1Now 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.
The writer of this book, Ezekiel (vs. 3), sees a vision. Visions, throughout scripture, are symbolic in nature (e.g. Daniel 2, 4, 7-12). Ezekiel sees this vision as a captive beside the river Chebar.
2In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,
Ezekiel was captive during the time of king Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chron. 36; Jer. 52).
3The 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.
Ezekiel, who received this vision from God, was a priest, which means he was a Levi, a descendant of Aaron. His father's name was Buzi. His vision was received in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, or wise men.
4And 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.
This is the beginning of what Ezekiel actually saw in the vision. Here, the vision presents symbols with meanings. They are not literal in and of themselves. Here is a list of the symbols and their meanings from scripture:
1. whirlwind - almost always associated with a chariot as part of an army or as swift transportation; represents God's swift message, judgment, and/or destruction (Isa. 5:28; 17:13; 40:24; 66:15; Jer. 4:13; 23:19; 25:32; 30:23)
2. comes from the north - generally directions in visions represent the approach vector of invading armies. as whirlwinds are often associated with armies bringing the destruction from the Lord, this vision then is of an army that will come from the north to bring destruction. (Isa. 14:31; 41:25; Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6; etc.)
3. fire - always a symbol of judgment and destruction (Isa. 1:7; 4:5; 5:24; 9:19; 10:17; 29:6; 66:15-16; Jer. 4:4; Dan. 7:9; Hos. 8:14; Joel 1:19-20; 2:3,5,30 (Acts 2:19); Amos 1, 2; Obad. 1:18; Mic. 1:4,7; Nah. 1:6; 3:13, 15; Zech)
4. brightness - representative of its intensity and its illumination; light = truth/knowledge and the fire is consuming darkness/ignorance (verses on request)
5. colour of amber - this actually translates better as glowing bronze (or brass); this represents purity of truth as we see them on the feet of Christ in Rev. 1:15 and as part of the angel in Daniel 10.
So what Ezekiel sees is a message of judgment from God. We will see many of the symbols here in Ezekiel repeated again in Revelation. They have the same meaning there as they do here. The Bible is one, giant, living, whole rather than a bunch of disjointed books or even verses separate from one another as many often take them.
5Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
These four creatures are parallel to the creatures we see in the throne room in Revelation. They all have features that represent different things. In this particular verse, their general appearance is that of a human. The specific features, though, are not.
6And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
Each creature has four faces and four wings. The number 4 in the Hebrew numerology represents the Earth or the physical world. These beings represent God acting in the physical world or upon the Earth. The four faces are features that will be described below. The wings represent presence, the property of God to be everywhere in the world all at once (Omnipresence) which gives Him the ability to interact in human affairs, to move human nations as He wills.
7And 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.
The feet were straight like a man's feet, though the bottom were tough like the sole of a calf's foot. This represents speed and endurance. Again the polished brass represents purity. God's message to Ezekiel was about the judgment He was to bring, a judgment that would be swift and enduring and complete (pure).
8And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Hands represent skill and ability to do. These creatures then represent God's activity in the Earth. That the hands are under their wings indicates that God's activities are generally hidden from men except to whom He reveals those activities to.
9Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
The wings were immobile, they did not turn. As God is everywhere all at once, nor does He ever make mistakes, the wings have no need of movement, of change in direction. God's judgment is sure.
10As 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.
The four faces are parallel to the four creatures in Rev. 4. Man represents intellect/wisdom/reason superior to all other forms of creation. As these are actually representative of God, it represents His intellect and wisdom. The lion represents strength. The ox represents endurance. The eagle represents omniscience (the ability to see everything) and swift judgment.
11Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. 12And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
These two verses are reiterations of things already said. God's judgment comes from above (wings stretched upward) and it is there that understanding of the purpose of His stirring of the nations can be found. Ultimately we must look to God's Word, not man's thoughts, to understand these things.
13As 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.
The creatures was like burning coals of fire, which represents purifying as seen in Isaiah 6:6 and other places. Lamps are light, they show the way, the represent truth. Fire is judgment and lightning represents speed. Together you have a purifying message of swift judgment. Hopefully whomever received Ezekiel's message would seek to be purified and survive the judgment to come.
14And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
The movement of God within the Earth, stirring up the nations to work His will is fast if need be.
15Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. 16The 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. 17When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. 18As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
The description of the wheels is complicated and must be taken altogether to get the correct picture. We get the idea that the symbol Ezekiel sees is enormous, large enough to cause deep fear (dread). The wheel is upon the earth, there where wheels within the one outer wheel working at different angles, but the wheel did not change directions. The wheel is full of eyes symbolizing vision. They are made of beryl, a sea-green colored stone used in the priestly garments (Exodus 20) and seen again in Daniel 10 in the body of the angel and in Revelation 21 in the structure of the city of God (the church). The color is always associated with those who are allowed in the presence of God. Altogether this vision of the wheel shows the complexity of God's machinations in the world, but that He completes them perfectly without veering or needed to correct.
19And 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.
The idea here is that God sometimes lets the world do its own thing without His personal tweaking.
20Whithersoever 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. 21When 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.
This is a culmination of the vision Ezekiel sees. God's intellect/reason/wisdom, strength, endurance, omniscience, omnipresence, and swiftness of judgment working through complicated machinations in the world to bring about that purifying judgment. It is an awesome and terrible thing to be the target of God's wrath. That is how God opens up his message through Ezekiel to the audience to which Ezekiel prophesied.
22And 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 is the sky (the first heaven in scripture - Gen 1) stretching above the heads of the creatures the sea-green of the beryl stone. This represents severe storms (think tornadoes) and goes hand in hand with the lightning.
23And 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.
A reiteration of the four wings. That they reach so high yet still cover portions of the body of the four creatures shows again the vastness of the presence of God.
24And 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.
The voice of God is seen often as the noise of great or many waters (Rev. 1:15; 14:2; 19:6) the noise as of a multitude of people (think of the noise in a stadium). Seen in Daniel 10:6 and again in Isa. 13:4. God's voice is powerful. That is to say, when God speaks, His will is done (Gen 1) for He is omnipotent.
25And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
The voice is that of God who is above the angels that represent Him. They stand and let down their wings, which represents that they wait on God's command to do His will.
26And 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.
Here God is identified, just as we see in Rev. 4. Ezekiel is given a vision of the throne room, representing the authority of his message comes from God. This is not actually Ezekiel seeing the literal throne of God because no man can see God and live. It is a likeness, a vision, a symbol. Upon it is a likeness as a man, looking at the idea that man is created in the image of God from a different perspective. The one who sits on the throne (has authority) is intelligent (omniscient), logical, and wise as represented by man, the only being of that type in creation.
27And 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 whole of God is pure.
28As 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.
The rainbow represents God's unbreakable promises or covenants. When Ezekiel sees even just a vision of the glory of Jehovah God, he fell prostrate.
God then proceeds to actually deliver the message which will start in chapter 2.
In Truth and Love,
- Ezekiel 1
- Ezekiel 2
- Ezekiel 3
- Ezekiel 4
- Ezekiel 5
- Ezekiel 6
- Ezekiel 7
- Ezekiel 8
- Ezekiel 9
- Ezekiel 10
- Ezekiel 11
- Ezekiel 12
- Ezekiel 13
- Ezekiel 14
- Ezekiel 15
- Ezekiel 16
- Ezekiel 17
- Ezekiel 18
- Ezekiel 19
- Ezekiel 20
- Ezekiel 21
- Ezekiel 22
- Ezekiel 23
- Ezekiel 24
- Ezekiel 25
- Ezekiel 26-28
- Ezekiel 29-32
- Ezekiel 33
- Ezekiel 34
- Ezekiel 35
- Ezekiel 36
- Ezekiel 37
- Ezekiel 38-39
- Ezekiel 40-48