Ezekiel 1 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ezekiel 1)

Verse 1

[1] Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Thirtieth year — From the finding the book of the law in the eighteenth year of Josiah, from which date to the fifth year of the captivity are thirty years.

Fifth day — Probably it was the sabbath-day, when the Jews were at leisure to hear the prophet.

River — Perhaps retiring thither to lament their own sins, and Jerusalem's desolation.

Chebar — A river now called Giulap, arising out of the mountain Masius, and falling into Euphrates, somewhat below a city called by the same name.

Verse 2

[2] In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity,

The month — Thamus, as verse 1, answering to our June and July.

Fifth year — This account observed will guide us in computing the times referred to verse 1. These five of Jehoiachin, and the eleven of his predecessor, added to fourteen of Josiah's reign, after he found the law, make up thirty years, verse 1.

Jehoiachin — Who is also called Jechoniah, and Coniah. It may be of use to keep an account, when and where God has manifested himself to us in a peculiar manner. Remember, O my soul, what thou didst receive at such a time, at such a place: tell others what God did for thee.

Verse 3

[3] The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

The word — What was visions, verse 1, is here the word, both as signifying and declaring the mind of God, what he would do, and as continuing his commands to Ezekiel and to the people.

Ezekiel — He speaks of himself in a third person.

Priest — He was of the priests originally; he was a prophet by an extraordinary call.

The hand — He felt the power of God opening his eyes to see the visions, opening his ear to hear the voice, and his heart to receive both. When the hand of the Lord goes along with his word, then it becomes effectual.

Verse 4

[4] And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

Looked — I very diligently surveyed the things that were represented to me in the vision.

Whirlwind — This denotes the indignation and judgments of God; a quick, impetuous and irresistible vengeance.

North — From Babylon, which lay northward from Judea; and the prophet, tho' now in Babylon, speaks of the Jews, as if they were in Jerusalem.

A fire — An orb or wheel of fire: God being his own cause, his own rule, and his own end.

Brightness — Yet round about it was not smoak and darkness, but a clear light.

The midst — Of the fire.

Verse 5

[5] Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.

The likeness — Such a representation of the holy angels as God saw fit to make use of, came out of the midst of the fire: for angels derive their being and power from God: their glory is a ray of his.

Verse 6

[6] And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.

Wings — With two they flew, denoting the speed of their obedience; and with two they covered their body, denoting their reverence.

Verse 7

[7] And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.

Feet — Their thighs, legs and feet, were of a human shape.

Straight — Not bowed to this or that part, which argues weakness.

The sole — That which is properly the foot.

A calf's — A divided hoof spake the cleanness of the creature.

They — Their feet.

Verse 8

[8] And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.

Under — Their power and manner of exerting it is secret and invisible.

Sides — On each side of the chariot one of these living creatures flood, and so on each side hands were ready to act as they were moved.

They four — It is doubled to confirm the truth and certainty of the thing.

Verse 9

[9] Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.

Their wings — The wings of the two cherubim which went foremost, and the wings of the two hindermost, were joined together when they moved.

Went — This explains the former words, assuring us, that every one of those living creatures are ready, and unwearied in doing the pleasure of their Creator.

Verse 10

[10] As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

A man — Each face is compared to what is most excellent in its kind, man excels in wisdom, lions in strength, the ox in patience and constancy of labour, the eagle in speed and high flight.

Verse 11

[11] Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.

Divided — So each face appeared distinct above the shoulders, and there the wings divided from each other were united to the body of the living creature.

Verse 12

[12] And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.

Straight — Which way soever they went, each living creature had one face looking straight forward.

The spirit — The will, command, and breathing of the Spirit of God, both gave and guided their motions.

Was to go — Going is attributed here to the Spirit of God, by allusion, for he who is in every place cannot properly be said to go from or to any place.

Turned not — They looked not back, they turned not out of the way, they gave not over, 'till they had compleated their course.

Verse 13

[13] As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

The fire — This fire stood not still, but as the Hebrew is, Made itself walk up and down. It moved itself, which is too much to ascribe to creatures: God only moved all these living creatures.

Verse 14

[14] And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Ran — They ran into the lower world, to do what was to be done there: and when they had done, returned as a flash of lightning, to the upper world, to the vision of God. Thus we should be in the affairs of this world: though we run into them we must not repose in them, but our souls must presently return like lightning, to God, their rest and center.

Verse 15

[15] Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

Living creatures — By each of the living creatures stood one wheel, so that they were four in number, according to the number of living creatures.

Four faces — By this it appears, each wheel had its four faces. 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. Providence orders, changes: sometimes one spoke of the wheel is uppermost, sometimes another. But the motion of the wheel on its own axle-tree, is still regular and steady. And the wheel is said to be by the living creatures, who attend to direct its motion. For 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.

Verse 16

[16] The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.

Work — All that was wrought, whether engraved or otherwise was of one colour.

Beryl — A sea green.

One likeness — The same for dimensions, colour, frame, and motion.

In the middle — It is probable, the wheels were framed so as to be an exact sphere, which is easily rolled to any side.

Verse 17

[17] When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.

They — The wheels.

Four sides — The wheels being supposed round every way as a globe, by an exact framing of two wheels one in the other; the four semi-circles which are in two whole wheels, may be well taken for these four sides on which these wheels move, and such a wheel will readily be turned to all points of the compass.

Returned not — They returned not 'till they came to their journey's end; nothing could divert them, or put them out of their course. So firm and sure are the methods, so unalterable and constant the purposes of God, and so invariable the obedience and observance of holy angels. So subject to the sovereign will of God are all second causes.

Verse 18

[18] As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.

The rings — The circumference of the wheels.

Dreadful — Their very height imprest a fear on the beholder.

Them four — Every one of the four wheels. How fitly do the wheels, their motion, their height, and eyes, signify the height, unsearchableness, wisdom, and vigilance of the Divine Providence.

Verse 20

[20] Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

The spirit — The Spirit of God. These angels in their ministry punctually observed both his impulse and conduct.

They — The wheels, inferior agents and second causes.

Their spirit — The wheels concurred with the spirit of the living creatures, so that there was an hearty accord between those superior and inferior causes.

For — An undiscerned, yet divine, mighty, wise, and ever-living power, spirit, and being, actuated all, and governed all.

Verse 21

[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 creatures was in the wheels.

For — The same wisdom, power, and holiness of God, the same will and counsel of his, that guides and governs the angels, does by them order and dispose all the motions of the creatures in this lower world.

Verse 22

[22] And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.

Likeness — The appearance or resemblance.

As crystal — For splendor, purity, and solidity, all that was above these creatures and wheels was beautiful and very majestic, and 'tis therefore called terrible, because it impressed a veneration upon the mind of the beholders.

Verse 23

[23] And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.

Under — Below at a great distance, stood these living creatures.

Straight — Stretched forth, ready for motion.

One — Each of the four had two other wings with which they covered their bodies.

Verse 24

[24] And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.

The voice — Thunder.

Speech — The prophet heard the voice in an articulate manner.

An host — A tumultuous voice of men.

Stood — Having done their office they present themselves before God, waiting for the commands of their Lord.

Verse 26

[26] 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.

A man — Christ, God-man, who here appears as king and judge.

Verse 27

[27] And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.

Amber — In this colour does Christ appear against the rebellious Jews; he that would have visited them clothed with the garments of salvation, now puts on the garments of vengeance, expressed by such metaphors.

Brightness — Majesty, justice, and unstained holiness, shine round about him.

Verse 28

[28] As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

The bow — A like appearance of Christ in a surrounding brightness, as of the rainbow you have, Revelation 4:3. Mercy, and truth, and both according to covenant are about the throne of Christ.

Glory — It was not the full glory of God, but such as the prophet might bear.

I fell — With deep humility and reverence.