In the previous post, I asserted my position that Ezekiel’s vision was not a spacecraft. In doing so, I mentioned that I thought it had something to do with astrology/astronomy. I’ll try and unpack that a bit here. We’ll have to start with the visions:
Ezekiel 1:4-19 (JPS Tanakh)
4 I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north-a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber. In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures. And this was their appearance: They had the figures of human beings. However, each had four faces, and each of them had four wings; the legs of each were [fused into] a single rigid leg, and the feet of each were like a single calf’s hoof; and their sparkle was like the luster of burnished bronze. They had human hands below their wings. The four of them had their faces and their wings on their four sides. Each one’s wings touched those of the other. They did not turn when they moved; each could move in the direction of any of its faces. Each of them had a human face the front]; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left; and each of the four had the face of an eagle the back]. Such were their faces. As for their wings, they were separated: above, each had two touching those of the others, while the other two covered its body. And each could move in the direction of any of its faces; they went wherever the spirit impelled them to go, without turning when they moved. Such then was the appearance of the creatures. With them was something that looked like burning coals of fire. This fire, suggestive of torches, kept moving about among the creatures; the fire had a radiance, and lightning issued from the fire. Dashing to and fro [among] the creatures was something that looked like flares. As I gazed on the creatures, I saw one wheel on the ground next to each of the four-faced creatures. As for the appearance and structure of the wheels, they gleamed like beryl. All four had the same form; the appearance and structure of each was as of two wheels cutting through each other.And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer when they moved. Their rims were tall and frightening, for the rims of all four were covered all over with eyes. And when the creatures moved forward, the wheels moved at their sides; and when the creatures were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne too.
A couple of observations are important:
1. The creatures are unnamed.
2. The description reads as thought the creatures and wheels are separate items.
3. The creatures have four faces; the wheels do not.
4. The four faces are: human, lion, ox, eagle.
5. The wheels are covered with eyes; the creatures are not.
6. The wheels are “within” each other – sort of like an astrolabe (at least that is the impression).
7. The creatures and wheels move together.
In Ezekiel 10 the throne vision re-appears to Ezekiel:
I looked, and on the expanse over the heads of the cherubs, there was something like a sapphire stone; an appearance resembling a throne could be seen over them. He spoke to the man clothed in linen and said, “Step inside the wheelwork, under the cherubs, and fill your hands with glowing coals from among the cherubs, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I looked on. Now the cherubs were standing on the south side of the House when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner court. But when the Presence of the Lord moved from the cherubs to the platform of the House, the House was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the radiance of the Presence of the Lord. The sound of the cherubs’ wings could be heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of El Shaddai when He speaks. When He commanded the man dressed in linen: “Take fire from among the cherubs within the wheelwork,” he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched out his hand among the cherubs to the fire that was among the cherubs; he took some and put it into the hands of him who was clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubs appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings. I could see that there were four wheels beside the cherubs, one wheel beside each of the cherubs; as for the appearance of the wheels, they gleamed like the beryl stone. In appearance, the four had the same form, as if there were two wheels cutting through each other. And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer as they moved. The [cherubs] moved in the direction in which one of the heads faced, without turning as they moved. Their entire bodies-backs, hands, and wings-and the wheels, the wheels of the four of them, were covered all over with eyes. It was these wheels that I had heard called “the wheelwork.” Each one had four faces: One was a cherub’s face, the second a human face, the third a lion’s face, and the fourth an eagle’s face. The cherubs ascended; those were the creatures that I had seen by the Chebar Canal.
There are several additions to chapter 1, which may or may not be different in description:
1. The creatures are here identified as cherubs (cherubim); no such identification was made in chapter 1.
2. 10:10 seems to suggest that the four cherubs each have the same sequence of faces; this could be inferred in chapter 1, but it is clearer here.
3. The four faces are (apparently) different: cherub, human, lion, eagle
4. Both the cherubs and the wheels are covered with eyes, not just the wheels (as it seemed from ch. 1).
5. The wheels are basically the same (like an astrolabe).
I’m not going to take the space here to discuss everything in both these visions. If you want that, I can recommend some fine scholarly commentaries and journal articles. For our purposes here, I need to comment on why I think this vision (these visions) are connected to astrology (which was indistinct from astronomy in ancient times – we’re not talking Miss Cleo here).
My view is that Ezekiel saw exactly the same thing in both visions. I just think certain details are added the second time around (ch. 10 is shorter, and presumes the reader has read the earlier material in certain regards). The fact that the suffix pronouns on the nouns (sorry for the Hebrew / grammar spasm) here are not distinct in Hebrew, even in terms of number and gender, can explain the ambiguities between the two descriptions. The four faces are not different either – though the orientation of the viewer (Ezekiel) appears to be different. What do I mean? First, in ch 10 “cherub” replaces “ox.” This is of no consequence since throne cherubs are often oxen in the iconography. The difference in terms doesn’t mean the creatures were different. In fact, Ezekiel tells us in ch. 10 that the creatures were the ones he’d seen in ch. 1 – back by the River Chebar (10:15). Let’s zero in, then, on the faces and the wheels.
Speaking of the vision of ch. 1, Dan Block, in his massive two volume commentary on the text of Ezekiel makes the following observation: “Since the inaugural vision came to the prophet from the north, the frontal view (south) would have had a human face, with the other three being arranged as follows”:
Block adds, “If the faces in 10:14 are also listed in clockwise order, the sequence is identical, and the cherub is identified with the bull.” Other scholars (like Leslie Allen in the Word Biblical Commentary, vol 1, of Ezekiel) note that the four faces suggest the four directions, or the cardinal points. He’s right — and what’s more, the faces of the creatures (cherubim) correspond to the four cardinal points of the zodiac. Scholars of ancient astronomy will tell you that the zodiac has a Babylonian derivation — which is precisely where Ezekiel is living and writing from. The following artistic rendering of the cardinal points illustrates (note that the human face corresponds to the human figure of Aquarius):
The one thing I think most noteworthy about all this is the eyes. In Ezekiel 1 we read that the wheels were full of eyes. What does that have to do with the zodiac or astrology? Simple. The Hebrew word for “eyes” is ‘ayin. This is the normal word for that body part through which we see. The same word is also used (by Ezekiel, no less — in the SAME CHAPTER) to describe “sparkling” or “gleaming” (cf. Ezek. 1:4; Ezek. 1:16). Here’s a suggestion: “eyes” should be understood in Ezekiel 1 AND Ezekiel 10 as “stars” (“sparkling things”). This fits amazingly well with chapter 10, since there both the creatures and the wheels have the eyes. Get it . . . creatures . . . cardinal points of the zodiac . . . the creatures having eyes (“stars”) in them? What creatures have stars in them? The ones you see in the sky – the signs of the zodiac.
And for kickers, this is also what the apostle John says he saw in Revelation 4-5 when he looked up into the heavens — animals with stars in them.
No, it wasn’t a flying saucer. Ezekiel’s visions are about an enthroned God who controls the the cycles of time (the zodiac and its movements), and is up to something . . . .
One passing thought (and it isn’t for PaleoBabble to lay this out): What if, when Jesus said that there would be signs in the heavens pointing to the second coming, he meant exactly what he said? Not that we could know the day or hour (which Jesus flatly said we could not) – but which would give us SOME information.
Remember the star of Bethlehem? Who saw it and knew what it meant? Magi . . . from . . . BABYLON. Hmmmm.