- Author: Arthur W. Orton
Read book online «The Four-Faced Visitors of Ezekiel by Arthur W. Orton (best ereader for graphic novels txt) 📕». Author - Arthur W. Orton
This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction March 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
OF ... EZEKIEL
By ARTHUR W. ORTON
Ezekiel, they say, "saw de wheel"—but he saw somewhat more than that. And Orton suggests that what he saw made perfectly good sense ... to the understanding!
Illustrated by Orton
e are told from our Sunday School days that the Bible is a "living book," the oldest of man's written works that is read and used anew, from generation to generation. It remains "living" because we are able to find new meaning to fit our daily lives. Although it is not the usual kind of new meaning, I believe that I have found something of the sort in the very old prophesies of Ezekiel.
Bible scholars have long recognized the first chapter of Ezekiel as a strange and nearly unfathomable account of a vision. I suggest that it is strange only because it is written by a man far removed from us in time and experience, about a subject totally unfamiliar to men of his time. I do not think that this was a vision in the usual sense, nor was it meant to be mystical. This particular chapter has been called "Science fiction in the Bible" and many attempts have been made to unravel the meaning of the original author, along both spiritual and mundane lines. I am convinced that this chapter is the account of an actual happening; the landing of extraterrestial beings, reported by a careful, truthful and self-possessed observer.
I am not a student of theology and therefore you may feel that I am being presumptive in attempting to throw light on a mystery as old and well-studied as Ezekiel's first chapter. I feel that any success that I may have in doing so will be due to the accident of my birth at the very beginning of an era when the events I have to describe are fact, or are about to become fact.
If, as I believe, this is an account of an actual encounter with men from space, I may be better able to interpret the meaning than a student of theology, who by training and interest, is looking for a theological meaning. I have worked with mechanical things, and as an instructor of aircraft mechanics for most of my adult life. During this time I have had to untangle a lot of mechanical misconceptions and misunderstandings. I think that this gives me some insight into this problem.
If you are not too familiar with the Old Testament, I suggest that you read through the first chapter of Ezekiel to get the feeling of the flow of words, and a general idea of what sort of material we will be covering. If you have done a considerable amount of reading in the Bible, I am sure you will notice at once how different and "un-Bible-like" this chapter sounds. It isn't long. The first chapter covers little more than one page. Don't expect to get a clear picture the first time through. It seems to have an elusive quality. About the time you feel that you have hold of a fact, it seems to be contradicted in a later verse. I am going to try to show you that this is due to your own preconceived notions of what some of the words and phrases mean. You, not Ezekiel, are supplying the contradictions.
You will see that I am not going to make excuses for the words, as written. It is my belief that those who had the task of translating the Bible from its original tongue and re-copying it through the ages were particularly careful of this chapter because they did not understand it and were afraid of damaging it.
Let us begin with the first verse of chapter one:The Book of The Prophet EZEKIEL
Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity.
3. The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the Land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.
This fixes the location of this incident on the outskirts of Bagdad. The Chebar is sometimes called "The Grand Canal of Bagdad." Although the entire book was supposed to have been written by Ezekiel, the second and third verses sound like an editor's note, inserted by a later writer.
4. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
Here is a man who had lived most of his life in arid desert country. He had probably seen whirlwinds of all kinds, from dust-devils to full-scale tornadoes. He was an accurate and honest observer, as we shall see later. If he said it was a whirlwind, it must have really been one, or at least it looked enough like one to fool him for a while. Notice that he does not say that it was high in the air, or that it came out of the sky, but, "... out of the north," or toward him from the north.
The first thing that he noticed was that it had fire associated with it, a strange companion for a whirlwind. There is something strange about the fire itself. He says that it "infolds itself," which suggests a fire of more active nature than Ezekiel would be accustomed to. The association of fire and whirlwind must have struck him as peculiar.
Also something amber colored was associated with the cloud and fire. He said that this color came "out of the midst," which might mean that it was above the cloud and flame, or appeared as the fire and cloud subsided, or blew to one side. Considering the detail he gives in later verses, this is quite vague, as it might be if he saw it from a distance.
5. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
Why didn't he say that out came four men? Remember that he is telling this to very primitive, superstitious people. He was himself bred in a time when the supernatural was taken for granted. Under these conditions he has gone about as far as he could by saying that they certainly looked like four men. He does not say here that he took them for angels or any other kind of supernatural beings.
6. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
This short verse is very clear, yet you wonder how a creature with four faces and four wings could possibly be taken for a man, even by you or me.
Although he does not say so, we can imply that these creatures must have advanced much closer to him after they got out of the fire and cloud, for him to be able to see so much detail.
Imagine the courage it took for him to stay put in order to observe these creatures. Notice also how objective he is, never mentioning his own feelings.
7. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot; and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
Each verse of the description covers one or two parts of the creatures. When Ezekiel mentions more than one part it becomes confusing, so that one verse seems to contradict another. These can usually be sorted out however. Nowhere will you find a direct contradiction.
Here he is describing the feet only. The word "straight" can be taken several ways. Does he mean regular feet, or feet that point straight forward, or feet that are straight up and down, like an elephant's? Probably he means regular, forward-pointing feet because he does not dwell on the point. In other places he leans heavily on simile to describe some unusual feature of the beings.
The sole of the foot sounds as if it was heavily cleated. What then has he described in this verse? For a person living in a warm climate who had never seen any footwear more complicated than a sandal, he has described a highly polished leather, plastic or metal boot very well.
8. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Notice carefully that he is not saying that each creature had four man-like hands, one on each of four sides. He is saying that each has the normal number of hands and they are located below their wings. Remember that he was a careful observer and he had probably noticed that birds have wings instead of arms. These had both. In addition, he has given us another bit of information about the distribution of the wings. They do not appear to be arranged like a biplane, but each wing is at a ninety-degree angle from its neighboring wing like a helicopter.
Ezekiel must have been something of a numerologist. He points out that there are four creatures, and each of the four has four faces each, and each has four wings each—but not four hands.
9. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
He is not saying that the wings of one creature are joined to the wings of another creature. He is saying that each wing is joined to another wing, not directly to the creature.
The second and third parts of this verse present a mystery. We do not know what the "theys" refer to. There are three "theys" in this verse, one after another and we are given very few clues to which refer to creatures and which refer to wings. The first "they" most likely is tied to the first part of the verse and therefore refers to the wings. Given this, there are still three interpretations:
1. The wings turned not when the wings went; The wings went every one straight forward.
2. The wings turned not when the creatures went; The wings went every one straight forward.
3. The wings turned not when the creatures went; The creatures went every one straight forward.
None of these three statements make much of a point, whether the creatures have helicopter wings, or bird-angel wings. Let us assume then that the first "they" refers to the creatures:
1. The creatures turned not when the creatures went; The creatures went every one straight forward.
2. The creatures turned not when the wings went; The wings went every one straight forward.
3. The creatures turned not when the wings went; The creatures went every one straight forward.
This last statement would pretty well describe the action of the blades of an inoperative helicopter being carried forward in a straight line. It would strike Ezekiel as odd that the wings might move and turn without turning the men under them. You might wonder why he would say "... wings went ..." instead of "... wings turned...." When a light breeze moves the blades of an inoperative helicopter the blades not only turn, but they change their pitch and plane in a most random manner.
Although Ezekiel has not completed his description of the creatures, we can try now to form a picture of what he saw. No matter how we bend and squeeze, we are not going to get a Michelangelo-type angel. Look at figure one. Go back over the points that Ezekiel has described. You will see that it fits quite well.
10. As for the likeness of the faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
This again does not sound very man-like. You wonder what could have kept him from pronouncing them demons. If you will study figure two, you will see what Ezekiel described. Now look at figure three. How much better could a man living six