Friday, August 21, 2009

The vision of Ezekiel

This is going to be another one of those posts in which I draw no conclusions, provide no interpretations and make no claims. All you're getting are the facts, and as an old Rabbi of mine used to say at the conclusion of every retelling of a miracle story, "That's what happened. You can do with it what you want."


In the book of Ezekiel we're told of the prophet's strange vision of the heavenly throne room where he saw the "likeness of four living creatures" as follows:
And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. 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. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
As for the likeness of their 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. Thus were their faces.... -- Ez 1:5-11
This chapter has been a source of much mystical speculation, and supertankers full of ink have been spilled in attempts to explain it.

Recently, some godless archaeologist excavated an old pagan temple in Ain Dara, Syria. The temple is set up much like the temple God told Solomon to build. The dimensions are similar, and like the Temple in Jerusalem, the Ain Dara floor plan its tripartite. (Divided into three parts.) Also discovered were a collection of hybrid figures, all of which were some combination of human, lion, ox and eagle, i.e. the four types of creatures Ezekiel saw.

Now, the temple is dated to the 8th century BCE - long before Ezekiel lived - and there's no evidence he ever visited Syria. Those are the facts, and the question they produce, I suppose, is this: how did the icons of an older pagan religion find their way into Ezekiel's vision of the heavenly throne room?

Source: Kugel, How to Read the Bible (duh)

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