NLT: On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened to me, and I saw visions of God.
NIV: CLICK HERE to listen to a dramatic reading of Ezekiel 1 by Max Maclean
Young's Literal: And it cometh to pass, in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth of the month, and I am in the midst of the Removed by the river Chebar, the heavens have been opened, and I see visions of God.
|NOW IT CAME ABOUT:
Allan McRae in a wonderful note that should encourage you to consider a serious study of this book, writes that
THE 30TH YEAR: Note that the date of this vision is stated in two ways (v1 & v2), which emphasizes Ezekiel's careful attention to chronological detail. Remember that Ezekiel's prophecy is generally given chronologically, making it easier to follow then for example Jeremiah in which the chapters are not in strict chronological order.
Jeremiah had been prophesying for approximately 35 years and Daniel for approximately 9 years when Ezekiel began his ministry. Note from the Timeline (click) that Ezekiel had been taken into exile into Babylon during the second invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 597BC (see 2Ki 24:14) and was about twenty-five years of age. From Numbers 4:3 (cf Nu 4:23 4:30 4:39 4:43 1Chr 23:3) we know that Jewish priests begin their ministry at age 30, which supports the time reference of "30th year" as a reference to Ezekiel's 30th birthday. Luke records that the greater Son of Man likewise "was about thirty years of age"..."when He began His ministry." (Lu 3:23).
God's plan for Ezekiel in this 30th year would radically change the course of his life. Solomon records that "the mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Pr 16:9) -- it is one thing to know this truth and quite another thing to walk out in complete confidence in that truth and to do so all the days of one's life as Ezekiel did. You might be able to identify with Ezekiel. Even as Ezekiel thought he was being prepared for the priesthood, you may have felt you were being prepared for a certain course in your life, only to have those plans radically altered by unexpected circumstances which God allowed or sent. Jehovah is also El Elyon, the Most High God and as such He is in absolute sovereign control of all the events of our life. He is the Potter and we are but clay. As believers we must remember that our "body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in (us), Whom (we) have from God, and that (we) are not (our) own" but that we "have been bought with a price" and we should seek to "therefore glorify God in (our) body" (1Cor 6:19 20) regardless of what God calls us to do. Ezekiel may have been looking forward to the prestige of a priest even in exile, but is now called to be God's prophet to the exiles. Note that Ezekiel's prophetic ministry begins not with serving, but with seeing God’s glory. This is God’s pattern in preparing a man or woman -- knowing always precedes doing – seeing comes before serving – worship comes before work. Before Ezekiel is given a ministry for God, He’s given a vision of God. God has a ministry for every believer (cf 1Pe 4:10). Be patient. First catch a vision of God and His glory! You'll never be the same and your ministry for His Name will be transformed forever as was Ezekiel's.
Over 20 years later Ezekiel still remembered this encounter as he described the vision in Chapter 40 as
Ezekiel is one of the most often slighted books in Scripture and is undoubtedly the most neglected prophetic book. When was the last time you read Ezekiel "cover to cover"?. How will you feel one day in eternity, when you bump into Ezekiel, and he says “Hello brother, how did you like my book?” It is surprising that a book as exciting as Ezekiel is as neglected as it is. Whereas Jeremiah saw through sobbing eyes, Ezekiel saw through surreal eyes, eyes of a visionary and a biblical mystic who possessed a spiritually-sensitive, other-worldly focus. Pray and read and then pause and ponder so that you can practice and apply the truths found in this great book. Then you will come to experience in a real way the repeated promise God gave in Ezekiel: You will know that I am the LORD and when we all come to take our last breath, isn't this the most glorious, rewarding and fulfilling experience we could ever have! Jesus said
Expositors notes that
Ezekiel received this vision in a region now occupied by the modern nation of Iraq. The River Chebar is mentioned in Babylonian texts (referred to as "nar Kabaru") from the city of Nippur in the fifth century BC and was apparently a canal which provided artificial irrigation from the Euphrates. The River Chebar is mentioned 8 times in Scripture, all in Ezekiel (click here for uses). Thus Ezekiel's ministry was among the exiles whereas Daniel's ministry was among the ruling powers and Jeremiah's among the Jews in Judah. Keep in mind the historical context which will help understand Ezekiel's messages -- The year is 593 BC, indicating that five years had passed since invaders from Babylon had entered Jerusalem and taken Ezekiel and a group of 10,000 of his fellow Israelites captive. The final Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC was still 7 years away as he receives his prophetic call from God. In Babylon, the Jewish prisoners of war had been treated surprisingly well. They were given decent housing and a good deal of freedom. They were allowed to practice their trades and to work the fertile fields allocated to them. All was not well, however. Many of the captives were not satisfied with a comfortable existence in a pagan land. They longed for the temple in Jerusalem and wondered why their God remained silent and unresponsive to their needs.
Among - Don't miss this word -- Where was Ezekiel? Not off to the side in a "holy huddle" but right in the middle (the Greek word mesos which is the word the Septuagint uses to translate the Hebrew and which means "in the middle") of all the other sinners, a good place to be if you are going to speak to them about your God. Where are you located? At work, in your neighborhood, etc, do you make a point to fraternize with the brethren to the exclusion of the pagans?
As Cooper writes
Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians had a policy of deporting large populations of conquered enemies. The Babylonian practice of settling the exiles in self-contained villages is demonstrated in extra-Biblical texts from the region of Nippur. While it was a traumatic event for the people of Judah, they were encouraged to settle into their new situation (Jer 29:4–23) and many followed this advice too well and became so comfortable in Babylon that they choose to remain there even though being freed by King Cyrus to return and rebuild their Temple. Ezra characterized those who choose to return as those
This description was also associated with the inauguration of the ministry of the Son of Man, Luke recording that "Jesus...was baptized and while He was praying, heaven was opened." (Lu 3:21) and will also mark His triumphant return at the end of this age and the Great Tribulation (Mt 24:21) when the heavens will be "opened" revealing the Son of Man as the King of kings
The difference is that God was speaking to Ezekiel while Jesus, the God-Man, was speaking to His Father.
Visions of God here includes visions given by God and visions in which God was seen and is always in the plural and always with the word "God" (not "LORD"). This exact phrase "Visions of God" occurs only three times in the NASB, all in Ezekiel,` (click here for all three), this verse, Ezekiel 8:3 and Ezekiel 40:2 and its occurrence is a marker in a sense, as it divides Ezekiel's prophecy into three sections. Saul of Tarsus had a somewhat similar life changing encounter
MacArthur observes that
To sum up the guidelines in simple terms, don’t focus on the details of Ezekiel’s vision, but on the overall impression it conveys.
Larry Richards adds that although
Ray Stedman adds that
Ezekiel begins with a vision and then the call similar to the prophet Isaiah’s call in Isaiah chapter 6. Like Isaiah, Ezekiel’s vision reveals the character of God. Isaiah saw God seated on a throne, high and exalted and as this chapter describes Ezekiel saw God seated on a throne high above.
And so we too must approach this great book with humility and the realization that
We must continually remain in total dependence upon the Spirit's teaching (1Jn 2:27) for "we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God" (1Cor 2:12)
As New Testament saints we must remember that
Paul reiterates to the Corinthians and to us that
The children of Israel and the facts of their history are types or examples for believers today, because we will be conformed to them if we do not exercise caution. Our doom will correspond to theirs. Therefore, the great book of Ezekiel stands as a stern warning to all who would toy with the "deceitfulness of sin" (see note Hebrews 3:13) (See Related Discussion: The Deceitfulness of Sin) or would "love the world (and) the things in the world." (1Jn 2:15). "Do not be deceived (GWT = make no mistake about this, NLT = don't be misled), God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Gal 6:7)
On the positive side Paul adds that
Indeed the message of Ezekiel begins with warnings of judgment but ends with promises of hope and restoration. In the midst of wrath our loving God always remembers mercy. Have you thanked Him for His undeserved mercy lately?
Scofield divides Ezekiel into
It should be noted that the verse by verse notes on this website reflect a literal, historical interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy. Even well respected sources like the New Bible Dictionary have statements like the following
Although I think a literal interpretation is the correct approach to interpretation of Ezekiel, clearly some passages are difficult to interpret. Where the plain sense makes good sense, we should not attempt to make any other sense or it potentially will be "nonsense".
|Ezekiel 1:2 (On the fifth of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's exile,|
Ezekiel was the first prophet to date his messages chronologically.
Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that Ezekiel is
In 597BC Nebuchadnezzar (see Timeline of Last Five Kings of Judah above)
Therefore Ezekiel's reference would be 593BC, the date of the beginning of Ezekiel's prophecy. The last date that he mentions in the book are the “twenty-seventh year” (Ezek 29:17) undoubtedly referring to the length of captivity”. Ezekiel thus prophesied almost 22 years among the captives or until about 571-2 BC. For the first 7 years he prophesied coming judgment and the last 15 years he foretold of God's promise of the blessed hope of a literal national restoration of Israel and Judah.
Jehoiachin means "Yahweh will uphold" and his name can be confusing to trace in Scripture because he is also called also "Jeconiah" (1Chr 3:16 Jer 24:1) meaning "Yahweh will be steadfast," and "Coniah" (Jer 22:24,28) meaning "Yahweh has upheld him". Jehoiachin was the next to last king of Judah (Zedekiah being the last) having succeeded his father Jehoiakim. Jehoiachin reigned only three months before surrendering to Nebuchadnezzar and being carried off to Babylonian exile. The story of Jehoiachin's reign is told in 2 Ki 24:8-16 and 2Chr 36:9-10. In the first year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar's successor, a strange thing occurred. Scripture records that
|GWT: the LORD spoke his word to the priest Ezekiel, son of Buzi, in Babylon by the Chebar River. The power of the LORD came over Ezekiel.|
|THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME EXPRESSLY TO EZEKIEL THE PRIEST SON OF BUZI THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS: (Jer 1:2 1:4; Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1; 1Ti 4:1)
Families had been torn apart, and Jerusalem lay hundreds of miles away. God’s people remained rebellious and hard-hearted. These “extraordinary times called for an extraordinary man”, specifically for God's man named Ezekiel (Yechezqe'l from chazaq = strengthen, harden + 'el = God) which means "May God strengthen" (a prayer) or "God will strengthen" ("God strengthens"). (a statement of fact). Ezekiel's name is found only here, in Ez 24:24 and in 1Chr 24:16 where it is translated "Jechezkel" the name of the head of one of the priestly orders. Ezekiel’s name is exactly the same as Hezekiah’s, except that God’s name in “Ezekiel” is -el, while in “Hezekiah” it ends in iah, the abbreviation of Yahweh or Jehovah and thus means "Jehovah is my strength".
Ezekiel was married to a woman who was “the desire" (precious & valued) of his eyes (24:16) this Hebrew phrase being more literally the "treasure of the eye" with a focus on the loveliness and desirability his spouse. Husbands, is your spouse the "treasure of your eye"?. It follows that one of the saddest personal events was the death of his beloved.
The priest became a prophet. Other prophets with a priestly background include Samuel (1Sa 7:9 ; 11:14 ; 16:2), Jeremiah (Jer 1:1) and Zechariah (Zech 1:7 ; Neh 12:4 , 16). As a priest Ezekiel would have been well acquainted with the Mosaic covenant and the priestly functions of the temple, various aspects of which permeate his messages of both judgment and restoration. Ezekiel was able to describe clearly the glory of God in the temple and the temple functions. He also was prepared to evaluate accurately the rebellion of his people against the explicit commands of the law, which was the basis for the Lord's judgments that Ezekiel announced. Finally, this priestly background enabled Ezekiel to understand the temple vision concluding the prophecy.
Concerning son of Buzi nothing else is known of his father Buzi though as Ezekiel's father he would also have been a priest. The Jewish tradition that Buzi was Jeremiah must be firmly rejected, being based on an unwarranted supposition and fanciful etymology.
Land of the Chaldeans is simply another name for Babylon. "Chaldeans" were an Aramaic people group who won their independence from the Assyrians in 625 BC. Chaldeans were so called until the time of Judea's exile to Babylon (2Ki 25; Isa 13:19; 23:13), when, especially in the Book of Daniel (Da 5:30; 9:1), the name began to be used with special reference to a class of learned men ranked with the magicians and astronomers.
Illustration of the Call of God - Alexander MacKay was a Scottish missionary pioneer to Uganda, the story of whose ministry is almost unbelievable. How did God call him to be a missionary? Perhaps you recall the story of David Livingstone’s disappearance from view into the heart of deepest Africa. At length, a British newspaper sent reporter Henry Stanley to locate him him, and upon finding him, Stanley uttered those famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Well, Stanley was so moved by his time with Livingstone that he himself later became a missionary, and he went to the heart of Africa, to Uganda. There, on April 12, 1875, Henry Stanley wrote a letter appealing for workers to come and evangelize the region. He gave the letter to a Frenchman, Colonel Linant de Ballefonds, who then left by caravan for the coast. But de Ballefonds was suddenly attacked by a savage tribe. He was killed and his body was left unburied on the sand where it was discovered by some English soldiers who happened to be passing that way. The soldiers buried the French Colonel, but before doing so they pulled off his boots. In one of them was Stanley’s letter, stained with the dead man’s blood. They sent the letter to the English General in Egypt who sent it to a newspaper in London. In December of that year, 1875, as Alexander MacKay read Stanley’s letter in the newspaper, God spoke to him and called him to be a missionary to Uganda. (See full message by Pastor Robert Morgan - Don't Hang Up)
Hand of the LORD in the Old Testament often refers to "power" (Click and study in context the 37 uses of this exact phrase in NASB). When the hand of God came upon Elijah he received supernatural strength and direction (1Ki 18:46).
Hand of the LORD is found 7 times in Ezekiel (Click here to study these 7 uses). As the LORD had prepared Isaiah (Is 6:5ff) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-19), here we see the Lord preparing Ezekiel by giving him revelation and strength for the unpopular task of speaking righteous judgment as God's mouthpiece. He was not acting on his own initiative but was the human agent constrained and compelled by God to prophesy according to His will. For the hand of the Lord to come on the prophet is to assure him of the Lord’s affirmation and enablement. We can be confident that God's call always includes God's enablement.
You may be wondering how are these Old Testament visions of God of any practical application to New Testament believers? One of the most basic weaknesses of the church today is lack of emphasis on God's nature and ways as richly revealed in the Old Testament.
J. I. Packer, in the preface of Knowing God writes
Ezekiel begins with one of the most incredible revelations of the glory of God in the Old Testament. You cannot walk away from this chapter without a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty and mystery of the Almighty. If you don't believe me, just close your door, close your eyes, and click here to listen to Max MacLean's dramatic reading of Ezekiel 1.
Ezekiel's repetition (some 70 times) of the phrase you shall know that I am the Lord indicates that knowing God is a basic goal of his prophecy. As God says in Jeremiah
Speaking of Israel, Jehovah says
A serious study of Ezekiel is the perfect antidote to counter this dearth of knowledge and understanding of the character and ways of God which plagues much of modern-day Christendom.
A. W. Tozer writes that
Take time to grow in awe of Ezekiel's God studying this book not as an academic exercise to know Him intellectually but to know Him intimately. Ezekiel's prophecy will counter a low view of God and replace it with a revelation of the truth that our God is an awesome God.
Additional observations adapted from The Biblical Illustrator: God is not tied to a place, even His holy temple in Jerusalem. He can be in a dungeon, a prison, a Babylon, etc. No place is so wicked that God cannot raise up instruments to do His service. The godly are wrapped up in the same calamity with the wicked.
Ezekiel 1:4 As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. (NASB: Lockman)
Keil & Delitzch: And I saw, and, lo, a tempestuous wind came from the north, a great cloud, and a fire rolled together like a ball, and the brightness of light round about it, and out of its midst, as the appearance of glowing metal from the midst of the fire
NLT: As I looked, I saw a great storm coming toward me from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. The fire inside the cloud glowed like gleaming amber. (NLT - Tyndale House)
NIV: I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north--an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, (NIV - IBS)
Young's Literal: And I look, and lo, a tempestuous wind is coming from the north, a great cloud and fire catching itself, and brightness to it round about and out of its midst as the colour of copper, out of the midst of the fire.
As I looked introduces the first part of the vision: storm and living creatures (v4-14). The "I looked" of v15 introduces the second part describing wheels and the glory of the Lord.
A storm wind -- Jeremiah uses a similar phrase figuratively describing the LORD's wrath writing
The exact meaning of from the North is uncertain but Ezekiel's contemporary Jeremiah makes several references to the north prophesying that
Later Jeremiah says that
Clearly in Jeremiah's allusions to the north, he was referring to Babylon’s army, which would invade from that direction.
Craigie writes that
As you read Ezekiel's description, consider sketching out what he sees, paying appropriate attention to the details, so that you have an accurate, albeit not necessarily artistic rendering. You will find that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. You will not necessarily completely understand Ezekiel's portrayal, but by drawing it out you will become more involved with the author, who clearly also had difficulty describing in human terms what was gloriously divine.
Liberal scholars have branded Ezekiel as ecstatic, visionary, neurotic, someone who periodically practiced acts of levitation, and the one who was psychotic and schizophrenic. However, no other prophet in the Bible is so creative in his presentation and forceful in his message as the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel's vision of a great cloud should be interpreted in light of the context that of the Palestinian climate in the summer (remember Ezekiel receives this vision in late July) for there is hardly a cloud in the sky from early May to the late September. During this season clouds so seldom appear as to seem phenomenal when they do appear. Not only that but this wasn't just any cloud but had "fire flashing continually." For just a moment, close your eyes and imagine the scene. Picture fire flashing forth from the fiery cloud. How would you react?
Moses describes a similar scene preparatory to the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai recording that
Ezekiel's vision is also reminiscent of Moses description in Exodus, writing that
Solomon speaking of God's glory filling the newly dedicated Temple reminded the people that
Solomon is clearly alluding to the "Shekinah" glory of Jehovah resting between the cherubim over the mercy seat of the Ark in the Temple in Jerusalem even as Ezekiel was receiving this vision. (Click Glory of the LORD)
The description of Jehovah in Psalm 97:1 parallels Ezekiel's description in this chapter, the psalmist recording that
Nahum describing Jehovah says
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to
Ezekiel's description is a theophany.
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines a theophany is
A study of OT theophanies reveals that God’s person is never actually described in great detail, and that there is often a great sense of dread on the part of the human involved. A proper reverential fear and awe is generated by the power evidenced in God’s “glory”. It is notable that every major prophet experienced a theophany which marked the beginning of their ministry (Isaiah’s 6, Jeremiah 1). And so Ezekiel received God's call in the context of clear evidence that the God of Israel was still in control.
SOMETHING LIKE GLOWING METAL IN THE MIDST OF THE FIRE:
Wind … bright light … fire were all natural phenomena that had in times past been associated with divine revelation (Ex 14:24; Dt 4:24; 1Ki 19:1ff; Ps 104:1ff; Isa 10:17; Nah 1:3). The association of these now with the vision of the glory of the LORD would keep Ezekiel from doubting God's power in comparison to the Babylonian myths of Marduk, the lord of the storm and Shamash, the god of light.
Note that Ezekiel uses words such as like, likeness, appearance 27 times in this chapter, emphasizing that he had some difficulty in describing the supernatural vision in terms understandable to natural man. These terms of comparison are especially concentrated in the last few verses of this chapter. A vision of God's glory is too magnificent for human words. This is the God we should all desire to come to know...the omnipotent, transcendent, infinite, holy and just God. This chapter pictures a God Who on one hand is incomprehensible. Man cannot plumb the depths or limits of God. In Job we encounter a question we can all relate to --
Behold, these (mind stretching pictures in Ezekiel 1) are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?" (Job 26:14) (click note on incomprehensible one of the attributes of God)
I agree with Herb Vander Lugt, RBC Senior Research Editor who writes that
As an aside if you are not familiar with God's sovereign dealings the modern Israel, let me recommend a secular production which chronicles the incredible events over about the past 100 years. The name of this thoroughly engrossing 6 hour video series which is now available on DVD is "Israel: A Nation Is Born With Abba Eban, A Personal Witness". I assure you that if you watch this video, you will not fail to see the glory of God acting sovereignly in human history to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham (Ge 12:1 12:2 12:3 12:4) and Ezekiel's prophecies of restoration and reunion of Judah and Israel in the last 24 chapters. (Also highly recommended Heritage: Civilization and the Jews)
In my opinion Ezekiel was perfectly sane in recording this incredible revelation and the excerpt below is included not to denigrate or disparage the integrity of this wonderful plenary inspired, God glorifying, inerrant prophecy but to illustrate why some scholars have difficulty accepting and interpreting the prophecy of Ezekiel.
GWT: In the center of the cloud I saw what looked like four living creatures. They were shaped like humans, (GWT)
NLT: From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human, (NLT - Tyndale House)
The well known Greek and Hebrew scholar W E Vine has an interesting discussion of cherubim here).
Demuwth occurs 9 times in the first chapter of Ezekiel (1:5 [twice], 10, 13, 16, 22, 26 [twice], 28, Click all 12 uses in Ezekiel).
The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that cherubim
After the fall, the LORD God
Their likeness was embroidered on the curtain of the tabernacle to guard the holy of holies against unauthorized entry (Ex 26:1,31). Within the holy of holies their likeness was placed atop the ark bearing the tablets of covenant (Ex 25:18-20). A pair of colossal cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat in Solomon’s temple with the canopy of their
Easton's Bible Dictionary says that the cherubim
There is a fascinating parallel between Easton's description of the position of the cherubim and the Ark of the Covenant and their position beneath the expanse over which Ezekiel saw the (Shekinah) glory of the LORD. (See also Overview: The Glory of the LORD)
Scofield adds that
|Ezekiel 1:6 Each of them had four faces and four wings. (NASB: Lockman)|
NIV: but each of them had four faces and four wings. (NIV - IBS)
Some of the early Church Fathers connected the four faces with the four Gospels, and although I cannot totally discount that possibility, I think that manner of interpretation leads to speculation which cannot be Scripturally verified. There are many aspects of this vision which will and probably should remain a mystery until we see our LORD face to face. And yet even then God will remain the infinite, incomprehensible One.
Ezekiel describes the four living creatures in a later vision adding that
In the description of the Ark Moses writes that
Isaiah records that the related but apparently distinct
In Revelation John describes
|NLT: Their legs were straight like human legs, but their feet were split like calves' feet and shone like burnished bronze. (NLT - Tyndale House)|
THEIR LEGS WERE STRAIGHT AND THEIR FEET WERE LIKE A CALF'S HOOF:
Feet...like a calf's hoof may picture stability and firm stance, but remember it is important in studying visions not to get too "focused" on minutiae. Clearly even Ezekiel had difficulty in describing what he saw, so it should not surprise us that we would have difficulty in completely understanding what he meant by what he saw! The Septuagint has a "curious" translation, recording that "their feet were winged"!
Like Burnished bronze is the same phrase John uses to describe the risen, glorified Lord Jesus in the Revelation writing that
In this verse and verse 9, Ezekiel explains how the four creatures functioned as a unit.
THEIR WINGS TOUCHED ONE ANOTHER: (1Co 1:10)
Touched one another is a description similar to that of the wings of the cherubim over the ark in the Most Holy Place of the temple (2Chr 3:11 3:12). As described later (v11,24) two of the wings were always down and when the living moved, two were extended upwards, so that their tips touched, and were in this sense "joined." When at rest, these were let down again (v24). Since the creatures have a face looking in all four directions whatever direction they move they’re headed forward.
Note the emphasis of the threefold repetition of this fact (v12, 17).
Ezekiel 1:10 As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. (NASB: Lockman)
AS FOR THE FORM OF THEIR FACES: (Ezekiel 10:14)
In the Revelation John has a similar description of the 4 living creatures who were in the center and all around God's throne
Bible Knowledge Commentary adds that
Ray Stedman writes that
|SUCH WERE THEIR FACES. THEIR WINGS WERE SPREAD OUT ABOVE: (10:16 10:19) (23)|
In a similar description Ezekiel records that
They were directed in their motion by the spirit, probably God’s Spirit. The Pulpit Commentary agrees, adding that
Ezekiel 1:13 In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. (NASB: Lockman)
GWT: Among the creatures there was something that looked like a blazing torch, constantly moving. The fire would blaze up and shoot out flashes of lightning.
NIV: The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.
NLT: The living beings looked like bright coals of fire or brilliant torches, and it looked as though lightning was flashing back and forth among them.
Burning coals of fire are an element of other visions of God (cf 2Sa 22:9, 13; Ps 18:8). Note however that Ezekiel does not say that these were literal burning coals but that there was something that looked like burning coals. So again one must be careful in trying to interpret too much into this aspect of his vision. From other Scripture, we know that burning coals from the altar brought cleansing to Isaiah in (Isa 6:6–7), and that burning coals upon the altar were used to burn the sacrifices which atoned for sins. But in the present context (especially the subsequent chapters), since Judah stubbornly refused to repent and be cleansed and healed, it is reasonable to suggest that something like burning coals presages judgment.