The Vision: God on the Cherubim. 1In the thirtieth year,* on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens opened, and I saw divine visions.a— 2On the fifth day of the month—this was the fifth year* of King Jehoiachin’s exileb— 3the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. There the hand of the LORD came upon him.c
4As I watched, a great stormwind came from the North,* a large cloud with flashing fire, a bright glow all around it, and something like polished metal gleamed at the center of the fire.d 5From within it figures in the likeness of four living creatures* appeared. This is what they looked like:e 6They were in human form, but each had four faces and four wings,f 7and their legs were straight, the soles of their feet like the hooves of a bull, gleaming like polished brass.g 8Human hands were under their wings, and the wings of one touched those of another.h 9Their faces and their wings looked out on all their four sides; they did not turn when they moved, but each went straight ahead.i
10* Their faces were like this:j each of the four had a human face, and on the right the face of a lion, and on the left, the face of an ox, and each had the face of an eagle. 11Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above. On each one, two wings touched one another, and the other two wings covered the body.k 12Each went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they went; they did not change direction when they moved.l 13* And the appearance of the living creatures seemed like burning coals of fire. Something indeed like torches moved back and forth among the living creatures. The fire gleamed intensely, and from it lightning flashed. 14The creatures darting back and forth flashed like lightning.
15* As I looked at the living creatures, I saw wheels on the ground, one alongside each of the four living creatures.m 16The wheels and their construction sparkled like yellow topaz, and all four of them looked the same: their construction seemed as though one wheel was inside the other. 17When they moved, they went in any of the four directions without veering as they moved. 18n The four of them had rims, high and fearsome—eyes filled the four rims all around. 19When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved with them; and when the living creatures were raised from the ground, the wheels also were raised. 20Wherever the spirit would go, they went. And they were raised up together with the living creatures, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21Wherever the living creatures moved, the wheels moved; when they stood still, the wheels stood still. When they were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up with them.o For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22* Above the heads of the living creatures was a likeness of the firmament; it was awesome, stretching upwards like shining crystal over their heads.p 23Beneath the firmament their wings stretched out toward one another; each had two wings covering the body. 24Then I heard the sound of their wings, like the roaring of mighty waters, like the voice of the Almighty. When they moved, the sound of the tumult was like the din of an army. And when they stood still, they lowered their wings.q 25While they stood with their wings lowered, a voice came from above the firmament over their heads.
26Above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne that looked like sapphire; and upon this likeness of a throne was seated, up above, a figure that looked like a human being.* r 27And I saw something like polished metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed on all sides, from what looked like the waist up; and from what looked like the waist down, I saw something like the appearance of fire and brilliant light surrounding him.s 28Just like the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day so was the appearance of brilliance that surrounded him. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speak.t
* [1:1] The thirtieth year, which corresponds to the fifth year of exile (v. 2), has never been satisfactorily explained; possibly it refers to the prophet’s age, or the anniversary of the finding of the book of the law in the Temple during Josiah’s reform of 622 (2 Kgs 22:1–13). The river Chebar: probably a canal near Nippur, southeast of Babylon, one of the sites on which the Jewish exiles were settled.
* [1:5] Four living creatures: identified as cherubim in 10:1–2, 20. Known from Assyrian religion as minor guardian deities of palaces and temples, the cherubim were usually portrayed in gigantic sculpture with the bodies of bulls or lions, wings like an eagle and a human head. In the Jerusalem Temple, the Lord was enthroned above in the holy of holies (Is 6:1–2).
* [1:10] The four faces together represent animate creation: wild animals, domesticated livestock, birds, and human beings. Christian tradition associates them with the four evangelists: the lion with Mark, the ox with Luke, the eagle with John, and the man with Matthew.
* [1:15–21] The repetitions and inconsistencies in the description of the wheels and the direction of their movements evoke the vision’s mysterious quality and emphasize the difficulty of describing the divine world in human language.
* [1:26] Looked like a human being: the God who transcends the powers of the human imagination is pictured here in the likeness of an enthroned human king.