*** This is part one of my reading through Ezekiel in Hebrew. These posts may be drier and less interesting than others, because of their nature: notes on Ezekiel in Hebrew. You have been warned. ***
Ezekiel 1:1 appears to give a summary of the chapter: ואראה מראות אלהים (I saw a vision of God).
From this point on, Ezekiel one structures its chapter by using first person singular wayyiqtol verbs. Its structure follows:
1:1-3: ואראה + introduction to the chapter and the book of Ezekiel as whole
1:4-14: ואראה + description of four creatures
1:15-23: ואראה + description of the vehicle’s four wheels
1:24-28a:ואשמע + description of the sound of the creature’s wings and the Glory of Yahweh (כְּבוֹד־יְהוָ֑ה)
1:28b: ואראה ואפל על פני ואשמע + Yahweh speaking
Ezekiel one begins with a vision of God, and ends with the Glory of Yahweh speaking. In 1:28, Ezekiel once again “sees” and “hears” something, but this time he also falls. While the four creatures and the divine vehicle amaze Ezekiel, the voice of God presses him to the ground.
This chapter highlights the prophet’s vision with the contrast refrain, “I saw,” or “I heard.” Additionally, the divine vehicle which the four creatures interact with remains central. The creatures have four faces, and they move according to the direction of a face—without turning.
Ezekiel describes the vehicle as having many precious stones (cf. Gen 2:10-14). He uses the phrase “the eye of X” to describe these stones (e.g., 1:16, 22). This leads me to believe that the vehicle’s rims which are “full of eyes” (1:18) are really full of precious stones.
Other themes throughout this chapter include the idea “spirit” or “wind” (the same word in Hebrew, רוח, e.g., 1:20). The text also evokes creation language (firmament in 1:1:22, 23, and 25; cf. Gen 1:7) temple-priest language, and has covenantal overtones (e.g. the rainbow in 1:28).
However, the text itself tells us its major theme: the glory of God (1:28). What Ezekiel describes in chapter one appears to be nothing less than a visible manifestation of God’s glory.