JERUSALEM WILL BE JUDGED BY FIRE AFTER THE GLORY OF GOD DEPARTS FROM THE TEMPLE
The imminent judgment upon Jerusalem (to be burned with fire by the Babylonian troops) was directly tied to the retreat of the Glory of God from His residence in the temple sanctuary. Apostate worship had been exposed. The abominations of idolatry had been exposed. Now genuine worship was no longer possible in the temple as God’s presence was withdrawn. The role of the cherubim is highlighted in supporting the movement of God’s chariot-throne. Everything in this vision is cloaked in the awesomeness of the cloud surrounding God’s Glory. The Angel of the Lord (the linen-clad man) received the coals of fire and prepares to execute God’s fiery judgment.
Feinberg: The basic truth of the chapter is that God controls all the forces of judgment that He employs.
David Thompson: Visions are trying to describe events and people that are often beyond our ability to rationally understand. It is why God gave his prophets visions full of symbolic language in order to at least communicate his truth to us about things for which we often have no frame of reference. How does one describe the glory and throne of God? Ezekiel described it as a sapphire throne above a great expanse resting on the great cherubim who had wings and fiery wheels and four faces. That seems just as good as any description! We have to remember however, this is how God chose to reveal himself to his prophet and to us. What Ezekiel saw was guided by the Spirit of God and his revelation. Within the confines of his vision this is a true representation of God and his throne.
Lamar Cooper: Chapter 10 has four scenes. First, the man in white was commanded to take coals from between the cherubim (10:1–2). Second, the glory of God moved to the threshold and paused while fire purged the city (10:3–8). Third, the cherubim were described (10:9–17). Fourth, the glory of God moved to a position above the cherubim and with them to the east gate (10:18–22). H. Parunak has argued that the two-stage movement of the glory of God is the focus of two chiasms in chap. 10. The first stage is the center of a chiasm comprising vv. 1–7, marked by the repeated references to taking fire “from among the cherubim” in vv. 2 and 6–7. The second stage is the center of a chiasm comprising vv. 8–22, marked by descriptions of the cherubim in vv. 8–17 and 20–22.
Wiersbe: Ezekiel was learning that the most important part of the nation’s life was to magnify the glory of God. The presence of God in the sanctuary was a great privilege for the people of Israel, but it was also a great responsibility. The glory of God cannot dwell with the sins of God’s people, so it was necessary for the glory to leave, and the sanctuary and the people to be judged.
I. (:1-2) FIRST COMMAND FROM THE THRONE OF THE GLORY OF GOD: EXECUTE JUDGMENT – TAKE AND SCATTER COALS OF FIRE OF JUDGMENT AGAINST JERUSALEM
A. (:1) The Vision of the Glorious Throne above the Cherubim
“Then I looked, and behold, in the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim something like a sapphire stone, in appearance resembling a throne, appeared above them.”
B. (:2) The Command to Execute Judgment by Fire upon Jerusalem
“And He spoke to the man clothed in linen and said,
‘Enter between the whirling wheels under the cherubim,
and fill your hands with coals of fire from between the cherubim,
and scatter them over the city.’
And he entered in my sight.”
Constable: He was then to scatter the coals over the city symbolizing its judgment and cleansing (Gen. 19:24; Ps. 18:10-15; Isa. 6:6; 33:14; Rev. 8:5).
David Guzik: Previously we read that Jerusalem would be judged by siege, slaughter, famine, and disease. Now we learn that Jerusalem will also be burnt, and the fire comes from the throne and glory of God itself; the coals of fire come from among the cherubim.
John Taylor: In Ezekiel’s mind, Jerusalem was going to be treated in the same way as Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
David Thompson: Now coals of fire are used as a metaphor for several things:
1) Coals of fire for destruction;
2) Coals of fire for purification–fire purifies Isaiah’s unclean lips (Is. 6:6-7);
3) Coals of fire for conviction–when we do good things, we heap coals of fire on the heads of people;
4) Coals of fire for consecration–O.T. sacrifices consecrated God’s people using coals.
These are not blessing coals, so when the man takes these coals into his hand, serious judgment is on the way.
Wiersbe: Not only would the city be visited by famine, pestilence, and sword, but it would be burned by the Babylonian army. This was not a fire of purification, such as Isaiah experienced (Isa. 6:5-7), but a fire of condemnation (2 Kings 25:8-9).
Douglas Stuart: In verse 1 Ezekiel’s description focuses temporarily on the sapphire-like throne above the cherubim (cf. 1:26), which is the point from which God could be heard speaking to the angel in linen. This figure had completed the task of sparing the righteous (9:4) and now is assigned an opposite sort of job—bringing God’s judgment fire on the city. A raging fire was visible in the midst of the cherubim, as if the chariot were itself made of fire, which is at least how it appeared (1:4; cf. 2 Kin. 2:11). This fire would constitute not just any fire but the very fire of God, since the chariot was God’s own. Fire in the Bible is often a symbol of God’s judgment against wickedness (Gen. 19:24; Deut. 28:24; 32:22; Amos 1–2), and thus the scattering of coals of fire over Jerusalem would symbolize divine destructive wrath.
II. (:3-8) SECOND COMMAND FROM THE THRONE OF THE GLORY OF GOD: EXECUTE JUDGMENT – TAKE AND SCATTER COALS OF FIRE OF JUDGMENT AGAINST JERUSALEM
A. (:3-5) The Vision of the Glory of the Lord Retreating to the Threshold of the Temple
1. (:3) Vision Focusing on the Cherubim Serving the Glory of God
“Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the temple
when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner court.”
2. (:4) Vision Focusing on the Movement of the Glory of the Lord
“Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud,
and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD.”
3. (:5) Vision Focusing on the Awesome Sound of the Almighty in Motion
“Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks.”
Peter Pett: The sound of the wings of the cherubim was clearly also awesome (compare Ezekiel 1:24). It filled the whole house even to the outer court. And it was powerful and strong like the voice of the Almighty. In both cases the mention of the sound of their wings is connected with the actual voice of Yahweh being heard.
Lamar Cooper: Craigie sees two new perspectives added by these verses. First, the judgment of God cannot be distinguished from the glory of God. The presence of the glory of God demands purity and purging to produce holiness. Fire represented this twofold character of purification and purging by God. The same fire from God that purified the mouth of Isaiah (Isa 6:6) and brought destruction to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24) would now purge the city in judgment. Second, judgment of the temple and Jerusalem was marked by the departure of God. The most severe aspect of God’s judgment was his absence from among his people. Of course, God’s presence had never been confined to the temple. Rather, the temple was where he made himself known in blessing and received the worship of his people (see 1 Kgs 8:27–53).
B. (:6-8) The Command to Execute Judgment by Fire upon Jerusalem
1. (:6) Preparation for Angel of the Lord to Receive the Coals of Fire
“And it came about when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, ‘Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim,” he entered and stood beside a wheel.’”
2. (:7-8) Role of the Cherub in Distributing the Coals of Fire
“Then the cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire which was between the cherubim, took some and put it into the hands of the one clothed in linen, who took it and went out. And the cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings.”
Iain Duguid: After the priestly figure departs to carry out the Lord’s bidding, there follows a renewed description of the divine chariot with its supernatural attendants. The lengths to which the prophet goes to describe the vision of the divine glory may seem redundant to us, but they serve to underline its status as the central feature of the whole temple vision. What Ezekiel sees is exactly the same vision as he saw in chapter 1 (in Babylonia!), but here in the temple context, certain features snap into sharper focus. In the building filled with representations of cherubim, it becomes clear to the prophet that the “living creatures” he saw in chapter 1 are themselves cherubim.
III. (:9-17) DESCRIPTION AND FUNCTION OF THE CHARIOT-THRONE WHEELS – INTEGRALLY LINKED TO THE CHERUBIM – DESIGNED TO TRANSPORT THE GLORY OF GOD
A. (:9-14) Description of the Chariot Wheels / Cherubim
1. (:9) Connection between the Gleaming Wheels and the Cherubim
“Then I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim,
one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone.”
MacArthur: vv. 9-17 – This whole section is similar to 1:4-21. Four wheels on God’s chariot mingled with the 4 angels (cf. 1:15-21) coordinated with each other in precision, and each with a different one of the cherubim. All looked so much alike that it was as if one wheel blended entirely with another (v. 10). As their appearance was so unified, their action was in unison, and instant (v. 11). The cherubim had bodies like men and their chariot wheels were full of eyes denoting full perception both to see the sinners and their fitting judgment. The color Tarshish, or beryl, is a sparkling yellow or gold.
2. (:10) Integration of the Four Wheels
“And as for their appearance, all four of them had the same likeness, as if one wheel were within another wheel.”
3. (:11) Unison of Movement
“When they moved, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went; but they followed in the direction which they faced, without turning as they went.”
Feinberg: The wheels followed not some outside force but were guided by an inner impulse from the Lord transmitted to the cherubim. They moved in the direction that the front of the chariot pointed with unity of purpose and oneness of goal (cf. 1:12, 17). . . Cherubim and wheels worked in unison; all moved in view of the anticipated departure of the Shekinah glory (see v. 18). Unity of action and performance is emphasized by the response to the directing spirit of the living creature.
4. (:12) Universal Vision
“And their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them.”
Daniel Block: v. 12 is particularly confusing, as images of wheels seem to merge with images of cherubim.
5. (:13) Whirling Wheels
“The wheels were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels.”
David Thompson: The Hebrew word “whirling” (hagalgal) means revolving or rolling. They were actually given a name that Ezekiel heard. These wheels were actually named for their function. The naming of these wheels seems to be suggestive of the fact that the glory of God was about to “whirl out of His temple.” These wheels are not in a park or rest mode, they are ready to move.
6. (:14) Four Faces
“And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.”
David Thompson: Each cherub had the face of a cherub, a man, a lion and an eagle. We may recall that earlier in chapter 1 the four faces were man, lion, bull and eagle (1:10). Obviously in this listing the bull is missing and the cherub face has replaced it.
Now some have suggested that the reason for this is due to the fact that a scribe copying the text made a mistake. Others have suggested that the face of the cherub is the face of the bull.
However, we think there is an explanation that is very explainable. Each face represents a judgment that God authorizes against Israel to be carried out using these high-ranking angelic beings. When the living beings show up in Revelation they are down to one face, not four. The reason here for the change is that judgment number 1 of the 4 is now in progress.
In other words, this is the moment when Babylon is authorized by God to destroy His Temple, Jerusalem and His people. Judgment #1 is now in operation, which is the powerful bull judgment and there are three more to go after this.
Actually as we are here tonight, there is only one more to go. We believe things are shaping up for the final judgment.
B. (:15-17) Function of the Chariot Wheels / Cherubim
1. (:15) Repetition of the Same Vision from Earlier
“Then the cherubim rose up.
They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar.”
2. (:16) Coordination in Movement of the Wheels and the Cherubim
“Now when the cherubim moved, the wheels would go beside them;
also when the cherubim lifted up their wings to rise from the ground,
the wheels would not turn from beside them.”
3. (:17) Animation of the Movement via the Spirit of Living Beings
“When the cherubim stood still, the wheels would stand still;
and when they rose up, the wheels would rise with them;
for the spirit of the living beings was in them.”
IV. (:18-22) VISION OF THE GLORY OF GOD DEPARTING FROM THE TEMPLE IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE CHERUBIM
A. (:18-19) Testimony to the Departure of the Glory of God
1. (:18) Retreating from the Threshold of the Temple
“Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.”
Leslie Allen: The basic narrative is now resumed from v 7. It records a second stage in the departure of the glory of Yahweh, after the first in v 4a. The empty throne to which Ezekiel drew attention in v 1 is empty no longer. God’s “tabernacling presence” is over. It is replaced by his presence in a theophany of judgment. The cherubim function no longer simply as guardians of the fire beneath the throne but as bearers of the throne of v 1. The “glory of Yahweh” is here a reference to the resplendent divine figure of 1:28, as it clearly was in v 4 and also in 9:3. However, 8:4 seems to use it more generally of the total revelation of Yahweh on his mobile throne borne by living beings or cherubim, as in the earlier 3:12, to which reference is made in 8:4.
Daniel Block: Having completed the descriptive aside concerning the chariot and its cherubic bearers, the primary narrative resumes with the announcement of the second phase of Yahweh’s staged departure from the temple. The prophet watches as the kābôd rises from the threshold, moves to the spot where the throne-chariot is parked, and comes to rest above the cherubim. With their divine cargo in place, the cherubim lift off and taxi to the east gate of the temple, presumably the gate of the outer court. All the while the prophet is able to observe the glory of the God of Israel hovering over the cherubim, waiting for its final ride.
2. (:19) Hovering over the Entrance of the East Gate
“When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them;
and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.”
Constable: God had warned His people that He would remove the glory of His presence from them if they departed from His will (cf. Deut. 31:17; 1 Sam. 4:21; Hos. 9:12). One of the greatest blessings that Christians enjoy is that God has promised never to withdraw His indwelling presence from our bodies, His present temples (Matt. 28:20; cf. John 14:17; 1 Cor. 6:19).
Galen Doughty: Ezekiel now sees the glory of the Lord depart from over the threshold of the temple and stop. Then God’s glory moved again. It rose up and stopped above the east gate of the temple, which by New Testament times was called the Golden Gate. Jewish tradition says the Messiah will enter into the temple via the Golden Gate when he comes in power on the Mount of Olives ala Zechariah 14. Also in Ezekiel’s vision of the restored temple in chapters 40-44 God reenters the temple by the east gate. It is the direction of the sunrise over the Mount of Olives.
Derek Thomas: At the close of this description God’s glory, which had briefly lifted away from the chariot (10:4), now rejoins the chariot (10:18) and the entire glory-chariot makes its way to the east gate of the temple, the very edge of the entire temple complex (10:19), ready to depart altogether (which it does in 11:23).
B. (:20-22) Testimony to the Reality of the Involvement of the Cherubim
1. (:20) Same Living Beings as Seen Earlier
“These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel
by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim.”
Constable: Ezekiel explained that the cherubim were the same creatures that he had formerly called living beings in his description of his earlier vision (1:5). Why did Ezekiel not call them cherubim in chapter 1? Perhaps this vision of Solomon’s temple, which contained representations of cherubim (Exod. 25:18-20; 1 Kings 6:29, 35; 7:29, 36), helped Ezekiel identify the living creatures that he had seen before.
2. (:21-22a) Same Appearance as to Their Faces, Wings and Hands
“Each one had four faces and each one four wings,
and beneath their wings was the form of human hands.
As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar.”
3. (:22b) Same Purpose and Direction
“Each one went straight ahead.”
Feinberg: The final word is that every cherub went straight forward, thus proclaiming the impossibility of thwarting or frustrating the plans of God. They kept their object and mission undeviatingly before them at all times.