God’s Glory Departs from the Temple – Commentary on Ezekiel 10


The Book of Ezekiel contains some of the most profound and mysterious visions in all of Scripture. Ezekiel was a priest who prophesied to the Jewish exiles in Babylon after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. In chapter 10, Ezekiel witnesses one of the most significant events in Israel’s history – the departure of God’s presence and glory from the temple in Jerusalem.

This signified the end of an era. The Lord was leaving the temple because of the rampant idolatry and injustice in Judah. God’s judgment was coming swiftly upon Jerusalem for their sins. Yet even in wrath, God remembers mercy. He gave Ezekiel visions showing that His glory would one day return to a purified and restored temple.

In this blog post, we will walk through Ezekiel 10 verse-by-verse, exploring key themes and applications for our lives today. As we study this sobering chapter, may our hearts be filled with reverence for our holy God, repentance for our own sins, and hope in God’s future restoration.

Key Takeaways:

  • God’s judgment on Jerusalem was severe but justified given their extreme idolatry and injustice. We must take sin seriously.
  • Ezekiel’s vision shows God’s transcendence, majesty and holiness using profound imagery like fire, lightning and multi-faced heavenly beings.
  • God departed the temple due to Israel’s sin, yet Scripture promises that His glory will return in fullness to a future restored temple. This points to the Messianic kingdom.
  • God’s Spirit is present with believers today as the temple of the Holy Spirit. We must live holy lives worthy of His presence.
  • Even in judgment, God provides visions of hope through His prophets. We should cling to God’s promises when facing difficulty.
b God’s Glory Departs from the Temple - Commentary on Ezekiel 10

Commentary on Ezekiel Chapter 10

10:1-3 – The Man Clothed in Linen

Then I looked, and behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 2 And He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.

3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. (Ezekiel 10:1-3 NKJV)

Ezekiel sees a vision of the glory of God above the cherubim, described as a sapphire throne. The “man clothed in linen” refers to a messenger or angelic being who relays God’s commands. This angel is told to take hot coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city of Jerusalem as a sign of God’s fiery judgment for their sins.

The coals picture God’s holy wrath against unrepentant sin. Yet even in judgment, the man clothed in linen functions as an intercessor standing between God’s wrath and the doomed city. This foreshadows Christ’s future redemptive work as mediator and savior.

10:4-7 – The Glory of the LORD at the Threshold

Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory. 5 And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.

6 Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” that he went in and stood beside the wheels. 7 And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. (Ezekiel 10:4-7 NKJV)

Here we see a vivid description of God’s glory departing the temple in stages. First, the glory lifts up from the cherubim and pauses at the threshold of the temple. The imagery of the cloud and brightness filling the courts depicts God’s majesty and holiness.

The loud sound of the cherubim’s wings emphasizes the magnitude of this moment. God then commands the man clothed in linen to take some of the fiery coals, which the cherubim provide to him from among the wheels. This depicts the orderly procession of God’s glory departing, not in haste but following His divine plan.

10:8-17 – The Four Wheels and Cherubim

The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings. 9 And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. 10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 11 When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went. 12 And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around. 13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, “Wheel.”

14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. 15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar. 16 When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. 17 When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them. (Ezekiel 10:8-17 NKJV)

Here Ezekiel describes more details of the elaborate wheeled structures carrying God’s throne and the cherubim creatures. The wheels moved in unison with the cherubim and were covered in eyes, depicting constant watchfulness and awareness.

Though fantastic, the imagery conveys the flawless order, symmetry and coordination within God’s heavenly realm. It also previews themes of motion and access – God’s glory was departing the defiled temple but would travel with the faithful remnant into exile. The four faces likely represent the summit of creation – humankind, wild beasts, domestic animals, and birds.

10:18-22 – The Glory Departs from the Temple

Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

20 This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. 21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. 22 And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward. (Ezekiel 10:18-22 NKJV)

The climax of the vision arrives as God’s glory finally departs entirely from the temple. The glory lifts up from the threshold and stands over the cherubim as they prepare to transport it away. At God’s holy command, the cherubim lift their wings and escort the glory to the entrance of the east gate.

This makes it clear that God has withdrawn His presence from the temple. Yet Ezekiel notes that this is the same marvelous heavenly being he saw earlier in visions by the River Chebar in Babylon. God’s glory departed Jerusalem but remains with His people in exile.

10:22 – The Lord Has Left the Temple

Then the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. (Ezekiel 10:19 NKJV)

This verse summarizes the main action – the cherubim lift the glory of God and depart from the temple, signaling that the Lord has left and abandoned the temple because of Israel’s sins.

Yet God remains present with the exiles. This shows that while God judged Jerusalem, His glory remains among those who are faithful to Him even in exile and who have not turned to idols.

Applications for Today

Though Ezekiel’s vision occurred over 2500 years ago, it remains very relevant for Christians today. Here are some key applications:

  1. God hates idolatry. A major reason God’s glory departed was because of Israel’s idol worship and injustice. We must avoid idols in our hearts and live holy lives in view of God’s glory.
  2. God’s judgment is severe but just. If God withdrew His presence from the temple due to Israel’s sin, how much more will He judge those who reject Christ today? We must preach the Gospel urgently.
  3. God’s glory departs gradually. The vision depicts God’s glory leaving in stages, not all at once. Often spiritual decline happens slowly. We must be vigilant against small compromises over time.
  4. God remains present with the faithful. Though God left the temple, His glory remained with those like Ezekiel who worshipped Him. Wherever we are, God is with us when we walk in faithfulness.
  5. God’s glory will return. Later prophets like Haggai promised God’s glory would return to a future, restored temple. This points to the incarnation of Christ and the indwelling Spirit in the church. We can take hope in God’s future restoration.

In summary, Ezekiel 10 is a sobering reminder to take sin seriously, cling to God’s presence during trials, and hope in His promises for the future. Though judgment came, God always preserves a faithful remnant. As believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have the privilege of glorifying God through obedient, Spirit-filled living in hope of Christ’s return and the glory to come.

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