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Ezekiel 1:5-14

Context
1:5 In the fire 1  were what looked like 2  four living beings. 3  In their appearance they had human form, 4  1:6 but each had four faces and four wings. 1:7 Their legs were straight, but the soles of their feet were like calves’ feet. They gleamed 5  like polished bronze. 1:8 They had human hands 6  under their wings on their four sides. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 1:9 their wings touched each other; they did not turn as they moved, but went straight ahead. 7 

1:10 Their faces had this appearance: Each of the four had the face of a man, with the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left and also the face of an eagle. 8  1:11 Their wings were spread out above them; each had two wings touching the wings of one of the other beings on either side and two wings covering their bodies. 1:12 Each moved straight ahead 9  – wherever the spirit 10  would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 1:13 In the middle 11  of the living beings was something like 12  burning coals of fire 13  or like torches. It moved back and forth among the living beings. It was bright, and lightning was flashing out of the fire. 1:14 The living beings moved backward and forward as quickly as flashes of lightning. 14 

1 tc Heb “from its midst” (מִתּוֹכָהּ, mitokhah). The LXX reads ἐν τῷ μέσῳ (en tw mesw, “in the midst of it”). The LXX also reads ἐν for מִתּוֹךְ (mitokh) in v. 4. The translator of the LXX of Ezekiel either read בְּתוֹךְ (bÿtokh, “within”) in his Hebrew exemplar or could not imagine how מִתּוֹךְ could make sense and so chose to use ἐν. The Hebrew would be understood by adding “from its midst emerged the forms of four living beings.”

2 tn Heb “form, figure, appearance.”

3 tn The Hebrew term is feminine plural yet thirty-three of the forty-five pronominal suffixes and verbal references which refer to the living beings in the chapter are masculine plural. The grammatical vacillation between masculine and feminine plurals suggests the difficulty Ezekiel had in penning these words as he was overcome by the vision of God. In ancient Near Eastern sculpture very similar images of part-human, part-animal creatures serve as throne and sky bearers. For a discussion of ancient Near Eastern parallels, see L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 1:26-31. Ezekiel’s vision is an example of contextualization, where God accommodates his self-revelation to cultural expectations and norms.

4 sn They had human form may mean they stood erect.

5 sn The Hebrew verb translated gleamed occurs only here in the OT.

6 tc The MT reads “his hand” while many Hebrew mss as well as the Qere read “hands of.” Two similar Hebrew letters, vav and yod, have been confused.

7 tn Heb “They each went in the direction of one of his faces.”

8 tc The MT has an additional word at the beginning of v. 11, וּפְנֵיהֶם (ufÿnehem, “and their faces”), which is missing from the LXX. As the rest of the verse only applies to wings, “their faces” would have to somehow be understood in the previous clause. But this would be very awkward and is doubly problematic since “their faces” are already introduced as the topic at the beginning of v. 10. The Hebrew scribe appears to have copied the phrase “and their faces and their wings” from v. 8, where it introduces the content of 9-11. Only “and (as for) their wings” belongs here.

9 tn See the note on “straight ahead” in v. 9.

10 tn Or “wind.”

11 tc The MT reads “and the form of the creatures” (וּדְמוּת הַחַיּוֹת, udÿmut hakhayyot). The LXX reads “and in the midst of the creatures,” suggesting an underlying Hebrew text of וּמִתּוֹךְ הַחַיּוֹת (umittokh hakhayyot). The subsequent description of something moving among the creatures supports the LXX.

12 tc The MT reads “and the form of the creatures – their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The LXX reads “in the midst of the creatures was a sight like burning coals of fire.” The MT may have adjusted “appearance” to “their appearance” to fit their reading of the beginning of the verse (see the tc note on “in the middle”). See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 1:46.

13 sn Burning coals of fire are also a part of David’s poetic description of God’s appearance (see 2 Sam 22:9, 13; Ps 18:8).

14 tc The LXX omits v. 14 and may well be correct. The verse may be a later explanatory gloss of the end of v. 13 which was copied into the main text. See M. Greenberg, Ezekiel (AB), 1:46.

tn Lit., “like the appearance of lightning.” The Hebrew term translated “lightning” occurs only here in the OT. In postbiblical Hebrew the term refers to a lightning flash.



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