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Eze 1:1-28. EZEKIEL'S VISION BY THE CHEBAR. FOUR CHERUBIM AND WHEELS.
1. Now it came to pass--rather, "And it came," &c. As
this formula in
has reference to the written history of previous times, so here
and Es 1:1),
it refers to the
unwritten history which was before the mind of the writer. The
prophet by it, as it were, continues the history of the preceding times.
In the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign
Jeremiah sent by Seraiah a message to the captives
to submit themselves to God and lay aside their flattering hopes of a
speedy restoration. This communication was in the next year, the fifth,
and the fourth month of the same king (for Jehoiachin's captivity and
Zedekiah's accession coincide in time), followed up by a prophet
raised up among the captives themselves, the energetic Ezekiel.
2. Jehoiachin's captivity--In the third or fourth year of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, the first carrying away of Jewish captives to Babylon took place, and among them was Daniel. The second was under Jehoiachin, when Ezekiel was carried away. The third and final one was at the taking of Jerusalem under Zedekiah.
4. whirlwind--emblematic of God's judgments
(Jer 23:19; 25:32).
5. Ezekiel was himself of a "gigantic nature, and thereby suited to
counteract the Babylonish spirit of the times, which loved to manifest
itself in gigantic, grotesque forms" [HENGSTENBERG].
6. Not only were there four distinct living creatures, but each of the four had four faces, making sixteen in all. The four living creatures of the cherubim answer by contrast to the four world monarchies represented by four beasts, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome (Da 7:1-28). The Fathers identified them with the four Gospels: Matthew the lion, Mark the ox, Luke the man, John the eagle. Two cherubim only stood over the ark in the temple; two more are now added, to imply that, while the law is retained as the basis, a new form is needed to be added to impart new life to it. The number four may have respect to the four quarters of the world, to imply that God's angels execute His commands everywhere. Each head in front had the face of a man as the primary and prominent one: on the right the face of a lion, on the left the face of an ox, above from behind the face of an eagle. The Mosaic cherubim were similar, only that the human faces were put looking towards each other, and towards the mercy seat between, being formed out of the same mass of pure gold as the latter (Ex 25:19, 20). In Isa 6:2 two wings are added to cover their countenances; because there they stand by the throne, here under the throne; there God deigns to consult them, and His condescension calls forth their humility, so that they veil their faces before Him; here they execute His commands. The face expresses their intelligence; the wings, their rapidity in fulfilling God's will. The Shekinah or flame, that signified God's presence, and the written name, JEHOVAH, occupied the intervening space between the cherubim Ge 4:14, 16; 3:24 ("placed"; properly, "to place in a tabernacle"), imply that the cherubim were appointed at the fall as symbols of God's presence in a consecrated place, and that man was to worship there. In the patriarchal dispensation when the flood had caused the removal of the cherubim from Eden, seraphim or teraphim (Chaldean dialect) were made as models of them for domestic use (Ge 31:19, Margin; Ge 31:30). The silence of the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth chapters of Exodus to their configuration, whereas everything else is minutely described, is because their form was so well-known already to Bezaleel and all Israel by tradition as to need no detailed description. Hence Ezekiel (Eze 10:20) at once knows them, for he had seen them repeatedly in the carved work of the outer sanctuary of Solomon's temple (1Ki 6:23-29). He therefore consoles the exiles with the hope of having the same cherubim in the renovated temple which should be reared; and he assures them that the same God who dwelt between the cherubim of the temple would be still with His people by the Chebar. But they were not in Zerubbabel's temple; therefore Ezekiel's foretold temple, if literal, is yet future. The ox is selected as chief of the tame animals, the lion among the wild, the eagle among birds, and man the head of all, in his ideal, realized by the Lord Jesus, combining all the excellencies of the animal kingdom. The cherubim probably represent the ruling powers by which God acts in the natural and moral world. Hence they sometimes answer to the ministering angels; elsewhere, to the redeemed saints (the elect Church) through whom, as by the angels, God shall hereafter rule the world and proclaim the manifold wisdom of God (Mt 19:28; 1Co 6:2; Eph 3:10; Re 3:21; 4:6-8). The "lions" and "oxen," amidst "palms" and "open flowers" carved in the temple, were the four-faced cherubim which, being traced on a flat surface, presented only one aspect of the four. The human-headed winged bulls and eagle-headed gods found in Nineveh, sculptured amidst palms and tulip-shaped flowers, were borrowed by corrupted tradition from the cherubim placed in Eden near its fruits and flowers. So the Aaronic calf (Ex 32:4, 5) and Jeroboam's calves at Dan and Beth-el, a schismatic imitation of the sacred symbols in the temple at Jerusalem. So the ox figures of Apis on the sacred arks of Egypt.
7. straight feet--that is, straight legs. Not protruding in any
part as the legs of an ox, but straight like a man's
[GROTIUS]. Or, like
solid pillars; not bending, as man's, at the knee. They glided
along, rather than walked. Their movements were all sure, right, and
without effort [KITTO, Cyclopedia].
8. The hands of each were the hands of a man. The hand is the symbol
of active power, guided by skilfulness
9. they--had no occasion to turn themselves round when changing their direction, for they had a face (Eze 1:6) looking to each of the four quarters of heaven. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not be gone over again. Their wings were joined above in pairs (see Eze 1:11).
10. they . . . had the face of a man--namely, in front. The human face was the primary and prominent one and the fundamental part of the composite whole. On its right was the lion's face; on the left, the ox's (called "cherub," Eze 10:14); at the back from above was the eagle's.
11. The tips of the two outstretched wings reached to one another,
while the other two, in token of humble awe, formed a veil for the lower
parts of the body.
12. The same idea as in
The repetition is because we men are so hard to be brought to
acknowledge the wisdom of God's doings; they seem tortuous and confused
to us, but they are all tending steadily to one aim.
13. likeness . . . appearance--not tautology. "Likeness" expresses
the general form; "appearance," the particular aspect.