Ezekiel Chapter 1
Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews who had been deported to Babylon. His ministry overlapped with the final six years of Jeremiah’s ministry. Ezekiel received his first vision in the fifth year of the first captivity. Counting backwards to the thirteenth year of Josiah when Jeremiah was first called, we find that Jeremiah had been preaching for thirty-four years and would still receive prophecies for six more years before the final deportation. The key to understanding why both major prophets were alive at the same time is that Jeremiah was with the remnant which had been left in the land whereas Ezekiel was among the captives of the first deportation as a commoner and priest (Jehoiachin’s captivity). God wanted each branch of the Jewish remnant to have a prophet who would speak His words to His people. Also noteworthy is that Daniel’s ministry overlaps with Ezekiel. Daniel, however, was in the king’s court. The differences between the prophets can be seen in that Jeremiah cried out for repentance for sin; Ezekiel displayed the glory of God; and Daniel demonstrated the enduring grace of God to sustain His people. The fact that all of this was being prophesied around the same time makes this period an extraordinary time in Israel’s history.
Lessons from the text
Did Ezekiel See an UFO?
There is a theory that instead of seeing divine visions, Ezekiel saw an alien spacecraft that he interpreted to be God. The theory goes that since primitive man could not have possibly done things like build the pyramids on their own, they must have had some help. This theory is fueled on by the finding of cave drawings that resemble men in space suits. God speaking from a burning bush, the ten plagues against Egypt, God speaking on Mount Sinai, the great cloud of fire that was over the camp of Israel, and all the other so-called miracles of the Bible can be explained by the theory that aliens were helping mankind progress. Now, which seems more likely, that man has alien big brothers who have taken some special interest in the Jewish nation and given them the ten commandments, or that a Divine Being is merely interacting with His creation?
So far, Isaiah and Jeremiah have been seeing “normal” vision. God shows Jeremiah two baskets of fruits and then explains each one’s meaning. Isaiah merely heard the voice of God giving him messages. Now, with Ezekiel, the interaction between God and man takes an extremely supernatural turn. Ezekiel received glimpses into heaven and was even shown the future. What he saw far exceeds the comfort zone of the physical world of our houses and the plants and animals. This extreme supernatural aspect causes some to disbelief that he saw God; after all, what Ezekiel sees is just too crazy to be a true.
However, the truth is that Ezekiel did his best to describe what he saw but, being physical, he could only be accurate to some degree. This leads his writings open to criticism about what he saw, but Ezekiel was trying to translate spiritual visions into physical description. He was trying to describe the indescribable. Such is why it is important that we keep an open mind as we move forward in Scripture; images and metaphors will have multiple interpretations because Ezekiel used physical words to describe spiritual truths.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1 Chebar means “length” and is the name of a river in Babylon. It is near Tel-Abib (perhaps in modern day Iraq) and runs alongside the then Jewish settlement in Babylon (Eze. 3:15). A vision is distinct from hearing the word of the Lord; instead of hearing God with a physical ear, a vision means being drawn in one’s spirit to an awareness of the unseen side of reality. Forgetting about the physical world, Ezekiel is suddenly transported to events and places in the spiritual world.
2-3 Ezekiel gives more context for the vision. It has been five years since he was carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar. This was the first deportation where the priests, nobles, and all educated men were taken in an attempt to leave the Jewish nation helpless and weak (II Ki. 24:14-16). As a priest, Ezekiel will have certain insights into the visions he will receive above and beyond the insights of those not trained in the temple duties. As Ezekiel describes the vision, there is much allusion to priestly functions and respect for the glory of God.
4 Compare with II Kings 2:11. Elijah was taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire that vanished into a whirlwind. Here, a whirlwind descends and reveals fire surrounding a brightness.
5-24 Out of this fire comes four heavenly beings. Rather than analyzing each component of the description, it is vital only to note that these creatures serve the Almighty God out of His throne room. They have descended below the throne which sits on the other side of the firmament to come to Ezekiel. The voice of the Almighty is on their wings, so they are here acting as God’s messengers.
25-28 God speaks to Ezekiel His throne. Turning his attention from the creatures to the other side of the firmament, Ezekiel beholds the throne room of God. This description of God the Father is consistent with other descriptions (Num. 14:14). The glory of God is compared to the brightness and intensity of fire, a light that is self-generating and almost too much to behold. Recognizing this as the glory of God, Ezekiel falls down and puts his face to the earth both in humility and shock at beholding God’s glory. Noteworthy is that a bow is before God’s throne. This very well may be a memorial to the rainbow, God’s covenant with man that He will never again destroy the earth by water (Gen. 9:9-17). God is faithful to uphold His covenant and keeps it ever before Him as evidence to all creation that He acts towards mankind in accordance with His promises.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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