captives: Heb. captivity
infolding…: Heb. catching itself
straight…: Heb. a straight foot
stretched…: or, divided above
and their rings: or, and their strakes
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.a
Chronological Notes relative to the commencement of
-Year from the Creation, according to Archbishop Usher, 3409.
-Year of the Jewish era of the world, 3166.
-Year from the Deluge, 1753.
-Second year of the forty-sixth Olympiad.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to the Varronian or
generally received account, 159.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Cato and the
Fasti Consulares, 158.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Polybius the
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Fabius Pictor,
-Year of the Julian Period, 4119.
-Year of the era of Nabonassar, 153.
-Year from the foundation of Solomon's temple, 409.
-Year since the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by
Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, 126.
-Second year after the third Sabbatic year after the
seventeenth Jewish jubilee, according to Helvicus.
-Year before the birth of Christ, 591.
-Year before the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 595.
-Cycle of the Sun, 3.
-Cycle of the Moon, 15.
-Twenty-second year of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of
the Romans: this was the eighty-sixth year before the
consulship of Lucius Junius Brutus, and Publius Valerius
-Thirty-first year of Cyaxares, or Cyaraxes, the fourth king
-Eleventh year of Agasicles, king of Lacedaemon, of the family
of the Proclidae.
-Thirteenth year of Leon, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of
-Twenty-fifth year of Alyattes II., king of Lydia, and father
of the celebrated Croesus.
-Eighth year of AEropas, the seventh king of Macedon.
-Sixth and last year of Psammis, king of Egypt, according to
Helvicus, an accurate chronologer. This Egyptian king was the
immediate predecessor of the celebrated Apries, called Vaphres
by Eusebius, and Pharaoh-hophra by Jeremiah, Jer 44:30.
-First year of Baal, king of the Tyrians.
-Twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
-Fourth year of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.
This chapter contains that extraordinary vision of the Divine
glory with which the prophet was favoured when he received the
commission and instructions respecting the discharge of his
office, which are contained in the two following chapters. The
time of this Divine manifestation to the prophet, 1-3.
The vision of the four living creatures, and of the four
Description of the firmament that was spread over them, and of
the throne upon which one sat in appearance as a man, 26-28.
This vision, proceeding in a whirlwind from the NORTH, seems to
indicate the dreadful judgments that were coming upon the whole
land of Judah through the instrumentality of the cruel
Chaldeans, who lay to the north of it.
See Jer 1:14; 4:6; 6:1.
NOTES ON CHAP. I
Verse 1. In the thirtieth year
] We know not what this date
refers to. Some think it was the age of the prophet
; others think
the date is taken from the time
that Josiah renewed the covenant
with the people, 2Ki 22:3
, from which Usher, Prideaux
, and Calmet
compute the forty
years of Judah's transgression
, mentioned Eze 4:6
thinks there is an error in the text, and that
instead of bisheloshim
, in the thirtieth
, we should read bachamishith
, in the fifth
, as in the second
"Now it came to pass in the fifth year, in the fourth month, in
the fifth day of the month," &c. But this is supported by none of
the ancient Versions
, nor by any MS. The Chaldee
verse, "And it came to pass thirty
years after the high priest
Hilkiah had found the book of the law, in the house of the
sanctuary," &c. This was in the twelfth
year of Josiah's reign.
year, computed as above, comes to A.M. 3409, the fourth
year from the captivity of Jeconiah, and the fifth
reign of Zedekiah. Ezekiel was then among the captives who had
been carried way with Jeconiah, and had his dwelling near the
river Chebar, Chaborus
, or Aboras
, a river of Mesopotamia, which
falls into the Euphrates
a little above Thapsacus
, after having
run through Mesopotamia from east to west.-Calmet
, answering nearly to our July
. I saw visions of God.
] Emblems and symbols of the Divine
Majesty. He particularly refers to those in this chapter.
In the fifth day
of the month, which was
the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,
Verse 2. Jehoiachin's captivity
] Called also Jeconiah and
Coniah; see 2Ki 24:12
. He was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar; see 2Ki 24:14
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.b
Verse 3. The hand of the Lord
] I was filled with his power, and
with the influence of the prophetic spirit.
¶ 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.c
Verse 4. A whirlwind came out of the north
whose land, Babylonia, lay north of Judea. Chaldea
frequently denominated by Jeremiah. A great cloud, and a fire infolding itself
] A mass of fire
concentrated in a vast cloud
, that the flames might be more
distinctly observable, the fire never escaping from the cloud, but
issuing, and then returning in upon itself. It was in a state of
powerful agitation; but always involving itself, or returning back
to the centre whence it appeared to issue. A brightness
was about it
] A fine tinge of light surrounded the
cloud, in order to make its limits the more discernible; beyond
which verge the turmoiling fire did not proceed. The colour of amber
] This was in the centre of the cloud; and
this amber-coloured substance was the centre of the labouring
flame. The word ηλεκτρον, which we translate amber
, was used to
signify a compound metal, very bright, made of gold and brass.
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.
Verse 5. Also out on the midst thereof
came-four living creatures.
] As the amber-coloured body was the centre
of the fire,
and this fire
was in the centre
of the cloud
; so out of this
amber-coloured igneous centre came the living creatures
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
Verse 6. Every one had four faces
] There were four
figures of these living creatures, and each of these figures had four
distinct faces: but as the face of the man
was that which
was presented to the prophet's view, so that he saw it more
plainly than any of the others; hence it is said, Eze 1:5
each of these figures had the likeness of a man
; and the whole of
this compound image bore a general resemblance to the human
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.d
Verse 7. Their feet
were straight feet
] There did not seem to be
any flexure at the knee, nor were the legs separated in that way
as to indicate progression by walking. I have before me several
images of Isis, Osiris. Anubis
, &c., where the
legs are not separated
, nor is there any bend at the knees; so
that if there was any motion at all, it must have been by gliding
not progressive walking. It is a remark of AElian
, that the gods
are never represented as walking
, but always gliding
; and he gives
this as a criterion to discern common angelic appearances from
those of the gods
: all other spiritual beings walked progressively
, rising on one foot, while they stretched out the
other; but the deities always glided
motions. And Heliodorus
in his Romance of Theogines
gives the same reason for the united feet of the gods
, &c., and
describes the same appearances. Like the sole of a calf's foot
] Before it is stated to be a straight foot
; one that did not lay down a flat horizontal sole
like that of the human foot. And they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
] I suppose
this refers rather to the hoof
of the calf's foot, than to the
whole appearance of the leg
. There is scarcely any thing that
gives a higher lustre than highly polished
or burnished brass
blessed Lord is represented with legs like burnished brass
, Re 1:15
And they had
the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Verse 8. They had the hands of a man under their wings
] I doubt
much whether the arms be not here represented as all covered with
feathers, so that they had the appearance of wings, only the hand
was bare; and I rather think that this is the meaning of their
having "the hands of a man under their wings."
Their wings were
joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
Verse 9. Their wings
were joined one to another
] When their
wings were extended, they formed a sort of canopy level with their
own heads or shoulders; and on this canopy was the throne, and the
"likeness of the man" upon it, Eze 1:26
. They turned not when they went
] The wings did not flap in
flying, or move in the manner of oars, or of the hands of a man in
swimming, in order to their passing through the air; as they glided
in reference to their feet
, so they soared
to their wings
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.
Verse 10. As for the likeness of their faces
] There was but one
body to each of those compound animals: but each body had four
faces; the face of a man
and of a lion
on the right side; the face
of an ox
and an eagle
on the left side. Many of these compound
images appear in the Asiatic idols. Many are now before me: some
with the head and feet of a monkey
, with the body, arms, and legs
of a man
. Others with the head of the dog
; body, arms, and legs
human. Some with the head of an ape
; all the rest human. Some with
one head and eight arms; others with six heads or faces, with
twelve arms. The head of a lion and the head of a cock often
appear; and some with the head of a cock, the whole body human,
and the legs terminating in snakes
. All these were symbolical, and
each had its own appropriate meaning. Those in the text had theirs
also, could we but find it out.
their faces: and their wings were
stretched upward; two wings
of every one were
joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.e
And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and
they turned not when they went.
Verse 12. They went every one straight forward
] Not by progressive stepping
, but by gliding
. Whither the spirit was to go
] Whither that whirlwind
went, being borne on by the wind, see Eze 1:4
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.
Verse 13. Like burning coals of fire
] The whole substance
appeared to be of flame; and among them frequent coruscations of
fire, like vibrating lamps, often emitting lightning, or rather
sparks of fire, as we have seen struck out of strongly ignited
iron in a forge. The flames might be something like what is called warring wheels
in pyrotechny. They seemed to conflict together.
And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
Verse 14. The living creatures ran and returned
] They had a
circular movement; they were in rapid motion, but did not increase
their distance from the spectator. So I think this should be
¶ Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
Verse 15. One wheel upon the earth
] It seems at first view there
were four wheels
, one for each of the living creatures; that is,
the creatures were compound, so were the wheels, for there was "a
wheel in the middle of a wheel." And it is generally supposed that
these wheels cut each other at right angles up and down: and this
is the manner in which they are generally represented; but most
probably the wheel within
means merely the nave
in which the
spokes are inserted, in reference to the ring, rim
, or periphery
where these spokes
terminate from the centre or nave. I do think
this is what is meant by the wheel within a wheel; and I am the
more inclined to this opinion, by some fine Chinese drawings now
before me, where their deities
are represented as walking upon wheels
, the wheels themselves encompassed with fire
. The wheel is
simply by itself having a projecting axis; so of these
it is said,
"their appearance and their work was, as it were, a wheel within a
wheel." There were either two peripheries or rims with their
spokes, or the nave
answered for the wheel within. I have examined
models of what are called Ezekiel's wheels, which are designed to
move equally in all directions: but I plainly saw that this was
impossible; nor can any kind of complex wheel move in this way.
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.f
Verse 18. As for their rings
] The strakes
which form the rim
. They were dreadful
] They were exceedingly great in their
diameter, so that it was tremendous to look from the part that
touched the ground to that which was opposite above.
Were full of eyes
] Does not this refer to the appearance of nails
keeping on the spokes, or strakes or bands upon the rim?
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.
Verse 19. When the living creatures went, the wheels went
] The wheels
were attached to the living creatures, so that, in
progress, they had the same motion.
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.g
Verse 20. The spirit of the living creature
was in the wheels.
That is, the wheels were instinct with a vital spirit
; the wheels
, they also were animals
, or endued with animal life
as the creatures were that stood upon them. Here then is the chariot of Jehovah
. There are four wheels
, on each of which one
of the compound animals
stands; the four compound animals form the body
of the chariot
, their wings spread horizontally above,
forming the canopy or covering of this chariot; on the top of
which, or upon the extended wings of the four living creatures,
was the throne, on which was the appearance of a man, Eze 1:26
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.h
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.
Verse 22. The colour of the terrible crystal
] Like a crystal
well cut and well polished, with various faces
, by which rays of
light were refracted, assuming either a variety of prismatic
colours, or an insufferably brilliant splendour. This seems to be
the meaning of the terrible crystal
translates, fearful ice
. The common translation is preferable.
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.
Verse 23. Every one had two, which covered on this side
they employed two of their wings to form a foundation for the firmament
to rest on, two other wings were let down to cover the
lower part of their bodies: but this they did only when they stood
, Eze 1:24
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.
Verse 24. The noise of their wings
] When the whirlwind drove the
wheels, the wind rustling among the wings was like the noise of many waters
; like a waterfall
, or waters dashing continually against the rocks
, or rushing down precipices
. As the voice of the Almighty
] Like distant thunder; for this is
termed the voice of God
, Ps 18:13
; Ex 9:23, 28, 29; 20:18
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.
Verse 26. A sapphire
] The pure oriental sapphire, a large well
cut specimen of which is now before me, is one of the most
beautiful and resplendent blues that can be conceived. I have
sometimes seen the heavens assume this illustrious hue. The human
form above this canopy is supposed to represent Him who, in the
fulness of time, was manifested in the flesh.
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.
Verse 27. The colour of amber
] There are specimens of amber
which are very pure and beautifully transparent. One which I now
hold up to the light gives a most beautiful bright yellow
Such a splendid appearance had the august Being who sat upon this
throne from the reins upward; but from thence downward he had the
appearance of fire
, burning with a clear and brilliant flame. For
farther particulars See Clarke on Eze 10:9
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.
Verse 28. As the appearance of the bow
] Over the canopy on which
this glorious personage sat there was a fine rainbow
, which, from
the description here, had all its colours vivid, distinct, and in
perfection-red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
In all this description we must understand every metal
, every colour
, and every natural appearance
, to be in their utmost
perfection of shape, colour
, and splendour
. "And this," as above
described, "was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the
Lord." Splendid and glorious as it was, it was only the
"appearance of the likeness," a faint representation of the real
I have endeavoured to explain these appearances as correctly as
possible; to show their forms, positions, colours, &c. But who can
explain their meaning? We have conjectures in abundance; and can
it be of any use to mankind to increase the number of those
conjectures? I think not. I doubt whether the whole does not point
out the state of the Jews, who were about to be subdued by
Nebuchadnezzar, and carried into captivity. And I am inclined to
think that the "living creatures, wheels, fires, whirlwinds," &c.,
which are introduced here, point out, emblematically, the various
means, sword, fire, pestilence, famine, &c., which were employed
in tneir destruction; and that God appears
in all this to show
that Nebuchadnezzar is only his instrument
to inflict all these
calamities. What is in the following chapter appears to me to
confirm this supposition. But we have the rainbow
, the token of
God's covenant, to show that though there should be a destruction
of the city, temple, &c., and sore tribulation among the people,
yet there should not be a total ruin; after a long captivity they
should be restored. The rainbow is an illustrious token of mercy