Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in 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.
THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET E Z E K I E L. Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The name Ezekiel means "(whom) God will strengthen" [Gesenius]; or, "God will prevail" [Rosenmuller]. His father was Buzi (Eze 1:3), a priest, and he probably exercised the priestly office himself at Jerusalem, previous to his captivity, as appears from the matured priestly character to be seen in his prophecies, a circumstance which much increased his influence with his captive fellow countrymen at Babylon. Tradition represents Sarera as the land of his nativity. His call to prophesy was in the fifth year from the date of his being carried away with Jehoiachin (see 2Ki 24:11-15) by Nebuchadnezzar, 599 B.C. The best portions of the people seem to have been among the first carried away (Eze 11:16; Jer 24:2-7, 8, 10). The ungodly were willing to do anything to remain in their native land; whereas the godly believed the prophets and obeyed the first summons to surrender, as the only path of safety. These latter, as adhering to the theocratic principle, were among the earliest to be removed by the Chaldeans, who believed that, if they were out of the way, the nation would fall to pieces of itself. They were despised by their brethren in the Holy Land not yet captives, as having no share in the temple sacrifices. Thus Ezekiel's sphere of labor was one happier and less impeded by his countrymen than that of Jeremiah at home. The vicinity of the river Chebar, which flows into the Euphrates near Circeslum, was the first scene of his prophecies (Eze 1:1). Tel-Abib there (now Thallaba) was his place of residence (Eze 3:15), whither the elders used to come to inquire as to God's messages through him. They were eager to return to Jerusalem, but he taught them that they must first return to their God. He continued to prophesy for at least twenty-two years, that is, to the twenty-seventh year of the captivity (Eze 29:17), and probably remained with the captives by the Chebar the rest of his life. A treatise, falsely attributed to Epiphanius, states a tradition that he was killed at Babylon by a prince of his people whom he had reproved for idolatry.
He was contemporary with Jeremiah and Daniel. The former had prophesied for thirty-four years before Ezekiel, and continued to do so for six or seven years after him. The call of Ezekiel followed the very next year after the communication of Jeremiah's predictions to Babylon (Jer 51:59), and was divinely intended as a sequel to them. Daniel's predictions are mostly later than Ezekiel's but his piety and wisdom had become proverbial in the early part of Ezekiel's ministry (Eze 14:14, 16; 28:3). They much resemble one another, especially in the visions and grotesque images. It is a remarkable proof of genuineness that in Ezekiel no prophecies against Babylon occur among those directed against the enemies of the covenant-people. Probably he desired not to give needless offence to the government under which he lived. The effect of his labors is to be seen in the improved character of the people towards the close of the captivity, and their general cessation from idolatry and a return to the law. It was little more than thirty years after the close of his labors when the decree of the Jews' restoration was issued. His leading characteristic is realizing, determined energy; this admirably adapted him for opposing the "rebellious house" "of stubborn front and hard heart," and for maintaining the cause of God's Church among his countrymen in a foreign land, when the external framework had fallen to pieces. His style is plain and simple. His conceptions are definite, and the details even of the symbolical and enigmatical parts are given with lifelike minuteness. The obscurity lies in the substance, not in the form, of his communications. The priestly element predominates in his prophecies, arising from his previous training as a priest. He delights to linger about the temple and to find in its symbolical forms the imagery for conveying his instructions. This was divinely ordered to satisfy the spiritual want felt by the people in the absence of the outward temple and its sacrifices. In his images he is magnificent, though austere and somewhat harsh. He abounds in repetitions, not for ornament, but for force and weight. Poetical parallelism is not found except in a few portions, as in the seventh, twenty-first, twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth through thirty-first chapters. His great aim was to stimulate the dormant minds of the Jews. For this end nothing was better suited than the use of mysterious symbols expressed in the plainest words. The superficial, volatile, and wilfully unbelieving would thereby be left to judicial blindness (Isa 6:10; Mt 13:11-13, &c.); whereas the better-disposed would be awakened to a deeper search into the things of God by the very obscurity of the symbols. Inattention to this divine purpose has led the modern Jews so to magnify this obscurity as to ordain that no one shall read this book till he has passed his thirtieth year.
Rabbi Hananias is said to have satisfactorily solved the difficulties (Mischna) which were alleged against its canonicity. Ecclesiasticus 49:8 refers to it, and Josephus [Antiquities, 10.5.1]. It is mentioned as part of the canon in Melito's catalogue [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26]; also in Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud. The oneness of tone throughout and the repetition of favorite expressions exclude the suspicion that separate portions are not genuine. The earlier portion, the first through the thirty-second chapters, which mainly treats of sin and judgment, is a key to interpret the latter portion, which is more hopeful and joyous, but remote in date. Thus a unity and an orderly progressive character are imparted to the whole. The destruction of Jerusalem is the central point. Previous to this he calls to repentance and warns against blind confidence in Egypt (Eze 17:15-17; compare Jer 37:7) or other human stay. After it he consoles the captives by promising them future deliverance and restoration. His prophecies against foreign nations stand between these two great divisions, and were uttered in the interval between the intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem and the arrival of the news that he had taken it (Eze 33:21). Havernick marks out nine sections:—(1) Ezekiel's call to prophesy (Eze 1:1-3:15). (2) Symbolical predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem (Eze 3:16-7:27). (3) A year and two months later a vision of the temple polluted by Tammuz or Adonis worship; God's consequent scattering of fire over the city and forsaking of the temple to reveal Himself to an inquiring people in exile; happier and purer times to follow (Eze 8:1-11:25). (4) Exposure of the particular sins prevalent in the several classes—priests, prophets, and princes (Eze 12:1-19:14). (5) A year later the warning of judgment for national guilt repeated with greater distinctness as the time drew nearer (Eze 20:1-23:49). (6) Two years and five months later—the very day on which Ezekiel speaks—is announced as the day of the beginning of the siege; Jerusalem shall be overthrown (Eze 24:1-27). (7) Predictions against foreign nations during the interval of his silence towards his own people; if judgment begins at the house of God, much more will it visit the ungodly world (Eze 25:1-32:32). Some of these were uttered much later than others, but they all began to be given after the fall of Jerusalem. (8) In the twelfth year of the captivity, when the fugitives from Jerusalem (Eze 33:21) had appeared in Chaldea, he foretells better times and the re-establishment of Israel and the triumph of God's kingdom on earth over its enemies, Seir, the heathen, and Gog (Eze 33:1-39:29). (9) After an interval of thirteen years the closing vision of the order and beauty of the restored kingdom (Eze 40:1-48:35). The particularity of details as to the temple and its offerings rather discountenances the view of this vision being only symbolical, and not at all literal. The event alone can clear it up. At all events it has not yet been fulfilled; it must be future. Ezekiel was the only prophet (in the strict sense) among the Jews at Babylon. Daniel was rather a seer than a prophet, for the spirit of prophecy was given him to qualify him, not for a spiritual office, but for disclosing future events. His position in a heathen king's palace fitted him for revelations of the outward relations of God's kingdom to the kingdoms of the world, so that his book is ranked by the Jews among the Hagiographa or "Sacred Writings," not among the prophetical Scriptures. On the other hand, Ezekiel was distinctively a prophet, and one who had to do with the inward concerns of the divine kingdom. As a priest, when sent into exile, his service was but transferred from the visible temple at Jerusalem to the spiritual temple in Chaldea.
Eze 1:1-28. Ezekiel's Vision by the Chebar. Four Cherubim and Wheels.
1. Now it came to pass—rather, "And it came," &c. As this formula in Jos 1:1 has reference to the written history of previous times, so here (and in Ru 1:1, and Es 1:1), it refers to the unwritten history which was before the mind of the writer. The prophet by it, as it were, continues the history of the preceding times. In the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign (Jer 51:59), Jeremiah sent by Seraiah a message to the captives (Jer 29:1-32) to submit themselves to God and lay aside their flattering hopes of a speedy restoration. This communication was in the next year, the fifth, and the fourth month of the same king (for Jehoiachin's captivity and Zedekiah's accession coincide in time), followed up by a prophet raised up among the captives themselves, the energetic Ezekiel.
thirtieth year—that is, counting from the beginning of the reign of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, the era of the Babylonian empire, 625 B.C., which epoch coincides with the eighteenth year of Josiah, that in which the book of the law was found, and the consequent reformation began [Scaliger]; or the thirtieth year of Ezekiel's life. As the Lord was about to be a "little sanctuary" (Eze 11:16) to the exiles on the Chebar, so Ezekiel was to be the ministering priest; therefore he marks his priestly relation to God and the people at the outset; the close, which describes the future temple, thus answering to the beginning. By designating himself expressly as "the priest" (Eze 1:3), and as having reached his thirtieth year (the regular year of priests commencing their office), he marks his office as the priest among the prophets. Thus the opening vision follows naturally as the formal institution of that spiritual temple in which he was to minister [Fairbairn].
Chebar—the same as Chabor or Habor, whither the ten tribes had been transported by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:6; 1Ch 5:26). It flows into the Euphrates near Carchemish or Circesium, two hundred miles north of Babylon.
visions of God—Four expressions are used as to the revelation granted to Ezekiel, the three first having respect to what was presented from without, to assure him of its reality, the fourth to his being internally made fit to receive the revelation; "the heavens were opened" (so Mt 3:16; Ac 7:56; 10:11; Re 19:11); "he saw visions of God"; "the word of Jehovah came verily (as the meaning is rather than 'expressly, English Version, Eze 1:3) unto him" (it was no unreal hallucination); and "the hand of Jehovah was upon him" (Isa 8:11; Da 10:10, 18; Re 1:17; the Lord by His touch strengthening him for his high and arduous ministry, that he might be able to witness and report aright the revelations made to him).
In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,
2. Jehoiachin's captivity—In the third or fourth year of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, the first carrying away of Jewish captives to Babylon took place, and among them was Daniel. The second was under Jehoiachin, when Ezekiel was carried away. The third and final one was at the taking of Jerusalem under Zedekiah.
The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
4. whirlwind—emblematic of God's judgments (Jer 23:19; 25:32).
out of the north—that is, from Chaldea, whose hostile forces would invade Judea from a northerly direction. The prophet conceives himself in the temple.
fire infolding itself—laying hold on whatever surrounds it, drawing it to itself, and devouring it. Literally, "catching itself," that is, kindling itself [Fairbairn]. The same Hebrew occurs in Ex 9:24, as to the "fire mingled with the hail."
brightness … about it—that is, about the "cloud."
out of the midst thereof—that is, out of the midst of the "fire."
colour of amber—rather, "the glancing brightness (literally, 'the eye', and so the glancing appearance) of polished brass. The Hebrew, chasmal, is from two roots, "smooth" and "brass" (compare Eze 1:7; Re 1:15) [Gesenius]. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate it, "electrum"; a brilliant metal compounded of gold and silver.
Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
5. Ezekiel was himself of a "gigantic nature, and thereby suited to counteract the Babylonish spirit of the times, which loved to manifest itself in gigantic, grotesque forms" [Hengstenberg].
living creatures—So the Greek ought to have been translated in the parallel passage, Re 4:6, not as English Version, "beasts"; for one of the "four" is a man, and man cannot be termed "beast." Eze 10:20 shows that it is the cherubim that are meant.
likeness of a man—Man, the noblest of the four, is the ideal model after which they are fashioned (Eze 1:10; Eze 10:14). The point of comparison between him and them is the erect posture of their bodies, though doubtless including also the general mien. Also the hands (Eze 10:21).
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
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 their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
7. straight feet—that is, straight legs. Not protruding in any part as the legs of an ox, but straight like a man's [Grotius]. Or, like solid pillars; not bending, as man's, at the knee. They glided along, rather than walked. Their movements were all sure, right, and without effort [Kitto, Cyclopedia].
sole … calf's foot—Henderson hence supposes that "straight feet" implies that they did not project horizontally like men's feet, but vertically as calves' feet. The solid firmness of the round foot of a calf seems to be the point of comparison.
colour—the glittering appearance, indicating God's purity.
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
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").
Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
9. they—had no occasion to turn themselves round when changing their direction, for they had a face (Eze 1:6) looking to each of the four quarters of heaven. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not be gone over again. Their wings were joined above in pairs (see Eze 1:11).
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
10. they … had the face of a man—namely, in front. The human face was the primary and prominent one and the fundamental part of the composite whole. On its right was the lion's face; on the left, the ox's (called "cherub," Eze 10:14); at the back from above was the eagle's.
Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
11. The tips of the two outstretched wings reached to one another, while the other two, in token of humble awe, formed a veil for the lower parts of the body.
stretched upward—rather, "were parted from above" (compare Margin; see on Isa 6:2). The joining together of their wings above implies that, though the movements of Providence on earth may seem conflicting and confused, yet if one lift up his eyes to heaven, he will see that they admirably conspire towards the one end at last.
And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
12. The same idea as in Eze 1:9. The repetition is because we men are so hard to be brought to acknowledge the wisdom of God's doings; they seem tortuous and confused to us, but they are all tending steadily to one aim.
the spirit—the secret impulse whereby God moves His angels to the end designed. They do not turn back or aside till they have fulfilled the office assigned them.
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
13. likeness … appearance—not tautology. "Likeness" expresses the general form; "appearance," the particular aspect.
coals of fire—denoting the intensely pure and burning justice wherewith God punishes by His angels those who, like Israel, have hardened themselves against His long-suffering. So in Isa 6:2, 6, instead of cherubim, the name "seraphim," the burning ones, is applied, indicating God's consuming righteousness; whence their cry to Him is, "Holy! holy! holy!" and the burning coal is applied to his lips, for the message through his mouth was to be one of judicial severance of the godly from the ungodly, to the ruin of the latter.
lamps—torches. The fire emitted sparks and flashes of light, as torches do.
went up and down—expressing the marvellous vigor of God's Spirit, in all His movements never resting, never wearied.
fire … bright—indicating the glory of God.
out of the fire … lightning—God's righteousness will at last cause the bolt of His wrath to fall on the guilty; as now, on Jerusalem.
And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
14. ran and returned—Incessant, restless motion indicates the plenitude of life in these cherubim; so in Re 4:8, "they rest not day or night" (Zec 4:10).
flash of lightning—rather, as distinct from "lightning" (Eze 1:13), "the meteor flash," or sheet lightning [Fairbairn].
Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
15. one wheel—The "dreadful height" of the wheel (Eze 1:18) indicates the gigantic, terrible energy of the complicated revolutions of God's providence, bringing about His purposes with unerring certainty. One wheel appeared traversely within another, so that the movement might be without turning, whithersoever the living creatures might advance (Eze 1:17). Thus each wheel was composed of two circles cutting one another at right angles, "one" only of which appeared to touch the ground ("upon the earth"), according to the direction the cherubim desired to move in.
with his four faces—rather, "according to its four faces" or sides; as there was a side or direction to each of the four creatures, so there was a wheel for each of the sides [Fairbairn]. The four sides or semicircles of each composite wheel pointed, as the four faces of each of the living creatures, to the four quarters of heaven. Havernick refers "his" or "its" to the wheels. The cherubim and their wings and wheels stood in contrast to the symbolical figures, somewhat similar, then existing in Chaldea, and found in the remains of Assyria. The latter, though derived from the original revelation by tradition, came by corruption to symbolize the astronomical zodiac, or the sun and celestial sphere, by a circle with wings or irradiations. But Ezekiel's cherubim rise above natural objects, the gods of the heathen, to the representation of the one true God, who made and continually upholds them.
The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
16. appearance … work—their form and the material of their work.
beryl—rather, "the glancing appearance of the Tarshish stone"; the chrysolite or topaz, brought from Tarshish or Tartessus in Spain. It was one of the gems in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex 28:20; So 5:14; Da 10:6).
four had one likeness—The similarity of the wheels to one another implies that there is no inequality in all God's works, that all have a beautiful analogy and proportion.
When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
17. went upon their four sides—Those faces or sides of the four wheels moved which answered to the direction in which the cherubim desired to move; while the transverse circles in each of the four composite wheels remained suspended from the ground, so as not to impede the movements of the others.
As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
18. rings—that is, felloes or circumferences of the wheels.
eyes—The multiplicity of eyes here in the wheels, and Eze 10:12, in the cherubim themselves, symbolizes the plenitude of intelligent life, the eye being the window through which "the spirit of the living creatures" in the wheels (Eze 1:20) looks forth (compare Zec 4:10). As the wheels signify the providence of God, so the eyes imply that He sees all the circumstances of each case, and does nothing by blind impulse.
And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
19. went by them—went beside them.
Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
20. the spirit was to go—that is, their will was for going whithersoever the Spirit was for going.
over against them—rather, beside or in conjunction with them.
spirit of the living creature—put collectively for "the living creatures"; the cherubim. Having first viewed them separately, he next views them in the aggregate as the composite living creature in which the Spirit resided. The life intended is that connected with God, holy, spiritual life, in the plenitude of its active power.
When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
21. over against—rather, "along with" [Henderson]; or, "beside" [Fairbairn].
And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
22. upon the heads—rather, "above the heads" [Fairbairn].
terrible crystal—dazzling the spectator by its brightness.
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.
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.
And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
24. voice of … Almighty—the thunder (Ps 29:3, 4).
voice of speech—rather, "the voice" or "sound of tumult," as in Jer 11:16. From an Arabic root, meaning the "impetuous rush of heavy rain."
noise of … host—(Isa 13:4; Da 10:6).
And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
25. let down … wings—While the Almighty gave forth His voice, they reverently let their wings fall, to listen stilly to His communication.
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 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."
And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
27. colour of amber—"the glitter of chasmal" [Fairbairn]. See on Eze 1:4; rather, "polished brass" [Henderson]. Messiah is described here as in Da 10:5, 6; Re 1:14, 15.
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
28. the bow … in … rain—the symbol of the sure covenant of mercy to God's children remembered amidst judgments on the wicked; as in the flood in Noah's days (Re 4:3). "Like hanging out from the throne of the Eternal a fing of peace, assuring all that the purpose of Heaven was to preserve rather than to destroy. Even if the divine work should require a deluge of wrath, still the faithfulness of God would only shine forth the more brightly at last to the children of promise, in consequence of the tribulations needed to prepare for the ultimate good" [Fairbairn]. (Isa 54:8-10).
I fell upon … face—the right attitude, spiritually, before we enter on any active work for God (Eze 2:2; 3:23, 24; Re 1:17). In this first chapter God gathered into one vision the substance of all that was to occupy the prophetic agency of Ezekiel; as was done afterwards in the opening vision of the Revelation of Saint John.