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Revelation 4:3-11
Last update: January 4, 2002


3 and He who is sitting was in sight like a stone, jasper and sardine: and a rainbow was round the throne in sight like an emerald.

There is significance to the colors of these three stones. The jasper is like the white of a diamond. The sardine is red in color. The emerald is green. These three colors, white, red and green, are directly associated with the following Sephirot:

  • White = Mercy/Hesed
  • Red = Judgement/Gevurah
  • Green = Beauty/Tipheret 1

The Zohar associates these colors with the "son" (Tipheret) in Song of Songs (Song of Solomon):

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 122a - ‘Also it is written: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons" (Song of Songs II, 3) - as an apple tree which has varied colours, red, white, and green combined in a unity.’

As mentioned, the one in the Throne of Beriah occupies the Sephirah linked to Metatron. The Zohar links the colors green, white and red with Metatron, who is said to be "elder of his house" (i.e., Hebrews 3:3-6; 10:21), and who resurrects the dead:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 181b - So, too, in the verse: "And Abraham said unto his servant, etc." (Gen. XXIV, 2), the servant is an allusion to the moon as already explained. Also, the servant is identical with Metatron, who is the servant and messenger of his Master, and who was, as we read further, the elder of his house, the same who is alluded to in the text: "I have been young, and now am old" (Ps. XXXVII, 25). "That ruled over all that he had"; this applies to the same Metatron by reason of his displaying the three colours, green, white, and red. "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh"; this is symbolic of the foundation of the world, for this servant was destined to bring to life again the dwellers in the dust, and to be made the messenger by the spirit from on high to restore the spirits and souls to their places, to the bodies that were decomposed underneath the dust. We read further: "and I will make thee swear (veashbe'akha) by the Lord, the God of heaven", the term veashbe'akha implying that the servant will be invested with the mystery of the seven (sheba’) celestial lights which constitute the mystery of sublime perfection.

The following passage of the Zohar makes commentary on the "doors" and "colors" of heaven. In addition to the above colors of green white and red, the color black is associated with the Sephirot of Malkhut, that being linked with the Shekinah (the "hidden one"), bride/kingdom. The color Sapphire, as well as "a color that contains all colors" are also used in describing the Shekinah, as Malkut, being the "last" of the Sephirot, "contains" all that came before it.

Note also the term, "Holy One, blessed be He," which we have seen is that of Tipheret. There is also reference to chieftains (angels) having dominion over certain heavens (spiritual realms) as seen in Daniel's account. Among the "heavenly doors" is one main one leading to the throne, this door has seventy other doors "inscribed upon it," and it is throught this door that God provides for all of Israel's needs. As seen in an earlier study, this is the function of the Sephirah or Yesod/Foundation. The text also speaks of a lower paradise (Yezirah) and the expanse of heaven above it (Beriah). It should be noted that the Sephirah of Malkut [Kingdom] is considered the "house of Tipheret." (i.e., Hebrews 3:3-6).2

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 209b - But the heaven which is over the Holy Land is not ruled by any chieftain or any other power, but is in the sole charge of the Holy One, blessed be He, who Himself directs the affairs of that land from that heaven. Each heaven is provided with a certain number of portals, and the charge of each chieftain extends from one portal to the next, and he may not encroach on the sphere of his fellow-chieftain by even so much as a hairbreadth, except he receive authorization to exercise dominion over his neighbour; when this happens one king on earth obtains power over another. There is, besides, in the centre of the whole of the heavens, a door called G'bilon; underneath that door are seventy other doors, with seventy chieftains keeping guard, at a distance from it of two thousand cubits, so that no one should come near it. From that door, again, there is a path mounting higher and ever higher until it reaches the Divine Throne. The same door gives access to all quarters of heaven as far as the gate called Magdon,[Tr. note: Al. Mandon] where is the end of the heaven that extends over the Land of Israel. All the seventy doors that are inscribed on the door called G'bilan, are called "gates of righteousness", being under the direct control of the Divine Throne, and no other power; and it is through those gates that the Holy One provides the Land of Israel with all that it needs; and it is from the residue of that provision that the Chieftains take and transmit to all the lower chieftains. ‘In connection with the firmament that is above the lower Paradise there are sublime mysteries. When the Holy One was about to make the firmament, He took fire and water out of His Throne of Glory, fused them into one, and out of them made the lower firmament, which expanded until it reached the area of the Lower Paradise, where it halted. The Holy One, blessed be He, then took from the holy and supernal heaven fire and water of another kind, such as both are and are not, are both disclosed and undisclosed, and of them He made a further expanse of heaven which He spread over the lower Paradise where it joins the other firmament. That expanse of heaven, above the lower Paradise, displays four colours: white, red, green, and black, and correspondingly contains four doors in its four sides.

Both the Midrash Rabbah and Zohar associate these four colors with the events concerning the Tabernacle at Mount Sinai. Again, the term "the Holy One, blessed be He," is associated with Tipheret.

Midrash Rabbah, Numbers XII:8 -When the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded Moses, ‘Make Me a Tabernacle,’ he should have just put up four poles and spread out the Tabernacle over them! We are therefore forced to infer that the Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moses on high, red fire, green fire, black fire, and white fire, and said to him: Make it according to the fashion thereof, which hath been shown thee in the mount (Ex. XXVI, 30).

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 241a - ‘Observe that when Moses was commanded to make the Tabernacle, he could not comprehend its design until God showed him an exact replica of every single part, a replica in white fire, in black fire, in red fire, and in green fire. Scripture thus says: "And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee in the mount" (Ex. xxv, 40).

The "rainbow" seen around the throne is also associated with the same colors. Again, we will divide this lengthy text from the Zohar into several sections, to assist the reader. The following begins with a reference to Noah's rainbow, associating it with the songs of praise coming from the "living creatures" found in Ezekiel (and Revelation):

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 71b - AND GOD SAID TO NOAH... THIS IS THE TOKEN OF THE COVENANT WHICH I MAKE BETWEEN ME AND YOU... I HAVE SET MY RAINBOW IN THE CLOUD. The past tense "I have set" shows that the bow had already been there. In connection with this passage R. Simeon discoursed on the verse: And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone (Ezek. I, 26). ‘Before this verse,’ he said, ‘we find the words, "And when they went I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty" (Ibid. 24). These are the four sacred and mighty beings called Hayyoth (animals), by whom the firmament is upheld, and whose wings are usually joined together to cover their bodies. When, however, they spread out their wings, a volume of sound swells forth, and they break out into songs of praise, "as the voice of the Almighty", which never becomes silent, as it is written, "so that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent" (Ps. XXX, 13). The tenour of their praises is, "The Lord hath made known his salvation, his righteousness hath he revealed in the sight of the nations" (Ps. XCVIII, 2). It says further: "A noise of tumult like the noise of a host" (Ezek. I, 24), i.e. like the sound of the holy camps when all the supernal armies assemble on high. What is it they declaim? "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory" (Is. VI, 3). They turn to the south and say "holy", they turn to the north and say "holy", they turn to the east and say "holy", they turn to the west and say "blessed". And that firmament rests upon their heads, and in whatever direction it turns, their faces turn also. They turn their faces to the four cardinal points, and all revolve in a circle. The firmament is imprinted, at the four corners of a square, with four figures, of a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man; and the face of a man is traced in all of them, so that the face of Lion is of Man, the face of Eagle is of Man, and the face of Ox is of Man, all being comprehended in him. Hence it is written: "As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man" (Ezek. I, 10). Eurther, the firmament with its enclosed square contains the gamut of all the colours. Outstanding are four colours, each engraved with four translucent signs, both higher and lower. These when decomposed become twelve. They are green, red, white, and sapphire, which is made up of all these colours.

The singing of these creatures proclaims the message, "Holy, holy, holy," as found in both Isaiah and Revelation. Note that these three words are spoken in the directions of south, north and east. The creatures then utter the word "blessed" to the last direction of west. This is because the Sephirah of Malkut (Kingdom) lies to the "west" in the Tree of Life, as did the earthly Holy of Holies. (See our notes on Names and Arrangement of the Sephirot.)

This is a reflection of the mystery of the Shema, which states, "Blessed be His glorious name whose Kingdom is forever and ever." The unity of the four keys (see previous chapter) the four colors, the four cardinal directions and the four living creatures, are all symbolic of the unification of the name of God and establishment of His Kingdom.

Note also that these four colors are said to "decompose" forming twelve colors, reflective of the twelve colors on the breastplate of the High Priest:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 71b - What is it they declaim? "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory" (Is. VI, 3). They turn to the south and say "holy", they turn to the north and say "holy", they turn to the east and say "holy", they turn to the west and say "blessed". And that firmament rests upon their heads, and in whatever direction it turns, their faces turn also. They turn their faces to the four cardinal points, and all revolve in a circle. The firmament is imprinted, at the four corners of a square, with four figures, of a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man; and the face of a man is traced in all of them, so that the face of Lion is of Man, the face of Eagle is of Man, and the face of Ox is of Man, all being comprehended in him. Hence it is written: "As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man" (Ezek. I, 10). Eurther, the firmament with its enclosed square contains the gamut of all the colours. Outstanding are four colours, each engraved with four translucent signs, both higher and lower. These when decomposed become twelve. They are green, red, white, and sapphire, which is made up of all these colours. Hence it is written, "As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ibid. I, 28): containing, that is to say, all shades of all colours.

This text then goes on to link the rainbow to Joseph, the covenant and a tzaddik (righteous person). All of these are associated with the Sephirah of Yesod, (Foundation), and integral to one another. The rainbow represents the supernal splendor of the heavenlies. Recall that Joseph, who represents Yesod and the rainbow, had a coat of "many colors" (Genesis 37:3) given to him:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 71b - The same is referred to in the text I HAVE SET MY BOW IN THE CLOUD. The bow here has a parallel in the text, "But his bow abode firm" (Gen. XLIX, 24), i.e. the covenant of Joseph, because he was a righteous man, had for its symbol the bow, since the bow is linked with the covenant, and the covenant and the righteous are integral in one another. And because Noah was righteous, the sign of his covenant was the bow. (The word vayophozu, mentioned in connection with Joseph, is akin to the term paz (fine gold) in the passage, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold" (Ps. XIX, 11), and it means that his arms shone with the lustre of the most desirable substance, they shone with the light supernal, since he had observed the covenant; hence he is named "Joseph the righteous".) And the rainbow is therefore called " covenant" because they embrace one another. Like the firmament it is a supernal resplendent glory, a sight of all sights, resembling the hidden one (the Shekinah), containing colours undisclosed and unrevealable. Hence it is not permitted to gaze at the rainbow when it appears in the heavens, as that would be disrespectful to the Shekinah, the hues of the rainbow here below being a replica of the vision of the supernal splendour, which is not for man's gaze ...

Hence when the earth saw the rainbow as a holy covenant, it was once more firmly established, and therefore God said, AND IT SHALL BE FOR A TOKEN OF A COVENANT BETWEEN GOD, ETC. The three primary colours and the one compounded of them, which we mentioned before, are all one symbol, and they all show themselves in the cloud. "And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone" (Ezek. I, 26). This alludes to the "foundation stone" (eben shethiah), which is the central point of the universe and on which stands the Holy of Holies. "The likeness of a throne", i.e. the supernal holy throne, possessing four supports, and which is symbolic of the Oral Law. "And upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man upon it above" (Ibid.); this symbolises the Written Law. From here we learn that copies of the Written Law should rest on copies of the Oral Law (and not vice versa), because the latter is the throne to the former. "As the appearance of a man" refers to the image of Jacob, who sits on it.’ ...

Remarkably, the text now links this rainbow and covenant to a "mark upon the foreheads" of those who are following God (Revelation 7:3):

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 71b - ‘It is written: "And I will look upon it (the rainbow) that I may remember the everlasting covenant." This means that God's desire is constantly for the bow, and that he who is not visible therein will not enter into the presence of his Master. The inner meaning of the words, "And I will look upon it", is to be found in the words, "and set a mark upon the foreheads, etc." (Ezek. IX, 4), so as to be clearly visible.’ (According to others, the mark was symbolic of the holy mark in the flesh.) R. Judah said, ‘This is assuredly so, but the rainbow that appears in the sky has a profound mystic significance, and when Israel will go forth from exile that rainbow is destined to be decked out in all the finery of its colours, like a bride who adorns herself for her husband.’

Later in this section of the Zohar, we find a dialogue concerning the rainbow, and its association to the Messiah.

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 72b - The Judean said to him, ‘This is what my father said to me when he was on the point of departing this world: "Do not expect the coming of the Messiah until the rainbow will appear decked out in resplendent colours which will illumine the world. Only then expect the Messiah." We learn this from the words, "And I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant" (Gen. IX, 16). That is, at present the bow appears in dull colours, since it is only designed as a reminder that there shall be no return of the Flood; but at that time it will appear in its full panoply of colours as a bride does for her husband, and that will be "to remember the everlasting covenant"’ The Holy One, blessed be He, will remember the covenant which is in exile and He will raise her from the dust, as it is written, "and they will seek the Lord their God and David their king" (Hos. III, 4); also, "But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise unto them" (Jer. XXX, 9), i.e. raise from the dust, in accordance with the text: "I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (Amos IX, 11). The "everlasting covenant" will thus be remembered to be raised from the dust. My father also said that it is for that reason that in Scripture the redemption of Israel and the remembrance of the rainbow are mentioned together, as it is written: "For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee" (Is. LIV, 9).

The book of Enoch makes clear that the one exalted and made to sit in the Throne of God is the Son of Man, God's Messiah:

Enoch 62:1-3 - And thus the Lord commanded the kings and the mighty and the exalted, and those who dwell on the earth, and said: ' Open your eyes and lift up your horns if ye are able to recognize the Elect One.'  And the Lord of Spirits seated him on the throne of His glory, And the spirit of righteousness was poured out upon him, And the word of his mouth slays all the sinners, And all the unrighteous are destroyed from before his face.  And there shall stand up in that day all the kings and the mighty, And the exalted and those who hold the earth, And they shall see and recognize How he sits on the throne of his glory, And righteousness is judged before him, And no lying word is spoken before him.

4 And around the throne [are] thrones twenty and four, and upon the thrones I saw the twenty and four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and they had upon their heads crowns of gold;

Based on the principle that what is in the heavenly Temple is mirrored on the earth, it would seem that these 24 "elders" are a counterpart to the twenty-four divisions of the Levitical priesthood. The question on whether these elders are human or angelic beings is discussed in the notes to verse 10, below.

The Zohar also speaks of the eastern gate to the heavenly Holy of Holies, which is guarded by twenty-four sentinels:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 241b - Hence it is written: "And Moses reared up the tabernacle", signifying that it was raised by Moses every time.’ 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. Now the celestial gate of the east is provided with twenty-four openings guarded by twenty-four sentinels who are surrounded by a flaming fire. There are at the entrance of the gate twenty-four sockets supporting twenty- four pillars. These pillars remain in their place and do not soar into space; they are thus designated "standing ones", in the verse: "I will give thee a place to walk among these standing ones" (Zech. III, 7). And as long as those pillars remain immobile those that are above them go to and fro through the world, survey things, and whatever they overhear they carry up on high

The subject of heavenly garments has already been discussed as being associated with righteousness, specifically in the Olam Haba. We will cite several more interesting examples. This first passage, from the Zohar, associates the spiritual garments with the resurrection of the dead and New Jerusalem:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 219b - As soon as they will rise from the dead all those hosts will march, each man to the portion of his ancestors, as Scripture says, "and ye shall return every man unto his possession" (Lev. xxv, 10). They shall recognize each other, and God will clothe every one in embroidered garments; and they will all come and offer up thanksgiving to their Master in Jerusalem, where there will assemble multitudes upon multitudes. Jerusalem itself will spread out in all directions, to a further extent even than when the exiles returned there. When they assemble and offer up praises to their Master the Holy One, blessed be He, will rejoice in them. So Scripture says: "And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow unto the goodness of the Lord", etc. (Jer. XXXI, 12), namely, every one to his portion and the portion of his ancestors. And the possession of Israel will extend till it will reach Damietta of the Romans, and even there they will study the Torah. All this has already been stated, and it is in harmony with the Scriptural passage, saying: "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust", etc. (Isa. XVI, 19). Blessed be the Lord for evermore! Amen and Amen!’

The following Midrash sounds very much like a combination of Yeshua's Kingdom parables. (Also see notes in our Matthew study.):

Midrash Rabbah – Ecclesiastes IX:7 -7. LET THY GARMENTS BE ALWAYS WHITE; AND LET THY HEAD LACK NO OIL (IX, 8). R. Johanan b. Zakkai said: If the text speaks of white garments, how many of these have the peoples of the world; and if it speaks of good oil, how much of it do the peoples of the world possess! Behold, it speaks only of precepts, good deeds, and Torah. R. Judah ha-Nasi said: To what may this be likened? To a king who made a banquet to which he invited guests. He said to them, ‘Go, wash yourselves, brush up your clothes, anoint yourselves with oil, wash your garments, and prepare yourselves for the banquet,’ but he fixed no time when they were to come to it. The wise among them walked about by the entrance of the king's palace, saying, ' Does the king's palace lack anything?’ The foolish among them paid no regard or attention to the king's command. They said, ‘We will in due course notice when the king's banquet is to take place, because can there be a banquet without labour [to prepare it] and company?’ So the plasterer went to his plaster, the potter to his clay, the smith to his charcoal, the washer to his laundry. Suddenly the king ordered, ' Let them all come to the banquet.’ They hurried the guests, so that some came in their splendid attire and others came in their dirty garments. The king was pleased with the wise ones who had obeyed his command, and also because they had shown honour to the king's palace. He was angry with the fools who had neglected his command and disgraced his palace. The king said, ' Let those who have prepared themselves for the banquet come and eat of the king's meal, but those who have not prepared themselves shall not partake of it.’ You might suppose that the latter were simply to depart; but the king continued, ' No, [they are not to depart]; but the former shall recline and eat and drink, while these shall remain standing, be punished, and look on and be grieved.’ Similarly in the Hereafter, as Isaiah declares, Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry (Isa. LXV, 13). Ziwatai said in the name of R. Meir: These will recline and eat and drink, while the others will recline without eating and drinking; because the vexation of him who stands [at a banquet without participating in it] is not the same as of him who reclines [without participating in it]. He who stands without eating and drinking is like an attendant, but he who reclines and does not eat suffers very much more vexation and his face turns green.1 That is what the prophet says, Then ye shall I sit and discern between the righteous and the wicked (Mal. III, 18). Bar Kappara and R. Isaac b. Kappara said: It may be likened to the wife of a royal courier who adorned herself in the presence of her neighbours. They said to her, ‘Your husband is away, so for whom do you adorn yourself? ' She answered them, ' My husband is a sailor; and if he should chance to have a little spell of [favourable] wind, he will come quickly and be here standing above my head. So is it not better that he should see me in my glory and not in my ugliness? ' Similarly, LET THY GARMENTS BE ALWAYS WHITE [and unstained] by transgressions; AND LET THY HEAD LACK NO OIL: [let it not lack] precepts and good deeds.

Just as their are heavenly garments for those who enter the spiritual realms of God, their are also garments for those who do not:

Soncino Zohar, Bemidbar, Section 3, Page 174a - AND THE LORD SAID TO MOSES, SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL... THAT THEY MAKE THEMSELVES FRINGES ON THE CORNERS OF THEIR GARMENTS, ETC. R. Hizkiah adduced here the verse: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest", etc. (Zech. III, 1). ‘What did he see? He saw him standing before the angel.’ R. Isaac said: ‘What does this tell us? That every man who in this world does not wrap himself in the ceremonial garb and clothe himself therewith, when he enters the other world is covered with a filthy garment and is brought up for trial. Many are the garments prepared for man in this world, and he who does not acquire the garment of religious observance is in the next world clad in a garment which is known to the masters of Gehinnom, and woe to the man who is clad therein, for he is seized by many officers of judgement and dragged down to Gehinnom, and therefore King Solomon cried aloud, "At all times let thy garments be white".’

5 and out of the throne proceed do lightnings, and thunders, and voices; and seven lamps of fire are burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God,

The mention of "lightnings, thunders, voices and fire," is a direct allusion to Mount Sinai, and an indirect one to Yom Kippur, which is associated with Sinai, as it was on Yom Kippur that Moses descended with the second set of Tablets. (The first were given on Shavuot.)

As mentioned in our notes to Chapter 1, Scripture says the voices at Sinai were "seen" (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 4:12). The "number" of voices is said to be seven, taken from the seven voices mentioned in Psalms 29:3-9.

The Bahir (one of the oldest and most significant kabbalastic texts), makes the following comment on these voices, as they were seen by the people at Sinai:

Bahir 45 - This teaches us that the Torah was given with seven voices. In each of them the Master of the Universe revealed Himself to them, and they saw Him. It is thus written, "And all the people saw the voices."

Bahir 48 - At first they saw the voices. What did they see? The seven voices mentioned by David. But in the end they heard the word that emanated from them all.

These seven voices are associated with the seven "lower" Sephirot. These in turn parallel the seven days of creation. Thus it is taught that the people at Sinai had a view of these seven Sephirot, but not those of the "upper three," those being: Keter (crown), Chokhmah (wisdom) or Binah (understanding).3

The idea of the Sephirot being the linguistic expression of God, is based in the fact that all beings reveal their essence through thought, that eventually takes the form of speech.4

Further, the term "Sephirah" shares the same root as the word "tell," (mesapprim), in the following verse of Scripture:

Psalm 19:2 - The heavens tell of the glory of God.

The Zohar states that the combination of thunder and voices coming from God, is representative of the judgmental and merciful pillars:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 186a - R. Judah discoursed here on the text: The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High gave forth his voice; hailstones and coals of fire (Ps. XVIII, 14). ‘When God’, he said, ‘created the world, He constructed for it seven pillars by which it was to be upheld. So Scripture says: “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Prov. IX, 1). These in turn are upheld by one grade from among them called “the Righteous One, the everlasting foundation” (Ibid. x, 25). Further, when the world was created, it was started from that spot which is the culmination and perfection of the world, the central point of the universe, which is identical with Zion, as it is written: “A psalm of Asaph. God, God the Lord hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth” (Ps. L, 2). That is to say, God started the earth from Zion, from the spot where faith culminates in its full perfection. Zion is thus the citadel and central point of the universe, from which it began to be fashioned and from which the whole world is nourished. This lesson is esoterically indicated in our text. For Zion and Jerusalem, while one, represent two degrees, the one being the channel of judgement, the other of mercy; first there issues from one the sound of mercy, and afterwards there comes forth from the other the voice of judgement, the two forming the source from which the paths of judgement and mercy issue and diverge. Hence the expression “And the Lord also thundered in the heavens” indicates judgement, while “the Most High gave forth his voice” refers to mercy, and “hailstones and coals of fire” signify water and fire, that is, mercy and judgement commingled.’

6 and before the throne [is] a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round the throne, [are] four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind;

7 and the first living creature [is] like a lion, and the second living creature [is] like a calf, and the third living creature hath the face as a man, and the fourth living creature [is] like an eagle flying.

8 And the four living creatures, each by itself severally, had six wings, around and within [are] full of eyes, and rest they have not day and night, saying, `Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming;'

The location of the four living creatures, who proclaim "Holy, Holy, Holy," is said to be around the Throne, in the world of Beriah.

As RabbiYitzchak Ginsburgh states:

In each of the three lower worlds there exists a class of angles (messengers of G-d to manifest His Presence and rule over the created entities of the lower worlds). The world of Beriah is the spiritual abode of the serafim ("fiery angels"). These are the angles that the prophet Isaiah saw in his vision of the Divine chariot. These are the angels that exclaim to G-d "Holy, Holy Holy is the G-d of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory."  5

John's vision is similar to that of Ezekiel's, with an interesting variation. John shows the creatures as having six wings and Ezekiel as having four. John is not alone in this difference. Isaiah also recorded these same beings as having six wings:

Isaiah 6:2 - Seraphs are standing above it: six wings hath each one; with two [each] covereth its face, and with two [each] covereth its feet, and with two [each] flieth.

This variation is discussed in the Talmud, which offers the solution that the living creatures have six wings when the Temple is standing, and four when it is not. The additional wings are used to create song. John (and evidently Isaiah), had a vision including a Temple in place. Ezekiel did not:

Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 13b - One verse says: Each one had six wings; and another verse says: And every one had four faces, and every one of them had four wings! — There is no contradiction: the one refers to the time when the Temple was no longer standing, [when] as it were, the wings of the living creatures were diminished. Which of them were taken away? — R. Hananel said that Rab said: Those with which they utter song. [For] here it is written: And with twain he did fly. And one called unto another and said; and [elsewhere] it is written: Wilt thou set thine eyes upon it? It is gone. But our Rabbis said: Those with which they cover their feet, for it is said: And their feet were straight feet, and if [these wings] had not been taken away, whence could he have known! — Perhaps, [the feet] were exposed and he saw them. For if you do not say so, [then from the words], As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of man, [one might infer] likewise that [the wings covering them] were taken away! They must therefore have been exposed, and he saw them; similarly here, they were exposed, and he saw them. But how can they be compared? Granted that it is customary to expose one's face before one's master, but it is not customary to expose one's feet before one's master!

The Zohar offers the following elaborate explanation of the difference in levels of prophetic revelation:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 82a - We have been taught that when the Holy One revealed Himself on Mount Sinai all the Israelites saw the Divine manifestation as one sees a light streaming through the glass of a lamp, and by means of that light each one of them saw more than did the prophet Ezekiel, since those celestial voices were all revealed together, whilst to Ezekiel only the Shekinah was revealed in Her Chariot, and he but caught glimpses of it as though through many barriers. Said R. Judah: ‘Blessed was Moses, concerning whom it says: "And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai... and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount", and blessed was that generation concerning whom it says: "And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai before the eyes of the whole people."

As the Torah, however, was given from the Right Hand ("from his right hand went a fiery law for them", Deut. XXXIII, 2), what essential difference was there between the manifestation to the people and the manifestation to Ezekiel?’ R. Jose replied: ‘On Sinai the "Head" and the "Body" of the King were revealed, as it is written: "He bowed the heavens and came down" (2 Sam. XXII, 10); but to Ezekiel it was, as it were, only the "Hand" which was shown: "And the hand of the Lord was there upon him" (Ezek. I, 3). And even the "Hand" has two aspects, a higher and a lower. Observe that he says: "The heavens were opened and I saw visions (maroth) of God" (Ezek. I, 1). "Maroth" is written in a defective form, to indicate that he merely had a vision of the Shekinah.’ Said R. Jesse: ‘But is the Shekinah not a representation of the whole of the Deity?’ R. Jose replied: ‘The "Head" of the King is not to be compared to His "Feet", although both are in the "Body" of the King.’ Observe that Isaiah said "I saw (eth) the Lord" (Isa. VI, 1), but Ezekiel said "I saw visions of God".’ They meant, however, the same thing, and both belonged to the same grade (of spiritual perception).

Why, then, did Isaiah not give a detailed account of his visions, like Ezekiel? According to R. Jose, it was necessary that Ezekiel should speak in a detailed manner in order to impress the people in exile with the fact that the Holy One loved them, and that the Shekinah and Her Chariots had gone down into exile also, to be present with them. R. Hiya asked, why did the Shekinah reveal Herself in "the land of the Chaldeans" (Ezek. I, 3), of which it says: "Behold the land of the Chaldeans, a people which is not" (Isa. XXIII, 13, i.e. degraded)? If it was for Israel's sake, surely She could have been present among them without manifesting Herself in that inauspicious place? However, had She not revealed Herself the people would not have known that She was with them. Besides, the revelation took place "by the river Chebar" (Ezek. I, 3), by undefiled waters where impurity has no abode, that river being one of the four which issued from the Garden of Eden. [Tr. Note: v. Zohar, Genesis, 85a.] It was there, and nowhere else, then, that "the hand of the Lord was upon him", as is directly stated.

R. Hiya also expounded, in accordance with the esoteric teaching, Ezekiel's vision: "Out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures (Hayoth), and this was their appearance, they had the likeness of a man" (Ibid. v, 5), saying that there is a sacred Hall in which dwell four living Creatures, which are the most ancient celestial beings ministering to the Holy Ancient, and which constitute the essence of the Supernal Name; and that Ezekiel saw only the likeness of the supernal Chariots, because his beholding was from a region which was not very bright. He furthermore said that there are lower beings corresponding to these upper ones, and so throughout, and they are all linked one with another. Our teachers have laid down that Moses derived his prophetic vision from a bright mirror (cf. Midr. Lev. R., p. 145d), whereas the other prophets derived their vision from a dull mirror. So it is written concerning Ezekiel: "I saw visions of God", whereas in connection with the difference between Moses and all other prophets it says: "If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision.... My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house: and with him I will speak mouth to mouth" (Num. XII, 7-8).

R. Jose remarked that all the prophets are in comparison with Moses like females in comparison with males. The Lord did not speak to him in "riddles" (Ibid.), but showed him everything clearly. Blessed, indeed, was the generation in whose midst this prophet lived! Said R. Jose the son of R. Judah: ‘The Israelites saw the splendour of the glory of their Lord face to face; and, moreover, there were neither blind, nor lame, nor deaf, among them: they all saw (Ex. xx, 18); they all stood (Ibid. XIX, 17); they all heard (Ibid. XIX, 8). And of the Messianic Age it says: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isa. xxxv, 5-6).

As this Zohar section concludes, in the Messianic Age (the Kingdom), "the tongue of the dumb sing." As the book of Revelation shows, there is much "speech," "praise," and "singing," coming from the mouths of angels and human beings, that associated with the Millennial Kingdom -- the Supernal Shabbat. It is interesting to note that Shabbat is also called "Malchut Peh," the "Kingdom of the Mouth."

9 and when the living creatures do give glory, and honour, and thanks, to Him who is sitting upon the throne, who is living to the ages of the ages,

10 fall down do the twenty and four elders before Him who is sitting upon the throne, and bow before Him who is living to the ages of the ages, and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

The question regarding these elders is, "Are they human or angelic figures?" The text indicates that these elders have "crowns." This is often an allusion to wisdom and the relationship with God that the righteous will receive in the Olam Haba. By itself, this is not conclusive evidence that the elders are human, as this does not preclude the possibility of angels having similar crowns.

The text of verse 5:10 SHOULD provide us with an answer, as here we see these elders thanking God for making "someone" into priests -- a promise made to humans and not angels. However the various "New Testament" translations are in disagreement as to who is being spoken of.

The King James, NKJ and Young's Literal Translation, indicate the elders as being human, as they thank God for what God has done for themselves:

and didst make us to our God kings and priests, and we shall reign upon the earth

However, the Nestle Greek, Syriac Peshito Version, Jewish New Testament, RSV, NASB, NIV, Darby, and Worldwide English, show the elders as praising God for what He has done for others, and not themselves, reading:

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Evidence that points to the elders being angelic beings is seen in the fact that in verse 9 and 10, these elders seem to automatically follow the lead of the angelic "living creatures." Just as with the Ophanim in Ezekiel's vision, these elders seem to move when the four living creatures move.

11 'Worthy art Thou, O Lord, to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power, because Thou -- Thou didst create the all things, and because of Thy will are they, and they were created.'

In the "New Testament," Yeshua is Lord and King, and given credit for creating and sustaining all things. This creative aspect of God was discussed in our study regarding the 42-letter name of God, which associates that name with Tipheret/Metatron.Yeshua also said that He and the Father are "one."

The following commentary by author David Ariel sheds some fascinating light on this:

Because Tipheret symbolizes the state of harmony among the Sefirot, it came to be associated with the traditional name for God in rabbinic literature -- Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu (The Holy One Blessed be He). Tiferet was understood to be the subject of many traditional prayers. Prayers that emphasized God as father and king were usually prayers referring to Tiferet in particular or, through it, to the Sefirot in general. In this way Tiferet was often portrayed as the representative of the other Sefirot. Tiferet came to symbolize the aspect of God that was known as the traditional God of Judaism, the God of the Hebrew Bible. Tiferet was the Sefirah that most closely symbolized the transcendent deity. If was the Sefirah that spoke at Sinai as the representative of the other Sefirot. 6


1. The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism, Norman Lamm, The Jewish Publication Society, Jerusalem, 1998. See inside jacket notes on the colors (white, red, green) selected for the cover.

2. Ramban: Philosopher and Kabbalist, Chayim J. Henoch, Jason Aronson Inc., Jerusalem, 1998, p. 189.

3. The Bahir: Translation, Introdiction and Comentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p. 118.

4. The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, David S. Ariel, Jason Aronson, London, 1988, p. 113.

5. Olam Ha'Beriah - The World of Creation, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/worlds/olamberi.htm

6. The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, David S. Ariel, Jason Aronson, London, 1988, p. 81


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