Ezekiel 1:17
When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Upon their four sides—i.e., forwards or backwards upon the one wheel, and to the right or the left upon the other. Four directions are considered throughout the vision as representing all directions, just as elsewhere the four winds represent all winds, and the four corners of the earth the whole earth.

Ezekiel 1:17-18. When they went — Namely, the wheels; they went upon their four sides — The wheels being supposed spherical as a globe, by an exact framing of two wheels one in the other, the four semicircles, which were in two whole wheels, may well be taken for these four sides on which these wheels moved, and such a wheel will readily be turned to all points of the compass. An expressive emblem this of that divine providence which extends alike easily to every part and thing; and, like a wheel or globe, has no beginning, ending, or separation, but is a circumference including the whole of things, and equally acts more or less in every place and part. And they turned, or returned, not when they went — That is, they never returned, or went backward, till they came to the end of their course; but proceeded on in one straight course and unbent line of direction. So firm and sure are the methods, so unalterable and constant the purposes of God, and so invariable the obedience and observance of holy angels. So subject to the will of God are all second causes, and so surely does the Divine Providence always accomplish its ends. Thus God speaks of his word and decree, Isaiah 55:11 : It shall not return unto me void, but shall accomplish that which I please. To return by the way that he went, is a proverbial speech, signifying a man’s missing his aim, or not accomplishing his designs: see 1 Kings 13:9; 2 Kings 19:33. As for their rings, or felloes — Namely, the circumference of the wheels; they were so high that they were dreadful — Their circuit was so vast as to impress a fear on the beholder. This implied the vast compass of providence, which, as we read, Wis 8:1, reacheth from one end to another mightily, or, as St. Paul expresses it, the height and depth both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable his judgments are, and his ways past finding out, Romans 11:33. And their wings were full of eyes round about them four — That is, every one of the four wheels; and so were also the living creatures themselves: see Ezekiel 10:12, to signify the great wisdom and foresight which direct all the dispensations of Divine Providence. How fitly do the wheels, their motion, their height, their eyes, and the form, appearance, motions, wings, and eyes of the living creatures express the height and depth, the unsearchableness, wisdom, and vigilance of the Divine Providence!

1:15-25 Providence, represented by the wheels, produces changes. Sometimes one spoke of the wheel is uppermost, sometimes another; but the motion of the wheel on its own axletree is regular and steady. We need not despond in adversity; the wheels are turning round and will raise us in due time, while those who presume in prosperity know not how soon they may be cast down. The wheel is near the living creatures; the angels are employed as ministers of God's providence. The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; the same wisdom, power, and holiness of God, that guide and govern the angels, by them order all events in this lower world. The wheel had four faces, denoting that the providence of God exerts itself in all parts. Look every way upon the wheel of providence, it has a face toward you. Their appearance and work were as a wheel in the middle of a wheel. The disposals of Providence seem to us dark, perplexed, and unaccountable, yet are all wisely ordered for the best. The motion of these wheels was steady, regular, and constant. They went as the Spirit directed, therefore returned not. We should not have to undo that by repentance which we have done amiss, if we followed the guidance of the Spirit. The rings, or rims of the wheels were so vast, that when put in motion the prophet was afraid to look upon them. The consideration of the height and depth of God's counsel should awe us. They were full of eyes round about. The motions of Providence are all directed by infinite Wisdom. All events are determined by the eyes of the Lord, which are in every place beholding the evil and the good; for there is no such thing as chance or fortune. The firmament above was a crystal, glorious, but terribly so. That which we take to be a dark cloud, is to God clear as crystal, through which he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth. When the angels had roused a careless world, they let down their wings, that God's voice might be plainly heard. The voice of Providence is to open men's ears to the voice of the word. Sounds on earth should awaken our attention to the voice from heaven; for how shall we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaks from thence.Upon their four sides - i. e. straight in the direction toward which their faces looked. Since the four quarters express all directions, the construction of the living creatures was such that they could move in each direction alike. 17. went upon their four sides—Those faces or sides of the four wheels moved which answered to the direction in which the cherubim desired to move; while the transverse circles in each of the four composite wheels remained suspended from the ground, so as not to impede the movements of the others. When they went; the living creatures; indeed the wheels moved according to the motion of the living creatures, but it will as well agree with the truth, as it better agrees with the grammar of the words, to say this;

they, i.e. the wheels.

They went upon their four sides; the wheels being supposed spherical or round every way as a globe, by an exact and curious framing of two wheels one in the other, the four semicircles which are in two whole wheels may be well taken for these four sides on which these wheels do move, and such a wheel will readily be turned to all points of the compass, as a ball on a billiard table.

They turned not when they went; they needed not go back to turn, as we see other chariots or coaches must do, putting back somewhat to alter their course; or, returned not till they came to their journey’s end; or, nothing could divert them, or put them out of their course. So firm and sure are the methods, so unalterable and constant the purposes, of God, and so invariable the obedience and observance of holy angels; so subject to the just sovereign will of God are all second causes.

When they went, they went upon their four sides,.... On either of their crossing rings, as they were directed by the living creatures, at whose side they stood:

and they returned not when they went; they had no need to turn about when they were to go east, west, north, or south, as wheels usually do; but they turned upon the crossing ring, which was towards either of the four points. This denotes the perseverance of the churches, and the true members thereof, in faith and practice; they do not turn back, nor look back, but go right on, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in all his, ways and ordinances.

When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. they turned not when they went] Of course they ran round on their axle, but each wheel was of such a kind that it had a rim facing all four directions, and could run in any direction. On their four sides should rather be, toward.

Verse 17. - When they went, etc. The meaning seems to be that the relative position of the wheels and the living creatures was not altered by motion. On "they turned not," see note on ver. 9. All suggests the idea of orderly and harmonious working. Ezekiel 1:17The four wheels beside the cherubim. - Ezekiel 1:15. And I saw the creatures, and, lo, there was a wheel upon the earth beside the creatures, towards their four fronts. Ezekiel 1:16. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like the appearance of the chrysolite; and all four had one kind of figure: and their appearance and their work was as if one wheel were within the other. Ezekiel 1:17. Towards their four sides they went when they moved: they turned not as they went. Ezekiel 1:18. And their felloes, they were high and terrible; and their felloes were full of eyes round about in all the four. Ezekiel 1:19. And when the creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the creatures raised themselves up from the earth, the wheels also raised themselves. Ezekiel 1:20. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went in the direction in which the spirit was to go; and the wheels raised themselves beside them: for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. Ezekiel 1:21. When the former moved, the latter moved also; when the former stood, the latter stood; and when the former raised themselves from the ground, the wheels raised themselves beside them: for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. - The words, "and I saw the creatures," prepare the way for the transition to the new object which presented itself in these creatures to the eye of the seer. By the side of these creatures upon the ground he sees a wheel, and that at the four fronts, or front faces of the creatures. The singular suffix in לארבּעת פּניו can neither be referred, with Rosenmller, to the chariot, which is not mentioned at all, nor, with Hitzig, to the preposition אצל, nor, with Hvernick, Maurer, and Kliefoth, to אופן, and so be understood as if every wheel looked towards four sides, because a second wheel was inserted in it at right angles. This meaning is not to be found in the words. The suffix refers ad sensum to חיּות (Ewald), or, to express it more correctly, to the figure of the cherubim with its four faces turned to the front, conceived as a unity - as one creature (החיּה, Ezekiel 1:22). Accordingly, we have so to represent the matter, that by the side of the four cherubim, namely, beside his front face, a wheel was to be seen upon the earth. Ezekiel then saw four wheels, one on each front of a cherub, and therefore immediately speaks in Ezekiel 1:16 of wheels (in the plural). In this verse מראה is adspectus, and מעשׂה "work;" i.e., both statements employing the term "construction," although in the first hemistich only the appearance, in the second only the construction, of the wheels is described. תּרשׁישׁ is a chrysolite of the ancients, the topaz of the moderns, - a stone having the lustre of gold. The construction of the wheels was as if one wheel were within a wheel, i.e., as if in the wheel a second were inserted at right angles, so that without being turned it could go towards all the four sides. גּבּיהן, in Ezekiel 1:18, stands absolutely. "As regards their felloes," they possessed height and terribleness-the latter because they were full of eyes all round. Hitzig arbitrarily understands גּבהּ of the upper sides; and יראה, after the Arabic, of the under side, or that which lies towards the back. The movement of the wheels completely followed the movement of the creatures (Ezekiel 1:19-21), because the spirit of the creature was in the wheels. החיּה, in Ezekiel 1:20 and Ezekiel 1:21, is not the "principle of life" (Hvernick), but the cherubic creatures conceived as a unity, as in Ezekiel 1:22, where the meaning is undoubted. The sense is: the wheels were, in their motion and rest, completely bound by the movements and rest of the creatures, because the spirit which ruled in them was also in the wheels, and regulated their going, standing, and rising upwards. By the רוּח the wheels are bound in one with the cherub-figures, but not by means of a chariot, to or upon which the cherubim were attached.
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