Ezekiel 1:8
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) The hands of a man.—Implying, of course, also human arms. This particular adds to the generally human appearance of the cherubim, yet we must understand (see Ezekiel 1:11) that there were four hands corresponding to the wings for each cherub. These hands were “under their wings on their four sides.” Hence the wings must have been attached at the shoulder. The repetition, “they four had their faces and their wings,” is for the sake of emphasis and distinctness.

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.Or, "They had the hands of a man under their wings on all four sides, just as they had wings and faces on all four sides." 8. The hands of each were the hands of a man. The hand is the symbol of active power, guided by skilfulness (Ps 78:72).

under their wings—signifying their operations are hidden from our too curious prying; and as the "wings" signify something more than human, namely, the secret prompting of God, it is also implied that they are moved by it and not by their own power, so that they do nothing at random, but all with divine wisdom.

they four had … faces and … wings—He returns to what he had stated already in Eze 1:6; this gives a reason why they had hands on their four sides, namely, because they had faces and wings on the four sides. They moved whithersoever they would, not by active energy merely, but also by knowledge (expressed by their faces) and divine guidance (expressed by their "wings").

They; each of the four living creatures.

Had the hands: hands in every language, especially in the Oriental, imply power; and being the chief instruments of action, are here ascribed to these active instruments that execute the commands of God.

Of a man: this is added to denote the wisdom, dexterity, and vigilance wherewith they discharge their ministry.

Under their wings; their power and manner of exerting it is secret and invisible, and it is put forth as God pleaseth to move them.

On their four sides; on each side of the chariot one of these living creatures stood, and so on each side hands were ready to act as they were moved; and though it was to all parts of the world, yet were they most ready and prepared.

And they four had their faces and their wings; it is doubled to confirm the truth and certainty of the thing, and to intimate the greatness of their power, agility, and wisdom. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides,.... "Hands of a man" denote action, according to knowledge; ministers of the Gospel are men of practice and business, as well as have the theory and knowledge of things; and they act like men in a rational way, according to the will of God revealed in the word: and these being "on their four sides", show that they have much work to do all around, on every side; in ministering the word, administering ordinances; visiting their people; giving counsel, caution, comfort, exhortation, instruction, &c. and that they have many hands to do, it with, much grace and strength from above; and they have need of all the hands they have; and what they have they constantly employ, and are steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Briareus, a man of business, is represented by the poets as having a hundred hands. These being "under their wings", show that, besides their public ministrations, they do much work secretly and privately, in their closet and studies, where no eye sees them but the eye of God, as well as in private houses, by their visits and conversation; and is also expressive of their modesty and humility, not doing what they do to be seen of men, nor boasting of their works; but ascribing all to the grace of God, and strength of Christ, by which they perform them, and which give them success The Jews, in the Talmud (m), interpret this of the hand of God himself which is stretched out under the wings of the living creatures, to receive penitent persons; because it is written "his hand", but read "hands". And they four had their faces and their wings; that is, on their four sides; a face and a wing before, and a face and a wing behind, and a face and a wing on each side; and under each wing a man's hand and arm. The Targum of the whole is,

"and hands, as the hands of a man, were made for them under their wings on their four sides; to take in them coals of fire from between the cherubim under the firmament, which was over their seats, to, put them into the hands of the seraphim, to scatter upon the place of the ungodly, to destroy the wicked that transgress his word; and their faces and their wings were equal to them four;''

see Ezekiel 10:2.

(m) Bab. Pesachim, fol. 119. 1.

And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Each living creature appears to have had four hands or arms, cf. ch. Ezekiel 10:21. The last words of Ezekiel 1:8 must be joined with Ezekiel 1:9 : “and their faces and their wings, of them four—their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went, they went every one straightforward.” The meaning is that as each creature with his outstretched wings formed one side of the square his wings touched or were joined to those of two other creatures, one on his right and another on his left. The words “they turned not” refer to the faces. The above sentence is very awkward, and the whole is given by LXX. in a much shorter form: Ezekiel 1:8 and the faces of them four Ezekiel 1:9 turned not when they went, they went every one straightforward. The clauses in Ezekiel 1:9 (Heb.) correspond respectively to Ezekiel 1:11-12.Verse 8. - They had the hands of a man, etc. The prophet seems to describe each detail in the order in which it presented itself to him. What he next sees is that each of the four forms has two hands on each of its four sides. Nothing could supersede that symbol of activity and strength. The Appearance of the Glory of the Lord. - Ezekiel 1:1-3. Time and place of the same. - Ezekiel 1:1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth (month), on the fifth (day) of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:2. On the fifth day of the month, it was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity, Ezekiel 1:3. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Busi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.

Regarding ויהי at the beginning of a book, as e.g., in Jonah 1:1, cf. the note on Joshua 1:1. The two notices of the year in Ezekiel 1:1 and Ezekiel 1:2 are closely connected with the twofold introduction of the theophany. This is described in verse first, according to its form or phenomenal nature, and then in verses second and third, according to its intended purpose, and its effect upon the prophet. The phenomenon consisted in this, that the heavens were opened, and Ezekiel saw visions of God. The heaven opens not merely when to our eye a glimpse is disclosed of the heavenly glory of God (Calvin), but also when God manifests His glory in a manner perceptible to human sight. The latter was the case here. מראות אלהים, "visions of God," are not "visiones praestantissimae," but visions which have divine or heavenly things for their object; cf. Isaiah 6:1; 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Kings 6:17. Here it is the manifestation of Jehovah's glory described in the following verses. This was beheld by Ezekiel in the thirtieth year, which, according to verse second, was in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin. The real identity of these two dates is placed beyond doubt by the mention of the same day of the month, "on the fifth day of the month" (Ezekiel 1:2 compared with Ezekiel 1:1). The fifth year from the commencement of Jehoiachin's captivity is the year 595 b.c.; the thirtieth year, consequently, is the year 625 b.c. But the era, in accordance with which this date is reckoned, is matter of dispute, and can no longer be ascertained with certainty. To suppose, with Hengstenberg, that the reference is to the year of the prophet's own life, is forbidden by the addition "in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month," which points to an era generally recognised. In the year 625 b.c., Nabopolassar became king of Babylon, and therefore many of the older expositors have supposed that Ezekiel means the thirtieth year of the era of Nabopolassar. Nothing, however, is know of any such era. Others, as the Chaldee paraphrast and Jerome, and in modern times also Ideler, are of opinion that the thirtieth year is reckoned from the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, because in that year the book of the law was discovered, and the regeneration of public worship completed by a solemn celebration of the Passover. No trace, however, can elsewhere be pointed out of the existence of a chronology dating from these events. The Rabbins in Seder Olam assume a chronology according to the periods of the years of jubilee, and so also Hitzig; but for this supposition too all reliable proofs are wanting. At the time mentioned, Ezekiel found himself בּתוך הגּולה, "in the midst of the exiles," i.e., within the circuit of their settlements, not, in their society; for it is evident from Ezekiel 3:15 that he was alone when the theophany was imparted to him, and did not repair till afterwards to the residences of the settlers. Ezekiel 1:3. By the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldees, i.e., in Babylon or Mesopotamia. The river כּבר, to be distinguished from חבור, the river of Gosan, which flows into the Tigris, see on 2 Kings 17:6, is the Mesopotamian Chabioras, ̓Αβορρας (Strabo, xvi. 748), or Χαβώρας (Ptolem. v. 18, 3), Arab. cha equals bu equals r (Edrisi Clim. iv. p. 6, ii. p. 150, ed. Jaubert and Abulf. Mesopot. in the N. Repertor. III. p. xxiv.), which according to Edrisi takes its rise from "nearly three hundred springs," near the city Ras-el-'Ain, at the foot of the mountain range of Masius, flows through Upper Mesopotamia in a direction parallel with its two principal streams, and then, turning westward, discharges itself into the Euphrates near Kirkesion. There the hand of Jehovah came upon Ezekiel. The expression יד יי' היתה על )אל( always signifies a miraculous working of the power or omnipotence of God upon a man-the hand being the organ of power in action-by which he is placed in a condition to exert superhuman power, 1 Kings 18:46, and is the regular expression for the supernatural transportation into the state of ecstasy for the purpose of beholding and announcing (cf. 2 Kings 3:15), or undertaking, heavenly things; and so throughout Ezekiel, cf. Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 33:22; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1.

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