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Ezekiel 1:4 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire infolding itself, and a brightness round about it, and out of the midst thereof as it were glowing metal, out of the midst of the fire.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness [was] about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness [was] about it, and from the midst of it as the color of amber, from the midst of the fire.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— And I looked, and behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the look of glowing brass, out of the midst of the fire.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— So then I beheld, and lo! a tempestuous wind coming out of the North, a great cloud, and a fire catching hold of itself, and it had a brightness round about,—and, out of the midst thereof, as burnished copper to look upon, out of the midst of the fire;
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— And I look, and lo, a tempestuous wind is coming from the north, a great cloud, and fire catching itself, and brightness to it round about, and out of its midst as the colour of copper, out of the midst of the fire.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber:
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— And I looked, and behold, a whirlewinde came out of the North, a great cloude, and a fire infoulding it selfe, and a brightnesse [was] about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— And I looked, and, behold, a sweeping wind came from the north, and a great cloud on it, and [there was] brightness round about it, and gleaming fire, and in the midst of it as it were the appearance of amber in the midst of the fire, and brightness in it.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness [was] about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
And I looked, 7200
{7200} Prime
רָאָה
ra'ah
{raw-aw'}
A primitive root; to see, literally or figuratively (in numerous applications, direct and implied, transitively, intransitively and causatively).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
and, behold, x2009
(2009) Complement
הִנֵּה
hinneh
{hin-nay'}
Prolonged for H2005; lo!.
a whirlwind 7307
{7307} Prime
רוּחַ
ruwach
{roo'-akh}
From H7306; wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions).
5591
{5591} Prime
סַעַר
ca`ar
{sah'-ar}
From H5590; a hurricane.
came 935
{0935} Prime
בּוֹא
bow'
{bo}
A primitive root; to go or come (in a wide variety of applications).
z8802
<8802> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Participle Active (See H8814)
Count - 5386
out of x4480
(4480) Complement
מִן
min
{min}
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
the north, 6828
{6828} Prime
צָפוֹן
tsaphown
{tsaw-fone'}
From H6845; properly hidden, that is, dark; used only of the north as a quarter (gloomy and unknown).
a great 1419
{1419} Prime
גָּדוֹל
gadowl
{gaw-dole'}
From H1431; great (in any sense); hence older; also insolent.
cloud, 6051
{6051} Prime
עֲנָן
`anan
{aw-nawn'}
From H6049; a cloud (as covering the sky), that is, the nimbus or thunder cloud.
and a fire 784
{0784} Prime
אֵשׁ
'esh
{aysh}
A primitive word; fire (literally or figuratively).
infolding y3947
[3947] Standard
לָקַח
laqach
{law-kakh'}
A primitive root; to take (in the widest variety of applications).
z8693
<8693> Grammar
Stem - Hithpael (See H8819)
Mood - Participle (See H8813)
Count - 139
itself, x3947
(3947) Complement
לָקַח
laqach
{law-kakh'}
A primitive root; to take (in the widest variety of applications).
and a brightness 5051
{5051} Prime
נֹגַהּ
nogahh
{no'-gah}
From H5050; brilliancy (literally or figuratively).
[was] about 5439
{5439} Prime
סָבִיב
cabiyb
{saw-beeb'}
From H5437; (as noun) a circle, neighbor, or environs; but chiefly (as adverb, with or without preposition) around.
it, and out of the midst 8432
{8432} Prime
תָּוֶךְ
tavek
{taw'-vek}
From an unused root meaning to sever; a bisection, that is, (by implication) the centre.
x4480
(4480) Complement
מִן
min
{min}
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
thereof as the colour 5869
{5869} Prime
עַיִן
`ayin
{ah'-yin}
Probably a primitive word; an eye (literally or figuratively); by analogy a fountain (as the eye of the landscape).
of amber, 2830
{2830} Prime
חַשְׁמַל
chashmal
{khash-mal'}
Of uncertain derivation; probably bronze or polished spectrum metal.
out of the midst 8432
{8432} Prime
תָּוֶךְ
tavek
{taw'-vek}
From an unused root meaning to sever; a bisection, that is, (by implication) the centre.
x4480
(4480) Complement
מִן
min
{min}
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
of the fire. 784
{0784} Prime
אֵשׁ
'esh
{aysh}
A primitive word; fire (literally or figuratively).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Ezekiel 1:4

_ _ whirlwind — emblematic of God’s judgments (Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 25:32).

_ _ out of the north — that is, from Chaldea, whose hostile forces would invade Judea from a northerly direction. The prophet conceives himself in the temple.

_ _ fire infolding itself — laying hold on whatever surrounds it, drawing it to itself, and devouring it. Literally, “catching itself,” that is, kindling itself [Fairbairn]. The same Hebrew occurs in Exodus 9:24, as to the “fire mingled with the hail.”

_ _ brightness ... about it — that is, about the “cloud.”

_ _ out of the midst thereof — that is, out of the midst of the “fire.”

_ _ colour of amber — rather, “the glancing brightness (literally, ‘the eye’, and so the glancing appearance) of polished brass. The Hebrew, chasmal, is from two roots, “smooth” and “brass” (compare Ezekiel 1:7; Revelation 1:15) [Gesenius]. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate it, “electrum”; a brilliant metal compounded of gold and silver.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Ezekiel 1:4-14

_ _ The visions of God which Ezekiel here saw were very glorious, and had more particulars than those which other prophets saw. It is the scope and intention of these vision, 1. To possess the prophet's mind with very great, and high, and honourable thoughts of that God by whom he was commissioned and for whom he was employed. It is the likeness of the glory of the Lord that he sees (Ezekiel 1:28), and hence he may infer that it is his honour to serve him, for he is one whom angels serve. He may serve him with safety, for he has power sufficient to bear him out in his work. It is at his peril to draw back from his service, for he has power to pursue him, as he did Jonah. So great a God as this must be served with reverence and godly fear; and with assurance may Ezekiel foretel what this God will do, for he is able to make his words good. 2. To strike a terror upon the sinners who remained in Zion, and those who had already come to Babylon, who were secure, and bade defiance to the threatenings of Jerusalem's ruin, as we have found in Jeremiah's prophecy, and shall find in this, many did. “Let those who said, We shall have peace though we go on, know that our God is a consuming fire, whom they cannot stand before.” That this vision had a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem seems plain from Jeremiah 43:3, where he says that it was the vision which he saw when he came to destroy the city, that is, to prophesy the destruction of it. 3. To speak comfort to those that feared God, and trembled at his word, and humbled themselves under his mighty hand. “Let them know that, though they are captives in Babylon, yet they have God nigh unto them; though they have not the place of the sanctuary to be their glorious high throne, they have the God of the sanctuary.” Dr. Lightfoot observes, “Now that the church is to be planted for a long time in another country, the Lord shows a glory in the midst of them, as he had done at their first constituting into a church in the wilderness; and out of a cloud and fire, as he had done there, he showed himself; and from between living creatures, as from between the cherubim, he gives his oracles.” This put an honour upon them, by which they might value themselves when the Chaldeans insulted over them, and this might encourage their hopes of deliverance in due time.

_ _ Now, to answer these ends, we have in these verses the first part of the vision, which represents God as attended and served by an innumerable company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments and hearkening to the voice of his word. This denotes his grandeur, as it magnifies an earthly prince to have a splendid retinue and numerous armies at his command, which engages his allies to trust him and his enemies to fear him.

_ _ I. The introduction to this vision of the angels is very magnificent and awakening, Ezekiel 1:4. The prophet, observing the heavens to open, looked, looked up (as it was time), to see what discoveries God would make to him. Note, When the heavens are opened it concerns us to have our eyes open. To clear the way, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, which would drive away the interposing mists of this lower region. Fair weather comes out of the north, and thence the wind comes that drives away rain. God can by a whirlwind clear the sky and air, and produce that serenity of mind which is necessary to our communion with Heaven. Yet this whirlwind was attended with a great cloud. When we think that the clouds which arise from this earth are dispelled and we can see beyond them, yet still there is a cloud which heavenly things are wrapped in, a cloud from above, so that we cannot order our speech concerning them by reason of darkness. Christ here descended, as he ascended, in a cloud. Some by this whirlwind and cloud understand the Chaldean army coming out of the north against the land of Judah, bearing down all before them as a tempest; and so it agrees with that which was signified by one of the first of Jeremiah's visions (Jeremiah 1:14, Out of the north an evil shall break forth); but I take it here as an introduction rather to the vision than to the sermons. This whirlwind came to Ezekiel (as that to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11), to prepare the way of the Lord, and to demand attention. He that has eyes, that has ears, let him see, let him hear.

_ _ II. The vision itself. A great cloud was the vehicle of this vision, in which it was conveyed to the prophet; for God's pavilion in which he rests, his chariot in which he rides, is darkness and thick clouds, Psalms 18:11; Psalms 104:3. Thus he holds back the face of his throne, lest its dazzling light and lustre should overpower us, by spreading a cloud upon it. Now,

_ _ 1. The cloud is accompanied with a fire, as upon Mount Sinai, where God resided in a thick cloud; but the sight of his glory was like a devouring fire (Exodus 24:16, Exodus 24:17), and his first appearance to Moses was in a flame of fire in the bush; for our God is a consuming fire. This was a fire enfolding itself, a globe, or orb, or wheel of fire. God being his own cause, his own rule, and his own end, if he be as a fire, he is as a fire enfolding itself, or (as some read it) kindled by itself. The fire of God's glory shines forth, but it quickly enfolds itself; for he lets us know but part of his ways; the fire of God's wrath breaks forth, but it also quickly enfolds itself, for the divine patience suffers not all his wrath to be stirred up. If it were not a fire thus enfolding itself, O Lord! who shall stand?

_ _ 2. The fire is surrounded with a glory: A brightness was about it, in which it enfolded itself, yet it made some discovery of itself. Though we cannot see into the fire, cannot by searching find out God to perfection, yet we see the brightness that is round about it, the reflection of this fire from the thick cloud. Moses might see God's back parts, but not his face. We have some light concerning the nature of God, from the brightness which encompasses it, though we have not an insight into it, by reason of the cloud spread upon it. Nothing is more easy than to determine that God is, nothing more difficult than to describe what he is. When God displays his wrath as fire, yet there is a brightness about it; for his holiness and justice appear very illustrious in the punishment of sin and sinners: even about the devouring fire there is a brightness, which glorified saints will for ever admire.

_ _ 3. Out of this fire there shines the colour of amber. We are not told who or what it was that had this colour of amber, and therefore I take it to be the whole frame of the following vision, which came into Ezekiel's view out of the midst of the fire and brightness; and the first thing he took notice of before he viewed the particulars was that it was of the colour of amber, or the eye of amber; that is, it looked as amber does to the eye, of a bright flaming fiery colour, the colour of a burning coal; so some think it should be read. The living creatures which he saw coming out of the midst of the fire were seraphimburners; for he maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire.

_ _ 4. That which comes out of the fire, of a fiery amber colour, when it comes to be distinctly viewed, is the likeness of four living creatures; not the living creatures themselves (angels are spirits, and cannot be seen), but the likeness of them, such a hieroglyphic, or representation, as God saw fit to make use of for the leading of the prophet, and us with him, into some acquaintance with the world of angels (a matter purely of divine revelation), so far as is requisite to possess us with an awful sense of the greatness of that God who has angels for his attendants, and the goodness of that God who has appointed them to be attendants on his people. The likeness of these living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; for angels derive their being and power from God; they are in themselves, and to us, what he is pleased to make them; their glory is a ray of his. The prophet himself explains this vision (Ezekiel 10:20): I knew that the living creatures were the cherubim, which is one of the names by which the angels are known in scripture. To Daniel was made known their number, ten thousand times ten thousand, Daniel 7:10. But, though they are many, yet they are one, and that is made known to Ezekiel here; they are one in nature and operation, as an army, consisting of thousands, is yet called a body of men. We have here an account of,

_ _ (1.) Their nature. They are living creatures; they are the creatures of God, the work of his hands; their being is derived; they have not life in and of themselves, but receive it from him who is the fountain of life. As much as the living creatures of this lower world excel the vegetables that are the ornaments of earth, so much do the angels, the living creatures of the upper world, excel the sun, moon, and stars, the ornaments of the heavens. The sun (say some) is a flame of fire enfolding itself, but it is not a living creature, as angels, those flames of fire, are. Angels are living creatures, living beings, emphatically so. Men on earth are dying creatures, dying daily (in the midst of life we are in death), but angels in heaven are living creatures; they live indeed, live to good purpose; and, when saints come to be equal unto the angels, they shall not die any more, Luke 20:36.

_ _ (2.) Their number. They are four; so they appear here, though they are innumerable; not as if these were four particular angels set up above the rest, as some have fondly imagined, Michael and Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel, but for the sake of the four faces they put on, and to intimate their being sent forth towards the four winds of heaven, Matthew 24:31. Zechariah saw them as four chariots going forth east, west, north, and south, Zechariah 6:1. God has messengers to send every way; for his kingdom is universal, and reaches to all parts of the world.

_ _ (3.) Their qualifications, by which they are fitted for the service of their Maker and Master. These are set forth figuratively and by similitude, as is proper in visions, which are parables to the eye. Their description here is such, and so expressed, that I think it is not possible by it to form an exact idea of them in our fancies, or with the pencil, for that would be a temptation to worship them; but the several instances of their fitness for the work they are employed in are intended in the several parts of this description. Note, It is the greatest honour of God's creatures to be in a capacity of answering the end of their creation; and the more ready we are to every good work the nearer we approach to the dignity of angels. These living creatures are described here, [1.] By their general appearance: They had the likeness of a man; they appeared, for the main, in a human shape, First, To signify that these living creatures are reasonable creatures, intelligent beings, who have the spirit of a man which is the candle of the Lord. Secondly, To put an honour upon the nature of man, who is made lower, yet but a little lower, than the angels, in the very next rank of beings below them. When the invisible intelligences of the upper world would make themselves visible, it is in the likeness of man. Thirdly, To intimate that their delights are with the sons of men, as their Master's are (Proverbs 8:31), that they do service to men, and men may have spiritual communion with them by faith, hope, and holy love. Fourthly, The angels of God appear in the likeness of man because in the fulness of time the Son of God was not only to appear in that likeness, but to assume that nature; they therefore show this love to it. [2.] By their faces: Every one had four faces, looking four several ways. In St. John's vision, which has a near affinity with this, each of the four living creatures has one of these faces here mentioned (Revelation 4:7); here each of them has all four, to intimate that they have all the same qualifications for service; though, perhaps, among the angels of heaven, as among the angels of the churches, some excel in one gift and others in another, but all for the common service. Let us contemplate their faces till we be in some measure changed into the same image, that we may do the will of God as the angels do it in heaven. They all four had the face of a man (for in that likeness they appeared, Ezekiel 1:5), but, besides that, they had the face of a lion, an ox, and an eagle, each masterly in its kind, the lion among wild beasts, the ox among tame ones, and the eagle among fowls, Ezekiel 1:10. Does God make use of them for the executing of judgments upon his enemies? They are fierce and strong as the lion and the eagle in tearing their prey. Does he make use of them for the good of his people? They are as oxen strong for labour and inclined to serve. And in both they have the understanding of a man. The scattered perfections of the living creatures on earth meet in the angels of heaven. They have the likeness of man; but, because there are some things in which man is excelled even by the inferior creatures, they are therefore compared to some of them. They have the understanding of a man, and such as far exceeds it; they also resemble man in tenderness and humanity. But, First, A lion excels man in strength and boldness, and is much more formidable; therefore the angels, who in this resemble them, put on the face of a lion. Secondly, An ox excels man in diligence, and patience, and painstaking, and an unwearied discharge of the work he has to do; therefore the angels, who are constantly employed in the service of God and the church, put on the face of an ox. Thirdly, An eagle excels man in quickness and piercingness of sight, and in soaring high; and therefore the angels, who seek things above, and see far into divine mysteries, put on the face of a flying eagle. [3.] By their wings: Every one had four wings, Ezekiel 1:6. In the vision Isaiah had of them they appeared with six, now with four; for they appeared above the throne, and had occasion for two to cover their faces with. The angels are fitted with wings to fly swiftly on God's errands; whatever business God sends them upon they lose no time. Faith and hope are the soul's wings, upon which it soars upward; pious and devout affections are its wings on which it is carried forward with vigour and alacrity. The prophet observes here, concerning their wings, First, That they were joined one to another, Ezekiel 1:9 and again Ezekiel 1:11. They did not make use of their wings for fighting, as some birds do; there is no contest among the angels. God makes peace, perfect peace, in his high places. But their wings were joined, in token of their perfect unity and unanimity and the universal agreement there is among them. Secondly, That they were stretched upward, extended, and ready for use, not folded up, or flagging. Let an angel receive the least intimation of the divine will, and he has nothing to seek, but is upon the wings immediately; while our poor dull souls are like the ostrich, that with much difficulty lifts up herself on high. Thirdly, That two of their wings were made use of in covering their bodies, the spiritual bodies they assumed. The clothes that cover us are our hindrance in work; angels need no other covering than their own wings, which are their furtherance. They cover their bodies from us, so forbidding us needless enquiries concerning them. Ask not after them, for they are wonderful, Judges 13:18. They cover them before God, so directing us, when we approach to God, to see to it that we be so clothed with Christ's righteousness that the shame of our nakedness may not appear. [4.] By their feet, including their legs and thighs: They were straight feet (Ezekiel 1:7); they stood straight, and firm, and steady; no burden of service could make their legs to bend under them. The spouse makes this part of the description of her beloved, that his legs were as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold (Song of Songs 5:15); such are the angels' legs. The sole of their feet was like that of a calf's foot, which divides the hoof and is therefore clean: as it were the sole of a round foot (as the Chaldee words it); they were ready for motion any way. Their feet were winged (so the Septuagint); they went so swiftly that it was as if they flew. And their very feet sparkled like the colour of burnished brass; not only the faces, but the very feet, of those are beautiful whom God sends on his errands (Isaiah 52:7); every step the angels take is glorious. In the vision John had of Christ it is said, His feet were like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, Revelation 1:15. [5.] By their hands (Ezekiel 1:8): They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides, an arm and a hand under every wing. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action. Many are quick who are not active; they hurry about a great deal, but do nothing to purpose, bring nothing to pass; they have wings, but no hands: whereas God's servants, the angels, not only go when he sends them and come when he calls them, but do what he bids them. They are the hands of a man, which are wonderfully made and fitted for service, which are guided by reason and understanding; for what angles do they do intelligently and with judgment. They have calves' feet; this denotes the swiftness of their motion (the cedars of Lebanon are said to skip like a calf, Psalms 29:6); but they have a man's hand, which denotes the niceness and exactness of their performances, as the heavens are said to be the work of God's fingers. Their hands were under their wings, which concealed them, as they did the rest of their bodies. Note, The agency of angels is a secret thing and their work is carried on in an invisible way. In working for God, though we must not, with the sluggard, hide our hand in our bosom, yet we must, with the humble, not let our left hand know what our right hand doeth. We may observe that where these wings were their hands were under their wings; wherever their wings carried them they carried hands along with them, to be still doing something suitable something that the duty of the place requires.

_ _ (4.) Their motions. The living creatures are moving. Angels are active beings; it is not their happiness to sit still and do nothing, but to be always well employed; and we must reckon ourselves then best when we are doing good, doing it as the angels do it, or whom it is here observed, [1.] That whatever service they went about they went every one straight forward (Ezekiel 1:9, Ezekiel 1:12), which intimates, First, That they sincerely aimed at the glory of God, and had a single eye to that, in all they did. Their going straight forward supposes that they looked straight forward, and never had any sinister intentions in what they did. And, if thus our eye be single, our whole body will be full of light. The singleness of the eye is the sincerity of the heart. Secondly, That they were intent upon the service they were employed in, and did it with a close application of mind. They went forward with their work; for what their hand found to do they did with all their might and did not loiter in it. Thirdly, That they were unanimous in it: They went straight forward, every one about his own work; they did not thwart or jostle one another, did not stand in one another's light, in one another's way. Fourthly, That they perfectly understood their business, and were thoroughly apprised of it, so that they needed not to stand still, to pause of hesitate, but pursue their work with readiness, as those that knew what they had to do and how to do it. Fifthly, They were steady and constant in their work. They did not fluctuate, did not tire, did not vary, but were of a piece with themselves. They moved in a direct line, and so went the nearest way to work in all they did and lost no time. When we go straight we go forward; when we serve God with one heart we rid ground, we rid work. [2.] They turned not when they went, Ezekiel 1:9, Ezekiel 1:12. First, They made no blunders or mistakes, which would give them occasion to turn back to rectify them; their work needed no correction, and therefore needed not to be gone over again. Secondly, They minded no diversions; as they turned not back, so they turned not aside, to trifle with any thing that was foreign to their business. [3.] They went whither the Spirit was to go (Ezekiel 1:12), either, First, Whither their own spirit was disposed to go; thither they went, having no bodies, as we have, to clog or hinder them. It is our infelicity and daily burden that, when the spirit if willing, yet the flesh is weak and cannot keep pace with it, so that the good which we would do we do it not; but angels and glorified saints labour under no such impotency; whatever they incline or intend to do they do it, and never come short of it. Or, rather, Secondly, Whithersoever the Spirit of God would have them go, thither they went. Though they had so much wisdom of their own, yet in all their motions and actions they subjected themselves to the guidance and government of the divine will. Whithersoever the divine Providence was to go they went, to serve its purposes and to execute its orders. The Spirit of God (says Mr. Greenhill) is the great agent that sets angels to work, and it is their honour that they are led, they are easily led, by the Spirit. See how tractable and obsequious these noble creatures are. Whithersoever the Spirit is to go they go immediately, with all possible alacrity. Note, Those that walk after the Spirit do the will of God as the angels do it. [4.] They ran and returned like a flash of lightning, Ezekiel 1:14. This intimates, First, That they made haste; they were quick in their motions, as quick as lightning. Whatever business they went about they despatched it immediately, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Happy they that have no bodies to retard their motion in holy exercises. And happy shall we be when we come to have spiritual bodies for spiritual work. Satan falls like lightning into his own ruin, Luke 10:18. Angels fly like lightning in their Master's work. The angel Gabriel flew swiftly. Secondly, That they made haste back: They ran and returned; ran to do their work and execute their orders, and then returned to give an account of what they had done and receive new instructions, that they might be always doing. They ran into the lower world, to do what was to be done there; but, when they had done it, they returned like flash of lightning to the upper world again, to the beatific vision of their God, which they could not with any patience be longer from than their service did require. Thus we should be in the affairs of this world as out of our element. Though we run into them, we must not repose in them, but our souls must quickly return like lightning to God their rest and centre.

_ _ 5. We have an account of the light by which the prophet saw these living creatures, or the looking-glass in which he saw them, Ezekiel 1:13. (1.) He saw them by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire; they are seraphim-burners, denoting the ardour of their love to God, their fervent zeal in his service, their splendour and brightness, and their terror against God's enemies. When God employs them to fight his battles they are as coals of fire (Psalms 18:12) to devour the adversaries, as lightnings shot out to discomfit them. (2.) He saw them by the light of some lamps, which went up and down among them, the shining whereof was very bright. Satan's works are works of darkness; he is the ruler of the darkness of this world. But the angels of light are in the light, and, though they conceal their working, they show their work, for it will bear the light. But we see them and their works only by candle-light, but the dim light of lamps that go up and down among them; when the day breaks, and the shadows flee away, we shall see them clearly. Some make the appearance of these burning coals, and of the lightning that issues out of the fire, to signify the wrath of God, and his judgments, that were now to be executed upon Judah and Jerusalem for their sins, in which angels were to be employed; and accordingly we find afterwards coals of fire scattered upon the city to consume it, which were fetched from between the cherubim, Ezekiel 10:2. But by the appearance of the lamps then we may understand the light of comfort which shone forth to the people of God in the darkness of this present trouble. If the ministry of the angels is as a consuming fire to God's enemies, it is as a rejoicing light to his own children. To the one this fire is bright, it is very reviving and refreshing; to the other, out of the fire comes fresh lightning to destroy them. Note, Good angels are our friends, or enemies, according as God is.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Ezekiel 1:4

Looked — I very diligently surveyed the things that were represented to me in the vision. Whirlwind — This denotes the indignation and judgments of God; a quick, impetuous and irresistible vengeance. North — From Babylon, which lay northward from Judea; and the prophet, tho' now in Babylon, speaks of the Jews, as if they were in Jerusalem. A fire — An orb or wheel of fire: God being his own cause, his own rule, and his own end. Brightness — Yet round about it was not smoak and darkness, but a clear light. The midst — Of the fire.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Ezekiel 1:4

And I looked, and, behold, a (e) whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness [was] about it, and from the midst of it as the colour of amber, from the midst of the fire.

(e) By this diversity of words he signifies the fearful judgment of God and the great afflictions that would come on Jerusalem.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
a whirlwind:

Isaiah 21:1 The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; [so] it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.
Jeremiah 1:13-14 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof [is] toward the north. ... Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
Jeremiah 4:6 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
Jeremiah 6:1 O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.
Jeremiah 23:19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
Jeremiah 25:9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
Jeremiah 25:32 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
Habakkuk 1:8-9 Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle [that] hasteth to eat. ... They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up [as] the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

a great:

Ezekiel 10:2-4 And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, [even] under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter [them] over the city. And he went in in my sight. ... Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, [and stood] over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD'S glory.
Exodus 19:16-18 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that [was] in the camp trembled. ... And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
Exodus 24:16-17 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. ... And the sight of the glory of the LORD [was] like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 4:11-12 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. ... And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only [ye heard] a voice.
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers [were] as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up [their] voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, [saying], For [he is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: that [then] the house was filled with a cloud, [even] the house of the LORD; ... So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.
2 Chronicles 6:1 Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. ... And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, [saying], For [he is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever.
Psalms 18:11-13 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him [were] dark waters [and] thick clouds of the skies. ... The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail [stones] and coals of fire.
Psalms 50:3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.
Psalms 97:2-3 Clouds and darkness [are] round about him: righteousness and judgment [are] the habitation of his throne. ... A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.
Psalms 104:3-4 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: ... Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
Isaiah 19:1 The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
Nahum 1:3-6 The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit [the wicked]: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds [are] the dust of his feet. ... Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
Habakkuk 3:3-5 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. ... Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
Hebrews 12:29 For our God [is] a consuming fire.

infolding itself:
Heb. catching itself

colour:

Ezekiel 1:27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
Ezekiel 8:2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber.
Ezekiel 10:8-9 And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings. ... And when I looked, behold the four wheels by the cherubims, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels [was] as the colour of a beryl stone.
Revelation 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
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Chain-Reference Bible Search

Ex 19:16; 24:16. Dt 4:11. 2Ch 5:13; 6:1; 7:1. Ps 18:11; 50:3; 97:2; 104:3. Is 19:1; 21:1. Jr 1:13; 4:6; 6:1; 23:19; 25:9, 32. Ezk 1:27; 8:2; 10:2, 8. Na 1:3. Hab 1:8; 3:3. He 12:29. Rv 1:15.

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