Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ezekiel 1

Date and location of Ezekiel's prophecy (vs. 1-3)--As the introduction to this book notes, Ezekiel prophesied during the early years of the Babylonian captivity, which began about 605 and lasted till 536 B. C. Most commentators believe Ezekiel was taken during the second deportation of the Jews (there were three), which happened about 597. Verse 1 speaks of the "thirtieth year," but it doesn't specify the thirtieth year of what. Perhaps Ezekiel was 30 years old, but the best guess on this is that, since the Babylonian Empire began in 625 B.C., and the prophet specifies the beginning of his work as "the fifth year of King Johiachin's captivity" (595 B.C., v. 2), the thirtieth year is dated from the beginning of Babylon's Near Eastern dominance. It's not a crucial point. Ezekiel was a priest, the son of a man named Buzi. "Chaldeans" (v. 3) was simply another name for Babylonians, being a major tribe of those peoples. Remember, Abraham's home was "Ur of the Chaldees."

Ezekiel's vision (vs. 4-28)--All sorts of fanciful conjectures have been made regarding this awesome sight which Ezekiel witnessed. The text is not altogether clear what it means, though there are a couple of verses (mentioned in a moment) which give some clue. Regardless, Ezekiel sees three main items. In verses 4-14, Ezekiel is shown "four living creatures" coming out of a whirlwind (vs. 4-5). I'm not going to bother to describe the creatures; that would be superfluous. They were somewhat fearsome and remind us of the four creatures around the throne of God in Revelation 4, though their makeup was different in many respects. In verses 15-21, Ezekiel saw da wheel...actually four wheels, one beside each creature (v. 15). Again, there is no specific explanation for the meaning of the wheels. The final phenomenon--and surely the most important--Ezekiel witnessed was a throne above the "likeness of the firmament" (v. 22), apparently suspended in mid-air. It was actually "the likeness of a throne" (v. 26), and "on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it" (v. 26). The brilliance of this "man"--surely God--is described in verse 27 (compare Revelation 1:12-16). The first two items of the vision (creatures and wheels) seem to have pointed to the last of these manifestations. Part of verse 28 reads, "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD."

That last statement is almost surely the explanation of this weird revelation to Ezekiel. The event is referenced only twice more in the book (unless I've overlooked one somewhere). The next reference is found in 3:12-13: "Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: 'Blessed is the glory of the LORD from His place!' I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise." The other reference is 3:23: "So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face." The common theme in all three is the "glory of the Lord." This vision in chapter 1 was simply to impress Ezekiel with the magnificence, might, and glory of Jehovah in order to prepare the prophet for his difficult mission. Chapter 1 ends, "So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking." Ezekiel is more than ready to listen to, and heed, that voice.

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