EZEKIEL CHAPTER 1
The time of Ezekiel's prophecy by the river Chebar, Ezekiel 1:1-3. His vision of four cherubims, and four wheels, Ezekiel 1:4-25, and of the glory of God above them, Ezekiel 1:26-28.
Now: this does not refer to any particular time before mentioned, though sometimes this English particle now connotes particular time, (the Hebrew is and, so the Greek and Latin,) but is a phrase in use on entering upon discourse.
It came to pass in the thirtieth year, of the prophet's age, or from the finding the book of the law in the eighteenth year of Josiah, when the threats were read which now were executed on the Jews, according to 2 Kings 22:16, from which date to the fifth year of the captivity are thirty years; or in the thirtieth year of the Chaldean monarchy, founded by Nabopollassar. Other accounts omitted, you are left to your own thoughts which of these two latter are more probable; both have very weighty authority for them; and indeed they both concur and meet in the fifth year of the captivity, and so either computation may without mistake be followed.
In the fourth month; the original hath only in the fourth, concisely, but it is certainly the month, but whether in account from Marchesvan, October with us, to Shebat, January, or from Nisan, March, unto Tamuz, July, is more questionable; the latter I guess to be the rightest account; so from Nisan, which is part of our March and April, to Tamuz, part of our June and July, will be the fourth month; and this account in church things best suits the prophet's design.
In the fifth day of the month; it was the third day of our July, probably it was the sabbath day, when the Jews would be free from labour, and at leisure to hear the prophet; and indeed such declarations of the will of God are an entertainment suitable to the consecration of the seventh day to God.
As I was among the captives; Heb. and I, &c. Though a priest and prophet, the first by birth and lineal descent, the other by extraordinary commission, yet I also found as little respect as my countrymen.
Among the captives; in the midst of the captivity, so the Hebrew idiom; perhaps the prophet rather useth the abstract itself than the concrete, to express the grievousness of it: they were captive, nay, captivity rather, under extreme bondage; as darkness for dark.
By the river; either there commanded to dwell, or thither retiring, that more freely they might lament their own sins, and Jerusalem's desolation: or what if it were to keep, as they might, their sabbath, in which the spiteful Babylonians interrupt them, and with scorn require them to sing a temple song, Psalms 137:3.
Chebar; a branch of Euphrates, or that part which Chobar advised should be made to divert the violence of Euphrates, lest it damnify the city Babylon. Or rather a river now called Giulap, arising out of the mountain Masius, and falls into Euphrates, somewhat below a city called by the same name, Giulap or Chaboras; as Ferrarius and Hotoman observe.
The heavens were opened; the firmament or lower parts of the celestial arch either really did, or to appearance seemed to divide, and the contiguous parts withdrew as a curtain, to give the prophet the view of what was within; or as folding doors set open that he might look into that apartment where this unusual sight was prepared.
Were opened; expressed thus in the passive to let us see that there was a supreme, sovereign, and Divine power and authority by which this was done; it is not said the heavens did open, but they were opened. It was no meteor, chasm, or yawning, which is naturally a figured semblance of a breach in the visible heavens, whence appears a gulf or deep and wide pit to the eye. It was not thus, but a supernatural and extraordinary aperture or opening, wrought by the immediate power of God, who was now appearing to the prophet, and commissioning him. It might probably be somewhat like that which appeared to the proto-martyr Stephen, Acts 7:56.
I saw; I had a distinct, full, and clear sight of what appeared, I was awake and with my eyes discerned what I shall now write, the things I am about to publish, how stupendous soever they are, what I am sure I saw, and am as sure they will be accomplished.
Visions; in the plural, either because they were many distinct visions, or because it was made of many distinct parts, each part might seem to be one vision.
Of God; excellent and wonderful. So by the name of God the Hebrew expresses any excellency, as, cedars of God, man of God. Or,
of God, wherein I saw God, who appeared to the prophet; or else,
of God, i.e. which God did make me to see. It was not a dream of man's brain, it was a Divine vision, either corporeal or intellectual.
In the fifth day; the Hebrew hath only fifth, according to its concise style; we do well to supply day, as in Ezekiel 1:1.
Of the month Tamuz, as Ezekiel 1:1, answering to our June and July.
Which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity: this account observed will guide us in computing the times this prophet referred to, Ezekiel 1:1, these five of Jehoiachin, and the eleven of his predecessor, added to fourteen of Josiah’s reign after he found the law, make up thirty years, Ezekiel 1:1, which likely might be the jubilee, the most fit for so solemn a passover as Josiah kept.
Jehoiachin, who is also called Jeconiah, and Coniah, whose father Jehoiakim was slain by the Chaldeans, and he, after three months’ short reign, voluntarily yielded up himself to the Chaldees; of which rendition of himself and his we read 2 Kings 24:12, &c. Though this man yielded up himself, yet the Babylonians made him prisoner, and carried him and his into captivity; and so the Hebrew, avers; though some distinguish this from captivity by calling it a transmigration, the Hebrew calls it
visions, Ezekiel 1:1, is here
the word, both as signifying and declaring the mind of God, what he would do, and as containing his commands to Ezekiel and to the people, to whom these visions spake by signs.
The word of the Lord: lest the prophet should want his warrant, or the Jews except to his advice, it is plainly told them that Jehovah the sovereign Lord and eternal God, by Ezekiel, counsels, warns, commands, and threatens.
Came expressly unto; emphatically translated as it is emphatically expressed in the Hebrew,
being with him,
it was with him; so long he might discern, so clear he might understand, so near he could not be deceived, or easily forget what he was to tell them.
Ezekiel signifies either, the strength of God, or, strengthened by God, and in a few syllables contains what is more largely set forth, Ezekiel 3:8,9. He speaks of himself in the third person.
The priest; who therefore should be regarded as one whose interest among the priests at Jerusalem would be best promoted if better things might be hoped and shortly expected than he must now tell them; it was likely he dealt truly with them, when he must share so much in the sad things foretold. He was of the priests originally, he was a prophet by extraordinary call.
The son of Buzi; of a contemned man, so the etymology of the Hebrew, which gave the rabbins occasion to apply it to Jeremiah, and to account the prophet either son or servant to Jeremiah; but it is a proper name.
In the land of the Chaldeans, enemies to, and now masters of, poor captive Jews, the church of God: there God makes him a prophet, who was an ordinary priest in the land of Israel.
The river Chebar, though a river of Mesopotamia, yet here seems placed in Chaldea, because Mesopotamia was part of the kingdom of the Chaldeans; so Chebar or Chobar was in the land, i.e. within the kingdom, of Chaldea, but particularly in Mesopotamia, a province of that kingdom.
The hand of the Lord; the Divine impulse moving with power and efficacy on Ezekiel for the work, and clearly confirming and demonstrating to the captive Jews that he was the prophet of the Lord, and spake to them in his name; the Spirit of prophecy, as the Chaldee Paraphrase.
Was upon him there: God is not confined; though most prophets were in the land of Israel, yet here in Chaldea also appears a great prophet, and should be hearkened unto.
I looked; I did very diligently survey the things that were represented to me in the vision. Behold: this calls us to consider what he had seen and represented to us.
A whirlwind; a mighty, stormy, and turbulent wind, a wind that bears away or bears down all before it; this denotes the indignation and judgments of God, a quick, impetuous, and irresistible vengeance. Most grievous judgments, represented as here, so 1 Kings 19:11 Job 38:1 Psalms 104:4.
Came; came as if it knew its way, and, notwithstanding its impetuousness and irregularities, yet held its direct course.
Out of the north; from Babylon, which in Scripture geography is laid northward from Judea, and the prophet, though now in Babylon, does speak of the Jews as if they were in Jerusalem; against which this cloud, on which an angry God did ride, hastening vengeance on them, which they should be as little able to divert or withstand as to stop the course of the clouds, or their breaking upon us: it was the army of the Chaldeans, made up of multitudes of people, (as the cloud is made by the concourse of multitudes of exhalations and vapours,) Jeremiah 4:13.
A fire infolding itself; burning in a dreadful manner, very fierce, fed by fuel within itself, breaking out and flashing with terror, though it had seemed to rebate, and encircling all things near it, and threatening to devour all. Such was the anger of God against this sinful nation.
And a brightness was about it; though thus terrible, yet round about it was not smoke and darkness, but a clear light or splendour. The majesty, holiness, justice of God appeared to the prophet, and might be seen by the suffering Jews, to humble them, that they might seek him.
Out of the midst thereof; either of the whirlwind or cloud, or the fire rather, as in the end of the verse.
As the colour; Heb. as the eye, the aspect, or appearance.
Amber; the Hebrew word is variously interpreted, and it is lost labour to search the rabbins here. Amber is either natural, which if in the fire loseth its brightness; or artificial, made of fine gold and fine brass mixed, which will brighten in the fire, and of equal value with gold, (as the DD. Bothart observes,) of which Josephus saith Solomon did make the sea of brass, and the sacred vessels; somewhat like the Corinthian brass, known now only by its name, exceeding splendid, and very hard, the one speaking the glorious majesty to be reverenced, the other speaking the invincible power of God to be feared; both advising this people and us to repent and amend, and return and meet him.
Out of the midst of the fire; which the prophet saw, and in which the Jews were to be melted or consumed.
Also out of the midst thereof; of the fire, or that amber which appeared, as having four wheels.
The likeness of four living creatures; these were not indeed living creatures. but the appearance of them, and signify with some the four monarchies; with others, the four chief leaders in the four quarters of the camp of Israel; with others, the four evangelists; with others, more likely, the holy angels, whose attendance bespeaks the majesty of God, and the terribleness of judgments to be executed on the Jews: and they are four, either to denote the sufficient number of them, or to show God would use the four chief of his angels, or perhaps to let the Jews know he had as many ways to punish, and as many officers of his wrath, as they could find corners of the world to flee unto. Or, since the appearance of a chariot in the midst of this vision is supposed, it was fittest that four living creatures should answer to the wheels thereof.
And this was their appearance; the form in which these four each appeared to the first view, or at some distance.
They had the likeness of a man; the stature, the greater part of them appeared of human shape, for they had face, hands, and thighs, and the posture was erect in standing or motion, as man’s is.
And every one of those four living creatures which appeared to the prophet had four faces: this hieroglyphic, though it seems to present us with a monstrous sight, yet does not unbecome the Divine Wisdom, nor doth it want like representations, as Ezekiel 10:14 Revelation 4:6 5:6: and speaks either the full fitness of angels to do God’s commands in all things and occasions, or the perfection of their nature and obedience; or the universal dominion of God, and the universal subjection of the creatures.
Faces; some would have this not literally understood of that part of the body which is properly the face, though I see no cause for it; but as these living creatures had wings, so they had faces, and what those were the 10th verse does tell us.
And every one had four wings; if it were every face had four wings, each living creature would have sixteen wings, but it is every one of the living creatures had four wings. With two they did fly, noting the speed of their obedience; and with two they cover their body, denoting the reverence of their mind, and obedience.
Their feet; the Hebrew expresseth the parts below the belly by foot, their thighs, legs, and feet (as by hand is meant the whole arm) were of human shape.
Were straight feet; not bowed to this or that part, which argues weakness: here is most elegantly described the unconquered firmness wherewith angels do the commands of God; their readiness and their wisdom also in doing it, nothing low or brutish in their actions.
The sole of their feet, that which is properly the foot,
was like the sole of a calf’s foot: divided hoof spike the cleanness of the creature. The ox, patient of labour, a beast for sacrifice to God, in these things angels, servants of God, well resembled: what if we should add a slowness in pace; blessed angels are not over-forward to executions, yet ever go when bid.
They sparkled; it may refer either to the living creatures or to their feet; it speaks either their anger against an obstinate, sinful people, or the terror of executing God’s judgments, or the self-discovering light of his justice, or the zeal of angels in a speedy performing the will of God, in which their swiftness enkindles these sparks.
They; each of the four living creatures.
Had the hands: hands in every language, especially in the Oriental, imply power; and being the chief instruments of action, are here ascribed to these active instruments that execute the commands of God.
Of a man: this is added to denote the wisdom, dexterity, and vigilance wherewith they discharge their ministry.
Under their wings; their power and manner of exerting it is secret and invisible, and it is put forth as God pleaseth to move them.
On their four sides; on each side of the chariot one of these living creatures stood, and so on each side hands were ready to act as they were moved; and though it was to all parts of the world, yet were they most ready and prepared.
And they four had their faces and their wings; it is doubled to confirm the truth and certainty of the thing, and to intimate the greatness of their power, agility, and wisdom.
Their wings were joined one to another; the wings of the living creatures, when stretched out to fly, were joined together; so the wings of those two cherubims which went foremost, and the wings of the two hindermost, were joined together when they moved. It seems to refer to that Exodus 25:20. It signifies, however, the equal and uniform readiness of angels, their concord and union with constancy to do the will of God, and it shows us the exact harmony that is between the works of God. These wings, and their being joined, is expressed, Heb. by the union of loving sisters with each other.
They turned not when they went; they lost no time in a difficult or tedious turning, as we see in other chariots, for which way soever they were to go, thither they had faces directed, and so readily moved forward on their way, whether east or west, north or south, and held on till they had finished their course, but then were ready for further action, and returned as quick to their station, where they might receive new commands, as lightning does; so this and that Ezekiel 1:14, there they did return, here they did not, are reconciled.
They went every one straight forward: this explains the former, and confirms it to us, assuring us that every one of those living creatures are ready, faithful, and unwearied in doing the pleasure of their Creator, in his government of the world. See Ezekiel 1:12.
Here the prophet doth more expressly set forth what was more darkly mentioned in the 6th verse, and describeth their faces both by the proper resemblances, and by their respect to the local differences of east and west, or right and left hand. But since such differences are in themselves of little moment, and undeterminable, unless we were certain what prospect these living creatures stood in, whether looking to the prophet, or to Jerusalem, or toward Babylon, we shall say no more of it; what these signify is more material. Each face is compared to what is most excellent in its kind, man excels in wisdom, the lion in strength, the ox in patience and constancy of labour, the eagle in speed and high flight. So in the ministry of angels, and government of the world by the providence of God, what is most excellent may be observed.
Thus were their faces: if you make a full point at faces, it should seem better joined with the former verse, and this text will be more easy, for it is somewhat harsh to speak of faces stretched as wings are; but if their faces as well as wings must be stretched upward, we must understand their faces looking upward to the great and glorious Governor of the world, who sat upon the throne above the firmament, which was over their heads, Ezekiel 1:22,23,25,26, admiring, and adoring, and waiting his pleasure to do it.
Their wings were stretched upward; were divided above, so each face appeared distinct above the shoulders, and there the wings, divided from each other, were united to the body of the living creature.
Two wings of every one were joined one to another; which stretching two upward joined them to the wings of that living creature which stood by its side, to testify their readiness, concord, and cheerfulness in their office.
And two covered their bodies; see Isaiah 6:2; with twain they covered their feet, either in deep humility, and for decency, or because of infirmity of human nature, for whose relief they appear in what they do, but must not appear what they are, because they would be too glorious for our sight.
They went every one straightforward: see Ezekiel 1:9. Which way soever they went, each living creature had one face looking straight forwards, and their other faces looking toward other coasts of the world; if the fore right were to the south, the other faces looked one to the east, one to the west, and the other to the north. Thus with rectitude, constancy, wisdom, and universal care Providence rules and guides affairs of the world, and especially of the church, to the glory of God.
Whither the spirit was to go; the wind moved, say some; but if there were a gale of wind, which blowing gently on these living creatures stirred them in the sight of the prophet, it was emblematical, and represented to his view the power and influence of the Spirit of God, which moved and acted these admirable creatures. The will, command, and breathing of the Spirit of God both gave and guided their motions to ends he himself designed. Going is attributed here to the Spirit of God by allusion, and not properly, for who is ever in every place cannot properly be said to go from or to any place.
They went; the living creatures readily observed the impressions of the Spirit of God, and obeyed.
They turned not when they went: see Ezekiel 1:9. They looked not back as unwilling, they turned not out of the way as froward, they gave not over till they had completed their course.
He further describeth what he had more briefly spoken of Ezekiel 1:6. There you had their shape and make, here you have their colour.
The likeness; in which they were seen by the prophet.
Their appearance was like burning coals of fire; their aspect was of a fiery colour, to affright and alarm secure sinners. That God who had hitherto appeared most patient and long-suffering, now makes discoveries of himself in dreadful displeasure, which would burn, as Numbers 11:1-3, or Isaiah 10:17, or Jeremiah 4:4; that would consume their glory, and there be none to quench it, Jeremiah 7:20 21:12. God doth by his prophet here forewarn them of very great miseries coming on them, wrath as fire, as coals, and burning, every word adding weight to the. phrase. It notes also the zeal and fervent affection of these living creatures doing the will of God.
And like the appearance of lamps: it was not a furious and unbounded fire, it was as that which burneth in the lamp, limited, it should not devour but the wicked. Or it may note the care and wisdom wherewith these executions should be made, as if all were done in the light of lamps, as in dark places we take candies to light us in our work. Or it may intimate the hope for the good among the Jews, as lamps doth, Isaiah 62:1, and destruction of enemies, as Zechariah 12:6. Or if it may be interpreted by Daniel 10:6, where the lamp that burneth expresseth the Divine wisdom and love, and possibly the knowledge and love of Christ, as Revelation 1:15, it will well suit with the whole vision, and with what next follows.
It went up and down; this fire, or the burning lamp or both, went up and down, stood not still, nor was carried, but, as the Hebrew,
made itself walk up and down. It moved itself, which is too much to ascribe to creatures; God only is an unmoved mover: so it will lead our thoughts to God, who moved all these living creatures.
This fire was bright; it was not the dark and sooty fire of malice and hell. It shined, as always God’s zeal for his own glory, and as angels’ zeal for the glory of their God, doth. Or it was so bright as to discover itself in more than ordinary glory.
Out of the fire went forth lightning: with this God gave the law, Exodus 19:16; contends with enemies, 2 Samuel 22:15 Zechariah 9:14. These lightnings, as they are terrible to sinners, and strike an awe upon saints; so they tell both that there is more than ordinary of God to be looked to in them. His judgments as lightning call upon us to fear, seek, and shelter ourselves with God.
The living creatures; angels, ministers of the Divine pleasure, as above, Ezekiel 1:5.
Ran; were speedy in their motions; this signified by this expression figuratively applied to angels.
Returned; yet, Ezekiel 1:9,12, it is said they returned not, where this seeming contradiction is reconciled; the 9th and 12th verse deny their turning aside from their work, this 14th affirms they returned, i.e. when they had done their work.
As the appearance of a flash of lightning; very quick, with vehemency, splendour, and irresistible efficacy.
Now; or, and; it is a transition from the former to the latter part of the vision.
I beheld; considered and observed.
Behold; it calls for our attention.
One wheel; or a certain wheel of spherical form, as some; of a circular form, as the wheels of chariots, say others. It is one wheel, intimating that all the different causes and motions, how many soever in themselves, yet work the same work, and are governed as easily in their various motions, as one single wheel might be, and that God doth so govern them.
Upon the earth; not that we tread on, but that which in this vision was represented to the prophet; for it was here as it is in landscapes or pictures drawn, there is that which represents the earth, on which trees, men, or chariots seem to be upon. By the living creatures; by each of these living creatures stood one wheel, so that they were four in number, according to the number of the living creatures.
With his four faces: by this it appears each wheel had its four faces, of which more in the 17th verse, where what is here called faces is there called sides.
The appearance; the form in which these wheels were seen.
Their work; all that was wrought, whether engraved or otherwise, was of one colour.
The colour of a beryl, Heb. tharshish, a sea-green; some say this colour here was of a carbuncle, or chrysolite, or hyacinth, but it is better rendered a sea-green colour, which if it note the instability and changeableness of sublunary affairs, and of the outward concerns of the church, it may note also the inherent rigour and beauty of the church, and the frame of earthly things, when they are in a calm course, not disturbed first with sin, and then with punishment of sin.
They four, by this it appears what was the number of the wheels,
had one likeness; were exactly of the same make for dimensions, colour, frame, and motion, so that who sees and knows one sees and knows all, hereby noting the harmony and likeness which is in God’s works, which are all framed, managed, and governed by the same wisdom, and consequently the same uncertainty in all things under the sun.
Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel: it is somewhat difficult to unfold this. It is probable the wheels were framed so as to be an exact sphere or globe, which is easily rolled to any side or quarter, since it toucheth the earth or basis on which it stands in a point, and is exactly orbicular. It is fitter we note,
1. The unsearchableness of Divine methods.
2. The curious frame of them.
3. The connexion of one part with other,
4. The seeming interfering and real harmony; what would seem to hinder shall further God’s work.
5. How easily God can change affairs, and move for or against a people.
When they went; the living creatures; indeed the wheels moved according to the motion of the living creatures, but it will as well agree with the truth, as it better agrees with the grammar of the words, to say this;
they, i.e. the wheels.
They went upon their four sides; the wheels being supposed spherical or round every way as a globe, by an exact and curious framing of two wheels one in the other, the four semicircles which are in two whole wheels may be well taken for these four sides on which these wheels do move, and such a wheel will readily be turned to all points of the compass, as a ball on a billiard table.
They turned not when they went; they needed not go back to turn, as we see other chariots or coaches must do, putting back somewhat to alter their course; or, returned not till they came to their journey’s end; or, nothing could divert them, or put them out of their course. So firm and sure are the methods, so unalterable and constant the purposes, of God, and so invariable the obedience and observance of holy angels; so subject to the just sovereign will of God are all second causes.
Their rings; the circumference of the wheels, the whole compass of the wheels, or the fellows (as a carter calls the whole roundle of his wheels).
They were so high; the two strakes, the thickness of hob and felloes, give us the height of a wheel from the earth on which it stands;
that they were dreadful; their very height impressed a fear on the beholder, but if we may suppose one near these wheels which so readily changed course, so easily overbearing all that none could turn them aside, (which might possibly be the prophet’s case in this vision,) it would increase the terror.
Their rings, the whole circumference or circle of these wheels,
were full of eyes: this added to the dreadfulness of their appearance: so unusual and supernatural a sight could not but affect the prophet, who in so mighty a wheel might expect multitudes of nails, but instead thereof discovers as great a multitude of eyes. One eye seen, or imagined to be seen, suddenly, and in the dark, hath amazed many a one, how much more so many as would fill up the circumference of these wheels! for they were round about.
Round about them four; every one of the four wheels were thus filled with eyes. Now this is too narrowly confined by some interpreters, who would have the greatness and policy of the Chaldean set out hereby; whereas the wheels, their motion, their height and eyes, signify the height, unsearchableness, wisdom, and vigilance of the Divine providence, in governing the affairs of the world and the church.
When the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; the wheels’ motion or standing depended on the motion and assistance of some higher agent which excited and guided them, when therefore the living creatures, the angels, ministers of God’s will, moved, then did those affairs expressed by wheels move also. There was an exact accord between these, they were as well joined in motion as they were in station.
When the living creatures were lifted up; moved higher above our ordinary reach.
From the earth; that basis on which both the wheels seemed to stand, and from which sometimes they seemed to lift up themselves, as if to fetch a new commission and order from him that sat upon the throne.
Whithersoever the spirit; either the will and inclination of the living creatures, or rather the Spirit of God which moved the living creatures, gave them motion and guided it; these angels in their ministry punctually observed both the impulse and the conduct of God’s Spirit.
Was to go: of this phrase applied to the Spirit, see Ezekiel 1:12. They went; the wheels, those inferior agents and second causes.
Thither was their spirit to go; the inclination and will of the wheels concurred with the spirit of the living creatures, so that there was a hearty accord between those superior and inferior causes, they agreed in the same design.
And the wheels were lifted up over against them: there seems to be an ellipsis here, the latter part of the speech expressed, and the former implied only; as it was in the progressive motion, so in the motion upward, they accorded, and kept the same order.
For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; one and the same spirit was in both the wheels and living creatures, and so the same inclination and motion too.
Of the living, Heb. of life, the quickening, enlivening Spirit; hence some will have the wheels to be living creatures, but without this it is enough to represent to the prophet what was the frame and course of Providence, and who did preside and manage all. An undiscerned, yet Divine, mighty, wise, just, and holy, and ever-living, Power, Spirit, and Being actuated all, and governed all, to the execution of justice on the wicked, and protection of the godly.
This verse is a confirmation and further illustration of what is said in the 20th, and being almost word for word the same with the 20th, needs no distinct paraphrase. I shall only note how God doth fully assert his over-ruling and ever-ruling wise providence in the affairs of his church and the world, both against,
1. The profane thoughts of atheists and epicures, which ever abound in those times, when sinners of the world and church are ripe for harvest.
2. Against the distrust and fears of his own suffering people.
The likeness; the appearance or resemblance; of which word before, Ezekiel 1:13,16.
The firmament: the living creatures, the wheels, and these upon the earth, our prophet had seen and mentioned; now he speaks of the firmament, which must be supposed to be stretched forth above the earth; as the prophet saw the one, so he saw the other. This firmament was not that we behold, it was emblematical and representative. It appeared, but much more august and wonderful than the natural.
Upon; not resting upon, but over their heads stretched out, and the Hebrew were better read, over, in this place and on this occasion.
The colour, Heb. eye, a word twice already here used, and in the same sense; the aspect, and shape or form, as Ezekiel 1:8,16.
Of the terrible crystal, for splendour, purity, and solidity: all that was above these creatures and wheels was beautiful and very majestical, as indeed it was meet it should be; and it is therefore called terrible, because it impresseth a veneration upon the mind of the beholders, it dazzleth the eye, and overpowereth it: the same word is used concerning the name of God, holy and reverend, Psalms 99:3 111:9.
Under; below at a great, which is but due, distance of angels, and creatures and servants to their God, Creator, and Lord, stood these living creatures, i.e. two of each living creature, as appeareth by the phrase, one toward the other.
Straight; stretched forth, ready for motion if commanded, and with equal straightness and height, in close and affectionate union, joining in the work appointed them.
Every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies; each of the four living creatures had two other wings with which they covered their bodies; the two living creatures on the one side of the chariot, and two living creatures on the other side; so that in what position soever the prophet looked towards them, their lower wings covered them.
Bodies, here ascribed to them representatively, and, as all the rest, visionally.
And when they went; so soon and as often as they, i.e. the living creatures, moved, were on their work, executing God’s commands.
I heard, and attended to know what it was.
The noise of their wings: though some of God’s judgments are executed with silence, and are in the dark, yet here is an alarm, and they may be heard.
Like the noise of great waters: when the sea rageth and swells as though it would overwhelm the earth, so when the just and dreadful judgments of God are executed, they threaten the overflowing of all.
As the voice of the Almighty; thunder, called God’s voice, Psalms 29:3. The voice of speech; the prophet heard the voice in an articulate manner declaring the will of God, as if the wings had tongues to speak as well as power to fly.
As the noise of an host: this voice was not of friends saluting each other, or comforting, but it was the voice and noise of a host, a tumultuous voice of men, a confused noise of warlike weapons and instruments; some suppose it is meant of the army of the Chaldeans, which those winged living creatures had now fetched in to spoil the Jews, which they did with terrible outcries, as enraged, merciless adversaries use to do.
When they stood, they let down their wings; having done their office, they present themselves before God, and let down their wings, not out of weariness, but out of a sense that they must never act but by commission. And now with wings let down and covering their bodies, they do humbly watch as servants for the commands of their lord.
And; or, for; so the Latin. Two senses may be of these words in this verse. Either,
1. These living creatures thus let down their wings and ceased from acting, because they were commanded so to do by the voice from above the firmament, which they readily obey. Or,
2. That they stood, let down their wings, and hushed the noise, that the prophet might hear what was spoken from above. The former comes nearest the sense of the Latin, the latter nearer to our English, and either may well enough suit the text and context.
Above the firmament; the crystalline firmament which appeared in the vision, not the vast expanse or firmament in which are sun, moon, and stars.
That was over their heads; heads of the living creatures which moved the wheels, and stood by the chariot.
Was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; in view appeared a sapphire stone, like or in likeness of a throne; so the Hebrew, though we transpose the words somewhat in our version: the sapphire speaks splendour and preciousness; the throne speaks the authority and power of him who sitteth thereon.
As the appearance of a man; Christ, God-man, who here appears as King and Judge to vindicate his own honour, to punish rebels, and to give warning by his prophet ere he execute his just but severe indignation.
I saw as the colour of amber: see Ezekiel 1:4, and what is said there to this phrase. In this colour does Christ now appear against the rebellious Jews; he that would have been a Saviour to them, clot, bed with the garments of salvation, now puts on the garments of vengeance, and is clad with that zeal which is best, but not fully, expressed by such metaphors.
As the appearance of fire round about within it; of most intense degree; as that fire which is shut up in oven or furnace, so this was the appearance of a fire which had a house to it round about (as the Hebrew). The just indignation of Christ, and his glorious majesty, are hereby set forth to us also, which appear within the amber.
From the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire; as was his upward part, so the lower parts also, they appeared as fire. Provoked to wrath, and proceeding to judge, he comes in flames of fire taking vengeance, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
And it had brightness round about: see Ezekiel 1:4, where the phrase is explained. Majesty, justice, and unstained holiness shine round about Christ, though he comes in greatest wrath against enemies.
Here more particularly is described the brightness before mentioned. A rainbow, the fire being resplendent and clear, cast its rays on the thick cloud below. And this is mentioned, no doubt, to assure the prophet, and those among the Jews that did tremble and wait for God, that God would not forget his covenant, though he came to execute severest judgments, Genesis 9:13. A like appearance of Christ in a surrounding brightness, as of the rainbow, you have Revelation 4:3. Mercy and truth, and both according to covenant and promise, are about the throne of Christ; this a brightness of mercy and grace that enlightens, that comforts.
This, the conclusion of the vision,
was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord; it was not the full glory of God, it was not the splendour of unveiled majesty, it was the likeness of his glory, such as the prophet might bear and tell to us: the fulness of his glory is inaccessible light, the prophet could not see it; and unspeakable majesty, and the prophet could not tell it to us.
When I saw it, I fell upon my face:
1. Astonished at such a sight, as Genesis 17:3 Daniel 7:15,28.
2. With deep humility and reverence he east himself down,
3. It is a posture of prayer, and possibly the prophet might sue to know the meaning of all this. And I heard a voice of one that spake; such was the voice and such the things spoken, that the prophet seems to confess he could not say whose voice it was; but it was Divine, powerful, astonishing, as being such as is described Ezekiel 1:25, such the voice he hears.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany