PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*
Ezekiel's First Vision of God
|The Vision of Four Figures||Ezekiel's Vision of God||Superscription||God's Throne||Introduction|
The Call of Ezekiel
|The Throne Chariot Vision||The Vision of the Chariot of Yahweh|
* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical Structure, Textual Criticism, and Glossary.
READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. Chapters 1-3 are a literary unit which functions in several major ways.
1. Ezekiel's initial vision of YHWH in Babylon
2. Ezekiel's sense of YHWH's call to the prophetic ministry
3. The images and visions continue in chapter 8
4. The holiness of God, symbolized in the portable throne chariot (the imagery of the Ark and a chariot are linked in I Chr. 28:18) and its surprising appearance apart from the temple in Jerusalem
B. YHWH still wants a holy people to reflect His person to the nations! This revelatory people will be those taken into exile, not the ones left in Judah.
Israelites have always put too much emphasis on Jerusalem, as Stephen's sermon in Acts 7 shows.
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:1-3
1Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2(On the fifth of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's exile, 3the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and there the hand of the Lord came upon him.)
1:1 "in the thirtieth year" This seems to relate to the age of the prophet (because vv. 2-3 are a parenthesis, possibly by an editor, to clear up any misunderstanding of v. 1. The two dates [i.e., v. 1 and vv. 2-3] refer to the same time). This theory goes back to Origen. Thirty years of age was the time that priests began their ministry in the Temple (cf. Num. 4:3, 23, 30, 39, 43, 47). However, they began their training five years earlier (cf. Num. 8:23-25). Their length of service was to age fifty. This fits the length of Ezekiel's prophetic ministry (cf. 40:1). Ezekiel understood this vision as his call to the prophetic ministry.
▣ "on the fifth day of the fourth month" See Introduction, Date, D.
▣ "by the river Chebar" We know from archeological discoveries that this was a man-made irrigation canal from the Euphrates River, making a loop from near the city of Babylon, through the city of Nippur (cf. Ps. 137:1) and on to Erech (in all, about 60 miles).
▣ "among the exiles" Ezekiel's' specific ministry was to the Jews who were in exile, primarily those of Judea, but also the Northern Ten Tribes. Jeremiah's ministry was to those Jews left in Palestine, while Daniel's ministry was to the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar in the capital of Babylon. See Introduction, Date, C.
▣ "the heavens were opened" The verb (BDB 834, KB 986, Niphal perfect) denotes YHWH revealing Himself to Ezekiel. This phrase is parallel to "the windows of heaven were opened."
1. for judgment, Gen. 7:11; 8:2; Isa. 24:18
a. flood of water
b. no water
2. for agricultural blessings, II Kgs. 7:2,19; Mal. 3:10
3. here, for revelatory vision
In ancient cosmology reality is described as
1. heaven above (sun and moon, stars, God's throne, i.e., the three heavens)
2. heaven above the earth (as a dome with windows)
3. the earth (dwelling place of physical life)
4. Sheol (the place of the dead) below
▣ "I saw visions of God" There is a paradox in the Bible between those who claim to have seen God and the specific statements that no one can see God and live. Apparently it is possible to see visions of deity, but not to gaze intently on His form and especially His face (compare Exod. 24:11,12; Num. 12:8; Isaiah 6; Revelation 4 with Exod. 33: 20-23; John 1:18; 6:46; I Tim. 6:16; I John 4:12).
The word "vision" (BDB 909 I) is first used in Gen. 46:2, where it is parallel with "in visions of the night," which may imply
1. a dream (cf. Gen. 20:3,6; 31:10,11,24; 37:6,8,9,10.20)
2. a special trance
In Num. 12:6 it relates to God's call to prophets (cf. I Sam. 3:15; Dan. 10:16; Ezek. 1:1; 8:3; 40:2). It is inferior to His face-to-face revelations to Moses (cf. Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10). Still, it was divine revelation. These words are not Ezekiel's words, nor or the visions his imagination. YHWH is revealing His personal presence with the exiles!
It is also interesting that the very same Hebrew letters also mean "sight" or "appearance." This meaning is far more common than "vision." A few times the two meanings, "vision" and "appearance," overlap (i.e., Ezek. 8:4; 11:24; 43:3[thrice]; Dan. 8:16,27; 9:23; 10:1).
1:2 All of the book of Ezekiel is in the first person except 1:2,3, which seem to be a later scribal or editorial addition to explain the date of v. 1. Note the parenthesis in NASB.
It must be admitted that moderns do not know when, who, or how the OT books were produced. It is a faith assumption and biblical claim that they are uniquely from God (inspiration) through selected human instruments (authors, editors, and scribes).
Verse 2 reflects II Kgs. 24:14, which makes the date either 592 or 593 b.c. Ezekiel was exiled when he was 25 years old, but did not begin his ministry until five years later.
▣ "King Jehoiachin" See Appendix: Kings of the Divided Kingdom."
1:3 "the word of the Lord came" This is the repeated formula (cf. 1:3; 3:16; 6:1; 7:1) denoting divine revelation. It remains uncertain how the revelation came.
3. main truths and Ezekiel chooses the genre
But what is sure, it was YHWH's revelation, not Ezekiel's.
▣ "to Ezekiel the priest" Ezekiel was from the priestly line of Zadok (cf. II Sam. 8:17; 15:24-36), while Jeremiah was from the priestly line of Abiathar (cf. I Sam. 22:20-23; II Sam. 8:17; 15:24-36), who was exiled to Anathoth by Solomon (cf. I Kgs. 2:26-27,35).
▣ "son of Buzi" This person (BDB 100) is mentioned only here in the OT. It seems to be related to the Hebrew root meaning
1. despise (BDB 100 I)
2. contempt (BDB 100 II)
3. a proper name (uncertain meaning)
a. second son of Nahor, Abrahams' brother, Gen. 22:21, possibly related to a tribe of Arabia mentioned in Jer. 25:23
b. a person of the tribe of Gad, I Chr. 5:14
The very fact that nothing else is known about Buzi implies that he was well known to the original recipients.
▣ "the Chaldeans" Herodotus (450 b.c.), Hist. I, uses this term to refer to an ethnic group (cf. II Kgs. 24:1-4; Dan. 5:30), as well as a priestly class (cf. Dan. 2:2; 3:8; 4:7; 5:7,11), whose usage goes back to Cyrus II. Even before this, Assyrian records used the term (BDB 505) in an ethnic sense (cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1113). Also read the good discussion of the possibility of a confusion of two similar terms (i.e., Kal-du vs. Kasdu) in The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 14-15 or Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, series 1.
Because Gen. 11:28 states that Ur of the Chaldeans was the home of Terah and his family, Chaldeans may have been ethnically Semitic (i.e., same racial group as the Hebrews).
▣ "the hand of the Lord came upon him" This is an anthropomorphic phrase used often for God's presence, power, and inspiration (cf. 1:3; 3:14,22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1; I Kgs. 18:46; II Kgs. 3:15; Isa. 8:11; Jer. 15:17). See Special Topic: Hand at 37:1.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:4-14
4As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. 5Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form, 6Each of them had four faces and four wings. 7Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf's hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. 8Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 9their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. 10As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. 11Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies. 12And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. 14And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.
1:4 "a storm wind coming from the north" God is sometimes identified with a storm (i.e., Sinai, cf. Exodus 19). The north is often used in the OT for impending judgment (i.e., Jer. 1:12-14; 4:6; 6:1). But here it is a symbol of acceptance and renewal. YHWH Himself is coming to be with the exiles (in Isa. 14:13 a northern mountain is God's dwelling).
▣ "a great cloud with fire flashing fourth continually" This would have reminded Ezekiel and his readers of Exod. 19:9,16,18, the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant when YHWH visits Mt. Sinai/Horeb and gives the Ten Words to Moses (and, the rabbis say, the oral law).
The literal phrase is "and fire taking hold of itself." This exact phrase is also found in Exod. 9:24 (i.e., BDB 77 and BDB 542, KB 534, Hithpael participle).
All of the prophets refer to the Mosaic Covenant. They judge Israel in light of her disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29) to its commands. Ezekiel will contrast
1. the current temple practices (cf. chapters 8-11) with a future temple (cf. chapters 40-48)
2. current shepherds (i.e., leaders) with a future leader (cf. chapter 33)
His readers had no other categories to relate to a restoration by YHWH than this one! The New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:27-38) and its focus on individual faith and faithfulness (i.e., chapters 18, 33) would be a shocking revelation which would have seemed to depreciate both the Mosaic Covenant and Israelite corporality!
▣ "something like glowing metal" Throughout the book of Ezekiel his visions are described in terms "like" (BDB 198) or "similar to." It is obvious that Ezekiel is doing the best that he can in describing that which is not normative.
Notice the different phrases used to describe this vision.
1. bright light or brightness (BDB 618 I) around it
2. glowing or gleaming metal in the midst of it
a. "amber" - LXX, NKJV, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA
b. "bronze" - TEV
c. "brass" - NEB
d. "electrum" (mixture of gold and silver) - LXX, Vulgate
The word's origin and meaning are uncertain (found only in 1:4,27; 8:2), but context denotes a brilliant, glowing substance (cf. 1:4,27; 8:2 only). YHWH is often seen as a light phenomenon (cf. Exod. 13:21; II Sam. 22:13; Ps. 89:15; 90:8; Ezek. 1:4,27; 8:2; Rev. 22:5).
1:5 "the four living beings" These throne creatures are first described in Exod. 25:18-22; 37:7-9. It is uncertain if there are two Cherubim (i.e., two on the mercy seat of the ark) or four (two at each end of the ark and two on the lid). This same confusion can be seen in Solomon's Temple (cf. I Kgs. 6:23-28; II Chr. 3:10-14). Jewish tradition has four and is the origin of the four of this vision.
I have always held to only two (on the lid) from Exodus with Solomon expanding the size of everything in the tabernacle when he built the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. I Kings 6). By the way, Ezekiel felt the same freedom (or revelation) to expand and change the temple further in chapters 40-48.
Just a note on the term "cherub" (BDB 500). Several possible sources.
1. Akkadian, lesser spiritual being
a. advisor to the gods
b. protector of the faithful (from Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, p. 319)
a. "to be gracious"
b. adjective, "great" or "mighty"
c. similar to the name of the winged bulls on the gates of Nineveh
3. BDB mentions possibility of "thunder cloud" (Ps. 18:11)
They are described again in chapter 10. They are the origin of the living creatures of Rev. 4:6-8. Their description changes from time to time, but it is obvious that they are the same group of angelic creatures (i.e., throne guardians). Ezekiel recognizes them as Cherubim in chapter 10, but not here in chapter 1.
1:6 -10 See Special Topic above.
NASB"feet were like a calf's hoof"
NKJV, NRSV,"the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves' feet"
TEV"they had hoofs like those of a bull"
NJB"they had hooves like calves"
This is the only place this detail is mentioned. The Hebrew term "feet" is really "soles" (BDB 496 #3).
Remember this is imagery! It is a vision! Accuracy and detail are not the issue, but the overall effect. God is coming and the heavenly court with Him!
▣ "burnished bronze" This metallic imagery (BDB 887 and 638 I) describes heavenly beings.
1. here the Cherubim
2. the powerful angel in Dan. 10:6
3. the glorified Jesus in Rev. 1:15; 2:18
1:8 "wings" There are several angelic creatures who are said to have wings.
1. the Cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant, Exod. 25:20; 37:9; I Kgs. 6:24,27; 8:6,7; II Chr. 3:11-13; 5:7,8
2. the Seraphim of Isaiah's heavenly throne room vision, Isa. 6:2
3. the living creatures of Ezekiel's vision (i.e., called Cherubim in 10:1), Ezek. 1:8,24
4. the female angels of Zechariah's vision, Zech. 5:9
5. even used metaphorically of YHWH's special care (i.e., female bird, cf. Matt. 23:37), Ruth 2:12; Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4 (also see Gen. 1:2; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11)
6. imagery of John in Revelation (cf. 4:8; 9:9 from Ezekiel)
7. regular angels do not have wings in OT or NT
1:9 "their wings touched one another, their faces did not turn as they moved" This is a vision of the mobile throne chariot of God. This imagery may go back to David's Psalm of praise in II Sam. 22:11. The living creature's wings and the wheels formed a hollow square with burning coals in its midst and over it all a blue ice-crystal canopy (cf. v. 22, in Rev. 4:6 it is the floor).
1:10 "all four had the face of the lion" The two Cherubim (BDB 500) are described in Exod. 25:20 as having one face that faced the middle of the Mercy Seat. In Revelation 4 each one had a separate face similar to the description here. The early church fathers tried to ascribe these different faces to the different gospel writers: Matthew, the lion; Mark, the ox; Luke, the man; John, the eagle. It is best to stay somewhat neutral on specific interpretations of these visions. Obviously it refers to some type of angelic order, which is very closely identified with "the" Throne of God!
1:11 "and two covering their bodies" Without trying to read too much into this phrase, there are several ways to take it.
1. sense of modesty (cf. Isa. 6:2, where "feet" may be a euphemism referring to the male sexual organs, cf. Ruth 3; I Sam. 24:3)
2. sense of preparation for action
3. in Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4:8 they had six wings.
1:12 "the spirit" This verse must be interpreted in light of vv. 20 and 21, which seem to imply the spirit of the four living creatures themselves (cf. v. 21c). However, it must be admitted that the language of v. 12 implies a separate personal will (i.e., God in the metaphor of His Spirit [i.e., Gen. 1:2]).
1:13 This verse tries to describe something that is occurring in the midst of the box formed by the Cherubim wings, the wheels, and the crystal covering. Whatever it was, it was below the throne (cf. v. 26). Notice the parallelism, which attempts to describe the indescribable.
1. burning coals of fire
2. torches darting back and forth among the living beings
3. bright fire
4. lightening flashing from it
One wonders how v. 14 is related to v. 13. The Peshitta, NKJV, and REB translate v. 13 as if it describes the living creatures themselves and not the coals of fire (LXX, NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB). The answer to this confusion is rectified by JPSOA, which puts a full stop after the first phrase of v. 13, thereby relating it to the living creatures of v. 12.
I assume v. 13 does not describe the Cherubim, but is a sacrificial image going back to the tabernacle. It is uncertain if it refers to (1) coals on the altar of incense, which were used to make good smelling smoke which veiled the view of YHWH, who dwelt between the wings of the Cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exod. 30:1-10; 37:5-28) or (2) the sacrificial altar (cf. Exod. 27:1-8; 38:1-7) at the front of the entrance to the tabernacle/temple where sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 1-7) were brought and given to the priests. These sacrifices allowed sinful humans to approach a holy God!
▣ "lightning" I take this opportunity to discuss the accommodation used by God to communicate His true revelation to a particular historical/geographical people. There are two items that especially fit into an Ancient Near Eastern setting (i.e., multi-faced animals, spiritual guardians, and lightning). God chooses imagery that His people have seen in other religions, but now they apply to YHWH.
1. The three heavens described by Babylonians as made of gem stones (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 164).
2. Lightning is a common weapon in the hand of Canaanite gods, which are usually depicted on mountains (cf. v. 4, "north," cf. Isa. 14:13).
3. The multi-faced angelic guardians are also common in Mesopotamia (and Egypt), where they guard the entrance of temples and palaces (cf. IVP, Bible Background Commentary, p. 690).
YHWH often takes the names of foreign deities to describe Himself.
1. King of Kings
2. winged disk (sun)
3. God of heaven
In this way He shows that He is the only true God. The only universal God of creation and redemption. We must be careful as moderns
1. not to make the images literal
2. not to assume cultural borrowing has theological significance of reality to the false gods of the nations
3. that biblical images are just that—images attempting to convey spiritual reality! History is theologically affected and theology is historically/culturally affected. This is how human communication works. We move from the concrete to the figurative and from the known to the new reality!
1:14 The question again has to do with the referent. It is
1. the living creatures, Peshitta, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB
2. the central fire, JPSOA
It seems to me that vv. 5-12,14 describe the living creatures, but v. 13 describes a central fire (cf. 10:2,7; Isa. 6:6; Rev. 8:5). But the issue cannot be definitively solved. The MT (JPSOA) implies that it all refers to the living creatures.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:15-21
15Now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. 16The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. 17Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved. 18As for their rims they were lofty and awesome, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes round about. 19Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. And whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 20Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. 21Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those stood still, these stood still. And whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.
1:15-19 "full of eyes round about" These wheels were beside the angelic beings (v. 15). There seems to be a wheel within a wheel at right angles to each other (v. 16), which symbolized immediate mobility (cf. v. 17; 10:11). The eyes around each wheel symbolizes the omniscience of God (cf. 10:12). From Babylonian literature "eyes" on wheels referred to jewels (cf. The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 691). In v. 19 the chariot throne rises from the earth that shows it is not earthbound (cf. 10:16-17).
Ezekiel tries to describe the wheels.
1. eight wheels
2. two beside each cherub
3. made of beryl (BDB 1076, cf. 10:9; Exod. 28:30; 39:13; Song of Songs 5:14; Dan. 10:6)
4. full of eyes (from 10:12 and Rev. 4:6,8 there were also eyes on the living creatures)
5. all of them were alike (v. 16)
The God of creation and covenant is not limited to the Promised Land! He goes and knows!
In Daniel's vision of heaven the Ancient of Days (i.e., YHWH) is also connected to fiery wheels (cf. Dan. 7:9) and angels (Dan. 7:10).
1:20-21 See note at v. 12. The word "spirit" (BDB 924) is being used in two senses.
1. God (i.e., in metaphor of "spirit," vv. 12,20)
2. the living creatures (v. 21)
"Spirit," in this context, is a way of expressing life/personality/being.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:22-25
22Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads. 23Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other. 24I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. 25And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.
1:22 "something like an expanse" The Hebrew word means "that which is beat out" and usually refers to a concave, shallow dish (BDB 956). Here it seems to be a reference to the dome of the earth or the sky (i.e., "over the heads," cf. Dan. 12:3; Exod. 24:10). Its color was crystal, like ice (BDB 901), which implies a crystal blueness (see Rev. 4:6 for a foundation of the same color).
▣ "awesome" This term (BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle) is used in several ways (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 532).
1. fear during the wilderness wanderings of Israel, Deut. 1:19; 8:15
2. YHWH's redemptive acts during this exodus period, Deut. 10:21; II Sam. 7:23; I Chr. 17:21; Ps. 66:3,5; 106:22
3. YHWH's name, Deut. 28:58; Ps. 99:3; 119:9; Mal. 1:4
4. YHWH's presence, Jdgs. 13:6; Job 37:22; Isa. 64:3; Ezek. 1:22
5. eschatological redemptive acts, Joel 2:11,31; Mal. 4:5
1:24 This verse is an attempt to describe the sound of the chariot moving (i.e., the living creatures' wings)
1. like the sound of abundant waters (cf. 43:2)
2. like the voice (i.e., thunder, BDB 876) of the Almighty (cf. Rev. 1:15; 14:2; 19:6) or angel (cf. Dan. 10:6)
3. like a sound of tumult (BDB 242), like the sound of an army camp (i.e., "host," BDB 334, cf. Jer. 11:16)
The implication is that the voice of God directs their movement (cf. v. 25).
▣ "the Almighty" This is the term Shaddai (BDB 994, cf. Num. 24:4,16; Ruth 1:20,21; Ps. 91:1; Isa. 13:6; Ezek. 1:24; Joel 1:15). Usually it is combined with El (the general name for deity in the Ancient Near East, probably from the root "to be strong"). Shaddai's etymology is uncertain. Some scholars suggest
1. the all-sufficient One
2. the self-sufficient One
3. the compassionate One (same consonants in Arabic mean a woman's breast, BDB 994)
5. high (mountain) God
6. mighty or violent
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:26-28
26Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. 27Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 28As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
1:26 "a throne" It is described
1. above the expanse (i.e., crystal dome, cf. 10:1)
2. color was "sapphire" or "lapis lazuli" (BDB 705, cf. Exod. 24:10; 28:18; 39:11; Job 28:6,16; Isa. 54:11). Notice Ezekiel's descriptions of colors come from his training as a priest. These were the colors of the tabernacle and priestly garments.
3. usually YHWH's throne is in heaven (cf. Ps. 11:4; 103:19; Isa. 66:1) and the earth is His footstool (i.e., between the wings of the Cherubim over the Ark).
▣ "high up was a figure" The throne's occupant is described.
1. appearance as a man, v. 26
2. his loins and above like glowing metal, v. 27 (cf. 1:4; 8:2)
3. below loins like fire, v. 27
4. radiance around him (like a rainbow), v. 28
5. like the glory of YHWH, v. 28
As in Isaiah 6, YHWH is depicted as a human person, but He Himself (i.e., face) cannot be described! He is the awesome, holy one, who only accommodates His glorious appearance to humans (cf. Exod. 24:10-11; Dan. 7:9). However, Israelites usually believed that to see God meant death (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). Often this seeing of God is related to "the Angel of the Lord."
1:27 "brightness" This term (BDB 6) is often used to describe God and His presence (theopany).
1. by David, II Sam. 22:13
2. to an eschatological Israel, Isa. 4:5
3. of YHWH's portable throne chariot, Ezek. 1:4,13
4. of YHWH Himself, Ezek. 1:27,28; 3:23; 10:4
1:28 "the rainbow" This seems to represent the grace and mercy of God as expressed in the sign to Noah (cf. Gen. 9:13-17). God's purpose of a covenant people will not change, as He does not change!
▣ "the glory of the Lord" This (BDB 458) is the theme of Ezekiel (19 times, mostly in chapters 10 and 43). This is also a major theme in Isaiah (38 times). In many ways it is theologically parallel to "holy" (BDB 872) as in Exod. 29:43; Lev. 10:3 and especially Isa. 6:3. These terms stand for YHWH's uniqueness and majesty! His personal presence is overwhelming and awe inspiring (El Shaddai). He is the God of creation (Elohim) and redemption (YHWH). He is the ever-living, only-living source of life. He is always present with Israel!
▣ "I fell on my face" This is often what occurs in the presence of the divine or His representative (cf. 1:28; 3:23; 43:3; 44:4; Gen. 17:3,17; Dan. 2:46; 8:17; Rev. 1:17).
Paul House, Old Testament Theology, p. 329, compares this with
1. Moses' reluctance to serve (cf. Exodus 3-4)
2. Isaiah's sense of personal and corporate sinfulness (cf. Isa. 6:5)
3. Jeremiah's personal depreciation (cf. Jer. 1:6-10)
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. What exactly did Ezekiel see and why?
2. Why is the description of the Cherubim different from that in chapter 10?
3. How does chapter 10 relate to chapter 1?
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