Ezekiel 1-4 Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD

From Ezekiel 1-4

26 Ezekiel Scroll fed thumbEzekiel, a prophet and priest, was exiled to Babylon in 597 B.C. His ministry extended over at least twenty-three years. The book opens with his first dramatic vision of the “likeness” of the Lord himself. Ezekiel was keenly aware of God’s presence and power in human affairs. He addressed both the exiles and the people left in Judah with messages of warning and judgment, predicting the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem’s fall (in 586), Ezekiel prophesied hope and reassurance for the people of Judah, who had then lost the focus of God’s covenant, the temple in Jerusalem. His vision of the valley of dry bones (ch. 37) is a classic picture of God’s ability to renew his people. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

In the beginning of Ezekiel, the prophet sees an immense and almost incomprehensible vision of beings and objects which surround the LORD. Ezekiel has just finished describing four supernatural creatures, each with four faces (human, lion, ox, eagle) and four touching wings. Now he describes other items.

26 four creatures wheels
Holbein, H., 1947; 2009. Holbein’s Bible Woodcuts, Sylvan Press; New York, NY.

15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. 16 As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. 18 And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. 19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. (Eze 1:15–21)

Each of the four creatures have a wheel following them. Somehow the wheels are able to go in any direction without having to turn. They have eyes all around.

As the Spirit moved, the creatures would follow and the wheels in turn would follow the creatures. ‘For the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels’.

The vision would have been both overwhelming and incomprehensible.

26 four creatures throne22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. 23 And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. 24 And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. (Eze 1:22-25)

The language should remind us of creation. The LORD hovered over the waters before he spoke and created the world, the sea, the land and all the creatures of the earth (Gen 1).

26 four creatures wheel bow26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (Eze 1:26–28)

Then Ezekiel sees the throne. The throne of the LORD. The throne radiates light, fire and power. The throne has a rainbow over it. Again another reminder of Genesis and the LORD’s promise not to send a all destroying flood (Gen 9).

‘Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD’. The vision is overwhelming and incomprehensible because that describes the LORD, God of all creation in comparison to mankind, his creation.

Then the LORD speaks…

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

For God to be humanlike when appearing links with the Israelite conviction that humanity itself is Godlike.

That conviction is explicit in Genesis 1, a passage which may be suggestively set alongside Ezekiel 1. The two chapters come from similar priestly circles in Babylon, and both address the refugee community under pressure. Both preface old Israelite tradition with a new vision which sets the familiar in a new context.

Genesis 1 provides the traditional creation story with a fresh preface that sets it in a much more all-embracing perspective in its concern with God’s creative activity in the whole cosmos.

Ezekiel 1 provides the traditional understanding of a prophet’s call with a fresh preface, setting it, too, in a much wider metaphysical perspective in its vision and suggesting the sovereign Yahweh’s capacity to appear in divine splendor anywhere, to implement heaven’s purpose or to meet with heaven’s agents.” (Goldingay, J.A., 2003. Ezekiel. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 625–626.)

Story of Jesus

The gospel story help us to comprehend who God is. He became one of us.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (Jn 1.1-5, 14, 16-18)

In the gospel there aren’t four creatures, four wheels and a throne.

We see God take the form of a human being. Full of grace and truth.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.