Ezekiel Chapter 1 The Vision of the Glory of God

Jun 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Ezekiel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Vision of the Glory of God

When we read Chapter 1, we notice immediately that the first three verses are a prologue. They are introductory, explaining the historical circumstances of the prophet’s experience.

Verse 1: Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Verse 2: In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,

Verse 3: The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

The thirtieth year was not necessarily the thirtieth year of a Jubilee cycle but the thirtieth year of Ezekiel’s life. As a priest, his ministry started at age 30—and particularly as a high priest. Although the account does not state he was a high priest and history does not verify the fact, he was in that role, to all practical purposes, under these unusual circumstances. Possibly the reason he was given such a wonderful vision is that he was high priest.

There is an interesting parallel with our Lord. When Ezekiel was at the river Chebar at age 30, “the heavens were opened” to him and he saw visions of God. Likewise, when Jesus was baptized at the river Jordan at age 30, the “heavens were opened unto him” (Matt. 3:16). The river Chebar was in the nation of Babylon, specifically in the land of Chaldea. Ezekiel was probably a captive in the vicinity of Nippur, a city that was 10 to 15 miles southeast of Babylon, the capital city. The Hebrew word Chebar corresponds with the Syriac Kabara, which means “the great digging.” Kabara is the noun form of the verb “to dig.” In other words, Chebar was the famous royal canal.

It was also the fifth year of the captivity of King Jehoiachin, which corresponded with the fifth year of Zedekiah, the last king of the nation of Israel. The city of Jerusalem was captured and destroyed in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, so this setting in Chapter 1 was prior to the destruction. The ten-tribe kingdom was taken captive much, much earlier. Ezekiel was apparently taken to Babylon at the time of Jehoiachin’s (Jeconiah’s) captivity, the result of a Babylonian incursion into Judah. Thus the prophet was in Babylonian exile among the captives of Judah prior to the 70-year captivity that began in 606 BC. It is very interesting that “the word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel.” In other words, the prophet was peculiarly selected and honored by God to receive the subsequent vision. At this time both Daniel and Jeremiah were alive, but Ezekiel is the one to whom the vision was given. Being in the capital, Daniel was only a few miles away from Ezekiel when the vision of Chapter 1 occurred.

“The hand of the LORD” was upon Ezekiel. It was like resting the right hand of approval  on the prophet’s shoulder. The point is that God thought highly of Ezekiel as an individual, and accordingly, He conferred a particular honor on the prophet. God put His Holy Spirit into Ezekiel’s mind (and body even, as it were) in the experiences the prophet would have off and on during his ministry, but continuously as far as Chapter 1 is concerned.

Verse 4: And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

Verse 4 begins the narration of the experience Ezekiel had on this occasion. Before examining the detail, we will back off and look at the vision as a whole. What did Ezekiel first see? “A whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it.” (The word “tornado” is not found in the King James Version.) Was the cloud “great” in the sense of being horizontally embracive, or did it come down to a relative focal point like a tornado? Based on later information this great whirlwind touched down on the earth. Ezekiel saw a great cloud in the distance that was approaching him from the north. Remember, he was near the capital where Daniel was. The great cloud was “a fire infolding itself”; that is, it was a self-feeding fire—it fed on itself. We are reminded of the incident in Sinai with Moses and the burning bush. Moses noticed

a bush in the distance that was burning furiously with a high flame, and yet the bush was not consumed (Exod. 3:2).

A “brightness” was about the cloud. The center part of the cloud was a vividly glowing presence of fire, but there was also a bright circumambient glowing or halo effect. “Out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.” The fire that was cloaked inside the cloud was of such intensity that even though the cloud shrouded it, the fire exuded a glow or brilliance that Ezekiel likened to amber.

Verse 5: Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.

After seeing the cloud, Ezekiel next noticed “the likeness of four living creatures” coming out of the midst of the cloud. The word “beings” is more accurate than “creatures”: four living beings. “They had the likeness of a man”; that is, the body, or torso, of each of the living creatures resembled a human form, but the extremities—the head and the feet— were different, as later details will reveal.

This is a moving picture, a scenario. First, Ezekiel saw a very impressive cloud and then, dropping down or descending from the cloud, the four cherubim. In fact, they would even touch the earth with their wheels (verse 15). The prophet now became enthralled with the details of these beings and related matters. He next saw wheels and then a “likeness of the firmament [a platform] upon the heads of the living creature” (verse 22). The account clearly shows that the living creatures, the wheels, the platform, etc., were descending. Verse 26 states that on top of the platform that was over the heads of the cherubim there was a throne. The last verse reveals that the vision pertained to God Himself, to His glory. And that is the significance: This vision is a symbolic representation of God Himself in GREAT detail. And since it is a vision of the glory of God, the conveyance has nothing whatever to do with a literal mechanism or chariot. Now back to the detail.

Ezek. 1:6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.

Four faces surrounded the skull of each living being. There was only one neck stem but four faces on the skull instead of one. Moreover, every one of the living creatures had four wings.

Ezek. 1:7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.

Ezekiel noticed the peculiarity of the design of the feet of the living beings: “Their feet were straight feet.” Certain animals have feet designed anatomically by God for forward movement rather than for side movement. For example, cows plod forward. If they have to suddenly turn, they cannot just step sideways but have to almost lift up their top two feet and wheel about.

“The sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot.” The thought is that the hooves were parted, cloven. In Leviticus the Law designated as clean food those animals that had a parted hoof and chewed the cud. Thus a cow, or calf, is a clean animal. “And they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.” The feet were sort of glorified but down here on earth. “Burnished brass,” which is highly polished and refined brass, resembles gold but, like copper, pertains to humanity and the earth.

The Living Creature

The Living Creature

Ezek. 1:8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.

Subsequent verses show the disposition of the hands under the wings. A human being has a pair of hands, which are joined, as it were, by going up the arm, through the shoulder, and down the other arm. The wings were also paired, as will be seen, and joined through the shoulder mechanism. The hands were not seen unless the wings were uplifted.

“On their four sides.” The living beings were positioned or stationed on the four sides of the base, the platform, of the symbolic chariot. Although Ezekiel was watching a moving scene, the movement was sufficiently slow for him to discern details. As the vision gradually unfolded, he noted the details. We will find out that each cherub had four wings that were paired—thus two sets of wings.

The account is emphasizing that the four living beings were identical. The peculiarity of one being was the same peculiarity of the other three beings.

Ezek. 1:9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.

The pronouns “their” and “they” continue to refer to the cherubim. The cherubim “turned not when they went.”

This vision has a spiritual significance. What began to unlock the vision was the Harvest truth message. Bro. H. Mann first described the four living creatures as representing the four attributes of God’s character—a very unusual observation. Bro. Russell picked up and endorsed that clue immediately, frequently referring to the four attributes in his writings. He changed the meaning of two of the attributes to correctly identify the four as Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Power. Bro. Mann’s clue was valuable because it showed that the four cherubim do not represent literal beings, either angelic or human, but characteristics. Even the world uses such representation. For instance, Justice is portrayed as a blindfolded individual. Thus it is not unusual for a sculpted statuesque being to represent a virtue or grace, but to identify the four living beings in Ezekiel as the four attributes of God fits the picture perfectly as we examine the contents of the vision.

The wings, which we subsequently find represent the Word of God, “were joined one to another” as the Old and the New Testament. The woman (the true Church) fled on the wings of an eagle (the Holy Scriptures) into the wilderness (a separate place or desert condition) for the 1,260-year period ending in 1799 at the time of the French Revolution (Rev. 12:14). In other words, the Scriptures comforted and sustained true Christians in their flight and solitude, enabling them to keep their faith.

The symbolism is verified later in the vision, but we are trying to spiritualize as we proceed in order to substantiate not only the literal aspect of the appearance of the vision but its symbolic representation. What about the hand under each wing? In the Old Testament God spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets. His thinking, His direction, and His instruction were revealed through both Old and New Testament prophets. God’s method is to speak to His people through human agencies. Therefore, it is fitting that the hand was coupled with the wing, for dispensational truth in particular was revealed in this way.

Ezek. 1:10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

Let us keep in mind that this is a vision. The words “likeness” and “appearance” indicate a symbolic picture of God and His method of procedural performance, especially pertaining to judgments down here on the earth. God does not in any sense actually look like these descriptions.

Each of the four living beings had four faces: “the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” In other words, the faces were diagonal in repose: northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest. From Ezekiel’s particular perspective he could clearly see all four faces.

The spiritual application of the faces is as follows:

1. Man was made in the image of God with a soft heart. (Sin brought in the stony heart,the calcification or hardening.) Therefore, the man’s face symbolizes Love.

2. Scriptural applications have been given for the lion to represent either Power or Justice, but Justice is the correct interpretation here. Ezekiel 41:19 reads, “The face of a man [Love] was toward the palm tree [a symbol of victory] on the one side, and the face of a young lion [Justice] toward the palm tree on the other side: it was made through all the house round about.” Although one cherub on the Ark of the Covenant portrays that God is Love, the base of His four attributes, the foundation of His throne, is shown to be Justice because the Love cherub is attached to the Mercy Seat. The attribute that human beings are concerned with is Love—but Love being exercised in the phase of Mercy. It is God’s Love that attracts the Christian. When one realizes he is a sinner but wants to have fellowship with God, the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, he is overjoyed to find out that God dwells with the repentant, the lowly, the humble. Awareness of that appealing quality draws the sinner to desire more fellowship with God. Therefore, the Love of God now, as far as mankind in weakness and imperfection is concerned, is Mercy, Pity, Sympathy, Tenderness, Approachableness, Compassion—all different phases of Love—but when perfection is reached at the end of the Kingdom, the attribute will be just Love. Mercy and Pity will no longer be needed in the way, way, distant future, in the endless ages of time when all is in harmony. Love will then be operative in its resplendent form, but at present other forms are needed.

The lion is associated with Solomon’s throne (1 Kings 10:18–20). Lions on different tiers going down from the throne represent judgment. Thus the throne is a symbol of Justice. Power is there too, but Justice is the most appealing factor of government. A government should be just and pure in its enactments. And so we find that Love and Justice must be reconciled. God, in His Love, could not just receive the sinner back to Himself but had to be just and the Justifier of the party seeking repentance. Justice was satisfied in that God provided a Redeemer, Jesus, to cover our sins and be our Advocate. Thus God could deal with the Christian during the Gospel Age in a sonship sense through Christ. Our prayers are directed to God but made acceptable through the merit of His Son. In the Third Temple, therefore, Justice and Love are shown facing a palm tree between them, brought to victory. In Isaiah 42:1, we begin to read that story: “Behold my servant [Jesus], whom I [God] uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” Unrepentant sinners are “Gentiles” in the sense of sonship, as it were, whether they are actually Jew or Gentile. But Jesus changed the situation with the addendum that judgment will be brought forth to victory: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory [to the palm tree]” (Matt. 12:20). Because Jesus is looking for the salvation of the individual, he will deal not brusquely but tenderly with the one who feels weak and has no confidence in himself. Thus the reconciliation of Love and Justice will be shown by the palm tree in the Third Temple. Justice formerly condemned, but Love found a way.

Another Scripture that proves the lion represents Justice is Ezekiel 43:15, “So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar [Hebrew ariel meaning ‘lion of God’] and upward shall be four horns.” The altar (a symbol of Justice) had four horns. Justice is pictured by the very name of the altar: ariel (lion). (Ariel means both altar and lion.)

3. The four horns (symbol of power) picture the disbursement of God’s Justice—the power of its distribution is to the four corners of the earth or to whomever the altar is dealing with in a particular setting. The horns of an ox, steer, bullock, or bull all represent Power. We even have the common saying “the strength of an ox.” Because of its strength, an ox was used to pull a plow.

4. The last symbol, the face of an eagle, pictures Wisdom, God’s farsightedness.

Ezek. 1:11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.

The upper pair of wings was stretched outward and upward (“divided above” in the King James margin). In Solomon’s Temple the wings were stretched outward, and the two large cherubim in the Most Holy were pictured as standing side by side, their wings’ touching the wall. The positioning shows God’s intent, the ultimate outcome of His plan, which He knows in advance because He sees the end from the beginning.

The word “joined” is “kissed” in the Hebrew, indicative of the tender relationship between the Old and the New Testament, the two wings. The two witnesses embrace one another (Rev. 11:4). Those who speak not according to the testimony of both Testaments have no  light in them. In one sense, the two tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai represent the Old and New Testament (in another sense, they represent duty to God and duty to man).

“And two [wings] covered their bodies.” The upper two wings of each cherub were stretched outward, while the lower two wings covered the body. This disposition of the wings harmonizes with Isaiah 6, where the cherubim each had three pairs of wings; but here they each had two pairs of wings. God’s plans, thinking, etc., are both hidden in His Word and revealed in His Word. Some things are not meant to be understood. As the wings were lifted up, the arms (“hands”) were revealed, thus signifying that prophecy is given in advance often through human agency.

Ezek. 1:12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.

The living beings do not deviate off course or deflect in another direction. When God’s attributes go into action, when they are in pursuit of accomplishment, nothing deters them; they go direct to what is intended to be done.

Ezek. 1:13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

Each living being had a fire lamp or lamp of fire. The up-and-down movement of the lamps pictures inspection. The revealment—the intellectual enlightenment or understanding— of God’s Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Power comes from the lamp of God’s Word. Stated another way, the attributes are understood through the medium of knowledge. “Out of the fire went forth lightning.” The flashes indicate that not only is God’s Word revealed when the inspection process takes place but there are occasional moments of supernatural revealment. For example, sometimes in the Pastor’s writings, he made comments that were out of this world, as it were—as if he were suddenly transported. In hymns, too, we sometimes see unusual perspectives. That type of brilliance comes off and on (if it were sustained, it would be too overwhelming for us in our imperfect state). For example, when angels appeared to men, the men had to be sustained with strength in order to receive the instruction and/or message. Otherwise, they would have been so overwhelmed that the communication would be forgotten.

Ezek. 1:14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

God’s Word does not return unto Him void but accomplishes all that is purposed (Isa. 55:11). When God decides to go into action, nothing can deter His attributes.

Ezek. 1:15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

One wheel was at the side of each cherub. A symbol of progress, the wheel represents the plan of God. Time progression is shown. Ages are sometimes depicted by semicircles, but those semicircles are emblematic of whole circles, that is, of the progression of time to an event. Based on the thought of a circle, God’s Word goes forth, accomplishes its purpose, and returns. “The living creatures ran and returned” (verse 14), and the wheels accompanied them.

Ezek. 1:16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.

“Beryl” should be chrysolite, the chrysolithos stone, the stone of gold, which is also a symbol of wisdom. On the breastplate of the high priest, the chrysolithos stone (called “beryl” in the King James) in the bottom right corner (from the viewer’s standpoint) represented the tribe of Dan and wisdom.

“Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” Spokes (strakes) supported the outer rim. Normally spokes extrude from the hub of a wheel and  attach to the rim so that the wheel and the hub move together. But here each wheel consisted of a larger outer wheel and a smaller inner wheel. The outer wheel pictures the great dispensations: the three worlds on the Chart of the Ages (the World Before the Flood, the World That Now Is, and the Everlasting World to Come). Inside large dispensations are smaller ages and activities: the Patriarchal Age, the Jewish Age, the Gospel Age, and the Kingdom Age.

Ezek. 1:17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.

When the cherubim on the four sides went, their wheels went also, and they turned not. Just as the living beings did not deviate from the purpose but went direct, so the wheel accompanied them and also did not deviate.

If this were a literal vision, we would expect the platform to collapse when the four cherubim who supported it simultaneously went out on errands. But the cherubim went out and returned so quickly—in a nanosecond, as it were—that we are not to even think along these lines. This is a spiritual picture, so we should try not to give it too much of a practical, mechanical application.

Ezek. 1:18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.

The rims of the outer wheels were so high they were awesome—they caused reverential awe. “Their rings [strakes, spokes] were full of eyes round about them four.” In addition to the chrysolithos stone of wisdom, the eyes are a symbol of intelligence. In other words, “How His plan His wisdom shows.”

Ezek. 1:19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.

Ezek. 1:20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

Ezek. 1:21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

The living creatures and their wheels were inseparable, showing that God does not operate in a haphazard or random fashion. He knows the end from the beginning. There are no ifs, ands, or buts.

The wheels seemed to have an intelligence, a spirit, in them, and yet, on the other hand, a spirit was also in the living beings. While both seemed to have an intelligence, the source of that intelligence in a modified perspective was the living beings below the platform.

However, subsequent verses will show that the real source was above the platform and in the throne; that is, God Himself. (Ezekiel was describing the vision in the order of its revealment to him, and thus far he could not see the throne.)

Ezek. 1:22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.

The “firmament” or platform rested upon the heads of the living creatures, and on the platform were God and His throne. Of course God does not need angels or any literal support, for there was a time when He dwelled alone. This reasoning further confirms that the living beings represent the four attributes of God (and not literal beings) and that they are the foundation of His character.

Genesis 1:6–8 speaks of the “firmament” in connection with the Creative Days. The firmament is aerial space. In a more limited sense, it is the circumambient air or atmosphere that surrounds planet earth and/or earth’s solar system. In the larger sense the firmament includes the many stars we see at nighttime—the entire heavens.

Ezekiel saw that the firmament or platform was the color of awesome “crystal,” which is the Hebrew word qerach, also translated “ice” or “frost.” In other words, the platform resembled the aerial firmament but in a solidified transparent form, almost like glass. Certain phrases are repeated in this first chapter of Ezekiel to let the subject matter sink down into our ears, hearts, and minds. This type of repetition is good, whereas our repetition is sometimes vain (Matt 6:7).

Ezek. 1:23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.

Each cherub and its upper pair of wings covered a complete side of the platform. When the wings of the living beings were stretched out to the corners of the platform, each wing touched a corresponding wing of another cherub so that the four cherubim were all embracive, completely covering the four sides of the platform underneath. “Every one [of the four living beings] had two [other wings], which covered on that side, their bodies.” Each cherub also had a lower pair of wings that covered its body.

Ezek. 1:24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.

When the living beings went and their wings were activated, the wings sounded or functioned like amplifiers, for they broadcast the thinking and message of the One above. This verse is saying, in effect, that the wings were the Word of God, for they were the loudspeakers. When they expressed God’s thinking, they expressed it in the language of a host; that is, they did not just speak in English, Greek, Spanish, etc., for God communicates with His people in the language of the environment in which they reside—in the language they understand. He understands all languages and thus speaks in a distributive fashion.

An illustration is the American Bible Society, which not only translates the Bible in all languages of earth but is trying to translate it into all dialects.

The noise of the wings was “the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host.” In other words, the sound was not babel or confusion, even though it was multitudinous and the noise of a host. It was the noise of “speech,” of intelligence. There was meaning to this sound.

“When they [the living beings] stood [still], they let down their wings [the lower pair of wings that covered the body].”

Ezek. 1:25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.

Ezek. 1:26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

Ezek. 1:27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.

The composition of the throne was like a sapphire stone. With sapphire being blue, we think of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” In the sapphire are brasslike flecks, which are considered by the jeweler to be impurities, but they are actually part of God’s intentional design to correspond with the stars in the firmament of heaven.

“Upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and … downward, … the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.” Ezekiel now began to describe the throne and the One on that throne. Underneath the chair or throne was a glowing fire showing harnessed POWER. The personage seated on the throne appeared like a man in the sense that he had legs and the bottom half of his torso could be seen. From the appearance of his loins both upward and downward could be seen a glowing fire, a halo of brilliance. Who can dwell amidst the eternal burnings? “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites.

Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14) Only those who are humble and pure in heart can so dwell. This purifying fire will not destroy those who are in harmony with God, but it does destroy imperfections. The word “fire” comes from purrhos in Greek, which is related to the words “pure” and “pyre.” In a funeral pyre, a corpse is burned. God’s presence is purifying, and nothing imperfect or impure can be in that setting. God willing, we hope to be changed so that we can face God and be in His presence with our sins literally gone. Thus the fire is a welcome sign or experience for cleaning impurities in the one class, but it is destruction to the class who will not get life. In the distant future, no evil will be permitted.

Notice that God’s face, head, shoulders, arms, and chest—the upper part of the body—were not described, just His loins downward. Ezekiel could see just enough to realize a being was seated on the throne, which verse 28 reveals to be God.

Ezek. 1:28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

“As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about [the throne].” We are reminded of the rainbow that appeared for the first time after the Flood. God said it represented that He would not destroy humanity utterly in the future, leaving only eight people as in Noah’s day. While judgments and cleansing would occur, a remnant—survivors—would be left, and they would be more than eight individuals. God, in His mercy, would save as many people as possible without interfering with their own freewill moral agency. The bow in the cloud thus becomes a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy and a covenant of promise. Exodus 24:9–11 furnishes helpful information. “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” The account adds the interesting detail that they ate afterwards, as if to say, “After seeing the exalted, awesome vision, they survived!” This incident occurred after Moses had sprinkled the blood of bullocks and goats on the people. By inference God was seen seated on a throne, the foundation of which was a sapphire stone. The description “the body of heaven in his [its] clearness” ties in with the stone’s picturing the firmament of heaven. The surface of the platform appeared to be paved. Tile could be seen, as it were, but the tile was transparent with the body of heaven below.

For the next several chapters, the “voice of one that spake,” i.e., the voice of God, will speak to Ezekiel, giving him instruction about what would happen and details about judgments that would be fulfilled on the nation of Israel. In Chapter 10 Ezekiel had a repetitive or similar experience with a vision of the four living beings and God’s throne. The first chapter explains the principles of divine operation; it is a vocabulary or dictionary of the meaning of various symbols that God uses in His Word. With all the particularity of detail that describes the glory of God, Chapter 1 does not tell what He is doing. No deeds are mentioned. Chapter 1 just gives the basis of the vision, whereas in subsequent chapters, God begins to act, a voice instructs Ezekiel what to do, and the prophet sees many things. When we get to Chapter 10, the Holy Spirit assumes we already know what the symbols represent, so it then shows a separation between the platform and the living beings. Thus there is additional information in the tenth chapter.

(1987–1989 and 1973–1976 Studies)

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  1. […] For a more detailed explanation of this vision, see our verse by verse study on Ezekiel Chapter 1. […]

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