Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
3. The Coals of Fire on the City (CH. 10).
1And I saw, and, behold, on the expanse that was above the head of the cherubim,—as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne was seen [appeared] over them. 2And He spake unto the man clothed in linen, and said, Come hither between the wheels, hither under the cherub, and fill thy two hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter over 3the city. And he came before mine eyes. And the cherubim stood on the right of the house, at the coming of the man; and the cloud filled the inner court. 4And the glory of Jehovah rose up above the cherub, over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of Jehovah. 5And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the court, the outer one, as the voice of the Almighty God when He speaketh. 6And it came to pass, at His giving the command to the man clothed in linen, when He said, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the 7cherubim; then he came, and stood beside the wheel. And the cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim unto the fire that was between the cherubim, and lifted it, and gave it into the two hands of him clothed in linen; and he took it, and went out. 8And there appeared in the cherubim the form of 9a man’s hand under their wings. And I saw, and, behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside one cherub, and one wheel beside another cherub; 10and the appearance of the wheels as the look of the stone of Tartessus. And their appearance: one likeness to them four, as it were a wheel in the midst of a wheel. 11When they went, they went toward their four sides; they turned not in their going, for whither the head turned, they went after it; they turned not in 12their going. And all their flesh, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about; they four had their 13wheels. As regards the wheels attached to them [or: As regards the wheels, regarding14them], it was cried in mine ears, O wheels. And four faces were to every one: the face of the one was the face of the cherub, and the face of the second the face of a man, and of the third the face of a lion, and of the fourth the face of an 15eagle. And the cherubim mounted upwards: this was the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar. 16And when the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, 17the wheels also turned not from beside them. When the one stood the other stood, and when the one mounted up the other mounted up; for the spirit of the 18living creature was in them. And the glory of Jehovah went forth from above 19the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth before mine eyes, when they departed, and the wheels beside them; and it stood at the opening of the gate of Jehovah’s house, the east [gate]; and the glory of the God of Israel was 20over them above. This was the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel at the river Chebar; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21Every one had four faces, and every one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man 22under their wings. And [as regards] the likeness of their faces, they were the faces which I saw by the river Chebar, [as regards] their appearances and themselves; they went every one straight forward.
Ezekiel 10:2. Sept.: ... τ. ἐνδεδυκοτα την στολην—
Ezekiel 10:6. ... τ. στολην την ἁγιαν—
Ezekiel 10:9. ... λιθου ἀνθρακος.
Ezekiel 10:11. …εἰς ὁν ἀν τοπον ἐπεβλεψεν ἡ ἀρχη ἡ μια—ad quem ire declinabat quæ prima erat—
Ezekiel 10:12. ….πληρεις ὀφθαλμων κυκλοθεν τοις τεσσαρσιν τροχοις αὐτ.—plena … oculis in circuitu quat. rot.
Ezekiel 10:13. Et rotas istas vocavit volubiles—
Ezekiel 10:19. … K. ἐστησαν ἐπι τα προθυρα—
Ezekiel 10:21. Sept.: ... κ. ὀκτω πτερυγες.
What follows is to be regarded as a second act in this dramatic vision, for the first woe closes with the report in Ezekiel 9:11. That the vision makes a new start is shown immediately in Ezekiel 10:1: And I saw, and, behold (Ezekiel 8:2); and we shall be preserved from manifold perplexity if we mix up nothing from the previous chapter with this.—Comp. first of all on Ezekiel 1:22, 25. By this express reference to chapter 1. it must already be clear (comp. Ezekiel 10:20) that הכרבים are the chajoth known from that passage. Comp. farther on Ezekiel 1:26. The throne making its appearance prepares for the command of Him who is enthroned; but nothing appears except the throne, for the glory of Jehovah is conceived of as above the cherub, from which it moves in Ezekiel 10:4. KEIL (KLIEF.), following the punctuation, takes נראה עליהם as an independent sentence: He (Jehovah) appeared above them.
Ezekiel 10:2. Comp. on Ezekiel 9:1, 2.—The vision in Ezekiel 1. corresponds with the temple-vision, an application of what was seen there to the case in hand (Matt. 22:7).—בוא, as usual, in contrast with הלך.—בינות לגלגל is the intermediate space in the wheelwork, hence: between the four wheels on the ground. For although גלגל does not mean “whirl,” yet neither is it quite = אופן (wheel), but it combines at the same time what was implied in the wheel, with the idea of swiftness in rolling, of repeated, frequent motion. Comp. in the meantime for illustration, on Ezekiel 1:15 sq.—אל־תחת לכרוב confines within narrower limits the more general expression which precedes; hence כרוב here is neither the double cherub on the ark, nor the whole of the cherubim, but the definite (Ezekiel 10:7) individual cherub.—We are not certainly to think of any hearth for material fire as being between the cherubim, nor is the altar of incense (Isa. 6:6) to be dragged in for explanation; but it is the wrath of God (comp. Ezekiel 9:8), which destroys Jerusalem, that is symbolized, in accordance with the description in Ezekiel 1:13. [EW.: the punishment, as in Gen. 19:24, the worst. Calv. adopts the view of a silent antithesis to Lev. 6:12, 13.] Herewith properly everything is already said as regards the judgment on the city; the statement ויקח ויצא in Ezekiel 10:7 brings merely in addition the execution of it, which is immediately followed up by allusions (also to the vision in Ezekiel 1.), mostly of an explanatory character, which are meant to illustrate the matter with all fulness and circumstantial exactness.
Ezekiel 10:3 begins to supplement by telling us where the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:1, 2) in this second act appeared to the prophet as standing, where they had taken up their position: on the right of the house [on account of the inner court (of the priests) which follows, to be explained of the temple proper]; according to most: on the south side or south-eastwards (Ezekiel 10:19, Ezekiel 11:23), in contrast with Ezekiel 8:5 sq., 14 (EW.: because the south is the place of fire and death, just as the Indian Jamas dwells there and comes thence); according to others: on this very account, and because of the execution of judgment by the Chaldeans, on the north side. Along with the cherubim the whole vision is transferred from Ezekiel 1., although first of all it is merely the cloud that is mentioned, which is certainly also the first thing in Ezekiel 1:4 (comp. there). The circumstance that it fills the court of the priests is an impressive contrast to 1 Kings 8:10 sq.
Ezekiel 10:4 is almost a verbatim repetition of Ezekiel 9:3, and accordingly the expression מעל הכרוב is to be understood as there of the double cherub on the ark, so that, as in Ezekiel 9. in connection with the judgment on the citizens, so here in connection with the burning of their city, the abandonment of the temple on the part of Jehovah is prefigured. The prophet explains how the connection in the latter case was made clear to him,—how, namely, outside the temple-edifice the cherubim (chajoth) stood ready with the coals of fire, and the cloud threateningly filled the inner court, when at the same time in the most holy place the glory of Jehovah rose from its old resting-place, which the worship Sabbatically celebrated, so that it mounted up (וירם) over (על, which may of course be for אל, but rather stands here in contrast with אל in Ezekiel 9:3) the threshold of the whole, visible as well as raised high above all; “cherubim” and “cherub” balancing each other in this way, that the house (in the narrower sense) became full of brightness from the cloud which filled the inner court, the (inner) court became so from the glory of Jehovah taking its departure out of the most holy place. Comp. on the “cloud” and the “brightness,” Doctrinal Reflections, p. 117. And as the brightness in this way attended the glory of Jehovah visibly through the court of the priests, so in Ezekiel 10:5 the sound of the wings, etc., ready for movement, accompanies it audibly; comp. on Ezekiel 1:24. The mention of its being heard as far as the (outer) court proves the correctness of the exposition given of Ezekiel 10:4, as being parallel to Ezekiel 9:3. Comp. besides on Ezekiel 1:24 (Ex. 19:16, 19, 20:1, 18 sq.).
Accordingly, after the adjustment of the relation of cherub and cherubim (the explanations of Ezekiel 10:3 sq. are attached to the latter), Ezekiel 10:6 returns to Ezekiel 10:2, resuming the command to the man clothed in linen. The execution of what is there commanded is described as it began. האופן אצל, i.e. beside the one definite wheel to which he went; not “an ideal combination of the wheels,” as Hengst, or = plural (SEPT. [ENG. VERS.]).
Then Ezekiel 10:7 tells us how he obtained the fire (the coals of fire of Ezekiel 10:2). The cherub next to that wheel (Ezekiel 10:9) took it and gave it to him. Thus the band of avengers (Ezekiel 9.) under his leadership, in whom we recognised a setting forth of the divine glory, is parallel with the cherubs of the vision; one hand grasps the other (Rev. 15:7, 8:5). The character in which the priestly man appears as mediating exemption from judgment (Ezekiel 9.) has thus (quite in accordance with the departure of Jehovah on the throne of grace out of the most holy place, where also no sacrificial mediation is possible any longer) assumed the form of a mediation of pure judgment. This abandonment of the temple on the part of Jehovah, which is much more prominently connected with the judgment on Jerusalem than in Ezekiel 9:3, prefigures the ויצא of the man (comp. Ezekiel 9:7), who thus takes his departure from the court of the priests for the city. But the mention of the hand of the cherub in Ezekiel 10:7, as well as of the wheel in Ezekiel 10:6, gives occasion for the continuation of explanatory additions which follows.
First comes Ezekiel 10:8. Ezekiel 8:3; comp. on Ezekiel 1:8.—Then in reference to the wheel, Ezekiel 10:9; comp. on Ezekiel 1:15 sq., 1:4, 16. A distributive repetition of the statement.
Ezekiel 10:10. Comp. on Ezekiel 1:5, 13, 16. As the appearance of the wheels is described in two aspects, the expression is repeated, just like מראה in Ezekiel 1.
Ezekiel 10:11. Comp. on Ezekiel 1:17, 8, 9. The head, according to Hengst, is: “what is upmost, highest, most excellent, i.e. the wheel which for the time had the direction, and which the others required to follow.” HITZ.: “This is also the case with ordinary vehicles; but where each wheel has a fourfold movement, there are also four heads, consequently; the head which begins the movement and carries the other three heads along with it.” KEIL: “whither the foremost turned.” All these explanations keep aloof from any reference to the cherubim, while in Ezekiel 10:9 the wheels stand beside them, and the following Ezekiel 10:12 mentions the cherubim first. Comp. Ezekiel 10:14. הראש is therefore = פנים in Ezekiel 1:15, to which also יפנה seems to point. Consequently it is the primus motor, the face of the cherub giving the direction, which they followed as their head (comp. on Ezekiel 1:11).
Ezekiel 10:12. And all their flesh, etc., can only refer to the cherubim, which accordingly are described (Rev. 4:6) additionally to Ezekiel 1:18 (comp. there). לארבעתם אופניהם expressly specifies the connection between the cherubim and wheels thus characterized.
Ezekiel 10:13. Hengst. translates in a meaningless way: “the wheels were called the whirl in my hearing.” Comp. for גלגל, Ezekiel 10:2, and for באזני, Ezekiel 9:1. The verse docs not so much wind up as prepare for what follows. The call (הַ, the sign of the vocative) is not, however, addressed to the wheels, as KEIL: “to the wheels, to them it was cried in my hearing, O whirl”; but it contains what was cried, as giving the signal for departure, in reference to them (as Ezekiel 10:14 also shows), with a view to the cherubim, which are described according to their faces, which give the direction (comp. Ezekiel 10:11). Comp. first on Ezekiel 1:6, 10. The description of the faces in detail makes prominent only one of each of the four cherubim. (Is it that which is directly in front of the prophet?—KEIL.) [Kimchi incorrectly: the first, second, etc., of the four faces of each.] The face of the one (first) was הכרוב פני, i.e. simply of the one definitely referred to in Ezekiel 10:2, 7 (KLIEF.). That it is the ox’s face is proved from the connection. If the north side is taken for it (see on Ezekiel 1:10), then the definition in detail of the faces, significant as it is for the quarter from which the judgment breaks forth (Ezekiel 10:3), may possibly be according to the quarter of the heavens, and not according to the standpoint of the beholder, so that on all four sides of the vision as a whole, one face would be made prominent. [Hence it is vain to connect with this the etymology of the word כרוב, which is still spoken of as worthy of notice by Kurtz, and accepted by Schmieder, viz. כרוב = arator, according to the Syriac; which would lead, as Umbreit assumes on grounds purely conjectural, to an “ox-form as specially prominent in the whole phenomenon of the cherub, particularly on the ark of the covenant.” Hitz., following the Sept., makes the whole verse disappear as a gloss.]
Ezekiel 10:15. Now comes the soaring aloft of the cherubim, thus prepared for (Isa. 33:10); and in this connection already (Ezekiel 10:20) we have the identification with the vision in Ezekiel 1. Comp. there, Ezekiel 10:20.
Ezekiel 10:16. The connection of cherubim and wheels in their harmonious movement, repeated just as in Ezekiel 1., with the mention, however, here of their wings, which were not mentioned there. Comp. Ezekiel 1:19 (10:11).
Ezekiel 10:17. Ezekiel 1:21, 20.
Ezekiel 10:18. ויצא corresponds with ויצא in Ezekiel 10:7. It was really the last moment before the complete departure from the temple! The glory of Jehovah, after it had risen up “from above” the cherub in the most holy place, had shown itself aloft above the threshold of the temple-edifice as a whole (Ezekiel 10:4); now it betakes itself thence, so as to be over the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:3); and in Ezekiel 10:19 the now (as in Ezekiel 1.) united (ויעמד) whole—cherubim, wheels, and glory of Jehovah—completes the abandonment of the temple as a whole.—בצאתם (comp. their standing-place in Ezekiel 10:3), corresponding with ויצא in Ezekiel 10:18.—פתח ש׳—where the court of the people opened toward the city, at the east gate of the temple-edifice.—(הקדמוני, comp. Gen. 3:24: מקדם.)
Ezekiel 10:20. A repetition in completed form of Ezekiel 10:15. There the cherubim were the living creature; here the living creature is the cherubim. The recognition of the chajoth as being cherubim is the explanation of the vision of Ezekiel 1., as referring to Jerusalem, and it was brought about by means of the double cherub on the ark of the covenant. The cherubim must certainly have been well known to the priest-prophet from that quarter. The circumstance that they had appeared to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1.) as the living creature, threatened therefore alike the dead worship in the most holy place, and the service of the dead idols everywhere in Israel, with the wrath of the living God (אלהי־יש׳), with infallibly certain judgment. Their appearance by the Chebar predicted already the departure of the glory of Jehovah from the most holy place, and the abandonment of the Holy City; it had predictions at the same time for those who were in exile, as Ezekiel 11. will show. Thus it appears important to Ezekiel to recapitulate in Ezekiel 10:21, 22 the common features which serve as proof.
1. It is much less to the judgment on the city, of which the account is a very brief one, that the prophet directs his attention, than to the showing of the coincidence with Ezekiel 1. If the vision there was that of the glory of Jehovah, as Ezekiel expressly says in summing up (Ezekiel 1:28: מראה׳ הוא), its relation to the glory of Jehovah above the cherubim, in the most holy place of the temple at Jerusalem, remained an open question. Has the glory of Jehovah, therefore, forsaken the temple, or will it? is it about to depart from thence, that it appears by the Chebar amid the misery of the exile? We know from the Introduction to our book how important this matter is for Ezekiel’s mission and labours. The question, then, which had remained open, is answered by Ezekiel 10; and this the prophet does not merely by repeated allusion, running throughout the whole of Ezekiel 10., to Ezekiel 1. in the description, but also by the quite definite statement in Ezekiel 10:15, and still more expressly in Ezekiel 10:20: היא החיה. The removal of the presence of Jehovah (Ezekiel 10:4, 18) from the ark of the covenant (already in Ezekiel 9:3), the corresponding manifestations in Ezekiel 10:1 sq., 5, etc., to the well-known vision of Ezekiel 1. (already in Ezekiel 8:4), form the exceedingly dramatic, and at the same time the characteristic element of our chapter, which consists in the identity of the symbol of the divine presence for purposes of worship in the most holy place of the temple with that seen in vision by the Chebar, having so important a bearing on the downfall of Jerusalem as well as on the prophetic task of Ezekiel and the prospects of his companions in exile.
2. Bunsen remarks: “Hence the glory of God in the temple was none other than that which is reflected on the spirit of the pious man from the created universe. But this implies also that to the prophet, the law, or the ark of the covenant in the most holy place of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple, was a temporary phenomenon, and that the time for the spiritual knowledge and worship of God was approaching. It is a foreshadowing of what is announced in John 4:21, shortly before the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. But this latter already wanted the ark of the covenant and the glory of the Eternal bound up therewith. We must, moreover, compare the departure to the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:22 sq.), and the entrance into the new temple (Ezekiel 43:2 sq.).” Cocceius says: “God’s proper dwelling-place is not between the cherubim made of gold, in which there is no life, no energy, no motion, but between the cherubim which are chajoth, i.e. living creatures, who have eyes to see, who possess the light of truth and the fire of love in themselves, God’s life in them, and who therefore glorify God: where this is the case, there is God’s dwelling, His holy temple, His glorious presence.”
3. If (Ezekiel 10:14) it is just to the ox-faced cherub that the dispensing of the fire (Ezekiel 10:7, 2) is assigned, then, in fact, we have an approximation to Lange’s interpretation of the bullock as the “suffering and bleeding life-form” (Lebens-gebild), the “tragic-sacrificial animal.” LIGHT-FOOT: “When the high priest approached the ark in the holy of holies, the cherub, which of necessity first met his eye on his right, was turned to him with its ox-face.”
4. The approach of the man clothed in priestly linen garments has, according to the representation of the prophet, not only something which reminds us of the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies on the great day of atonement, but, in the fire of the divine wrath being handed out to him here, has a significant Christological feature in it, where the aspect of eternity at the fearful moment and the noble simplicity of the transaction have an overawing effect. Comp. Deut. 18:15, 16.
5. “The holy fire of God cleanses every creature which it touches; but in the case of the pious, the burning coal is a gracious power of cleansing, as in Isa. 6; for those who are thoroughly corrupt, it is a consuming fire of judgment” (SCHMIEDER).
6. In the harmony wherewith the glory and cherubim and wheels are represented as moving, there is mirrored, as Hävernick remarks, the ideal character of the heavenly world.
(For the rest, see Doctrinal Reflections on Ezekiel 9:1.)
Ezekiel 10:1 sq. “By this it was meant to be shown that Christ’s majesty and power are higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26),—not, indeed, in respect of a residence in space, but in respect of the greatness of His glory” (ST.).—“How great is the glory of the Lord, the great God, and how terrible is His majesty, when He rises up to punish sinners! Nah. 1:2” (TÜB. B.).—He who formerly made the mark for sparing, behold, he now scatters coals of fire upon the city. So the Son of man is likewise the Judge of the world (John 5:22, 27).—“Christ the Messiah was the Judge not only in the destruction of the last Jerusalem, but also in the destruction of the first (Luke 19:44)” (TÜB. B.).—The exact counterpart in the New Testament to this judgment with fire on Jerusalem in the Old Testament is the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, fiery though it also was: instead of the coals of fire, tongues of fire.
Ezekiel 10:3. “So oughtest thou also to be prepared and to stand prepared to execute the divine will; as in heaven, so on earth ought it to be” (STCK.).—“That every one, therefore, should execute his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven” (HEIDEL. CAT. 124).—“For the last time, when the glory is already on the way to take its departure. But also a beautiful type of the incarnation of the Word” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 10:4. This is to be forsaken indeed, when God prepares to forsake us. Lo! then more than ever darkness comes over all the powers of man’s spirit and over his life, and even trusted, loved countenances of friends go into shadow. Good thoughts grow ever fewer, impulses to prayer ever more rare; admonitions of conscience cease; the holy of holies in the man becomes empty down to the four walls and the usual pious furniture, etc.
Ezekiel 10:5. “The wings of the cherubim were heard in the confession of believers and in the executionary troops” (B. B.).—So also in the announcement of the shepherds (Luke 2:15 sq.), as well as in the declaration of the wise men from the East, and then later and specially in the preaching of the apostles, was this rushing to be heard.—The thunder of the Almighty will make itself be heard more distinctly at the end, where He has hitherto spoken tenderly to draw the miserable out of the world.
Ezekiel 10:6 sq. “In the execution of important works, one ought to offer his hand to another (Ex. 4:28, 30)” (ST.).—“Willingness and ability to perform the divine will is the meaning of the man’s hand; its being concealed under the wings shows the servants of God in their mysterious dependence on God’s beck and command” (ST.).
Ezekiel 10:9 sq. Comp. Homiletic Hints on Ezekiel 1.—“By this repeated and still plainer description the ‘galgal’ is to be made very clear to us” (COCC.).
Ezekiel 10:10. “In the kingdom of Christ everything stands in a close union and beautiful harmony” (ST.).
Ezekiel 10:11. “Now so ought it also to be among God’s children and servants. Not the one thing here, and the other out there. At the same time, one may be in front, whom the others follow; this detracts nothing from the equality” (B. B.).—“Dear friend, take no long counsel with flesh and blood, but follow after” (ST.).
Ezekiel 10:12. “The expression: ‘full of eyes,’ points to the enlightenment for looking to the ways of the Church, for watching that the church wheels may always be on the way of righteousness” (LAMPE).
Ezekiel 10:13. It may also be cried: Revolution! that everything must be turned topsyturvy. Evolution is better. But if the people, princes, and potentates will not themselves turn, then the Spirit of God in judgment causes them to be turned in manifold ways, so that the foremost comes to be hindermost.—“Oh, involution and change of all things in the world, until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of God and of His Christ!” (B. B.)—“The believer is always in motion; there is no standing still in the Christian life, but continual progress in virtue and purity” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 10:14. “Laboriousness, humanity, heroic courage, and depth of insight into the mysteries of God are especially the gifts of grace wherewith God is wont to endow men for the spread of His kingdom” (LANGE).
Ezekiel 10:15. “So ought it to be with us also, Col. 3:1 sq.”—“Where God departs, His angels go with Him” (B. B.).
Ezekiel 10:16 sq. Repetition makes it the more certain.
Ezekiel 10:20 sq. The prophet also grew in knowledge.
Ezekiel 10:22. “Like them ought we, none the less keeping our goal in view, to go after Him.”
Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.