Our new book begins with Ezekiel introducing not himself, but his time and his vision. “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year in the fourth [month] on the fifth day of the month, as I was in the midst of the exile by the river Chebar – the heavens opened up, and I saw visions of God (Ezekiel 1:1).” This encounter being described isn’t a prophecy like Jeremiah and Isaiah’s, where God speaks to them, but rather something that seems even more profound, an actual God sighting.
Ezekiel himself is introduced a few verses later. He’s the son of Buzi, a priest, and is in the land of the Chaldeans at the time of his first prophecy. Ezekiel sees a tempest, a windy storm, coming, with a fire around it. “And from its midst was the likeness of four living beings, and this is their appearance; they had the likeness of a man (Ezekiel 1:5).” Each of these creatures seems fantastical. They’re described as having 4 faces apiece, as well as 4 wings, one straight leg, and human hands. Regarding their 4 faces, we hear that each one had the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. These creatures come off as mythic, and I’m wondering why these are the 4 faces given to them. Out of all of the animals and living things on earth, why these 4? It definitely feels like a “create your own midrash” opportunity, because there are plenty of explanations I could come up with for why the nature of these 4 things together produces an angel, but I’m sure there are plenty of other answers as well. What do you think?
Anyway, these angels go wherever living things go. “Wherever there was the will to go, they would go; there was the will to go, and the wheels would lift themselves correspondingly to them, for the will of the living being was in the wheels (Ezekiel 1:20).” While in movies, guardian angels are usually beautiful women in white dresses, or fairy godmothers, this to me seems like the real origin of a guardian angel story. These beastly angels follow living beings around, coming from God to follow and watch us, and give us a glimpse of connection with the divine. Ezekiel saw them directly, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there for those of us who don’t see them as well.
Above the angels, Ezekiel sees a throne, and a man on it. He seems to attribute this likeness to God, which feels awesome, and at the same time a little blasphemous. How could God take on a human form when He is supposed to be beyond us? Or was He in this form just so Ezekiel, a human, would have some conceptualization of understanding what he was seeing? Regardless, the chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and tomorrow we’ll read God’s first words to Ezekiel. Already I’m intrigued by this new narrator, and the mythic poetry of this book. I’m excited and reinvigorated, and ready to delve deeper into it tomorrow!