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EZEKIEL'S "CHARIOT" - PART 1
SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS AND THE DIVINE NAME

(Last update 7/3/00)


The prophet Ezekiel was given a view into the heavenly realms which is disclosed in the first and tenth chapters of the book of Ezekiel. Much of the imagery is similar to that found in the book of Revelation. Ezekiel's account of a "Holy Chariot" is considered to be the highest level of mystical teaching in Judaism. The mystical teachings introduced in this section will be developed in detail in Section V of our Revelation background articles.


Our study of Ezekiel's Chariot falls into two areas:

  • A discussion of the text, the terms used and their meaning
  • A look at some of the mystical aspects of what Ezekiel saw in his vision

We will find that Ezekiel's chariot vision has a relationship to many other heavenly mysteries, including:

  • The four "worlds" or heavens (i.e., Paul having a vision at the level of the third heaven as depicted in 2 Corinthians 12).
  • The arrangement of various "firmaments" within the Heavenlies and their relationship to the emanations of God in our world
  • The role and capacity of angels (as we have already discussed somewhat in this study)
  • The 12 tribes of Israel
  • The ephod and breastplate of the High Priest
  • The "cup of blessing" (cup of salvation)
  • The "river of Eden"
  • Jacob's ladder
  • The Shekinah (called the Matrona in the Zohar)
  • Metatron / Yeshua
  • The name of God - YHWH

All of these topics will be addressed at some point in this study. It should also be noted that the prophet Isaiah had the same view into the heavenly realm as seen in Isaiah chapter six. Isaiah however, does not go into the same level of detail as Ezekiel, but a reading of his account is recommended to supplement that of Ezekiel, as well as the chapters in Revelation listed above.


THE FIRST CREATURE

The first description that Ezekiel gives is that of four beasts, each of which has four faces. Although one face is said to resemble a man, another an ox, another an eagle, and another a lion, all four are simply faces of men that bear those type of characteristics. This is indicated in 1:5 where he says that each has a face of a man. In Ezekiel's second Chariot account he shows that the face of the ox is actually that of an angel (a cherub). This is mentioned in 10:14. Cherubs are angels with young humanlike faces. Ezekiel refers to what he sees as both four beasts, as well as a single beast (10:20).

Ezekiel goes on to describe these four (unified) cherubs as having human-like hands but not feet. He next states that these four, four-faced, cherubs are adhered to one another, although their faces and wings were separated above. Thus the four beasts are actually a type of singular entity. Symbolically, this could mean that these angels, though acting independently, are unified in a single greater purpose.

The prophet next goes on to mention that the beasts have the appearance of coals of fire. The allusion to angelic beings being like fire, is consistent with that found in Psalms and repeated in the book of Hebrews.

Ezekiel then goes on to explain the "movement" of these beings. It is imperative at this point to recall what "movement" is with regard to (beings in) spiritual space. As mentioned earlier in this study, angelic movement is not related to physical movement, but to carrying out the will of God.

Understanding this greatly helps explain what Ezekiel is trying to convey - otherwise we would be faced with a series of contradictions, as these beasts would somehow be moving:

  • separately from each other even though they are joined
  • in the direction of each of its four separate faces at the same time

The above contradictions are avoided when we realize that the "movement" Ezekiel is speaking of is the carrying out of God's divine purpose.

The text here states:

Ezekiel 1:12 - And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.

The term "spirit" in the above text is ruach in the Hebrew, which can mean spirit, air or purpose. Thus, the living creature is moving according to the purpose God gives it.1

THE SECOND CREATURE

Ezekiel next describes another body beneath the four (unified) creatures, this one also made up of four distinct bodies. This unified body is joined to the four beasts above and to the earth below. His description of these four bodies in one is that of both eyes and wheels. These wheels are each said to have four faces. Ezekiel describes the relationship of these four faces/wheels as being a wheel within a wheel. This is different than that of the four living creatures who were said to be connected to each other (in more of a side by side fashion).

The term "full of eyes" can also mean they had many colors. The word for eyes here is einayim from the root ein (pronounced: ayin). It is the same word found in this passage:

Numbers 11:7 - And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof (ve-'eino) as the colour of (k-'ein) bdellium.

As with the four creatures, the movement of these wheels has no variation. Moreover, the movement of these "wheels" is directly related to that of the four upper beasts, indicating some type of hierarchy. The wheels only move when the beasts move and in the same "direction" that they do. This is confirmed in 1:36, where Ezekiel says that the ruach (purpose) of the living creature(s) was also in the wheels.

To summarize: The first living creature(s) move only according to the divine purpose of God. The second creature(s) move according to the first creature(s).

The Zohar supports this view:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 241b - R. Simeon discoursed in this connection on the verse: “When those went these went, and when those stood these stood” (Ezek. 1, 21). ‘That means’, he said, ‘that when the Hayoth (living creatures) went the Ofanim (Wheels) also went, as we read, “and when the Hayoth went the Ofanim went hard by them” (Ibid. 19). For the movements of the Ofanim are only induced by the movements of the Hayoth, nor can they pause independently of the Hayoth, for the two move together as one.

Following this, Ezekiel goes on to explain that above the first creature is the likeness of a firmament and upon this is the likeness of a throne which has the appearance of a sapphire stone. Upon this throne is the likeness as the appearance of a man.

In the second vision of chapter 10, Ezekiel makes it very clear that the living creatures he was describing were cherubim and confirms that the motion of the wheels below these cherubim was directly related to them. He then adds one more detail in this second vision, that the wheels were full of eyes all about and that they had flesh and hands and wings (10:12).

He then adds that there is a specific relationship between the wheels and the cherubs, stating that each wheel is directly related to a particular cherub (10:9). Ezekiel confirms that the original four living creatures are in fact one creature calling it the living creature that he saw (10:20), just as he calls the four wheels one wheel upon the earth (1:15).

It should also be noted that most of the things Ezekiel describes, he does not do so in an absolute manner, but rather refers to them being in the likeness of something. This includes, the living creatures, the throne, the man on the throne, the glory of the Lord, and the firmament in relation to that which is above the creatures (1:22).

The exceptions to this are when he speaks of the wheels, and also when he again mentions the firmament specifically in relation to the throne (10:1). Here he speaks more directly.

RELATIONSHIP TO THE SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS

Ezekiel's chariot vision gives us insight into the working of all the spiritual elements previously discussed in this study -- time, space, light, energy and mass. As we will see, it also gives us a look at how complex and inter-related these elements are.

As mentioned above, the vision of the chariot shows a heavenly beast, which is really four beasts, that Ezekiel identifies as cherubim, which are angels. These angels are carrying out the purpose of God, though no specific mention is given of the particulars of their assignments. Here we have an example of the relationship between spiritual light (the divine cause or will of God), spiritual mass (the angels carrying out the will of God), and the resulting spiritual energy (the effect of their action upon man/creation). These concepts were discussed in detail in a previous section of this study.

As for the wheels, there are two main opinions as to what they are. One is that these are also angelic beings called ophanim, who are of a lower order than the cherubim. There is also an opinion that these wheels represent various heavenly realms. In actuality, both opinions can be true as there is a close relationship between angels and the realms (both spiritual and physical) that are assigned to them.(Remember not to fall into the trap of thinking "3-dimensionally" when studying these aspects of God and the heavenly realms!)

What we see from Ezekiel is a connection between these orders of angels, as well as between the angels and the firmaments they operate in. Ezekiel makes it clear that the Ophanim only move according to how the Cherubim move. This would indicate something of a "chain of command," whereby the Cherubim receive more direct instruction than do the ophanim, although the divine purpose resides in both. This concept is supported by Ezekiel's explanation that there is a connection between the "throne" and the Cherubim, a second connection between the Cherubim and the Ophanim, and a third connection between the Ophanim and the earth.

Ezekiel also shows that the realm of this beast is not the highest of the Heavenlies, as he states that there is a firmament above the one that the throne lies in (1:22). As will later see, the firmament above the four beasts is not the highest of the firmaments -- there is yet one more, the Supernal firmament, which is unknowable to human beings.

These various firmaments (also called grades in the Zohar) and the beings that exist in each, have a relationship to one another.

This is mentioned in the Zohar as follows:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 48b - Mark also this! All the supernal hosts with their cohorts and lightful chariots of celestial speed are joined one to another, grade to grade, the lower to the higher, each to its counterpart; and above them all a holy “Living being” (Hayah) (cf. Ezek. I) is set, and all those myriads of armies move and rest according to its will and direction. This is that Living Creature to which all Hayoth are linked, as each is also to each, all moving and swimming in the sea, concerning which it is written: “This is the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts” (Ps. CIV, 25).

The Zohar also speaks of the Ofanim/angels having a relationship to four quarters of the globe:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 241b - Now observe that the Ofanim (Wheels) are carried by the Hayoth (living creatures). For that which is of a higher grade, though it seems to be carried by that which is of a lower grade, really carries it. It was the same with the Ark, which also carried its carriers. [Tr. note: T. B. Sotah, 35a.] We must distinguish between the Hayah, “the spirit of which was in the Ofanim”, and the Hayoth, with which the Ofanim went. This one turned towards all four quarters of the globe. In regard to this it says: “This is the Hayah that I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chebar” (Ibid. x, 20); it is the same which forms a throne to the likeness of Man, and is below the superior holy Hayoth. For they are in grades, one above the other.

The idea of Ezekiel's angels being connected to the four quarters of the globe, is consistent with the description of angels of Revelation:

Revelation 7:1 - And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

RELATIONSHIP TO THE DIVINE NAME

As noted earlier, the mystical teachings introduced in this section will be developed in detail in Section V of our Revelation background articles.

The Zohar also teaches a concept where each one of the four letters of the divine name, YHWH (Yod-Hay-Vav-Hay), is associated with one of four heavens. The highest level of heaven is associated with the first letter, the Yod.

As God is infinite, He is beyond definition. (As soon as you define Him, He is no longer infinite.) In Jewish mystical studies, such as the Zohar, God as such is known as the Eyn Sof, meaning, that which is outside of time and space as we know it. We cannot comprehend God at this level as we would have to be infinite ourselves. This subject matter will be discussed in detail later in this study.

NOTE: The idea of the four firmaments (or heavens) is reflected throughout the Zohar. These four firmaments are just one way of clasifying the divisions between this universe and Eyn Sof. There are other teachings that subdivide this "area" into seven heavens or ten heavens. These ideas are not necessarily in conflict as they are looking at different aspects of the heavenly realms. 2

Although God is infinite and cannot be understood by mere humans, He reveals Himself to us in many ways. This is one of the fundamental differences between Judaism and Islam, the latter of which has only an En Sof-type view of God, that teaches that we are separate from Him and cannot in any way know Him. This also sets Judaism apart from Pantheism, which does not view God as being separate and distinct from creation (i.e., "everything is God.").

What we can come to know and understand about Him are what Scripture calls the image of God, also called emanations or characteristics of God (i.e., God is merciful, He is judgmental, etc.), as well as Elohim. Although God reveals Himself in many ways, He is one (echad). This was and is the difference between Judaism and paganism, the latter of which sees these different divine emanations (in nature, etc.) and assigns a "god" for each of them, instead of realizing there is one God "behind all of them."

The aspects of God that He reveals to us are found in the lower heavens/firmaments, including nature and in man himself - who is of course, made in the image of God. These concepts will be studied in detail later in this study.

The next firmament (below the En Sof), which is the "highest" Ezekiel was able to "look into," is associated with the first He (pronounced "Hay") in Y-H-V-H. The level below this is related to the letter Vav, and the level below that ("closest" to the earth) is associated with the second He:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 21a - But there is also a firmament above the heavens of which it is written, "and a likeness upon the heads of the Hayyah, a firmament like the ice, etc." (Ezek. I, 22). This is the first He’ beyond which it is impossible for the human mind to penetrate, because what is further is enveloped in the thought of God, which is elevated above the comprehension of man. If that which is within the Thought cannot be comprehended, how much less the Thought itself! What is within the Thought no one can conceive, much less can one know the En Sof, of which no trace can be found and to which thought cannot reach by any means.

The Zohar goes on to explain that the firmament Ezekiel saw just above the four living creatures (where the throne was present) is not the highest firmament (of Eyn Sof). Further, the reason Ezekiel called this the likeness of a throne (rather than simply "a throne"), is that there is a different Supernal throne of God above this.

What Ezekiel was allowed to see is an emanation of God:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 217b - "And above the firmament that was over their heads was as the appearance of a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne" (Ezek. I, 26). This firmament’, said R. Simeon, ‘is the lower firmament, as you, Companions, have explained. Happy is my portion and happy is your portion, since as regards the supernal firmament there is no one who can ever discern it. Above that lower firmament, then, there is that "sapphire stone", that precious jewel by which it is adorned. It says, "the likeness of a throne", and not "the throne". For there is throne and throne. The term "the throne" would signify the Supernal Throne, which is undisclosed and beyond all knowledge and comprehension. Hence it says here "a throne", to wit, a lower throne.

As previously stated, Scripture shows that the Tabernacle/Temple and its artifacts, including the garments of the Priests, were made in the image of what Moses was shown existed in the heavenly realm. The Zohar directly associates the ephod and breastplate of the Priest with the vision of the heavenlies as seen by Ezekiel:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 231b - Observe that the ephod and breastplate were "behind and before", and so the Priest, when clothed in them, resembled the supernal pattern. As has already been said, when his face was illumined and the letters stood out brightly, then a message was thereby conveyed to him. For this reason the breastplate and the ephod were tied together; and although they had distinct functions, they had the same symbolism and were therefore united by the four rings that held them together, back and front. They thus symbolize the Chariots which are united from below to those above, and the whole symbolizes the Ofanim and Hayoth (Wheels and Sacred Beasts).

As discussed earlier, in the study of Metatron, there are also two heavenly Temples (and High Priests) in addition to that established here on the earth. One is in the realm Ezekiel could see into, which in the Zohar is called Metatron's Tabernacle, and has the angel Michael as its High Priest. There is a higher Temple above this however, with a Supernal High Priest.

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 159a - ‘From this we see that the Holy One, blessed be He, actually gave Moses all the arrangements and all the shapes of the Tabernacle, each in its appropriate manner, and that he saw Metatron ministering to the High Priest within it. It may be said that, as the Tabernacle above was not erected until the Tabernacle below had been completed, that "youth" (Metatron) could not have served above before Divine worship had taken place in the earthly Tabernacle. It is true that the Tabernacle above was not actually erected before the one below; yet Moses saw a mirroring of the whole beforehand, and also Metatron, as he would be later when all was complete. The Holy One said to him: "Behold now, the Tabernacle and the ‘Youth’; all is held in suspense until the Tabernacle below shall have been built." It should not be thought, however, that Metatron himself ministers; the fact is, that the Tabernacle belongs to him, and Michael, the High Priest, it is that serves there, within the Metatron's Tabernacle, mirroring the function of the Supernal High Priest above, serving within that other Tabernacle, that hidden one which never is revealed, which is connected with the mystery of the world to come. There are two celestial Tabernacles: the one, the supernal concealed Tabernacle, and the other, the Tabernacle of the Metatron. And there are also two priests: the one is the primeval Light, and the other Michael, the High Priest below.


1. Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, Section III, part 2.

2. James Trimm, Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism (www.nazarene.net)


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