Ezekiel 10 – The Glory and the Cherubim
A. The vision of God’s glory at the temple.
1. (1-2) The likeness of a throne.
And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.
a. There in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone: Ezekiel 8-11 is an extended description of the prophet’s vision of corruption and judgment at the temple in Jerusalem. Another important part of this vision is the glory of God, described in the same terms as what Ezekiel saw in the vision of his calling in Ezekiel 1-3. Here is the description of a firmament that was above the head of the cherubim.
i. From the association with other passages, we understood that the living creatures of Ezekiel 1 were cherubim, but they were not given that specific name in Ezekiel 1. Now at the temple they are more properly titled cherubim, because there were artistic depictions of cherubim all over the temple, including the large statues set up by Solomon (1 Kings 6:23).
ii. “These cherubim are the living heavenly realities that the static sculptures in the inner sanctum symbolize! They have come to earth from the heavenly throne room to transport the kabod, the visible sign of God’s presence, out of his earthly dwelling place.” (Block)
b. The firmament: As with the vision in Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel saw something above the cherubim surrounding God’s throne, something like a sky or space. The cherubim are the mighty angels associated with God’s presence and throne.
c. The likeness of a throne: Ezekiel describes the throne just as in Ezekiel 1:26, but here he did not mention the appearance of a man high above it. Yet the person on the throne is implied, from the He who spoke to the man clothed with linen.
d. Fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim: This was the command directed to the man clothed with linen, who was the one who marked the few faithful in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8). God commanded this angel to take the burning coals and scatter them over the city.
i. Previously we read that Jerusalem would be judged by siege, slaughter, famine, and disease. Now we learn that Jerusalem will also be burnt, and the fire comes from the throne and glory of God itself; the coals of fire come from among the cherubim.
ii. “Emphasis on fire in this chapter is noteworthy, because it looked forward to the fire which destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (II Kings 25:9).” (Feinberg)
iii. “In Isaiah 6 the coals were for the purification of the prophet; here they were for the destruction of the wicked. Where evil is concerned, it is true that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ as stated in Hebrews 12:29.” (Feinberg)
iv. “In Ezekiel’s mind, Jerusalem was going to be treated in the same way as Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).” (Taylor)
e. He went in as I watched: The angel was quick to obey, even as he was in Ezekiel 9:11.
2. (3-5) The cloud of God’s glory.
Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; 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 wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
a. The cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple: This was the opposite side from where the angels of judgment started their work (Ezekiel 9:1-2).
b. The cloud filled the inner court: This was the cloud of glory, seen often in the Old and New Testaments, sometimes called the cloud of Shekinah glory. It is hard to define the glory of God; we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence. Here it was given some visible representation in the cloud.
· This is the cloud that stood by Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).
· This is the cloud of glory that God spoke to Israel from (Exodus 16:10).
· This is the cloud from which God met with Moses and others (Exodus 19:9, 24:15-18, Numbers 11:25, 12:5, 16:42).
· This is the cloud that stood by the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-10).
· This is the cloud from which God appeared to the High Priest in the Holy Place inside the veil (Leviticus 16:2).
· This is the cloud that so filled the temple when Solomon dedicated it that the priests could not continue to serve (1 Kings 8:1-11).
· This is the cloud of Ezekiel’s vision, filling the temple of God with the brightness of His glory (Ezekiel 10:4).
· This is the cloud of glory that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
· This is the cloud present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34-35).
· This is the cloud of glory that received Jesus into heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:9).
· This is the cloud that will display the glory of Jesus Christ when He returns in triumph to this earth (Luke 21:27, Revelation 1:7).
i. Ezekiel saw this in a vision, and in what he saw there is a strange tragedy. Ezekiel saw many people at the temple (Ezekiel 8), but only he saw the glory of God. “The sad thing was that Ezekiel was evidently the only person who saw the glory of God. The rest had eyes only for images, pictures, and the lesser glory of the sun.” (Wright)
c. The glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple: In Ezekiel’s vision, the glory of the LORD shined brightly and the cloud of His glory filled the temple. Yet, it was on the move (as also seen in Ezekiel 9:3), pausing as it was about to leave the temple.
i. Paused over the threshold: “Showing both his unwillingness to leave, and giving them time to bethink themselves, and return by repentance; and he stands where he might be seen both by priests and people, that both might be moved to repentance.” (Poole)
d. The sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard: As this visible representation of God’s glory was moving, the wings of the cherubim were active and noisy, with a sound as loud and as striking as the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
i. “The sound of the cherubim’s wings reverberates throughout the temple complex and creates an impression of restlessness, an eagerness to be off.” (Block)
3. (6-8) The fire from among the wheels.
Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” that he went in and stood beside the wheels. And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings.
a. Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim: Again, we note the emphasis that the fire of judgment upon Jerusalem comes from the throne and glory of God itself.
i. “In addition to bringing the kabod of Yahweh down to him, the heavenly chariot now arrives with the coals of divine judgment for Jerusalem, and will depart bearing the glory out of the temple and away from the city.” (Block)
ii. “The stage was now set for the fiery destruction of Jerusalem which here is symbolically represented as coming from the Lord himself.” (Smith)
iii. “Fire that proceeds from Him will be absolutely just in its activity. It will harm nothing save that which is evil. The wrath of God is terrible, but it is never passion overleaping the boundaries of righteous action. It is always restrained by the strictest justice.” (Morgan)
b. He went in and stood beside the wheels: The man clothed in linen promptly obeyed the command of God.
c. The cherub stretched out his hand: The man clothed in linen did not take the fire directly, but received it from a cherub. Ezekiel explained that the cherub was able to do this because he appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under his wings.
i. “Possibly it was meant to show that even an angelic messenger like the man clothed in linen had to keep his distance from the aweful throne of God.” (Taylor)
d. Put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen: Now this angel (angels are sometimes described as men in the Bible) could fulfill the command to scatter the coals of fire over the city (Ezekiel 10:2).
B. The appearance of the cherubim.
1. (9-13) The wheels associated with the cherubim.
And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, “Wheel.”
a. There were four wheels by the cherubim: Ezekiel 1:15-21 described these wheels in some detail. The general impression is of constant activity and motion, and free movement with no chaos or disorder (they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing).
i. “These wheels are in ceaseless activity and speak of the fact that God is busy.” (McGee)
ii. If the wheels and the cherubim represent God’s chariot or chariot-throne, then it is clear that Ezekiel was to understand that it was on the move. It was in Babylon, now it is in Jerusalem at the temple.
b. The color of a beryl stone: 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.
c. Their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around: Ezekiel 1:18 described eyes in connection with the wheels. Here we learn that the cherubim themselves were full of eyes all around. This matches the later description of cherubim found in Revelation 4:6.
i. “The image seems bizarre to the modern reader, but one must remember that this is a visionary experience, and surrealistic features may overwhelm realism.” (Block)
ii. Adam Clarke spoke for many who are mystified at the nature and complexity of these descriptions: “And perhaps from the whole of this vision and its difficulties, he will see the propriety of the council of rabbis ordering Rabbi Ananias three hundred barrels of oil to light his lamp during the time it would be necessary for him to employ in explaining this one vision.”
2. (14-17) The faces and the movement of the cherubim.
Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar. When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them.
a. Each one had four faces: This is almost the same description of the cherubim found in Ezekiel 1:10-14. Here Ezekiel didn’t describe four faces on each cherub, just the one face turned toward him. Another difference lies in that in the previous passage the faces were listed as a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Here they are listed as a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. For some reason Ezekiel chose to use the word cherub to describe the face associated with the ox.
· Some explain this by saying that since these beings are cherubim and each face is actually the face of a cherub, there was simply some unknown reason why the substitute word was used (Wright, Wiersbe).
· Some explain this by saying that the face of a cherub is something like the face of an ox (Alexander, Smith).
· Some explain this by the error of a scribe who copied the text (Taylor).
b. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar: This is a direct reference to the vision of Ezekiel 1 (Ezekiel 1:1).
c. The same wheels also did not turn: This is the same description of the wheels and their association with the cherubim as described in Ezekiel 1:17, 1:20-21. The idea is that the cherubim and the wheels are perfectly coordinated in their motions together. They were so closely connected that Ezekiel could write, the spirit of the living creature was in them.
3. (18-19) The glory of the LORD and the cherubim at the door of the temple.
Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
a. Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim: Earlier in Ezekiel 10 the glory of the Lord was described as moving to the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 10:4). Here it continued to move and departed from the threshold of the temple.
i. “The Jews dreamed that God could not depart from his temple; indeed, whilst it was his, and used as his, he did not, nor would he depart, but he will abandon it when profaned, and thereby made not his.” (Poole)
b. The cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth: The cherubim were something like guardians or attendants to this visible representation of the glory of God. Ezekiel noted in his vision that as the glory moved, so did the cherubim.
i. “The chariot not only serves as a vehicle to proclaim Yahweh’s glory and his sovereignty (Ezekiel 1) but also provides the means whereby he will abandon his temple, by which he declares the termination of his special relationship with Jerusalem and with his covenant people.” (Block)
c. They stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’s house: The sense seems to be that the glory of God traveled from the holy of holies to the threshold of the temple building, then across the court of the temple, and now stood at the door of the east gate. It was moving away from the temple and about to leave the temple courts.
i. The last mention of the east in this vision goes back to Ezekiel 8:16, where 25 priestly men faced east and worshipped the sun. “But the men who faced east worshipping the sun must have looked through the vision at the gate: their eyes were so dazzled by the created ball of light that they could not see the True Light.” (Wright)
ii. It is a striking and shocking thought that the glory of God was about to leave the temple altogether. Yet, Ezekiel also will later tell us (Ezekiel 43:2-4) that it will come back. “But turn to Ezekiel 43:2-4. The glory of the Lord returned to the renovated temple. Like the dawn of a new day; like the sound of many waters, it came, it came. ‘This,’ God said, ‘is the place of My throne…and the house of Israel shall no more defile.’” (Meyer)
iii. “Note that when the Lord does finally return, He is seen coming back through the East Gate (Ezekiel 43:4).” (Wright)
d. The glory of the God of Israel was above them: Ezekiel phrased this with a bit of irony, or perhaps tragedy. The God of Israel should have His glory rest in Israel, but now that glory was about to depart.
i. “The departure of the glory signals the end of a relationship that had existed for almost four centuries. The divine king has abandoned his residence.” (Block)
4. (20-22) The connection with the vision of the cherubim recorded in Ezekiel 1.
This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. Each one had four faces and each 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 as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward.
a. I knew they were cherubim: Ezekiel again connected what he saw in this vision with what he saw in a vision at the River Chebar, recorded in Ezekiel 1.
b. They each went straight forward: “The final word is that every cherub went straight forward, thus proclaiming the impossibility of thwarting or frustrating the plans of God. They kept their object and mission undeviatingly before them at all times.” (Feinberg)