Ezekiel 1:1
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.
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(1) The thirtieth year.—On this date see Introduction, § 4. It may be added here that the concurrence of the “fifth day of the month” in connection with this epoch, and with that of Jehoiachin’s captivity in Ezekiel 1:2, shows that the years of the two epochs began at the same time.

Among the captives.i.e., in the midst of the region where they were settled. The vision which follows was seen by Ezekiel only, and was probably vouchsafed to him in solitudes” The captives,” or rather, the captivity, as it is in the original, is the same word as is used of Jehoiachin in the next verse, and yet must be somewhat differently understood in the two cases. Jehoiachin was actually in prison for many years; his people, within certain limits, were free. They were more than exiles, but less than prisoners. (On “the heavens were opened,” comp. Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56.)

Visions of God.—Not merely great visions, as the Divine name is often added in Scripture to express greatness or intensity (see Genesis 10:9; Psalm 36:6, marg., Psalm 80:10, marg.; Jonah 3:3, marg.; Acts 7:20, marg.), but Divine visions, visions sent from God, as in Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2.

Ezekiel 1:1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year — It is very uncertain from whence this computation of time commences. But the most probable opinion seems to be that which the Chaldee paraphrast, Archbishop Usher, Dr. Prideaux, and other learned men adopt: namely, that these thirty years are to be reckoned from the time when Josiah and all the people of Judah entered into that solemn covenant mentioned 2 Kings 22:3; and when the book of the law was found by Hilkiah the priest, which was in the eighteenth year of Josiah, from which date, it appears, to the fifth year of the captivity, were thirty years. This being an event which put the Jewish state upon a new trial, was certainly sufficiently remarkable to render the time when it took place an era proper to be dated from. Accordingly, from the same period learned men compute the forty years of Judah’s transgression, mentioned Ezekiel 4:6. In the fourth month — Thammuz, which nearly corresponds to our July; as I was among the captives — Carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, with King Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 24:14. Thus the godly are sometimes involved in the same outward calamities which befall the wicked. By the river Chebar — Which river Ammianus calls Aboras, and Ptolemy, Chaboras. It flows into the east side of the Euphrates at Circesium, or Carchemish, nearly two hundred miles northward of Babylon. On this river, at Tel-abib and other places, Nebuchadnezzar planted his Jewish captives, probably to cultivate waste lands, or to carry on some manufacture for the benefit of their victors. This was the scene of Ezekiel’s prophecies, which were continued through the course of twenty-two years. Here he was present in body, though in visionary representation he was sometimes taken to Jerusalem: see Bishop Newcome.

The heavens were opened — As a prelude to a heavenly vision. The appearance of the heavens, as it were, opening, seems, in this and such like cases, to have been represented first to excite attention to the vision that was to follow: see Matthew 3:16. And I saw visions of God — It is probable that the captive Jews had been left some time without prophets or visions from God, which might supply the want of the more ordinary means of instruction; at length, however, God raised them up a prophet in their captivity, to whom he first revealed himself by an extraordinary vision, as he had done to Isaiah, chap. 6., to Jeremiah, chap. 1., to Abraham, Acts 7:2, and to many others of his servants, in order, as it were, to open and settle a correspondence, and a satisfactory way of intercourse, so that there needed not afterward a vision upon every fresh revelation made to them.

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.The thirtieth year - being closely connected with as I, is rather in favor of considering this a personal date. It is not improbable that Ezekiel was called to his office at the age prescribed in the Law for Levites Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:30, at which age both John the Baptist and our Lord began their ministry. His call is probably to be connected with the letter sent by Jeremiah to the captives Jeremiah 29 written a few months previously. Some reckon this date from the accession of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, 625 b.c., and suppose that Ezekiel here gives a Babylonian, as in Ezekiel 1:2 a Jewish, date; but it is not certain that this accession formed an era in Babylon and Ezekiel does not elsewhere give a double date, or even a Babylonian date. Others date from the 18th year of Josiah, when Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law (supposed to be a jubilee year): this would give 594 b.c. as the 30th year, but there is no other instance in Ezekiel of reckoning from this year.

The captives - Not in confinement, but restricted to the place of their settlement.

The fourth month - "Month" is not expressed in the original. This is the common method. Before the captivity the months were described not by proper names but by their order, "the first, the second," etc.; the first month corresponding nearly with our "April." After the captivity, the Jews brought back with them the proper names of the months, "Nisan" etc. (probably those used in Chaldaea).

Chebar - The modern "Khabour" rises near Nisibis and flows into the Euphrates near "Kerkesiah," 200 miles north of Babylon.

Visions of God - The exposition of the fundamental principles of the existence and nature of a Supreme God, and of the created angels, was called by the rabbis "the Matter of the Chariot" (compare 1 Chronicles 28:18) in reference to the form of Ezekiel's vision of the Almighty; and the subject was deemed so mysterious as to call for special caution in its study. The vision must be compared with other manifestations of the divine glory Exodus 3; Exodus 24:10; Isaiah 6:1; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:2. Each of these visions has some of the outward signs or symbols here recorded. If we examine these symbols we shall find them to fall readily into two classes,

(1) Those which we employ in common with the writers of all ages and countries. "Gold, sapphire, burnished brass," the "terrible crystal" are familiar images of majestic glory, "thunders, lightnings" and "the rushing storm" of awful power. But

(2) We come to images to our minds strange and almost grotesque. That the "Four Living Creatures" had their groundwork in the cherubim there can be no doubt. And yet their shapes were very different. Because they were symbols not likenesses, they could yet be the same though their appearance was varied.

Of what are they symbolic? They may, according to the Talmudists, have symbolized orders of Angels and not persons; according to others they were figures of the Four Gospels actuated by one spirit spread over the four quarters of the globe, upon which, as on pillars, the Church is borne up, and over whom the Word of God sits enthroned. The general scope of the vision gives the best interpretation of the meaning.

Ezekiel saw "the likeness of the glory of God." Here His glory is manifested in the works of creation; and as light and fire, lightning and cloud, are the usual marks which in inanimate creation betoken the presence of God Psalm 18:6-14 - so the four living ones symbolize animate creation. The forms are typical, "the lion" and "the ox" of the beasts of the field (wild and tame), "the eagle" of the birds of the air, while "man" is the rational being supreme upon the earth. And the human type predominates over all, and gives character and unity to the four, who thus form one creation. Further, these four represent the constitutive parts of man's nature: "the ox" (the animal of sacrifice), his faculty of suffering; "the lion" (the king of beasts), his faculty of ruling; "the eagle" (of keen eye and soaring wing), his faculty of imagination; "the man," his spiritual faculty, which actuates all the rest.

Christ is the Perfect Man, so these four in their perfect harmony typify Him who came to earth to do His Father's will; and as man is lord in the kingdom of nature, so is Christ Lord in the kingdom of grace. The "wings" represent the power by which all creation rises and falls at God's will; the "one spirit," the unity and harmony of His works; the free motion in all directions, the universality of His Providence. The number "four" is the symbol of the world with its "four quarters;" the "veiled" bodies, the inability of all creatures to stand in the presence of God; the "noise of the wings," the testimony borne by creation to God Psalm 19:1-3; the "wheels" connect the vision with the earth, the wings with heaven, while above them is the throne of God in heaven. Since the eye of the seer is turned upward, the lines of the vision become less distinct. It is as if he were struggling against the impossibility of expressing in words the object of his vision: yet on the summit of the throne is He who can only be described as, in some sort, the form of a man. That Yahweh, the eternal God, is spoken of, we cannot doubt; and such passages as Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:14; John 12:41, justify us in maintaining that the revelation of the divine glory here made to Ezekiel has its consummation or fulfillment in the person of Christ, the only-begotten of God (compare Revelation 1:17-18).

The vision in the opening chapter of Ezekiel is in the most general form - the manifestation of the glory of the living God. It is repeated more than once in the course of the book (compare Ezekiel 8:2, Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 9:3; 10; Ezekiel 11:22; Ezekiel 40:3). The person manifested is always the same, but the form of the vision is modified according to special circumstances of time and place.

THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET E Z E K I E L. Commentary by A. R. Faussett


The name Ezekiel means "(whom) God will strengthen" [Gesenius]; or, "God will prevail" [Rosenmuller]. His father was Buzi (Eze 1:3), a priest, and he probably exercised the priestly office himself at Jerusalem, previous to his captivity, as appears from the matured priestly character to be seen in his prophecies, a circumstance which much increased his influence with his captive fellow countrymen at Babylon. Tradition represents Sarera as the land of his nativity. His call to prophesy was in the fifth year from the date of his being carried away with Jehoiachin (see 2Ki 24:11-15) by Nebuchadnezzar, 599 B.C. The best portions of the people seem to have been among the first carried away (Eze 11:16; Jer 24:2-7, 8, 10). The ungodly were willing to do anything to remain in their native land; whereas the godly believed the prophets and obeyed the first summons to surrender, as the only path of safety. These latter, as adhering to the theocratic principle, were among the earliest to be removed by the Chaldeans, who believed that, if they were out of the way, the nation would fall to pieces of itself. They were despised by their brethren in the Holy Land not yet captives, as having no share in the temple sacrifices. Thus Ezekiel's sphere of labor was one happier and less impeded by his countrymen than that of Jeremiah at home. The vicinity of the river Chebar, which flows into the Euphrates near Circeslum, was the first scene of his prophecies (Eze 1:1). Tel-Abib there (now Thallaba) was his place of residence (Eze 3:15), whither the elders used to come to inquire as to God's messages through him. They were eager to return to Jerusalem, but he taught them that they must first return to their God. He continued to prophesy for at least twenty-two years, that is, to the twenty-seventh year of the captivity (Eze 29:17), and probably remained with the captives by the Chebar the rest of his life. A treatise, falsely attributed to Epiphanius, states a tradition that he was killed at Babylon by a prince of his people whom he had reproved for idolatry.

He was contemporary with Jeremiah and Daniel. The former had prophesied for thirty-four years before Ezekiel, and continued to do so for six or seven years after him. The call of Ezekiel followed the very next year after the communication of Jeremiah's predictions to Babylon (Jer 51:59), and was divinely intended as a sequel to them. Daniel's predictions are mostly later than Ezekiel's but his piety and wisdom had become proverbial in the early part of Ezekiel's ministry (Eze 14:14, 16; 28:3). They much resemble one another, especially in the visions and grotesque images. It is a remarkable proof of genuineness that in Ezekiel no prophecies against Babylon occur among those directed against the enemies of the covenant-people. Probably he desired not to give needless offence to the government under which he lived. The effect of his labors is to be seen in the improved character of the people towards the close of the captivity, and their general cessation from idolatry and a return to the law. It was little more than thirty years after the close of his labors when the decree of the Jews' restoration was issued. His leading characteristic is realizing, determined energy; this admirably adapted him for opposing the "rebellious house" "of stubborn front and hard heart," and for maintaining the cause of God's Church among his countrymen in a foreign land, when the external framework had fallen to pieces. His style is plain and simple. His conceptions are definite, and the details even of the symbolical and enigmatical parts are given with lifelike minuteness. The obscurity lies in the substance, not in the form, of his communications. The priestly element predominates in his prophecies, arising from his previous training as a priest. He delights to linger about the temple and to find in its symbolical forms the imagery for conveying his instructions. This was divinely ordered to satisfy the spiritual want felt by the people in the absence of the outward temple and its sacrifices. In his images he is magnificent, though austere and somewhat harsh. He abounds in repetitions, not for ornament, but for force and weight. Poetical parallelism is not found except in a few portions, as in the seventh, twenty-first, twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth through thirty-first chapters. His great aim was to stimulate the dormant minds of the Jews. For this end nothing was better suited than the use of mysterious symbols expressed in the plainest words. The superficial, volatile, and wilfully unbelieving would thereby be left to judicial blindness (Isa 6:10; Mt 13:11-13, &c.); whereas the better-disposed would be awakened to a deeper search into the things of God by the very obscurity of the symbols. Inattention to this divine purpose has led the modern Jews so to magnify this obscurity as to ordain that no one shall read this book till he has passed his thirtieth year.

Rabbi Hananias is said to have satisfactorily solved the difficulties (Mischna) which were alleged against its canonicity. Ecclesiasticus 49:8 refers to it, and Josephus [Antiquities, 10.5.1]. It is mentioned as part of the canon in Melito's catalogue [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26]; also in Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud. The oneness of tone throughout and the repetition of favorite expressions exclude the suspicion that separate portions are not genuine. The earlier portion, the first through the thirty-second chapters, which mainly treats of sin and judgment, is a key to interpret the latter portion, which is more hopeful and joyous, but remote in date. Thus a unity and an orderly progressive character are imparted to the whole. The destruction of Jerusalem is the central point. Previous to this he calls to repentance and warns against blind confidence in Egypt (Eze 17:15-17; compare Jer 37:7) or other human stay. After it he consoles the captives by promising them future deliverance and restoration. His prophecies against foreign nations stand between these two great divisions, and were uttered in the interval between the intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem and the arrival of the news that he had taken it (Eze 33:21). Havernick marks out nine sections:—(1) Ezekiel's call to prophesy (Eze 1:1-3:15). (2) Symbolical predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem (Eze 3:16-7:27). (3) A year and two months later a vision of the temple polluted by Tammuz or Adonis worship; God's consequent scattering of fire over the city and forsaking of the temple to reveal Himself to an inquiring people in exile; happier and purer times to follow (Eze 8:1-11:25). (4) Exposure of the particular sins prevalent in the several classes—priests, prophets, and princes (Eze 12:1-19:14). (5) A year later the warning of judgment for national guilt repeated with greater distinctness as the time drew nearer (Eze 20:1-23:49). (6) Two years and five months later—the very day on which Ezekiel speaks—is announced as the day of the beginning of the siege; Jerusalem shall be overthrown (Eze 24:1-27). (7) Predictions against foreign nations during the interval of his silence towards his own people; if judgment begins at the house of God, much more will it visit the ungodly world (Eze 25:1-32:32). Some of these were uttered much later than others, but they all began to be given after the fall of Jerusalem. (8) In the twelfth year of the captivity, when the fugitives from Jerusalem (Eze 33:21) had appeared in Chaldea, he foretells better times and the re-establishment of Israel and the triumph of God's kingdom on earth over its enemies, Seir, the heathen, and Gog (Eze 33:1-39:29). (9) After an interval of thirteen years the closing vision of the order and beauty of the restored kingdom (Eze 40:1-48:35). The particularity of details as to the temple and its offerings rather discountenances the view of this vision being only symbolical, and not at all literal. The event alone can clear it up. At all events it has not yet been fulfilled; it must be future. Ezekiel was the only prophet (in the strict sense) among the Jews at Babylon. Daniel was rather a seer than a prophet, for the spirit of prophecy was given him to qualify him, not for a spiritual office, but for disclosing future events. His position in a heathen king's palace fitted him for revelations of the outward relations of God's kingdom to the kingdoms of the world, so that his book is ranked by the Jews among the Hagiographa or "Sacred Writings," not among the prophetical Scriptures. On the other hand, Ezekiel was distinctively a prophet, and one who had to do with the inward concerns of the divine kingdom. As a priest, when sent into exile, his service was but transferred from the visible temple at Jerusalem to the spiritual temple in Chaldea.


Eze 1:1-28. Ezekiel's Vision by the Chebar. Four Cherubim and Wheels.

1. Now it came to pass—rather, "And it came," &c. As this formula in Jos 1:1 has reference to the written history of previous times, so here (and in Ru 1:1, and Es 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 (Jer 51:59), Jeremiah sent by Seraiah a message to the captives (Jer 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—that is, counting from the beginning of the reign of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, the era of the Babylonian empire, 625 B.C., which epoch coincides with the eighteenth year of Josiah, that in which the book of the law was found, and the consequent reformation began [Scaliger]; or the thirtieth year of Ezekiel's life. As the Lord was about to be a "little sanctuary" (Eze 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" (Eze 1:3), and as 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, whither the ten tribes had been transported by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:6; 1Ch 5:26). It flows into the Euphrates near Carchemish or Circesium, two hundred miles north of Babylon.

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 Mt 3:16; Ac 7:56; 10:11; Re 19:11); "he saw visions of God"; "the word of Jehovah came verily (as the meaning is rather than 'expressly, English Version, Eze 1:3) unto him" (it was no unreal hallucination); and "the hand of Jehovah was upon him" (Isa 8:11; Da 10:10, 18; Re 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).The time of Ezekiel's prophecy by the river Chebar, Eze 1:1-3. His vision of four cherubims, and four wheels, Eze 1:4-25, and of the glory of God above them, Eze 1:26-28.

Now: this does not refer to any particular time before mentioned, though sometimes this English particle now connotes particular time, (the Hebrew is and, so the Greek and Latin,) but is a phrase in use on entering upon discourse.

It came to pass in the thirtieth year, of the prophet's age, or from the finding the book of the law in the eighteenth year of Josiah, when the threats were read which now were executed on the Jews, according to 2Ki 22:16, from which date to the fifth year of the captivity are thirty years; or in the thirtieth year of the Chaldean monarchy, founded by Nabopollassar. Other accounts omitted, you are left to your own thoughts which of these two latter are more probable; both have very weighty authority for them; and indeed they both concur and meet in the fifth year of the captivity, and so either computation may without mistake be followed.

In the fourth month; the original hath only in the fourth, concisely, but it is certainly the month, but whether in account from Marchesvan, October with us, to Shebat, January, or from Nisan, March, unto Tamuz, July, is more questionable; the latter I guess to be the rightest account; so from Nisan, which is part of our March and April, to Tamuz, part of our June and July, will be the fourth month; and this account in church things best suits the prophet's design.

In the fifth day of the month; it was the third day of our July, probably it was the sabbath day, when the Jews would be free from labour, and at leisure to hear the prophet; and indeed such declarations of the will of God are an entertainment suitable to the consecration of the seventh day to God.

As I was among the captives; Heb. and I, &c. Though a priest and prophet, the first by birth and lineal descent, the other by extraordinary commission, yet I also found as little respect as my countrymen.

Among the captives; in the midst of the captivity, so the Hebrew idiom; perhaps the prophet rather useth the abstract itself than the concrete, to express the grievousness of it: they were captive, nay, captivity rather, under extreme bondage; as darkness for dark.

By the river; either there commanded to dwell, or thither retiring, that more freely they might lament their own sins, and Jerusalem's desolation: or what if it were to keep, as they might, their sabbath, in which the spiteful Babylonians interrupt them, and with scorn require them to sing a temple song, Psa 137:3.

Chebar; a branch of Euphrates, or that part which Chobar advised should be made to divert the violence of Euphrates, lest it damnify the city Babylon. Or rather a river now called Giulap, arising out of the mountain Masius, and falls into Euphrates, somewhat below a city called by the same name, Giulap or Chaboras; as Ferrarius and Hotoman observe.

The heavens were opened; the firmament or lower parts of the celestial arch either really did, or to appearance seemed to divide, and the contiguous parts withdrew as a curtain, to give the prophet the view of what was within; or as folding doors set open that he might look into that apartment where this unusual sight was prepared.

Were opened; expressed thus in the passive to let us see that there was a supreme, sovereign, and Divine power and authority by which this was done; it is not said the heavens did open, but they were opened. It was no meteor, chasm, or yawning, which is naturally a figured semblance of a breach in the visible heavens, whence appears a gulf or deep and wide pit to the eye. It was not thus, but a supernatural and extraordinary aperture or opening, wrought by the immediate power of God, who was now appearing to the prophet, and commissioning him. It might probably be somewhat like that which appeared to the proto-martyr Stephen, Act 7:56.

I saw; I had a distinct, full, and clear sight of what appeared, I was awake and with my eyes discerned what I shall now write, the things I am about to publish, how stupendous soever they are, what I am sure I saw, and am as sure they will be accomplished.

Visions; in the plural, either because they were many distinct visions, or because it was made of many distinct parts, each part might seem to be one vision.

Of God; excellent and wonderful. So by the name of God the Hebrew expresses any excellency, as, cedars of God, man of God. Or,

of God, wherein I saw God, who appeared to the prophet; or else,

of God, i.e. which God did make me to see. It was not a dream of man's brain, it was a Divine vision, either corporeal or intellectual.

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year,.... Either from the last jubilee, as R. Joseph Kimchi (r), Jarchi, and Abendana; or from the time that the book of the law was found by Hilkiah the priest (s); so the Targum, which paraphrases the words thus,

"and it was in the thirtieth year after Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law, in the house of the sanctuary, in the court under the porch, in the middle of the night, after the moon was down, in the days of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah;''

or, according to Jerom (t), from the time of the prophet's birth, who was now thirty years of age, and was just entered into his priestly office; or rather it was the thirtieth year of Nabopolassar, or the father of Nebuchadnezzar: this was the twelfth year of the captivity, reckoning from the third of Jehoiakim, which was the first captivity, and from whence the seventy years are to be reckoned, and also the twelfth of Nebuchadnezzar's reign; and if two years are taken, as Vitringa (u) observes, from the twenty one years, which are given to Nabopolassar in Ptolemy's canon, in which Nebuchadnezzar his son reigned with him, there will be found thirty years from the beginning of Nabopolassar's reign to the fifth of Jeconiah's captivity, when Ezekiel began his prophecy, and which, as Bishop Usher (w), Mr. Bedford (x), Mr. Whiston (y), and the authors of the Universal History (z), place in the year 593, before the birth of Christ:

in the fourth month; the month Tammuz, as the Targum expresses it; which answers to part of June, and part of July:

in the fifth day of the month; which some take to be on a sabbath day; because, seven days after, the word of the Lord came to him again Ezekiel 3:16; just as John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, Revelation 1:10; between one of whose visions and this there is a very great likeness, as will be seen hereafter:

as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar; which is another agreement in circumstance between Ezekiel and John, when they had their visions: John was an exile in Patrons, and Ezekiel among the captives by the river Chebar in Chaldea. Some think this is the same river which is called by Ptolemy (a) Chaboras; and is said by him to pass through Mesopotamia: others say it was a river that was drawn off from the river Euphrates, by the order of one Cobaris, or Gobaris, a governor, from whence it had its name; that the river Euphrates might not, by its rapid course, hurt the city of Babylon; and by the Assyrians it was called Armalchar, or Narmalcha (b), the king's river; though it seems to be no other than Euphrates itself; and Kimchi observes, that in some copies of the Targum on this place it is interpreted of the river Euphrates; and he says their Rabbins of blessed memory say, that Chebar is Euphrates; and so Abarbinel; see Psalm 137:1. Monsieur Thevenot (c) speaks of a river called Chabur, which is less than Alchabour, another mentioned by him; and has its source below Mosul, and on the left hand to those that go down the Tigris, and at Bagdad loses itself in the Tigris which he takes to be the same as here:

that the heavens were opened; as at our Lord's baptism, and at the stoning of Stephen; and so when John had his vision which corresponds with the following, a door was opened in heaven Revelation 4:1;

and I saw the visions of God; which God showed unto him, and which were great and excellent; as excellent things are called things of God, as mountains of God, and cedars of God, Psalm 36:6; and indeed he had a vision of a divine Person, in a human form; to which agrees the Targum,

"and I saw in the vision of prophecy, which abode on me, the vision of the glory of the majesty of the Lord.''

The Arabic and Syriac versions read, "the vision of God".

(r) Apud R. D. Kimchi in loc. (s) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 26. (t) Preafat. in Ezek. tom. 3. fol. 9. D. (u) Typus Doctrin. Prophetic. sect. 7. p. 41. Vid. Witsii Miscel. Sacr. tom. 1. l. 1. c. 19. (w) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3409. p. 127. (x) Scripture Chronology, p. 681. (y) Chronological Tables, cent. 10. (z) Vol. 21. p. 61. (a) Geograph. l. 5. c. 18. (b) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. (c) Travels, par. 2. B. 1. ch. 10. p. 46.

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

The Argument - After Jehoiachin by the counsel of Jeremiah and Ezekiel had yielded himself to Nebuchadnezzar, and so went into captivity with his mother and various of his princes and of the people, some began to repent and murmur that they had obeyed the prophet's counsel, as though the things which they had prophesied would not come to pass, and therefore their estate would still be miserable under the Chaldeans. By reason of which he confirms his former prophecies, declaring by new visions and revelations shown to him, that the city would most certainly be destroyed, and the people grievously tormented by God's plagues, in so much that they who remained would be brought into cruel bondage. Lest the godly despair in these great troubles, he assures them that God will deliver his church at his appointed time and also destroy their enemies, who either afflicted them, or rejoiced in their miseries. The effect of the one and the other would be chiefly performed under Christ, of whom in this book are many notable promises, and in whom the glory of the new temple would perfectly be restored. He prophesied these things in Chaldea, at the same time that Jeremiah prophesied in Judah, and there began in the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity.

(a) After that the book of the Law as found, which was the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, so that twenty-five years after this book was found, Jeconiah was led away captive with Ezekiel and many of the people, who the first year later saw these visions.

(b) Which was a part of Euphrates so called.

(c) That is, notable and excellent visions, so that it might be known, it was no natural dream but came from God.


First Section. Ch. 1–3:21

The section consists of two divisions: First, Ch. 1 inaugural vision of Jehovah; second, Ch. 2–3:21, the various steps by which Jehovah, thus seen, initiated the prophet into his work.

The inaugural vision Ch. 1. has two parts; (1) Ezekiel 1:1-3, definition of the time and place of the appearance of the vision of God; and (2) Ezekiel 1:4-28, description of the vision itself, with its influence upon the prophet. 1–3. The manifestation of Jehovah was made to the prophet in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, and in the midst of the captives by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:1); or, it was on the fifth of the month, in the fifth year of the captivity of king Jehoiachin, and in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:2-3). Ezekiel 1:1-3 appear to contain two superscriptions, one in Ezekiel 1:1, in which the prophet speaks in the first person, and which is syntactically connected with Ezekiel 1:4 seq.; and one in Ezekiel 1:2-3, in which the prophet is spoken of, his name and descent and priestly rank stated, and the thirtieth year of Ezekiel 1:1 identified with the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin. The language in Ezekiel 1:1 is precisely similar to almost all the other specifications of time in the Book, e.g. Ezekiel 8:1, Ezekiel 20:1, Ezekiel 24:1, Ezekiel 26:1 Ezekiel 29:1; Ezekiel 29:17, Ezekiel 30:20, Ezekiel 31:1, Ezekiel 32:1; Ezekiel 32:17, Ezekiel 33:21, Ezekiel 40:1. In two cases the phrase “and it came to pass” is not used (Ezekiel 29:1, Ezekiel 40:1). If the verse stood alone the natural inference from the other dates would be that the year was the thirtieth of Jehoiachin’s captivity, as in other cases, or as it is put in two instances “our captivity” (Ezekiel 33:21, Ezekiel 40:1). The latest date mentioned in the Book is the 27th year of the captivity (Ezekiel 29:17), and it has been conjectured that Ezekiel 1:1 refers to another prophecy or vision three years later, and that Ezekiel 1:2-3 form the real heading. Against this, however, is (1) that the specification of circumstances and place in Ezekiel 1:1 is natural in an introductory statement, but not to be expected in any other. In point of fact it nowhere occurs after the introductory visions by which the prophet received his commission, except in references to these visions (Ezekiel 10:15; Ezekiel 10:20; Ezekiel 10:22, Ezekiel 43:3). And (2) the words “which was the fifth year” Ezekiel 1:2 evidently refer to some year already mentioned, which is now said to coincide with the fifth of Jehoiachin’s captivity. The two parts of the superscription are awkwardly connected, but neither of them can be wanted, though it is quite possible that they do not appear in their original form.

The thirtieth year might refer to some event or era from which Ezekiel reckoned. (1) As such an event the discovery of the Book of the Law and Josiah’s consequent reformation of worship (621 b.c.) already occurred to the Chaldee translator. Between this date and 592, the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity there is a period of 29 years. There is, however, no other instance of such a kind of reckoning, nor any evidence that the discovery in Josiah’s eighteenth year was ever regarded as an era. (2) That the prophet should refer to a Babylonian era is quite possible, seeing he lived in Babylonia. But no such era has been discovered. The beginning of the reign of Nabopolassar, when Babylon became independent of Assyria, is usually dated in 625; and the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity would be the thirty-third year of such an era. (3) It is possible that the prophet might refer to the year of his own age. The conjecture that Ezekiel, being a priest, would have entered upon office in his thirtieth year, and that his prophetic call coincided with this date, has little to support it, as the age at which priests might undertake office is nowhere fixed in the Law; and the reference to the year of the prophet’s age in Ezekiel 1:1 would be extremely unnatural. Neither is there much probability in the suggestion (Klostermann, Stud. u. Krit. 1877) that Ezekiel 1:1 is a fragment of a longer passage in which the prophet’s history before his call was narrated. In such a case reference to the thirtieth year of his age would certainly lose its strangeness, but such a history would be without example, as a prophet’s life always opens with his call.

the river of Chebar] Not to be identified with the Chabor (2 Kings 17:6) which falls into the Euphrates at Circesium. More probably the Chebar was some stream much further south in Babylonia proper (2 Kings 24:15; Jeremiah 29:15; Jeremiah 29:20).

heavens were opened] In his trance the prophet saw the heavens opened (Ezekiel 1:3).

visions of God] Might be visions given by God, or visions in which God was seen. The expression is probably to be taken somewhat generally, as meaning heavenly or divine visions (Ezekiel 8:3).

Verse 1. - Now; literally, and. The use of the conjunction indicates here, as in Jonah 1:1, that the narrative that follows links itself on to something that has gone before. In Exodus 1:1 and 1 Samuel 1:1 it may point to a connection with the book that precedes it. Here the sequence is subjective. We may think of Ezekiel as retracing the years of his life till he comes to the thirtieth. Then, as it were, he pulls himself up. That must be the starting point of what he has to say. Our English use of "now" is nearly equivalent to this. In the thirtieth year. I incline, following Origen, Hengstenberg, Smend, and others, to refer the date to the prophet's own life. That year in Jewish reckoning was the age of full maturity. At that age the earlier Levites (Numbers 4:23, 20, 39, 43, 47) had entered on their duties. It is probable, though no written rule is found, that it was the normal age for the functions of the priesthood. In the case of our Lord (Luke 3:23) and of the Baptist it appears to have been recognized as the starting point of a prophet's work. Jeremiah's call as a "child" (Jeremiah 1:6; the word may, however, include adult manhood, as in 1 Samuel 30:17; 1 Kings 3:7) was obviously exceptional. Other theories are:

(1) That the years are reckoned from the era of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar ( B.C. 625), dating from his throwing off the sovereignty of Assyria, and giving here the date B.C. 595 (Michaelis, Rosenmuller, Ewald, and others); but against this it may be urged

(a) that there is no evidence that that era was in use in Ezekiel's time, and

(b) that he nowhere else uses a double historical chronology.

(2) That the years are reckoned from the discovery of the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:14), as a turning point or era in the history of Judah (Targum, Theodoret, Jerome, Havernick), which would again bring us to B.C. 595. This view is, however, open to the same objections as (1). We have no proof that the Jews ever reckoned from that event, and Ezekiel did not want, here or elsewhere, another point to reckon from, as far as his people's history was concerned, than the captivity of Jehoiachin. In the fourth month. Both here and in ver. 2 the months are probably reckoned from Abib, or Nisan, the month of the Passover, with which the Jewish year began (Exodus 12:2; Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7), so that the fourth month, known by later Jews as Tammuz, would bring us to June or July. Among the captives (literally, the captivity) by the river of Chebar. By most earlier commentators the Chebar has been identified with the Chaboras of the Greeks (now the Khabour), which rises in Upper Mesopotamia, at Ras-el-Ain, and falls into the Euphrates at Carcesium, a city which modern geographers distinguish from the Carchemish of the Old Testament. Recent critics, however (Rawlinson, Smend, and others), have urged that this was too far north to be in the "land of the Chaldeans" (ver. 3), or Babylon (2 Kings 24:16), and have suggested that the Chebar of Ezekiel is the Nahr-Malcha, or Royal Canal of Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of that king's irrigation works, to which, therefore, the name Chebar (i.e. uniting) would be appropriate. The identification of Chebar with the labor of 2 Kings 17:6, to which the ten tribes had been deported (whether, with Rawlinson, we think of that river as identical with the Chaboras, or still further north, near an affluent of the Tigris of the same name), must, for like reasons, be rejected. The two names are, indeed, spelt differently, with initial letters that do not interchange. The heavens were opened. The phrase, not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, appears in Matthew 3:16; John 1:51; Acts 7:56; Acts 10:11; Revelation 4:1. Visions of God. The words admit of three interpretations:

(1) Great, or wonderful, visions; as in the "mountains of God" (Psalm 36:6), the "cedars of God" (Psalm 80:10), the "river of God" (Psalm 65:9);

(2) visions sent from God; or

(3) actual theophanies or manifestations of the Divine glory, of these

(3) is most in harmony with what follows, here and elsewhere, on the phrase (comp. Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2; Ezekiel 43:3). Such a theophany constituted in his ease, as in that of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9), Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-14), his call to the office of a prophet. The visions may be thought of as manifested to his waking consciousness in an ecstatic state, and are thus distinguished from the dreams of sleep (comp. Joel 2:28 for the distinction between the two - "visions" belonging to the young, and "dreams" to the old). The visions of Balaam, seen in a "trance," but with his "eyes open" (Numbers 24:3, 4), and of St. Paul, "whether in the body or out of the body" he could not tell (2 Corinthians 12:2, 3), present suggestive parallels. Ezekiel 1:1The Appearance of the Glory of the Lord. - Ezekiel 1:1-3. Time and place of the same. - Ezekiel 1:1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth (month), on 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. Ezekiel 1:2. On the fifth day of the month, it was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity, Ezekiel 1:3. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Busi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.

Regarding ויהי at the beginning of a book, as e.g., in Jonah 1:1, cf. the note on Joshua 1:1. The two notices of the year in Ezekiel 1:1 and Ezekiel 1:2 are closely connected with the twofold introduction of the theophany. This is described in verse first, according to its form or phenomenal nature, and then in verses second and third, according to its intended purpose, and its effect upon the prophet. The phenomenon consisted in this, that the heavens were opened, and Ezekiel saw visions of God. The heaven opens not merely when to our eye a glimpse is disclosed of the heavenly glory of God (Calvin), but also when God manifests His glory in a manner perceptible to human sight. The latter was the case here. מראות אלהים, "visions of God," are not "visiones praestantissimae," but visions which have divine or heavenly things for their object; cf. Isaiah 6:1; 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Kings 6:17. Here it is the manifestation of Jehovah's glory described in the following verses. This was beheld by Ezekiel in the thirtieth year, which, according to verse second, was in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin. The real identity of these two dates is placed beyond doubt by the mention of the same day of the month, "on the fifth day of the month" (Ezekiel 1:2 compared with Ezekiel 1:1). The fifth year from the commencement of Jehoiachin's captivity is the year 595 b.c.; the thirtieth year, consequently, is the year 625 b.c. But the era, in accordance with which this date is reckoned, is matter of dispute, and can no longer be ascertained with certainty. To suppose, with Hengstenberg, that the reference is to the year of the prophet's own life, is forbidden by the addition "in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month," which points to an era generally recognised. In the year 625 b.c., Nabopolassar became king of Babylon, and therefore many of the older expositors have supposed that Ezekiel means the thirtieth year of the era of Nabopolassar. Nothing, however, is know of any such era. Others, as the Chaldee paraphrast and Jerome, and in modern times also Ideler, are of opinion that the thirtieth year is reckoned from the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, because in that year the book of the law was discovered, and the regeneration of public worship completed by a solemn celebration of the Passover. No trace, however, can elsewhere be pointed out of the existence of a chronology dating from these events. The Rabbins in Seder Olam assume a chronology according to the periods of the years of jubilee, and so also Hitzig; but for this supposition too all reliable proofs are wanting. At the time mentioned, Ezekiel found himself בּתוך הגּולה, "in the midst of the exiles," i.e., within the circuit of their settlements, not, in their society; for it is evident from Ezekiel 3:15 that he was alone when the theophany was imparted to him, and did not repair till afterwards to the residences of the settlers. Ezekiel 1:3. By the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldees, i.e., in Babylon or Mesopotamia. The river כּבר, to be distinguished from חבור, the river of Gosan, which flows into the Tigris, see on 2 Kings 17:6, is the Mesopotamian Chabioras, ̓Αβορρας (Strabo, xvi. 748), or Χαβώρας (Ptolem. v. 18, 3), Arab. cha equals bu equals r (Edrisi Clim. iv. p. 6, ii. p. 150, ed. Jaubert and Abulf. Mesopot. in the N. Repertor. III. p. xxiv.), which according to Edrisi takes its rise from "nearly three hundred springs," near the city Ras-el-'Ain, at the foot of the mountain range of Masius, flows through Upper Mesopotamia in a direction parallel with its two principal streams, and then, turning westward, discharges itself into the Euphrates near Kirkesion. There the hand of Jehovah came upon Ezekiel. The expression יד יי' היתה על )אל( always signifies a miraculous working of the power or omnipotence of God upon a man-the hand being the organ of power in action-by which he is placed in a condition to exert superhuman power, 1 Kings 18:46, and is the regular expression for the supernatural transportation into the state of ecstasy for the purpose of beholding and announcing (cf. 2 Kings 3:15), or undertaking, heavenly things; and so throughout Ezekiel, cf. Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 33:22; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1.

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