Here, we understand that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), and we meet the four living creatures. This vision of God was also seen by John in Revelation 4 and 5. In Revelation 10, the rainbow on the Angel tells us that the “man” on the throne that John and Ezekiel saw was the Spirit of Christ, as “the image of the invisible God.”
1 Now it happened in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month], in the fifth [day] of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 In the fifth [day] of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,
Ezek 1:1-2 the thirtieth year – no one is certain, but many speculate this date refers to the discovery of the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:14)
The time is about 595 BC, just two or three years before Jerusalem was plundered by Babylon.
3 the word of YHVH came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of YHVH was there on him.
Ezek 1:3 in the land of the Chaldeans – he was in Babylon. Little else is known about Ezekiel.
4 I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with flashing lightning, and a brightness round about it, and out of the midst of it as it were glowing metal, out of the midst of the fire.
Ezek 1:4 wind coming from the north – the attack against Jerusalem will be from the North. In the next few chapters, Ezekiel prophecies the attack of Jerusalem by Babylon. The “King of the North” is always identified the spiritual and political power that attacks Israel, as we can see in Daniel 11.
5 Out of the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. This was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Everyone had four faces, and everyone of them had four wings. 7 Their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished brass. 8 They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings [thus]: 9 their wings were joined one to another; they didn’t turn when they went; they went everyone straight forward. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man; and they four had the face of a lion on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four had also the face of an eagle. 11 Their faces and their wings were separate above; two [wings] of everyone were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
Ezek 1:5-11 four living beings with four faces and four wings – in Revelation 4:7, the four creatures will be four different creatures: man, a bull, a lion, and an eagle. Here they are all the same, each creature has “the face of a man” and the features of three animals.
12They went everyone straight forward: where the spirit was to go, they went; they didn’t turn when they went.13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: [the fire] went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. 15 Now as I saw the living creatures, behold, one wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, for each of the four faces of it. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like a beryl: and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they went, they went in their four directions: they didn’t turn when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were high and dreadful; and they four had their rims full of eyes round about. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit was to go, they went; there was the spirit to go: and the wheels were lifted up beside them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 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 beside them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
Ezek 1:12-21 wherever the Spirit was about to go – these four living creatures work with the Spirit, see v. 12, 20 and 21. This tells us the creatures are the saints, who follow the Spirit of Christ. They “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev 14:4).
22 Over the head of the living creature there was the likeness of an expanse, like the awesome crystal to look on, stretched forth over their heads above. 23 Under the expanse were their wings straight, the one toward the other: everyone had two which covered on this side, and every one had two which covered on that side, their bodies. 24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a noise of tumult like the noise of a host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
Ezek 1:22-24 the sound of many waters – the sound of the saints is like the voice of the Almighty. The sound of their wings is like the sound of many waters. The wings represent their power to fly, from Isaiah 40:31, “those who wait upon the Lord…shall mount up with wings as eagles.” The “sound of many waters” is the sound of the Holy Spirit, “the voice of the Almighty” in the sanctified Church. This expression also appears in Ezekiel 43:2, Daniel 10:6, Revelation 1:15, 19:6.
25 There was a voice above the expanse that was over their heads: when they stood, they let down their wings. 26 Above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and on the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man on it above.
Ezek 1:26 the likeness of a throne – Ezekiel uses the expression “likeness” and “appearance” several times in vs 26-38, to describe the “appearance” of God. John also uses the expression “appearance” when He sees the same vision in Revelation 4:3. The word “likeness” emphasizes that we are only seeing the image of God, who no one has seen at any time.
sapphire stone – or lapis lazula, a blue stone
likeness of a man – the Spirit of Christ appears as the image of the invisible God, which will be proved by the rainbow in verse 28 below.
27 I saw as it were glowing metal, as the appearance of fire within it round about, from the appearance of his loins and upward; and from the appearance of his loins and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness round about him.
Ezek 1:27 colour of amber – described as jasper or sardius, “red” in Revelation 4:3, here we see the glowing metal, or fire. This is the picture of God as “a consuming fire” in Hebrews 12:29.
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 YHVH. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.
Ezek 1:28 the appearance of a rainbow – which is over the head of the One on the throne in Revelation 4:3. This is the reminder of God’s covenant after the flood. The “rainbow” is over the head of the Spirit of Christ, the Angel in Revelation 10:1. This tells us the appearance of “God” in Ezekiel 1, was an appearance of the Spirit of Christ, as the image of the invisible God.
the likeness of the glory – only the “likeness,” for the glory of God can never be expressed by any image.