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.
Verses 1, 2. - Then I looked, etc. There follows on the work of judgment another theophany, like that of Ezekiel 1:15-28. In the "expanse," or firmament, like the "terrible crystal," there is seen as before the likeness of a sapphire throne (see Ezekiel 1:26, note). The form of the man who is the manifestation of Jehovah is implied, though not named. It is he who speaks to the captain of the six ministers of vengeance, himself the seventh, and bids him go in beneath the "whirling wheels" that are beneath the cherub (collective singular, as in Ezekiel 9:9), and fill his hands with coals of fire (Ezekiel 1:13), and scatter them over the city, as the symbol of its doom. We are reminded of Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:6); but there the work of the fire was to purify, here simply to destroy. Vers 3, 4. - Now the cherubim stood, etc. The position of the cherubim is defined, with a vivid distinctness of detail, which once more reminds us of Dante. They had been standing on the right, i.e. the southern side of the sanctuary. What follows is probably a reproduction of the change of positions described in Ezekiel 9:3, and the verbs should be taken, therefore, as pluperfects. The cloud of glory, as in 1 Kings 8:10, 11 and Isaiah 6:1, 2, the Shechinah, that was the taken of the Divine presence, filled the court, but the glory itself had moved to the threshold at the first stage of its departure.
And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.
Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.
Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD'S glory.
And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.
Verses 5, 6. - And the sound of the cherubim. The use of God Almighty (El Shaddai; comp. Exodus 6:3), the name of God as ruling over nature, while Jehovah expressed his covenant relationship to Israel, is, it may be noted, characteristic of the early stage of the religion of Israel (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 43:14; Genesis 48:3). Shaddai alone appears eighty-one times in the Book of Job. Psalm 29. explains the voice of El Shaddai (though there it is "the voice of Jehovah") as meaning the roar of the thunder. The hands of the "living creatures," now recognized as cherubim, had been mentioned in Ezekiel 1:8, and it is one of those hands that gives the fire into the hands of the linen vested minister of wrath. The elemental forces of nature, of which the cherubim are, partly at least, the symbols, are working out the purposes of Jehovah. The two words translated wheels are different in the Hebrew. The first is singular and collective (galgal, the "whirling thing," used of the wheel of a war chariot, Ezekiel 23:24; Isaiah 5:28), and might well be translated "chariot" here. The second, that used in Ezekiel 1:15, 16, also in the singular, is applied to the single wheel of the four by which the angel, ministers stood.
And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels.
And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out.
And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings.
Verses 8, 9. - The description of the theophany that follows, though essentially identical with that in ch. 1 is not a literal transcript of it. The prophet struggles, as before, to relate what he has actually seen in the visions of God. The fact is stated as explaining the mention of the "hand" in ver. 7. That, as in Ezekiel 1:8, was one of their members (see notes on Ezekiel 1:15-17). All that had seemed most startling and awful to him on the banks of Chebar is now seen again - the four living creatures, now named cherubim the wheel by each, the unswerving motion of the wheels in their onward course.
And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone.
And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.
When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went.
Verse 11. - Whither the head, etc. The word has been taken, as in Job 29:25, for the "chief" or "principal" wheel, that which for the time determined the course of the others. With all the complex structure of the cherubic chariot, all was simple in its action. The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels, and that gave unity (Ezekiel 1:20).
And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had.
Verse 12. - And their whole body. Here there is distinctly a new feature. In Ezekiel 1:18 the "rings" of the wheels were "full of eyes." Here the eyes are everywhere. It is not hard to interpret this part of the vision. The prophet receives a new impression of the all-seeing eye of Jehovah. Everywhere, as he stands face to face with the forces of nature, he can say, must say, within himself, "Thou God seest me" (Genesis 16:13). There is an eye that looks upon him where he least expects it. The same thought appears in the stone with seven eyes in Zechariah 3:9. St. John reproduces it in the same form as Ezekiel, with the exception of the wheels, which form no part of his vision, in Revelation 4:6.
As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.
Verse 13. - As for the wheels, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, they were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels; or better still, to keep the collective force of the singular galgal, the chariot. He recognized that as the right name of the whole mysterious and complex form. It, was nothing less than the chariot throne of the King of the universe. There is no sufficient reason for taking the noun, with the Authorized Version, as a vocative.
And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Verse 14. - The first face was the face of a cherub, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, of the cherub. This takes the place of "the face of an ox" in Ezekiel 1:10, and it is first in order instead of being, as there, the third. It is as though, in this second vision, he recognizes that this was emphatically the cherubic form. Possibly the article indicates that this was the form that had given the "coals of fire" in ver. 7. Each form, we must remember, had the four faces, but the prophet names the face which each presented to him as he gazed.
And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar.
Verses 15-17. - As he gazes, the recognition is complete. What he sees in the courts of the temple is identical with the living creature by the river of Chebar. It moves as that moved, wheels and wings and cherubim, all as by one harmonious impulse.
And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them.
When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.
Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.
Verse 18. - Then the glory of the Lord, etc. The chariot throne was, as it were, ready for its kingly Rider. The "glory"-cloud, or Shechinah. takes its place over them, and the departure begins. From that hour the temple was, in Ezekiel's thoughts, to be, till the time of restoration contemplated in ch. 40-48, what Shiloh had been, a God-deserted place. We arc reminded of the voice which Josephus tells us was heard before the final destruction of the second temple, exclaiming, "Let us depart hence," as the priests were making ready for the Pentecostal feast ('Bell. Jud.,' 6:05. 3).
And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD'S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.
Verse 19. - The departure has the east gate of the Lord's house for its starting point. By that gate, in the later vision of the restored temple, the glory of the Lord was to return (Ezekiel 43:4). For "every one" read "it," sc. the galgal, or complex structure of the chariot. The Hebrew verb is in the singular, but, as the italics show, there is no word answering to "every one."
This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.
Verse 20. - Once more the prophet asserts, with fresh emphasis, the identity of the two visions which it had been given him to see. Now, as it were, he understands why the first vision was seen as coming from the north. He does not tell us whether the journey of which he saw the beginning was to end. For the present there was a halt, as we learn from Ezekiel 11:23, "over the midst of the city." Even when the vision ended, it had not gone further than the Mount of Olives. We may conjecture, however, that he thought of its goal as that more sacred region of the heavens in which it had at first manifested itself (see note on Ezekiel 1:4). It was, at any rate, no longer in the temple. The banks of Chebar or any other place might become, as Bethel had been to Jacob (Genesis 28:17), as "the house of God" and "the gate of heaven."
Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.