Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Eze 10:1-22. Vision of Coals of Fire Scattered over the City: Repetition of the Vision of the Cherubim.
1. The throne of Jehovah appearing in the midst of the judgments implies that whatever intermediate agencies be employed, He controls them, and that the whole flows as a necessary consequence from His essential holiness (Eze 1:22, 26).
cherubim—in Eze 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 (Eze 10:18) for a long period (Eze 43:2). The feature (Eze 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 Eze 9:4, 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 (compare Ro 8:20). Therefore they are associated with the twenty-four elders and are distinguished from the angels (Re 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 fourfold aspect, and from which His glory shines on the Christian world, answers to the emblematic throne from which He shone on the Jewish Church.
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.
2. he—Jehovah; He who sat on the "throne."
the man—the Messenger of mercy becoming the Messenger of judgment (see on Eze 9:2). Human agents of destruction shall fulfil the will of "the Man," who is Lord of men.
wheels—Hebrew, galgal, implying quick revolution; so the impetuous onset of the foe (compare Eze 23:24; 26:10); whereas "ophan," in Eze 1:15, 16 implies mere revolution.
coals of fire—the wrath of God about to burn the city, as His sword had previously slain its guilty inhabitants. This "fire," how different from the fire on the altar never going out (Le 6:12, 13), whereby, in type, peace was made with God! Compare Isa 33:12, 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.
Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.
3. right … of … 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, for the latter had not "wheels." They stood on "the right of the house," that is, 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 was now proceeding to destroy the city, which lay south and west.
the cherubim … the man—There was perfect concert of action between the cherubic representative of the angels and "the Man," to minister to whom they "stood" there (Eze 10:7).
cloud—emblem of God's displeasure; as the "glory" or "brightness" (Eze 10:4) typifies His majesty and clearness in judgment.
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.
4. 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 with cloud.
And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.
5. sound of … wings—prognostic of great and awful changes.
voice of … God—the thunder (Ps 29:3, &c.).
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.
6. 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 (Ps 40:8; Heb 10:7).
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.
7. See on Eze 10:3.
one cherub—one of the four cherubim.
his hand—(Eze 1:8).
went out—to burn the city.
And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings.
8. The "wings" denote alacrity, the "hands" efficacy and aptness, in executing the functions assigned to them.
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.
9. wheels—(See on Eze 1:15, 16). The things which, from Eze 10:8 to the end of the chapter, are repeated from the first chapter are expressed more decidedly, now that he gets a nearer view: the words "as it were," and "as if," so often occurring in the first chapter, 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].
And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.
10. four had one likeness—In the wonderful variety of God's works there is the greatest harmony:—
"In human works, though labored on with pain,
One thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God's one single doth its end produce,
Yet serves to second, too, some other use.
(See on Eze 1:16).
wheel … in … a wheel—cutting one another at fight angles, so 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.
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.
11. (See on Eze 1:17).
turned not—without accomplishing their course (Isa 55:11) [Grotius]. Rather, "they moved straight on without turning" (so Eze 1:9). Having a face towards each of the four quarters, they needed not to turn around when changing their direction.
whither … head looked—that is, "whither the head" of the animal cherub-form, belonging to and directing each wheel, "looked," thither the wheel "followed." The wheels were not guided by some external adventitious impetus, but by some secret divine impulse of the cherubim themselves.
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.
12. body—literally, "flesh," because a body consists of flesh.
wheels … full of eyes—The description (Eze 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 (compare 2Ch 16:9; Pr 15:3; Zec 4:10).
As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.
13. O wheel—rather, "they were called, whirling," that is, they were most rapid in their revolutions [Maurer]; or, better, "It was cried unto them, The whirling" [Fairbairn]. Galgal here used for "wheel," is different from ophan, the simple word for "wheel." Galgal is the whole wheelwork machinery with its whirlwind-like rotation. Their being so addressed is in order to call them immediately to put themselves in rapid motion.
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.
14. cherub—but in Eze 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), saw of him, not merely the ox-form, but the whole fourfold 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 Isa 11:6; 65:25; Ro 8:20, 21; this accords with the animal forms combined with the human to typify redeemed man.
And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar.
15. The repeated declaration of the identity of the vision with that at the Chebar is to arouse attention to it (Eze 10:22; 3:23).
the living creature—used collectively, as in Eze 10:17, 20; 1:20.
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.
16. (See on Eze 10:11; Eze 1:19).
lifted up … wings—to depart, following "the glory of the Lord" which was on the point of departing (Eze 10:18).
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.
17. (Eze 1:12, 20, 21).
stood—God never stands still (Joh 5:17), therefore neither do the angels; but to human perceptions He seems to do so.
Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.
18. The departure of the symbol of God's presence from the temple preparatory to the destruction of the city. Foretold in De 31:17. Woe be to those from whom God departs (Ho 9:12)! Compare 1Sa 28:15, 16; 4:21: "I-chabod, Thy glory is departed." Successive steps are marked in His departure; so slowly and reluctantly does the merciful God leave His house. First He leaves the sanctuary (Eze 9:3); He elevates His throne above the threshold of the house (Eze 10:1); leaving the cherubim He sits on the throne (Eze 10:4); He and the cherubim, after standing for a time at the door of the east gate (where was the exit to the lower court of the people), leave the house altogether (Eze 10:18, 19), not to return till Eze 43:2.
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.
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.
20. I knew … cherubim—By the second sight of the cherubim, he learned 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.
Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
21. 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 he saw what has no existence." He, therefore, repeats it over and over again.
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.
22. straight forward—intent upon the object they aimed at, not deviating from the way nor losing sight of the end (Lu 9:52).