New English Translation
A Vision of God’s Glory
1 In the thirtieth year,[a] on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles[b] at the Kebar River,[c] the heavens opened[d] and I saw a divine vision.[e] 2 (On the fifth day of the month—it was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile— 3 the Lord’s message came to the priest Ezekiel[f] the son of Buzi,[g] at the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.[h] The hand[i] of the Lord came on him there.)
4 As I watched, I noticed[j] a windstorm[k] coming from the north—an enormous cloud, with lightning flashing,[l] such that bright light[m] rimmed it and came from[n] it like glowing amber[o] from the middle of a fire. 5 In the fire[p] were what looked like[q] four living beings.[r] In their appearance they had human form,[s] 6 but each had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, but the soles of their feet were like calves’ feet. They gleamed[t] like polished bronze. 8 They had human hands[u] under their wings on their four sides. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 9 their wings touched each other; they did not turn as they moved, but went straight ahead.[v]
10 Their faces had this appearance: Each of the four had the face of a man, with the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and also the face of an eagle.[w] 11 Their wings were spread out above them; each had two wings touching the wings of one of the other beings on either side and two wings covering their bodies. 12 Each moved straight ahead[x]—wherever the spirit[y] would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 In the middle[z] of the living beings was something like[aa] burning coals of fire[ab] or like torches. It moved back and forth among the living beings. It was bright, and lightning was flashing out of the fire. 14 The living beings moved backward and forward as quickly as flashes of lightning.[ac]
15 Then I looked,[ad] and I saw one wheel[ae] on the ground[af] beside each of the four beings. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their construction[ag] was like gleaming jasper,[ah] and all four wheels looked alike. Their structure was like a wheel within a wheel.[ai] 17 When they moved they would go in any of the four directions they faced without turning as they moved. 18 Their rims were high and awesome,[aj] and the rims of all four wheels were full of eyes all around.
19 When the living beings moved, the wheels beside them moved; when the living beings rose up from the ground, the wheels rose up too. 20 Wherever the spirit[ak] would go, they would go,[al] and the wheels would rise up beside them because the spirit[am] of the living being was in the wheel. 21 When the living beings moved, the wheels moved, and when they stopped moving, the wheels stopped.[an] When they rose up from the ground, the wheels rose up from the ground; the wheels rose up beside them because the spirit of the living being was in the wheel.
22 Over the heads of the living beings was something like a platform,[ao] glittering awesomely like ice,[ap] stretched out over their heads. 23 Under the platform their wings were stretched out, each toward the other. Each of the beings also had two wings covering[aq] its body. 24 When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings—it was like the sound of rushing waters, or the voice of the Sovereign One,[ar] or the tumult[as] of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.
25 Then there was a voice from above the platform over their heads when they stood still.[at] 26 Above the platform over their heads was something like a sapphire shaped like a throne. High above on the throne was a form that appeared to be a man. 27 I saw an amber glow[au] like a fire enclosed all around[av] from his waist up. From his waist down I saw something that looked like fire. There was a brilliant light around it, 28 like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds after the rain.[aw] This was the appearance of the surrounding brilliant light; it looked like the glory of the Lord. When I saw[ax] it, I threw myself face down, and I heard a voice speaking.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the house[bb] of Israel, to rebellious nations[bc] who have rebelled against me; both they and their fathers have revolted[bd] against me to this very day. 4 The people[be] to whom I am sending you are obstinate and hard-hearted,[bf] and you must say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’[bg] 5 And as for them,[bh] whether they listen[bi] or not—for they are a rebellious[bj] house[bk]—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 But you, son of man, do not fear them, and do not fear their words. Even though briers[bl] and thorns[bm] surround you and you live among scorpions—do not fear their words and do not be terrified of the looks they give you,[bn] for they are a rebellious house! 7 You must speak my words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious. 8 As for you, son of man, listen to what I am saying to you: Do not rebel like that rebellious house! Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.”
9 Then I looked and realized a hand was stretched out to me, and in it was a written scroll. 10 He unrolled it before me, and it had writing on the front[bo] and back;[bp] written on it were laments, mourning, and woe.
- Ezekiel 1:1 sn The meaning of the thirtieth year is problematic. Some take it to mean the age of Ezekiel when he prophesied (e.g., Origen). The Aramaic Targum explains the thirtieth year as the thirtieth year dated from the recovery of the book of the Torah in the temple in Jerusalem (2 Kgs 22:3-9). The number seems somehow to be equated with the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile in 1:2, i.e., 593 b.c.
- Ezekiel 1:1 sn The Assyrians started the tactic of deportation, the large-scale forced displacement of conquered populations, in order to stifle rebellions. The task of uniting groups of deportees, gaining freedom from one’s overlords, and returning to retake one’s own country would be considerably more complicated than living in one’s homeland and waiting for an opportune moment to drive out the enemy’s soldiers. The Babylonians adopted this practice also, after defeating the Assyrians. The Babylonians deported Judeans on three occasions. The practice of deportation was reversed by the Persian conquerors of Babylon, who gained favor from their subjects by allowing them to return to their homeland. As polytheists, the Persians sought the favor of the gods of the various countries that had come under their control.
- Ezekiel 1:1 sn The Kebar River is mentioned in Babylonian texts from the city of Nippur in the fifth century b.c. It provided artificial irrigation from the Euphrates.
- Ezekiel 1:1 sn For the concept of the heavens opened in later literature, see 3 Macc 6:18; 2 Bar. 22:1; T. Levi 5:1; Matt 3:16; Acts 7:56; Rev 19:11.
- Ezekiel 1:1 tn Or “saw visions from God.” References to divine visions occur also in Ezek 8:3 and 40:2.
- Ezekiel 1:3 sn The prophet’s name, Ezekiel, means in Hebrew “May God strengthen.”
- Ezekiel 1:3 tn Or “to Ezekiel son of Buzi the priest.”
- Ezekiel 1:3 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” The name of the tribal group ruling Babylon, “Chaldeans” is used as metonymy for the whole empire of Babylon. The Babylonians worked with the Medes to destroy the Assyrian Empire near the end of the 7th century b.c. Then, over the next century, the Babylonians dominated the West Semitic states (such as Phoenicia, Aram, Moab, Edom, and Judah in the modern countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel) and made incursions into Egypt.
- Ezekiel 1:3 tn Or “power.” sn Hand in the OT can refer metaphorically to power, authority, or influence. In Ezekiel God’s “hand” being on the prophet is regularly associated with communication or a vision from God (3:14, 22; 8:1; 37:1; 40:1).
- Ezekiel 1:4 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a verb.
- Ezekiel 1:4 sn Storms are often associated with appearances of God (see Nah 1:3; Ps 18:12). In some passages, the “storm” (סְעָרָה, seʿarah) may be a whirlwind (Job 38:1; 2 Kgs 2:1).
- Ezekiel 1:4 tn Heb “fire taking hold of itself,” perhaps repeatedly. The phrase occurs elsewhere only in Exod 9:24 in association with a hailstorm. The LXX interprets the phrase as fire flashing like lightning, but it is possibly a self-sustaining blaze of divine origin. The LXX also reverses the order of the descriptors, i.e., “light went around it, and fire flashed like lightning within it.”
- Ezekiel 1:4 tn Or “radiance.” The term also occurs in 1:27b.
- Ezekiel 1:4 tc Or “was in it”; cf. LXX ἐν τῷ μέσῳ αὐτοῦ (en tō mesō autou, “in its midst”).
- Ezekiel 1:4 tn The LXX translates חַשְׁמַל (khashmal) with the word ἤλεκτρον (ēlektron, “electrum”; so NAB), an alloy of silver and gold, perhaps envisioning a comparison to the glow of molten metal.
- Ezekiel 1:5 tc Heb “from its midst” (מִתּוֹכָהּ, mitokhah). The LXX reads ἐν τῷ μέσῳ (en tō mesō, “in the midst of it”). The LXX also reads ἐν for מִתּוֹךְ (mitokh) in v. 4. The translator of the LXX of Ezekiel either read בְּתוֹךְ (betokh, “within”) in his Hebrew exemplar or could not imagine how מִתּוֹךְ could make sense and so chose to use ἐν. The Hebrew would be understood by adding “from its midst emerged the forms of four living beings.”
- Ezekiel 1:5 tn Heb “form, figure, appearance.”
- Ezekiel 1:5 tn The Hebrew term is feminine plural, yet thirty-three of the forty-five pronominal suffixes and verbal references that refer to the living beings in the chapter are masculine plural. The grammatical vacillation between masculine and feminine plurals suggests the difficulty Ezekiel had in penning these words as he was overcome by the vision of God. In ancient Near-Eastern sculpture very similar images of part-human, part-animal creatures serve as throne and sky bearers. For a discussion of ancient Near-Eastern parallels, see L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 1:26-31. Ezekiel’s vision is an example of contextualization, where God accommodates his self-revelation to cultural expectations and norms.
- Ezekiel 1:5 sn They had human form may mean they stood erect.
- Ezekiel 1:7 sn The Hebrew verb translated gleamed occurs only here in the OT.
- Ezekiel 1:8 tc The MT reads “his hand” while many Hebrew mss as well as the Qere read “hands of.” Two similar Hebrew letters, vav and yod, have been confused.
- Ezekiel 1:9 tn Heb “They each went in the direction of one of his faces.”
- Ezekiel 1:10 tc The MT has an additional word at the beginning of v. 11, וּפְנֵיהֶם (ufenehem, “and their faces”), which is missing from the LXX. As the rest of the verse only applies to wings, “their faces” would have to somehow be understood in the previous clause. But this would be very awkward and is doubly problematic since “their faces” are already introduced as the topic at the beginning of v. 10. The Hebrew scribe appears to have copied the phrase “and their faces and their wings” from v. 8, where it introduces the content of 9-11. Only “and (as for) their wings” belongs here.
- Ezekiel 1:12 tn See the note on “straight ahead” in v. 9.
- Ezekiel 1:12 tn Or “wind.”
- Ezekiel 1:13 tc The MT reads: “and the form of the creatures” (וּדְמוּת הַחַיּוֹת, udemut hakhayyot). The LXX reads: “and in the midst of the creatures,” suggesting an underlying Hebrew text of וּמִתּוֹךְ הַחַיּוֹת (umittokh hakhayyot). The subsequent description of something moving among the creatures supports the LXX.
- Ezekiel 1:13 tc The MT reads: “and the form of the creatures—their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The LXX reads: “in the midst of the creatures was a sight like burning coals of fire.” The MT may have adjusted “appearance” to “their appearance” to fit their reading of the beginning of the verse (see the tc note on “in the middle”). See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 1:46.
- Ezekiel 1:13 sn Burning coals of fire are also a part of David’s poetic description of God’s appearance (see 2 Sam 22:9, 13; Ps 18:8).
- Ezekiel 1:14 tc The LXX omits v. 14 and may well be correct. The verse may be a later explanatory gloss of the end of v. 13 which was copied into the main text. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 1:46.tn Lit., “like the appearance of lightning.” The Hebrew term translated “lightning” occurs only here in the OT. In postbiblical Hebrew the term refers to a lightning flash.
- Ezekiel 1:15 tc The MT includes “at the living beings,” which is absent from the LXX.
- Ezekiel 1:15 sn Another vision that includes wheels on thrones occurs in Dan 7:9. Ezekiel 10 contains a vision similar to this one.
- Ezekiel 1:15 tn The Hebrew word may be translated either “earth” or “ground” in this context.
- Ezekiel 1:16 tc This word is omitted from the LXX.
- Ezekiel 1:16 tn Heb “Tarshish stone.” The meaning of this term is uncertain. The term has also been translated “topaz” (NEB), “beryl” (KJV, NASB, NRSV), or “chrysolite” (RSV, NIV).
- Ezekiel 1:16 tn Or “like a wheel at right angles to another wheel.” Some envision concentric wheels here, while others propose “a globe-like structure in which two wheels stand at right angles” (L. C. Allen, Ezekiel [WBC], 1:33-34). The description given in v. 17 favors the latter idea.
- Ezekiel 1:18 tc The MT reads וְיִרְאָה לָהֶם (veyirʾah lahem, “and fear belonged to them”). In a similar vision in 10:12 the wheels are described as having spokes (יְדֵיהֶם, yedehem). That parallel would suggest יָדוֹת (yadot) here (written יָדֹת without the mater lectionis). By positing both a ד/ר (dalet/resh) confusion and a ה/ת (hey/tav) confusion, the form was read as וְיָרֵה (veyareh) and was then misunderstood and subsequently written as וְיִרְאָה (veyirʾah) in the MT. The reading וְיִרְאָה does not seem to fit the context well, though in English it can be made to sound as if it does. See W. H. Brownlee, Ezekiel 1-19 (WBC), 8-9. The LXX reads καὶ εἶδον αὐτά (kai eidon auta, “and I saw”), which assumes וָאֵרֶא (vaʾereʾ). The existing consonants of the MT may also be read as “it was visible to them.”
- Ezekiel 1:20 tn Or “wind”; the same Hebrew word can be translated as either “wind” or “spirit,” depending on the context.
- Ezekiel 1:20 tc The MT includes the additional phrase “the spirit would go,” which seems unduly redundant here and may be dittographic.
- Ezekiel 1:20 tn Or “wind.” The Hebrew is difficult since the text presents four creatures and then talks about “the spirit” (singular) of “the living being” (singular). According to M. Greenberg (Ezekiel [AB], 1:45) the Targum interprets this as “will.” Greenberg views this as the spirit of the one enthroned above the creatures, but one would not expect the article when the one enthroned has not yet been introduced.
- Ezekiel 1:21 tc The LXX reads: “when it went, they went; when it stood, they stood.”tn Heb “when they went, they went; when they stood, they stood.”
- Ezekiel 1:22 tn Or “like a dome” (NCV, NRSV, TEV).
- Ezekiel 1:22 tn Or “like crystal” (NRSV, NLT).
- Ezekiel 1:23 tc Heb “each had two wings covering and each had two wings covering,” a case of dittography. On the analogy of v. 11 and the support of the LXX, which reads the same for v. 11 and this verse, one should perhaps read “each had two wings touching another being and each had two wings covering.”
- Ezekiel 1:24 tn Heb “Shaddai” (probably meaning “one of the mountain”), a title that depicts God as the sovereign ruler of the world who dispenses justice. The Old Greek translation omitted the phrase “voice of the Sovereign One.”
- Ezekiel 1:24 tn The only other occurrence of the Hebrew word translated “tumult” is in Jer 11:16. It indicates a noise like that of the turmoil of a military camp or the sound of an army on the march.
- Ezekiel 1:25 tc The MT continues: “when they stood still, they lowered their wings,” an apparent dittography from the end of v. 24. The LXX commits haplography by homoioteleuton, leaving out vv. 25b and 26a by skipping from רֹאשָׁם (roʾsham, “their head”) in v. 25 to רֹאשָׁם in v. 26.
- Ezekiel 1:27 tn See Ezek 1:4.
- Ezekiel 1:27 tc The LXX lacks this phrase. Its absence from the LXX may be explained as a case of haplography resulting from homoioteleuton, skipping from כְּמַרְאֵה (kemarʾeh) to מִמַּרְאֵה (mimmarʾeh). On the other hand, the LXX presents a much more balanced verse structure when it is recognized that the final words of this verse belong in the next sentence.
- Ezekiel 1:28 sn Reference to the glowing substance and the brilliant light and storm phenomena in vv. 27-28a echoes in reverse order the occurrence of these phenomena in v. 4.
- Ezekiel 1:28 tn The vision closes with the repetition of the verb “I saw” from the beginning of the vision in 1:4.
- Ezekiel 2:1 sn The phrase son of man occurs ninety-three times in the book of Ezekiel. It simply means “human one” and distinguishes the prophet from the nonhuman beings that are present in the world of his vision.
- Ezekiel 2:2 tc The phrase “as he spoke to me” is absent from the LXX.
- Ezekiel 2:2 tn Or “spirit.” The NIV has “the Spirit,” but the absence of the article in the Hebrew text makes this unlikely. Elsewhere in Ezekiel the Lord’s Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of the Lord” (11:5; 37:1), “the Spirit of God” (11:24), or “my (that is, the Lord’s) Spirit” (36:27; 37:14; 39:29). Some identify the “spirit” of 2:2 as the spirit that energized the living beings; however, that “spirit” is called “the spirit” (1:12, 20) or “the spirit of the living beings” (1:20-21; 10:17). Still others see the term as referring to an impersonal “spirit” of strength or courage, that is, the term may also be understood as a disposition or attitude. The Hebrew word often refers to a wind in Ezekiel (1:4; 5:10, 12; 12:4; 13:11, 13; 17:10, 21; 19:12; 27:26; 37:9). In 37:5-10 a “breath” originates in the “four winds” and is associated with the Lord’s life-giving breath (see v. 14). This breath enters into the dry bones and gives them life. In a similar fashion the breath of 2:2 (see also 3:24) energizes paralyzed Ezekiel. Breath and wind are related. On the one hand, it is a more normal picture to think of breath rather than wind entering someone, but since wind represents an external force, it seems more likely for wind rather than breath to stand someone up (unless we should understand it as a disposition). It may be that one should envision the breath of the speaker moving like a wind to revive Ezekiel, helping him to regain his breath and invigorating him to stand. A wind also transports the prophet from one place to another (3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5).
- Ezekiel 2:3 tc The Hebrew reads “sons of,” while the LXX reads “house,” implying the more common phrase in Ezekiel. Either could be abbreviated with the first letter ב (bet). In preparation for the characterization “house of rebellion,” in vv. 5, 6, and 8 “house” is preferred (L. C. Allen, Ezekiel [WBC], 1:10 and W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel [Hermeneia], 2:564-65).
- Ezekiel 2:3 tc Heb “to the rebellious nations.” The phrase “to the rebellious nations” is omitted in the LXX. Elsewhere in Ezekiel the singular word “nation” is used for Israel (36:13-15; 37:22). Here “nations” may have the meaning of “tribes” or refer to the two nations of Israel and Judah.
- Ezekiel 2:3 tc This word is omitted from the LXX. tn The Hebrew term used here is the strongest word available for expressing a covenant violation. The word is used in the diplomatic arena to express a treaty violation (2 Kgs 1:1; 3:5, 7).
- Ezekiel 2:4 tn Heb “sons.” The word choice may reflect treaty idiom, where the relationship between an overlord and his subjects can be described as that of father and son.
- Ezekiel 2:4 tc Heb “stern of face and hard of heart.” The phrases “stern of face” and “hard of heart” are lacking in the LXX.
- Ezekiel 2:4 tn The phrase “thus says [the Lord]” occurs 129 times in Ezekiel; the announcement is identical to the way messengers often introduced their messages (Gen 32:5; 45:9; Exod 5:10; Num 20:14; Judg 11:15).
- Ezekiel 2:5 tn Heb “they”; the phrase “And as for them” has been used in the translation for clarity.
- Ezekiel 2:5 tn The Hebrew word implies obedience rather than mere hearing or paying attention.
- Ezekiel 2:5 tn This Hebrew adjective is also used to describe the Israelites in Num 17:10 (17:25 HT) and Isa 30:9.
- Ezekiel 2:5 sn The book of Ezekiel frequently refers to the Israelites as a rebellious house (Ezek 2:5, 6, 8; 3:9, 26-27; 12:2-3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3).
- Ezekiel 2:6 tn The Hebrew term occurs only here in the OT.
- Ezekiel 2:6 tn The Hebrew term is found elsewhere in the OT only in Ezek 28:24.sn Here thorns may be a figure for hostility (Ezek 28:24; Mic 7:4).
- Ezekiel 2:6 tn Heb “of their faces.”
- Ezekiel 2:10 tn Heb “on the face.”
- Ezekiel 2:10 sn Written on the front and back. While it was common for papyrus scrolls to have writing on both sides, the same was not true for leather scrolls.