Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. And is either superfluous, as at the beginning of most of the sacred books, (Calmet) or shews the connection of what is written with what the prophet saw or heard internally. (St. Augustine, in Psalm iv.; St. Gregory) (Worthington) — Year: either of the age of Ezechiel, or (as others will have it) from the solemn covenant made in the eighteenth year of Josias; (4 Kings xxiii.; Challoner; Worthington; Calmet) or he alludes to the era of Nabopolassur, used at Babylon, (Menochius) or to the last jubilee. See Sanctius. The thirtieth year, from the prediction of Holda to Josias, (Haydock) concurs with the fifth of the prophet’s captivity, chap. xvii. 12. (Usher, the year of the world 3410.) — Fourth of the sacred year, (Calmet) on Friday, 24th July, (Usher) or in January. (St. Jerome) — Chobar, or Aboras, which runs westward into the Euphrates, above Thapsacus. (Strabo) — The captives were in those parts, though not present. (Calmet) — Opened, in spirit, (Haydock) by faith. (St. Jerome) — The prophet fell prostrate, chap. ii. 1. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Captivity. Literally, “transmigration,” (Haydock) which is more agreeable to the Hebrew, &c. Jechonias delivered himself up. Six years after this, Sedecias was taken. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 3. Hand; power, energy of the Holy Spirit. (Theodoret)
Ver. 4. North, denoting the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans, Isaias xiv. 31. (Sanctius) — The Jews thought the following vision inexplicable, and deliberated about rejecting the book, when Ananias offered to answer every difficulty. They assigned him three hundred barrels of oil to light his lamp, while he performed the task. (Rabbins) — This hyperbole shews their idea of its obscurity. (Calmet) — Amber, (electri) a compound of four parts of gold and one of silver, (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxiii. 4.) more precious than either. (St. Jerome) — It may also mean orichalchum, or a mixture of gold and brass, (Bochart, anim. 2 b. vi. 16.) which was also preferred before gold alone, as it had the hardness of brass. (Lucret. Serv. in xii. Æneid.)
Circumdat loricam humeris.
— Two vessels are mentioned, probably of this composition, 1 Esdras viii. 27. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Living creatures. Cherubims, (as appears from Ecclesiasticus xlix. 10.) represented to the prophet under these mysterious shapes, as supporting the throne of God, and as it were drawing his chariot. All this chapter appeared so obscure and full of mysteries to the ancient Hebrews, that, as we learn from St. Jerome, (ep. ad Paulin.) they suffered none to read it before they were thirty years old. (Challoner) — The pagans had many such compound figures as are here represented. (Parkhurst, p. 411.) (Haydock) — Sanchoniathon (apud Eusebius, præp. 2.) seems to have borrowed his description from this place. — In them. They stood upright, and had some parts of the human figure. (Calmet) — Indeed, it seems to have been predominant. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Faces. This sometimes means shapes; and Pererius supposes that the animal had the head of a man, and the breast covered with lions’ hair, the feet or round cloven hoofs of an ox, and the wings of an eagle. But it had rather four faces as well as wings, the faces of the man and lion being to the right, and the other two to the left; (Calmet; Tirinus) or the eagle was behind (Haydock) or above the head of the man, and the lion and ox at his right and left. (Cornelius a Lapide) (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Straight. Hebrew, “a straight foot.” Protestants prefer “feet.” (Haydock) — Of a calf. Aquila reads to the same import hagol, “round,” instead of hegel, (Haydock) “a calf.” Symmachus has “winged feet,” like Mercury. (Calmet) — Septuagint omit this, says St. Jerome, though we have his version of Symmachus as if it belonged to the Septuagint; and it occurs in Grabe as genuine. — Brass. Septuagint add, “and their feathers were very light.” (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Wings. Their arms were covered with feathers, and the hand appeared at the extremity; or they had four arms under the wings, chap. x. 8. They all came from the shoulders, so as to correspond with the four faced animal, ver. 6. (Calmet) — Others believe that each face had four wings, so that the animal would have sixteen. (Maldonat) — In Isaias ix. 2., the cherub has six wings. The form was variable, as there was nothing in nature similar. They were perhaps designed to represent the eternity and dominion of God over the whole creation, ver. 28. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Another. Two above were extended so as to support the throne, which seemed to rest on these eight wings connected together. The others were joined so as perfectly to cover what was below the breast. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “And the wings of those four were touching each other, and their faces (Calmet reads with Chaldean and Hebrew, wings) turned not,” &c. (Haydock) — The wings did not imitate those of birds, going to and fro, but were constantly in the same direction; or the animals did not change their respective situations: as they had four faces, there was always one of them turned to the opposite quarters of the world. (Calmet) — They turned not about, (ver. 12.) but having faces on every side, were ready to go any way. (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Over. This is not specified in Hebrew, Chaldean, Septuagint, or St. Jerome. (Calmet) — “The face of an eagle for all the four.” It must have been above or behind the man, as the situation of the other two faces is here determined, ver. 6. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Faces. Septuagint, “wings:” and indeed it does not appear how their faces were stretched upwards, (Calmet) unless they looked earnestly that way; though, out of respect, they covered their faces with two wings.
Ver. 14. Flashes. Hebrew Bazak. (Haydock) — Theodotion retains the original. His version seems to have been inserted in the Septuagint, (Calmet) who omitted this verse, as seeming to contradict ver. 9., and 12. (St. Jerome) — Yet it only signifies that the motion was quick as lightning, though they did not alter their situation with respect to each other.
Ver. 15. Faces. One wheel crossed another at right angles, so that it was ready to move in any direction, (ver. 17.; Calmet) like a globe. (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Sea; sky blue. Hebrew, “Tharsis,” which Symmachus renders “the hyacinth;” a precious stone, Exodus xxviii. 20. (Calmet) — Midst. The evangelists and New Testament agree perfectly with the Old. (St. Gregory, hom. vi.) (Worthington)
Ver. 17. Parts. When they went, they went by their four parts. That is, indifferently to any of their sides, either forward or backward, to the right or to the left. (Challoner) — Their motion was connected with the chariot, ver. 20. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Eyes, like Argus, or the tail of a peacock. (Calmet) — The eye is sometimes put for a colour. (Grotius)
Ver. 20. Life. They were moved like the rest by the whirlwind, or by living creatures. They seemed to be animated, as Homer describes Vulcan’s tripods.
Ver. 22. Crystal, or sapphire, ver. 26., and chap. x. 1. This shining sky was like the footstool of the Lord, and rested on eight wings, ver. 9, 23.
Ver. 24. Voice. The motion of the wings made a noise like a torrent, or thunder. — God. Hebrew, “self-sufficient,” as Septuagint, &c., render it, ikanou. (Calmet) — Protestants, “like the voice of the Almighty.” (Haydock) — Down; or rather ceased to make such a noise, ver. 25. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Upon it. This might be omitted, as the Vulgate has only desuper, above. (Haydock) — God was pleased to assume the shape of man, seated on the throne.
Ver. 27. Amber, or orichalcum, ver. 4.
Ver. 28. Rainbow, encircling the sky blue throne and the flame. Nothing could be more dazzling, nor better manifest the subjection of man. (Calmet) — The prophet saw four visions at once; the whirlwind, (ver. 4.) the living creatures, (ver. 5.) the wheels, (ver. 15.) and the man seated on a throne, in the sky, ver. 26. To explain all these mysteries, a large commentary would scarcely suffice. (Worthington) — The tempest, cloud, and fire, shew the impending ruin of the Jews. The ministers of God are ever ready to execute his orders. The wisdom of Providence is denoted by the name of the cherubim, the connection of causes by the four wheels, &c. (Menochius) — God appears in his chariot going to war. He denounces vengeance on the guilty, chap. ii., and xliii. See Cornelius a Lapide. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The time of Ezechiel’s prophecy: he sees a glorious vision.
1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, *in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, when I was in the midst of the captives, **by the river Chobar, the heavens were opened, and I saw the visions of God.
2 On the fifth day of the month, the same was the fifth year of the captivity of king Joachin,
3 The word of the Lord came to Ezechiel, the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chobar: and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.
4 And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber:
5 And in the midst thereof the likeness of four living creatures: and this was their appearance: there was the likeness of a man in them.
6 Every one had four faces, and every one four wings.
7 Their feet were straight feet, and the sole of their foot was like the sole of a calf’s foot, and they sparkled like the appearance of glowing brass.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides: and they had faces, and wings on the four sides.
9 And the wings of one were joined to the wings of another. They turned not when they went: but every one went straight forward.
10 And as for the likeness of their faces: there was the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox, on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four.
11 And their faces, and their wings, were stretched upward: two wings of every one were joined, and two covered their bodies:
12 And every one of them went straight forward: whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went: and they turned not when they went.
13 And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like that of burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps. This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire, and lightning going forth from the fire.
14 And the living creatures ran, and returned like flashes of lightning.
15 Now, as I beheld the living creatures, there appeared upon the earth by the living creatures one wheel with four faces.
16 And the appearance of the wheels, and the work of them, was like the appearance of the sea: and the four had all one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the midst of a wheel.
17 When they went, they went by their four parts: and they turned not when they went.
18 The wheels had also a size, and a height, and a dreadful appearance: *and the whole body was full of eyes round about all the four.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels also went together by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels also were lifted up with them.
20 Whithersoever the spirit went, thither as the spirit went the wheels also were lifted up withal, and followed it: for the spirit of life 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 also were lifted up together, and followed them: for the spirit of life was in the wheels.
22 And over the heads of the living creatures was the likeness of the firmament, as the appearance of crystal, terrible to behold, and stretched out over their heads above.
23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other, every one with two wings covered his body, and the other was covered in like manner.
24 And I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, as it were the voice of the most high God: when they walked, it was like the voice of a multitude, like the noise of an army, and when they stood, their wings were let down.
25 For when a voice came from above the firmament, that was over their heads, they stood, and let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament, that was over their heads, was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of the sapphire-stone, and upon the likeness of the throne, was a likeness as of the appearance of a man above upon it.
27 And I saw as it were the resemblance of amber, as the appearance of fire within it round about: from his loins and upward, and from his loins downward, I saw as it were the resemblance of fire shining round about.
28 As the appearance of the rainbow when it is in a cloud on a rainy day: this was the appearance of the brightness round about.
1: Year of the World 3409, Year before Christ 595. — ** Ezechiel iii. 23. and x. 20. and xliii. 3.
18: Ezechiel x. 12.