Chapter 10 moves seamlessly from the events described in the previous two chapters. The action continues as the man in linen reports in that he has accomplished his assignment (marking the foreheads of those who grieved and groaned over the idolatry and wickedness in the city). Ezekiel now once again sees the four cherubim and their whirling wheels. His eyes see above them (the expanse over their heads) something like a sapphire throne. There is no mention of anyone seated on the throne as there was in chapter 1 (1:26-28). This could be because the one speaking to Ezekiel (8:2) is the Lord who had been seated on the throne in chapter 1.
The Lord (“he”) tells the man in linen to go get some live coals from the midst of the wheels below the cherubim in order to “scatter them over the city” (2). The cherubim are standing on the “south side of the house [Temple]” (3). As the man in linen goes into the cherubim, the glory of the Lord moves from the cherub (inner court) to the threshold of the Temple, filling the house with a cloud and the court with the “glory of the Lord” (4). The man in linen receives some burning coals (evidently not all of them (“some of it”—7) from the hands of the cherubim and leaves to do what he has been commanded (7).
Ezekiel’s attention is riveted on the wheels underneath the cherubim. He hears them referred to as the whirling wheels” (13)—a wheel inside a wheel, each sparkling like “beryl”(9), each linked to one of the four-faced cherubim above them. Both the wheels and the cherubim are covered with eyes (12). It’s curious to me that throughout this chapter, Ezekiel seems most captivated by the cherubim and the wheels. They get more attention and description that the Lord speaking to him or the throne above the expanse.
Ezekiel notes that these four cherubim are the same ones he had seen by the river Chebar (20). However, comparing chapter 1 and 10, one notable difference is evidence. One of the four faces of the cherubim is described as an “ox” in chapter 1 but as a “cherub” in chapter 10. Has the face changed? Does a cherub resemble an ox? Still, Ezekiel has no doubt he is once again seeing a vision of God enthroned above the cherubim.
The most important feature of the narrative comes at the end of the chapter (verses 18-22). The glory of the Lord departs from above the cherub (inner court), moves to the threshold of the “house” (4), and then leaves the threshold and moves over the four cherubim (18). As Ezekiel watches, the four cherubim mount up and move to the East gate of the Temple (still referred to as the “house”—19). The glory (presence) of God is leaving the Temple. He has been “driven out” from His own sanctuary (8:8).
The scattering of the coals across the city could be to symbolize judgment (fire) or even the putting out of the fire (scatting the coals to cool them off). Either way, it is an ominous and tragic symbol of the Lord leaving His people while judgment comes (the city will be burned by the Babylonians in the near future!).
Visions of God
God’s glory can depart from His people (Ichabod!). While God had set his name and presence in the Temple, he is willing to withdraw if his people turn to other gods. He is jealous for the affection and allegiance of his people. If they depart from him, he withdraws from their midst.
No glory? Tragic story! Without the presence and glory of God, the Temple becomes another “house” and his people become just another people group. Without the glorious presence of God, the story of his people becomes tragic and hopeless.
Words to Watchmen
Watchmen have eyes to see what others can’t or won’t see. Ezekiel sees the glory of God depart when others seem oblivious. There is no mention that the departing glory of God causes a stir among the idolatrous people who had been inside and outside the Temple. They are no longer mentioned in this vision. However, since they had already concluded God had forsaken his people and departed (8:12), they have no spiritual eyes to see reality.
Watchmen are captivated by the things of God. Ezekiel is captivated and fascinated by the vision he receives. He looks intently at it and makes connections (20). He notices details (11-13). Watchmen must have a focused interest in the person and work of God. All things related to him—even what seems unusual or strange—should captive our imaginations and minds. Here is a reason for present day watchmen to ponder over the book of Ezekiel. While some of it seems strange to us, it related to our Sovereign God and should captivate and fascinate our hearts and minds.