Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This chapter is chiefly occupied with a fresh description of the vision of Ezekiel 1, but includes two new points: the giving up of the city to fire (Ezekiel 10:2), and the abandonment of the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18-19).
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) As it were a sapphire stone.—Comp. Ezekiel 1:26. No mention is here made of a being upon the throne, but it is implied by the “he spake” of the following verse. The word cherubim corresponds throughout this chapter to the living creatures of Ezekiel 1.
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) Unto the man clothed with linen.—Hitherto, in Ezekiel 9, he has been employed only in a work of mercy and protection. It is not without significance that now the same person is made the agent of judgment. As God’s love is turned to wrath by man’s impenitence, and as His blessings given to man become curses by their abuse, so those employed by Him as the instruments of His loving-kindness become the very executioners of his “fury.” The “coals of fire,” the symbols of Divine wrath, are represented as “between the cherubim.” In every possible way it is signified that the impending doom is not from man’s will, however men may be used as its instruments, or from any accident, but from God Himself.
Scatter them over the city.—For its destruction. Perhaps the imagery does not signify anything more than destruction, without especial reference to the means employed; but 2Kings 25:9 and 2Chronicles 36:19 show that the Temple and city were actually burned by the Chaldæans, as was often done with conquered cities that had resisted obstinately.
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) The glory of the Lord went up from the cherub.—As in Ezekiel 10:2, the singular, cherub, instead of the usual plural. Here it is thought to designate, not the four living creatures of the vision, but the cherubim overshadowing the mercy-seat, and to indicate that the manifestation of the Divine presence now left the Holy of Holies, and went to the threshold of the door of the house, preparatory to leaving it altogether. The expression is obscure, since the place of the manifestation of the Divine presence in the most holy place is usually described as “between the cherubim” (Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1, &c.). Of the main point, however, there can be no doubt—that the Divine presence is represented as in the act of leaving the Temple. “The house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory” as He departed, in striking contrast with the similar manifestations (Exodus 40:34-35; 1Kings 8:10-11), when God accepted the tabernacle and the Temple as the peculiar place of His abode.
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) The sound of the cherubims’ wings.—This sound indicates that the cherubim were already in motion, for when they stood they “let down their wings” (Ezekiel 1:24). They were now just on the eve of going away, and the movement was a great one, so that the sound was “heard even to the outer court” Throughout this chapter the s in cherubims is quite unnecessary, since cherubim is already the Hebrew plural of cherub.
Ezekiel 10:8-17 are largely a repetition of the description of the vision in Ezekiel 1, but it is here given in parts, parenthetically, in connection with the progress of the narrative. The course of the narrative itself is as follows :—After the man in linen has gone out (Ezekiel 10:7), a command is issued, “O wheel.” They were to set themselves in motion. Then (Ezekiel 10:15) they “were lifted up,” and (Ezekiel 10:18-19) “the glory of the Lord departed” from the Temple, and “mounted up from the earth.” The repetition of the description of Ezekiel 1 is by no means accidental, but serves partly to connect the various particulars with the course of the symbolic narrative, and mainly to emphasize the identity of the glory departing from the Temple with the Divine glory before seen. There are, however, several variations from the former description. Particularly in Ezekiel 10:12 (as in Revelation 4:6) there is mention of the abundance of eyes, a symbol of vigilance and activity, covering the whole body of the cherubim and the wheels. In Ezekiel 10:14, after saying that “every one had four faces,” as in Ezekiel 1, the particular faces are described, but with this important variation :—the first is said to be “the face of a cherub,” instead of “the face of an ox,” as in Ezekiel 1; more exactly it is “the face of the cherub,” since the Hebrew has the definite article. The reason of this variation and the meaning of “the face of the cherub” are both obscure. In Ezekiel 10:22 it is expressly said that their faces were the same as those seen by the Chebar; and again, in Ezekiel 10:15-20, the whole vision is described as the “living creature” seen by the Chebar. It is plain, therefore, that the variation is only in the description, and not in the thing described. The most natural solution of the difficulty in the text as it stands is that a cherub was ordinarily represented with the face of an ox. But there is no evidence of this, and it is not impossible that a slight error may have been introduced into the text. The Greek version did not contain the verse in the time of St. Jerome, and in its Roman form does not now. It was introduced into the Alexandrian copies from the later version of Theodotion, and Theodoret does not recognise it.
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) Mounted up from the earth.—In Ezekiel 10:3 the cherubim stood by “the right side of the house,” and in Ezekiel 10:18 “the glory of the Lord” left the threshold, and resumed its place above the waiting cherubim; now the whole mount up from the earth, and go “to the east gate of the Lord’s house”—that is, to the main entrance of the outermost court. The words “every one are not in the original, and should be omitted. “They stood,” or “it stood,” would be better, the vision being regarded as a whole.