Ezekiel 1 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

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(Read all of Ezekiel 1)
The date of the beginning of the book

In chapter 1 we find a date which refers to the year of Josiah's passover, but with what intent I do not know. It has been thought that the thirty years relate to the jubilee. On this point I cannot speak with confidence. But other circumstances are very important.

[Ed. note: W. Kelly has a helpful comment here: "The thirtieth year" (Ezek. 1:1) has greatly perplexed the learned. But it seems plain that the starting-point is the era of Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, who became king of Babylon, B.C. 625, about the date when Hilkiah found the book of the law in the temple so pregnant with blessing to Josiah and the righteous in Judah. This last is referred to in the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan ben Uzziel. ("Ezekiel", in loco)]

The universal sovereign throne of God seen outseide Jerusalem

The throne of God is not seen in Jerusalem, but unconnected with this city, and outside. It is the universal sovereign throne of God. God judges the city itself from this throne. The prophecy commences with the description of the throne. We have the attributes of God as the supporters of His throne, under the likeness of the four categories of created beings on earth, the four being united in one, at least the four heads of these categories. These symbols are nearly the same as those used by the pagan inventors of idolatry to represent their gods. Formal idolatry began with a figurative personification of the attributes of God. These attributes became their gods, men being impelled to worship them by demons who governed them by this means, so that it was these demons whom men worshipped—a worship that soon degenerated so far that they set up gods wherever there was anything to desire or to fear, or that answered to the lusts which inspired these desires or these fears (sentiments which the demon cultivated also, in order to appropriate to himself the worship due to God alone). Now these attributes belonged to the only God, the Creator, and the head of all creation; but, whatever their power and glory might be in action, they were but the supporters of the throne on which the God of truth is seated [1]. Whatever instruments He may employ, it is the mighty energy of God that manifests itself. Intelligence, strength, stability, and swiftness in judgment, and, withal, the movement of the whole course of earthly events, depended on the throne. This living energy animated the whole. The cherubic supporters of the throne, full of eyes themselves, moved by it; the wheels of God's government moved by the same spirit, and went straight forward. All was subservient to the will and purpose of Him who sat on the throne judging right. Majesty, government, and providence, united to form the throne of His glory. But all the instruments of His glory were below the firmament; He whom they glorified was above. It is He whom the heathen knew not.

God's throne outside His people, among the Gentiles

This throne of the supreme and sovereign Lord God is seen in Chaldea [2] —in the place where the prophet then was—among the Gentiles. It is no longer seen at Jerusalem in connection with the land; nor have we any law embodied, so to speak, in the throne, according to which an immediate government was exercised. Consequently the voice of God speaks to Ezekiel as to a "son of man"—a title that suited the testimony of a God who spoke outside of His people, as being no longer in their midst, but on the contrary was judging them from the throne of His sovereignty. It is Christ's own title, looked at as rejected and outside of Israel, although He never ceases to think of the blessing of the people in grace. This puts the prophet in connection with the position of Christ Himself. He would not, thus rejected, allow His disciples to announce Him as the Christ (Luke 9), for the Son of man was to suffer [3].

[1] Wise infidels, always petty in their conceptions because they know not God, have seen in the winged human-headed bulls and lions of Nineveh the origin of Ezekiel's vision. They betray themselves. They do not see or know Him who sat above them. I do not doubt a moment that these images represented the same thing essentially as the cherubim; but these poor pagans, misled by Satan, like these infidels in their wisdom, worshipped what was below the firmament. In Ezekiel's vision they were merely symbolic attributes, and He who was worshipped was above the firmament. It is just the difference in this respect between idolatry and the revelation of God.

[2] I mean merely in the limits of the empire of the Chaldeans. It was by the river Chebar, which was more to the north-west.

[3] This distinction is always carefully maintained, based on Psalms 2 and 8. (Compare Nathanael, John 1.)