I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of lapis lazuli above the vault that was over the heads of the cherubim. The Lord said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in. Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord . The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. When the Lord commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out. (Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like human hands.) I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like topaz. As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. Then the cherubim rose upward. These were the living creatures I had seen by the Kebar River. When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the cherubim spread their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels did not leave their side. When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them. Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord ’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like human hands. Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River. Each one went straight ahead. – Ezekiel 10:1-22
Today’s passage marks a return to the complicated and sometimes fantastic imagery here in Ezekiel. Ezekiel is having a vision of Jerusalem as he resides on the banks if the Kebar River with the exiles. The last two chapters have described a judgement taking place in Jerusalem in which the foreheads for some would be marked so that they could be saved from the judgement, an interesting parallel to the Passover marking of the door frames. The “man clothed in linen” is apparently the one passing judgement and he has a writing kit in his hand according to the preceding passages. There are terrible things happening in the temple that are demonstrating that the people of Jerusalem have abandoned God.
The next phase of the judgement is described in this passage where the “man in linen” takes hot coals from beneath the Cherubim and scatters them over the city. The “man” enters the temple and the temple is immediately filled with “the radiance of the glory of the Lord” – a cloud of God’s presence. This must have brought back memories of God’s early interactions with the Israelites as a cloud in the temple. I am not sure who this man is, except that this “man” in some sense contains the Glory of the Lord so it seems it could be a reference to Jesus or the Holy spirit on earth, some sort of “Godly condensate“.
I confess I do not understand this complex scene of whirling wheels and hot coals, perhaps we are not intended to fully understand it any more than those who has first hand encounters with angels during the time of Jesus’ coming to earth understood what they were seeing. We are in a sense seeing something from another “dimension”, not a physical dimension, but rather a spiritual dimension that we are not really a part of until we leave our earthly body. I guess if that is the case it is not too surprising that our earthly eyes see this as something incomprehensible. It is a bit like trying to use our eye to “see” sound waves travelling through the air. They are designed for seeing sound waves and do a pretty poor job of it.
I think our spirits locked in this physical body are not equipped, except in very unusual and rare occasions like this one, to see into the spiritual realm that surrounds us. When we do get a glimpse it is confusing and nebulous, kind of like a cloud. I look forward to continuing my float through Ezekiel as it is certainly giving me lots to think about.
Prayer: God you intersect with our world in strange and amazing ways, help us to see and understand when You do.