Insights into Ezekiel 1

Updated: Aug 27

Chapter 1 Introduction



Ezekiel 1


The prophet Ezekiel was like Daniel taken captive to Babylon. Ezekiel was taken in the second exile of the Jews whereas Daniel had been taken in the first exile some years before him. Ezekiel was born into the priestly line of Buzi thus suggesting he was from an influential patrician family. He was married man but with no record of him having any children. Due to exile in Babylon Ezekiel was not able to perform his priestly role at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but God had other plans for him using him instead as a prophet. The prophet Ezekiel received a series of 14 visions from the Lord many of which allowed him to see the Glory of God in different situations. Other recurring themes in this book include the contrast between sinful men and a righteous God and the calling of Israel to repentance towards God, the coming judgement for sin is a key theme yet with messages of hope. Ezekiel means ‘God strengthens.’


New King James Version (NKJV)- Ezekiel’s Vision of God

1 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[a] of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans[b] by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

On a specific day of a specific month and year Ezekiel had open visions (i.e. whilst awake) of God. These visions were given to Ezekiel whilst he was on the bank of the River Chebar. God’s hand was upon him signifying that the Lord was communicating with him.

4 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 colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the colour of burnished bronze. 8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. 9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.

Ezekiel first notices that a mighty storm is approaching from the north. It manifests as a whirlwind or tornado sucking in clouds and fire. This tornado was bright in appearance and seemed to have an amber glow. The tornado had inside it four living creatures whose appearance was like that of the cherubim[1] i.e. each one had four different faces and four wings. Their legs were straight, but their feet were like those of calves. The creatures sparkled like polished bronze. Each cherub had two hands like a human. Somehow these creatures were able to move in any direction at will but without needing to turn around.

10 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. 11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.

Each cherub had four different faces which included that of a man, that of a lion, that of an ox and that of an eagle. There are various theories as to the significance of these faces, but they somehow represent creation and glorify God as the Creator. Two wings of each cherub stretched upward and touched the cherubs beside them, and the other two wings covered their bodies. Ezekiel mentions again these creatures were able to move in any direction at will but without needing to turn around.

13 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. 14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.

The heavenly beings appeared to glow like coals in a fire. Something like flaming torches moved between the heavenly beings and this produced lightning as they moved.

15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the colour 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. 17 When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. 19 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. 20 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[c] was in the wheels. 21 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[d] was in the wheels.

Each creature has a wheel like structure associated with them, the description makes me think of a gyroscope relating to their ability to move without turning. If the inner wheel was at 90o to the outer wheel, then this may well enable them to move in any direction without having to turn around. The wheels in some way seemed integral to the creatures. The wheel rims were full of eyes is in some way reflecting the omniscience of the Lord. However, it could be a metaphor for gemstones. Bible teacher Roger Price thinks that the outer and inner wheels represent a mobile throne. Emperors and Kings in the ANE usually had two thrones, a fixed one in their capital and a mobile throne for touring their empire[2]. This reflects the Lord as King and fits in with the idea that the book of Ezekiel is about judgement i.e. the Lord is sitting on his throne in judgement of Israel.

22 The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures[e] was like the colour of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. 23 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. 24 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. 25 A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.

The sky above the cherubim had the appearance of a beautiful crystal that he been stretched out over the throne. Underneath the sky were the four cherubim each with two wings outspread towards each other and their other wings covering the other side of their bodies. The noise of their wings was like an army in battle. These heavenly beings were acting on the commands from the throne above. In a sense the cherubim are pulling God’s chariot which holds his throne above it.

26 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. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the colour 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. 28 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.

On the sky dome above them was a placed throne with the appearance of sapphires on which was seated a man. The man from the waist and above was coloured amber and below the waist was clothed in fire and light. This is certainly a theophany or christophany where God is manifest in the flesh. The brightness emanating from the throne resembled a rainbow and reflects the glory of God’s covenants.




















Illustration from the NKJV



Ezekiel Sent to Rebellious Israel

So, when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.

When Ezekiel realises what he is seeing he prostates himself on the ground and hears a voice addressing him. The Lord is about to tell Ezekiel what he wants him to do.

Footnotes:

  1. Ezekiel 1:1 Following Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and Vulgate; Syriac and Targum read a vision.

  2. Ezekiel 1:3 Or Babylonians, and so elsewhere in this book

  3. Ezekiel 1:20 Literally living creature; Septuagint and Vulgate read spirit of life; Targum reads creatures.

  4. Ezekiel 1:21 Literally living creature; Septuagint and Vulgate read spirit of life; Targum reads creatures.

  5. Ezekiel 1:22 Following Septuagint, Targum, and Vulgate; Masoretic Text reads living creature.


[1] Ezekiel 10:20 this is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. 22 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.

[2] Roger Price Chichester Christian Fellowship audio series STS 037.

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