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Welcome to Bible Fiber, where we are encountering the textures and shades of the biblical tapestry through twelve Minor Prophets, two reformers, and one exile. I am Shelley Neese, president of The Jerusalem Connection, a Christian organization devoted to sharing the story of the people of Israel, both ancient and modern.

This week, we are studying Ezekiel 10, the third section of the prophet’s four-part visionary experience covered in Chapters 8-11. The prophet’s body remained in his home in Babylon while his mind and spirit witnessed increasingly horrific scenes in Jerusalem. Like a dream, the vision’s sequencing is difficult to follow, and the characters enter and exit without introductions or farewells.

Everything the prophet saw overwhelmed him, from the temple’s sickening abominations in Chapter 8 to the unrelenting slaughter of the guilty in Chapter 9. With Jerusalem desecrated, Yahweh had no other choice but to abandon his temple city. Chapter 10 and 11 focus on the departure of the divine presence, a climatic event in the first half of Ezekiel.

In his first-person account, Ezekiel reported, “Then I looked, and above the dome that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in form resembling a throne” (10:1). A year had passed since Ezekiel’s first encounter with the throne chariot by the River Chebar. Although the prophet remained in awe of the divine glory, he was not as shocked as he had been when God first appeared before him.

When trying to describe the first encounter, Ezekiel’s Hebrew was garbled (1:5-25). He relied heavily on analogy, explaining what he saw through comparisons. The enthroned presence of God was “like gleaming amber” (1:4) and the living creatures moved “like a flash of lightning” (1:14). In the second encounter, in Chapter 10, the prophet’s grammar was clear and the descriptions more direct as if Ezekiel was using the opportunity to collaborate and clarify his first description (1:5-25). The prophet appeared in his right mind, less undone, even if an encounter with the Lord almighty always has a transformative impact.

Man in Linen

In the opening event of the vision sequence, the man in white linen returned, the same angelic being that in the last chapter had spared the righteous by marking their foreheads. The reappearance of the man in linen connected the killing spree in Chapter 9 to the throne chariot’s departure in Chapter 10. Ezekiel made no effort to introduce the anonymous scribe, presuming his audience was already familiar with the man who did Yahweh’s bidding. The executioners were nowhere to be found. They were either still carrying out violent tasks elsewhere or the slaughter was finished. Instead of acting as an agent of God’s mercy, the man in linen took part in the delivery of God’s judgment. Jerusalem entered phase two of their punishment: destruction by fire.

Addressing the man in linen, God told him to reach into the chariot and fill his hands with burning coals to scatter over Jerusalem (10:2). Ezekiel had noticed in his first vision that the chariot contained burning coals, but at that point he did not know their purpose (1:13). Apparently, the chariot was more than divine transportation. Like all ancient chariots, it also had a military dimension; it was a vehicle of God’s punishment. Coal in the Bible was often associated with ritual purification processes. In Isaiah, a seraph touched the prophet’s lips with a hot coal from the Lord’s altar as a symbolic gesture of atoning for Isaiah’s sins (Isa. 6:6). But the coal scattered over Jerusalem was part of his punishment, like the brimstone that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25).

The historic reality is that the Babylonian invaders, under the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, set Jerusalem aflame. However, in Ezekiel’s vision, the man in linen distributed the punishment and the throne chariot provided the weaponry. As a prophet, Ezekiel peered behind the cosmic curtain and saw Jerusalem’s future destruction from a heavenly vantage point. Yahweh was in control. Yahweh was the instigator. The Babylonians were unwittingly at his service.

Yahweh on the Move

One noticeable difference between the first appearance of God’s throne chariot and the second is that the human form with a gleaming torso and fiery legs was no longer seated atop the sapphire throne (1:27; 10:1). As the chariot descended on the south side of the temple complex, the vast expanse above the throne was vacant. Yahweh’s movement and the direction of his voice are elusive. The text relays, “Then the glory of the Lord rose up from the cherub to the entryway of the temple; the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the Lord” (10:4). Yahweh’s billowing bright cloud of glory originated from inside the temple, not the chariot, and enveloped the temple court. This is the Shekinah, God’s dwelling presence that often made itself known in tangible ways.

During the executioners’ scene in Chapter 9, Ezekiel spotted God’s glory as it began to move away from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the temple (9:3). God’s restlessness in that scene foreshadowed his coming departure from the whole of Jerusalem. As the movement ramped up in Chapter 10 so did the volume of the events. As the cloud swelled in the court, the creatures’ wings reverberated throughout the temple complex. In the first vision, the sound of the wings’ vibration imitated rushing waters. In the second vision, Ezekiel compared the noise to the thunderous voice of God (1:24; 10:5).

According to Ezekiel’s hard-to-follow narrative, Yahweh rose from the inner sanctum and moved to the threshold of the temple (10:4). From there, his presence filled the outer courtyard where he mounted the chariot and headed towards the east gate (10:18). The dreamlike state of the vision makes the various actions hard to visualize. By the passage’s end, Yahweh was back on his throne chariot. Ezekiel reported, “the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them” (10:19). The cherubim took flight over the east gate and towards the Kidron Valley.


Ezekiel’s first and second visions clearly describe the same throne chariot with a quartet of protective creatures and a surreal wheel system. The most obvious difference between the two accounts is that in the commissioning vision, Ezekiel referred to the creatures as hayyot which translates “living creatures.” In the second vision, Ezekiel no longer called them hayyot. Instead, he called them cherubim.

Perhaps because the first vision occurred in Babylon, the sculptures of the ancient Near East influenced Ezekiel’s language. He described the composite creatures like those that flanked the entrances to nearby Babylonian temples and palaces. Certainly, they possessed many similar features to the iconic hybrid creatures of Assyrian architecture. The prophet had a new point of reference in Jerusalem, with the nearby temple. His religious vocabulary came more readily. It occurred to him that the creatures closely resembled the cherubim that stood in the temple’s Holy of Holies.

To his Jewish audience, cherubim was a more relatable term. Ever since God placed cherubim with flaming swords at the gates to the Garden of Eden, the figures were associated with the guardianship of God’s presence (Gen. 3:24). According to God’s blueprint for the tabernacle, golden cherubim also stood atop the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:18-22). The tabernacle artisans even embroidered cherubim on the veil that cordoned off the inner sanctum (Ex. 36:35). Cherubim were the image that separated the sacred from profane spaces on earth.

Over the centuries, the biblical descriptions of cherubim and their representation in popular art diverged. In the Renaissance period, classical artists depicted cherubim as whimsical, chubby-cheeked winged toddlers. Although the cute angels of Christian art have ingrained themselves in our collective conscious, they are nothing like the Bible’s presentation of majestic fierce beings.

Certainly, the static cherubim that adorned the temple paled in comparison to the dynamic cherubim that propelled God’s throne chariot. For starters, the living cherubim had four wings and four faces while the temple cherubim had two wings and one face. The living cherubim possessed wheels, but the temple cherubim had no need for mobility. Oddly, the living cherubim had human hands under their wings, a feature never associated with the statues in the temple. In Ezekiel’s vision, as the man in linen gathered coal to scatter over Jerusalem, the cherubim’s human hands almost acted like gadget arms, reaching into the chariot, and grabbing the coals. In Ezekiel’s second vision, he described the cherubim and their wheels as completely covered with eyes, a detail left out of the first vision (10:12). The eyes were either real eyeballs representing God’s omniscience, or eye-shaped gems bedazzling the cherubim.

The differences between the temple cherubim and the throne cherubim underscore the vast separation between the things of earth and the things of heaven. The tabernacle and temple were an attempt at capturing the glory of God’s heavenly throne room, but they were humble imitations of the supernatural realities. Even Solomon’s temple at the height of its beauty and splendor was a poor man’s replica of what awaits in heaven. The author of Hebrews described the temple as “a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one” (Heb. 8:5).


Ezekiel 10 is divided into two sections, each marked off with the transition statement “then I looked” (10:1, 9). The second section provides a full description of the throne chariot’s appearance and function (10:9-17). Even though much of the account repeats Chapter 1, Ezekiel understood that as a prophet who experienced a personal theophany, it was his duty and privilege to share the revelation with others. The main points of clarification in Chapter 10 concerned the throne chariot’s purpose. The throne chariot was Yahweh’s transportation out of Jerusalem.

Spiritual Realm

Four times in Chapter 10, Ezekiel referred to “the glory of Yahweh” instead of naming Yahweh directly in the vision (10:4, 18-19). Why did Ezekiel choose to refer to God indirectly and what does “glory of Yahweh” mean?

In Ezekiel’s vision of the departing presence, the glory of the Lord was represented by a cloud. God’s glory coming in the form of a cloud would have been familiar to Ezekiel and his audience. In the early days of Israel’s wilderness wandering, the Israelites were comforted by the divine cloud as it settled atop the tabernacle and filled the tent with the divine glory (Ex. 40:34). Throughout those forty years, the cloud was a constant reassurance that Yahweh abided in their midst. When the cloud lifted, it was time for the people to decamp and move to the next site. As they moved sites, the cloud moved as well, demonstrating that Yahweh remained with his itinerant people. The most terrifying aspect to Ezekiel’s vision was that Yahweh’s cloud of glory was moving out of Jerusalem without the covenant people. Acting with his own free and divine agency, God did not invite the Jerusalemites to follow him. The glory of God made a solo exit.

The Jewish people understood their creator, the one true God, was not bound to a single building. The temple gave them a space to access the divine presence, to worship him in a centralized location, and to offer their sacrifices. God chose Jerusalem and set his name on the city (Deut. 12:11). He also declared his eternal affinity for Jerusalem. The Psalmist wrote, “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it” (Ps.132:13-14). But God chose to abide in the temple, and he was free to leave the temple when it became a house of rebellion and offense.

When Solomon dedicated the First Temple, he correctly observed “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you , much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). With this admission, the Shekinah glory filled Solomon’s temple so that all those present would witness Jerusalem’s divine favor. The consecration of Solomon’s temple was reversed in Ezekiel’s vision. The cloud of glory that had filled the temple at its dedication exited, as a sign of God’s disfavor. Ezekiel witnessed the temple’s decommissioning. With the withdrawal of the divine presence, God revoked the temple’s once holy status.

The chapter ends on a note of sadness and suspense. Where was the glory of God going and would he return? Ezekiel 11 completes the story of God’s gradual departure from Jerusalem. Join us next week for part two of the departure narrative.

Thank you for listening and please continue to take part in this Bible Reading Challenge.

Please pray for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas for over six months. I can only imagine the brutal conditions that they have been forced to endure. I can only radically empathize with the hostage families back in Israel who are waiting by the phone for some sign of imminent release or rescue.

We pray together, “Blessed are You Adonai, Lord our God, King of the universe, who frees the captive.”

That’s all for this week. For all the Biblical references, please see the show transcript on our blog or by signing up for our emails at I do not say all the references in the podcast but they are all in the transcript.

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