What does Ezekiel's wheel
in a wheel vision mean?
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Question: What exactly does Ezekiel's wheel in the middle of a wheel vision MEAN?
Answer: There are actually TWO Old Testament scriptures that refer to this vision of Ezekiel:
"Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God . . .
"Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures . . . The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, A WHEEL IN THE MIDDLE OF A WHEEL. " (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV throughout)
"And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, 'Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.' And he went in as I watched.
"Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, 'Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,' that he went in and stood beside the wheels . . . And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub . . ." (Ezekiel 10:1-2, 6, 9)
Of the many fascinating scriptural descriptions of heavenly
things in Ezekiel's vision, this one of chapters 1 and 10 is by far the most stunning and complex. The description itself is hard enough for us to understand since there is nothing similar to it in the Bible nor are we told what to compare these descriptions to so that we may understand them. Ezekiel had to describe in the Hebrew language what he saw, which was so incredible and foreign to his experiences as a human. The difficulty of understanding these scriptures (or any others) is that the translation of the texts from Hebrew to English is sometimes not easy nor perfect.
Since there is no certain and crystal clear understanding of this subject simply by reading the text, (if someone has it please share it with us), even after consulting Bible commentaries we can only come to an imperfect, general understanding. The Apostle Paul explained our limited vision and understanding of spiritual things:
"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (1Corinthians 13:12)
Fresco by Michelangelo
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Even a generalized description of Ezekiel's visions would take quite a lengthy and detailed exposition, because of the many factors and elements involved in this glorious and indescribable segment of the Bible. I will therefore focus my answer to your primary question.
In Ezekiel 1:1, we are introduced to "visions of God". Verse 4 describes the startling sight of a whirlwind with a raging fire having great brightness. Verses 5 to 15 describes the four Cherubim, each having four faces (one on each side). These powerful spirit beings were like fire in appearance with lightning emanating from them. The following description is from an old Abingdon Bible Commentary:
"The description is full of the splendor of flashing light, so brilliant that the details are minutely revealed, but so dazzling that they are not clearly seen . . . Textual corruption, which do not seriously affect the general interpretation, have aggravated the obscurity in some points of detail"
Beside each Cherub, a wheel was set with another one. The commentaries make it to be one traversing inside of the other. Like in a cross, they determined four directions to which the Spirit beings were darting to whatever direction they were commanded (verses 16, 17), without turning. As for the engineering aspect of the wheels, our human understanding cannot help much since we are dealing with supernaturally composed matter.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary on the Bible gives this description:
". . . each wheel was composed of two circles cutting one another at right angles, 'one' only of which appeared to touch the ground ("upon the earth") ".
There are two facets more important depicted. The first facet is that the "rings were full of eyes" (verse 18). Since men's eyes are for seeing, and man is made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), we can safely assume that they are meant for the same. The great number of eyes on the rings may portend or symbolize how great is God's awareness and direction of events.
The other facet of each wheel was their rings (rims) that were high and dreadful (verse 18). As far as the geometrical shape is concerned, it is not clear whether it means a fantastic size of spokes or the depth of the ring. In either case, it surely would surpass any of Hollywood's "special effects", only that this is very real, even as unseen to us today.
Some commentaries indulge in various allusions on this subject that is merely speculative and unsubstantiated by the Bible. The Scriptures are not for "private interpretation" (1Peter 1:20). We need to be satisfied with what God allows us to comprehend about Ezekiel's wheel vision.
Written by: Adriano Borean