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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Ezekiel 10

 

 

Verse 1

Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.

As it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. The throne of Yahweh appearing in the midst of the judgments (Ezekiel 9:1-11) implies that, whatever intermediate agencies be employed, He controls them, and that the whole flows as a necessary consequence from His essential holiness (Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 1:26).

The cherubim - in Ezekiel 1:5 called "living creatures." The repetition of the vision implies that the judgments are approaching nearer and nearer. These two visions of Deity were granted in the beginning of Ezekiel's career, to qualify him for witnessing to God's glory amidst his God-forgetting people, and to stamp truth on his announcements; also to signify the removal of God's manifestation from the visible temple (Ezekiel 10:18), not to return for a long period (Ezekiel 43:2). The feature (Ezekiel 10:12) mentioned as to the cherubim, that they were "full of eyes," though omitted in the former vision, is not a difference, but a more specific detail, observed by Ezekiel now on closer inspection. Also, here there is no rainbow (the symbol of mercy after the flood of wrath) as in the former; for here judgment is the prominent thought, though the marking of the remnant, in Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 9:6, shows that there was mercy in the background. The cherubim, perhaps, represent redeemed humanity, combining in and with itself the highest forms of subordinate creaturely life (cf. Romans 8:20). Therefore they are associated with the 24 elders, and distinguished from the angels, (Revelation 5:1-14.) They stand on the mercy-seat of the ark, and on that ground become the habitation of God, from which His glory is to shine upon the world. The different forms symbolize the different phases of the Church. So the quadriform Gospel, in which the incarnate Saviour has lodged the revelation of Himself in a four-fold aspect, and from which His glory shines on the Christian world, answers to the emblematic throne from which He shone on the Jewish Church.


Verse 2

And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.

He - Yahweh; He who sat on the "throne."

Spake unto the man - the Messenger of mercy becoming the Messenger of judgment (note, Ezekiel 9:2). Human agents of destruction shall fulfill the will of "the Man" who is Lord of men.

Go in between the wheels. [Hebrew, galgal (Hebrew #1534), from gaalal (Hebrew #1556), to roll, implying quick revolution; so the impetuous onset of the foe (cf. Ezekiel 23:24; Ezekiel 26:10); whereas 'owpan (Hebrew #212) from 'aapan, to turn, in Ezekiel 1:15-16, implies mere revolution.]

Fill thine hand with coals of fire - implying that the wrath of God was about to burn the city, as His sword had previously slain its guilty inhabitants. This "fire" how different from the fire on the altar ever burning, never going out (Leviticus 6:12-13), whereby, in type, peace was made with God! (cf. Isaiah 33:12; Isaiah 33:14.) It is therefore not taken from the altar of reconciliation, but "from between the wheels of the cherubim," representing the providence of God, whereby, and not by chance, judgment is to fall.


Verse 3

Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.

The cherubim stood on the right side of the house. The scene of the locality whence judgment emanates is the temple, to mark God's vindication of His holiness injured there. The cherubim here are not those in the holy of holies, because the latter did not have "wheels." They stood on "the right side of the house" - i:e., the south; for the Chaldean power, guided by them, had already advanced from the north (the direction of Babylon), and had destroyed the men in the temple, and were now proceeding to destroy the city, which lay south and west.

The cherubim ... when the man went in. There was perfect concert of action between, the cherubic representative of the angels and "the Man," to minister to whom they "stood" there (Ezekiel 10:7).

The cloud filled the inner court. "The cloud" is the emblem of God's displeasure; as the "glory" or "brightness" (Ezekiel 10:4) typifies His majesty and clearness in judgment.


Verse 4

Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD's glory.

The glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house. Distinct from the departure of the glory of the Lord to the threshold from the cherub over the mercy-seat of the temple (Ezekiel 9:3). Here the cherub from which the glory of the Lord departs is the cherub seen by Ezekiel in his first vision, and which stood "on the right side of the house" (Ezekiel 10:3).

The house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord's glory. The court outside was full of the Lord's brightness; while it was only the cloud that filled the house inside, the scene of idolatries, and therefore of God's displeasure. God's throne was on the threshold. The temple, once filled with brightness, is now darkened inside with cloud.


Verse 5

And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.

The sound of the cherubim's wings was heard even to the outer court - prognostic of great and awful changes.

As the voice of the almighty God when he speaketh - the thunder, (Psalms 29:3, "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth," etc.)


Verse 6

And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels.

When he had commanded the man clothed with linen ... Take fire from between ... the cherubim; then he went in - not into the temple, but between the cherubim. Ezekiel sets aside the Jews' boast of the presence of God with them. The cherubim, once the ministers of grace, are now the ministers of vengeance. When "commanded," he without delay obeys (Psalms 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7).


Verse 7

And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out.

See Ezekiel 10:3, note.

One cherub - one of the four cherubim.

Stretched forth his hand - (Ezekiel 1:8, "They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides").

Who took it, and went out - to burn the city.


Verse 8

And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings.

There appeared in the cherubim the form of a man's hand under their wings. The "wings" denote alacrity, the "hands" efficacy and aptness in executing the functions assigned to them.


Verse 9

And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the colour of a beryl stone.

Behold, the four wheels - (note, Ezekiel 1:15-16). The things which, from Ezekiel 10:8 to the end of the chapter, are repeated from Ezekiel 1:1-28 are expressed more decidedly, now that he gets nearer view: the words "as it were," and "as if," so often occurring in Ezekiel 1:1-28, are therefore mostly omitted. The "wheels" express the manifold changes and revolutions in the world; also that in the chariot of His providence God transports the Church from one place to another, and everywhere can preserve it-a truth calculated to alarm the people in Jerusalem, and to console the exiles (Polanus).


Verse 10

And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. They four had one likeness. In the wonderful variety of God's works there is the greatest harmony-

`All discord's harmony not understood; All partial evil universal good:'

at least all the complicated movements of Providence are in concert working God's will, and tending to God's glory as their end (see note, Ezekiel 1:16).

As if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel - cutting one another at right angles, so as that the whole might move in any of the four directions or quarters of the world. God's doings, however involved they seem to us, cohere, so that lower causes subserve the higher.


Verse 11

When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went.

When they went, they went upon their four sides - (note, Ezekiel 1:17).

They turned not as they went - without accomplishing their course (Isaiah 55:11). (Grotius.) Rather, 'they moved straight on without turning' (so Ezekiel 1:9). Having a face toward each of the four quarters, they needed not to turn round when changing their direction.

But to the place where the head looked they followed it - i:e., "where the head" of the animal cherub-form, belonging to and directing each wheel, "looked," there the wheel "followed." The wheels were not guided by some external adventitious impetus, but by some secret divine impulse of the cherubim themselves - "the spirit of the living creature in the wheels" (Ezekiel 1:2).


Verse 12

And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had.

Their whole body - literally, flesh, because a body consists of flesh.

And the wheels, were full of eyes. The description (Ezekiel 1:18) attributes eyes to the "wheels" alone; here there is added, on closer observation, that the cherubim themselves had them. The "eyes" imply that God, by His wisdom, beautifully reconciles seeming contrarieties (cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3; Zechariah 4:10).


Verse 13

As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.

It was cried unto them ... O wheel! Rather, 'they were called, Whirling' - i:e., they were most rapid their revolutions (Maurer); or, better, 'it was cried unto them, The whirling' (Fairbairn). Galgal (Hebrew #1534), here used for "wheel," is different from 'owpan (Hebrew #212), the simple word for "wheel." See note on "wheels" Ezekiel 10:2. Galgal (Hebrew #1534) is the whole wheel-work machinery, with its whirlwind-like rotation. Their being so addressed is in order to call them immediately to put themselves in rapid motion.


Verse 14

And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.

Cherub - but in Ezekiel 1:10 it is an ox. The chief of the four cherubic forms was not the ox, but man. Therefore "cherub" cannot be synonymous with "ox." Probably Ezekiel, standing in front of one of the cherubim (namely, that which handed the coals to the man in linen, Ezekiel 10:7), saw of him not merely the ox-form, but the whole four-fold form, and therefore calls him simply "cherub;" whereas of the other three, having only a side view, he specifies the form of each which met his eye (Fairbairn). As to the likelihood of the lower animals sharing in "the restoration of all things," see Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 65:25; Romans 8:20-21 : this accords with the animal forms combined with the human to typify redeemed man.


Verse 15

And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar.

This is the living creature that I saw by the river ... Chebar. The repeated declaration of the identity of the vision with that at the Chebar is to arouse attention to it (so Ezekiel 10:22; Ezekiel 3:23).

The living creature - used collectively, as in Ezekiel 10:17; Ezekiel 10:20; Ezekiel 1:20.


Verse 16

And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them.

When the cherubim went, the wheels went by them ... the same wheels ... turned not from beside them

- (note, Ezekiel 10:11; Ezekiel 1:19).

When the cherubim lifted up their wings - to depart, following "the glory of the Lord," which was on the point of departing (Ezekiel 10:18).


Verse 17

When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.

When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them - (Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:20-21; "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").

Stood. God never stands still (John 5:17), therefore neither do the angels; but to human perceptions He seems to do so.


Verse 18

Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.

Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.

The departure of the symbol of God's presence from the temple was preparatory to the destruction of the city. This had been foretold in Deuteronomy 31:17. Woe be to those from whom God departs (Hosea 9:12). Compare 1 Samuel 28:15; 1 Samuel 28:10; 1 Samuel 4:21, "Ichabod, The glory is departed." Successive steps are marked in His departure; so slowly and reluctantly does the merciful God leave His house. First, He goes up from the cherub, whereupon He was, to the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 9:3); then He elevates His throne above the threshold of the house (Ezekiel 10:1); leaving the cherubim "on the right side of the house" (Ezekiel 10:3), He mounts up and sits on the throne (Ezekiel 10:4); He and the cherubim, after standing for a time at the door of the east gate (Ezekiel 10:18-19), where was the exit to the lower court of the people-leave the house altogether (Ezekiel 11:2-3), not 10:18-19), where was the exit to the lower court of the people-leave the house altogether (Ezekiel 11:2-3), not to return until Ezekiel 43:2.


Verse 19

And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD's house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 20

This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.

I knew that they were the cherubim. By this second sight of the cherubim he learnt to identify them with the angelic forms situated above the ark of the covenant in the temple, which, as a priest, he "knew" about from the high priest.


Verse 21

Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.

Every one had four faces apiece. The repetition is in order that the people about to live without the temple might have, instead, the knowledge of the temple mysteries, thus preparing them for a future restoration of the covenant. So perverse were they that they would say, Ezekiel fancies that he saw what has no existence. Therefore, he repeats it over and over again.


Verse 22

And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.

They went every one straight forward - intent upon the object they aimed at, not deviating from the way nor losing sight to the end (Luke 9:62).

Remarks:

(1) The throne of Yahweh, elevated in the firmament over the doomed city and temple, intimates to us that, whatever be the intermediate instrumentalities employed, God is the Great First Cause of all the judgments which descend upon the guilty of the earth. All may seem a flood of confusion to the eye of sense, but faith recognizes the truth that "the Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King forever" (Psalms 29:10).

(2) The Son of Man, in the anticipated form of His incarnation, is the actual executor of the Father's judgment, scattering the "coals of fire" kindled by His holy wrath (Ezekiel 10:2; Psalms 18:8; Psalms 18:12-13) over the guilty. These coals of fire, taken not from the altar whereon a propitiation was offered to God, but from between the cherubim, which represents His providence, teach us that when sinners reject the propitiation of Christ and the purifying fire of His Holy Spirit they bring on themselves the consuming fire of His judgments, directed by His providence. The same Son of Man who could have saved them, had they believed and obeyed the Gospel, will destroy them because they perversely reject it. Well may they tremble when they ask themselves that solemn question, "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isaiah 33:14.)

(3) The gradual and successive steps by which God departed from His once-favoured temple, and from Jerusalem, teach us how slow to anger God is. He withdraws His gracious presence reluctantly, as though He were loth to go. He lingers in long-suffering, if haply even yet the sinner will be moved by fear, and touched by the forbearance of God, to repent and pray to Him (Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18).

(4) When God is leaving a people in wrath, premonitory intimation is given by many signs, in the way of God's providence, answering to the "sound of the cherubim's wings" (Ezekiel 10:5) which accompanied the departure of the glory of the Lord from the mercy-seat (Ezekiel 10:4). Thus the Lord Jesus saith to His disciples, "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh;" and, again, "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now near at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand" (Luke 21:20; Luke 21:29-31). Let us discern the signs of our days, and be like the children of Issachar, men that have understanding of the times, to know what the spiritual Israel, the Church, ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). "The voice of the almighty God" 'speaks' (Ezekiel 10:5) to us in His Word and in His providential dealings in the world. Let us compare both together, with prayer for the Spirit's illuminating power, and let us act accordingly.

(5) The wheels within wheels (Ezekiel 10:10), however seemingly complicated, moved in harmonious unison. So God's doings, amidst their manifold variety, have a perfect unity of plan and end. The "whirling wheels" (Ezekiel 10:13) express the winged speed (Ezekiel 10:8) with which the agencies of God's providence move, where to man's dull perception there might seem to be delay. The "hands" express the aptness and efficacy with which God's ministering powers execute the work intrusted to them. While the "eyes" (Ezekiel 10:12), everywhere looking forth from the whole body-the backs, the hands, the wings, and the wheels of the cherubim-express how infinite is God's knowledge-nothing escapes His searching glance; His eyes in providence are everywhere beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). Let this thought give us at once warning and comfort-warning, if we are walking in virtual disbelief, as though He had forsaken the earth and seeth us not (Ezekiel 9:9) - comfort, if we are living to His glory, while we are distressed with trials and temptations in the world.

(6) Woe be to the people or the individual from whom God departs (Ezekiel 10:18; Hosea 9:12). Whereas the Lord will give grace and glory to His people (Psalms 84:11), all grace and glory leave those whom God leaves. Let us jealously watch against all that would provoke God to withdraw His Holy Spirit from us. Let us imitate the cherubim, and take care that we go "every one straight forward" (Ezekiel 10:22); not like Lot's wife, looking back, and then turning back: but, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 10:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-10.html. 1871-8.

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