Ezekiel was a slave in Babylon with the other Israelites, and they wept over the loss of their temple and their nation. They grieved by the rivers and sang songs of lament to God. They felt forsaken by their God! Ezekiel was given a vision of four living creatures coming from the eternal realm to the earthly realm to accomplish God’s will with His chosen people. God had not forsaken them. These creatures were unlike the gods of Babylon, mobile and capable of acting on behalf of God’s people. They had wings, legs, feet, and hands. All of which could affect change in the world. Ezekiel also sees into the character of these creatures. He tells us in Chapter 1, verses 10-11, “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.”

 There has been a wide range of ideas associated with these four faces. The Bible Knowledge Commentator says, “Some interpreters feel that these represent intelligence (man), power (lion), service (ox), and swiftness (eagle). However, it seems better to see the faces as representing the highest forms of life in God’s created realm. A man was mentioned first because he was the acme of God’s creative work. He was followed by the lion, “king” among wild beasts; the ox, one of the strongest of domestic animals; and the eagle, the “lord” of the birds.”[1] Many ancient commentators attempted to connect each of these faces with one of the Gospels. Some modern writers do so, also. Jerome, in the third century AD, suggested that Matthew represents the face of a man, Mark represents the face of a lion, Luke represents an ox, and John represents an eagle.[2] One Messianic Jew says, “Ezekiel was not describing “chariots of the gods” or spaceships from outer space, but cherubim.[3] One might also notice that when Israel, in their wanderings in the wilderness, would set up camp in a square with four sides. The group that led the eastern side was Judah. The emblem of Judah was a lion. To the south was Ephraim. The emblem of Ephraim was the face of a man. To the north was Dan, represented by an eagle. To the west was Ruben, represented by an ox.[4]

In whatever way you might understand the four faces, The Apostle John, in his gospel, uses the same images to describe what he sees. The remarkable thing about John’s vision is that these creatures, apparitions, illustrations, angels, or whatever they might be called, are all singing a song. It goes like this, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

[1] Dyer, Charles H. 1985. “Ezekiel.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:1228. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Stevenson, Kenneth, and Michael Gluerup, eds. 2008. Ezekiel, Daniel. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. 1983. The Messianic Bible Study Collection. Vol. 152. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

[4] Courson, Jon. 2006. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.