Ezekiel 1:15
Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel on the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
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(15) Behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures.—The prophet sees this while still looking intently upon the cherubim—“ as I beheld the living creatures “—showing that it was still a part of one and the same vision. The wheel was one in the same sense in which the living creatures were one, yet actually four, as appears from the following verse and the whole subsequent description. In the corresponding vision (Ezekiel 10:9), they are at once described as four. The cherubim had been seen in the cloud (Ezekiel 1:4-5); now they need to be connected below with the earth, and presently (Ezekiel 1:26) above, with the throne of God. Therefore the wheel is “upon the earth,” but of a great height (Ezekiel 1:18). There was a wheel in front of each of the cherubim, again forming a square, yet so that, as already said, they might in a sense be all considered as one wheel. Reference has been made for the origin of this imagery to the wheels under the ten bases of Solomon’s Temple (1Kings 7:32-33); but there seems to be nothing either in size or form to correspond, and, so far as we know, the imagery here is purely original.

Ezekiel 1:15-16. Now as I beheld, &c. — The prophet here proceeds to relate what he saw besides the living creatures, which he had described in the foregoing verses. Behold one wheel upon the earth beside the living creatures — By each of the living creatures stood one wheel, so that they were four in number, according to the number of the living creatures. While he was contemplating the glory of the former vision, this other was presented to him: wherein the dispensations of providence are compared to the wheels of a machine, which all contribute to the regular motion of it. The shape of wheels, and their fitness for continual motion, aptly represent the constant revolution of human affairs under the conduct of providence, which orders, governs, and changes. Sometimes one spoke of the wheel is uppermost, sometimes another. “Those persons or communities which to- day are at the top of the wheel, may to-morrow be at the bottom, beyond all human expectation or prevention; yet in the midst of apparent confusion, and while every thing seems hurried on by blind chance, or fatal necessity, the most perfect regularity is observed, and the changes are directed by as fixed laws as those which regulate the motions of the wheels.” — Scott. The prophet’s seeing the wheels upon the earth was intruded to denote, that the vision related to the affairs of this world; and the wheels being said to be beside the living creatures, which attended to direct their motions, manifests, that all inferior creatures are, and move, and act, as the Creator, by the ministration of angels, directs and influences them: visible effects are managed and governed by invisible causes. The appearance of the wheels — That is, their colour, for it is plain that is here intended; and their work — Their workmanship, form, or figure, as the word מעשׂהis repeatedly used, 1 Kings 7:17, &c., all that was wrought, whether engraved or otherwise, was of one colour; was like unto the colour of a beryl — A gem of a bluish green; and called in the text here Tarshish, probably from the place whence it came. The colour intended is azure, or that of the blue sky mixed with a bright green: see Daniel 10:6. Probably the wisdom, justice, and goodness of God’s providential government may be here signified by this beautiful colour of the wheels. They four had one likeness — They were the same for dimensions, colour, frame, and motion, to indicate that there is a consistency and uniformity in all the dispensations of Divine Providence. Their appearance, &c., was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel — This may be explained two ways; either, 1st, That there were smaller wheels connected with, and put in motion by the larger, an emblematical representation of the connection of causes and effects; or, 2d, That they crossed one another in the middle, to signify the unsearchableness of the divine dispensations, and the intricacy of the affairs of this world, which seem to cross and thwart each other; but yet all move under the superintendence of infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness.1:15-25 Providence, represented by the wheels, produces changes. Sometimes one spoke of the wheel is uppermost, sometimes another; but the motion of the wheel on its own axletree is regular and steady. We need not despond in adversity; the wheels are turning round and will raise us in due time, while those who presume in prosperity know not how soon they may be cast down. The wheel is near the living creatures; the angels are employed as ministers of God's providence. The spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels; the same wisdom, power, and holiness of God, that guide and govern the angels, by them order all events in this lower world. The wheel had four faces, denoting that the providence of God exerts itself in all parts. Look every way upon the wheel of providence, it has a face toward you. Their appearance and work were as a wheel in the middle of a wheel. The disposals of Providence seem to us dark, perplexed, and unaccountable, yet are all wisely ordered for the best. The motion of these wheels was steady, regular, and constant. They went as the Spirit directed, therefore returned not. We should not have to undo that by repentance which we have done amiss, if we followed the guidance of the Spirit. The rings, or rims of the wheels were so vast, that when put in motion the prophet was afraid to look upon them. The consideration of the height and depth of God's counsel should awe us. They were full of eyes round about. The motions of Providence are all directed by infinite Wisdom. All events are determined by the eyes of the Lord, which are in every place beholding the evil and the good; for there is no such thing as chance or fortune. The firmament above was a crystal, glorious, but terribly so. That which we take to be a dark cloud, is to God clear as crystal, through which he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth. When the angels had roused a careless world, they let down their wings, that God's voice might be plainly heard. The voice of Providence is to open men's ears to the voice of the word. Sounds on earth should awaken our attention to the voice from heaven; for how shall we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaks from thence.Translate it: "one wheel upon the earth by" each of "the liviing creatures" on his four sides (i. e. on the four sides of each of the living creatures). There was a wheel to "each" of the living creatures: it was set "by," i. e. immediately "beneath" the feet of the living creature, and was constructed for direct motion in any of the four lines in which the creatures themselves moved. Their "work" or make, i. e. their construction, was "a wheel in the middle of a wheel;" the wheel was composed of two circumferences set at right angles to each other, like the equator and meridian upon a globe. A wheel so placed and constructed did its part alike on each side of the living creature beneath which it stood. The "ten bases" of the temple 1 Kings 7:27-36 were constructed with lions, oxen, and cherubim, between the ledges and wheels at the four corners attached beneath so as to move like the wheels of a chariot. 15. one wheel—The "dreadful height" of the wheel (Eze 1:18) indicates the gigantic, terrible energy of the complicated revolutions of God's providence, bringing about His purposes with unerring certainty. One wheel appeared traversely within another, so that the movement might be without turning, whithersoever the living creatures might advance (Eze 1:17). Thus each wheel was composed of two circles cutting one another at right angles, "one" only of which appeared to touch the ground ("upon the earth"), according to the direction the cherubim desired to move in.

with his four faces—rather, "according to its four faces" or sides; as there was a side or direction to each of the four creatures, so there was a wheel for each of the sides [Fairbairn]. The four sides or semicircles of each composite wheel pointed, as the four faces of each of the living creatures, to the four quarters of heaven. Havernick refers "his" or "its" to the wheels. The cherubim and their wings and wheels stood in contrast to the symbolical figures, somewhat similar, then existing in Chaldea, and found in the remains of Assyria. The latter, though derived from the original revelation by tradition, came by corruption to symbolize the astronomical zodiac, or the sun and celestial sphere, by a circle with wings or irradiations. But Ezekiel's cherubim rise above natural objects, the gods of the heathen, to the representation of the one true God, who made and continually upholds them.

Now; or, and; it is a transition from the former to the latter part of the vision.

I beheld; considered and observed.

Behold; it calls for our attention.

One wheel; or a certain wheel of spherical form, as some; of a circular form, as the wheels of chariots, say others. It is one wheel, intimating that all the different causes and motions, how many soever in themselves, yet work the same work, and are governed as easily in their various motions, as one single wheel might be, and that God doth so govern them.

Upon the earth; not that we tread on, but that which in this vision was represented to the prophet; for it was here as it is in landscapes or pictures drawn, there is that which represents the earth, on which trees, men, or chariots seem to be upon. By the living creatures; by each of these living creatures stood one wheel, so that they were four in number, according to the number of the living creatures.

With his four faces: by this it appears each wheel had its four faces, of which more in the 17th verse, where what is here called faces is there called sides. Now as I beheld the living creatures,.... While he had the vision of them, and when he was considering their form and likeness, and what should be the meaning of them:

behold, one wheel upon the earth; the Jews (r) understand this of an angel, who stood upon the earth, and his head reached to the living creatures, and his name is Sandalphon; and so many expositors interpret the wheels of angels: but the more common interpretation of them is, that they design the visible world, and all things in it, which are movable and uncertain; though the true interpretation of them, as of the living creatures, is to be fetched from the vision in the fourth chapter of Revelation and as the four living creatures here are the same with the four beasts there; so the wheels are the same with the four and twenty elders, the representatives of Gospel churches, as appears by both being in the same situation; as there is a throne, and next to that the four beasts, and next to them the four and twenty elders, Revelation 4:3; here also is a throne, and next to the throne the four living creatures or cherubim, and next the living creatures, and by the side of them the wheels, Ezekiel 10:1; and this is further manifest by their being both under the same influence and motion; as the four beasts were the first agents and movers, and the four and twenty elders were directed by them, who went before them in their devotion, Revelation 4:9; so the wheels moved as the living creatures did; when the living creatures went, they went; when they stood, the wheels stood; and when the creatures were lifted up, the wheels were also, Ezekiel 1:19; and the wheels are a very proper emblem of churches under the Gospel dispensation; partly for their round form, a symbol of perfection; the churches of Christ being more perfect under the gospel dispensation than the church was under the legal one: and partly for their movableness from place to place; churches are not always in the same place; they have been removed from Judea into the Gentile world; and they have wheeled about there, sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another: as also for their changeable state and situation; being sometimes in prosperity, and sometimes in adversity: likewise for the work done by them; many things are done by the help and with the use of wheels; much work is done in and by the churches of Christ; here the Gospel is preached, ordinances administered, divine worship in all its parts performed, sinners are converted, and saints are edified and comforted; and as, when wheels are in motion, they make a great noise and rattling; so when there is any great work going on in the churches of Christ, it makes a great noise in the world; as at the first preaching and spread of the Gospel, both in Judea, and among the Gentiles; and at the time of the Reformation; and as there will be when antichrist shall be destroyed, and the Gospel shall be spread all the world over, Revelation 19:1; to which may be added, that these wheels, together with the cherubim or living creatures, make a chariot; and as the cherubim in the temple are called the chariot of the cherubim, 1 Chronicles 28:18; so the author of Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha,

"It was Ezekiel who saw the glorious vision, which was shewed him upon the chariot of the cherubims.'' (Sirach 49:8)

says, that Ezekiel was shown the glorious vision upon the chariot of the cherubim; and nothing is more common with the Jews than to call this vision of Ezekiel "mercavah", or "chariot". So in the Targum on 1 Kings 7:33; it is said,

"the work of the wheels was as the work of the wheels of the glorious chariot;''

meaning this in Ezekiel; and a chariot is a fit emblem of the churches of Christ, in which he rides about the world, and does his work; see Sol 3:9; and though but one wheel is here mentioned, yet it appears that there were "four", as in Ezekiel 1:16; a wheel by every living creature; so though there is but one general assembly and church of the firstborn written in heaven, of which Christ is the head, and for which he gave himself; yet there are many particular congregated churches, which may be signified by the number "four"; partly with respect to the four parts of the world, where Christ has an interest, and which will more manifestly appear in the latter day; and partly with respect to the four living creatures, a wheel to every cherub, a church to every minister and pastor; for though sometimes there have been more pastors than one to a church, when large, yet never more than one church under the care of one pastor: moreover, this wheel or wheels were seen "upon the earth"; which is observed, to distinguish the church militant from the church triumphant in heaven; and to point out the place where the churches are; which though they consist of men that are not of the world, yet they are in the world: as also to denote the firmness of them; they are on the earth, not in the air or sea, where wheels cannot move and rolls; but upon "terra firma", and that to the churches, is Christ Jesus; and may also signify, that the mutability and movableness of churches are only while they are on earth, in, the present state of things: it follows,

by the living creatures: that is, the wheel or wheels were seen by the side of the living creatures; which is more fully expressed in Ezekiel 10:9; churches are placed by the ministers of the Gospel, to direct them in matters of faith and worship; to put them in motion; to stir them up to the exercise of grace, and the discharge of duty; to watch over them in the Lord; and to feed them with spiritual knowledge and understanding:

with his four faces; either the living creatures; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "having four faces": and the meaning is that the wheel or wheels were on, the four sides of the living creatures: or rather, as Jarchi, the wheels, four faces; for upon every wheel there were the same four faces as were in the living creatures, as, is clear from Ezekiel 10:13; there being a great likeness between Gospel churches and Gospel ministers: the "first" was the face of a "cherub" or "ox"; which may denote the patience of Gospel churches, and the members thereof, in bearing afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions, for the sake of Christ; their meditation on the word of God continually, the ox being a creature that chews the cud; and their constancy and laboriousness in the work of the Lord: the "second" was the face of a "man"; which may be expressive of their knowledge and understanding of divine and spiritual things; and of their tenderheartedness, sympathy, and compassion, one towards another, in distressed circumstances: the "third" was the face of a "lion"; signifying their boldness and intrepidity in, the cause of Christ, and the profession of his name: and the "fourth" was the face of an "eagle"; showing that they mount up on the wings of faith and love, as on eagles' wings; that they soar aloft, and dwell on high, and have their affections set on things in heaven, and not on earth. Cocceius interprets the wheel or wheels of the word of God, and the course of the ministry of it, under the influence of the Spirit; and so Starckius of late.

(r) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 13. 2.

Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
15. beheld the living creatures] lit. and I saw the living creatures and behold. LXX. reads, and I saw and behold—precisely as ch. Ezekiel 8:2, Ezekiel 10:1; Ezekiel 10:9.

by the living creatures] beside, as R.V.

with his four faces] lit. according to, or, at his four faces. LXX. reads, to these four, as Ezekiel 1:10, which is simpler. In the present text the “four faces” must be those of each one of the living creatures. The general sense appears to be that for each face of the individual living creature there was a wheel. The appearance would be so if the wheel really seemed two wheels cutting one another transversely. The position of the living creature was above the wheel, though the rim of the wheel might be higher than his feet (Ezekiel 10:2).

15–21. The Four Wheels

The prophet saw four wheels beside the four living creatures, one wheel beside each creature. The wheels touched the ground, and were all alike, having the appearance of tarshish-stone. The construction of each appeared as if a wheel were within a wheel, that is, each of the four wheels looked like two wheels, cutting each other at right angles. In this way each of the four wheels had a rim or circumference facing each of the four directions, just as the living creature had a face looking in each direction, so that toward whatever quarter the chariot moved four wheels seemed to be running in that direction. Their felloes were full of eyes. The movements of the wheels corresponded entirely with those of the living creatures, they went, rose, or stood still according as the living creatures did. The wheels were not inanimate, but part of the living chariot of God; the “spirit” of the living creature was also in the wheels.Verse 15. - Behold one wheel, etc. As the prophet gazed, yet another marvel presented itself - a "wheel" was seen. It is "by" or "beside" (Revised Version) the living creatures, and "for each of the four faces thereof" (Revised Version); i.e. as the next verse states definitely, there were four wheels. We may compare the analogues of the "wheels" of fire in the theophany of Daniel 7:9, and the chariot of the cherubim in 1 Chronicles 28:18. The four cherubim. - Ezekiel 1:5. And out of its midst there prominently appeared a figure, consisting of four creatures, and this was their appearance: they had the figure of a man. Ezekiel 1:6. And each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Ezekiel 1:7. And their feet were upright-standing feet; and the soles of their feet like the soles of a calf, and sparkling like the appearance of shining brass. Ezekiel 1:8. And the hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and all four had faces and wings. Ezekiel 1:9. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not as they went; they went each one in the direction of his face. Ezekiel 1:10. And the form of their faces was that of a man; and on the right all four had a lion's face; and on the left all four had the face of an ox; and all four had an eagle's face. Ezekiel 1:11. And their faces and their wings were divided above, two of each uniting with one another, and two covering their bodies. Ezekiel 1:12. And they went each in the direction of his face; whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went; they turned not as they went. Ezekiel 1:13. And the likeness of the creatures resembled burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: it (the fire) went hither and thither amongst the beings; and the fire was brilliant, and from the fire came forth lightning. Ezekiel 1:14. And the beings ran hither and thither in a zig-zag manner.

From out of the fiery centre of the cloud there shows itself the form (tw%md@;, properly "resemblance," "picture") of four חיּות, animantia, "living creatures;" ζῶα, Revelation 4:6; not θηρία, "wild beasts," as Luther has incorrectly rendered it, after the animalia of the Vulgate. These four creatures had דּמוּת אדם, "the figure of a man." Agreeably to this notice, placed at the head of the description, these creatures are to be conceived as presenting the appearance of a human body in all points not otherwise specified in the following narrative. Each of them had four faces and four wings (אחת without the article stands as a distributive, and כּנפים are "pinions," as in Isaiah 6:2, not "pairs of wings"). Their feet were רגל ישׁרה, "a straight foot;" the singular stands generically, stating only the nature of the feet, without reference to their number. We have accordingly to assume in each of the four creatures two legs, as in a man. ישׁר .nam a , "straight," i.e., standing upright, not bent, as when sitting or kneeling. רגל is the whole leg, including the knee and thigh, and כּף רגל, "sole of the foot," or the under part of the leg, with which we tread on the ground. This part, not the whole leg, resembled the calf's foot, which is firmly planted on the ground. The legs sparkled like the appearance of נחשׁה קלל. The subject of נצצים is not "the כּרוּבים, which are understood to be intended under the חיּות in verse fifth" (Hitzig), for this subject is too far distant, but רגליהם, which is here construed as masculine, as in Jeremiah 13:16. In this sense are these words apprehended in Revelation 1:15, and נחשׁת there translated by χαλκολίβανος. On this word see Hengstenberg and Dsterdieck on Revelation 1:15. נח' קלל probably signifies "light," i.e., "bright, shining brass," as the old translators have rendered it. The Septuagint has ἐξαστράπτων; the Vulgate, aes candens; and the Chaldee paraphrase, aes flammans. The signification "smoothed, polished brass" (Bochart), rests upon uncertain combinations; cf. Gesen. Thes. p. 1217, and is appropriate neither here nor in Daniel 10:6, where these words precede, "His face had the appearance of lightning, and his eyes were as a flame of fire." Under the four wings were four hands on the four sides of each cherub, formed like the hands of a man. The wings accordingly rested upon the shoulders, from which the hands came forth. The Chetib וידו may certainly be defended if with Kimchi and others we punctuate וידו, and take the suffix distributively and אדם elliptically, "his (i.e., each of the four creatures) hands were (the hands of) a man;" cf. for such an ellipsis as this, passages like that in Psalm 18:34, רגלי כּאיּלות, "my feet as the (feet) of hinds;" Job 35:2, מאל, "before the righteousness of God." It is extremely probable, however, that ו is only the error of an old copyist for י, and that the Keri וידי is the correct reading, as the taking of אדם elliptically is not in keeping with the broad style of Ezekiel, which in its verbosity verges on tautology. The second half of Ezekiel 1:8 is neither, with Hvernick, to be referred to the following ninth verse, where the faces are no more spoken of, nor, with Hitzig, to be arbitrarily mutilated; but is to be taken as it stands, comprising all that has hitherto been said regarding the faces and wings, in order to append thereto in Ezekiel 1:9. the description of the use and nature of these members. The definite statement, that "the wings were joined one to another," is in Ezekiel 1:11 limited to the two upper wings, according to which we have so to conceive the matter, that the top or the upper right wing of each cherub came in contact with the top of the left wing of the neighbouring cherub. This junction presented to the eye of the seer the unity and coherence of all the four creatures as a complete whole - a חיּה, and implied, as a consequence, the harmonious action in common of the four creatures. They did not turn as they went along, but proceeded each in the direction of his face. אל, "over against his face." The meaning is thus rightly given by Kliefoth: "As they had four faces, they needed not to turn as they went, but went on as (i.e., in the direction in which) they were going, always after the face."

In the closer description of the faces in Ezekiel 1:10, the face of the man is first mentioned as that which was turned towards the seer, that of the lion to the right side, the ox to the left, and that of the eagle (behind). In naming these three, it is remarked that all the four creatures had these faces: in naming the man's face, this remark is omitted, because the word פּניהם (referring to all the four) immediately precedes. In Ezekiel 1:11, it is next remarked of the faces and wings, that they were divided above (מלמעלה, "from above," "upward"); then the direction of the wings is more precisely stated. The word וּפניהם is neither to be referred to the preceding, "and it was their faces," nor, with Hitzig, to be expunged as a gloss; but is quite in order as a statement that not only the wings but also the faces were divided above, consequently were not like Janus' faces upon one head, but the four faces were planted upon four heads and necks. In the description that follows, חוברות אישׁ is not quite distinct, and #y)i is manifestly to be taken as an abbreviation of אשּׁה אל־אחותהּ in Ezekiel 1:9 : on each were two wings joining one another, i.e., touching with their tops the tips of the wings of the cherub beside them, in accordance with which we have to conceive the wings as expanded. Two were covering their bodies, i.e., each cherub covered his body with the pair of wings that folded downwards; not, as Kliefoth supposes, that the lower wings of the one cherub covered the body of the other cherub beside him, which also is not the meaning in Ezekiel 1:23; see note on that verse. In Ezekiel 1:12, what is to be said about their movements is brought to a conclusion, while both statements are repeated in Ezekiel 1:9, and completed by the addition of the principium movens. In whatever direction the רוּח "was to go, in that direction they went;" i.e., not according to the action of their own will, but wherever the רוּח impelled them. רוּח, however, signifies not "impulse," nor, in this place, even "the wind," as the vehicle of the power of the spiritual life palpable to the senses, which produced and guided their movements, (Kliefoth), but spirit. For, according to Ezekiel 1:20, the movement of the wheels, which was in harmony with the movements of the cherubim, was not caused by the wind, but proceeded from the רוּח החיּה, i.e., from the spirit dwelling in the creature. On the contrary, there is not in the whole description, with the exception of the general statement that a tempestuous wind drove from the north the great cloud in which the theophany was enwrapped, any allusion to a means of motion palpable to the senses. In the 13th and 14th verses is described the entire impression produced by the movement of the whole appearance. וּדמוּת החיּות precedes, and is taken absolutely "as regards the form of the creatures," and corresponds to the דּמוּת ארבּע חיּות in Ezekiel 1:5, with which the description of the individual figures which appeared in the brightness of the fire was introduced. Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. היא refers to אשׁ as the principal conception. Fire, like the fire of burning coals and torches, went, moved hither and thither amongst the four creatures. This fire presented a bright appearance, and out of it came forth lightnings. The creatures, moreover, were in constant motion. רצוא, from רצא, an Aramaising form for the Hebrew רוּץ, to run. The infin. absol. stands instead of the finite verb. The conjecture of יצוא, after Genesis 8:7 (Hitzig), is inappropriate, because here we have not to think of "coming out," and no reason exists for the striking out of the words, as Hitzig proposes. The continued motion of the creatures is not in contradiction with their perpetually moving on straight before them. "They went hither and thither, and yet always in the direction of their countenances; because they had a countenance looking in the direction of every side" (Kliefoth). בּזק signifies not "lightning" ( equals בּרק), but comes from בּזק; in Syriac, "to be split," and denotes "the splitting," i.e., the zigzag course of the lightning (Kliefoth).

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