Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 10. Second act of the divine judgment, the scattering of fire from god upon the city
The connexion between this chapter and the last is not quite close, otherwise ch. Ezekiel 10:2 would have stood at the beginning. Unobserved by the prophet or at least unmentioned by him the glory had returned from the threshold of the house (ch. Ezekiel 9:3), and the Lord again sat upon the throne above the cherubim (ch. Ezekiel 1:26).
(1) Ezekiel 10:1-3. From his place above the cherubim the Lord commanded the man clothed with linen garments to approach the fire within the wheelwork and take coals from it to scatter over the city—a symbol of the divine judgment on Jerusalem, on which fire from God would fall as on Sodom. The man advanced towards the cherubim.
(2) Ezekiel 10:4-8. Meanwhile the glory of the Lord again left the cherubim, and stood over the threshold of the house, the cloud filling the temple and the brilliancy lighting up the inner court. The chief angel had approached the chariot and the cherub took coals from between the wheelwork, putting them into the hands of the angel, who went forth. The actual strewing of the fire upon the city, though assumed, is not described.
(3) Ezekiel 10:9-17. Renewed description of the cherubim.
(4) Ezekiel 10:18-22. Return of the divine glory from the threshold of the house to the cherubim, and movement of the whole manifestation from the inner court to the outside of the eastern gate of the outer court (Ezekiel 10:18-19). Finally the prophet lays stress upon the identity of the cherubim seen here with those which he saw by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 10:20-22).
Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.1. in the firmament] upon or above. Ezekiel 10:4 assumes that the glory of the Lord had returned from the threshold of the house, where it stood (ch. Ezekiel 9:3), and again appeared above the cherubim. The fact was either unremarked by the prophet or at least has not been mentioned by him. On the firmament and throne, cf. ch. Ezekiel 1:26 seq.
And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.2. between the wheels] The word is singular and occurs again Ezekiel 10:13, being used as a collective to describe the whole wheel-work. There were four wheels (a different word) which are called here collectively wheelwork, lit. whirling. The word is used of the whirlwind or tempest (Psalm 77:18), but also of chariot wheels (Isaiah 5:28; Ezekiel 23:24; Ezekiel 26:10).
Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.3. the right side of the house] i.e. on the south of the temple proper. It is difficult to see any significance in the position of the cherubim, except that the south side of the house was more in the direction of the city than either the north or east side, and the west side was closed by buildings.
Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD'S glory.4. Then the glory went up] This can hardly be rendered, and … had gone up; consequently the implication in Ezekiel 10:1 that the glory had returned to the cherubim from the threshold is confirmed.
And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.5. sound of the cherubims’ wings] It is to be supposed that some movement of the living creatures’ wings accompanied the rising of the divine glory from above them, as it is said that when they stood their wings dropped (Ezekiel 1:24). The language of Ezekiel 10:18 (cf. Ezekiel 9:3) excludes the supposition that the cherubim as well as the glory moved towards the threshold (Ew.). Jehovah’s “speaking” is the thunder (ch. Ezekiel 1:24), but the statement that the sound was heard in the outer court is strange, as the distance was not great. In Ezekiel’s day, however, the outer court had not the symmetry which he gives it in his final vision but extended to a considerable distance from the house, and may have been regarded as including the royal buildings (see the plans Ency. Brit., and Stade’s Hist., vol. i).
And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels.6. On the fire between the cherubim, cf. Ezekiel 1:13.
And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out.7. and one cherub] lit, the cherub; the one on the side approached by the man. The cherubim interposed to hand the fire to the man in linen garments, who received it and went forth (Job 1:12; Job 2:7). The symbolism is suggested by Isaiah 6:6.
And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings.8. On the “hands” of the cherubim, cf. ch. Ezekiel 1:8.
Instead of depicting the conflagration of the city, which would have been impossible, the prophet’s attention is anew drawn to the cherubim, and a fresh description of the living creatures and of the divine chariot follows.
And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone.9. the four wheels] Omit: the. The description is somewhat more exact than that given ch. Ezekiel 1:15. A “beryl stone,” i.e. Tarshishstone, ch. Ezekiel 1:16.
And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.10. Cf. ch. Ezekiel 1:16.
When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went.11. Ch. Ezekiel 1:17.
the head looked] i.e. the front of the chariot. The word is hardly to be rendered the principal, or foremost, referring to the wheels. Cf. ch. Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:17.
And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had.12. their whole body] Lit. flesh, a strange term to be used of the living creatures. LXX. omits. The word “backs” is used of the felloes of the wheels in ch. Ezekiel 1:18, and in this verse the living creatures and the wheels are confused together.
wheels that they four had] More naturally: even their four wheels, lit. even they four, their wheels, where “they” anticipates “wheels.”
As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.13. in my hearing, O wheel] Rather as mar., They were called in my hearing Wheel, R.V., whirling wheels. Cf. Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6 where the word (galgal) is used by the divine speaker.
And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.14. The verse, which LXX. omits, is difficult. The words rendered “first face” might have that sense or the sense “one face” at a pinch, but mean naturally “face of the first;” and those rendered “the second face” can hardly mean anything but “the face of the second,” for it is precarious to extend constructions like Jeremiah 46:2 “the year of the fourth” (year) = the fourth year, to other words than “year.” The easiest course would be to omit the word “face” before “first” and “second,” as in fact it does not stand before “third” and “fourth;” or perhaps it might be enough to omit it before “second” and assume that the anomalous constr. “one face” (Leviticus 24:22; 2 Kings 12:10) had led to the insertion of “face” before “the second.”
face of a cherub] Of the cherub. As the other faces were those of a man, a lion, and an eagle, this face must be that of the ox (ch. Ezekiel 1:10). Why should this be called the face of the cherub? It is said that the winged bulls at the portals of Assyrian temples are called cherubs in Assyrian (Fried. Del. Paradies, p. 153, Lenormant, Les origines de l’histoire, p. 118), but these winged bulls have not the face of an ox but that of a man, and there is no probability that in Israel the cherubs in the temple were ox-faced.
It seems possible to explain the verse only by making some suppositions which may appear rather artificial, viz. first that the prophet looking at the phenomenon of the chariot and four creatures as a whole saw four faces presented to him, one (and a different one) by each of the creatures, and that he named the faces which were thus presented to him. We should then translate “the face of the first,” “the face of the second” &c., though this seems opposed to the meaning of the first words of the verse. And secondly, that he assumes the side of the chariot presented to him not to be the front, but regards the side looking in another direction as the front or head. His view of the chariot is taken when it rose and proceeded eastward (Ezekiel 10:19); and he regards the side of the chariot turned to the east as the front, and he calls the cherub which led the movement to the east the cherub. Further at this moment the chariot and cherubim were standing on the south side of the house (Ezekiel 10:3), and the prophet’s position was probably near the house and thus to the north or left of the phenomenon. Now the ox-face of all the cherubs was on their left (ch. Ezekiel 1:10), that is, in the case of a cherub leading the movement eastward, toward the north where the prophet presumably was standing. Thus he would see the ox-face of the first cherub (whose human face was eastward, leading the whole chariot). He would also see the man’s face of the cherub on the side of the chariot facing himself, the lion’s face of the cherub who stood on the west side of the chariot, and the eagle’s face of the cherub on the south side of the chariot, for all the eagle-faces looked inward to the centre of the chariot. This is the order followed in the verse.
And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar.15. were lifted up] The prophet identifies the manifestation with that seen at the Chebar when he perceives its movement. The verse is resumed in Ezekiel 10:19.
And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them.16, 17. Cf. ch. Ezekiel 1:19.
When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.17. lift up themselves] Were lifted up with them.
Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.18. The glory of the Lord returns from the threshold of the house to the cherubim, and these mount up and remove outside the precincts of the temple altogether, and stand within the city at the eastern gateway of the outward court.
And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD'S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.19. every one stood at the door] Rather: they stood, lit. it, viz. the whole manifestation.
This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.20. were the cherubims] Were cherubim. The remark that he knew that the living creatures were cherubim is of very great difficulty. It would scarcely be in the sense of the prophet to suppose that he learned that the living creatures were cherubim from hearing them so called by the divine speaker (Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6) because previous to this he himself has so called them (ch. Ezekiel 9:3). The meaning is rather that this third vision of them (ch. 1 and ch. Ezekiel 3:23) with its details and movements revealed to him that the creatures were cherubim. But admitting that the prophet had visions we can hardly escape the conclusion that the details of the phenomenon of the cherubim repose upon reflection. This reflection may have preceded the visions and been reproduced in them, but where did he find the elements that entered into his combination? Were they not derived from the temple largely, though also from the storm-cloud? Could he be unaware of the source whence he derived them? It is possible that in the excitation of the vision he did not recall the processes of his own reflection. Or may it be that we are straining the word “knew” when we understand it in the sense of learned, came to know? This is the natural sense to put upon it in this Book, and up to this time the prophet has not used the name cherubim.
The derivation of the word cherub is obscure. If Assyrian scholars are right the name is Babylonian, and is found given to the colossal winged bulls (called at other times shidu, Heb. shçd) which guard the portals of palaces and temples in Babylonia. The word (Kirubu) is said to have the sense of “great” (Schrader, KAT. on Genesis 3:24, Del. Paradies, p. 150 seq.). But though the name be common to Babylonian and Hebrew, and though originally the idea expressed by the name may have been the same in both, the usage as known from Babylonian literature marks the end of a long development, and that in Hebrew marks the end of another long and independent development, and any attempt to control or explain the one by the other must be made with caution.
The narrative and essential part of Ch. 10 lies in Ezekiel 10:2-4; Ezekiel 10:6-7; Ezekiel 10:18-19; the rest is annotation suggested by points in the narrative, in which ch. 1 is repeated without anything essential being added to it. A second description of the cherubim after ch. 1 looks unnecessary, and Cornill would excide Ezekiel 10:8-17 entirely. There may be occasional glosses in these verses, but no reason exists for cutting them out which does not equally apply to Ezekiel 10:20-22. The whole description of the divine chariot has an appearance of artificiality to us now, but in Ezekiel we have a peculiar mind, and it is safer to content ourselves with saying that we do not altogether understand the importance which he attaches to the phenomenon of the chariot and the living creatures.
Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.