Ezekiel 1:23
And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Two, which covered on this side.—The excessive literalness of this translation obscures the sense, for it seems to imply that each cherub used four wings to cover his body; whereas the true meaning is that each had two wings covering his body on either side.” The other two wings of each cherub were “straight,” extended when they were in motion, but let down when at rest (Ezekiel 1:25).

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.Every one had two, which covered ... - Or, each one had two wings covering his body on either side. 23. straight—erect [Fairbairn], expanded upright.

two … two … covered … bodies—not, as it might seem, contradicting Eze 1:11. The two wings expanded upwards, though chiefly used for flying, yet up to the summit of the figure where they were parted from each other, covered the upper part of the body, while the other two wings covered the lower parts.

Under; below at a great, which is but due, distance of angels, and creatures and servants to their God, Creator, and Lord, stood these living creatures, i.e. two of each living creature, as appeareth by the phrase, one toward the other.

Straight; stretched forth, ready for motion if commanded, and with equal straightness and height, in close and affectionate union, joining in the work appointed them.

Every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies; each of the four living creatures had two other wings with which they covered their bodies; the two living creatures on the one side of the chariot, and two living creatures on the other side; so that in what position soever the prophet looked towards them, their lower wings covered them.

Bodies, here ascribed to them representatively, and, as all the rest, visionally. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other,.... A further account is here given of the wings of the living creatures, which were under the firmament: two of their wings were stretched straight upwards towards the firmament, and joined each other; See Gill on Ezekiel 1:9;

everyone had two, which covered on this side; besides the two that were carried straight upright towards heaven, they had other two, which covered their back and belly: and

everyone had two, which covered on that side, their bodies; that is, on each side of their bodies; so that there were in all six wings, as in Isaiah's vision, and in that of the Revelation of John: as their wings in general denote the swiftness and readiness of Gospel ministers to do the work of Christ, for which they exact help and assistance from above, signified by two being stretched straight upwards; see Ezekiel 1:11; so covering the several parts of their bodies with the rest shows their modesty and humility, as being ashamed of themselves and their services, when performed in the best manor; it being altogether owing to the grace of God they are what they are, have and do; they themselves being the chief of sinners, and the least of saints, in their own account.

And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. were their wings straight] “straight” is even, level, and the reference appears to be to the upper side of the wings stretched out horizontally under the firmament. It is not meant that the firmament rested on the wings or heads of the living creatures, it was over them.

the one toward the other] A repetition of the statement that the outspread wings of one creature touched those of the other creatures; see Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:11.

on this side … on that side] In these rather obscure words “this side,” “that side” do not refer to the “sides” of the individual creature, but to the positions of the different creatures, and might be rendered, “here … there,” or, “respectively … respectively.” It is doubtful, however, if the words can have this meaning. Probably the rendering should be: every one had two covering them, and every one had two covering them, even their bodies—the words “their bodies” giving a more exact definition of “covering them.” Cf. Isaiah 11:9. The statement is repeated in order to distribute it over each of the creatures, although the and before the repetition is less usual (ch. Ezekiel 4:6, Ezekiel 46:21). LXX. reads simply: every one had two, covering their bodies.Verse 23. - Under the firmament, etc. The description must be read as completing that of ver. 11. The two upper wings of the "living creatures" were not only stretched out, but they pointed to the azure canopy above them, not as sustaining it, but in the attitude of adoration. Nature, in all her life phenomena, adores the majesty of the Eternal. The 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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