Ezekiel 1:13
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
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(13) Like the appearance of lamps.—The word “and” before this phrase is not in the original, and should be omitted. The words are merely a further explanation. The cherubim were like burning coals of fire, like torches or lightnings. The word “lamps” does not refer to the material, but to the light, and whether in the Hebrew or in its Greek equivalent, is translated by torches (Nahum 2:4; John 18:3),firebrands (Judges 15:4), or lightnings (Exodus 20:18). Ezekiel could find no single word to express his meaning, and has therefore given two, that between them the idea of the fiery brilliancy may be better conveyed.

It went up and down.—“ It” refers to the fire. This indescribable fiery appearance went up and down among the living creatures, “bright” in itself, and throwing out coruscations of “lightning.”

Ezekiel 1:13-14. As for the likeness of the living creatures — Their colour, or aspect; their appearance was like burning coals — They were inflamed by the Spirit of God with a holy zeal for his glory, and with indignation against impenitent sinners. This might also be intended as a symbolical declaration, that after the long patience of God, all things now tended to vengeance, and the executing of his judgments upon the Jews; for executing which he would use these angels as ministers. And like the appearance of lamps — This probably signified, that the uprightness of the divine justice should shine forth, or be made manifest in these judgments. It went up and down among the living creatures — That is, the fire moved itself up and down. Milton’s expression, (Paradise Lost, 6:756,) is, “And careening fires between.” That is, fires which ran swiftly, and, as it were, tilted at each other: emblematical of the terrible effects of the ministry of these living creatures on the objects of divine vengeance. Out of the fire went forth lightning — Significative of the irresistible force of the divine judgments, and the terrible and sudden destruction to be produced by them. And the living creatures ran and returned as a flash of lightning — With inexpressible velocity: the swiftness of their motions every way resembled flashes of lightning. “They ran to do their work, and execute their orders,” says Henry, “and then returned to give an account of what they had done, and receive new instructions. They ran into the lower world, to do what was to be done there: and when they had done, returned as a flash of lightning, to the upper world, to the vision of God. Thus we should be in the affairs of this world: though we run into them, we must not repose in them, but our souls must presently return like lightning to God, their rest and centre.”

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.Lamps - "like the appearance of" flames. Omit the "and" before "like." The "bright flames" resembled "coals of fire."

It went up - i. e. "fire went up."

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.

He further describeth what he had more briefly spoken of Ezekiel 1:6. There you had their shape and make, here you have their colour.

The likeness; in which they were seen by the prophet.

Their appearance was like burning coals of fire; their aspect was of a fiery colour, to affright and alarm secure sinners. That God who had hitherto appeared most patient and long-suffering, now makes discoveries of himself in dreadful displeasure, which would burn, as Numbers 11:1-3, or Isaiah 10:17, or Jeremiah 4:4; that would consume their glory, and there be none to quench it, Jeremiah 7:20 21:12. God doth by his prophet here forewarn them of very great miseries coming on them, wrath as fire, as coals, and burning, every word adding weight to the. phrase. It notes also the zeal and fervent affection of these living creatures doing the will of God.

And like the appearance of lamps: it was not a furious and unbounded fire, it was as that which burneth in the lamp, limited, it should not devour but the wicked. Or it may note the care and wisdom wherewith these executions should be made, as if all were done in the light of lamps, as in dark places we take candies to light us in our work. Or it may intimate the hope for the good among the Jews, as lamps doth, Isaiah 62:1, and destruction of enemies, as Zechariah 12:6. Or if it may be interpreted by Daniel 10:6, where the lamp that burneth expresseth the Divine wisdom and love, and possibly the knowledge and love of Christ, as Revelation 1:15, it will well suit with the whole vision, and with what next follows.

It went up and down; this fire, or the burning lamp or both, went up and down, stood not still, nor was carried, but, as the Hebrew,

made itself walk up and down. It moved itself, which is too much to ascribe to creatures; God only is an unmoved mover: so it will lead our thoughts to God, who moved all these living creatures.

This fire was bright; it was not the dark and sooty fire of malice and hell. It shined, as always God’s zeal for his own glory, and as angels’ zeal for the glory of their God, doth. Or it was so bright as to discover itself in more than ordinary glory.

Out of the fire went forth lightning: with this God gave the law, Exodus 19:16; contends with enemies, 2 Samuel 22:15 Zechariah 9:14. These lightnings, as they are terrible to sinners, and strike an awe upon saints; so they tell both that there is more than ordinary of God to be looked to in them. His judgments as lightning call upon us to fear, seek, and shelter ourselves with God.

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.

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
13. A slight correction of the text after LXX. is necessary in this verse, which should read as R.V. marg., and in the midst of the living creatures was an appearance like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. The description of the living creatures themselves was finished in Ezekiel 1:12; in this verse the prophet refers to the fire that was between them (ch. Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6 seq.). The whole phenomenon represents not only a chariot on which Jehovah rides, but also a throne on which he sits and a place where he abides. Hence as in Isaiah 6 there is an altar with fire. With the idea of Isaiah, however, the prophet has combined the other that coals of fire accompany the manifestation of Jehovah (Psalm 18:13), and the altar fire gives out flashes like the lightning. This again has suggested the combinations in Revelation 6:9; Revelation 8:3-5.

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). Ezekiel 1:13The four cherubim. - Ezekiel 1:5. And out of its midst there prominently appeared a figure, consisting of four creatures, and this was their appearance: they had the figure of a man. Ezekiel 1:6. And each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Ezekiel 1:7. And their feet were upright-standing feet; and the soles of their feet like the soles of a calf, and sparkling like the appearance of shining brass. Ezekiel 1:8. And the hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and all four had faces and wings. Ezekiel 1:9. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not as they went; they went each one in the direction of his face. Ezekiel 1:10. And the form of their faces was that of a man; and on the right all four had a lion's face; and on the left all four had the face of an ox; and all four had an eagle's face. Ezekiel 1:11. And their faces and their wings were divided above, two of each uniting with one another, and two covering their bodies. Ezekiel 1:12. And they went each in the direction of his face; whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went; they turned not as they went. Ezekiel 1:13. And the likeness of the creatures resembled burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: it (the fire) went hither and thither amongst the beings; and the fire was brilliant, and from the fire came forth lightning. Ezekiel 1:14. And the beings ran hither and thither in a zig-zag manner.

From out of the fiery centre of the cloud there shows itself the form (tw%md@;, properly "resemblance," "picture") of four חיּות, animantia, "living creatures;" ζῶα, Revelation 4:6; not θηρία, "wild beasts," as Luther has incorrectly rendered it, after the animalia of the Vulgate. These four creatures had דּמוּת אדם, "the figure of a man." Agreeably to this notice, placed at the head of the description, these creatures are to be conceived as presenting the appearance of a human body in all points not otherwise specified in the following narrative. Each of them had four faces and four wings (אחת without the article stands as a distributive, and כּנפים are "pinions," as in Isaiah 6:2, not "pairs of wings"). Their feet were רגל ישׁרה, "a straight foot;" the singular stands generically, stating only the nature of the feet, without reference to their number. We have accordingly to assume in each of the four creatures two legs, as in a man. ישׁר .nam a , "straight," i.e., standing upright, not bent, as when sitting or kneeling. רגל is the whole leg, including the knee and thigh, and כּף רגל, "sole of the foot," or the under part of the leg, with which we tread on the ground. This part, not the whole leg, resembled the calf's foot, which is firmly planted on the ground. The legs sparkled like the appearance of נחשׁה קלל. The subject of נצצים is not "the כּרוּבים, which are understood to be intended under the חיּות in verse fifth" (Hitzig), for this subject is too far distant, but רגליהם, which is here construed as masculine, as in Jeremiah 13:16. In this sense are these words apprehended in Revelation 1:15, and נחשׁת there translated by χαλκολίβανος. On this word see Hengstenberg and Dsterdieck on Revelation 1:15. נח' קלל probably signifies "light," i.e., "bright, shining brass," as the old translators have rendered it. The Septuagint has ἐξαστράπτων; the Vulgate, aes candens; and the Chaldee paraphrase, aes flammans. The signification "smoothed, polished brass" (Bochart), rests upon uncertain combinations; cf. Gesen. Thes. p. 1217, and is appropriate neither here nor in Daniel 10:6, where these words precede, "His face had the appearance of lightning, and his eyes were as a flame of fire." Under the four wings were four hands on the four sides of each cherub, formed like the hands of a man. The wings accordingly rested upon the shoulders, from which the hands came forth. The Chetib וידו may certainly be defended if with Kimchi and others we punctuate וידו, and take the suffix distributively and אדם elliptically, "his (i.e., each of the four creatures) hands were (the hands of) a man;" cf. for such an ellipsis as this, passages like that in Psalm 18:34, רגלי כּאיּלות, "my feet as the (feet) of hinds;" Job 35:2, מאל, "before the righteousness of God." It is extremely probable, however, that ו is only the error of an old copyist for י, and that the Keri וידי is the correct reading, as the taking of אדם elliptically is not in keeping with the broad style of Ezekiel, which in its verbosity verges on tautology. The second half of Ezekiel 1:8 is neither, with Hvernick, to be referred to the following ninth verse, where the faces are no more spoken of, nor, with Hitzig, to be arbitrarily mutilated; but is to be taken as it stands, comprising all that has hitherto been said regarding the faces and wings, in order to append thereto in Ezekiel 1:9. the description of the use and nature of these members. The definite statement, that "the wings were joined one to another," is in Ezekiel 1:11 limited to the two upper wings, according to which we have so to conceive the matter, that the top or the upper right wing of each cherub came in contact with the top of the left wing of the neighbouring cherub. This junction presented to the eye of the seer the unity and coherence of all the four creatures as a complete whole - a חיּה, and implied, as a consequence, the harmonious action in common of the four creatures. They did not turn as they went along, but proceeded each in the direction of his face. אל, "over against his face." The meaning is thus rightly given by Kliefoth: "As they had four faces, they needed not to turn as they went, but went on as (i.e., in the direction in which) they were going, always after the face."

In the closer description of the faces in Ezekiel 1:10, the face of the man is first mentioned as that which was turned towards the seer, that of the lion to the right side, the ox to the left, and that of the eagle (behind). In naming these three, it is remarked that all the four creatures had these faces: in naming the man's face, this remark is omitted, because the word פּניהם (referring to all the four) immediately precedes. In Ezekiel 1:11, it is next remarked of the faces and wings, that they were divided above (מלמעלה, "from above," "upward"); then the direction of the wings is more precisely stated. The word וּפניהם is neither to be referred to the preceding, "and it was their faces," nor, with Hitzig, to be expunged as a gloss; but is quite in order as a statement that not only the wings but also the faces were divided above, consequently were not like Janus' faces upon one head, but the four faces were planted upon four heads and necks. In the description that follows, חוברות אישׁ is not quite distinct, and #y)i is manifestly to be taken as an abbreviation of אשּׁה אל־אחותהּ in Ezekiel 1:9 : on each were two wings joining one another, i.e., touching with their tops the tips of the wings of the cherub beside them, in accordance with which we have to conceive the wings as expanded. Two were covering their bodies, i.e., each cherub covered his body with the pair of wings that folded downwards; not, as Kliefoth supposes, that the lower wings of the one cherub covered the body of the other cherub beside him, which also is not the meaning in Ezekiel 1:23; see note on that verse. In Ezekiel 1:12, what is to be said about their movements is brought to a conclusion, while both statements are repeated in Ezekiel 1:9, and completed by the addition of the principium movens. In whatever direction the רוּח "was to go, in that direction they went;" i.e., not according to the action of their own will, but wherever the רוּח impelled them. רוּח, however, signifies not "impulse," nor, in this place, even "the wind," as the vehicle of the power of the spiritual life palpable to the senses, which produced and guided their movements, (Kliefoth), but spirit. For, according to Ezekiel 1:20, the movement of the wheels, which was in harmony with the movements of the cherubim, was not caused by the wind, but proceeded from the רוּח החיּה, i.e., from the spirit dwelling in the creature. On the contrary, there is not in the whole description, with the exception of the general statement that a tempestuous wind drove from the north the great cloud in which the theophany was enwrapped, any allusion to a means of motion palpable to the senses. In the 13th and 14th verses is described the entire impression produced by the movement of the whole appearance. וּדמוּת החיּות precedes, and is taken absolutely "as regards the form of the creatures," and corresponds to the דּמוּת ארבּע חיּות in Ezekiel 1:5, with which the description of the individual figures which appeared in the brightness of the fire was introduced. Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. היא refers to אשׁ as the principal conception. Fire, like the fire of burning coals and torches, went, moved hither and thither amongst the four creatures. This fire presented a bright appearance, and out of it came forth lightnings. The creatures, moreover, were in constant motion. רצוא, from רצא, an Aramaising form for the Hebrew רוּץ, to run. The infin. absol. stands instead of the finite verb. The conjecture of יצוא, after Genesis 8:7 (Hitzig), is inappropriate, because here we have not to think of "coming out," and no reason exists for the striking out of the words, as Hitzig proposes. The continued motion of the creatures is not in contradiction with their perpetually moving on straight before them. "They went hither and thither, and yet always in the direction of their countenances; because they had a countenance looking in the direction of every side" (Kliefoth). בּזק signifies not "lightning" ( equals בּרק), but comes from בּזק; in Syriac, "to be split," and denotes "the splitting," i.e., the zigzag course of the lightning (Kliefoth).

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