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Bible Commentaries

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the Bible

Ezekiel 1

Verses 1-14

The Four Living Creatures

v. 1. Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, either of the Prophet's life or of some period or era which can no longer be definitely determined, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, for, having been led into captivity with Jehoiachin, he settled near this stream, which may have been one of the large irrigation ditches of the Euphrates Valley, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God, the very first sentence of his book thus emphasizing Ezekiel's divine authorization, he was in a state of ecstasy, during which divine revelations were vouchsafed him, as opposed to any visions of his own heart, the empty fancies of false prophets. Note that Ezekiel names the thirtieth year, this being the one in which the priests entered upon the duties of their office. So God here prepared His servant, not by an unreal hallucination, but by an actual manifestation, for the ministry in which he was to testify of the Word made known to him. The time is now further specified with reference to a well-known date.

v. 2. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity, with whom the second company of exiles had been brought to Babylon,

v. 3. the word of the Lord came expressly, or "verily, truly," so that there can be no doubt of the fact, 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, so that, by this divine manifestation of power, he was endowed with the faculty of seeing and proclaiming heavenly truths. The prophet now immediately launches forth in a description of time heavenly vision.

v. 4. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, an emblem of God's mighty judgments, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, literally, "taking itself within itself," which does not merely mean, formed into a ball or lump of fire, but at the same time flashing as if there was a continual kindling of flame within time fiery mass forming the center of the cloud, and a brightness was about it, so that it glowed like gold being refined in the assayer's furnace, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, metal glowing in the melting-pot, out of the midst of the fire, as though the heart of it were made of polished brass.

v. 5. 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, possessing tile general structure of a human body.

v. 6. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings, similarly as the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2 had six wings apiece.

v. 7. And their feet, evidently only two in number, were straight feet, literally, "a foot of straightness," not only firm, but without a bend at the knee, altogether upright and symmetrical; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot, standing vertically, not horizontally; and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass, thereby indicating the purity of God's essence and the glory of his avenging justice.

v. 8. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides, the wings thus being fastened at the shoulders, whence the hands proceeded likewise; and they four had their faces and their wings, one each on every one of the four sides.

v. 9. Their wings were joined one to another, connected or interlaced with one another. They turned not when they went, namely, in twisted maneuvers; they went every one straight forward, due to the fact that their wings were thus joined.

v. 10. 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, namely, of one beholding them; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle, evidently on the side turned away from the beholder. The meaning of these four faces may have been to symbolize the strength, the power, the wisdom, and the nearness of God.

v. 11. Thus were their faces; and their wings were stretched upward, literally, "parted from above," the heads being set on four separate necks; two wings of every one were joined one to another, the ends of the outstretched pinions being thus interlaced, and two covered their bodies, as in holy fear and reverence in the presence of God.

v. 12. And they went every one straight forward, keeping their direction with unswerving directness; whither the spirit, the life-breath of God in them, was to go, they went, the four acting always in perfect unison; and they turned not when they went, in confusing maneuvers.

v. 13. As for the likeness of the living creatures, the impression made by their appearance in general, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like kindled coals, and like the appearance of lamps, in a quick and flickering motion, like the play of lightning; it went up and down among the living creatures, moving back and forth between them; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning, in a threatening effect toward the outside.

v. 14. And the living creatures ran and returned, always straight before them, as the appearance of a flash of lightning, with the suddenness of an electric flash. The Lord, if he so chooses, is able to reveal His will in a most startling and majestic mariner, as also some phenomena of nature show to this day.

Verses 15-28

The Four-Faced Wheels and the Four Creatures.

v. 15. Now, as I beheld the living creatures, which were associated with the menacing cloud and must therefore be thought of as being elevated above tire earth, behold one wheel upon the earth, that is, a unit of four wheels in one, by the living creatures, with his four faces, toward their four fronts.

v. 16. The appearance of the wheels and their work, their make-up. their workmanship and shape, was like unto the color of a beryl, of the chrysolite, which had a yellow color, as of clear fire; and they four had one likeness, and their appearance and their work, their shape as seen by the prophet, was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel, the one set crosswise within the other, as in a gyroscope.

v. 17. When they went, they went upon their four sides, they could go in four directions, due to that double construction; and they turned not when they went, just like the four creatures.

v. 18. As for their rings, the felloes of the wheels, they were so high that they were dreadful, on account of the effect of sublimity; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four, this fact introducing the element of life.

v. 19. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them, being always in the closest relation to them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up, the impulse being transmitted to them in some unexplained manner.

v. 20. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go, following the direction taken by the creatures; and the wheels were lifted up over against them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

v. 21. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, as the cloud lifted up in its onward course, the wheels were lifted up over against them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. The wheels thus, both when moving and when standing still, were governed by the motion and the rest of the living creatures because the same spirit of life animated them both. This scene is now brought in relation to the description of Jehovah's throne.

v. 22. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the color of the terrible crystal, literally, "a likeness over the head of the living creature, like unto the appearance of crystal, of the fearful," stretched forth over their heads above. The dazzling clearness and purity of the glittering crystal caused the spectator to feel awe, as from the reflection of the Creator's splendor.

v. 23. And under the firmament were their wings straight, raised aloft as they moved forward in an erect position, the one toward the other; every one had two, which covered on this side, when let down, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. "The tips of the wings (of the pair of wings serving for flight) reach along to the vault. For support they are adapted, and particularly for this reason that the wings,

v. 24. make a loud noise and are therefore in free motion; and further, because, upon occasion they are let down. The wheels also do not support the chariot. The local proximity seems only to indicate the connection between the several provinces of creation; it is meant to represent the creation as a united whole. " (Hengstenberg)

v. 24. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, of the surging and roaring of the ocean, as the voice of the Almighty, in the thunder of his power, the voice of speech, a dull, confused noise as of a tumult, as the noise of an host; when they stood, they let down their wings, in reverential rest before the only living God, who now puts a restraint on the fierceness of the creatures in carrying out the divine wrath.

v. 25. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, a command from Jehovah himself, when they stood and had let down their wings, in full and submissive silence, awaiting the commands of him who has power over all created beings.

v. 26. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, that being time highest object in the prophet's vision, as the appearance of a sapphire stone, a sky-blue, or violet-colored stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it, the Godhead thus appearing in the likeness of enthroned humanity. Cf Exodus 24:10.

v. 27. And I saw as the color of amber, like metal glowing in the refiner's furnace, 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, the glow apparently enclosed within a definite space.

v. 28. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, the rainbow occupying a well-defined area of brilliancy, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. Cf Revelation 4:3. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord, in this way Ezekiel received some impression of the exalted majesty of the Lord of the covenant, of the true God. A similar experience was accorded the prophet upon three subsequent occasions. Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 43:1. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, a sinful man overcome by the glorious majesty of the holy God, and I heard the voice of one that spake. The purpose of God in granting this vision to Ezekiel was to reveal His almighty and merciful presence as the Lord and King whose power extends over the whole world, who has the strength to judge the heathen and to deliver His people, now held in shameful captivity, and let them once more enjoy the beauty of His grace. Would that the believers of all times, yea, all men, might receive the Word of the Lord with the same humility here shown by the prophet.

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Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/ezekiel-1.html. 1921-23.