The Vision of Four Figures
1 Now it came about [when I was] in my (a)thirtieth year [of life], on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles beside the River Chebar [in Babylonia], the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 (On the fifth of the month, which was in the fifth year of (b)King Jehoiachin’s captivity,(A) 3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the (c)Chaldeans by the River (d)Chebar; and the hand of the Lord came upon him there.)(B)
4 As I looked, I saw a stormy wind coming out of the north, a great cloud with fire flashing continually from it; and a brightness was around it, and in its core [there was] something like glowing [amber-colored] metal in the midst of the fire. 5 Within it there were figures resembling (e)four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. 6 Each one had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight and the soles of their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they sparkled and gleamed like shiny bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 9 their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. 10 Regarding the (f)form and appearance of their faces: they [each] had the face of a man [in front], and each had the face of a lion on the right side, and the face of an ox on the left side; all four also had the face of an eagle [at the back of their heads].(C) 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were stretched out upward; two [wings] of each one were touching another [the wings of the beings on either side of it], and [the remaining] two [wings of each being] were covering their bodies. 12 And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 Among the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. 14 And the living beings moved rapidly back and forth like flashes of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living beings, I saw one wheel on the ground beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. 16 Regarding the appearance of the wheels and their construction: they gleamed like chrysolite (beryl, olivine); and the four were made alike. Their appearance and construction were a wheel [set at a right angle] within a wheel. 17 Whenever they moved, they went in any [one] of their four directions without turning as they moved. 18 Regarding their rims: they were so high that they were awesome and dreadful, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes all around. 19 Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them; and when the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 20 Wherever the spirit went, the beings went in that direction. And the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit or life of the living beings was in the wheels. 21 Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those came to a stop, these came to a stop; and whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them, for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.
Vision of Divine Glory
22 Now stretched over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, looking like the terrible and awesome shimmer of icy crystal. 23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. Every living being had two wings which covered its body on one side and on the other side. 24 As they moved, I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of great [rushing] waters, like the voice of (g)the Almighty, the sound of tumult like the noise of an army camp. Whenever they came to a stop, they lowered their wings. 25 And there was a voice above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stopped, they lowered their wings.
26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, it appeared like [it was made of] sapphire or lapis lazuli; and [seated] on that which looked like a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.(D) 27 Now upward, from that which appeared to be His waist, I saw something like glowing metal that looked like it was filled with fire all around it; and downward, from that which appeared to be His waist, I saw something like fire; and there was a brightness and a remarkable radiance [like a halo] around Him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory and brilliance of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell face downward and I heard a voice of One speaking.(E)
a. Ezekiel 1:1: If he had not been in exile in Babylonia Ezekiel would have formally begun his service to God as a Levitical priest at the age of thirty. Instead God anointed him to serve as a prophet.
b. Ezekiel 1:2: Jehoiachin the king of Judah was taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar and his army invaded Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean Dynasty, more commonly known as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, ruled Babylon from 605-562 b.c. He conquered Jerusalem in 597 b.c.
c. Ezekiel 1:3: The Chaldeans dominated and ruled Babylonia from 625 b.c., until their empire fell in 539 b.c., but they were known as early as 1000 b.c. as an aggressive, tribal people in the southern region of Babylonia. They were highly skilled in both the science of astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology. They kept meticulous records of celestial motion and correctly calculated the length of a year to within just a few minutes. Babylon, their capital city, was the center of trade and learning in the western part of Asia. The classical literature of the Chaldeans was written in cuneiform, but the common language, both written and spoken in Babylon, was Akkadian increasingly influenced by Aramaic.
d. Ezekiel 1:3: A canal off the Euphrates, south of Babylon.
e. Ezekiel 1:5: These four angelic beings are identified as cherubim in ch 10. In Scripture, the cherubim seem to be related to the affirmation of God’s perfection and holiness standing in stark contrast to the debased character of godless mankind. They are extremely intelligent, powerful, expeditious servants of God.
f. Ezekiel 1:10: Various interpretations have been ascribed to the symbolism of the four heavenly beings. The four faces may be regarded as symbolic of “the four portraits of Jesus” as given in the four Gospels (king, servant, man, and God). Another proposes that they represent the four qualities of the angels (intelligent, strong, servile, and swift). Another interpretation identifies them with the four Gospels, and another with the four corners of the earth, implying that the angels serve God throughout the earth. In ch 10 these beings are identified as cherubim.
g. Ezekiel 1:24: Heb Shaddai.