Ezekiel 1:6
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. Ezekiel 1:6The four cherubim. - 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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