Ezekiel 1:26
And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(26) As the appearance of a sapphire stone.—Comp. Exodus 24:10, where the same description is applied to “the pavement under His feet” as here and in Ezekiel 10:1 to his throne, in either case indicating the intense clearness of the heavenly blue. The constant repetition of the words “likeness” and “appearance” is very striking throughout this vision. They occur five times in this verse, and four times in each of the two following. The prophet thus labours to make it plain that what he saw was not the realities of existing things, but certain symbolic representations given for the purpose of producing their fitting impression upon the mind. It is especially important to remember this in connection with “the likeness as the appearance of a man” “upon the likeness of the throne.” It was not the Divine Being Himself whom Ezekiel saw, but certain appearances to impress upon him the character and attributes of Him whom “no man hath seen, nor can see.”

The appearance of a man—As in the case of the cherubim the form of a man, as the highest known in nature, was made the groundwork to which all their peculiarities were attached, so here, in rising to something still higher, the same basis must be retained in the impossibility of anything better; only that which is added is more vague, as being incapable of any definite description, Yet possibly there may be even her a hint at the great truth of the incarnation. (Comp. Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13.)

Ezekiel 1:26-27. Above the firmament was the likeness of a throne — Namely, the throne of God. God having given his prophet emblems of his attendants and ministers, while he was coming forth in the chariot of his power and justice, to execute judgment, and of the mysterious dispensations of his providence toward his church and the world, he now proceeds to discover to him some glimpses of his divine glory. The prophet does not say that he saw a real throne, but only the likeness of a throne, emblematical, doubtless, of God’s sovereign power and dominion over all creatures, whether in heaven or on earth. God is described in Scripture as dwelling in light, and clothing himself with it. So the throne of God is here described as made up of light resembling the colours and brightness of a sapphire-stone. And upon the likeness of the throne, as the appearance of a man — “When Moses and the elders saw the God of Israel, Exodus 24:8, or the glory of God, as the Targum explains it, they saw no determinate figure, but an inconceivably resplendent brightness, that they might not think God could be represented by any image. But in this vision the form and shape of a man are directly represented to Ezekiel, as a prelude or figure of the incarnation.” This, indeed, was doubtless the ever- blessed and only-begotten Son of God, who was in due time to assume human nature, and in that nature to be the visible image and representative of his invisible Father, whom no man hath seen, or can see, 1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18. He had appeared to Isaiah in glory, to constitute him a prophet, and he now appears to Ezekiel for the same purpose: see note on Isaiah 6:1, and compare John 12:37-41. He appears also as the Lawgiver and King of Israel, to vindicate his own honour, punish his rebellious subjects, and give warning by his prophet, ere he executed his just but severe indignation. And I saw as the colour of amber — See note on Ezekiel 1:4. As the appearance of fire — Said to be a fire infolding itself, Ezekiel 1:4. Round about within it — Namely, within the amber, to signify that Christ’s executing of judgment outwardly proceeded from his zeal for the glory of God and his indignation against sin. From the appearance of his loins even upward — Denoting, as some interpret it, his divine nature: and from the appearance of his loins even downward — Signifying his human nature. I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire — The general sense seems to be, that Christ, considered in his whole person, as God and man, is full of indignation against sin, and sinners continuing in sin, and is glorious in both his natures, and in all his proceedings: see 2 Thessalonians 1:8. And it had brightness round about — Majesty, justice, and unstained holiness shine round about him. In this colour does Christ appear to the Jews; he that would have visited them, clothed with the garments of salvation, now put on the garments of vengeance, expressed by such metaphors.

1:26-28 The eternal Son, the second Person in the Trinity, who afterwards took the human nature, is here denoted. The first thing observed was a throne. It is a throne of glory, a throne of grace, a throne of triumph, a throne of government, a throne of judgment. It is good news to men, that the throne above the firmament is filled with One who appears, even there, in the likeness of a man. The throne is surrounded with a rainbow, the well-known emblem of the covenant, representing God's mercy and covenanted love to his people. The fire of God's wrath was breaking out against Jerusalem, but bounds should be set to it; he would look upon the bow, and remember the covenant. All the prophet saw was only to prepare him for what he was to hear. When he fell on his face, he heard the voice of One that spake. God delights to teach the humble. Let sinners, then, humble themselves before him. And let believers think upon his glory, that they may be gradually changed into his image by the Spirit of the Lord.Sapphire - Clear heavenly blue.

The appearance of a man - Deeply significant is the form of this manifestation. Here is no angel conveying God's message to man, but the glory of the Lord Himself. We recognize in this vision the prophetic annunciation of the Holy Incarnation. We are told little of the extent to which the human form was made evident to the prophet. For the vision was rather to the mind than to the bodily eye, and even inspired language was inadequate to convey to the hearer the glory which eye hath not seen or ear heard, and which only by special revelation it hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.

26. The Godhead appears in the likeness of enthroned humanity, as in Ex 24:10. Besides the "paved work of a sapphire stone, as it were the body of heaven in clearness," there, we have here the "throne," and God "as a man," with the "appearance of fire round about." This last was a prelude of the incarnation of Messiah, but in His character as Saviour and as Judge (Re 19:11-16). The azure sapphire answers to the color of the sky. As others are called "sons of God," but He "the Son of God," so others are called "sons of man" (Eze 2:1, 3), but He "the Son of man" (Mt 16:13), being the embodied representative of humanity and the whole human race; as, on the other hand, He is the representative of "the fulness of the Godhead" (Col 2:9). While the cherubim are movable, the throne above, and Jehovah who moves them, are firmly fixed. It is good news to man, that the throne above is filled by One who even there appears as "a man." Above the firmament; the crystalline firmament which appeared in the vision, not the vast expanse or firmament in which are sun, moon, and stars.

That was over their heads; heads of the living creatures which moved the wheels, and stood by the chariot.

Was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; in view appeared a sapphire stone, like or in likeness of a throne; so the Hebrew, though we transpose the words somewhat in our version: the sapphire speaks splendour and preciousness; the throne speaks the authority and power of him who sitteth thereon.

As the appearance of a man; Christ, God-man, who here appears as King and Judge to vindicate his own honour, to punish rebels, and to give warning by his prophet ere he execute his just but severe indignation.

And above the firmament that was over their heads,.... The heads of the living creatures:

was the likeness of a throne; a symbol of Christ's kingly power and authority, who is the person that sat upon it; as he is God, he is on the same throne with his Father; as Mediator, he is King of saints, and was so from eternity; he exercised his office before his incarnation; and as he was prophesied of as a King, he came as one, though little known, and his kingdom was not with observation; upon his ascension he was declared Lord and Christ; and will appear on a throne, when he shall come to judge the world, and particularly in the New Jerusalem church state: and this throne was

as the appearance of a sapphire stone; which is a stone very clear and transparent; very hard, solid, and durable; very precious and excellent; and of an azure sky colour; denoting the clear manifestation of Christ's righteous judgments, in the ministration of his kingly office; the duration of his government; the excellency of it; and its heavenly nature and original:

and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness of the appearance of a man above upon it; this was no other than Christ; who, though he was not really man before his incarnation, yet often appeared in the form of a man; and, through his incarnation, he was found in fashion as a man; and was really man, though not a mere man; nor was the person here designed; for that was the appearance and likeness of the glory of the Lord, Ezekiel 1:28; and this shows, that when Christ, as man, had done his work, he should sit down upon his throne above the firmament, being made higher than the heavens,

And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
26. The rendering of LXX. makes the sapphire stone different from the throne, the former being the ground on which the throne was placed. A special pavement, however, above the firmament, on which the throne was set is scarcely to be expected and is hardly the meaning of Exodus 24:10. Comp. Ezekiel 10:1.

26–28. The throne and glory of Him who sat on it

Above the firmament was the appearance of a throne, like a sapphire stone; and on the throne the appearance of one sitting, from his loins upwards like amber, and from his loins downwards like fire. And round about him was a glory like the rainbow in the day of rain.

Verse 26. - The likeness of a throne. The greatest glory was kept to the last. High above the azure expanse was the likeness of a throne (we note the constant recurrence of the word "likeness," nine times in this one chapter, as indicating Ezekiel's consciousness of the vision character of what he saw). The idea of the throne of the great King first appears in 1 Kings 22:19, is frequent in the Psalms (Psalm 9:4, 7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 45:6), notably in Isaiah 6:1. In the visions of St John (Revelation 1:4, and passim) it is the dominant, central object throughout. As the appearance of a sapphire stone. The intense blue of the sapphire has made it in all ages the natural symbol of a heavenly purity. Ezekiel's vision reproduces that of Exodus 24:10. It appears among the gems of the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18; Exodus 39:11) and in the "foundations" of Revelation 21:19. The description of the sapphire given by Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:9), as "never transparent, and refulgent with spots of gold," suggests lapis lazuli. As used in the Old Testament, however, the word probably means the sapphire of modern jewellery (Braun, 'De Vest. Sacerd.,' p. 630, edit. 1680). A likeness as of the appearance of a man. The throne, the symbol of the sovereignty of God over the "living creatures" and the "wheels," over the forces and the laws which they represented, is not empty. There was "a likeness as of the appearance" (we note again the accumulation of words intended to guard against the thought that what was seen was more than an approximate symbolism) "of a man." In that likeness there was the witness that we can only think of God by reasoning upward from all that is highest in our conceptions of human greatness and goodness, and thinking of them as free from their present limitations. Man's highest thought of God is that it is "a face like his face that receives him." He finds a humanity in the Godhead. It is noticeable that this preluding anticipation of the thought of the Incarnation, not recognized in the vision of Moses (Exodus 24:10) or Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), appears prominently in the two prophets of the exile - here and in the memorable Messianic vision of "One like unto the ['a,' Revised Version] Son of man" in Daniel 7:13. What might have been perilously anthropomorphic in the early stages of the growth of Israel, when men tended to identify the symbol with the thing symbolized, was now made subservient to the truth which underlies even anthropomorphic thought (comp. Revelation 1:13). Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' 4:20. 10), it may be noted, dwells on the fact that Ezekiel uses the words, "'haec visio similitudmis gloriae Domini,' ne quis putaret forte eum in his proprie vidisse Deum." Ezekiel 1:26The throne of Jehovah. - Ezekiel 1:22. And over the heads of the creature there appeared an expanse like the appearance of the terrible crystal, stretched out over their heads above. Ezekiel 1:23. And under the expanse were their wings, extended straight one towards another: each had two wings, covering to these, and each two (wings), covering to those, their bodies. Ezekiel 1:24. And I heard the sound of their wings, as the sound of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, as they went: a loud rushing like the clamour of a camp: when they stood, they let down their wings. Ezekiel 1:25. And there came a voice from above the expanse which was above their heads; when they stood, they let their wings sink down. Ezekiel 1:26. Over the expanse above their heads was to be seen, like a sapphire stone, the figure of a throne: and over the figure of the throne was a figure resembling a man above it. Ezekiel 1:27. And I saw like the appearance of glowing brass, like the appearance of fire within the same round about; from the appearance of his loins upwards, and from the appearance of his loins downwards, I saw as of the appearance of fire, and a shining light was round about it. Ezekiel 1:28. Like the appearance of the bow, which is in the clouds in the day of rain, was the appearance of the shining light round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah. And I saw it, and fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one that spake. - Above, over the heads of the figures of the cherubim, Ezekiel sees something like the firmament of heaven (Ezekiel 1:22.), and hears from above this canopy a voice, which re-echoes in the rushing of the wings of the cherubim, and determines the movement as well as the standing still of these creatures. The first sentence of Ezekiel 1:22 literally signifies: "And a likeness was over the heads of the creature - a canopy, as it were, stretched out." רקיע is not the genitive after דּמוּת, but an explanatory apposition to it, and before רקיע; neither has כּ fallen out (as Hitzig supposes), nor is it to be supplied. For דּמוּת denotes not any definite likeness, with which another could be compared, but, properly, similitudo, and is employed by Ezekiel in the sense of "something like." רקיע, without the article, does not mean the firmament of heaven, but any expanse, the appearance of which is first described as resembling the firmament by the words כּעין הקּרח. It is not the firmament of heaven which Ezekiel sees above the heads of the cherubim, but an expanse resembling it, which has the shining appearance of a fear-inspiring crystal. נורא, used of crystal, in so far as the appearance of this glittering mass dazzles the eyes, and assures terror, as in Judges 13:6, of the look of the angel; and in Job 37:22, of the divine majesty. The description is based upon Exodus 24:10, and the similitude of the crystal has passed over to the Apocalypse, Revelation 4:6. Under the canopy were the wings of the cherubim, ישׁרות, standing straight, i.e., spread out in a horizontal direction, so that they appeared to support the canopy. אשּׁה אל־אחותה is not, with Jerome and others, to be referred to the cherubim (החיּה), but to כּנפיהם, as in Ezekiel 1:9. The לאישׁ which follows does refer, on the contrary, to the cherub, and literally signifies, "To each were two wings, covering, namely, to these and those, their bodies." להנּה corresponds to לאישׁ, in a manner analogous to לאחת להם in Ezekiel 1:6. By the repetition of the להנּה, "to these and those," the four cherubim are divided into two pairs, standing opposite to one another. That this statement contradicts, as Hitzig asserts, the first half of the verse, is by no means evident. If the two creatures on each side covered their bodies with the two wings, then two other wings could very easily be so extended under the canopy that the tops of the one should touch those of the other. As the creatures moved, Ezekiel hears the sound, i.e., the rustling of their wings, like the roaring of mighty billows. This is strengthened by the second comparison, "like the voice of the Almighty," i.e., resembling thunder, cf. Ezekiel 10:5. The קול המלּה that follows still depends on אשׁמע. המלּה, which occurs only here and in Jeremiah 11:6, is probably synonymous with המון "roaring," "noise," "tumult." This rushing sound, however, was heard only when the creatures were in motion; for when they stood, they allowed their wings to fall down. This, of course, applies only to the upper wings, as the under ones, which covered the body, hung downwards, or were let down. From this it clearly appears that the upper wings neither supported nor bore up the canopy over their heads, but only were so extended, when the cherubim were in motion, that they touched the canopy. In Ezekiel 1:25 is also mentioned whence the loud sound came, which was heard, during the moving of the wings, from above the canopy, consequently from him who was placed above it, so that the creatures, always after this voice resounded, went on or stood still, i.e., put themselves in motion, or remained without moving, according to its command.

With the repetition of the last clause of Ezekiel 1:24 this subject is concluded in Ezekiel 1:25. Over or above upon the firmament was to be seen, like a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne, on which sat one in the form of a man - i.e., Jehovah appeared in human form, as in Daniel 7:9. Upon this was poured out a fiery, shining light, like glowing brass (עין חשׁמל, as in Ezekiel 1:4) and like fire, בּית־להּ סביב, "within it round about" (מבּית equals בּית, "within," and להּ, pointing back to דּמוּת כּסּא). This appears to be the simplest explanation of these obscure words. They are rendered differently by Hitzig, who translates them: "like fire which has a covering round about it, i.e., like fire which is enclosed, whose shining contrasts so much the more brightly on account of the dark surrounding." But, to say nothing of the change which would then be necessary of בּית into בּית, this meaning seems very far-fetched, and cannot be accepted for this reason alone, that מראה אשׁ, neither in the following hemistich (Ezekiel 1:27) nor in Ezekiel 8:2, has any such or similar strengthening addition. The appearance above shows, as the centre of the cloud (Ezekiel 1:4), a fiery gleam of light, only there is to be perceived upon the throne a figure resembling a man, fiery-looking from the loins upwards and downwards, and round about the figure, or rather round the throne, a shining light (נגהּ, cf. Ezekiel 1:4), like the rainbow in the clouds, cf. Revelation 4:3. This הוּא, Ezekiel 1:28, does not refer to הנּגהּ, but to the whole appearance of him who was enthroned - the covering of light included, but throne and cherubim (Ezekiel 10:4, Ezekiel 10:19) excluded (Hitzig)] was the appearance of the likeness of Jehovah's glory. With these words closes the description of the vision. The following clause, "And I saw, etc.," forms the transition to the word of Jehovah, which follows on the second chapter, and which summoned Ezekiel to become a prophet to Israel. Before we pass, however, to an explanation of this word, we must endeavour to form to ourselves a clear conception of the significance of this theophany.

For its full understanding we have first of all to keep in view that it was imparted to Ezekiel not merely on his being called to the office of prophet, but was again repeated three times - namely, in Ezekiel 3:22., where he was commissioned to predict symbolically the impending siege of Jerusalem; Ezekiel 8:4., when he is transported in spirit to the temple-court at Jerusalem for the purpose of beholding the abominations of the idol-worship practised by the people, and to announce the judgment which, in consequence of these abominations, was to burst upon the city and the temple, in which it is shown to him how the glory of the Lord abandons, first the temple and thereafter the city also; and in Ezekiel 43:1., in which is shown to him the filling of the new temple with the glory of the Lord, to swell for ever among the children of Israel. In all three passages it is expressly testified that the divine appearance was like the first which he witnessed on the occasion of his call. From this Kliefoth has drawn the right conclusion, that the theophany in Ezekiel 1:4. bears a relation not to the call only, but to the whole prophetic work of Ezekiel: "We may not say that God so appears to Ezekiel at a later time, because He so appeared to him at his call; but we must say, conversely, that because God wills and must so appear to Ezekiel at a later time while engaged in his prophetic vocation, therefore He also appears to him in this form already at his call." The intention, however, with which God so appears to him is distinctly contained in the two last passages, Ezekiel 8-11 and Ezekiel 43:"God withdraws in a visible manner from the temple and Jerusalem, which are devoted to destruction on account of the sin of the people: in a visible manner God enters into the new temple of the future; and because the whole of what Ezekiel was inspired to foretell was comprehended in these two things - the destruction of the existing temple and city, and the raising up of a new and a better; - because the whole of his prophetic vocation had its fulfilment in these, therefore God appears to Ezekiel on his call to be a prophet in the same form as that in which He departs from the ancient temple and Jerusalem, in order to their destruction, and in which He enters into the new edifice in order to make it a temple. The form of the theophany, therefore, is what it is in Ezekiel 1:4., because its purpose was to show and announce to the prophet, on the one side the destruction of the temple, and on the other its restoration and glorification." These remarks are quite correct, only the significance of the theophany itself is not thereby made clear. If it is clear from the purpose indicated why God here has the cherubim with Him, while on the occasion of other appearances (e.g., Daniel 7:9; Isaiah 6:1) He is without cherubim; as the cherubim here have no other significance than what their figures have in the tabernacle, viz., that God has there His dwelling-place, the seat of His gracious presence; yet this does not satisfactorily explain either the special marks by which the cherubim of Ezekiel are distinguished from those in the tabernacle and in Solomon's temple, or the other attributes of the theophany. Kliefoth, moreover, does not misapprehend those diversities in the figures of the cherubim, and finds indicated therein the intention of causing it distinctly to appear that it is the one and same Jehovah, enthroned amid the cherubim, who destroys the temple, and who again uprears it. Because Ezekiel was called to predict both events, he therefore thinks there must be excluded, on the one hand, such attributes in the form of the manifestation as would be out of harmony with the different aims of the theophany; while, on the other, those which are important for the different aims must be combined and comprehended in one form, that this one form may be appropriate to all the manifestations of the theophany. It could not therefore have in it the ark of the covenant and the mercy-seat; because, although these would probably have been appropriate to the manifestation for the destruction of the old temple (Ezekiel 8:1.), they would not have been in keeping with that for entering into the new temple. Instead of this, it must show the living God Himself upon the throne among "the living creatures;" because it belongs to the new and glorious existence of the temple of the future, that it should have Jehovah Himself dwelling within it in a visible form.

From this, too, may be explained the great fulness of the attributes, which are divisible into three classes: 1. Those which relate to the manifestation of God for the destruction of Jerusalem; 2. Those which relate to the manifestation of God for entering into the new temple; and, 3. Those which serve both objects in common. To the last class belongs everything which is essential to the manifestation of God in itself, e.g., the visibility of God in general, the presence of the cherubim in itself, and so on: to the first class all the signs that indicate wrath and judgment, consequently, first, the coming from the north, especially the fire, the lightnings, in which God appears as He who is coming to judgment; but to the second, besides the rainbow and the appearance of God in human form, especially the wheels and the fourfold manifestation in the cherubim and wheels. For the new temple does not represent the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel, but the economy of salvation founded by Christ at His appearing, to which they belong as essential tokens; to be founded, on the one hand, by God's own coming and dwelling upon the earth; on the other, to be of an oecumenic character, in opposition to the particularities and local nature of the previous ancient dispensation of salvation. God appears bodily, in human form; lowers down to earth the canopy on which His throne is seated; the cherubim, which indicate God's gracious presence with His people, appear not merely in symbol, but in living reality, plant their feet upon the ground, while each cherub has at his side a wheel, which moves, not in the air, but only upon the earth. By this it is shown that God Himself is to descend to the earth, to walk and to dwell visibly among His people; while the oecumenic character of the new economy of salvation, for the establishment of which God is to visit the earth, is represented in the fourfold form of the cherubim and wheels. The number four - the sign of the oecumenicity which is to come, and the symbol of its being spread abroad into all the world - is assigned to the cherubim and wheels, to portray the spreading abroad of the new kingdom of God over the whole earth. But how much soever that is true and striking this attempt at explanation may contain in details, it does not touch the heart of the subject, and is not free from bold combinations. The correctness of the assumption, that in the theophany attributes of an opposite kind are united, namely, such as should refer only to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, and such as relate only to the foundation and nature of the new economy of salvation, is beset with well-founded doubts. Why, on such a hypothesis, should the form of the theophany remain the same throughout in all three or four cases? This question, which lies on the surface, is not satisfactorily answered by the remark that Ezekiel had to predict not only the destruction of the old, but also the foundation of a new and much more glorious kingdom of God. For not only would this end, but also the object of showing that it is the same God who is to accomplish both, have been fully attained if the theophany had remained the same only in those attributes which emblemize in a general way God's gracious presence in His temple; while the special attributes, which typify only the one and the other purpose of the divine appearance, would only they have been added, or brought prominently out, where this or that element of the theophany had to be announced. Moreover, the necessity in general of a theophany for the purpose alleged is not evident, much less the necessity of a theophany so peculiar in form. Other prophets also, e.g., Micah, without having seen a theophany, have predicted in the clearest and distinctest manner both the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the raising up of a new and more glorious kingdom of God. The reason, then, why Ezekiel witnessed such a theophany, not only at his call, but had it repeated to him at every new turn in his prophetic ministry, must be deeper than that assigned; and the theophany must have another meaning than that of merely consecrating the prophet for the purpose of announcing both the judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple, and the raising up of a new and more glorious economy of salvation, and strengthening the word of the prophet by a symbolical representation of its contents.

To recognise this meaning, we must endeavour to form a distinct conception, not merely of the principal elements of our theophany, but to take into consideration at the same time their relation to other theophanies. In our theophany three elements are unmistakeably prominent - 1st, The peculiarly formed cherubim; 2nd, The wheels are seen beside the cherubim; and, 3rd, The firmament above, both with the throne and the form of God in human shape seated upon the throne. The order of these three elements in the description is perhaps hardly of any importance, but is simply explicable from this, that to the seer who is on earth it is the under part of the figure which, appearing visibly in the clouds, first presents itself, and that his look next turns to the upper part of the theophany. Especially significant above all, however, is the appearance of the cherubim under or at the throne of God; and by this it is indisputably pointed out that He who appears upon the throne is the same God that is enthroned in the temple between the cherubim of the mercy-seat upon their outspread wings. Whatever opinion may be formed regarding the nature and significance of the cherubim, this much is undoubtedly established, that they belong essentially to the symbolical representation of Jehovah's gracious presence in Israel, and that this portion of our vision has its real foundation in the plastic representation of this gracious relation in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle or temple. As, however, opinions are divided on the subject of the meaning of these symbols, and the cherubim of Ezekiel, moreover, present no inconsiderable differences in their four faces and four wings from the figures of the cherubim upon the mercy-seat and in the temple, which had only one face and two wings, we must, for the full understanding of our vision, look a little more closely to the nature and significance of the cherubim.

While, according to the older view, the cherubim are angelic beings of a higher order, the opinion at the present day is widely prevalent, that they are only symbolical figures, to which nothing real corresponds - merely ideal representations of creature life in its highest fulness.

(Note: Compare the investigation of the cherubim in my Handbuch der Biblischen Archaeologie, I. pp. 86ff. and 113ff.; also Kliefoth's Abhandlung ber die Zahlensymbolik der heiligen Schrift in der Theolog. Zeitschrift von Dieckhoff und Kliefoth, III. p. 381ff., where especially the older view - that the cherubim are angelic beings of a higher rank - is defended in a thorough manner, and the daring hypothesis of Hofmann signally refuted; lastly, Ed. C. Aug. Riehm, De natur et notione symbolic Cheruborum, Commentat. Basil. 1864, who, proceeding from the view - adopted by Bhr, Hengstenberg, and others - that the cherubim were only symbolical figures, has sought to determine more minutely the meaning of these symbols.)

This modern view, however, finds in the circumstance that the cherubim in the Israelitish sanctuary, as well as in Ezekiel and in the Apocalypse, are symbolical figures of varying shape, only an apparent but no real support. The cherubim occur for the firs time in the history of Paradise, where, in Genesis 3:22-24, it is related that God, after expelling the first human pair from Paradise, placed at the east side of the garden the cherubim and the flame of a sword, which turned hither and thither, to guard the way to the tree of life. If this narrative contains historical truth, and is not merely a myth or philosopheme; if Paradise and the Fall, with their consequences, extending over all humanity, are to remain real things and occurrences - then must the cherubim also be taken as real beings. "For God will not have placed symbols - pure creations of Hebrew fancy - at the gate of Paradise," Kliefoth. Upon the basis of this narrative, Ezekiel also held the cherubim to be spiritual beings of a higher rank. This appears from Ezekiel 28:14-16, where he compares the prince of Tyre, in reference to the high and glorious position which God had assigned him, to a cherub, and to Elohim. It does not at all conflict with the recognition of the cherubim as real beings, and, indeed, as spiritual or angelic beings, that they are employed in visions to represent super-sensible relations, or are represented in a plastic form in the sanctuary of Israel. "When angels," as Kliefoth correctly remarks in reference to this, "sing the song of praise in the holy night, this is an historical occurrence, and these angels are real angels, who testify by their appearance that there are such beings as angels; but when, in the Apocalypse, angels pour forth sounds of wrath, these angels are figures in vision, as elsewhere, also, men and objects are seen in vision." But even this employment of the angels as "figures" in vision, rests upon the belief that there are actually beings of this kind. Biblical symbolism furnishes not a single undoubted instance of abstract ideas, or ideal creations of the imagination, being represented by the prophets as living beings. Under the plastic representation of the cherubim upon the mercy-seat, and in the most holy and holy place of the tabernacle and the temple, lies the idea, that these are heavenly, spiritual beings; for in the tabernacle and temple (which was built after its pattern) essential relations of the kingdom of God are embodied, and all the symbols derived from things having a real existence. When, however, on the other hand, Hengstenberg objects, on Revelation 4:6, "that what Vitringa remarks is sufficient to refute those who, under the cherubim, would understand angels of rank - viz. that these four creatures are throughout the whole of this vision connected with the assembly of the elders, and are distinguished not only from the angels, but from all the angels, as is done in Ezekiel 7:11," - we must regard this refutation as altogether futile. From the division of the heavenly assembly before the throne into two choirs or classes (Revelation 5:1-14 and 7) - in which the ζῶα (cherubim) and the elders form the one (Revelation 5:8), the ἄγγελοι the other choir (Revelation 5:11) - an argument can be as little derived against the angelic nature of the cherubim, as it could be shown, from the distinction between the στρατιὰ οὐράνιος and ἀγγελος, in Luke 2:13, that the "multitude of the heavenly host" were no angels at all. And the passage in Revelation 7:11 would only then furnish the supposed proof against the relationship of the cherubim to the angels, if πάντες ἄγγελοι (in general - all angels, how numerous soever they may be - were spoken of. But the very tenor of the words, πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι "all the angels," points back to the choir of angels already mentioned in Ezekiel 5:11, which was formed by πολλοὶ ἄγγελοι, whose number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.

(Note: See on this distinction Winer's Grammar of New Testament Greek (Moulton's translation), p. 137, where, among other remarks, it is observed that "πᾶσαι γενεαί are all generations, whatever their number; πᾶσαι αί γενεαί (Matthew 1:17), all the generations - those which, either from the context or in some other way, are familiar as a definite number.")

From the distinction between the ζῶα and the ἄγγελοι in the Apocalypse, no further inference can be deduced than that the cherubim are not common angels, "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister" (Hebrews 1:14), but constitute a special class of angels of higher rank.

More exact information regarding the relationship of the cherubim to the other angels, or their nature, cannot indeed be obtained, either from the name cherubim or from the circumstance that, with the exception of Genesis 3, they occur always only in connection with the throne of God. The etymology of the word כּרוּב is obscure: all the derivations that have been proposed from the Hebrew or any other Semitic dialect cannot make the slightest pretensions to probability. The word appears to have come down from antiquity along with the tradition of Paradise. See my Biblical Archaeology, p. 88ff. If we take into consideration, however, that Ezekiel calls them חיּות, and first in Ezekiel 10 employs the name כּרוּבים, known from the tabernacle, or rather from the history of Paradise; since, as may be inferred from Ezekiel 10:20, he first recognised, from the repetition of the theophany related in Ezekiel 10, that the living creatures seen in the vision were cherubim - we may, from the designation חיּות, form a supposition, if not as to their nature, at least as to the significance of their position towards the throne of God. They are termed חיּות, "living," not as being "ideal representatives of all living things upon the earth" (Hengstenberg), but as beings which, among all the creatures in heaven and earth, possess and manifest life in the fullest sense of the word, and on that very account, of all spiritual beings, stand nearest to the God of the spirits of all flesh (who lives from eternity to eternity), and encircle His throne. With this representation harmonises not only the fact, that after the expulsion of the first human beings from Paradise, God commanded them to guard the way to the tree of life, but also the form in which they were represented in the sanctuary and in the visions. The cherubim in the sanctuary had the form of a man, and were only marked out by their wings as super-terrestrial beings, not bound by the earthly limits of space. The cherubim in Ezekiel and the Apocalypse also preserve the appearance of a man. Angels also assume the human form when they appear visibly to men on earth, because of all earthly creatures man, created in the image of God, takes the first and highest place. For although the divine image principally consists in the spiritual nature of man, - in the soul breathed into him by the Spirit of God, - yet his bodily form, as the vessel of this soul, is the most perfect corporeity of which we have any knowledge, and as such forms the most appropriate garment for the rendering visible the heavenly spiritual being within. But the cherubim in our vision exhibit, besides the figure of the human body with the face of a man, also the face of the lion, of the ox, and of the eagle, and four wings, and appear as four-sided, square-formed beings, with a face on each of their four sides, so that they go in any direction without turning, and yet, while so doing, they can always proceed in the direction of one face; while in the vision in the Apocalypse, the four faces of the creatures named are divided among the four cherubim, so that each has only one of them. In the countenance of man is portrayed his soul and spirit, and in each one also of the higher order of animals, its nature. The union of the lion, ox, and eagle-faces with that of man in the cherubim, is intended, doubtless, to represent them as beings which possess the fulness and the power of life, which in the earthly creation is divided among the four creatures named. The Rabbinical dictum (Schemoth Rabba, Schttgen, Horae Hebraicae, p. 1168): Quatuor sunt qui principatum in hoc mundo tenent. Inter creaturas homo, inter aves aquila, inter pecora bos, inter bestias leo, contains a truth, even if there lies at the foundation of it the idea that these four creatures represent the entire earthly creation. For in the cher

Ezekiel 1:26 Interlinear
Ezekiel 1:26 Parallel Texts

Ezekiel 1:26 NIV
Ezekiel 1:26 NLT
Ezekiel 1:26 ESV
Ezekiel 1:26 NASB
Ezekiel 1:26 KJV

Ezekiel 1:26 Bible Apps
Ezekiel 1:26 Parallel
Ezekiel 1:26 Biblia Paralela
Ezekiel 1:26 Chinese Bible
Ezekiel 1:26 French Bible
Ezekiel 1:26 German Bible

Bible Hub

Ezekiel 1:25
Top of Page
Top of Page