And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and on the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above on it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As the appearance of a sapphire stone.—Comp. Exodus 24:10, where the same description is applied to “the pavement under His feet” as here and in Ezekiel 10:1 to his throne, in either case indicating the intense clearness of the heavenly blue. The constant repetition of the words “likeness” and “appearance” is very striking throughout this vision. They occur five times in this verse, and four times in each of the two following. The prophet thus labours to make it plain that what he saw was not the realities of existing things, but certain symbolic representations given for the purpose of producing their fitting impression upon the mind. It is especially important to remember this in connection with “the likeness as the appearance of a man” “upon the likeness of the throne.” It was not the Divine Being Himself whom Ezekiel saw, but certain appearances to impress upon him the character and attributes of Him whom “no man hath seen, nor can see.”
The appearance of a man—As in the case of the cherubim the form of a man, as the highest known in nature, was made the groundwork to which all their peculiarities were attached, so here, in rising to something still higher, the same basis must be retained in the impossibility of anything better; only that which is added is more vague, as being incapable of any definite description, Yet possibly there may be even her a hint at the great truth of the incarnation. (Comp. Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13.)Ezekiel 1:26-27. Above the firmament was the likeness of a throne — Namely, the throne of God. God having given his prophet emblems of his attendants and ministers, while he was coming forth in the chariot of his power and justice, to execute judgment, and of the mysterious dispensations of his providence toward his church and the world, he now proceeds to discover to him some glimpses of his divine glory. The prophet does not say that he saw a real throne, but only the likeness of a throne, emblematical, doubtless, of God’s sovereign power and dominion over all creatures, whether in heaven or on earth. God is described in Scripture as dwelling in light, and clothing himself with it. So the throne of God is here described as made up of light resembling the colours and brightness of a sapphire-stone. And upon the likeness of the throne, as the appearance of a man — “When Moses and the elders saw the God of Israel, Exodus 24:8, or the glory of God, as the Targum explains it, they saw no determinate figure, but an inconceivably resplendent brightness, that they might not think God could be represented by any image. But in this vision the form and shape of a man are directly represented to Ezekiel, as a prelude or figure of the incarnation.” This, indeed, was doubtless the ever- blessed and only-begotten Son of God, who was in due time to assume human nature, and in that nature to be the visible image and representative of his invisible Father, whom no man hath seen, or can see, 1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18. He had appeared to Isaiah in glory, to constitute him a prophet, and he now appears to Ezekiel for the same purpose: see note on Isaiah 6:1, and compare John 12:37-41. He appears also as the Lawgiver and King of Israel, to vindicate his own honour, punish his rebellious subjects, and give warning by his prophet, ere he executed his just but severe indignation. And I saw as the colour of amber — See note on Ezekiel 1:4. As the appearance of fire — Said to be a fire infolding itself, Ezekiel 1:4. Round about within it — Namely, within the amber, to signify that Christ’s executing of judgment outwardly proceeded from his zeal for the glory of God and his indignation against sin. From the appearance of his loins even upward — Denoting, as some interpret it, his divine nature: and from the appearance of his loins even downward — Signifying his human nature. I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire — The general sense seems to be, that Christ, considered in his whole person, as God and man, is full of indignation against sin, and sinners continuing in sin, and is glorious in both his natures, and in all his proceedings: see 2 Thessalonians 1:8. And it had brightness round about — Majesty, justice, and unstained holiness shine round about him. In this colour does Christ appear to the Jews; he that would have visited them, clothed with the garments of salvation, now put on the garments of vengeance, expressed by such metaphors.
The appearance of a man - Deeply significant is the form of this manifestation. Here is no angel conveying God's message to man, but the glory of the Lord Himself. We recognize in this vision the prophetic annunciation of the Holy Incarnation. We are told little of the extent to which the human form was made evident to the prophet. For the vision was rather to the mind than to the bodily eye, and even inspired language was inadequate to convey to the hearer the glory which eye hath not seen or ear heard, and which only by special revelation it hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.Above the firmament; the crystalline firmament which appeared in the vision, not the vast expanse or firmament in which are sun, moon, and stars.
That was over their heads; heads of the living creatures which moved the wheels, and stood by the chariot.
Was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; in view appeared a sapphire stone, like or in likeness of a throne; so the Hebrew, though we transpose the words somewhat in our version: the sapphire speaks splendour and preciousness; the throne speaks the authority and power of him who sitteth thereon.
As the appearance of a man; Christ, God-man, who here appears as King and Judge to vindicate his own honour, to punish rebels, and to give warning by his prophet ere he execute his just but severe indignation.
was the likeness of a throne; a symbol of Christ's kingly power and authority, who is the person that sat upon it; as he is God, he is on the same throne with his Father; as Mediator, he is King of saints, and was so from eternity; he exercised his office before his incarnation; and as he was prophesied of as a King, he came as one, though little known, and his kingdom was not with observation; upon his ascension he was declared Lord and Christ; and will appear on a throne, when he shall come to judge the world, and particularly in the New Jerusalem church state: and this throne was
as the appearance of a sapphire stone; which is a stone very clear and transparent; very hard, solid, and durable; very precious and excellent; and of an azure sky colour; denoting the clear manifestation of Christ's righteous judgments, in the ministration of his kingly office; the duration of his government; the excellency of it; and its heavenly nature and original:
and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness of the appearance of a man above upon it; this was no other than Christ; who, though he was not really man before his incarnation, yet often appeared in the form of a man; and, through his incarnation, he was found in fashion as a man; and was really man, though not a mere man; nor was the person here designed; for that was the appearance and likeness of the glory of the Lord, Ezekiel 1:28; and this shows, that when Christ, as man, had done his work, he should sit down upon his throne above the firmament, being made higher than the heavens,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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)26. The rendering of LXX. makes the sapphire stone different from the throne, the former being the ground on which the throne was placed. A special pavement, however, above the firmament, on which the throne was set is scarcely to be expected and is hardly the meaning of Exodus 24:10. Comp. Ezekiel 10:1.
26–28. The throne and glory of Him who sat on it
Above the firmament was the appearance of a throne, like a sapphire stone; and on the throne the appearance of one sitting, from his loins upwards like amber, and from his loins downwards like fire. And round about him was a glory like the rainbow in the day of rain.Verse 26. - The likeness of a throne. The greatest glory was kept to the last. High above the azure expanse was the likeness of a throne (we note the constant recurrence of the word "likeness," nine times in this one chapter, as indicating Ezekiel's consciousness of the vision character of what he saw). The idea of the throne of the great King first appears in 1 Kings 22:19, is frequent in the Psalms (Psalm 9:4, 7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 45:6), notably in Isaiah 6:1. In the visions of St John (Revelation 1:4, and passim) it is the dominant, central object throughout. As the appearance of a sapphire stone. The intense blue of the sapphire has made it in all ages the natural symbol of a heavenly purity. Ezekiel's vision reproduces that of Exodus 24:10. It appears among the gems of the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18; Exodus 39:11) and in the "foundations" of Revelation 21:19. The description of the sapphire given by Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:9), as "never transparent, and refulgent with spots of gold," suggests lapis lazuli. As used in the Old Testament, however, the word probably means the sapphire of modern jewellery (Braun, 'De Vest. Sacerd.,' p. 630, edit. 1680). A likeness as of the appearance of a man. The throne, the symbol of the sovereignty of God over the "living creatures" and the "wheels," over the forces and the laws which they represented, is not empty. There was "a likeness as of the appearance" (we note again the accumulation of words intended to guard against the thought that what was seen was more than an approximate symbolism) "of a man." In that likeness there was the witness that we can only think of God by reasoning upward from all that is highest in our conceptions of human greatness and goodness, and thinking of them as free from their present limitations. Man's highest thought of God is that it is "a face like his face that receives him." He finds a humanity in the Godhead. It is noticeable that this preluding anticipation of the thought of the Incarnation, not recognized in the vision of Moses (Exodus 24:10) or Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), appears prominently in the two prophets of the exile - here and in the memorable Messianic vision of "One like unto the ['a,' Revised Version] Son of man" in Daniel 7:13. What might have been perilously anthropomorphic in the early stages of the growth of Israel, when men tended to identify the symbol with the thing symbolized, was now made subservient to the truth which underlies even anthropomorphic thought (comp. Revelation 1:13). Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' 4:20. 10), it may be noted, dwells on the fact that Ezekiel uses the words, "'haec visio similitudmis gloriae Domini,' ne quis putaret forte eum in his proprie vidisse Deum." Ezekiel 1:15. And I saw the creatures, and, lo, there was a wheel upon the earth beside the creatures, towards their four fronts. Ezekiel 1:16. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like the appearance of the chrysolite; and all four had one kind of figure: and their appearance and their work was as if one wheel were within the other. Ezekiel 1:17. Towards their four sides they went when they moved: they turned not as they went. Ezekiel 1:18. And their felloes, they were high and terrible; and their felloes were full of eyes round about in all the four. Ezekiel 1:19. And when the creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the creatures raised themselves up from the earth, the wheels also raised themselves. Ezekiel 1:20. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went in the direction in which the spirit was to go; and the wheels raised themselves beside them: for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. Ezekiel 1:21. When the former moved, the latter moved also; when the former stood, the latter stood; and when the former raised themselves from the ground, the wheels raised themselves beside them: for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. - The words, "and I saw the creatures," prepare the way for the transition to the new object which presented itself in these creatures to the eye of the seer. By the side of these creatures upon the ground he sees a wheel, and that at the four fronts, or front faces of the creatures. The singular suffix in לארבּעת פּניו can neither be referred, with Rosenmller, to the chariot, which is not mentioned at all, nor, with Hitzig, to the preposition אצל, nor, with Hvernick, Maurer, and Kliefoth, to אופן, and so be understood as if every wheel looked towards four sides, because a second wheel was inserted in it at right angles. This meaning is not to be found in the words. The suffix refers ad sensum to חיּות (Ewald), or, to express it more correctly, to the figure of the cherubim with its four faces turned to the front, conceived as a unity - as one creature (החיּה, Ezekiel 1:22). Accordingly, we have so to represent the matter, that by the side of the four cherubim, namely, beside his front face, a wheel was to be seen upon the earth. Ezekiel then saw four wheels, one on each front of a cherub, and therefore immediately speaks in Ezekiel 1:16 of wheels (in the plural). In this verse מראה is adspectus, and מעשׂה "work;" i.e., both statements employing the term "construction," although in the first hemistich only the appearance, in the second only the construction, of the wheels is described. תּרשׁישׁ is a chrysolite of the ancients, the topaz of the moderns, - a stone having the lustre of gold. The construction of the wheels was as if one wheel were within a wheel, i.e., as if in the wheel a second were inserted at right angles, so that without being turned it could go towards all the four sides. גּבּיהן, in Ezekiel 1:18, stands absolutely. "As regards their felloes," they possessed height and terribleness-the latter because they were full of eyes all round. Hitzig arbitrarily understands גּבהּ of the upper sides; and יראה, after the Arabic, of the under side, or that which lies towards the back. The movement of the wheels completely followed the movement of the creatures (Ezekiel 1:19-21), because the spirit of the creature was in the wheels. החיּה, in Ezekiel 1:20 and Ezekiel 1:21, is not the "principle of life" (Hvernick), but the cherubic creatures conceived as a unity, as in Ezekiel 1:22, where the meaning is undoubted. The sense is: the wheels were, in their motion and rest, completely bound by the movements and rest of the creatures, because the spirit which ruled in them was also in the wheels, and regulated their going, standing, and rising upwards. By the רוּח the wheels are bound in one with the cherub-figures, but not by means of a chariot, to or upon which the cherubim were attached.
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