Ezekiel 1 – Ezekiel’s Vision of God and His Throne
A. Introduction to the vision.
1. (1) Ezekiel among the captives.
Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
a. In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day: Ezekiel’s account of his prophecy isn’t a fairy tale from an unknown time and place. He was a real man who lived in a real place and on a real day had remarkable visions of God.
i. The thirtieth year was likely the age of the prophet Ezekiel. According to Numbers 4:3, priests normally began their temple service in their thirtieth year. This date also means that Ezekiel grew up during the reform years of King Josiah (640-690 B.C.).
ii. Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry “was in a sense a compensation for the priestly ministry which the misfortune of exile had snatched away from him. When his moment of ministry was due to begin, God summoned him to another sphere of work. The priest was commissioned as a prophet.” (Taylor)
iii. “If Ezekiel were thirty years old in 593, therefore, he would have been born about 622, during the reign of the pious King Josiah. About 600, when he was some twenty-three years of age, the prophet married. With his wife he went to Babylonia as an exile in 597 at the age of twenty-six. The last dated prophecy of his book (Ezekiel 29:17) is that of the year 571, when he would have been fifty-one. Meanwhile he would have lost his wife when he was thirty-seven (Ezekiel 24:18).” (Vawter and Hoppe)
b. I was among the captives by the River Chebar: In a series of attacks, the Babylonian Empire overwhelmed the Kingdom of Judah and they carried away captives in three waves:
· 605 B.C. – Jerusalem was attacked, and Daniel and other captives were taken to Babylon.
· 597 B.C. – Jerusalem was attacked, treasure taken from the temple, and more captives taken to Babylon.
· 587 B.C. – Jerusalem falls and almost everyone remaining in the kingdom was exiled.
i. Ezekiel was taken captive in the second phase, in 597 B.C. 2 Kings 24:12-16 describes the conquest that led to Ezekiel’s captivity. There is no indication that he ever returned to Judah.
ii. Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began when Judah still stood as an independent kingdom (though under Babylon’s powerful domination) and the temple still stood and functioned in Jerusalem. During this time, before Judah’s complete conquest, there were many false prophets in Jerusalem and Babylonia who claimed God would rescue Judah and those already taken captive (like Ezekiel) would soon return (Jeremiah 28:1-4; 29:15-28). Ezekiel’s message was a rebuke because of the sinful wish to escape the deserved judgment the Babylonians would soon bring, and to give God’s people real hope, instead of the empty hope of the false prophets.
iii. Among the captives: “The arresting fact at the outset of our reading is that to a man in exile, and at a time when the national outlook was of the darkest, God granted these unveilings of Himself in a mystic and marvellous imagery.” (Morgan)
iv. Among the captives: “He was a victim of a common ancient Near Eastern policy toward conquered peoples: the mass deportation of entire populations designed to break down national resistance at home by removing political and spiritual leadership, and to bolster the economy and military machine of the conqueror’s homeland.” (Block)
v. The River Chebar: “The river Kebar, a navigable canal, flowed southeast from the city of Babylon.” (Alexander)
c. The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God: Ezekiel experienced these amazing visions by the river. Apparently, they came before him as visions, mental images like dreams while awake.
i. Heavens were opened: “There was a supreme, sovereign, and Divine power and authority by which this was done; it is not said the heavens did open, but they were opened. It was no meteor, chasm, or yawning.” (Poole)
2. (2-3) The word of the LORD and the hand of the LORD upon Ezekiel.
On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.
a. Which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity: By many reckonings, the captivity of King Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24) happened in 597 B.C., ten years before the complete fall of the Kingdom of Judah. The fifth year of his captivity would have been five years before the complete fall of Jerusalem and Judah.
i. “The specific date of his call is fixed at the fifth day of the fourth month. Assuming a spring New Year, the call came to him on the fifth day of Tammuz, which for the year 593 B.C. translates as July 31.” (Block)
b. The word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest: Not only did God’s word come to Ezekiel the priest, but it came in a remarkable way – expressly.
i. The name Ezekiel “Signifies either, the strength of God, or, strengthened by God.” (Poole)
ii. Feinberg listed what we know of Ezekiel the man. We know:
· The meaning of his name.
· He was probably born in 627 B.C. (if Ezekiel 1:1 refers to his age).
· He was a priest (Ezekiel 1:3).
· He was taken captive with King Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. (Ezekiel 1:2, 33:21).
· He was at Chebar, likely a royal canal of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 1:3).
· He was married and had his own home (Ezekiel 8:1, 24:18).
· His wife died during his ministry and God commanded him to not remarry (Ezekiel 24:16-18).
· He served during the same time as Jeremiah and Daniel, making no mention of Jeremiah but three mentions of Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 14:20, 28:3).
· He prophesied for about 20 years (Ezekiel 1:2 and 29:17).
iii. Ezekiel the priest: “No other prophet, not even the professional priest Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1), displays such an intense interest in priestly matters (sacrifices…regulations concerning ceremonial purity, the temple, precision in description and dating).” (Block)
c. In the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar: Ezekiel likely lived with other Jewish captives in this city or town on the river.
d. The hand of the LORD was upon him there: Ezekiel received God’s word in a special way (expressly). He also was God’s agent or representative in a special way because the hand of the LORD was upon him.
i. “‘The hand of the Lord was upon him’ connotes the idea of God’s strength on behalf of the person involved (Ezekiel 3:14; cf. Isaiah 25:10; 41:10, 20), a concept inherent in the name ‘Ezekiel’ (yehezqel), which means ‘God strengthens.’” (Alexander)
B. Ezekiel’s vision of God and the living creatures.
1. (4) The whirlwind out of the north.
Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
a. A whirlwind was coming out of the north: Ezekiel saw a whirlwind – something like a tornado – coming from the north. The north is often associated with God’s judgment through Israel’s powerful enemies (Jeremiah 1:14-15) and Israel’s captivity (Jeremiah 3:18).
i. This begins Ezekiel’s description of what might be the most unusual and detailed vision of God in the Scriptures.
ii. Taking Ezekiel 1-3 as a unit, it is also the longest and most in-depth description of a prophet’s calling in the Scriptures. “The vision Ezekiel had at the time of his call never left him but influenced his thought continually. It was the knowledge of God: holy, glorious and sovereign. The prophet does not show a struggle with his feelings such as is so evident in Jeremiah’s life and service.” (Feinberg)
iii. It was significant that this vision of God and the living creatures came from the direction of captivity and conquest imposed upon Israel. It was a way of saying that those calamities were from God.
b. A great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself: The whirlwind Ezekiel saw was associated with the great images of God’s presence. The cloud by day and fire by night was the expression of God’s presence with Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). A raging fire engulfing itself is a reminder of the burning bush that Moses saw, which burned but did not consume itself (Exodus 3:2).
i. One great effect of this vision was to assure Ezekiel that Yahweh was in fact the sovereign God of all creation – no matter how great Babylon and her gods seemed to be. “The multiplicity of temples, the incredible prosperity of the city, the hive of industry and culture, all this would have made any Hebrew captive feel how small his home country was and how great were the all-conquering gods of Nebuchadnezzar.” (Taylor)
c. Brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst: This radiating brightness is an expression of the glory of God.
i. “If the message of Isaiah centers about the salvation of the Lord, that of Jeremiah about the judgment of the Lord, and that of Daniel about the kingdom of the Lord, then that of Ezekiel is concerned with the glory of the Lord.” (Feinberg)
2. (5-9) The four living creatures.
Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.
a. From within it came the likeness of four living creatures: Four remarkable beings were notable from within this whirlwind of God’s presence. Ezekiel later identified these remarkable creatures as cherubim (Ezekiel 10:8-15), angels of unique power and glory surrounding God.
i. Some try to emphasize the connection between what Ezekiel described and the artistic images of half-beast, half-human monsters of ancient cultures. Yet the Biblical idea of cherubim goes back much further.
· Cherubim first appear in the garden of Eden, those who guarded the way to the tree of life with a flaming sword (Genesis 3:24).
· Artistic designs of cherubim were prominent on the lid to the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat (Exodus 25:18-20).
· Since the ark of the covenant represented the presence of God among Israel, Yahweh was sometimes called He who dwells between the cherubim (1 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1, 99:1; Isaiah 37:16). This was an earthly artistic expression of a heavenly reality (Hebrews 8:5). Sometimes the phrase speaks of the earthly picture, and sometimes the heavenly reality.
· The interior of the tabernacle was decorated with designs of cherubim, giving the impression to anyone in the tabernacle that they were surrounded by cherubim (Exodus 26:1).
· The veil separating the most holy place of the tabernacle was decorated with cherubim, adding to the sense of their presence (Exodus 26:31).
· The designs of cherubim were prominent in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:23-35).
· The four creatures mentioned by John surrounding the throne of God are rightly thought to be cherubim (Revelation 4:6-8).
· Before his fall, Satan was among the cherubim covering God’s throne (Ezekiel 28:14-16).
ii. “Certainly Ezekiel was acquainted with cherubim from his training in the temple, with its many representations of these creatures (Exodus 25–26; 36–37; 1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3).” (Alexander)
b. They had the likeness of a man: Ezekiel noted that they were not men; they were angelic beings, not human beings. Yet they had the likeness of a man – in general form and structure, they looked like men.
i. As the description following will show, they were unlike any person on earth – men don’t have four faces and four wings! Yet they were generally more like men than dragons or whales or other forms.
ii. When angelic beings appear to men and women in the Bible, they often have the likeness of a man. Perhaps the general form and appearance of angels is something like the general form and appearance of human beings.
c. Each one had four faces: Ezekiel will describe their faces in the following lines. The fact that one being had four faces perhaps indicates that some beings can comprise more than one person. In a way beyond our total comprehension, there is one God in three persons; perhaps the four faces indicate that these cherubim comprise one being in four persons.
d. Each one had four wings: Cherubim are a very special class of angelic beings, and this is one of the few places in Scripture that tells us that wings are associated with angelic beings at all.
i. The artistic designs of cherubim commanded to be made with the tabernacle, temple, and the ark of the covenant emphasized their wings (Exodus 25:20 and 37:9; 1 Kings 6:24-27 and 8:7).
ii. In Isaiah 6:1-4, the prophet described his heavenly vision where he saw beings he called seraphim who had six wings. It is likely that cherubim and seraphim are the same beings described from slightly different perspectives or noting different details. The name seraphim means burning ones, which seems to fit with these cherubim as described in Ezekiel 1:13.
e. Their legs were straight: Being in the likeness of a man, they had something like human legs – but with very different feet, like the soles of calves’ feet.
f. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze: These beings had a shiny, radiant appearance. They sparkled and gave off something of a bronze color.
i. “There is scarcely any thing that gives a higher lustre than highly polished or burnished brass. Our blessed Lord is represented with legs like burnished brass, Revelation 1:15.” (Clarke)
g. The hands of a man were under their wings: This is another example of the ways in which they resembled a man.
h. Their wings touched one another: The four cherubim were close together, not spread-out at large distances.
i. Each one went straight forward: They did not turn to the left or the right but kept straight ahead in their course. There was nothing erratic or chaotic about their movements.
3. (10-14) The appearance and movement of the living creatures.
As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.
a. As for the likeness of their faces: Each of the cherubim had the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. In John’s vision of heaven, he seems to describe four creatures with each one having one of these four faces (Revelation 4:6-8). Most think that John simply described the particular face that was turned towards his line of sight.
i. These four faces have stirred the imagination of Bible scholars, students, and artists throughout history. These four faces or figures are a common motif in Christian art, especially in medieval Europe, with the association of a figure with a gospel writer. In the sculpture work on European cathedrals one may often see a figure of a man with a book, a lion with a book, and also an ox and an eagle.
ii. The problem is that there has been no absolute agreement on which figure represents which gospel writer.
iii. Some commentators say these four creatures speak of the ensigns of the head tribes as Israel camped in four groups around the tabernacle in the wilderness. Numbers 2:3, 2:10, 2:18, and 2:25 mention this organization of the tribes under these four heads but do not assign “mascots” to tribal banners. Seiss, Clarke, and Poole each mention this approach, and cite “Jewish writers” (Seiss), “The Talmudists” (Clarke), and “the learned Mede…from the Rabbins” (Poole). Poole explains: “That these were the four creatures whose portraitures were in the four ensigns of the Israelites as they were marshalled into four companies, allotting the men of three tribes to each company. Judah’s standard had a lion in its colours, according to Jacob’s prophecy of that tribe, Genesis 49:9, Ephraim had an ox, Reuben had a man, Dan an eagle. This the learned Mede proves from the Rabbins, who, though fabulous enough, yet in such a thing may be credited.”
iv. Perhaps it is safest to say that the four faces are important because they represent all of animate creation, in its utmost excellence. The lion is the mightiest of wild animals, the ox strongest of domesticated animals, the eagle king of all birds, and man is highest of all creation. “Man is exalted among creatures; the eagle is exalted among birds; the ox is exalted among domestic animals; the lion is exalted among wild beasts; and all of them have received dominion, and greatness has been given them, yet they are stationed below the chariot of the Holy One.” (Midrash R. Shemoth, cited in Feinberg)
v. “The four represent all sentient creation. Man is the highest creature God made. Lion, eagle and ox dominate the wild animal kingdom, the skies, and the domesticated animals respectively. Since God sits on a throne above the cherubim, the thought is that all sentient creation is subordinate to him.” (Smith)
vi. There are many examples of paintings and sculptures from the Middle East that combine animal and human forms – for example, a winged bull with a human head. But there is nothing like this, beings that have four faces.
b. Two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies: This is different, though not contradictory, to what Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 6:2. There he saw seraphim (burning ones) with six wings: two for flight, two to cover the face, and two for covering the feet. Ezekiel seems to record the two used for flight and the two used to cover the feet. We have no explanation as to why the faces were covered in Isaiah’s vision but not in Ezekiel’s.
c. Each one went straight forward: The idea from Ezekiel 1:9 is repeated for emphasis. These beings did not turn when they went, not moving to the right or the left.
i. “God is moving forward undeviatingly, unhesitatingly toward the accomplishment of His purpose in this world today. Nothing will deter Him—nothing can sidetrack Him at all.” (McGee)
d. They went wherever the spirit wanted to go: It’s hard to know if this refers to the spirit of the cherub or the Holy Spirit. If the former, it means there is no battle between the flesh and the spirit for these beings; their “flesh” does exactly what their spirit desires (unlike men, as in Mark 14:38). If the latter, then they are perfectly responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
e. Their appearance was like burning coals of fire: There was something radiant, bright, and even “warm” about the appearance of these cherubim. Isaiah described them as burning ones (seraphim, Isaiah 6:2), and so did Ezekiel. Out of the fire went lightning shows the power and awe associated with these creatures.
i. “Angels are all alight on fire, as it were, with zeal for God and indignation against sin; let us be similarly affected.” (Trapp)
f. The living creatures ran back and forth: The cherubim were active, seeming to not stand still for a moment. Their movements were as quick as a flash of lightning.
4. (15-21) Looking below: the wheels associated with the living creatures.
Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
a. A wheel was on the earth beside each living creature: It isn’t easy to picture exactly what Ezekiel saw or described here. It is probably the idea of a grand four-wheeled chariot bringing the throne of God. The general impression is of constant activity and motion, not only by the living creatures themselves (Ezekiel 1:14), but also by the throne of God (specifically mentioned in Ezekiel 1:26).
i. “Ezekiel saw a throne-chariot, a supernatural chariot giving the effect of great motion and irresistible progress.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Ancient Jewish writers found in this passage what they called the merkabhah, the divine throne chariot.” (Smith)
b. The color of beryl: The mineral beryl can come in many different colors, but one of the more notable and precious is the emerald. This may mean that the wheels and their workings gave off a green color.
i. A wheel in the middle of a wheel: “Each wheel is composed of two wheels apparently at right angles to each other. This is impossible in reality, but in the vision in enables the chariot to run instantly in any direction without turning.” (Wright)
c. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went: The sense seems to be that the wheels and their workings could move in any direction, but there was no sense of chaos or disorder to their movements.
i. “Like a ball-bearing they could move in any direction without any steering mechanism.” (Smith)
ii. “They lost no time in a difficult or tedious turning, as we see in other chariots, for which way soever they were to go, thither they had faces directed, and so readily moved forward on their way, whether east or west, north or south.” (Poole)
d. As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes: Again, it isn’t easy to picture exactly what Ezekiel saw or described here. The description of full of eyes was how John described the cherubim themselves (Revelation 4:6). The sense is of great knowledge and intelligence.
i. “They are not dead metal; their livingness is shown by their eyes with which they can see the way, and by their life-link with the living creatures above them.” (Wright)
ii. “The wheels symbolize the omnipresence of God, while the eyes on their rims suggest the omniscience of God, seeing and knowing everything.” (Wiersbe)
e. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them: As the four cherubim moved, so did the four wheels and their workings. They were so closely connected that Ezekiel could write, the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
i. In thirteen months the cherubim and this heavenly chariot will return to remove the glory of the Lord from the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9-10). Yet, graciously, God also gave Ezekiel a vision of the return of God’s glory to the temple, along with these cherubim and the heavenly chariot (Ezekiel 43:1-5).
5. (22-25) Looking above: the firmament and the wings of the living creatures.
The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings. A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.
a. The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures: As Ezekiel looked above the cherubim, he saw space like the color of an awesome crystal. There was something spectacular about the “sky” above the cherubim.
i. Taylor regarding the Hebrew word raqia translated firmament: “The Hebrew meaning of something ‘made firm’ by beating or stamping, e.g. a hammered piece of metalwork. It usually refers to the curve of the heavens, which to an observer on the ground appears like a vast inverted bowl of blue. In passages like Genesis 1:6; Psalms 19:1; 150:1; Daniel 12:3, it clearly has this meaning, but in Ezekiel it has the sense of a firm, level surface or platform. In the book of Revelation this same phrase becomes ‘a sea of glass, like crystal’ before the throne of God (Revelation 4:6).”
b. I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty: This seems to describe the loud and majestic noise of a great waterfall. John used this phrase to describe the voice of the ascended Jesus (Revelation 1:15), the voice of God (Revelation 14:2), and the voice of a great multitude (Revelation 19:6).
c. A voice came from above the firmament: The living creatures responded to this voice that came from above all.
6. (26-28) Above all things: the throne and He who sat upon the throne.
And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
a. Above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne: Since the wheels and their working seemed to be on the earth beside each living creature (Ezekiel 1:15) and the voice and the throne came from above the firmament (Ezekiel 1:25-26), the presence of God was above the cherubim and the wheels and their workings.
i. “In the Book of Isaiah we have the principles of the throne of God; in Jeremiah we have the practice of that throne; but in Ezekiel we have the Person who is on the throne.” (McGee)
b. In appearance like a sapphire stone: Moses described parts of his heavenly vision with the blue color and brilliance of a sapphire stone (Exodus 24:10).
i. “He observes the most majestic throne one could imagine, made entirely of lapis lazuli, one of the most precious stones known to the ancients.” (Block)
ii. “The pure oriental sapphire, a large well cut specimen of which is now before me, is one of the most beautiful and resplendent blues that can be conceived.” (Clarke)
c. On the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it: The repetition of the word likeness means that Ezekiel was concerned to emphasize that what he saw were representations of the real. Ezekiel might very well deny that he saw the actual throne of God or God Himself; he saw their likeness.
i. With the appearance of a man: “It was a deeply held tenet of Israelite religion from Moses onwards that God could not be visibly expressed, and for that very reason idolatry was out. But given the possibility of a theophany, no form but the human form could conceivably have been used to represent the Deity.” (Taylor)
ii. “If God is to be portrayed in concrete form, the highest symbol man can use is the human form. When God wanted to reveal Himself in the supreme revelation of His person, He did so in the form of the Man Christ Jesus.” (Feinberg)
iii. “The description suggests that Ezekiel did not see a face and a body that he could have drawn, but rather a fiery brightness that had a human shape and that he knew to be living and personal.” (Wright)
d. A likeness with the appearance of a man: The representation Ezekiel saw of God was something like a man. This is consistent with the other descriptions of God in heavenly visions (such as Isaiah 6:1-4 and Revelation 4-5) and the general idea that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Again, Ezekiel did not say that God was a man, merely that His appearance was something like a man.
i. “Unlike the gods of the nations depicted on ancient seals and carvings, the glory of Yahweh defies human description, verbally or visually. And unlike the images of the heathen, which require constant attention and polishing, Yahweh’s radiance emanates from his very being.” (Block)
e. The color of amber: This is the fourth association of color. First beryl or emerald green (Ezekiel 1:16), then clear crystal (Ezekiel 1:22), then sapphire blue (Ezekiel 1:26), and now golden-brown amber.
i. Alexander says the word translated amber (hasmal) is more literally “glowing metal,” and has the idea of something that shines, such as a shining metal.
f. From the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around: Flashing red and yellow light came downward from this representation of God. The suggestion is of His power and radiance going from heaven down to earth.
i. “The symbolism points to God as high and lifted up above the heavens, far removed from this world. Yet he still gives direction and order to his creation from his heavenly throne.” (Smith)
g. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it: The whole picture is of colorful, bright, happy radiance – like a rainbow in a cloud.
i. In John’s heavenly vision, he saw the throne of God surrounded by a rainbow (Revelation 4:3). All around this setting of all sovereignty, power, authority and glory – this setting of the throne of God – God set a reminder of His promise to never destroy the earth again with water (Genesis 9:13-16), a promise that directs His sovereignty, so that it is not capricious or against His promises.
ii. A throne says, “I can do whatever I want because I rule.” A promise says, “I will fulfill this word to you, and I cannot do otherwise.” A rainbow over the throne of God is a remarkable thing, showing that God will always limit Himself by His own promises.
h. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD: Ezekiel artfully built up to this declaration, revealing that the radiant being he described was in fact Yahweh, the God of Israel Himself. Ezekiel did not claim to see God directly, but only the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh.
i. “Many believe that such visions were pre-incarnation appearances of Jesus Christ, as John 12:41 suggests in the context which refers to Isaiah 6. Such appearances could illuminate, but could not redeem: for redemption full Incarnation was necessary, and not simply an appearance as a Man.” (Wright)
ii. “All that was suggested to Ezekiel by the fire, the living ones, the wheels, the spirit of life, has been more clearly revealed to us in the Son of His love.” (Morgan)
iii. “This was the man Christ Jesus, and this is the last and best part of the vision – viz., Christ set by his Father in super celestial places, far above all principality and power.” (Trapp)
iv. “No matter what message God gave him to preach, or what opposition arose from the people, Ezekiel would be encouraged and strengthened because he had seen the mighty throne of God in the midst of the fiery trial. He had seen the glory of God.” (Wiersbe)
v. Glory: “The term kabod derives from a root meaning ‘to be heavy,’ but when applied to royalty and divinity it denotes the sheer weight of that person’s majesty, that quality which evokes a response of awe in the observer.” (Block)
i. I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking: Ezekiel’s response was one of humble surrender before such a God of glory. God’s response was to reveal Himself through His word. One might think that the mere revelation of God in a vision was enough, but it was not enough for God. Something in His nature demands that He reveal Himself through His word, making this vision valuable not only for Ezekiel the prophet but for all who will read and consider His word.
i. If Ezekiel didn’t know it before, now he clearly understood that the glory of God is not restricted to Jerusalem and the temple.
ii. “There is no doubt that through all his ministry, whether Ezekiel listened to the voice, or spoke the messages entrusted to him, he did so in the consciousness of the glory of Jehovah as he had seen it in those visions.” (Morgan)