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.
In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,
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.
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.
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.
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
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.
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
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.
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.
And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
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.
And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
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.
When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
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.
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.
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.
 

Introduction to Ezekiel

Ezekiel and Daniel, the last among the so-called Major Prophets, were the only two prophets of the exile. Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, was a priest called also by God as a prophet. He had been taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar along with king Jehoiachin and ten thousand of the leaders and skilled craftsmen of Judah (II Kings 24:8-17).

Except for occasional visions of the corruption in the temple back at Jerusalem, shortly before the final destruction of the city and the temple under Nebuchadnezzar’s third and final invasion of Judah, Ezekiel’s entire ministry was in Babylonia. Thus, his early prophecies warn of the coming destruction, while his later chapters speak of the future restoration of Israel and the future millennial temple. Some of his central chapters deal with prophecies of judgment on other nations besides Judah. It is in connection with the prophecy against Tyre that one of the most important revelations of the fall of Satan was given (Ezekiel 28:11-19).

Much of Ezekiel—like Jeremiah—consists of verbatim quotations from God Himself. The introduction to the various quotes (“The word of the LORD came unto me, saying”—or equivalent) occurs some sixty times in Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah, and may well have known him and been instructed by him before the exile. Both were priests and had the same deep dedication to God and His word.

Further, it should be noted that, even though Ezekiel’s direct ministry had always been only to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the southern kingdom (the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom had been carried away into Assyria over a century before, after more than two centuries of deep apostasy), many of his prophecies envision the reunion of Judah and Israel (Ezekiel 34, 36, 37) and their restoration to the worship of the true God when Messiah comes to establish His kingdom on earth.

1:1 thirtieth year. Ezekiel had just been invested fully as a priest on his thirtieth birthday (see Numbers 4), the age at which priests could begin their ministry, when he began to receive God’s Word.

1:1 among the captives. Ezekiel had been carried captive to Babylon when he was twenty-five years old, along with King Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 1:2).

1:1 Chebar. The river Chebar, where Ezekiel saw the Lord, in the land of the Chaldees, was probably a navigable canal, near the city of Nippur, along which a number of the Jewish exiles had been settled by the Babylonians.

1:5 living creatures. These living creatures are later identified as the cherubs, or cherubim (Ezekiel 9:3; 10:15; etc.), who were mentioned first of all as the mighty angelic beings placed by God at the gate of the garden of Eden, to guard it after the expulsion of Adam and Eve. They seem always to be associated with the presence of God. Two images of the cherubim were made to cover the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, where God would meet with Moses (Exodus 25:18).

1:10 face of a man. For the fourfold face of the cherubim, compare the similar description of the four “beasts” of Revelation 4:7, indicating the latter are the same beings as these. It may also be significant that the four “faces” (man, lion, ox, eagle) correspond both to the four highest orders of terrestrial life (humans, beasts of the earth, cattle, fowls of the air) and also the fourfold depiction of their Creator in the gospels (as perfect man in Luke; king—as a lion—in Matthew; servant—like an ox—in Mark; and God—in the heavens, like an eagle—in John).

1:20 in the wheels. A bizarre modern interpretation of the cherubim has been to identify them with flying saucers, or alien spacecraft of some kind. The cherubim, however, are living spirits, always associated directly with the presence of the Creator of heaven and earth; they are mighty angels, probably the highest of the angelic hierarchy.

1:22 the firmament. “Firmament” (Hebrew raqia) is defined by God as “heaven” (Genesis 1:8); the word basically means “expanse,” although some critics have tried to argue that it implies a “firm” boundary of some kind. In modern scientific terminology, it could well be translated simply “space.” Thus there are three “firmaments” or “heavens” mentioned in the Bible, atmospheric space (Genesis 1:20), stellar space (Genesis 1:17), and the third heaven (II Corinthians 12:2), where God’s throne is. This third heaven is the particular firmament mentioned in this passage.

1:26 appearance of a man. The divine throne was above the “space” above the cherubim, and there God—who cannot be seen in His fulness by mortal man—allowed Himself to be seen, not as a man but in “the likeness as the appearance of a man,” in order to convey his Word to Ezekiel, the young priest/prophet.

1:28 the bow. The rainbow is mentioned in only four circumstances in Scripture, all associated with God exercising mercy in a time of great judgment. The first is after the Flood (Genesis 9:13), the others at the beginning and middle of the coming period of great tribulation (Revelation 4:3; 10:1).

1:28 fell upon my face. Even though God was not seen in His full glory (note I Timothy 6:16), Ezekiel could only fall upon his face when he saw “the appearance of the likeness” of His glory. Thus also did Job react, and Daniel, and John (Job 42:6; Daniel 10:8; Revelation 1:17).


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