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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - EZEKIEL 1
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    CHAPTER 1

    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 Jos 1:1 has reference to the written history of previous times, so here (and in Ru 1:1, 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 (Jer 51:59), Jeremiah sent by Seraiah a message to the captives (Jer 29:1-32) 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.
    - thirtieth year--that is, counting from the beginning of the reign of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, the era of the Babylonian empire, 625 B.C., which epoch coincides with the eighteenth year of Josiah, that in which the book of the law was found, and the consequent reformation began [SCALIGER]; or the thirtieth year of Ezekiel's life. As the Lord was about to be a "little sanctuary" (Eze 11:16) to the exiles on the Chebar, so Ezekiel was to be the ministering priest; therefore he marks his priestly relation to God and the people at the outset; the close, which describes the future temple, thus answering to the beginning. By designating himself expressly as "the priest" (Eze 1:3), and as having reached his thirtieth year (the regular year of priests commencing their office), he marks his office as the priest among the prophets. Thus the opening vision follows naturally as the formal institution of that spiritual temple in which he was to minister [FAIRBAIRN].
    - Chebar--the same as Chabor or Habor, whither the ten tribes had been transported by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:6; 1Ch 5:26). It flows into the Euphrates near Carchemish or Circesium, two hundred miles north of Babylon.
    - visions of God--Four expressions are used as to the revelation granted to Ezekiel, the three first having respect to what was presented from without, to assure him of its reality, the fourth to his being internally made fit to receive the revelation; "the heavens were opened" (so Mt 3:16; Ac 7:56; 10:11; Re 19:11); "he saw visions of God"; "the word of Jehovah came verily (as the meaning is rather than 'expressly, English Version, Eze 1:3) unto him" (it was no unreal hallucination); and "the hand of Jehovah was upon him" (Isa 8:11; Da 10:10, 18; Re 1:17; the Lord by His touch strengthening him for his high and arduous ministry, that he might be able to witness and report aright the revelations made to him).

    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).
    - out of the north--that is, from Chaldea, whose hostile forces would invade Judea from a northerly direction. The prophet conceives himself in the temple.
    - fire infolding itself--laying hold on whatever surrounds it, drawing it to itself, and devouring it. Literally, "catching itself," that is, kindling itself [FAIRBAIRN]. The same Hebrew occurs in Ex 9:24, as to the "fire mingled with the hail."
    - brightness . . . about it--that is, about the "cloud."
    - out of the midst thereof--that is, out of the midst of the "fire."
    - colour of amber--rather, "the glancing brightness (literally, 'the eye', and so the glancing appearance) of polished brass. The Hebrew, chasmal, is from two roots, "smooth" and "brass" (compare Eze 1:7; Re 1:15) [GESENIUS]. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate it, "electrum"; a brilliant metal compounded of gold and silver.

    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].
    - living creatures--So the Greek ought to have been translated in the parallel passage, Re 4:6, not as English Version, "beasts"; for one of the "four" is a man, and man cannot be termed "beast." Eze 10:20 shows that it is the cherubim that are meant.
    - likeness of a man--Man, the noblest of the four, is the ideal model after which they are fashioned (Eze 1:10; Eze 10:14). The point of comparison between him and them is the erect posture of their bodies, though doubtless including also the general mien. Also the hands (Eze 10:21).

    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].
    - sole . . . calf's foot--HENDERSON hence supposes that "straight feet" implies that they did not project horizontally like men's feet, but vertically as calves' feet. The solid firmness of the round foot of a calf seems to be the point of comparison.
    - colour--the glittering appearance, indicating God's purity.

    8. The hands of each were the hands of a man. The hand is the symbol of active power, guided by skilfulness (Ps 78:72).
    - under their wings--signifying their operations are hidden from our too curious prying; and as the "wings" signify something more than human, namely, the secret prompting of God, it is also implied that they are moved by it and not by their own power, so that they do nothing at random, but all with divine wisdom.
    - they four had . . . faces and . . . wings--He returns to what he had stated already in Eze 1:6; this gives a reason why they had hands on their four sides, namely, because they had faces and wings on the four sides. They moved whithersoever they would, not by active energy merely, but also by knowledge (expressed by their faces) and divine guidance (expressed by their "wings").

    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.
    - stretched upward--rather, "were parted from above" (compare Margin; see on Isa 6:2). The joining together of their wings above implies that, though the movements of Providence on earth may seem conflicting and confused, yet if one lift up his eyes to heaven, he will see that they admirably conspire towards the one end at last.

    12. The same idea as in Eze 1:9. 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.
    - the spirit--the secret impulse whereby God moves His angels to the end designed. They do not turn back or aside till they have fulfilled the office assigned them.

    13. likeness . . . appearance--not tautology. "Likeness" expresses the general form; "appearance," the particular aspect.
    - coals of fire--denoting the intensely pure and burning justice wherewith God punishes by His angels those who, like Israel, have hardened themselves against His long-suffering. So in Isa 6:2, 6, instead of cherubim, the name "seraphim," the burning ones, is applied, indicating God's consuming righteousness; whence their cry to Him is, "Holy! holy! holy!" and the burning coal is applied to his lips, for the message through his mouth was to be one of judicial severance of the godly from the ungodly, to the ruin of the latter.
    - lamps--torches. The fire emitted sparks and flashes of light, as torches do.
    - went up and down--expressing the marvellous vigor of God's Spirit, in all His movements never resting, never wearied.
    - fire . . . bright--indicating the glory of God.
    - out of the fire . . . lightning--God's righteousness will at last cause the bolt of His wrath to fall on the guilty; as now, on Jerusalem.

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