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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 1

 

 

Verse 1

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Now it came to pass - rather, And it came, etc. This formula in Joshua 1:1 has reference to the written history of previous times; but here, and in Ruth 1:1 and Esther 1:1, it refers to the unwritten history which was before the mind of the writer. The prophet by it, as it were, continues the history of the preceding times. In the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign (Jeremiah 51:59) Jeremiah sent by Seraiah a message to the captives (Jeremiah 29:1-32) to submit themselves to God, and lay aside their flattering hopes of a speedy restoration. This communication was in the next year, the fifth, and the fourth month of the same king (for Jehoiachin's captivity and Zedekiah's accession coincide in time), followed up by a prophet raised up among the captives themselves, the energetic Ezekiel.

Thirtieth year - i:e., counting from the beginning of the reign of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, the era of the Babylonian empire, 625 BC, which epoch coincides with the 18th year of Josiah, that in which the book of the law was found, and the consequent reformation begun (Scaliger). Or, the 30th year of Ezekiel's life. As the Lord was about to be a "little sanctuary" (Ezekiel 11:16) to the exiles on the Chebar, so Ezekiel was to be the ministering priest; therefore he marks his priestly relation to God and the people at the outset; the close, which describes the future temple, thus answering to the beginning. By designating himself expressly as "the priest" (Ezekiel 1:3), and having reached his thirtieth year, the regular year of priests commencing their office, he marks his office as the priest among the prophets. Thus the opening vision follows naturally as the formal institution of that spiritual temple in which he was to minister (Fairbairn).

Chebar - the same as Chabor or Habor, where the ten tribes had been transported by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:6; 1 Chronicles 5:26). It flows into the Euphrates near Carchemish or Circesium, 200 miles north of Babylon.

I saw visions of God. Four expressions are used as to the revelation granted to Ezekiel, the three first having respect to what was presented from without, to assure him of its reality, the fourth to his being internally made fit to receive the revelation; "the heavens were opened" (so Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56; Acts 10:11; Revelation 19:11); "he saw visions of God;" 'the word of Yahweh came verily (as the meaning is, rather than "expressly," the English version, Ezekiel 1:3) unto him' - i:e., it was no unreal hallucination; and "the hand of Yahweh was upon him" (Isaiah 8:11; Daniel 10:10; Daniel 10:18; Revelation 1:17); the Lord by his touch strengthening him for his high and arduous ministry, that he might be able to witness and report aright the revelations made to him.


Verse 2

In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,

The fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity. In the third or fourth year of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, the first carrying away of Jewish captives to Babylon took place, and among them was Daniel. The second was under Jehoiachin, when Ezekiel was carried away. The third and final one was at the taking of Jerusalem under Zedekiah.


Verse 3

The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 4

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

A whirlwind - emblematic of God's judgments (Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 25:32).

Out of the north - i:e., from Chaldea, whose hostile forces would invade Judea from a northerly direction, by the entering in of Hamath. The prophet conceives himself in the temple.

A fire infolding itself - laying hold on whatever surrounds it, drawing it to itself, and devouring it. Literally, catching itself - i:e., kindling itself (Fairbairn). The same Hebrew [ mitlaqachat (Hebrew #3947)] occurs Exodus 9:24, as to the "fire mingled with the hail" [from laachach, to take].

A brightness was about it - i:e., about the cloud.

Out of the midst thereof - i:e., out of the midst of the fire.

The colour of amber - rather, 'the glancing brightness (literally, the eye [ `ayin (Hebrew #5869)]; and so the glancing appearance) of polished brass.' The Hebrew, 'Chasmal,' is from two roots, smooth [ maalal (Hebrew #4448), or mal] and brass [n


Verse 5

Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.

Out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. Ezekiel was himself of a 'gigantic nature, and thereby suited to counteract the Babylonian spirit of the times, which loved to manifest itself in gigantic, grotesque forms' (Hengstenberg).

Living creatures - so the Greek ought to have been translated in the parallel passage (Revelation 4:6), not as the English version, "beasts;" for one of the "four" is a man, and man cannot be termed "beast." Ezekiel 10:20 shows that it is the cherubim that are meant.

Likeness of a man. Man, the noblest of the four, is the ideal model after which they are fashioned (Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:14). The point of comparison between him and them is the erect posture of their bodies, though doubtless including also the general mien. Also the hands (Ezekiel 10:21).


Verse 6

And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.

Every one had four faces. Not only were there four distinct living creatures, but each of the four had four faces, making sixteen in all. The four living creatures of the cherubim answer by contrast to the four world monarchies represented by four beasts, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome, (Daniel 7:1-28.) The fathers identified them with the four gospels; Matthew the lion, Mark the ox, Luke the man, John the eagle. Two cherubim only stood over the ark in the temple; two more are now added, to imply that, while the Law is retained as the basis, a new form is needed to be added to impart new life to it. The number four may have respect to the four quarters of the world, to imply that God's ministers and angels execute His commands everywhere. Each head in front had the face of a man as the primary and prominent one, on the right the face of a lion, on the left the face of an ox, above from behind the face of an eagle. The Mosaic cherubim were similar, only that the human faces were put looking toward each other, and toward the mercyseat between, being formed out of the same mass of pure gold as the latter (Exodus 25:19-20).

It is doubtful whether the cherubim are identical with the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2. In Isaiah 6:2, besides the two wings to cover their feet with, and the two with which they flew, two wings are added to cover their countenances, making six in all upon the seraphim, because there they stand by the throne; here the cherubim are under the throne: there God deigns to consult the seraphim, and His condescension calls forth their humility, so that they veil their faces before Him; here the cherubim execute His commands. The face expresses their intelligence; the wings, their rapidity in fulfilling God's will. The Shechinah or flame, that signified God's presence, and the written name. Yahweh (Hebrew #3068), occupied the intervening space between the cherubim. Genesis 4:14; Genesis 4:16; Genesis 3:24 ("placed;" properly, 'to place in a tabernacle') imply that the cherubim were appointed at the fall as symbols of God's presence in a consecrated place, and that man was to worship were appointed at the fall as symbols of God's presence in a consecrated place, and that man was to worship there.

In the patriarchal dispensation, when the flood had caused the removal of the cherubim from Eden, seraphim or teraphim (Chaldaic dialect) were made, as models of them, for domestic use (Genesis 31:19, margin; Genesis 31:30). The silence of Exodus 25:1-40; Exodus 26:1-37 as to their configuration, whereas everything else is minutely described, is because their form was so well known already to Bezaleel and all Israel by tradition as to need no detailed description. Hence, Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10:20) at once knows them, because he had seen them repeatedly in the carved work of the outer sanctuary of Solomon's temple, wherein he had ministered as a priest. He therefore consoles the exiles with the hope of having the same cherubim in the renovated temple which should be reared, and assures them that the same God who dwelt between the cherubim of the temple would be still with His people by the Chebar. But the cherubim were not in Zerubbabel's temple; therefore Ezekiel's foretold temple, if literal, is yet future.

The ox is selected as chief of the tame animals, the lion among the wild, the eagle among birds, and man, the head of all, in his ideal, realized by the Lord Jesus, combining all the excellencies of the animal kingdom. The cherubim probably represent the ruling powers by which God acts in the natural and moral world. Hence, they sometimes answer to the ministering angels; elsewhere to the redeemed saints (the elect Church), through whom, as by the angels, God shall hereafter rule the world, and proclaim the manifold wisdom of God (Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 3:10; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 4:6-8). The "lions" and "oxen" amidst "palms" and "open flowers" carved in the temple were the four-faced cherubim which, being traced on a flat surface, presented only one aspect of the four. The human-headed winged bulls and eagle-headed gods found in Nineveh, sculptured amidst palms and tulip-shaped flowers, were borrowed by corrupted tradition from the cherubim placed in Eden near its fruits and flowers. So the Aaronic calf (Exodus 32:4-5), and Jeroboam's calves at Dan and Bethel, schismatic imitation of the sacred symbols in the temple at Jerusalem. So the ox figures of Apis on the sacred arks of Egypt.


Verse 7

And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.

Straight feet - i:e., straight legs. Not protruding in any part, as the legs of an ox, but straight like a man's (Grotius). Or, like solid pillars, not bending, as man's, at the knee. They glided along rather than walked. Their movements were all sure, right, and without effort (Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia').

The sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot. Hence, Henderson supposes that "straight feet" implies that they did not project horizontally like men's feet, but vertically as calves' feet. The solid firmness of the round foot of a calf seems to be the point of comparison.

Like the colour of burnished brass - literally, 'like the eye of,' etc.; i:e., like the glittering appearance of polished brass, indicating God's purity.


Verse 8

And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.

They had the hands of a man - the hands of each were the hands of a man. The hand is the symbol of active power, guided by skillfulness" (Psalms 78:72).

Under their wings - signifying their operations are hidden from our too curious prying; and as the "wings" signify something more than human-namely, the secret prompting of God, it is also implied that they are moved by it, and not by their own power, so as that they do nothing at random, but all with divine wisdom.

They four had their faces and their wings. He returns to what he had stated already in Ezekiel 1:6 : this gives a reason why they had hands on their four sides-namely, because they had faces and wings on the four sides. They moved wheresoever they would, not by active energy merely, but also by knowledge (expressed by their "faces") and divine guidance (expressed by their "wings").


Verse 9

Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.

They turned not when they went. They had no occasion to turn themselves round when changing their direction, because they had a face (Ezekiel 1:6) looking to each of the four quarters of heaven. They made no mistakes, and their work needed not to be gone over again. Their wings were "joined" above in pairs (see Ezekiel 1:11).


Verse 10

As 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; they four also had the face of an eagle.

They four had the face of a man - namely, in front. The human face was the primary and prominent one, and the fundamental part of the composite whole. On its right was the lion's face; on the left, the ox (called "cherub," Ezekiel 10:14); at the back, from above, was the eagle's.


Verse 11

Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.

Their wings ... stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined. The tips of the two outstretched wings reached to one another, while the other two, in token of humble awe, formed a vail for the lower parts of the body.

Stretched upward - rather, 'were parted from above' (cf. margin, 'were divided above' [from paarad (Hebrew #6504) to divide]. See Isaiah 6:2, note). The joining together of their wings above implies that, though the movements of Providence on earth may seem conflicting and confused, yet if one lift up his eyes to heaven, he will see that they admirably conspire toward the one end at last.


Verse 12

And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.

They went every one straight forward. The same idea as Ezekiel 1:9. The repetition is because we men are so hard to be brought to acknowledge the wisdom of God's doings: they seem tortuous and confused to us; but they are all tending steadily to one aim.

Wither the spirit was to go - the secret impulse whereby God moves His angels to the end designed. They do not turn back or aside until they have fulfilled the office assigned them.


Verse 13

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

As for the likeness ... their appearance - not tautology. "Likeness" expresses the general form; "appearance," the particular aspect.

Was like burning coals of fire - denoting the intensely pure and burning justice wherewith God punishes, by His angels, those who, like Israel, have hardened themselves against His long-suffering. So in Isaiah 6:1-13 (if the seraphim be the same as the cherubim), instead of cherubim, the name "seraphim," the burning ones, is applied, indicating God's consuming righteousness; whence their cry to Him is, "Holy, holy, holy!" and the burning coal is applied to his lips, because the message through his mouth was to be one of judicial severance of the godly from the ungodly, to the ruin of the latter.

Like the appearance of lamps - torches. The fire emitted sparks and flashes of light, as torches do.

It went up and down - "it" - i:e., the fire went up and down, expressing the marvelous vigour of God's Spirit in all His movements, never resting, never wearied.

The fire was bright - indicating the glory of God.

Out of the fire went forth lightning. God's righteousness will at last cause the bolt of His wrath to fall on the guilty, as now on Jerusalem.


Verse 14

And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

The living creatures ran and returned. Incessant restless motion indicates the plenitude of life in these cherubim; so in Revelation 4:8, "They rest not day or night" (Zechariah 4:10, "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth").

As the appearance of a flash of lightning - rather, as distinct from "lightning" (Ezekiel 1:13), "the meteor-flash," or sheet-lightning (Fairbairn).


Verse 15

Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

Behold one wheel. The "dreadful height" of the wheel (Ezekiel 1:18) indicates the gigantic, terrible energy of the complicated revolutions of God's providence, bringing about His purposes with unerring certainty. One wheel appeared transversely within another, so that the movement might be without turning, wheresoever the living creatures might advance (Ezekiel 1:17). Thus each wheel was composed of two circles, cutting one another at right angles, "one" only of which appeared to touch the ground ("upon the earth"), according to the direction the cherubim desired to move in.

With his, four faces - rather, 'according to its four faces' or sides; as there was a side or direction to each of the four creatures, so there was a wheel for each of the sides (Fairbairn). The four sides or semicircles of each composite wheel pointed, as the four faces of each of the living creatures, to the four quarters of heaven. Havernick refers "his" or "its" to the wheels' four faces. The cherubim and their wings and wheels stood in contrast to the symbolical figures, somewhat similar, then existing in Chaldea, and found in the remains of Assyria. The latter, though derived from the original revelation by tradition, came by corruption to symbolize the astronomical zodiac, or the sun and celestial sphere, by a circle with wings or irradiations. But Ezekiel's cherubim rise above natural objects, the gods of the pagan, to the representation of the one true God, who made and continually upholds them.


Verse 16

The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.

The appearance of the wheels and their work - their form, and the material of their work.

The colour of a beryl - rather, 'the glancing appearance of the Tarshish-stone;' the chrysolite or topaz, brought from Tarshish, or Tartessus, in Spain. It was one of the gems in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:20; Song of Solomon 5:14; Daniel 10:6).

They four had one likeness. The similarity of the wheels to one another implies that there is no inequality in all God's works, that all have a beautiful analogy and proportion.


Verse 17

When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.

They went upon their four sides. Those faces or sides of the four wheels moved which answered to the direction in which the cherubim desired to move; while the transverse circles in each of the four composite wheels remained suspended from the ground, so as not to impede the movements of the others.


Verse 18

As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.

Their rings - i:e., felloes, or circumferences of the wheels.

Were full of eyes. The multiplicity of eyes here in the wheels, and, Ezekiel 10:12, in the cherubim themselves, symbolizes the plenitude of intelligent life, the eye being the window through which "the spirit of the living creatures" in the wheels (Ezekiel 1:20) looks forth (cf. Zechariah 4:10). As the wheels signify the providence of God, so the eyes imply that He sees all the circumstances of each case, and does nothing by blind impulse.


Verse 19

And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.

The wheels went by them - went beside them.


Verse 20

Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, there was their spirit to go - i:e., their will was for going wheresoever the spirit was for going, and there they actually went. It is implied that both their actual going, and their spirit or will to go, was wheresoever the spirit was for going.

The wheels were lifted up over against them - rather, l


Verse 21

When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

Over against - rather l


Verse 22

And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.

The likeness of the firmament upon the heads - rather [ `al (Hebrew #5921)], 'above the heads' (Fairbairn).

Was as the colour - the glitter of the terrible crystal - dazzling the spectator by its brightness.


Verse 23

And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.

Their wings straight - erect (Fairbairn); expanded upright.

Every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies - not, as it might seem, contradicting Ezekiel 1:11. The two wings expanded upwards, though chiefly used for flying, yet up to the summit of the figure, where they were parted from each other, also covered the upper part of the body, while the other two wings covered the lower parts.


Verse 24

And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.

As the voice of the Almighty - the thunder (Psalms 29:3-4).

The voice of speech - rather [ h


Verse 25

And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.

There was a voice from the firmament ... when they stood, and had let down their wings - while the Almighty gave forth His voice, they reverently let their wings fall, to listen stilly to His communication.


Verse 26

And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

Above the firmament ... was the likeness of a throne ... and upon ... the throne was the likeness ... of a man. The Godhead appears in the likeness of enthroned humanity, as in Exodus 24:10. Besides the "paved work of a sapphire stone, as it were the body of heaven in clearness" there, we have here the "throne," and God, as "a man," with the "appearance of fire round about." This last was a prelude of the incarnation of Messiah, but in His character as Saviour and as Judge (Revelation 19:11-16). The azure sapphire answers to the colour of the sky. As others are called "sons of God," but He "the Son of God," so others are called "sons of man" (Ezekiel 2:1; Ezekiel 2:3), but He "the Son of man" (Matthew 16:13), being the embodied representative of humanity and the whole human race; as, on the other hand, He is the bodily representative of "the fullness of the Godhead" (Colossians 2:9). While the cherubim are moveable, the throne above, and Yahweh who moves them, is firmly fixed. It is good news to man that the thro ne above is filled by One who even there appears as "a man."


Verse 27

And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, 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, and it had brightness round about.

As the colour of amber - `the glitter of chasmal' (Fairbairn). See note, Ezekiel 1:4; rather, 'polished brass' (Henderson). Messiah is described here as in Daniel 10:5-6; Revelation 1:14-15.


Verse 28

As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain - the symbol of the sure covenant of mercy to God's children remembered amidst judgments on the wicked; as in the flood in Noah's days (Revelation 4:3). 'Like hanging out from the throne of the Eternal a flag of peace, assuring all that the purpose of heaven was to preserve rather than to destroy. Even if the divine work should require a deluge of wrath, still the faithfulness of God would only shine forth the more brightly at last to the children of promise, in consequence of the tribulations needed to prepare for the ultimate good' (Fairbairn). (Isaiah 54:8-10.)

I fell upon my face - the right attitude spiritually before we enter on any active work for God (Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:23-24; Revelation 1:17). He remains on his face until 'the spirit sets him on his feet.' In this first chapter God gathered into one vision the substance of all that was to occupy the prophetic agency of Ezekiel; as was done afterward in the opening vision of the Revelation to John.

Remarks:

(1) When the Lord purposes to employ any man as His minister in high and arduous functions, His hand is laid on him to strengthen him for the work in prospect, as the Lord did in the case of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3). The vision vouchsafed to the prophet was well calculated to fill his soul with exalted conceptions of God's consummate wisdom and power, in the workings of His providence, which would comfort himself first, and then qualify him for administering comfort to his fellow-exiles. The whirlwind out of the north, and the fire catching hold of all that surrounded it (Ezekiel 1:4), symbolized the consuming judgment of God about to be inflicted by the Chaldeans. The Son of God, as the Father's minister of judgment, with dazzling brightness enthroned amidst the cherubim (Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:26-27), was a sight well calculated to fill the prophet with awe and reverent fear.

(2) Yet at the same time it suggested hope of mercy and expectation of blessing. Though he and his fellow-captive countrymen were now excluded from the temple at Jerusalem, yet God, by this symbolical vision, gives them the gracious assurance that He Himself, who had heretofore sat enthroned between the cherubim there, will be still with His people by the Chebar, and that in the latter days He will again restore the glory of the visible temple to His people. The same vision furnishes comfort to the people of God in all times. The cherubim symbolize the ruling powers through whose ministration God acts in His government of the natural and moral world. All that is eminently excellent in the animal world, including man, the crowning summit of the whole, whose noble ideal is realized in the Divine Son of Man, as well as all the angelic powers that rule under God, are subservient to carrying into effect God's eternal purposes of judgment upon the reprobate, and of mercy and love in the end to the people of God.

With winged speed (Ezekiel 1:6), like the lightning, the ruling ministers of God's will move wheresoever they are sent by Him in the four quarters of the world. Their movements are all sure, without effort, firm, and straightforward. They lose no time by devious turns, but move directly to the end aimed at (Ezekiel 1:9). Active energy, combined with intelligent skill, directed not by their own power, but by that of God, and this hidden from the too curious scrutiny of man, is implied by their "hands of a man under their wings" (Ezekiel 1:8). They make no mistakes, and the steps of their work need not to be retraced. The joining of their wings above (Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:11) implies that, however complicated and conflicting the movements of God's providence, as administered by His ministering agents, may seem on earth, if we lift up our eyes to heaven, we shall see that they wonderfully meet and combine in carrying out the one end-the glory of God and the good of His people. However tortuous and confused the ways of God's dealings among men may appear to us, they all tend to the same aim. They move by the secret impulse of His Spirit: their spirit is in perfect accordance with His: and not only do they will what God wills, but they move in immediate obedience to their God-conformed will (Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:20). Then, too, the Spirit of God, like the lightning or flashing fire, with never-wearying vigour, pervades their ceaseless movements "up and down," with the fullness of life flowing from God Himself (Ezekiel 1:13-14; Revelation 4:8). With burning zeal and intelligent love they ever serve God-a pattern to us to copy now, and a specimen of what the redeemed elect hereafter shall be.

(3) Connected closely with the four-fold cherubim, though distinct from it, in the vision, was the one compound and four-fold wheel (Ezekiel 1:15), made up of two wheels, the one within the other, crossing one another transversely at right angles, and so forming four semicircles facing the four quarters of the world, and corresponding to the four sides or faces of the cherubim respectively. As the cherubim represent the spiritual agents of God's providential and gracious administration of the government of the world, so the four-fold wheel expresses the actual movements of His providence in the world. The height and circumference of the wheels, so vast that the prophet was afraid to look upon them, represent the height and depth of God's counsels; as to which Paul exclaims, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33.) The similarity of the wheels to one another (Ezekiel 1:16) implies that all God's ways on earth have a mutual harmony and agreement; while the multiplicity of eyes in them expresses the perfection of intelligent perception wherewith the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10), discern the special circumstances of every case, so that nothing is done by His providence at the prompting of blind instinct.

One and the same spirit was in the cherubim and in the wheels (Ezekiel 1:20-21), just as the same Spirit of God rules and impenetrates the heavenly ministers of God's government, and by them rules and orders all earthly events. The image of the wheel, ever revolving round the axle, and having now one part uppermost, now another, teaches us not to despond in adversity; for in due time, if we wait patiently on the Lord, the revolution of the wheel of His providence will raise those up who are now for a time depressed; while those who are unduly elated by elevation in circumstances know not how soon they may be cast down. As the wheels had four sides looking toward the four quarters of the world, so, look in what direction we may, the wheel of God's providence has a face toward us, so that we can always rest confidently upon His power, wisdom, and love. Wheels are within wheels in His ways, which, though looking to us perplexed, complicated, and unaccountable, are all really, each from a different quarter and by a different method, subserving one grand and final consummation.

`In human acts, though labour'd on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain; In God's, one single doth its end produce, Yet serves to second, too, some other use.

Let us, then, not misjudge God's dealings because we do not at once see their scope and purpose; but, as Lord Bacon says, rest in Providence, move in charity, and turn upon the poles of truth.

(4) The firmament above the heads of the cherubim was like crystal, dazzling the spectator by its brightness (Ezekiel 1:22). No dark clouds intervene between God and them: so shall it be hereafter with the redeemed: they shall see the face of God and His unclouded glory and brightness shall rest upon them. (5) The cherubim vail their persons in reverence before God (Ezekiel 1:23); and though the noise of their wings in motion had been like the noise of great waters (Ezekiel 1:24), yet when they heard the voice of the Almighty from above they stood still and let down their wings, that God alone might be heard (Ezekiel 1:25). Deepest reverence becomes us when we are in the presence of God. When He speaks in His holy temple let all the earth keep silence before Him (Habakkuk 2:20).

(6) While the cherubim are movable, the throne of the God in and by whom they move is immovably fixed. With Him is no variableness or shadow of turning. His throne is a throne of judgment and universal government on the one hand, and on the other also a throne of grace and glory. What joy it is to believers to know that a MAN, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, sits exalted on that throne, far above all principalities and powers (Ezekiel 1:26). And though the "fire" of consuming judgment is round about and within it (Ezekiel 1:27), yet the rainbow, the token of God's everlasting covenant with His people, surrounds it (Ezekiel 1:28). As amidst His fiery judgments on Jerusalem He still looked on the bow and remembered His covenant with Israel, and therefore reserved mercy for the elect remnant, so in all ages, amidst His punitive visitations upon the reprobate, He has never lost sight of His covenant of love to His believing people.

(7) Ezekiel fell humbly on his face at the glorious sight. This was His fitting inauguration into his high functions as a prophet. Let us learn that reverence and deep hu mility are the best preparation for hearing the voice of God to good purpose. Then only can we enter upon active service for God in the right spirit, and may confidently look for the divine blessing on our work. Beholding God's glory in the face of the Lord Jesus, let us seek to be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), and so reflect the rays of that glory in our contacts with our fellow-men!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-1.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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