Wherever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The spirit of the living creature—Not, as in the margin, “the spirit of life.” The object of Ezekiel 1:19-21 is by every repetition and variety of expression to represent “the living creatures” and “the wheels” as one, animated by one spirit, and moved by one impulse. The word is the same throughout, and there was no “spirit of life” in the wheels independent of that of the living creatures. All formed together one strange, symbolic whole.
The mention in Ezekiel 1:19-21 of the wheels being “lifted up from the earth” simultaneously with the living creatures is not in opposition to the symbolism already explained, of the wheels resting upon the earth. That was to show that God’s purposes are carried out as He wills in this world. This brings out, in addition, the perfect harmony of these purposes, whether relating to earth or to heaven.
over against them—rather, beside or in conjunction with them.
spirit of the living creature—put collectively for "the living creatures"; the cherubim. Having first viewed them separately, he next views them in the aggregate as the composite living creature in which the Spirit resided. The life intended is that connected with God, holy, spiritual life, in the plenitude of its active power.Whithersoever the spirit; either the will and inclination of the living creatures, or rather the Spirit of God which moved the living creatures, gave them motion and guided it; these angels in their ministry punctually observed both the impulse and the conduct of God’s Spirit.
Was to go: of this phrase applied to the Spirit, see Ezekiel 1:12. They went; the wheels, those inferior agents and second causes.
Thither was their spirit to go; the inclination and will of the wheels concurred with the spirit of the living creatures, so that there was a hearty accord between those superior and inferior causes, they agreed in the same design.
And the wheels were lifted up over against them: there seems to be an ellipsis here, the latter part of the speech expressed, and the former implied only; as it was in the progressive motion, so in the motion upward, they accorded, and kept the same order.
For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; one and the same spirit was in both the wheels and living creatures, and so the same inclination and motion too.
Of the living, Heb. of life, the quickening, enlivening Spirit; hence some will have the wheels to be living creatures, but without this it is enough to represent to the prophet what was the frame and course of Providence, and who did preside and manage all. An undiscerned, yet Divine, mighty, wise, just, and holy, and ever-living, Power, Spirit, and Being actuated all, and governed all, to the execution of justice on the wicked, and protection of the godly.
thither was their spirit to go; their spirits or souls being regenerated by the spirit of God, are moved and actuated by him, and readily go where that directs:
and the wheels were lifted up over against them; that is, over against the living creatures; being by their sides going where they go, and being lifted up when they are:
for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels; the same Spirit of God, which is a spirit of life, a quickening spirit, and a free spirit; which gives motion and liberty in religious exercises; that which is in the ministers of the Gospel is in the churches of God; there is but one Spirit, and ministers and members are actuated and influenced by it; see Ephesians 4:4.Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. thither was their spirit to go] Rather, the spirit, i.e. the general spirit moving the whole manifestation. The words are wanting in LXX., and are possibly an accidental repetition of those in the beginning of the verse; or they are a somewhat loose and elliptical repetition attached to “they went,” in which case they should rather be rendered, whither the spirit was to go.
spirit of the living creature] The marg. “spirit of life” is to be deleted. The “living creature” is hardly the complex being formed by the four living creatures; the four were exactly alike, and the term is used generically (Ezekiel 1:22, ch. Ezekiel 10:20) to express the kind of creature.Verse 20. - Whithersoever the spirit was to go, etc. The secret of the coincidence of the movements of the "living creatures" and of the "wheels" was found in the fact, which the prophet's intuition grasped, that the phenomena of life and law had one and the same originating source. For "the spirit of the living creature" (singular, because the four are regarded as one complex whole), the LXX., Vulgate, and Revised Version margin, give "the spirit of life," a rendering tenable in itself, but the contextual meaning of the word is in favour of the Authorized Version and the Revised Version text. 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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