1 Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 (On the fifth of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile, 3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and there the hand of the Lord came upon him.)
4 As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. 5 Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. 6 Each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides were 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 As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two 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 In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. 14 And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. 17 Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved. 18 As for their rims they were lofty and awesome, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes round about. 19 Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. And whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 20 Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. 21 Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those stood still, these stood still. 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 over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads. 23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other. 24 I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. 25 And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.
26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. 27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
I'm sure no depiction, no painting, no Hollywood lighting tricks, could possibly compare to this vision that Ezekiel saw. He saw the glory of the Lord! How could you not be awed and terrified?
I am very interested in the description of the cherubim. Of course, this description bears no resemblance at all to the child-like figures with wings that we see in traditional artwork. I read a commentary by Matthew Henry that pointed out something I'd overlooked:
That which comes out of the fire, of a fiery amber colour, when it comes to be distinctly viewed, is the likeness of four living creatures; not the living creatures themselves (angels are spirits, and cannot be seen), but the likeness of them, such a hieroglyphic, or representation, as God saw fit to make use of for the leading of the prophet, and us with him, into some acquaintance with the world of angels... to possess us with an awful sense of the greatness of that God who has angels for his attendants, and the goodness of that God who has appointed them to be attendants on his people.
But, though they are many, yet they are one, and that is made known to Ezekiel here; they are one in nature and operation, as an army, consisting of thousands, is yet called a body of men. We have here an account of,(1.) Their nature. They are living creatures; they are the creatures of God, the work of his hands; their being is derived; they have not life in and of themselves, but receive it from him who is the fountain of life. Angels are living creatures, living beings, emphatically so. Men on earth are dying creatures, dying daily (in the midst of life we are in death), but angels in heaven are living creatures; they live indeed, live to good purpose; and, when saints come to be equal unto the angels, they shall not die any more.
(2.) Their number. They are four; so they appear here, though they are innumerable; not as if these were four particular angels set up above the rest, as some have fondly imagined, Michael and Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel, but for the sake of the four faces they put on, and to intimate their being sent forth towards the four winds of heaven. God has messengers to send every way; for his kingdom is universal, and reaches to all parts of the world.
(3.) Their qualifications, by which they are fitted for the service of their Maker and Master. These are set forth figuratively and by similitude, as is proper in visions, which are parables to the eye. They all four had the face of a man (for in that likeness they appeared, v. 5), but, besides that, they had the face of a lion, an ox, and an eagle, each masterly in its kind, the lion among wild beasts, the ox among tame ones, and the eagle among fowls, v. 10. Does God make use of them for the executing of judgments upon his enemies? They are fierce and strong as the lion and the eagle in tearing their prey. Does he make use of them for the good of his people? They are as oxen strong for labour and inclined to serve. And in both they have the understanding of a man. The scattered perfections of the living creatures on earth meet in the angels of heaven. They have the likeness of man; but, because there are some things in which man is excelled even by the inferior creatures, they are therefore compared to some of them. They have the understanding of a man, and such as far exceeds it; they also resemble man in tenderness and humanity. But, First, A lion excels man in strength and boldness, and is much more formidable; therefore the angels, who in this resemble them, put on the face of a lion. Secondly, An ox excels man in diligence, and patience, and painstaking, and an unwearied discharge of the work he has to do; therefore the angels, who are constantly employed in the service of God and the church, put on the face of an ox. Thirdly, An eagle excels man in quickness and piercingness of sight, and in soaring high; and therefore the angels, who seek things above, and see far into divine mysteries, put on the face of a flying eagle.
There is, of course, much much more to the description, both of the angels, and the heavenly throne, Jesus being upon it, and so on. It is a very detailed and interesting commentary, but obviously I can't include the whole thing. If you'd like to read it, click here: Matthew Henry Commentary.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 2-3