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The Vision of Four Figures

Now it came about [when I was] in my [a]thirtieth year [of life], on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles beside the River Chebar [in Babylonia], the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (On the fifth of the month, which was in the fifth year of [b]King Jehoiachin’s captivity,(A) the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the [c]Chaldeans by the River [d]Chebar; and the hand of the Lord came upon him there.)(B)

As I looked, I saw a stormy wind coming out of the north, a great cloud with fire flashing continually from it; and a brightness was around it, and in its core [there was] something like glowing [amber-colored] metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling [e]four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each one had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and the soles of their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they sparkled and gleamed like shiny bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. 10 Regarding the [f]form and appearance of their faces: they [each] had the face of a man [in front], and each had the face of a lion on the right side, and the face of an ox on the left side; all four also had the face of an eagle [at the back of their heads].(C) 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were stretched out upward; two [wings] of each one were touching another [the wings of the beings on either side of it], and [the remaining] two [wings of each being] were covering their bodies. 12 And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 Among the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. 14 And the living beings moved rapidly back and forth like flashes of lightning.

15 Now as I looked at the living beings, I saw one wheel on the ground beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. 16 Regarding the appearance of the wheels and their construction: they gleamed like chrysolite (beryl, olivine); and the four were made alike. Their appearance and construction were a wheel [set at a right angle] within a wheel. 17 Whenever they moved, they went in any [one] of their four directions without turning as they moved. 18 Regarding their rims: they were so high that they were awesome and dreadful, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes all around. 19 Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them; and when the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 20 Wherever the spirit went, the beings went in that direction. And the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit or life of the living beings was in the wheels. 21 Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those came to a stop, these came to a stop; and whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them, for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.

Vision of Divine Glory

22 Now stretched over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, looking like the terrible and awesome shimmer of icy crystal. 23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. Every living being had two wings which covered its body on one side and on the other side. 24 As they moved, I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of great [rushing] waters, like the voice of [g]the Almighty, the sound of tumult like the noise of an army camp. Whenever they came to a stop, they lowered their wings. 25 And there was a voice above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stopped, they lowered their wings.

26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, it appeared like [it was made of] sapphire or lapis lazuli; and [seated] on that which looked like a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.(D) 27 Now upward, from that which appeared to be His waist, I saw something like glowing metal that looked like it was filled with fire all around it; and downward, from that which appeared to be His waist, I saw something like fire; and there was a brightness and a remarkable radiance [like a halo] around Him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory and brilliance of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell face downward and I heard a voice of One speaking.(E)

The Prophet’s Call

Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak to you.” Then as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. And He said to me, “I am sending you, son of man, to the children of Israel, to a rebellious people [in both the north and the south] that have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have sinned and revolted against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord [h]God.’ As for them, whether they listen or refuse [to listen]—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know and be fully aware of the fact that there has been a prophet among them. And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words; though briars and thorns are all around you and you sit among scorpions, neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak My words to them whether they will listen or refuse [to listen], for they are [most] rebellious.

“As for you, son of man, listen to what I say to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out toward me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And He spread it before me, and it was written on the front and on the back, and written on it were [words of] lamentation (funeral songs) and mourning and woe.

Ezekiel’s Commission

He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find [in this book]; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me the scroll. He said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll that I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, not to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you and pay attention to My message; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you and obey you, since they are not willing to listen to Me and obey Me, for the entire house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. I have made your forehead like emery (diamond), harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.”(F) 10 Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and hear with your ears (listen closely). 11 Go to the [Jewish] exiles [in Babylon], to the children of your people, and speak to them, whether they listen or not, and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’”

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a great rushing sound behind me, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord in His place [above the expanse].” 13 And then I heard the sound of the wings of the living beings as they touched one another and [I heard] the sound of the wheels beside them, a great rushing sound. 14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went embittered [by the sins of Israel] in the rage of my spirit; and the hand of the Lord was strong on me. 15 Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the River Chebar at Tel Abib. I sat there for seven days [in the place] where they were living, overwhelmed with astonishment [by my vision and the work before me].

16 At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.(G) 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You will certainly die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to tell him to turn from his wicked way to save his life, that same evil man will die in his sin, but you will be responsible for his blood. 19 However, if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he will die in his sin; but you have [i]freed yourself [from responsibility]. 20 Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness (right standing with God) and sins, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he will die in his sin, and the righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered; but you will be responsible for his blood. 21 However, if you have warned the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning; also you have [j]freed yourself [from responsibility].”

22 The hand of the Lord was on me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out to the plain, and I will speak to you.” 23 So I got up and went out to the plain; and behold, the glory and brilliance of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the River Chebar, and I fell face downward. 24 Then the Spirit entered me and made me stand on my feet; He spoke and said to me, “Go, shut yourself up in your house. 25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and bind you with them so that you cannot go out among them. 26 And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you cannot talk and you cannot be a man who rebukes the people, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses [to hear], let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

Siege of Jerusalem Predicted

“Now you, son of man, take a brick, place it before you and inscribe on it [a diagram of] the city of Jerusalem. Then lay siege against it, build a siege wall, raise a ramp against it; set up [enemy] camps and place battering rams all around it. Further, take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city, and set your face toward it so that it is under siege, and besiege it. This is a sign to the house of Israel.

“Then lie down on your left side (toward the north) to bear [symbolically] the wickedness and punishment of the [k]house of Israel. You shall bear their wickedness and punishment for the number of days that you lie on your side. For I have assigned you the years of their wickedness and punishment, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days [representing three hundred and ninety years]; in this way you shall bear [symbolically] the wickedness and punishment of the house of Israel. When you have completed these [days for Israel], lie down again, but on your right side (toward the south), and you shall bear the wickedness and punishment of the [l]house of Judah forty days. I have assigned you one day for each year. Then you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. Now behold, I will put ropes on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

Defiled Bread

“But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, and put them into one vessel and make them into bread for yourself. You shall eat it according to the number of the days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days. 10 The food you eat each day shall be [measured] by weight, [m]twenty shekels, to be eaten daily at a set time. 11 You shall drink water by measure also, [n]the sixth part of a hin; you shall drink daily at a set time. 12 You shall eat your food as barley cakes, having baked it in their sight over human dung.” 13 Then the Lord said, “Thus the children of Israel will eat their bread unclean and defiled among the nations where I will banish them.”(H) 14 But I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold (hear me), I have never been defiled; for from my youth until now I have never eaten what died on its own or was torn by beasts, nor has any unclean meat ever entered my mouth.”(I) 15 Then He said to me, “See, I will let you use cow’s dung instead of human dung over which you shall prepare your food.” 16 Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, behold (listen carefully), I am going to break the staff of bread [that supports life] in Jerusalem; and they shall eat bread [rationed] by weight and [eat it] with anxiety and fear, and drink water by measure and [drink it] in horror [of the impending starvation],(J) 17 because bread and water will be scarce; and they will look at one another in dismay and waste away [in punishment] for their wickedness.

Footnotes

  1. Ezekiel 1:1 If he had not been in exile in Babylonia Ezekiel would have formally begun his service to God as a Levitical priest at the age of thirty. Instead God anointed him to serve as a prophet.
  2. Ezekiel 1:2 Jehoiachin the king of Judah was taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar and his army invaded Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean Dynasty, more commonly known as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, ruled Babylon from 605-562 b.c. He conquered Jerusalem in 597 b.c.
  3. Ezekiel 1:3 The Chaldeans dominated and ruled Babylonia from 625 b.c., until their empire fell in 539 b.c., but they were known as early as 1000 b.c. as an aggressive, tribal people in the southern region of Babylonia. They were highly skilled in both the science of astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology. They kept meticulous records of celestial motion and correctly calculated the length of a year to within just a few minutes. Babylon, their capital city, was the center of trade and learning in the western part of Asia. The classical literature of the Chaldeans was written in cuneiform, but the common language, both written and spoken in Babylon, was Akkadian increasingly influenced by Aramaic.
  4. Ezekiel 1:3 A canal off the Euphrates, south of Babylon.
  5. Ezekiel 1:5 These four angelic beings are identified as cherubim in ch 10. In Scripture, the cherubim seem to be related to the affirmation of God’s perfection and holiness standing in stark contrast to the debased character of godless mankind. They are extremely intelligent, powerful, expeditious servants of God.
  6. Ezekiel 1:10 Various interpretations have been ascribed to the symbolism of the four heavenly beings. The four faces may be regarded as symbolic of “the four portraits of Jesus” as given in the four Gospels (king, servant, man, and God). Another proposes that they represent the four qualities of the angels (intelligent, strong, servile, and swift). Another interpretation identifies them with the four Gospels, and another with the four corners of the earth, implying that the angels serve God throughout the earth. In ch 10 these beings are identified as cherubim.
  7. Ezekiel 1:24 Heb Shaddai.
  8. Ezekiel 2:4 Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord and so throughout.
  9. Ezekiel 3:19 Lit delivered.
  10. Ezekiel 3:21 Lit delivered.
  11. Ezekiel 4:4 I.e. the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom.
  12. Ezekiel 4:6 I.e. the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom.
  13. Ezekiel 4:10 About a half pound.
  14. Ezekiel 4:11 About a quart.

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