Study of the Prophets: Ezekiel Chapter 8

Study of the Prophets Ezekiel Chapter 8

In a previous lesson, we examined the Throne Vision of Ezekiel. We read the Scripture from Ezekiel 1:2-2:1. We compared that with Ezekiel 8:1 and learned that that the vision stated there is like the vision in Chapter 1:17. This vision is know in Kabbalah as “Maaseh Merkavah” or the “Workings of the Chariot.” Ezekiel is a key to the entire prophetic method and when we examine Ezekiel, we have almost the entire structure of the Kabbalistic system.

8:1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. 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.

This vision stated here in Chapter 8 is like the vision in Chapter 1:27. In order to understand the vision we need to reiterate and compare the visions. First let us consider what we know about the color “amber”

amber: Amber is a hard, inflammable, bituminous substance, of a beautiful yellow colour, very transparent, and susceptible of an exquisite polish. When rubbed it is highly endowed with electricity; a name which the moderns have formed from its Greek name [elektron.] But, as amber becomes dim as soon as it feels the fire, and is speedily consumed, it is probable that the original {chashmal,} which Bochart derives from the Chaldee {nechash,} copper, and {melala,} gold, was a mixed metal, similar to that which the Greeks called [elektron,] electrum, as the LXX. and Vulgate render, from its resemblance to amber in colour.

2830. chashmal, khash-mal’; of uncert. der.; prob. bronze or polished spectrum metal:–amber.

Now we need to examine what the sages say about “Chashmal.” It is rendered in Hebrew literature as “Speaking Silence.” In Chapter 1 starting from verse 1 let me read and intersperse with the English the Hebrew words and see if we can obtain a greater understanding:

And it was in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth of the month, while I was among the exiles on the river Chebar, and the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of G-d.

On the fifth of the month, in the fifth year of the exile of King Yehoiachin, the Word of G-d had come to Ezekiel ben Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans, on the river Chebar, and the hand of G-d was upon him.

I saw, and behold a stormy wind (Ruach) come from the north, a great cloud, and flashing fire, and a Glow (nogah) round about, and from its midst a vision of the Speaking Silence (Chashmal), in the midst of the fire.

And from the midst was the form of four Chayot (Living Creatures) –this was their form-they had a human form. Each on had four faces and everyone had four wings. Their feet were straight, and the soles of their feet were like those of a calf’s foot, and they shined like a vision of polished copper.

Human hands were under their wings on all four sides, and all four had faces and wings. Their wings were joined to each other, and they did not turn when they went. Each one moved in the direction of their faces when they went. Each one moved in the direction of their faces as they went.

The form of their faces were the face of a man, with the face of a lion to the fright of the four, the face of an Ox to the left of the four, and the face of an eagle to the four. Their faces and wings were separated on top. For each one, two connected the individuals, and two covered their bodies. Each individual moved in the direction of his face. They went to where the Ruach-spirit was to go. They did not turn as they went.

The form of the Chayot had the appearance of burning coals of fire. Walking between the Chayot was a vision of torches, and a Glow (nogah) for fire, and from the fire went forth sparks.

The Chayot ran and returned, like a vision of lighting.
Then I gazed at the Chayot, like a vision of lightning. Ophan (wheels) on the earth near the Chayot. (One was) on each of its four faces.

The appearance of the Ophanim and their actions was like a vision of Topaz. All four had a single form, and their appearance and actions were as if there was an Ophan within an Ophan.

They moved on their four sides as they went-they did not turn as they went. They had high backs and were filled with fear. The backs of all four were filled with eyes.

When the Chayot moved, the Ophanim went near them. When the Chayot rose up from the earth, the Ophanim were also lifted. When the Ruach-spirit had to go, there the Ruach-spirit of the Chayah was in the Ophanim. When one went, so went the other; where one stood, so stood the other. And when they were lifted from the earth, the Ophanim was lifted beside them, for the Ruach-spirit of Chayah was in the Ophanim.

The form above the heads of the Chayah was that of a firmament, looking like a fearsome ice, spread out above their heads. Under the firmament, their wings were straight out, one toward another. For each individual, two covered them and for each individual, two covered their bodies.

Then I heard the sound of their wings, like the sound of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty (Shaddai) when they went. The sound of their tumult was like the sound of an armed camp-when they stood still, they let down their wings. And there was a sound from the firmament, which was above their heads-when they stood still, they let down their wings.

Above the firmament that was over their heads, like a vision of a sapphire, was the form of a Throne, and over the form of the Throne, there was a form like a vision of a Man, on it from above.

And I saw a vision of the Speaking Silence (Chashmal) like a vision of a fire, as a house for it round about, from the vision of His thighs and above. And from the vision of His thighs and below, I saw a vision like fire, with a Glow (nogah) around it. Like a vision of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the vision of the Glow around. This was the vision of G-d’s Glory. I saw it and I fell on my face. Then I heard a voice speak.

It said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you,” Then the Ruach-spirit came in me, and it spoke to me. It stood me on my feet, and I heard that which spoke to me. (Ezekiel 1:1-2:2)

Now let’s consider Elijah’s vision in 1 Kings 19: 9-14.

In this passage we see that Elijah came to a cave, and he spent the night there. G-d’s word came to him, and said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, G-d of Hosts, for the children of Israel have abandoned your covenant, they have overthrown Your Altars, and they have killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.”

[G-d] said to him, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before G-d.” G-d then passed by.

There was a great strong wind, sundering mountains and smashing bedrock, before G-d. But G-d was not in the wind.

After the wind came a great noise. But G-d was not in the noise.

After the noise, there was a fire. But G-d was not in the fire.

Then, after the fire, there was a soft voice.

When Elijah heard this he wrapped his face in his Tallit and went out. He stood by the entrance of the cave, and the voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, G-d of Hosts, for the children of Israel have abandoned Your Covenant, they have overthrown Your altars, and they have killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.’ (1 Kings 19: 9-14)

Now let us see what some Jewish Authorities see in these passages. Some interpret these verses as revealing the essence of prophecy. Keeping in mind that prophecy does not normally mean foretelling but inspirational speaking of G-d’s word.

The “stormy wind” alludes to the ecstasy of the prophet when he begins to experience prophecy. His faculties become very agitated with great ecstasy so that he is overcome with great trembling, as if a powerful wind was blowing and a tornado was throwing hi about, Daniel was referring to such an experience when he said, “My appearance was obliterated, and my strength deserted me: (Daniel 10:8). Eliphaz likewise said, “Then the spirit (wind, Ruach) passed before my face and made th3 hair of my flesh stand on end” (Job 4:15). Ezekiel himself, when prophecy came upon him, had said, “A spirit (wind, Ruach) lifted me, and behind me, I heard a great voice” (Ezekiel 3:12)

This then is the meaning of the verse, “Behold a stormy wind (spirit, Ruach) came from the north. This verse mentions a north wind in particular, since the north wind is known to be very strong. The Bible is indicating the strength of the wind by indicating it came from the north.

The great cloud that Ezekiel saw alludes to this ignorance of the future. He sees it as if “a fearsome darkness fell on him” (Gen. 15:12). A cloud surrounds him since he does not know what the end will be.

The “flashing fire” alludes to the influx of prophecy that reaches his mind, which in its power, is like purifying fire. This is what G-d told Jeremiah, “Are not my words like fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29). Jeremiah himself also said, “It was in my heart like burning fire” (Jeremiah 20:9)

Now let’s compare and see what, when we employ the meanings of the Hebrew Words along with other aspects and teachings of this passage it can mean from a purely Jewish aspect albeit with our own knowledge of who Yahshua is to us.

In very few places do the prophets provide us with any insight into their experiences, so that we should be able to understand what exactly prophesy entails. One of the exceptions is the vision of Ezekiel.

What we see here is that the prophet is gazing at four levels in what in Judaism is described as:

• The most prominent that of Chayot (singular Chayah, a “living” angelic being. The Chayot are later identified as being the same as the Cherubs in Ezekiel 10:5.
• Below the level of Chayot is the Ophanim (singular, Ophan, a wheel-like angelic creature in Ezekiel 1:15.
• Then he sees a firmament over the heads of the Chayot and gazing even higher he describes Throne
• And lastly a “man” upon the Throne.

Judaism says that Ezekiel has envisioned the four supernal Universes, which correspond to the Tetragrammaton, the Name of G-d. The highest of these is Atzilut (Closeness); Beriyah (Creation); Yetzirah , I have formed it (formation) and Asiyah, I have made it(making). They are alluded to in the verse, “All that is called by My Name, for My Glory (Atzilut), I have created it (Beriyah), I have formed it (Yetzirah), and I have made it (Asiyah)” Isaiah 43:7.

The highest, Atzilut, which in this verse is called “My Glory,” is the Universe of the Ten Sefirot, the Divine Emanations, and in Ezekiel’s vision, the “Man” on the Throne represents this.

The next universe is Beriyah, the Universe of Creation, which is also know as the Universe of the Throne. This is represented by the Throne in Ezekiel’s vision since he sees the Throne “above the firmament that is above the heads” of the Chayot. “it is obvious that the Universe of the Throne is higher that that of the angels.

The part of the human soul that reaches the level of Beriyah is that of Neshamah. This highest level of the soul is called “the breath of G-d” and represents the first stage of G-d lowering Himself to create man and be concerned with man’s destiny.

The next level is Yetzirah, the universe of formation, which corresponds to the level of Ruach in the human soul, and in the soul, this also the level that implies communication.

Finally, there is Asiyah, the Universe of Making, which includes the physical world and its spiritual counterpart. The angels of Asiyah are the Ophanim of “Wheels,” and these are the Ophanim that Ezekiel saw under the Chayot. In the human soul, Asiyah corresponds to the level of Nefesh, which is where the spiritual actually interacts with the physical.

Ezekiel reached the level of Yetzirah. The Throne was however in the Universe above that in which Ezekiel had his vantage point. The prophet therefore said, “he saw the likeness of a throne.” Finally, the “man on the Throne” is seen two levels above him,. And this is envisioned as a reflection of a reflection for it is described as “a likeness of the appearance of Man.”

When we examine Ezekiel we have almost the entire structure of the Kabbalistic system. But for our study here it is more important to examine Ezekiel as a key to the entire prophetic method. In the language of the Talmud it is called Maaseh Merkavah, the “ Workings of the Chariot.” I would like you to note that the term Merkavah or Chariot occurs nowhere in the Book of Ezekiel and then why this term.

On place in the Bible where the word is found in such a context is in the verse, “Gold for the pattern of the Chariot (Merkavah), the Cherubs (1 Chronicles 28:18). The scripture here uses the word Merkavah specifically to describe the Cherubs of the Ark. But, as we have seen, Ezekiel identifies the Cherubs with the Chayot seen in his initial vision. Therefore the concept of the chariot does indeed relate to his vision.

The word Merkavah comes from the root Rakhav. The relationship between the Cherubs and the Chariot is therefore related to the concept expressed in the verse. [G-d] rode on a Cherub and flew, and He swooped down on wings of spirit” (Psalm 18:11). It is significant to note that the root of the word Cherub and the word Rakhav, meaning “to ride,”
have exactly the same letters.

In general, the concept of riding is that of traveling and leaving one’s natural place. Then when the Bible says that G-d “rides,” it means that he leaves His natural state where He is absolutely unknowable and inconceivable and allows Himself to be visualized by the prophets. He is said to “swoop with the wings of spirit (Ruach).” The term “wings” alludes to coverings, meaning that G-d covers and conceals His glory, not revealing it completely, since if He did, the prophets would be overwhelmed and blinded. The spiritual force, through which the vision is granted is Ruach, related to Ruach HaKodesh. What is being taught here is that the Ruach HaKodesh is reached by the Ruach (spirit) or the highest of the three levels of soul, the Neshamah, which is the “Breath of G-d.” the highest and the lowest Nefesh are connected by the Ruach when a message or enlightenment is bestowed by G-d upon man. We see this in Isaiah 32:15 “A spirit (Ruach) is poured upon us from on high.” And in Joel as well.

Ezekiel’s entire vision requires study, but maybe one of the most important parts is the opening verse, which is often ignored. The prophet says: “ I looked and behold, a stormy wind coming from the north, a great cloud and a flashing fire, and a glow round about it, and from its midst, the vision of the Chashmal, in the midst of the fire” (Ezekiel 1:4)

The Zohar teaches that the “stormy wind,” the “great cloud,” and the “flashing fire” refer to the three levels of the Klipah, the “husk” that is the root of all evil. These confuse the mind, and serve as barriers to one who would ascend into the spiritual domain. According to the Zohar, they also corresponds to the three barriers visualized by Elijah; “ A great strong wind…and earthquake, and a fire…and after the fire, a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11,12) In both cases, the prophet is speaking of levels of experience that precede true prophecy, but in the case of Elijah, the scripture is explicit is stating one follows the other.

In Ezekiel we see the great prophetic experience beginning with great agitation, visualized a “stormy wind” Literally, this is a “stormy Ruach” (Ruach Sa’arah), and because of this it can be translated as “stormy spirit.” Could this be haSatan’s spirit trying to derail the prophetic ascent. Could many who think they have the Ruach HaKodesh really be resting in the level of this stormy spirit as characterized by disorder and disharmony. The Zohar teaches this is the first barrier through which a person must pass. Then the prophet encounters a “great cloud.” This is the second Klipah. This is described as an opaqueness of the mind, where nothing can be seen or experienced, and it will discourage the average person from proceeding any further. We must will ourselves to proceed further. When we think we can’t learn Torah nor understand it we must continue on with trust to the next level which is a breakthrough. Elijah’s experience was audile, rather than visual like Ezekiel’s. he described the second barrier or klipah as a “loud noise,” a Ra’ash, in Hebrew. This is often translated as “earthquake,” but in this context it would better be translated as an undifferentiated white noise, in which no coherent sound can be discerned. It is an audile equivalent of an opaque cloud.

The third thing the prophet experienced was awe, shame, and dread, this being exemplified by fire. The cloud shows that the person who is not worthy will be revealed nothing; the fire shows the opposite by and overabundance of sensation, threatening and repelling the person. The person must keep spiritually ascending until he reaches the level of the Nogah, the “glow.” From the context to which it is usually used in Scripture it refers to the light shining out of the darkness. What the person or prophet must do is to blank out al of these sensations of storm, cloud and fire, which are aspects of the Klipah (husks) and spiritual darkness, and concentrate on the light that shines out from the darkness.
When the person or prophet reaches this level he then reaches the level of the Chashmal, which is identical with the “still small voice” of Elijah or “silent speaking” of Ezekiel. This is the level of silence through which he can hear the word of G-d or see a true divine vision.

The bible then goes on to describe the entire vision of Ezekiel, including the levels of the Chayot, the Throne, and the Man on the Throne. All of these are elements of the Chariot, the system through which G-d reveals Himself and controls the reins of creation.

Then the account ends, “I fell on my face and I heard a voice speaking.” All the Commentaries State that all the prophets visualized the entire Merkavah before hearing the word, but Ezekiel was the only one who described it explicitly.

3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.
4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain.
5 Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry.
6 He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.
7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.
8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.
9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.
10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.
11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.
12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.
13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do.
14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.
18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.