|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-14 It is a mercy to have the word of God brought to us, and a duty to attend to it diligently, when we are in affliction. The voice of God came in the fulness of light and power, by the Holy Spirit. These visions seem to have been sent to possess the prophet's mind with great and high thoughts of God. To strike terror upon sinners. To speak comfort to those that feared God, and humbled themselves. In ver. 4-14, is the first part of the vision, which represents God as attended and served by a vast company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments. This vision would impress the mind with solemn awe and fear of the Divine displeasure, yet raise expectations of blessings. The fire is surrounded with a glory. Though we cannot by searching find out God to perfection, yet we see the brightness round about it. The likeness of the living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; angels derive their being and power from God. They have the understanding of a man, and far more. A lion excels in strength and boldness. An ox excels in diligence and patience, and unwearied discharge of the work he has to do. An eagle excels in quickness and piercing sight, and in soaring high; and the angels, who excel man in all these respects, put on these appearances. The angels have wings; and whatever business God sends them upon, they lose no time. They stood straight, and firm, and steady. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action. Many persons are quick, who are not active; they hurry about, but do nothing to purpose; they have wings, but no hands. But wherever the angels' wings carried them, they carried hands with them, to be doing what duty required. Whatever service they went about, they went every one straight forward. When we go straight, we go forward; when we serve God with one heart, we perform work. They turned not when they went. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not to be gone over again. They turned not from their business to trifle with any thing. They went whithersoever the Spirit of God would have them go. The prophet saw these living creatures by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire; they are seraphim, or burners; denoting the ardour of their love to God, and fervent zeal in his service. We may learn profitable lessons from subjects we cannot fully enter into or understand. But let us attend to the things which relate to our peace and duty, and leave secret things to the Lord, to whom alone they belong.
Verse 12. - Whither the spirit was to go, etc. The description passes on to the originating force of the movement of the mysterious forms. The Hebrew noun may mean "breath," "wind," or "spirit," the meanings often overlapping one another. Here the higher meaning is probably the true one. The "Spirit" (as in Genesis 1:1; Genesis 6:3; Psalm 104:30; Psalm 139:7; Isaiah 40:7, 13; and in Ezekiel himself, passim) is the Divine Source of life in all its forms, especially in its highest form, moral, intellectual, spiritual. It is this which gave unity and harmony to the movements of the "living creatures," as it gives a life, harmony, and unity to all the manifold manifestations of the might of God of which they were the symbols. (On "they turned not," see note on ver. 9.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they went everyone straight forward,.... Or, "over against his face" (q); for, which way soever they went, whether forward or backward, or on either side, they had a face to go before them, to direct the way, and steer their course; so the ministers of the Gospel have a face to go by and follow after, the word of God, to look to and direct them, which way soever they go, or whatsoever service they are called unto;
whither the spirit was to go they went; which may be meant of their own spirit, will, and inclination; so the Targum,
"to the place where it was their good pleasure to go they went;''
so Jarchi and Kimchi; but this is not always the case, see Acts 16:6; rather the Holy Spirit of God is intended, by whom holy men of God were moved, and spoke formerly; and by whom Gospel ministers are led into the truth, as it is in Jesus; and by whom they are directed where to go, and what to do; and they are sent, and go where the Spirit of God is designed to go, in order to work upon the hearts of men and effectually call them by his grace, which is usually done by the ministry of the word; and therefore Gospel ministers must go, and they do go where the Spirit of God has work to do by them; see Acts 16:6;
and they turned not when they went; they had no occasion to turn their bodies, because, which way soever they went, they had a face to go before them, and direct the way; See Gill on Ezekiel 1:9.
(q) "coram facie sua", V. L. "in tractam faciei suae", objectum, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Polanus; "ante faciem suam", Starckius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. The same idea as in Eze 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.
the spirit—the secret impulse whereby God moves His angels to the end designed. They do not turn back or aside till they have fulfilled the office assigned them.
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