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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 10


The vision of the coals of fire, to be scattered over the city. The vision of the cherubims.

Before Christ 594.

Verse 2

Ezekiel 10:2. Even under the cherub Houbigant very properly reads the first verse in a parenthesis; for this evidently connects with the last of the preceding chapter. This part of the vision represented the burning of the city by the Chaldeans. The reader will observe, that the representation of the cherubim given in chap. 1 is continued throughout this vision; and the account given at the fourth verse must strike every reader, as to its similarity with the description of the Shechinah given in the books of Moses.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 10:4. Then the glory For the glory of the Lord had gone up.

Verse 8

Ezekiel 10:8. The form of a man's hand These hands of men, says Houbigant, appear to signify the human aids and counsels which God makes use of to effect the great purposes of his own divine will.

Verse 9

Ezekiel 10:9. A beryl stone A crysolite stone.

Verse 13

Ezekiel 10:13. As for the wheels, &c.— And he cried unto them in my hearing, Run. The command is given to the four wheels in the singular number, because the motion of the four was one and the same. See Houbigant. The wheels were animated, therefore addressed; because capable of obeying the great charioteer, chap, Ezekiel 1:20.

——Wheel within wheel undrawn, Itself instinct with spirit. PARADISE LOST, vi. 751.

Verse 14

Ezekiel 10:14. Face of a cherub Or, Face of an ox. Houbigant reads the sentences in the next verse thus: These are the same living creatures which I saw by the river Chebar; and the cherubims, &c. Ezekiel 10:16. And when they went, the wheels, &c.

Ezekiel 10:20. And I knew that they were the cherubims This expression seems evidently to denote that these cherubims were the same with those in the temple, and that Ezekiel knew them to be such. There can be no doubt that the word תחת tachat, rendered under, is properly rendered. The whole representation manifestly confirms this version. Concerning the etymology of the word, we refer to Dr. Sharpe's Discourse on Cherubim, p. 397 while I have great pleasure in confirming what has been advanced on chap. 1 respecting the cherubim, by the opinion of a very learned and able writer, Mr. Roques; who, speaking of the vision of Ezekiel, observes, that for the right interpretation of it, the following rules are to be laid down. The first rule is this: "An explanation which accounts for all the parts contained in the vision, is much more probable than those which explain only one part of the vision." The second is this: "An explanation which is conformable to the present circumstances of the prophet, and of the people to whom he speaks, as well as to the nature of the things which he is called upon to say to them, is incomparably more probable than those explanations, which go in quest of past or future events, which have no connection with the immediate circumstances of the prophet, nor with the end of his mission." These rules, which appear incontestable, being laid down, we observe, that their opinion who think that God here draws out a plan of the government of his providence applied to the present state of the Jews, accounts for all that Ezekiel saw, and that in a manner which refers to the end of the prophet's mission, and all that he had to say to this rebellious people. Why wish God to represent to his prophet the future state of the Christian church, which was not to be founded till after a series of time, rather than the state of the Jewish church, and the chastisements which hung over the heads of that hardened people? The people having revolted from God, and persevering obstinately in that revolt, notwithstanding the menaces of the prophet, it was proper to shew to Ezekiel, in order that he might declare it to the rebellious, that providence had its eyes open to all that had been done, all that had hitherto happened, and that it had seized upon the rod to smite. The people imagined but too much, according to the errors of infidelity, that God saw every thing with indifference, and had given the world up to chance. It was necessary, therefore, to divest them of these fatal prejudices, and to teach them that the Supreme Being did not behold with the same eye, order and disorder, contempt of his laws and submission to his will; and that all the revolutions of states are directed by a superior intelligence, which cannot be imposed upon. The Jewish people imagined but too much, that the prophets exaggerated when they threatened them with the severest chastisements. They repeated with emphasis and complacency the promises of God made to the patriarchs; that their posterity should not only be more numerous than the stars of heaven, and the sand which covers the sea-shore; but that it should subsist for ever and ever. God had declared to Abraham, I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee; Genesis 17:7. It was proper, therefore, to shew this stiff-necked people, that the threatenings of God, and his promises, were not contradictory. That the people, as a nation, conformable to the promises given by God to the patriarchs, should not be destroyed; but that, notwithstanding, severe national judgments should be inflicted upon them, to correct them for their propensity to idolatry, and their scandalous irregularities.

These suppositions, which are reasonable, being granted, we shall have no difficulty to perceive the sense of this celebrated vision. We shall not follow the order observed by Ezekiel in the description of what he saw; he raises himself from the nearest to the most distant objects, going back from effects to their general cause. We will begin with the First Cause, which gives motion to the whole, traces out the plan, and procures the execution, according to the rules of his ineffable wisdom, and agreeable to the nature of those creatures which are the object of his agency. Next we will proceed to consider the effects of this universal providence, and the intelligent secondary causes which he frequently employs in the administration of the government of the universe.

Ezekiel saw a firmament which was above the heads of the animals; there was the resemblance of a throne, like a sapphire stone, and over the resemblance of the throne there was as it were the resemblance of a man. This vast transparent firmament represents to us the heaven, the peculiar residence of the Lord of the World, and where he has established the throne of his empire. This appearance of a man, was the emblem of Providence, or God, considered as taking care of all the creatures whom he hath made. Man is the symbol of intelligence. The mind of man, with respect to his knowledge and wisdom, is a weak sketch of that Mind which knows all things, and whose wisdom is unbounded. And yet of all sublunary beings there is none that approaches so near to the divine nature as man. Under this emblem also it is that God, considered as seeing all things, and directing all, would be represented. This resemblance of man was seated upon a throne, to shew that God governs all things as Lord, and that without agitation, and without labour.

The shining metal, and the fire which surrounded him who sat on the throne, were the symbols of his glory and his judgments, which are poured upon the wicked as a fire, and which nothing can withstand; agreeable to Isaiah, chap. Ezekiel 33:14.

The Jews acknowledged that there was a Providence which governed the whole universe with infinite wisdom. The Psalmist gives us a description of it equally just and pathetic, in Psalms 104:27; Psalms 104:35. Christians no less than Jews admit this important truth; and the Gospel establishes it no less strongly than the law. See Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:29-30. To raise the mind of the prophet up to the first Mover of those events which strike and astonish us in all the revolutions that happen with respect to individuals, families, and states, God shews him four wheels above the firmament, over which the emblem of Providence was placed on a throne. These wheels are a symbol of those perpetual revolutions which are observed in the earth, and which by turns lift up and abase individuals and nations. They are of a prodigious height; to shew that man cannot fathom or know all that is great, wonderful, and astonishing in the ways of Providence. See Job 11:7-8. Isaiah 55:8-9. Romans 11:33-34. These wheels move themselves every way, and are full of eyes in the vast circle of their felloes. This shews that all which God does, he effects without pain, and that the eye of his wisdom ordereth all events in his permissive, appointing, or suffering will. The wheels did not move of themselves, but they followed the impulse of the four living creatures: when the living creatures went, they went, &c. This shews that in the government of the world all the creatures are subject to Providence, and that God subordinates the creatures one to another. He directs what those holy intelligences ought to do, who serve him as ministers, and are here represented by the four animals. And these intelligences, enlightened and supported by the supreme wisdom, contribute, as far as is suitable, to all that happens to mankind. The angels, whom Ezekiel saw, were in number four; with reference to the four cardinal points of the world; to shew that their ministry extends every where, and that there is no part of the universe which the providence of God does not govern either in an immediate manner, or by the means of his ministers. The extraordinary shape of these angels, which appeared to the prophet in vision, is symbolical; for it is not to be supposed, that those heavenly ministers are really thus formed. The four faces, wings, and arms of a man, denote the sublime qualities of these immediate ministers of the Deity; qualities entirely essential to fill up the extent of their duty. The face of a man denotes their intelligence, of a lion their intrepid courage, of an ox their patience and perseverance in labour; and of an eagle their great penetration, their sublime sight into heavenly things, and their readiness to rise up towards all that is great and divine. The wings being stretched out, signify that they are always ready to set forward and run with rapidity wherever the commands of their great Master call them. The wings bent down, are a symbol of that profound respect in which these heavenly ministers stand before the Lord of the Universe. Under the wings there were men's arms, to shew that zeal produces application and labour. Labour without zeal can never be supported; and zeal without application, is only a hypocritical ardour which amounts to nothing with that Supreme Master, who requires sincere homage from those who serve him. If God chose to make known to Ezekiel that his providence extends to all things, and that even in this life it often takes up the rod to chastise nations and individuals; he would also shew beforehand, that he wished not the destruction of the Jewish people, whom he was about to visit in his anger, but only its correction and amendment. This is signified by the precious metal, which the prophet found unmelted in the midst of the fiery cloud. This cloud of fire, urged on by a whirlwind, and involving on all sides the metal, represented the judgments of God, which were about to fall upon this rebellious people, not to destroy them as a nation, but to humble and purify them. Nothing is more proper than afflictions to bring men through grace back to their duty. As fire purifies metals, so the paternal chastisements of God purify the soul and heart, if the man be not entirely incorrigible. The people upon whom God was about to pour the vials of his anger, were not worthy of his lenity. But that great God who is firm in his promises, remembers the covenant of peace which he had made with the patriarchs. This covenant is made sensible to the prophet under the image of the rainbows, which was round about him who appeared upon the throne. Every one knows that this splendid phaenomenon, which seems to join heaven and earth together, was given to Noah and his posterity, as a symbol of the covenant which God then made with mankind, and by which he declared to them, that the earth should undergo a deluge no more. And thus the pagans considered the Iris as the messenger of the deities. See Virg. AEn. lib. 5: ver. 604. But whereas the rainbow to the Jews was a symbol of peace, the Iris of the Pagans was a messenger of trouble. On the sight of this bow, the symbol of grace, Ezekiel was to be encouraged, and persuaded that his people were not threatened with an utter destruction. The event fully justified all that the prophet had contemplated with surprize in this enigmatical picture. The Chaldeans, the rod of the Lord's just severity, ravaged Judea: the people were carried away captive: they groaned for seventy years in a foreign land: but they were protected in a miraculous manner against the bloody designs of a cruel Haman: and, at length, favoured with various decrees of the kings of Persia, they had permission, not only to return to their own country, but also to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, as we shall see hereafter in our notes on chap. 37:

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here a glorious appearance of the Divine Majesty, like that which the prophet saw, chap. 1.

A throne of dazzling brightness is set in the firmament above the cherubim, and God's attendant ministers stand ranged on the right side of the house, as expressive of their abhorrence of the image of jealousy which stood on the left.
1. God departs from his holy place, from the cherub, where the Shechinah, the symbol of the divine presence, rested, and stood over the threshold of the house, as ready to depart; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord's glory, see 1 Kings 8:11. The temple was in darkness, an emblem of the blindness of the Jews; and the court of the Gentiles illuminated, God having resolved to send to these the light of his Gospel. And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, loud as the voice of mighty thunderings; intimating their departure thence, or signifying the glorious voice of Gospel-grace, which by the preaching of the apostles should sound forth to the most distant nations.

2. The city of Jerusalem is doomed to be burnt with fire, signified by the command to the man clad in linen, &c. to go in between the wheels under the cherub, and take thence burning coals, and scatter them on the city; and he immediately went in, when one of the cherubs took off the coals, chap. Eze 1:13 and put them in his hand, and he went forth straight to execute his commission; which intimates, (1.) That the wrath of God against sin is most holy: it is fire from between the cherubims, (2.) The Lord Jesus hath all judgment committed to him; and at his second coming to judge the world, shall burn up the earth, as then Jerusalem, with fire. (3.) The great quarrel of God against Jerusalem was especially their persecution of those ministers whom the cherubim represented.

2nd, The particulars here recorded of this glorious vision were before observed, chap. 1 and with very little variation, except that the face of an ox, there, is here called, the face of a cherub, which seems to intimate that they were the same.
They who interpret the cherubim of the angels, and the wheels of the Divine Providence, observe,
1. That this world, like these wheels, is in a state of constant revolution; and though the dispensations of providence appear sometimes intricate, as wheel within wheel, they all exactly correspond, and tend to one great end, the glory of God.
2. Nothing can interrupt the counsels and will of God: whatever difficulties are in the way, the wheels go forward, and every obstruction is borne down, or removed.
3. The angels are the ministering spirits, whose service God is pleased to employ in his providential government of the world.
The design of repeating this transcendently magnificent appearance here, seems to be in order to upbraid their wickedness and folly, who provoked this glorious God to depart from them, as he was now about to do. He departs from the threshold, ascends his cherubic chariot, and upwards they mount, removing first to the outer gate of the Lord's house, then to a mountain on the east, chap. Eze 11:23 and at last he utterly abandons the land. Thus God at first caused his word to be preached to the Jews; and when they rejected his Gospel, he departed from them, and sent his ministers far off to the Gentiles.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.