21 June 2011

"When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose." (v. 19)


These verses continue the description of Ezekiel's vision of God. Ezekiel was among those exiled to Babylon from Judah in the sixth century BC. They were very far from their home and found it hard to believe that God was still with them in a foreign land.

The text is difficult to understand, the language is complex and many images are used as the prophet tries to describe the indescribable. The four living creatures were bearing the throne of God and were in continual motion. The wheels and the wings are symbols of this movement.

The wheels were like chariot wheels. In the ancient near east the depiction of gods riding on chariots was widespread as the chariot was a sign of royal dignity and power. In other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures God is described as riding on a chariot of victory (Habakkuk 3:8) or on "chariots like the whirlwind" (Isaiah 66:15). The construction of the wheels is mysterious, "like a wheel within a wheel" (v. 16) but the result is the ability to move in any direction. They have the appearance of beryl, a mineral recognised for its beauty and occurring in a range of colours. The eyes in the rims show that God is all seeing. The wheels move with the living creatures - the wings of the creatures causing them to rise or fall. There is no constraint on the mobility of God's chariot. The movement is directed by the spirit of the living creatures. The word 'spirit' occurs three times in this chapter (verses 12, 20, 21) and the reference could be to the divine spirit or to the spirit of the creatures. It makes little difference as the creatures are intimately linked with the divine, what is clear is the consistency of divine purpose.

Any idea that God was confined to Jerusalem is refuted by the unrestricted and unceasing movement described here. This is a vision of a dynamic God who cannot be confined but is all seeing and ever present.

To Ponder

Are there times when you try to confine or limit God? How far does this work?

What images would you use to describe the dignity and power of God?

To what extent is the image of the continal movement of God helpful to you?

Bible notes author: The Revd Ruth Gee

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