Ezekiel 1:1 MEANING

Ezekiel 1:1
(1) The thirtieth year.--On this date see Introduction, ? 4. It may be added here that the concurrence of the "fifth day of the month" in connection with this epoch, and with that of Jehoiachin's captivity in Ezekiel 1:2, shows that the years of the two epochs began at the same time.

Among the captives.--i.e., in the midst of the region where they were settled. The vision which follows was seen by Ezekiel only, and was probably vouchsafed to him in solitudes" The captives," or rather, the captivity, as it is in the original, is the same word as is used of Jehoiachin in the next verse, and yet must be somewhat differently understood in the two cases. Jehoiachin was actually in prison for many years; his people, within certain limits, were free. They were more than exiles, but less than prisoners. (On "the heavens were opened," comp. Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:56.)

Visions of God.--Not merely great visions, as the Divine name is often added in Scripture to express greatness or intensity (see Genesis 10:9; Psalm 36:6, marg., Psalm 80:10, marg.; Jonah 3:3, marg.; Acts 7:20, marg.), but Divine visions, visions sent from God, as in Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2.

Verse 1. - Now; literally, and. The use of the conjunction indicates here, as in Jonah 1:1, that the narrative that follows links itself on to something that has gone before. In Exodus 1:1 and 1 Samuel 1:1 it may point to a connection with the book that precedes it. Here the sequence is subjective. We may think of Ezekiel as retracing the years of his life till he comes to the thirtieth. Then, as it were, he pulls himself up. That must be the starting point of what he has to say. Our English use of "now" is nearly equivalent to this. In the thirtieth year. I incline, following Origen, Hengstenberg, Smend, and others, to refer the date to the prophet's own life. That year in Jewish reckoning was the age of full maturity. At that age the earlier Levites (Numbers 4:23, 20, 39, 43, 47) had entered on their duties. It is probable, though no written rule is found, that it was the normal age for the functions of the priesthood. In the case of our Lord (Luke 3:23) and of the Baptist it appears to have been recognized as the starting point of a prophet's work. Jeremiah's call as a "child" (Jeremiah 1:6; the word may, however, include adult manhood, as in 1 Samuel 30:17; 1 Kings 3:7) was obviously exceptional. Other theories are:

(1) That the years are reckoned from the era of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar ( B.C. 625), dating from his throwing off the sovereignty of Assyria, and giving here the date B.C. 595 (Michaelis, Rosenmuller, Ewald, and others); but against this it may be urged

(a) that there is no evidence that that era was in use in Ezekiel's time, and

(b) that he nowhere else uses a double historical chronology.

(2) That the years are reckoned from the discovery of the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:14), as a turning point or era in the history of Judah (Targum, Theodoret, Jerome, Havernick), which would again bring us to B.C. 595. This view is, however, open to the same objections as (1). We have no proof that the Jews ever reckoned from that event, and Ezekiel did not want, here or elsewhere, another point to reckon from, as far as his people's history was concerned, than the captivity of Jehoiachin. In the fourth month. Both here and in ver. 2 the months are probably reckoned from Abib, or Nisan, the month of the Passover, with which the Jewish year began (Exodus 12:2; Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7), so that the fourth month, known by later Jews as Tammuz, would bring us to June or July. Among the captives (literally, the captivity) by the river of Chebar. By most earlier commentators the Chebar has been identified with the Chaboras of the Greeks (now the Khabour), which rises in Upper Mesopotamia, at Ras-el-Ain, and falls into the Euphrates at Carcesium, a city which modern geographers distinguish from the Carchemish of the Old Testament. Recent critics, however (Rawlinson, Smend, and others), have urged that this was too far north to be in the "land of the Chaldeans" (ver. 3), or Babylon (2 Kings 24:16), and have suggested that the Chebar of Ezekiel is the Nahr-Malcha, or Royal Canal of Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of that king's irrigation works, to which, therefore, the name Chebar (i.e. uniting) would be appropriate. The identification of Chebar with the labor of 2 Kings 17:6, to which the ten tribes had been deported (whether, with Rawlinson, we think of that river as identical with the Chaboras, or still further north, near an affluent of the Tigris of the same name), must, for like reasons, be rejected. The two names are, indeed, spelt differently, with initial letters that do not interchange. The heavens were opened. The phrase, not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, appears in Matthew 3:16; John 1:51; Acts 7:56; Acts 10:11; Revelation 4:1. Visions of God. The words admit of three interpretations:

(1) Great, or wonderful, visions; as in the "mountains of God" (Psalm 36:6), the "cedars of God" (Psalm 80:10), the "river of God" (Psalm 65:9);

(2) visions sent from God; or

(3) actual theophanies or manifestations of the Divine glory, of these

(3) is most in harmony with what follows, here and elsewhere, on the phrase (comp. Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2; Ezekiel 43:3). Such a theophany constituted in his ease, as in that of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9), Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-14), his call to the office of a prophet. The visions may be thought of as manifested to his waking consciousness in an ecstatic state, and are thus distinguished from the dreams of sleep (comp. Joel 2:28 for the distinction between the two - "visions" belonging to the young, and "dreams" to the old). The visions of Balaam, seen in a "trance," but with his "eyes open" (Numbers 24:3, 4), and of St. Paul, "whether in the body or out of the body" he could not tell (2 Corinthians 12:2, 3), present suggestive parallels.

1:1-14 It is a mercy to have the word of God brought to us, and a duty to attend to it diligently, when we are in affliction. The voice of God came in the fulness of light and power, by the Holy Spirit. These visions seem to have been sent to possess the prophet's mind with great and high thoughts of God. To strike terror upon sinners. To speak comfort to those that feared God, and humbled themselves. In ver. 4-14, is the first part of the vision, which represents God as attended and served by a vast company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments. This vision would impress the mind with solemn awe and fear of the Divine displeasure, yet raise expectations of blessings. The fire is surrounded with a glory. Though we cannot by searching find out God to perfection, yet we see the brightness round about it. The likeness of the living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; angels derive their being and power from God. They have the understanding of a man, and far more. A lion excels in strength and boldness. An ox excels in diligence and patience, and unwearied discharge of the work he has to do. An eagle excels in quickness and piercing sight, and in soaring high; and the angels, who excel man in all these respects, put on these appearances. The angels have wings; and whatever business God sends them upon, they lose no time. They stood straight, and firm, and steady. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action. Many persons are quick, who are not active; they hurry about, but do nothing to purpose; they have wings, but no hands. But wherever the angels' wings carried them, they carried hands with them, to be doing what duty required. Whatever service they went about, they went every one straight forward. When we go straight, we go forward; when we serve God with one heart, we perform work. They turned not when they went. They made no mistakes; and their work needed not to be gone over again. They turned not from their business to trifle with any thing. They went whithersoever the Spirit of God would have them go. The prophet saw these living creatures by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire; they are seraphim, or burners; denoting the ardour of their love to God, and fervent zeal in his service. We may learn profitable lessons from subjects we cannot fully enter into or understand. But let us attend to the things which relate to our peace and duty, and leave secret things to the Lord, to whom alone they belong.Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year,.... Either from the last jubilee, as R. Joseph Kimchi (r), Jarchi, and Abendana; or from the time that the book of the law was found by Hilkiah the priest (s); so the Targum, which paraphrases the words thus,

"and it was in the thirtieth year after Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law, in the house of the sanctuary, in the court under the porch, in the middle of the night, after the moon was down, in the days of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah;''

or, according to Jerom (t), from the time of the prophet's birth, who was now thirty years of age, and was just entered into his priestly office; or rather it was the thirtieth year of Nabopolassar, or the father of Nebuchadnezzar: this was the twelfth year of the captivity, reckoning from the third of Jehoiakim, which was the first captivity, and from whence the seventy years are to be reckoned, and also the twelfth of Nebuchadnezzar's reign; and if two years are taken, as Vitringa (u) observes, from the twenty one years, which are given to Nabopolassar in Ptolemy's canon, in which Nebuchadnezzar his son reigned with him, there will be found thirty years from the beginning of Nabopolassar's reign to the fifth of Jeconiah's captivity, when Ezekiel began his prophecy, and which, as Bishop Usher (w), Mr. Bedford (x), Mr. Whiston (y), and the authors of the Universal History (z), place in the year 593, before the birth of Christ:

in the fourth month; the month Tammuz, as the Targum expresses it; which answers to part of June, and part of July:

in the fifth day of the month; which some take to be on a sabbath day; because, seven days after, the word of the Lord came to him again Ezekiel 3:16; just as John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, Revelation 1:10; between one of whose visions and this there is a very great likeness, as will be seen hereafter:

as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar; which is another agreement in circumstance between Ezekiel and John, when they had their visions: John was an exile in Patrons, and Ezekiel among the captives by the river Chebar in Chaldea. Some think this is the same river which is called by Ptolemy (a) Chaboras; and is said by him to pass through Mesopotamia: others say it was a river that was drawn off from the river Euphrates, by the order of one Cobaris, or Gobaris, a governor, from whence it had its name; that the river Euphrates might not, by its rapid course, hurt the city of Babylon; and by the Assyrians it was called Armalchar, or Narmalcha (b), the king's river; though it seems to be no other than Euphrates itself; and Kimchi observes, that in some copies of the Targum on this place it is interpreted of the river Euphrates; and he says their Rabbins of blessed memory say, that Chebar is Euphrates; and so Abarbinel; see Psalm 137:1. Monsieur Thevenot (c) speaks of a river called Chabur, which is less than Alchabour, another mentioned by him; and has its source below Mosul, and on the left hand to those that go down the Tigris, and at Bagdad loses itself in the Tigris which he takes to be the same as here:

that the heavens were opened; as at our Lord's baptism, and at the stoning of Stephen; and so when John had his vision which corresponds with the following, a door was opened in heaven Revelation 4:1;

and I saw the visions of God; which God showed unto him, and which were great and excellent; as excellent things are called things of God, as mountains of God, and cedars of God, Psalm 36:6; and indeed he had a vision of a divine Person, in a human form; to which agrees the Targum,

"and I saw in the vision of prophecy, which abode on me, the vision of the glory of the majesty of the Lord.''

The Arabic and Syriac versions read, "the vision of God".

(r) Apud R. D. Kimchi in loc. (s) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 26. (t) Preafat. in Ezek. tom. 3. fol. 9. D. (u) Typus Doctrin. Prophetic. sect. 7. p. 41. Vid. Witsii Miscel. Sacr. tom. 1. l. 1. c. 19. (w) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3409. p. 127. (x) Scripture Chronology, p. 681. (y) Chronological Tables, cent. 10. (z) Vol. 21. p. 61. (a) Geograph. l. 5. c. 18. (b) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. (c) Travels, par. 2. B. 1. ch. 10. p. 46.

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