable vision. There was nothing about it accidental or capricious; all was wisely adjusted and arranged, so as to convey beforehand suitable impressions of that work of God to which Ezekiel was now called to devote himself. It was substantially an exhibition, by means of emblematical appearances and actions, of the same views of the divine character and government, which were to be unfolded in the successive communications made by Ezekiel to the covenant-people. By a significant representation, the Lord gathered into one magnificent vision the substance of what was to occupy the prophetic agency of His servant, as in later times was done by our Lord to the evangelist John, in the opening vision of the Apocalypse.—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 30–34.—W. F.]
1. Thus God provides a helper for His servant Jeremiah, in a sphere where the latter, for far more than thirty years, has called without ceasing, with small result. But it was no small relief, that Jeremiah at Jerusalem heard the Holy Spirit assenting to and coinciding with him from the exile. Thus the truth was confirmed by the mouth of two witnesses (after Calvin). “Let every one, therefore, do what belongs to his office, and God will doubtless raise up others, if it is necessary, to help us. Thus he associated with Joseph, who took Christ from the cross, Nicodemus.” (Ludw. Lavater.)
2. “As Ezekiel here, at thirty years of age, sees the heavens opened by a river, so Jesus, according to Matthew 3:16; comp. with Luke 3:21” (Hengst.). “As a type of Christ, who at thirty years of age came for baptism. … The priests entered on their office at the same age; John the Baptist began at thirty years of age the preaching of repentance” (Jerome). Comp. however, Introd. § 3, and the exeg. remarks on Ezekiel 1:1.
3. Herein is shown the inestimable goodness of God, in that He raised up the prophet for Himself as it were out of hell; for Babylon was like the deepest abyss, and from thence must the voice of the retribution, as well as of the grace of God, sound forth. Thus the light breaks forth from the blackest darkness, and, at the same time, to the shame of the Jews, who had despised the voice of so many prophets (after Calvin). “God calls the land of Canaan His own land; in that land He had a house and people, to whom He had given it as an inheritance. And now, when He began to lead the people forth from it, He yet did not forsake them, but went as it were with them into the exile, and gave them, even in the midst of the heathen in an unclean land, prophets who, like Daniel and Ezekiel, saw the greatest things,—a thing which has no longer happened to the Jews scattered over the earth after the last destruction of the temple; for prophecy departed from them. But Christ’s disciples preached the gospel: which they, however, despised, and, in this way, turned the Spirit of God out of the synagogue. Where God is, there is vision, i.e. revelation by means of His word: there He dwells, where His word is loved and believed; there is the sanctuary (Ezekiel 11:16), which the time approaching was to show, when He would march along in the wilderness (Psalms 68:7), i.e. would have His kingdom among the heathen in the whole world” (Cocc.).
4. “Although a thousand heavens were to open, what piercing look would reach as far as the glory of God? How small the sun appears, and yet it is so much greater than the earth! And then the rest of the stars! And so, when He opens the heavens, God must, at the same time, give His servants new eyes. The eyes of Stephen, therefore, were doubtless enlightened with unusual power, so that he could penetrate in vision beyond what mere man was able to do; and so also, at the baptism of Christ, John the Baptist was raised above the clouds” (Calvin).
5. He says at Ezekiel 1:3 that God’s word came to him; and thus God alone is to be heard, and the prophets for no other reason than this, that they cause us to hear God’s word. Every doctor of the Church must first be a scholar, every teacher first a hearer. God must retain His rights as the only Guide and Teacher. The prophets, where they demand audience of us, demand it only for God’s word (after Calvin). “The prophet is to be distinguished essentially from the later scribes and disciples of the Rabbins. In his case it is not said: it stands written, or: such and such a master speaks, but: thus hath Jehovah spoken, or: the word of Jehovah came unto me, and the like. The true prophets are ‘taught’ not of a human master, but of Jehovah (Isaiah 50:4)” (Oehler).
6. This order: visions of God first (Ezekiel 1:1), and then Jehovah’s word, has its significance for biblical prophecy. Comp. Ezekiel 13:2 sqq., where the false prophets prophesy without having seen. The prophet is certainly one who gives expression to something which he has seen, just as Oehler correctly defines internal vision as being the psychical form of prophecy; hence also the designation “seer” (חֹזֶה poetic, more solemn than the more usual רֹאֶה), and the circumstance that Isaiah (Ezekiel 2:1) “sees” the “word”; comp. Amos 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Habakkuk 2:1.
7. The section, Ezekiel 1:1-3, is meant to contain “an exact description of the state of prophetic inspiration or ecstasy” (Häv.) in its threefold operation with a single cause. The four particulars: “the heavens were opened,” “I saw visions of God,” “the word of Jehovah came unto Ezekiel,” “the hand of Jehovah came upon him there,” may, in the first place, indicate: the two first the plastic part of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0, the two latter the phonetic part of it, viz. what follows in Ezekiel 2:3. Then, as regards the state of Ezekiel, we may admit a gradation in them, if we admit that they are successive. The subjectivity of the man is recognized even as regards its locality; how much more as regards its mental, moral, spiritual individuality, and its determination by the history of the time and of the individual. What, however, predominates is the objective, the divine. The ego of the prophet neither throws itself out upon the external world around, nor in upon itself; it is, from its usual activity being at rest, in a certain measure, carried away from itself as well as from the whole world, but by this means collected in an unusually receptive way for a higher order of things, for God and divine influence. This is the essential element of the ἔκστασις (Acts 10:10; Acts 11:5; Acts 22:17), a being in the spirit, a being carried away from the earth, and rapt up into heaven. The contrast is the γίνεσθαι ἐν ἑκυτῷ (Acts 12:11), the ἐν νοῒ εἶναι (1 Corinthians 14:14); comp. Tholuck, Die Propheten und ihre Weissagungen, p. 53 sqq., Hengst., Christology, 2d edit. iii. [Clark’s Trans.], Oehler, Herzog’s Encycl. xvii. p. 627 sqq., Lange, Philosop. Dogmatik, p. 447.
8. With a correct feeling,—one might say, with Christian intelligence,—the section, Ezekiel 1:0, is the haphtorah of the first Jewish day of Pentecost, on which besides Ezekiel 3:12 is read (comp. J. F. Schröder, Satzungen und Gebräuche des talm. rabb. Judenth. pp. 224, 214 sqq.).
9. The fire-cloud was characteristic. At Exodus 13:21-22 Jehovah introduces Himself to His people for their entire guidance to Canaan by means of a cloud, in which by night there was fire. This cloud formed, in the Red Sea, the wall of separation between Israel and Egypt, for judgment and ruin to the latter (Exodus 14:0). Over the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34 sqq.) it signified the divine presence (בְּמַרְאֵה־אֵשׁ, Numbers 9:15); in it appears the glory of the Lord, and that in very important, solemn crises of the journey through the wilderness (comp. Exodus 16:10; Numbers 14:10; Numbers 16:19; Numbers 17:7, and other passages). The fire of this cloud had already flashed upon Moses out of that thorn bush on occasion of his mission to Israel (Exodus 3:0); it was thoroughly known to the people from Sinai onwards (Exodus 19:0). Thus there could scarcely be anything more familiar to the pious consciousness of the people. But it was not the cloud which had again filled the house of the Eternal in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 8:0), nor was it even the fire (2 Chronicles 7:0); i.e. it must have had a different meaning, when a fire-cloud came from the north, and when it appeared in the land of Babylon. The fire in it is also quite manifest; that which envelopes it, and at the same time stands over against the scorching heat of the sun in the wilderness, is absent from it. (Comp. on the other hand, Isaiah 4:5 sqq., Isaiah 60:1.)
10. Hengst. draws attention to Ezekiel’s opposition “to the vicious realism which will know nothing of the distinction between the thought and its vesture.” “Appearance,” “likeness,” “appearance of the likeness,” and the like, are peculiar to Ezekiel, “for the purpose of guarding against that vicious realism, which professes, indeed, to represent the interests of the faith against a ‘false spiritualism,’ but which is, in truth, nothing else but weakness in the exposition of Scripture.”
11. “Man, in his ideality, the centre of life, which conditions all the other forms. The highest form of animal life: the suffering and bleeding life-form, the sacrificial animal, the bullock; the ruling life-form, exhibiting itself in royal freedom, the lion; the life-form which soars above the earth, free from toil, engaged in vision, the eagle. Above these three culminating points of the animal world, man, the intellectual life-form, which reproduces all those preliminary grades in a higher unity, but is always the one along with the other, when he corresponds with his destination: the tragic sacrificial animal, the fighting, conquering lion, the contemplative eagle, basking in the light—all this is one spirit; and just in this unity he is man. Every animal form with Ezekiel is an ethical symbol. Everything living belongs to the spirit, falls to it, and is offered up to it: this is signified by the bullock. Everything living enjoys, contends, and overcomes, because it represents the spirit: this is expressed by the lion. Everything living lulls itself in a state of dreamy intoxication in the sunlight of the spirit: this is represented by the eagle. But everything living culminates in man: the inspiration of suffering, the inspiration of action, and the inspiration of contemplation; man is the image of God as regards his destiny. But Christ is the perfect, the glorified man, the God-man. Now, as man expands his fulness in the world, so does the God-man in the gospel, the element of the world’s glorification; and as the riches of man branch out in the world so do those of Christ in the Gospels. It was a far-reaching thought, when Irenæus referred the peculiarity of the four Gospels to the four animal-forms of Ezekiel” (Lange).
12. If, in accordance with the representation given in the introductory remarks to Ezekiel 1:4-28, Ezekiel’s vision of glory, with its universality preceding the particular historical application in Ezekiel 10:0, symbolizes the human and earthly life of creation,—in its peculiarity as well with respect to its general place in the cosmos,—in like fulness of power as of unity and all-sidedness of movement (Ezekiel 1:19 sqq.),—as a life not only of heavenly origin, i.e. from the beginning divinely-established (Ezekiel 1:4), but also completely dependent on heaven (Ezekiel 1:22 sqq.), and after the manner of the heavenly spirits, hence angel-like, always ready for service,—for purposes of judgment, but also of mercy:—then there lies therein every possibility of a passing over from the sphere of the merely natural in creation to what belongs to the history of the world in the preparatory revelation of God’s glory in the midst of Israel, as well as in its fulfilment and completion in Christ among mankind. On the basis of this truth, the various interpretations of the vision in Ezekiel 1:0 admit of being harmonized.
13. “All things were,” according to Colossians 1:16, “created by Him and for Him,” i.e. Him “who is the image (likeness) of the invisible God, the first-born before all creation” (Ezekiel 1:15). Now, the vision of Ezekiel culminates in a “likeness (image) as the appearance of a man” on a throne (Ezekiel 1:26), and this occupant of a throne is none other than Jehovah, and so the “likeness as the appearance of a man” must be the “image of the invisible God,” according to Colossians 1:0. As the life of creation, in accordance with its origin, appears at its highest point in man, whom God has created in His own image, after His own likeness, and therefore there is the “likeness of a man” in the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:5): so much more in accordance with its goal, as regards the destiny of its life and the goal of its development, everything which exists in any stage of life up to the highest of the invisible world culminates in the Son of man, who is the essential image of God, so that whoever sees Him sees God; hence the “likeness as the appearance of a man” upon the throne. The culmination of the vision of Ezekiel is thus the culmination of the whole creation in the Son of man, who is the Son of God; and in this way there lies expressed in the sphere of creation the very same thing which will also come to be expressed for the recovery from the fall and from the misdevelopment in mankind, for the redemption, so that grace already lies before us in nature archetypally. This is the grand all-embracing universalism of Ezekiel 1:0. The consecration alike of Israel and of mankind to God is the Christian provision, viz. that which is accomplished in Christ; is the glorifying of Christ by the Holy Ghost (John 16:14), i.e. the revelation of the power and dignity, the significance (בבוד, Ezekiel 1:28) which Christ has as the reflection of the Father’s glory, and at the same time the revelation in power and splendour of His victory over sin and death.
14. The glory of God, as the effulgent almightiness of divine life, must certainty show itself “in the warding off and annihilation of death, of transitoriness and of corruption,” for which Nitzsch points away to “the glorification of Christ and of Christians in the resurrection (John 17:22; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:30; 1 Peter 4:14).”
15. According to the interpretation in John 12:41 of Isaiah 6:0, it may be said also in reference to Ezekiel 1:0, that “the name of Jesus” is “the secret of Jehovah’s name become manifest” (Delitzsch). The divine glory (1) is symbolized in the Old Covenant, and that partly in outwardly visible phenomena, e.g. the cloud-guide, the signs on Sinai, partly in such ornaments connected with divine worship as the cherubim above the ark of the covenant in the most holy place of the tabernacle and the temple; and (2) it is personified with full powers in the manifold angelophanies, from which the Angel of the Lord, of the Presence, of the Covenant, is separated in important respects; (3) just as in like manner in the Old Testament representation of wisdom there begins, especially in what the prophets see in vision, a hypostatizing of the glory of God, which is already, in a manner full of promise, hinting at the incarnation of the Word (λόγος), in whom the abstract principle of wisdom and the spiritually living element in the expression of revelation are combined in one. (Comp. Lange on John 1:0.) “In Christ the Shechinah has appeared in full realization.” “The Logos, when on the way to become man, is one with the δόξα of the Father.” This means more exactly, according to Hebrews 1:3 : He reflects the rays of the divine δόξα: He is its refulgence and effulgence, in the same way as the sunlight is related to the sun.
16. We have given prominence at Ezekiel 1:28 to the overpowering element in the effect of the vision upon Ezekiel, and also (7) emphasized the predominance of the divine factor in the state of our prophet. We shall have occasion to complete what has been said in Ezekiel 2:0. But here even, as Hengst. has brought out fully (Gesch. Bil. p. 141), the distinction between a prophet like Ezekiel and a Balaam, a Saul and the like, is to be maintained. “Inspiration assumed a character so violent, casting soul and body to the ground, only where it found beforehand an imperfect state.” The more it can be taken for granted that “the ordinary consciousness is penetrated by the Spirit,” the more “does the Spirit in the case of His extraordinary manifestations come into His own.” We would otherwise have to expect the falling down of Ezekiel at the beginning of the chapter (comp. Numbers 24:4). At the close of the vision it is not explained from the divine power of the Spirit qualifying the seer beforehand for seeing, but from what is seen in its own significance, its own importance, especially over against human sinfulness. It is an embodied Kurie eleison.
Ezekiel 1:1. The important “and” in Holy Scripture: (1) the catena of prophets and men of God; (2) the coincidence of times and occurrences; (3) the nexus of the divine leadings of Israel and of mankind.—“Pious people do not live thoughtlessly, like the ungodly, but mark closely days, months, and years in which special grace was shown them by God” (J. G. Starke).—“With enemies even the pious find an asylum; Joseph with the Egyptians, David with the Philistines, Ezekiel with the Chaldeans. Whoever has God for his friend, remains alive among the lions, keeps a whole skin in the fiery furnace, and will be quite safe among whatever enemies he may be” (J. F. Starcke).—“As Ezekiel is in the midst of them, one might say that in general judgments the pious also are taken along with others, and have to endure the like sufferings, as if there were no difference between the one and the other (Malachi 3:18); but God preserves them in the midst of the flames; where the ungodly perish, the pious are kept safe; where it goes ill with the former, it goes well with the latter; and even if the body should be laid hold of, yet not the soul, which is bound up in the bundle of the living” (Stck.).—For intercourse with God, lonely retired places are the most suitable; here the river, there the wilderness (Hosea 2:14; Hosea 2:16), elsewhere the closet, Matthew 6:6 (after Stck.).—“If the heavens are opened to us in baptism, be on thy guard, that they be not shut to thee because of thy sins! The pious man, when he dies, will find the heavens opened; the ungodly will find hell open” (Stck.).—“ ‘Visions of God’: for Satan also has visions, by means of which he bewitches unbelievers” (L. Lavater).—“We are not, however, on this account to expect and demand from God divine visions, when we have Moses and the prophets (Luke 16:0). It is certainly not impossible for God to unveil to us the future, and to reveal His will by means of visions; but under the New Covenant He has not promised such things” (Stck.).—“The Lord stooped to him, and his spirit was caught up to see God” (Schmieder).—“Those whom God calls to the office of teaching and preaching, He furnishes also with necessary gifts. Luke 21:15” (O.).
Ezekiel 1:2. “The lie has a bad memory; on the other hand, the truth remains true to itself” (Stck.).—Jehoiachin’s list of sins stands recorded shortly in 2 Kings 24:9. Moreover, he was not so much taken prisoner; it was rather that he gave himself up as a prisoner, Ezekiel 1:12.Ezekiel 1:3 : “Ezekiel does not bring forward his dreams or imaginations, but according to 2 Peter 1:21, God’s revelation” (L. Lav.).—To the servants of God the word of God is entrusted for those who are to hear them. How could they otherwise raise such a claim to be heard in all the situations of life!? Woe to the unfaithful stewards! Woe to the disobedient hearers!—What a veto against all pride, self-will, and obstinacy, ought the servants of the word to have in that very word, whose servants merely and not masters they are! (Psalms 115:1.)—“The son of Buzi, i.e. contempt, is Ezekiel, i.e. God’s strength; in other words, the man whom the world contemns, that very one God strengthens” (a Lapide).—“Humility adorns every one, but most of all the teacher, John 1:27” (St.).—The guidance of a servant of God among men consists of two parts: (1) God’s word; (2) God’s hand.—The goodness of God shown in the leading of His servants: (1) He compensates them richly for what they were obliged to sacrifice (Ezekiel for his hereditary priesthood, by means of the prophetic office derived from the Spirit); (2) His power is mighty in their misery (Ezekiel’s home in God while in a state of exile from his native land, his divine freedom while led captive by man); (3) He fills their solitude with the glorious knowledge of Himself; (4) the heavens are opened to them above the earth, so that they see God instead of men.
Ezekiel 1:4 sqq. The glory of the Lord (1) present in nature, (2) proclaimed in the word, (3) experienced in faith.
Ezekiel 1:4 : Nebuchadnezzar and Jehovah do not exclude one another; the former is merely the servant, and the latter the Master. The king of Babylon must perform what he has been sent to by the King of heaven and earth (Deuteronomy 32:30).—“With the one word Storm! the prophet places himself in rugged opposition to the false prophets, who with one mouth proclaimed serene tranquillity (Matthew 8:26)” (Hengst.).—The storm which makes a clearance among the imaginations of the flesh is God’s judgments, alike upon individuals and upon whole nations.—“The ungodly are like the storm, but God’s storm outstorms them” (Stck.).—“Out of the north, not towards the north. The judgment must begin at the house of God” (H.).—“If they have become like the Egyptians in their practices, they need not wonder if an Egyptian fate also befalls them. They have not, in fact, wished it otherwise” (H.).—“The cloud of sins draws toward it the cloud of punishments” (Stck.).—“Behold, the Judge standeth before the door!” James 5:9.—“Fire consumed Sodom; fire consumed the tent with the rebels in Israel; everlasting fire is sure to the ungodly” (Stck.).—“From this flows of itself the exhortation to repentance, in order that the sun may appear after the cloud” (H.).—“The contrast of the false prophets and of the true is not that of salvation and judgment, but that of salvation without punishment and without repentance, and of salvation which after judgment falls to the lot of the penitent people,—of mere gospel, crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace, and of the law and the gospel, each in its own time. A prophet who proclaimed only punishment would be no less a false prophet than one who holds out in prospect nothing but peace. Law and gospel, each in its entire fulness,—this is even to the present day the characteristic mark of the true servants of God” (H.).—“Quæ putatur pœna, medicina est” (Jerome).—“As fiery rays shoot forth from the thick clouds, so in the midst of His judgments God causes a ray of His mercy to be seen” (St.).—“The brightness gleams only out of the far distance. But Exodus 34:6 must stand before our eyes, if the suffering called forth by sin is to bring forth the healthful fruit of righteousness” (H.).
Ezekiel 1:5 sqq. “He who appears for judgment is the Almighty, whom everything living serves (just as everything can also be quickened into life for His purposes, the wheels!); who is there that can pluck out of His hand?” (after H.).—The four living creatures, four living pictures of suitable instruments for God: (1) from the fire, i.e. zeal for God, all their acting as well as speaking must proceed; (2) they have, a. to confront the whole world; b. nevertheless, they may rise with confidence above the whole world on wings of prayer and meditation; (3) at the same time, a. they stand firm, sure, and stedfast, while everything around them reels to and fro; b. and their walk shines in the darkness of this world in a worthy, pure, divine manner.—The number four in Ezekiel in its significance for the mission and the missionary call of the Church of God.
Ezekiel 1:5. “Preachers have the likeness of a man, inasmuch as they imitate Christ in work, grace, suffering, and glory. They stamp in this way the Crucified One in the hearts of their hearers, 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2” (Gregory).
Ezekiel 1:6 : “Similarly a believing soul also wishes for itself wings in His service, and four, yea, a thousand tongues, wherewith to praise Him” (Berl. B.).
Ezekiel 1:7 : “Like pillars, honest servants of God and true believers ought to stand straight and erect in the house of God, and not suffer themselves to be bent after the will of men, nor to be corrupted through their own lusts, so as to get crooked feet” (Berl. B.).—The world ought to be permitted to look at our feet also, and to praise our Father in heaven, Matthew 5:16.—“We are in the world, but we ought not to be of the world,” John 17:16.—“It is the fire of the divine Spirit that is meant, or love in our conduct, as it shines or becomes manifest to men’s consciences” (Cocc.).
Ezekiel 1:8. “Hands and wings are together, just as we should not fail in carrying out our pious thoughts also” (after Scriver).—“The hands covered with the wings ought to teach thee humility; as Jerome says: Conceal thy hands where God has helped thee, and say, The Lord has done it; His name be praised! but not thy industry, thy wisdom, thy labour, thy care, and the like” (Stck.).—“Wherever and to whatever God calls thee, have not merely thy hands ready, but also thy heart; let that say: Thy will, O God, I gladly do! and thy mouth also for praise, and thy ear also, to hear and to hearken” (Stck.).—“The hand under the wing; see the hidden manner of acting of the Most High” (L. Lav.).—“The power of work under the wing of contemplation, Martha under Mary” (Gregory).
Ezekiel 1:9 : “United power is stronger. With wings united in prayer, and stretched out for unwearied labour, we may hope for good success in all things” (Stck.).—“Through harmony, even small things grow, while the greatest even fade away through discord. Where there is one heart and one soul, there is God Himself and His blessing, Psalms 133:0.; Acts 4:32” (Stck.).—The work is common; let the labour be the same; else the one pulls down what the other builds up.—Straight forward, a glorious matter also with servants of God: (1) The man who turns is not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62), since whatever can stop or unnecessarily hinder, even though it cannot cause us to deviate, is behind; (2) that to which God sends and has called us, lies wholly and always before us, and the way is narrow. Towards this let the eagle’s wing, the lion’s courage, the ox’s strength, the man’s spirit, strive with all their powers! (Philippians 3:14.)
Ezekiel 1:11 : “The wings portray the faith which lifts us up to Christ; and therewith we also cover all our own worthiness, wisdom, strength, righteousness; for he who is righteous by faith is so as being an unrighteous and condemned man” (Cocc.).—“So also the Saviour sent forth the disciples two by two to preach the gospel in concord and humility” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:12 sqq. “The creature in itself cannot and ought not to be the object of love, of trust, and of fear” (H.).—As the Spirit impels those who serve God, so zeal for the honour of God has the sway over them, and the outcome is pure life and motion.
Ezekiel 1:13 : Of Basil it is said that his speech was thunder, his life lightning.
Ezekiel 1:14 : “The pious soul never has rest; it has always something to contend with. Believers strive vehemently after what is heavenly, and return to God, while they ascribe all the honour of their works to Him” (Gregory).—“The Church is continually in motion in the world. She has no fixed place, like Israel in Canaan; and wherever she is, she will move forward. If she is resisted, so much the more powerfully she breaks through the opposition. Wherever she comes, she subdues men to herself; and if she is driven out, she returns with power” (Cocc.).
Living creatures and wheels! A glimpse into the divine government upon earth. (1) There all is life,—even what is in itself without life becomes life,—while in the case of man everything tends to death and becomes death. (2) There we see incessant movement in work, directed towards every quarter of the world, and to God’s goal as its aim, while the world passes away with its lust as well as with its works in judgment.
Ezekiel 1:15 sqq. “The word of God may be compared to the wheel (1) because of its circuit through the world; (2) because of its unity in all quarters of the world; (3) because of the Spirit who works along with the word; (4) because of the glorious perfections of the word” (Stck.).
Ezekiel 1:16 : “In the gospel thou findest the brightness of eternal truth, the light of heavenly doctrines, in manifold play of colours” (Stck.).—“There is, however, but one word, one gospel, alike in the Old and in the New Testament: the same in paradise, the same on David’s harp, the same in the prophets and the apostles, and in the work and word of Christ Himself, Acts 15:11” (Stck.).—As wheel in wheel, so the New in the Old Testament (“Novum in V. latet, Vetus in N. patet.” Augustine).
Ezekiel 1:18. Starck compares the height of the word of God (Romans 11:33), and the fearfulness of its earnestness against the ungodly; then, farther, let one perceive therein the eye of divine Providence, the gospel which is all eye and light, etc.—“These are the eyes which watch over the Church” (a Lapide).—On the other hand, the world pictures to itself its good fortune as blind, in fact, its love also, and even its righteousness.—“But look thou what thou doest, thou who wouldst gladly be hidden from God, for He has very many eyes in His invisible instruments, which thou seest not, while they see thee well” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:19 : “This is no chariot which rolls along with its wheels on the earth merely, and these are no animals which crawl along the earth merely; their instinct is upwards, and thither they point our way” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:20-21. “Pious teachers and preachers are governed and impelled by the Spirit of God. O happy Churches, which have such teachers! Acts 18:5” (St.).—“The divine care also accompanies godly men everywhere, and follows them step by step in all their undertakings; it moves and governs them, and does not leave them for an instant. Therefore also they do not move except under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, to which they give heed. They are ordered and regulated in all things according to the will of God” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:21 : “That the course of the gospel is sometimes arrested for a season, arises from the decree of God” (O.).
Ezekiel 1:22. “The heaven or the heavens, in contrast with the poor earth standing in the singular, in the Old Testament is throughout the most illustrious proof of God’s greatness (Psalms 19:0); and the God of heaven is frequently called, in order to denote His omnipotence, the God of hosts, of the powers of heaven” (H.).—“The heaven is everywhere above us, in order that we may seek what is above, since as yet we have not full possession” (Stck.).—“The terrible crystal reminds us that nothing unclean enters the new Jerusalem” (Stck.).—The throne of grace is founded in the righteousness of Christ, Psalms 89:14; Psalms 97:2, of which this crystal foundation may be an emblem” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:23 : “Faith unites the Church militant to the Church triumphant, and to the throne of God” (Cocc.).—“The natural man, full of self-love and self-complacency, has neither wings for flying nor for covering himself, and is on that very account, with all his imagined riches, miserable and poor, naked and bare” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:24 : “Like the noise of the wings is the uproar which God’s word occasions. So was it in the time of the apostles” (Stck.).—“By which some understand the prayer and the ardour of spirit in the Church militant,—movements, however, which in the world also awaken a noise and alarm” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:25 : “The voice in heaven is the voice and authority of the King, of Christ, by which He holds the nations in allegiance, so that they dare not in-opportunely disturb His Church, Song of Solomon 8:4” (Cocc.).
Ezekiel 1:26 : “He sat upon the throne; for the Lord and Judge of all is of tranquil mind,—is not, like men, disturbed by passions. Above all, He who moves all, Himself unmoved” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 1:27 : “As in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Christ is revealed in fire against the despisers of the gospel, so the fire here is directed against the despisers of the law” (H.).
Ezekiel 1:28 : “However severe God’s judgments are, yet He does not forget His covenant.”—“After the storm the sun shines, after the rain follows the rainbow, after the cross the rest, after the tears the joy. Such is the vicissitude in this world; constant felicity is reserved for the world to come” (Stck.).—Without judgment no grace.—“This was at the same time a foreshadowing of the glorious appearing of Christ in the flesh with His kingdom, 1 Timothy 3:16” (B. B.).—The glorious throne-chariot of Jehovah: (1) its nature: cloud, living creatures, wheels, throne; (2) its meaning: in the kingdom of nature, for the kingdom of grace; (3) its object: judgment and salvation.—“How glorious is the fatherland of the children of God! Little have the prophets seen of it in vision; but we are to have it all face to face” (after Richter).—Just when Israel’s glory was about to disappear under Babylon, then Jehovah reveals His glory in Babylon.—“Let us learn, if we wish to be apt hearers of the divine word, to put no trust in our own powers, but humbly submitting ourselves to God, to hang on His lips, and to look to Him” (L. Lav.).—“In the sinner there is no ability to stand before God and before His light and glory, unless he is enabled to do so by the Spirit of God” (Cocc.).—So also the glory of Jesus Christ which appeared to Paul, when in fulness of love the question was put to him: Why persecutest thou me? threw him to the ground. Yes; it is grace that does it most of all.
The Jews reckon the jubilee year from the fourteenth year after the taking possession of the land of Canaan, and place the destruction of Jerusalem in the thirty-sixth year of the jubilee; so that the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity = the thirtieth of the jubilee.
Corn. a Lap. ingeniously compares the gentle murmuring of the waters to the effect of music upon Elisha (2 Kings 2:15).
Namely, the exile, for which reason he does not reason according to the year of the reign of Zedekiah.
To which Vitringa (Observ. s. Ezekiel 4:1) traces back the vision of Ezekiel.
At the same time, perhaps with the hint of a creation in the future, a creative renewal.
“A shifting motion, a glowing life,” but not “the picture of the co-operating powers of creative life, shining in the gold of the earth, burning in the colours, and boiling in the blood,” as Umbreit raves.
 Häv.: An intensification of the thought of the power and fulness of life by means of the wheels, where the form must give way entirely to the essence, to the idea.
The Typology of Scripture, 3d edit. vol. 1. pp. 229–248, where the whole subject of the cherubim is fully investigated.