Ezekiel 1:15 The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another .
|NIV: CLICK to listen to a dramatic reading of Ezekiel 1 by Max Maclean|
The wheels have an appearance somewhat reminiscent of gyroscopes – moving back and forth yet without turning and all at tremendous velocity.
The interpretation by some that Ezekiel's vision was a UFO is absurd for at the end of the vision he identifies "the unidentified flying object" as having the likeness of the "glory of the LORD" and he "heard a voice speaking". Nevertheless, you should be aware that in the end times in which we live, many individuals interpret this first chapter as a clear manifestation of an ancient UFO sighting. And so if you search the Internet you will find statements like the following: The
Let us pray that the Spirit reveals the truth about the "glory of the LORD" to all who are so tragically deluded and that the eyes of their heart might be opened to "know that I am Jehovah"
Ezekiel 1:16 The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another.
|Ezekiel 1:17 Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved.|
Craigie writes that
|Ezekiel 1:18 As for their rims they were lofty and awesome, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes round about.|
Full of eyes round about undoubtedly symbolize an all-seeing God (Click here for God's attribute of omniscience), reminding us that nothing is hidden from His sight or transpires without His knowledge. This truth comforts the afflicted, obedient saint but afflicts the comfortable, rebellious person be they saved sinner (saint) or lost sinner. 2Chr 16:9 records that
This prophetic warning concerning the "eyes of the LORD" was given to good King Asa. Read the verse in context (2Chr16) to see if this knowledge of God's ever presence gaze impacted King Asa and remember there's a bit of King Asa in all of us, who in contrast to King Asa have not just a partial but a full revelation of God. To those who is given much, much is expected.
(Click here for every use of the phrase "eyes of the LORD")
Spurgeon adds that
|Ezekiel 1:20 Wherever * * the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.|
The spirit - Although I cannot find any major translation that capitalizes "spirit" (Hebrew = ruach), it is not unreasonable to interpret this as an allusion to the Holy Spirit of God, especially this initial occurrence. In either event it is clear that God is in control and the "throne chariot" goes where He directs.
Even though the supernatural workings of these wheels are beyond our ability to understand, their responsiveness to the spirit of the cherubim is clear. God's chariot has supernatural angelic power, not "horse" power like earthly vehicles. At the will of God ("wherever the spirit was about to go") the cherubim moved the chariot-throne swiftly.
The New American Commentary (volume 17 Ezekiel) adds that the living creatures
|Ezekiel 1:21 Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those stood still, these stood still. And whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.|
|NLT: When the living beings moved, the wheels moved. When the living beings stopped, the wheels stopped. When the living beings flew into the air, the wheels rose up. For the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.
NIV: When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
Young's Literal: In their going, they go; and in their standing, they stand; and in their being lifted up from off the earth, lifted up are the wheels over-against them; for a living spirit is in the wheels.
FOR THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING BEINGS WAS IN THE WHEELS: (Ro 8:2)
ASV: And over the head of the living creature there was the likeness of a firmament, like the terrible crystal to look upon, stretched forth over their heads above.
BBE: And over the heads of the living beings there was the form of an arch, looking like ice, stretched out over their heads on high.
CEV: Above the living creatures, I saw something that was sparkling like ice, and it reminded me of a dome. Each creature had two of its wings stretched out toward the creatures on either side, with the other two wings folded against its body.
ICB: Now there was something like a dome over the heads of the living creatures. It sparkled like ice and was frightening.
NJB: Over the heads of the living creatures was what looked like a solid surface glittering like crystal, spread out over their heads, above them,
Septuagint: And the likeness over the heads of the living creatures was as a firmament, as the appearance of crystal spread out over their wings above.
Young's Literal: And a likeness is over the heads of the living creatures of an expanse, as the colour of the fearful ice, stretched out over their heads from above.
Expanse is the Hebrew word raqia also translated firmament and in the Septuagint is translated with the Greek word "stereoma" which refers to anything firm or solid, thus conveying the picture of stability, firmness or steadfastness. Ezekiel saw in essence a "platform" over the heads of the living creatures that was dazzling like crystal or ice.
This "something like an expanse" however was not an empty space. “Expanse” is the same word used in Genesis when
That ”expanse“ was pictured as something solid whose function was to separate the waters above from the waters below. Here in Ezekiel the expanse separates the creatures from the glory of the Lord.
David uses raqia in the opening of the Psalm 19 writing
John gave a similar description writing that
LIKE THE AWESOME GLEAM OF CRYSTAL SPREAD OUT OVER THEIR HEADS:
Awesome (or "terrible" in KJV, ASV)
Gill says refers to the the appearance as
exceeding clear and bright, so that there was no looking upon it, without the eyes being dazzled with the glory of it.
Henry writes that this picture was
Crystal is translated by the Septuagint with the Greek word "krystallos" which is a clear rock.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge adds that crystal
Clarke adds that the appearance was
|EACH ONE ALSO HAD TWO WINGS COVERING ITS BODY ON THE ONE SIDE AND THE OTHER: (11; Job 4:18; Ps 89:7; Lu 17:10)|
|Ezekiel 1:24 I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.|
Like the sound of abundant waters… like the voice of the Almighty describes the sound of cherubim wings and bring to mind a thunderous rush of heavy rain or the washing of surf on rocks (cf. (Ezekiel 43:2; see notes Revelation 1:15; Revelation 19:6). In Revelation 1 a similar phrase describes the sound of the voice of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, John writing that He was
The wings of the creatures made an awesome sound. Observe how many ways Ezekiel describes the sound of their wings and don't do so without using your imagination. Ezekiel's senses of sight and sound are being barraged with incredible sights and sounds. Can you imagine what it will be like to see and hear this in glory!
AND THERE CAME A VOICE FROM ABOVE THE EXPANSE THAT WAS ABOVE THEIR HEADS:
In context this is the voice of God. The striking elements of this vision communicate that Jehovah is a God of splendor and great power, a truth that had been neglected in the days of spiritual decline prior in Israel.
|Ezekiel 1:26 Now above * the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis * lazuli * in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high * up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.|
The divine throne was above the expanse over the cherubim, and there God--Who cannot be seen in His fulness by mortal man--allowed Himself to be seen, not as a man but in "the likeness as the appearance of a man," in order to to strengthen the resolve of his young prophet and to as discussed in the next 2 chapters to give him a clear message to proclaim.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge has an excellent note recording that Newcome judiciously observes
Resembling a throne indicates Ezekiel's difficulty in describing it's majesty and grandeur.
The prophet Isaiah had a similar "throne encounter" prior to his call to prophesy recording that
The prophet Daniel described his "throne encounter" writing
This description is good to keep in mind so that when we are in the midst of the storms of life, we will be able to recall the truth that God is still on His throne and just as He was not oblivious to the circumstances of Ezekiel or the Jews in exile, so too, He is not oblivious to your circumstances, no matter what you may be experiencing. Look up above the storms, where He sits enthroned. The psalmist records that
Do you really believe this is true? Remember all through this book, Ezekiel has encounters with the living God and ends with the prophetic declaration that the "LORD is there." Based on Ezekiel's experience, you should be
Do you believe this?
Ezekiel sees the throne of God but it’s more than a chair. It’s a chariot or a throne on wheels – powered by supernatural cherubim propulsion. Scripture tells us that the Ark of the Covenant was a small scale replica of God’s throne in heaven and so it is interesting that 1Chronicles 28:18 David specifies that in the building of the Temple of the LORD they were to utilize
NIV translates this verse as
So here we see King David refer to the Ark of the Covenant as a chariot and in fact in Israel you see ancient depictions of the Ark often with wheels. David gives us a perfect parallel of Ezekiel's vision in Psalm 18 writing that Jehovah
Robert Morgan writes that…
LIKE LAPIS LAZULI:
Lapis lazuli is an azure-blue stone, prized since ancient times when cut and polished for ornamental purposes.
"Lapis lazuli" is the Hebrew word sappîr, translated “sapphire” in some versions (eg, NIV and even in the NASB in Ezek 10:1). The TWOT comments
The vision of the throne is similar to the experience of Moses and the seventy elders in Ex 24:10. The throne also is mentioned again in Ezek 10:1.
Something resembling… which resembled… figure are all the same Hebrew word (demuwth/demut) regarding which the TWOT has an interesting comment
Ryrie adds that
This human-like occupant of the throne undoubtedly symbolizes the One who made us in His own image. Ezekiel's vision reminds us that while we are made in God's likeness, but that we are also very unlike Him. The transcendence (click Attributes of God) of the One on the throne comes through in the guarded language, "with the appearance of a man." The "appearance" was permeated with and surrounded by a glowing fire that produced the colors of the rainbow. The portrait blended dazzling splendor but note the stark lack of detail. The effect on Ezekiel was profound. Like Moses before him and John on the Isle of Patmos after him, he fell on his face in worship. And so should we after "seeing" this glorious vision of our Lord in this chapter.
I tend to agree with Matthew Henry who writes
Ezekiel's vision and his response recall the worshipful words of the beautiful hymn by Frederick Faber
Ezekiel 1:27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him.
ROM THE APPEARANCE OF HIS LOINS AND DOWNWARD I SAW SOMETHING LIKE FIRE & THERE WAS A RADIANCE AROUND HIM:
Brightness is associated with God’s glory and holiness throughout Scripture.
Bible Knowledge Commentary writes that
The RBC booklet on Ezekiel comments that
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible adds that
VISION OF THE WHEELS
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(Sketch from W. MacDonald: Believer's Bible Commentary)
Ezekiel 1:28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
Rainbow is the Hebrew word qeshet, which described a war-bow or weapon used to deliver arrows, with the associative meaning of potency or power. The meaning seems to be that what was ordinarily an instrument of war, and a symbol of vengeance, became a symbol of peace and mercy by virtue of its now being set in the clouds. Against the black storm clouds God’s war-bow is transformed into a rainbow by the sunlight of his mercy and grace. God is at peace with his covenant people.
The rainbow is mentioned in only four circumstances in Scripture, and most appear to be associated with God's mercy in a time of judgment (read in context Gen 9:13, Rev 4:3; 10:1). It is interesting that in Genesis the appearance of the rainbow followed the judgment and was a sign of God's covenant never to destroy the earth by water. Here in Ezekiel and in Revelation, the presence of the rainbow precedes or is in the midst of the announcement of God's judgment. In all these latter uses, however, the rainbow is a sign of the glorious presence of God and in the context of its first use in Genesis, a reminder that His mercy will triumph.
Ezekiel is reminded not only of a God who is near and who reigns, but also of a God who is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. Deportation to Babylon does not mean that God has dispossessed his people or that the covenant has been abrogated.
As Cooper writes
Here is a rabbinical view of the meaning of rainbow (I don't espouse this view but present it for interest):
I can't argue with the last part of their belief. It is always good to sing praises to our God and King.
The glory shines fully in the person of Jesus Christ ("the glory of God in the face of Christ" 2Cor 4:6), which is a constant theme in Ezekiel.
This was the indescribable glory of God and human speech failed Ezekiel. As alluded to earlier, notice how many times he used words such as "as" (Hebrew = ke); "resembling"; "looked like" (Hebrew = demut); "like" (Hebrew = kemareh); and "appearance" (Hebrew = mareh) in attempting to describe God's glory. The only appropriate response to such a vision was to fall prostrate before it, as Ezekiel did. At the time of this vision, the Temple in Jerusalem still remained intact and the Shekinah glory of the LORD God dwelt in that place. And so it is noteworthy that in Ezekiel's vision God’s glory appeared outside of the Temple. Imagine the comforting and confidence building effect on Ezekiel as he realized that God was not confined to any specific place, and that God had chosen to personally visit Ezekiel among the exiles.
Remember that it had been five years since Ezekiel had been taken from Jerusalem and he was undoubtedly in need of a vision of His God. This is likewise the need of all who are mired in seemingly hopeless dark circumstances.
Right now as you read these notes, do you find yourself in great need of a "vision" of God? Study of the glory of God in the book of Ezekiel may be just the prescription the Great Physician has to remedy your need. Consider pondering other passages (e.g., Isaiah 6) describing God’s glory. Ask God to help you see His glory in creation (Ps 19:1, 2)– in a storm, in a sunset or in a starry night. Meditate on His glory as revealed in Scripture while you listen to a favorite hymn or praise song. What will happen as you behold the glory of Jehovah in His Word?
Paul says that you will be
Criswell writes that
I love L. E. Cooper's thoughtful comment on this chapter writing that
Even though God was not seen in His full glory (cf 1Tim 6:16), Ezekiel could only fall upon his face when he saw "the appearance of the likeness" of His glory.
Scripture records a similar reaction by those who had a personal encounter with the living God --
No one in all of Scripture is recorded on his face before Jehovah as often as Ezekiel (Click for all 6 times he falls before Jehovah). Abram (Abraham) had a similar experience:
Do you ever fall on your face before Jehovah in your private times with Him? Ask God to reveal His glory in His Word and then respond appropriately and ready to hear what He says.
Larry Richards adds that
So vivid was the image etched into Ezekiel's mind that some 20 years later (573BC) he says that the vision he saw then
Ezekiel had seen the true and living Most High God and was never the same. When we have a true vision of God and see Him in His glory, we cannot help but realize that God is so exalted, so awesome, and we are but dust and we cannot stand before Him. We are filled with awe and fear and reverence. And when we know God in that manner, we will live a life that is pleasing to Him, a life that honors His name. We will not approach Him lightly, but with awe and reverence.
Concordia self-study commentary has a well written note
Explorer's Bible Commentary adds that
Sidlow Baxter (Explore the Book) writes that Ezekiel
Richards draws a practical application from Ezekiel's vision pointing out that
I agree with Allan McRae who writes that
I HEARD A VOICE SPEAKING:
In the same way, after Isaiah's vision, he
Ezekiel’s call takes place in two stages. In this chapter (1:4-28) we see the first stage in which the prophet received his initial vision and call followed by an indication of the contents of his message (2:1-3:15). In the second stage, seven days later, he was commissioned to be a watchman for the house of Israel (3:16-21).