|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 13. - Like burning coals of fire, etc. It may not be amiss to note the fact that the phrase throughout the Bible denotes incandescent wood. The nearest approach to its use by Ezekiel is in 2 Samuel 22:9, 13. For "lamps," read, with the Revised Version, "torches." Here the vision of Ezekiel, in which the living creatures were thus incandescent, bathed, as it were, in the fire that played around them, yet not consumed, followed in the path of previous symbols - of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2), of the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22), of the fire on Sinai (Exodus 19:18), of the "fire of the Lord" (Numbers 11:1-3), and the "fire of God" (2 Kings 1:12). Speaking generally, "fire," as distinct from "light," seems to be the symbol of the power of God as manifested against evil. "Our God is a consuming Fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). The red light of fire has in it an element of terror which is absent from the stainless white of the eternal glory, or from the sapphire of the visible firmament. Lightning (comp. Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18; Daniel 10:6; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
As for the likeness of the living creatures,.... That is, of their bodies; for their faces, feet, hands, and wings are described before:
their appearance was like burning coals of fire: because of their ministerial gifts; the gifts of the Spirit are compared to fire, and like coals of fire are to be stirred up, and not covered or quenched; Acts 2:3; and because of their clear shining light in the truths of the Gospel; and because of their ardent love to Christ, and the souls of men; the coals whereof give a most vehement flame, which all the waters of reproach and persecution cannot quench, Sol 8:6; and because of their burning zeal for the glory of God, and the interest of the Redeemer; hence they are called "seraphim", fiery or burning Isaiah 6:2;
and like the appearance of lamps: so the ministers of the Gospel are compared to lamps, which hold forth the light of the Gospel to the sons of men; they are the lights or lamps of the world, and some of them are bright burning and shining ones, as John was, Matthew 5:14;
it went up and down among the living creatures; that is, fire went up and down among them; so the Targum,
"and fire inflamed was among the creatures;''
by which may be meant the word of God, comparable to fire, Jeremiah 20:9; common to all the ministers of the Gospel, by which their minds are enlightened, and their hearts are warmed and filled with zeal, and by which they are the means of enlightening and warming others:
and the fire was bright; and clear, as the word of God is:
and out of the fire went forth lightning; by means of the ministry of the word, the kingdom and interest of Christ spread like lightning in the world, from east to west; so the coming of the son of man in his kingdom and power is compared to lightning, Matthew 24:27; it denotes the quick, penetrating, and enlightening power and efficacy of the word.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. likeness … appearance—not tautology. "Likeness" expresses the general form; "appearance," the particular aspect.
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 Isa 6:2, 6, 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, for the message through his mouth was to be one of judicial severance of the godly from the ungodly, to the ruin of the latter.
lamps—torches. The fire emitted sparks and flashes of light, as torches do.
went up and down—expressing the marvellous vigor of God's Spirit, in all His movements never resting, never wearied.
fire … bright—indicating the glory of God.
out of the fire … lightning—God's righteousness will at last cause the bolt of His wrath to fall on the guilty; as now, on Jerusalem.
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