And the likeness of the firmament on the heads of the living creature was as the color of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The likeness of the firmament.—The word rendered “firmament” has undoubtedly originated, etymologically, from a verb originally signifying to beat out, as in the case of metals; but the derivative word, in its use in connection with the heavens, had wholly lost this reference, and had come to mean simply an expanse. The Hebrews do not appear to have ever entertained the classical idea of the sky as a metallic vault, the only passage seeming to indicate such a notion (Job 37:18) being capable of quite a different explanation. We are here to conceive, therefore, of that which was “stretched forth over their heads above” as a simple expanse, like the sky, as if he had said, “And above their heads was stretched forth the sky.” This expanse is not represented as supported by the cherubim, or resting upon them, and it remained undisturbed when they let down their wings (Ezekiel 1:25). It was simply “stretched forth over their heads,” at once separating them from, and yet uniting them with, the throne above. It fulfils, therefore, the complementary part to the wheels. They connected the vision with the earth; this connects it with God.
The colour of the terrible crystal—The expression “crystal” is doubtless derived from Exodus 24:10, as in turn it became the foundation for Revelation 4:6. Yet it is not here any particular crystal; the word is Merely used to convey some idea of the appearance of the expanse beneath the throne, clear as crystal, terrible in its dazzling brightness.Ezekiel 1:22-25. And the likeness — The appearance or resemblance; of the firmament — The expanse, as the word signifies. Upon the heads of the living creatures — And, of course, of the wheels connected with them; was as the colour of the terrible crystal — For splendour, purity, and solidity. All that was above these creatures and wheels was beautiful, majestic, and glorious, insomuch that none could behold it without being dazzled and astonished at it: it could not but impress the mind of every beholder with veneration, solemnity, and awe, and therefore it is said to be terrible. And under the firmament — Below, at a great distance; were their wings straight — That is, the living creatures stood with their wings stretched out, ready for motion. The one toward the other — Prepared to concur in all their motions and actings. Every one had two, which covered on this side and on that side — On the right hand and on the left. The sense seems to be the same with that of Ezekiel 1:11, denoting that two of the wings of each living creature were stretched upward, to express their readiness to obey the divine commands; and with the other two they covered their bodies: see note on Ezekiel 1:11. And when they went — Were executing the commands of God; I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters — Denoting “the terribleness of the judgments which they were to execute upon Jerusalem and the whole Jewish nation.” As the voice of the Almighty — It resembled great and dreadful thunder. The voice of speech like the noise of a host — Like the confused murmur of an army, intending the army of the Babylonians. All these noises signified that the commands which God had given, or was now giving, to these ministering spirits, were of a dreadful nature. When they stood — When they presented themselves before God, having performed their office; they let down their wings — Put themselves in a posture of hearkening to God’s voice, and as it were quietly waited to receive his commands. And there was a voice, &c., when they stood — The Vulgate seems to give the sense of this verse more exactly, thus: Cum fieret vox-super caput eorum, stabant et submittebant alas suas: when there was a voice over their heads they stood, &c, namely, in an attentive posture.
terrible crystal—dazzling the spectator by its brightness.The likeness; the appearance or resemblance; of which word before, Ezekiel 1:13,16.
The firmament: the living creatures, the wheels, and these upon the earth, our prophet had seen and mentioned; now he speaks of the firmament, which must be supposed to be stretched forth above the earth; as the prophet saw the one, so he saw the other. This firmament was not that we behold, it was emblematical and representative. It appeared, but much more august and wonderful than the natural.
Upon; not resting upon, but over their heads stretched out, and the Hebrew were better read, over, in this place and on this occasion.
The colour, Heb. eye, a word twice already here used, and in the same sense; the aspect, and shape or form, as Ezekiel 1:8,16.
Of the terrible crystal, for splendour, purity, and solidity: all that was above these creatures and wheels was beautiful and very majestical, as indeed it was meet it should be; and it is therefore called terrible, because it impresseth a veneration upon the mind of the beholders, it dazzleth the eye, and overpowereth it: the same word is used concerning the name of God, holy and reverend, Psalm 99:3 111:9. Genesis 1:8, Psalm 150:1; and this visionary one was "over the heads of the living creatures"; which shows that they could not be angels, for those have their habitation in the third heaven, above the firmament; much less in hieroglyphic of the trinity of Persons, who are the three that bear record in heaven, and are not under the firmament; but ministers of the Gospel, who are on earth, and are subject to Christ, whose throne is above the firmament, Ezekiel 1:26; and who receive their commission and gifts from him, and are accountable to him. This firmament
was as the colony of the tenable crystal; crystal is a very white, transparent, precious stone, resembling ice, from whence it has its name; hence Pliny (t) thought it was no other than ice vehemently frozen; and here it is called "terrible", because exceeding clear and bright, so that there was no looking upon it, without the eyes being dazzled with the glory of it. The sky is called a molten looking glass, in which the glory of God, and his handiwork, may be seen, Job 37:18; and as the throne of Christ was over this crystal firmament, it shows that, though he is in heaven, he sees all that is done on earth, and in his churches, and by his ministers; and the saints also see him by faith, and through the glass of the Gospel: it is only a crystal firmament that is between them,
stretched forth over their heads above; that is, over the heads of the living creatures, as before; said to be stretched out, in allusion to its name, an expanse, as before observed.And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. And the likeness of the firmament] Rather: and there was a likeness over the heads of the living creature (of) a firmament. The term “firmament” has come from the LXX. (stereôma) through the Vulgate. The verb is used of the creation of the earth, Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Psalm 136:6, and once, Job 37:18, of the creation of the heavens; and the noun is always used of the heavens. In the above passages LXX. renders “make strong,” and the noun “firmament.” The word “firmament” occurs only in Genesis 1; Ezekiel 1; Ezekiel 10:1; Psalm 19:1; Psalm 150:1; Daniel 12:3.
the terrible crystal] Cf. Exodus 24:10, “and they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a pavework of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness.” In Revelation 4, which is largely indebted to Ezekiel 1, the crystal firmament here becomes “a sea of glass like unto crystal” (Ezekiel 1:6). The word “terrible” is wanting in LXX., which reads also as a firmament in the first clause.
22–28. The Firmament, and Throne, and Glory of God
Over the heads and outstretched wings of the four living creatures there appeared a firmament like crystal (Ezekiel 1:22-25); and above the firmament an appearance as of a throne, like a sapphire stone; and upon the throne the appearance of a man (Ezekiel 1:26). From his loins upwards he had the appearance of glancing amber (electrum), and from his loins downwards of fire; and there was a splendour around him like that of the rainbow in the day of rain (Ezekiel 1:25-28).Verse 22. - And the likeness of the firmament, etc. The word is the same as that in Genesis 1, passim; Psalm 19:1; cf. 1; Daniel 12:3. It meets us again in vers. 23, 25, 26, and in 10:1, but does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament. What met the prophet's eye was the expanse, the "body of heaven in its clearness" (Exodus 24:10), the deep intense blue of an Eastern sky. Like the colour of the terrible crystal, etc. The Hebrew noun is not found elsewhere. Its primary meaning, like that of the Greek κρύσταλλος, is that of "cold," and I incline therefore to the margin of the Revised Version, "ice." Rock crystal, seen, as it is, in small masses, and in its pure colourless transparency, hardly suggests the idea of terror; but the intense brightness of masses of ice, as shining in the morning sun, might well make that impression. Had Ezekiel seen the glories of a mountain throne of ice as he looked up, on his nay from Palestine to Chaldea, at the heights of Lebanon, or Hermon, and thought of them as the fitting symbol of the throne of God? We note, in this connection, the use of "terrible" in Job 37:22 (see note on ver. 4). 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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