Ezekiel 1

1 On the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, [a] I, Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, was living with the Jewish exiles by the Chebar River in Babylonia. The sky opened, and I saw a vision of God. 1
2 It was the fifth year since King Jehoiachin had been taken into exile.) 2
3 There in Babylonia beside the Chebar River, I heard the Lord speak to me, and I felt his power.
4 I looked up and saw a windstorm coming from the north. Lightning was flashing from a huge cloud, and the sky around it was glowing. Where the lightning was flashing, something shone like bronze.
5 At the center of the storm I saw what looked like four living creatures in human form, 3
6 but each of them had four faces and four wings.
7 Their legs were straight, and they had hoofs like those of a bull. They shone like polished bronze.
8 In addition to their four faces and four wings, they each had four human hands, one under each wing.
9 Two wings of each creature were spread out so that the creatures formed a square, with their wing tips touching. When they moved, they moved as a group without turning their bodies.
10 Each living creature had four different faces: a human face in front, a lion's face at the right, a bull's face at the left, and an eagle's face at the back. 4
11 Two wings [b] of each creature were raised so that they touched the tips of the wings of the creatures next to it, and their other two wings were folded against their bodies.
12 Each creature faced all four directions, and so the group could go wherever they wished, without having to turn.
13 Among [c] the creatures there was something that looked like a blazing torch, constantly moving. The fire would blaze up and shoot out flashes of lightning. 5
14 The creatures themselves darted back and forth with the speed of lightning.
15 As I was looking at the four creatures I saw four wheels touching the ground, one beside each of them. [d] 6
16 All four wheels were alike; each one shone like a precious stone, and each had another wheel intersecting it at right angles,
17 so that the wheels could move in any of the four directions.
18 The rims of the wheels were covered with eyes. [e] 7
19 Whenever the creatures moved, the wheels moved with them, and if the creatures rose up from the earth, so did the wheels.
20 The creatures went wherever they wished, and the wheels did exactly what the creatures did, because the creatures controlled them.
21 So every time the creatures moved or stopped or rose in the air, the wheels did exactly the same.
22 Above the heads of the creatures there was something that looked like a dome made of dazzling crystal. 8
23 There under the dome stood the creatures, each stretching out two wings toward the ones next to it and covering its body with the other two wings.
24 I heard the noise their wings made in flight; it sounded like the roar of the sea, like the noise of a huge army, like the voice of Almighty God. When they stopped flying, they folded their wings, 9
25 but there was still a sound coming from above the dome over their heads.
26 Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne made of sapphire, and sitting on the throne was a figure that looked like a human being. 10
27 The figure seemed to be shining like bronze in the middle of a fire. It shone all over with a bright light 11
28 that had in it all the colors of the rainbow. This was the dazzling light which shows the presence of the Lord. When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice

Ezekiel 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

Ezekiel was one of the priests; he was carried captive to Chaldea with Jehoiachin. All his prophecies appear to have been delivered in that country, at some place north of Babylon. Their chief object appears to have been to comfort his brethren in captivity. He is directed to warn of the dreadful calamities coming upon Judea, particularly upon the false prophets, and the neighbouring nations. Also to announce the future restoration of Israel and Judah from their several dispersions, and their happy state in their latter days, under the Messiah. Much of Christ will be found in this book, especially in the conclusion.

Ezekiel's vision of God, and of the angelic host. (1-14) The conduct of Divine Providence. (15-25) A revelation of the Son of man upon his heavenly throne. (26-28)

Verses 1-14 It is a mercy to have the word of God brought to us, and a duty to attend to it diligently, when we are in affliction. The voice of God came in the fulness of light and power, by the Holy Spirit. These visions seem to have been sent to possess the prophet's mind with great and high thoughts of God. To strike terror upon sinners. To speak comfort to those that feared God, and humbled themselves. In ver. ( 4-14 ) , is the first part of the vision, which represents God as attended and served by a vast company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments. This vision would impress the mind with solemn awe and fear of the Divine displeasure, yet raise expectations of blessings. The fire is surrounded with a glory. Though we cannot by searching find out God to perfection, yet we see the brightness round about it. The likeness of the living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; angels derive their being and power from God. They have the understanding of a man, and far more. A lion excels in strength and boldness. An ox excels in diligence and patience, and unwearied discharge of the work he has to do. An eagle excels in quickness and piercing sight, and in soaring high; and the angels, who excel man in all these respects, put on these appearances. The angels have wings; and whatever business God sends them upon, they lose no time. They stood straight, and firm, and steady. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action. Many persons are quick, who are not active; they hurry about, but do nothing to purpose; they have wings, but no hands. But wherever the angels' wings carried them, they carried hands with them, to be doing what duty required. Whatever service they went about, they went every one straight forward. When we go straight, we go forward; when we serve God with one heart, we perform work. They turned not when they went. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not to be gone over again. They turned not from their business to trifle with any thing. They went whithersoever the Spirit of God would have them go. The prophet saw these living creatures by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire; they are seraphim, or "burners;" denoting the ardour of their love to God, and fervent zeal in his service. We may learn profitable lessons from subjects we cannot fully enter into or understand. But let us attend to the things which relate to our peace and duty, and leave secret things to the Lord, to whom alone they belong.

Verses 15-25 Providence, represented by the wheels, produces changes. Sometimes one spoke of the wheel is uppermost, sometimes another; but the motion of the wheel on its own axletree is regular and steady. We need not despond in adversity; the wheels are turning round and will raise us in due time, while those who presume in prosperity know not how soon they may be cast down. The wheel is near the living creatures; the angels are employed as ministers of God's providence. The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; the same wisdom, power, and holiness of God, that guide and govern the angels, by them order all events in this lower world. The wheel had four faces, denoting that the providence of God exerts itself in all parts. Look every way upon the wheel of providence, it has a face toward you. Their appearance and work were as a wheel in the middle of a wheel. The disposals of Providence seem to us dark, perplexed, and unaccountable, yet are all wisely ordered for the best. The motion of these wheels was steady, regular, and constant. They went as the Spirit directed, therefore returned not. We should not have to undo that by repentance which we have done amiss, if we followed the guidance of the Spirit. The rings, or rims of the wheels were so vast, that when put in motion the prophet was afraid to look upon them. The consideration of the height and depth of God's counsel should awe us. They were full of eyes round about. The motions of Providence are all directed by infinite Wisdom. All events are determined by the eyes of the Lord, which are in every place beholding the evil and the good; for there is no such thing as chance or fortune. The firmament above was a crystal, glorious, but terribly so. That which we take to be a dark cloud, is to God clear as crystal, through which he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth. When the angels had roused a careless world, they let down their wings, that God's voice might be plainly heard. The voice of Providence is to open men's ears to the voice of the word. Sounds on earth should awaken our attention to the voice from heaven; for how shall we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaks from thence.

Verses 26-28 The eternal Son, the second Person in the Trinity, who afterwards took the human nature, is here denoted. The first thing observed was a throne. It is a throne of glory, a throne of grace, a throne of triumph, a throne of government, a throne of judgment. It is good news to men, that the throne above the firmament is filled with One who appears, even there, in the likeness of a man. The throne is surrounded with a rainbow, the well-known emblem of the covenant, representing God's mercy and covenanted love to his people. The fire of God's wrath was breaking out against Jerusalem, but bounds should be set to it; he would look upon the bow, and remember the covenant. All the prophet saw was only to prepare him for what he was to hear. When he fell on his face, he heard the voice of One that spake. God delights to teach the humble. Let sinners, then, humble themselves before him. And let believers think upon his glory, that they may be gradually changed into his image by the Spirit of the Lord.

Cross References 11

  • 1. 1.1Revelation 19.11.
  • 2. 1.2 2 K 24.10-16;2 Chronicles 36.9, 10.
  • 3. 1.5Revelation 4.6.
  • 4. 1.10Ezekiel 10.14;Revelation 4.7.
  • 5. 1.13Revelation 4.5.
  • 6. 1.15-21Ezekiel 10.9-13.
  • 7. 1.18Revelation 4.8.
  • 8. 1.22Revelation 4.6.
  • 9. 1.24Revelation 1.4-15; 19.6.
  • 10. 1.26Ezekiel 10.1;Revelation 4.2, 3.
  • 11. 1.27Ezekiel 8.2.

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. thirtieth year: [It is not known to what year this refers.]
  • [b]. [Some ancient translations] Two wings; [Hebrew] Their faces, their wings.
  • [c]. [Some ancient translations] Among; [Hebrew] And the likeness of.
  • [d]. [Some ancient translations] them; [Hebrew] their faces.
  • [e]. [Verse 18 in Hebrew is unclear.]

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL

This book is rightly placed after Jeremiah; since Ezekiel was among the captives in Chaldea, when prophesied; whereas Jeremiah began to prophesy long before that captivity, and concerning it. The name of this prophet signifies, as it is commonly interpreted, "the strength of God", or "strengthened by God", as he was, and as he needed to be, having great work to do, and a perverse people to deal with; see Eze 3:8; but the learned Hillerus {a} chooses to render it, "God shall prevail"; with which compare Jer 20:7. There was a Levite of this name, of whom mention is made in 1Ch 24:16; whose name is there read "Jehezekel"; and this prophet was a priest, Eze 1:3; and both Clemens Alexandrinus {b} and Eusebius {c} cite a Jewish writer of tragedies, of the same name; which some have very wrongly thought to be the same with our prophet; but whether Ezekiel is not the same with Nazaratus or Zabratus, the master of Pythagoras, mentioned by Clemens as such, according to the opinion of some, is a matter of question; and which the learned Selden {d} seems to think probable. According to the judgment and opinion of Jerom {e}, his style is neither very eloquent, nor very rustic; but between both, and has a mixture of each. The visions he saw are very abstruse and difficult of interpretation, especially the vision of the living creatures and wheels; wherefore the Jews {f} forbad the reading of it, as well as the end of this prophecy, until persons were thirty years of age. The divine visions in this book, the whole subject matter of it, its agreement with the prophecy of Jeremiah, and the accomplishment of events predicted in it, prove the authority of it; and its divine authority has always been allowed, both by the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church. There were indeed some ancient Jewish Rabbins, who were perplexed about some things in it, and consulted about laying it aside, because of some words in it, which seemed to them to be contrary to the law of Moses; but R. Chananiah ben Goron, a very famous doctor in those times, withdrew to his chamber, and wrote a commentary, in order to remove those difficulties to satisfaction {g}. This book, in general, contains various visions the prophet saw; several threatenings against the people of the Jews; and prophecies against other nations; and an abundance of comfortable promises of the Messiah, and of blessings of grace by him; and of the state and condition of the Gospel church, and the worship of it. Josephus {h} says Ezekiel left two books written by him; one of which Athanasius {i}: or the author of the Synopsis under his name, thinks is lost; but the learned Huetius {k} is of opinion that the prophecy of Ezekiel, in the times of Josephus, was divided into two parts; the first containing the first thirty nine chapters, and the other the nine last chapters; which is not improbable. If the authorities of Epiphanius {l}, or the writer of the lives of the prophets that goes by his name, and of Isidorus {m}, are of any weight, Ezekiel was born in the land of Sarera; killed by the governor in Babylon; and buried by the people in the field of Maur or Mahurim, in the sepulchre of Shem and Arphaxad. The account R. Benjamin Tudelensis {n} gives is, that there is a synagogue of the Prophet Ezekiel by the river Euphrates; and over against the synagogue sixty towers, ; and between every tower a synagogue. In the court of the synagogue is a library; and behind it the grave of Ezekiel the son of Buzi the priest; and over it a large vault, of a beautiful building, erected by Jeconiah king of Judah, and thirty five thousand Jews, who came with him, when Evilmerodach brought him out of prison; and over the grave a lamp burns night and day. The Cippi Hebraici say {o} he was buried by, the river Hiddekel; and Menasseh ben Israel {p} affirms that he died in Babylon, and was buried there; and so Kimchi {q} says the tradition is.

{a} Onamast. Sacr. p. 224, 320, 845. {b} Stromat. l. 2. p. 344. {c} Praeper. Evangel. l. 9. c. 23. p. 436. & c. 29. p. 439. {d} De Dis Syris, Syntag. 2. c. 1. p. 210, 211. {e} Praefat. in Ezek. tom. 3. fol. 9. D. {f} Praefat. in ib. ad Eustochium, tom 5. fol. 174. G. {g} T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 13. 2. & Taanith, fol. 17. 1, 2. & Maimon. Bartenora in Misn. Sabbat, c. 1. sect. 4. {h} Antiqu. l. 10. c. 5. sect. 1. {i} Synops. Sacr. Script. p. 134, 136. tom. 2. {k} Demonstr. Evang. Prop. 4. p. 272. {l} De Prophet. Vit. c. 9. {m} De Vit. & Mort. Sanct. c. 39. {n} Massaot, p. 78, 79. {o} P. 74. {p} De Resurrect. Mort. l. 1. c. 2. sect. 5. {q} In Ezek. xliii. 19.

\\INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 1\\

This chapter contains a vision, which is the introduction to the prophet's call and commission to perform his office; in the account of which may be observed the time when it was seen, Eze 1:1,2; and the place both where the prophet was when he saw it, and the object or things that were beheld by him; and the original, form, and manner of the vision, Eze 1:3,4; next follow the particulars of it; and first, four living creatures appear, described by their general likeness, as human, Eze 1:5; and, in particular, by their faces, feet, hands, and wings, Eze 1:6-11; by their motion and progress, and the spirit by which they were influenced, Eze 1:12; and by their forms of light, brightness, and heat, in which they appeared and moved, Eze 1:13,14; and next the wheels, described by their number; for, though they seemed to be as one, they were four; and by their situation on the earth, and by the side of the living creatures, Eze 1:15; by their appearance, which was alike in them all, and as the colour of beryl, and as a wheel within a wheel, Eze 1:16, by their motion, which was on their sides, and not retrograde, Eze 1:17; by their rings or circumferences, which were high, dreadful, and full of eyes, Eze 1:18; by their dependence on the living creatures, moving as they, having the same spirit they had, Eze 1:19-21; and then a firmament is seen, described by its situation, over the heads of the living creatures; and by its colour, as the terrible crystal, Eze 1:22; by what were under it, the wings of the living creatures of which a more particular account is given, Eze 1:23,24; by what was heard from it, a voice, Eze 1:25; and by what was above it, a throne; described by its colour, as a sapphire stone; and by a person on it, who had the appearance of a man, Eze 1:26; who, in general, looked like the colour of amber; within which was the appearance of fire from his loins upwards, and from his loins downwards; the fire had a brightness round about it; and that brightness was like a rainbow in a cloud, on a rainy day; and this appearance was no other than that of a divine and glorious Person; which, when seen by the prophet, caused him, through reverence, to fall upon his face; when he heard a voice speaking to him what is recorded in the following chapter, Eze 1:27,28.

Ezekiel 1 Commentaries