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God’s Glory Leaves Jerusalem


Then I looked, and above the dome that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in form resembling a throne. 2He said to the man clothed in linen, “Go within the wheelwork underneath the cherubim; fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” He went in as I looked on. 3Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house when the man went in; and a cloud filled the inner court. 4Then the glory of the L ord rose up from the cherub to the threshold of the house; the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the L ord. 5The sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.

6 When he commanded the man clothed in linen, “Take fire from within the wheelwork, from among the cherubim,” he went in and stood beside a wheel. 7And a cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. 8The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings.

9 I looked, and there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like gleaming beryl. 10And as for their appearance, the four looked alike, something like a wheel within a wheel. 11When they moved, they moved in any of the four directions without veering as they moved; but in whatever direction the front wheel faced, the others followed without veering as they moved. 12Their entire body, their rims, their spokes, their wings, and the wheels—the wheels of the four of them—were full of eyes all around. 13As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing “the wheelwork.” 14Each one had four faces: the first face was that of the cherub, the second face was that of a human being, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle.

15 The cherubim rose up. These were the living creatures that I saw by the river Chebar. 16When the cherubim moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the cherubim lifted up their wings to rise up from the earth, the wheels at their side did not veer. 17When they stopped, the others stopped, and when they rose up, the others rose up with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in them.

18 Then the glory of the L ord went out from the threshold of the house and stopped above the cherubim. 19The cherubim lifted up their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight as they went out with the wheels beside them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the L ord; and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21Each had four faces, each four wings, and underneath their wings something like human hands. 22As for what their faces were like, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one moved straight ahead.

Here the Prophet relates another vision which has a great likeness to the first which he related to us in the first chapter, but it has another object, as we shall soon see. Since we discussed the chief members of the vision in the first chapter, I shall now therefore be shorter. I shall only glance at what I formerly said, and at the same time point out any difference. But before we descend to that, God’s design in this vision must be understood. God wished to bear witness to the Jews that he had nothing further in common with them, because he intended to leave the temple, and then to consume the whole city with burning. But lest this threat should be unheeded by the Jews, God’s majesty was placed before them so fearfully that it might strike even the obstinate with fear. Now I come to the words. He says, that he saw again over the heads of the cherubim a throne, whose color was like sapphire Instead of living creatures he now puts cherubim, and there is no doubt that those living creatures of which he formerly spoke were cherubim. But because the vision occurs in the temple, God begins familiarly to explain to his servant what was previously too obscure. For he had seen the four living creatures near the river Chebar, namely, in a profane country. When therefore the Jews and Israelites were absent as exiles far from the temple, it is no wonder that God did not appear so clearly to his Prophet as he now does when brought into the temple. For although the Prophet has not changed his place, yet he does not seem to have been transferred to Jerusalem in vain, and to behold what was done in the temple. This is the reason why he now calls those cherubim which he had before called simply living creatures. But we have explained why four cherubim were seen, while only two were in the sanctuary, namely, because the Jews were almost buried in gross ignorance. They had long ago departed from the pursuit of sincere piety, and the light of celestial doctrine had been almost extinct among them. Since, therefore, the ignorance of the people was so gross, something rude must be put before them, or otherwise they could not understand what they ought to learn.

Now it is by no means doubtful that God obliquely wishes to reprove that base ignorance, because it was not his fault that they did not perceive in the law and the temple whatever was useful to be known for their salvation. When, therefore, God changes this legal form, there is no doubt he shows how degenerate the people was, just as if he had transfigured himself. But we must also remember what I then said, that four cherubim were offered to the Prophet that God might show that he embraced the whole world under his own dominion. We saw a little while ago, that the Jews, While they thought themselves already without God’s care, being thoroughly callous, were so blind that they supposed at the same time that God exercised no care over the world. In vain, therefore, in their perverse imaginations they shut up God in heaven; he shows that he rules the whole universe, and that nothing moves except by his secret power. Since then four cherubim are put instead of two, it is just as if God showed that he reigned throughout the four quarters of the globe, and that his power is extended in all directions, and hence that it was the height of impiety for the Jews to imagine that he had deserted the earth Thirdly, we must remark what has also been said before, that the cherubim had four heads, that God might show that angelic motions flourish in all creatures. But I shall repeat this last comment in its proper place. I now only touch it shortly.

We must now see why the Prophet says, there was a throne whose color was like sapphire, and the throne itself was above the four cherubim: because in truth God has his angels at hand to obey him: hence they are placed under his feet, that we may know that they are not independent, but are so subject to God that they always depend upon his nod, and are borne wherever he commands them. This is the reason why they were placed under the expanse where God’s throne was As far as the expanse is concerned, it is the noun which Moses uses in relating the creation of the world. (Genesis 1:6, 7, 8.) The Greeks translated it by στερεωμα but badly: the Latins imitated them when they used the expression “firmament:but it is taken for the heavens, and for the whole space between us and heaven, and yet it is above the world. God shows his throne above the expanse of heaven, not without himself, lest the Prophet should conceive anything earthly. For we know how inclined men’s minds are to their own fictions. But when God is mentioned, we cannot conceive anything aright unless we raise all our senses above the whole world. God, therefore, to raise up the mind of his Prophet, and to show himself at hand that the Prophet may reverently attend to the oracles, and then that he may regard the heavenly glory of God with becoming humility, interposed the expansion between his throne and the earth. It follows —

Ezekiel 10:2

2. And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.

2. Et dixit ad virum, qui indutus erat vestibus lineis, dixit, Vade 210210     Or “enter.” — Calvin. intra in medium rotarum 211211     “Of the wheels.” — Calvin. sub cherub, et imple volas tuas carbonibus ignis 212212     That is, “lighted coal.” — Calvin. e medio cherubim, et sparge contra urbem. Et ingressus est in oculis meis. 213213     “To my eyes.” — Calvin.


Now the end of the vision is related, which I just touched upon, since God determined utterly to destroy the city; but this is described by a visible and external symbol. God therefore is said to have commanded the wan who was clad in linen garments to fill his hands with coals, and to scatter them, on the city, namely, that he might cause a general burning. Here, indeed, God’s name is not expressed, but shortly afterwards the Prophet more clearly relates what he here touches so briefly and so obscurely. It is evident that the person seated on the throne is here spoken of, and we may collect from the context, that this command cannot be referred to any but to God. But we must observe, that the angel commanded to mark the elect now assumes a new character. And hence we collect that the angels were so the ministers of God’s favor toward the faithful, that at the same time, whenever they were commanded, they executed his vengeance; as a steward placed over a large family, not only sustains the office of providing for the family, in supplying it with food and clothing, but in chastising those who conduct themselves sinfully and wickedly. Such, therefore, is the duty of God’s angels. When God wishes to brand sinners with double shame, he often delivers them up to the devil as his executioner, and when we are delivered into the devil’s hand, this is a sign of extreme vengeance. But God by his angels often exercises judgment against the reprobate, as examples everywhere occur; but that is peculiarly remarkable, when the angel slew so many thousands in the army of Sennacherib, that he raised the siege by which the Assyrians oppressed Jerusalem. (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36.) The same thing is now delivered by the Prophet. We saw the angel clad in the linen garments become the protector of the faithful, to preserve them from all injury. But now he is sent to scatter coals through the whole city, to consume the stones and the wood, as well as the men.

These things seem to be contrary to each other, but we show that there is nothing absurd in it, if God imposes a double character on his angels. He said, therefore, to the man who was clothed, enter within the wheel under the cherub Here there is a change of number, because the singular number cherub is put for cherubim. But I remarked before that this is usual, and God proposed nothing else than to mark the place where the fiery coals were taken which burnt up the city. The altar was never without fire; for it was not lawful to use any kind of fire, since in this way the sacrifices were contaminated. (Leviticus 6:12, 13.) But that perpetual fire, which God wished to burn upon the altar, regarded reconciliation to himself; for sins were expiated by sacrifices, and therefore the fire on the altar was as it were the people’s life. But now God signifies that he had a hidden fire within the wheels, which were near the cherubim, or the four animals. But we have said, and it will be necessary to repeat it again, that by wheels all agitations are represented which are discerned under heaven, or revolutions, as they are usually called. But he saw wheels under the angels, because when the wind rises, when the sky is covered with clouds and mists, when the rain descends, and the air is disturbed by lightnings, we think, when all these things happen, that such motions and agitations take place naturally. But before this God wished to teach us that great agitations are not blind, but are directed by secret instinct, and hence the notion or inspiration of the angels, always exists. Now, therefore, when God orders his angel to take fire from the midst of the wheel which was under the cherub, this only means that God has various means of destroying the city. Now the wheels, as we saw before, were carried in different directions, so that they flew throughout the city. Since, therefore, the fire was in the midst of the wheels, while the angels transferred the wheels by their own secret motion, hence we gather that the burning of the city was in the hand of God, and at the same time in the temple. For the Prophet does not now see the wheels near the river Chebar, but in the temple itself; and there is a tacit contrast, as I have reminded you, between the fire by whose incense God was reconciled, and whence also the sacrifices had their odor sweet and pleasing to God, and between this fire, which should be destructive to the whole people. But he says, the angel had entered, that we may know, as I have said before, as soon as God has pronounced what he wishes to be done, that the execution of it is at hand. Lastly, the Prophet here commends to us the effect of his command, when he says, that the angel entered immediately, as God had commanded. It follows —

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