Ezekiel 1:6
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
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(6) Four faces.—The cherubim, being merely symbolical figures, are variously represented. Those placed in the Tabernacle and in the Temple of Solomon appear to have had only a single face; those described in Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple (Ezekiel 41:18-19) had two; the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7 were each different from the other: one like a man, one like a lion, one like an ox, and one like an eagle, and these four are combined here in each one of the cherubim (Ezekiel 1:10). Man is the head of the whole animal creation, the lion of wild beasts, the ox of the domestic animals, and the eagle of the birds.

Four wings.—In Revelation 4:8, six wings are mentioned, as also with the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2. The cherubim in Solomon’s Temple had two (1Kings 6:27). In Ezekiel 10:21, as here, they have four. The number is plainly not important, though doubtless assigned to them with reference to the number of creatures, and of their faces, and of the wheels; but that they should have more than the normal number of two is here appropriate, partly to concur with the other indications of the fulness of their life and activity, and partly because (Ezekiel 1:11) two of them were used to express their reverence, as were four of those of the seraphim in Isaiah.

1:1-14 It is a mercy to have the word of God brought to us, and a duty to attend to it diligently, when we are in affliction. The voice of God came in the fulness of light and power, by the Holy Spirit. These visions seem to have been sent to possess the prophet's mind with great and high thoughts of God. To strike terror upon sinners. To speak comfort to those that feared God, and humbled themselves. In ver. 4-14, is the first part of the vision, which represents God as attended and served by a vast company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments. This vision would impress the mind with solemn awe and fear of the Divine displeasure, yet raise expectations of blessings. The fire is surrounded with a glory. Though we cannot by searching find out God to perfection, yet we see the brightness round about it. The likeness of the living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; angels derive their being and power from God. They have the understanding of a man, and far more. A lion excels in strength and boldness. An ox excels in diligence and patience, and unwearied discharge of the work he has to do. An eagle excels in quickness and piercing sight, and in soaring high; and the angels, who excel man in all these respects, put on these appearances. The angels have wings; and whatever business God sends them upon, they lose no time. They stood straight, and firm, and steady. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action. Many persons are quick, who are not active; they hurry about, but do nothing to purpose; they have wings, but no hands. But wherever the angels' wings carried them, they carried hands with them, to be doing what duty required. Whatever service they went about, they went every one straight forward. When we go straight, we go forward; when we serve God with one heart, we perform work. They turned not when they went. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not to be gone over again. They turned not from their business to trifle with any thing. They went whithersoever the Spirit of God would have them go. The prophet saw these living creatures by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire; they are seraphim, or burners; denoting the ardour of their love to God, and fervent zeal in his service. We may learn profitable lessons from subjects we cannot fully enter into or understand. But let us attend to the things which relate to our peace and duty, and leave secret things to the Lord, to whom alone they belong.In the Revelation of John each "beast" has its own distinctive character, here each unites in itself the four characters; there each has six wings, like the Seraphim Isaiah 6:2, here only four. 6. Not only were there four distinct living creatures, but each of the four had four faces, making sixteen in all. The four living creatures of the cherubim answer by contrast to the four world monarchies represented by four beasts, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome (Da 7:1-28). The Fathers identified them with the four Gospels: Matthew the lion, Mark the ox, Luke the man, John the eagle. Two cherubim only stood over the ark in the temple; two more are now added, to imply that, while the law is retained as the basis, a new form is needed to be added to impart new life to it. The number four may have respect to the four quarters of the world, to imply that God's angels execute His commands everywhere. Each head in front had the face of a man as the primary and prominent one: on the right the face of a lion, on the left the face of an ox, above from behind the face of an eagle. The Mosaic cherubim were similar, only that the human faces were put looking towards each other, and towards the mercy seat between, being formed out of the same mass of pure gold as the latter (Ex 25:19, 20). In Isa 6:2 two wings are added to cover their countenances; because there they stand by the throne, here under the throne; there God deigns to consult them, and His condescension calls forth their humility, so that they veil their faces before Him; here they execute His commands. The face expresses their intelligence; the wings, their rapidity in fulfilling God's will. The Shekinah or flame, that signified God's presence, and the written name, Jehovah, occupied the intervening space between the cherubim Ge 4:14, 16; 3:24 ("placed"; properly, "to place in a tabernacle"), imply that the cherubim were appointed at the fall as symbols of God's presence in a consecrated place, and that man was to worship there. In the patriarchal dispensation when the flood had caused the removal of the cherubim from Eden, seraphim or teraphim (Chaldean dialect) were made as models of them for domestic use (Ge 31:19, Margin; Ge 31:30). The silence of the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth chapters of Exodus to their configuration, whereas everything else is minutely described, is because their form was so well-known already to Bezaleel and all Israel by tradition as to need no detailed description. Hence Ezekiel (Eze 10:20) at once knows them, for he had seen them repeatedly in the carved work of the outer sanctuary of Solomon's temple (1Ki 6:23-29). He therefore consoles the exiles with the hope of having the same cherubim in the renovated temple which should be reared; and he assures them that the same God who dwelt between the cherubim of the temple would be still with His people by the Chebar. But they were not in Zerubbabel's temple; therefore Ezekiel's foretold temple, if literal, is yet future. The ox is selected as chief of the tame animals, the lion among the wild, the eagle among birds, and man the head of all, in his ideal, realized by the Lord Jesus, combining all the excellencies of the animal kingdom. The cherubim probably represent the ruling powers by which God acts in the natural and moral world. Hence they sometimes answer to the ministering angels; elsewhere, to the redeemed saints (the elect Church) through whom, as by the angels, God shall hereafter rule the world and proclaim the manifold wisdom of God (Mt 19:28; 1Co 6:2; Eph 3:10; Re 3:21; 4:6-8). The "lions" and "oxen," amidst "palms" and "open flowers" carved in the temple, were the four-faced cherubim which, being traced on a flat surface, presented only one aspect of the four. The human-headed winged bulls and eagle-headed gods found in Nineveh, sculptured amidst palms and tulip-shaped flowers, were borrowed by corrupted tradition from the cherubim placed in Eden near its fruits and flowers. So the Aaronic calf (Ex 32:4, 5) and Jeroboam's calves at Dan and Beth-el, a schismatic imitation of the sacred symbols in the temple at Jerusalem. So the ox figures of Apis on the sacred arks of Egypt. And every one of those four living creatures which appeared to the prophet had four faces: this hieroglyphic, though it seems to present us with a monstrous sight, yet does not unbecome the Divine Wisdom, nor doth it want like representations, as Ezekiel 10:14 Revelation 4:6 5:6: and speaks either the full fitness of angels to do God’s commands in all things and occasions, or the perfection of their nature and obedience; or the universal dominion of God, and the universal subjection of the creatures.

Faces; some would have this not literally understood of that part of the body which is properly the face, though I see no cause for it; but as these living creatures had wings, so they had faces, and what those were the 10th verse does tell us.

And every one had four wings; if it were every face had four wings, each living creature would have sixteen wings, but it is every one of the living creatures had four wings. With two they did fly, noting the speed of their obedience; and with two they cover their body, denoting the reverence of their mind, and obedience. And or but everyone had four faces,.... Which are described; see Gill on Ezekiel 1:10. The Targum multiplies the faces in a strange monstrous manner, paraphrasing the words thus,

"each had four faces, and there were four faces to everyone "of them", and every creature had sixteen faces; the number of the faces of the four creatures was sixty and four;''

and everyone had four wings; the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2; and the four beasts or living creatures in Revelation 4:8; had six wings; and so it seems that these had also, from Ezekiel 1:11; as will be seen there; nor is this any contradiction to the account here given, since it is not said they had only four wings. The Targum gives the same monstrous account of their wings as of their faces, saying,

"each had four wings, and there were four wings for everyone of them, sixteen wings to every face, and sixty four to every creature; and the number of the wings of the four living creatures were two hundred and fifty six.''

Jarchi is of the same opinion, and confirms it in his note on the text, which is this,

""four faces to one"; that is, to the face of a man only were four faces, and so, to the lion, to the eagle, and to the ox, lo, sixteen to a living creature, and so to every living creature; and four wings to everyone of the faces, lo, sixty and four wings to a living creatures and which, according to the Targum of Jonathan, amounts to two hundred and fifty six wings;''

what these wings signified; see Gill on Ezekiel 1:11;

And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
6. had four faces] These were a man’s in front of each, an eagle’s opposite to this at the back of each; a lion’s on the right hand of each, and the face of an ox on the left of each. Thus four different faces were presented in each direction, so that in whatever direction the whole moved, while a man’s face was presented first, those of a lion, an ox and an eagle were also encountered. In this view the four living creatures made up one creature, and each of the four was in small that which the four were combined.Verse 6. - We note the points of contrast with other like visions.

(1) In Isaiah 6:2 each seraph has six wings, as each "living creature" has in Revelation 4:8.

(2) In Revelation 4:7 the four heads are distributed, one to each of the "living creatures," while here each has four faces, and forms, as it were, a Janus quadrifrons. The wings are described more minutely in ver. 11. In many Hebrew MSS Lam 5:21 is found repeated after Lamentations 5:22, to make the whole more suitable for public reading in the synagogue, that the poem may not end with the mention of the wrath of God, as is the case also at the close of Isaiah, Malachi, and Ecclesiastes: the intention is, to conclude with words of comfort. But v. 22, rightly understood, did not require this repetition: for, as Rhabanas has already remarked in Ghisleri commentar. on v. 22: non haec quasi desperando de salute populi sui locutus est, sed ut dolorem suum nimium de contritione et objectione diutina gentis suae manifestaret. This conclusion entirely agrees with the character of the Lamentations, in which complaint and supplication should continue to the end, - not, however, without an element of hope, although the latter may not rise to the heights of joyful victory, but, as Gerlach expresses himself, "merely glimmers from afar, like the morning star through the clouds, which does not indeed itself dispel the shadows of the night, though it announces that the rising of the sun is near, and that it shall obtain the victory."
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