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Solving the Riddle of Ezekiel's Wheels

Source: Frank E. Carlisle / UFO Resource Center
Original Source


Summary: The purpose of this article is to address the biblical question of “angelic chariots”, and to ascertain exactly what it written therein on the subject. Does the biblical text describe the physical appearance of God’s angelic chariots?

Solving the Riddle of Ezekiel's Wheels:
The Chariots of the Cherubim / The Chariots of God

By Frank E. Carlisle


The purpose of this article is to address the biblical question of “angelic chariots”, and to ascertain exactly what it written therein on the subject. Does the biblical text describe the physical appearance of God’s angelic chariots? I believe that after your read this article you will be able to discern the answer to this question for yourself, as the answer is resoundingly clear. Let me start by laying a biblical foundation for angelic chariots, as well as for the Chariot of God himself, both of which are referenced with various, controlling metaphors in the Old Testament, that also appear in the early interpretive writings of the Jews, Gnostic Christians, and Greeks. I believe that what one will discover is that one can only understand such texts within a modern context.

The Old Testament abounds with texts that speak of how angels came to the earth in ancient times riding in heavenly vehicles that are represented metaphorically as “horses” and “chariots” of God. Psalm 68:17 is probably the most definitive example of the Old Testament “angelic chariot” texts. This Psalm addresses the chronology of the Jewish Exodus from captivity in Egypt, their encampment at Mount Sinai, and the events that transpired at that time. “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands multiplied: the Lord was among them at Sinai, in the [heavenly] Temple/Sanctuary.”

There are also many Old Testament texts that speak of how certain biblical figures ascended into the heavens, and are acknowledged by biblical scholars as the “heavenly ascension” texts. One of the best, and probably most well-known examples of these texts is found in 2 Kings 2:1 and 11, which speak of the heavenly ascension of the prophet Elijah, as therein it is written in verse 1: “Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up into the heavens by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their was from Gilgal.” Verse 11 continues with: “As they continued walking and talking, a Chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into the heavens.”

There are also many references in the biblical text that speak of the Chariot in which God, himself, came to visit the earth, as is described above in 2 Kings 2 as the Chariot of fire. The reference to “horses of fire” is to the angelic “chariots of God” that accompany God’s Chariot which, in the early Jewish interpretive writings is acknowledged as being a “Merkabah.”

The biblical prophet, Ezekiel, metaphorically describes God’s Merkabah as being a heavenly “throne” [Ez. 1:26], as the Glory of the Lord [Ez.1:28] and as “The Gory of the God of Israel” [Ez. 9:3]. The word Merkabah is derived from two Hebrew words. The first word is “merkab”, which means “a chariot, and also “a seat, as in a vehicle. It is also derived from the word “rakab”, which means “to ride on” or “to ride in.” Accordingly, that which the prophet describes metaphorically as a “throne” and “the Glory of the Lord”, is to be understood to refer to God’s Merkabah, the literal translation of which is “Throne-Chaiort”, and is that which God comes to the earth in visitation.. The noted Dead Sea Scroll scholar, Dr. Geza Vermes, makes the following statement about God’s Merkabah: “The divine Throne-Chariot draws its inspiration from Ezekiel (1-10)…It depicts the appearance and movement of the Merkabah, the divine Chariot supported and drawn by the cherubim, which is at the same time a throne and a vehicle.”

Additionally, the metaphor “Glory of the Lord” is found throughout the Old Testament, and always speaks of God’s heavenly presence in a very literal sense, and as in his Throne-Chariot. On closer analysis of the Hebrew metaphor, one finds that the word “glory” gives specificity to the word, within each of those contexts. The word “glory” literally means “mass” or “substance”, and variously rendered by biblical scholars as “glory, body, or house”, and is therefore to be understood as being a reference to God’s heavenly House, Abode, or Dwelling Place. Thus, the Merkabah Glory of the Lord can be seen as being a Throne-Chariot that has both substance and mass, and as God’s heavenly Dwelling Place.

Many of the early Jewish Merkabah related writings, as well as the early Gnostic Christian writings have their interpretational roots in Ezekiel’s biblical vision of the Merkabah and the four chariots of the cherubim. Both bodies of literature represent Ezekiel’s living creatures as heavenly chariots, inside of which were angelic beings. In the section that follows, I will present a wide variety of text sources, all of which represent the Merkabah and Ezekiel’s living creatures, wheels within wheel, etc. as wheel-chariots.

Of all of the biblical texts that deal with the subject of heavenly chariots, none parallels the description that is found in the chapters 1 and 10 of the biblical book of the prophet Ezekiel. In these two chapters Ezekiel describes the physical appearance, operation and movement of what he describes metaphorically as “living creatures, burning coals of fire, wheels within wheels, and cherubim”, all of which are synonymous terms that describe the “chariots of God.” Ezekiel likens the chariots to living creatures to which he attributes various anatomical parts, each of which has a specific anatomical location and associated function.

While biblical scholarship has for some time supported an angelic chariot interpretation in Ezekiel, and despite the fact that the prophet renders a detailed description of their physical appearance, operation and movement, scholars have, heretofore, been unable to render a drawing of it physical appearance that is based on a viable translation of the Hebrew text. One has but to read a few of the various English Bible renderings of Ezekiel chapter 1, in order to see that each renders various areas of the text differently. One of the reasons for this is that, in ancient Hebrew, one word often has multiple meanings that at times differ vastly from each other. Another reason is that, in the Hebrew language, all words are derivatives of what are called root words. While it is not always the case, there are times when components of the root word meaning influence either the direct translation of or may influence the meaning of the word within a particular context.

In chapter 1 of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the prophet describes the appearance of four heavenly objects, to which he refers with the various synonymous metaphors “living creatures” [his description of an unknown technology], “burning coals of fire” [ his description of them as fiery, amber-colored coals or orbs high in the heavens], “wheels within wheels” [his description of a disc-shaped craft under which there is as spinning (turbine-like) wheel], and “cherubim” [which are acknowledged in the early writings as “the chariots of the cherubim”].

While it is the view of mainstream biblical scholarship that the four objects Ezekiel describes are “feather-winged cherubs”, the voices of the past, as are reflected in early interpretive literature, paint a totally different picture, as you will see. I will now take you on a brief journey into antiquity, whereby you might be able to clearly discern the voices of both the prophet Ezekiel himself, and from those ancient people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. You will soon see that the various metaphors the prophet uses to describe what he sees are indeed all synonymous, controlling metaphors, each of which shapes the theological thought and direction within the two texts. So, away we go, as far back as the year 593 B.C.

I will also let you listen to the voices of the early Greeks who made the first translation of the Hebrew biblical text into another language. As such, it is important in that it contains certain renderings that do not always follow the original Hebrew text, which scholars render to as “textual variants.” The Greeks translated the entire Old Testament into what is called the Septuagint [or LXX by scholars].

You will also hear the voices of thosae who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls [DSS], as they have a great deal to say about Ezekiel’s various controllong metaphors, as well as those of other early Jews and Gnostic Christian who have something to tell us about Ezekiel’s four "angelic chariots."

So, away we go on our voyage into the distant past, whereby we might hear and see what the many voices tell us:

Ez. 1:13:

“As for the appearance of the living creatures [a flying technology he had never sees; thus it was alive and a creature], they looked like burning coals of fire…”

Dead Sea Scrolls:

“…and there were living beings inside of the coals, like burning coals of fire.”

Ez. 10:15:

“The cherubim rose from the earth: These were the living creatures that I saw by the river of Chebar.”

Ez. 1:20:

“…for there was a living Spirit inside of the wheels.” [Biblical text: “God makes angels his ministering Spirits.”]

Ez. 1:16:

“The appearance of the wheels and their construction…and they each had the same shape…like a wheel the middle of another wheel.”

Dead Sea Scrolls:

“And when the wheels move forward the holy angels go to the back; they emerge from within the glorious wheels with the likeness of fire.”

Ben Sirah 49:8:[ an early Jewish writing, the later Greek translation of which appears as the canonical book of Sirach in the Catholic Bible.]

“It was Ezekiel who saw the vision of glory that God showed him above/upon the chariot of the cherubim.”

“Hypostases of the Archons”; an early Gnostic Christian text:

“…the four-faced chariot of the cherubim.”

Greek Septuagint : a variant rendering from the Hebrew text in Ez. 43:3:

“…and the vision of the chariot that I saw was like the one that I saw by the river of Chebar…”

Are you beginning to get a mental picture of the “chariots, which are shaped like “wheels” inside of which there are angelic pilots, “fiery coals/orbs” in the heavens, inside of which there are living angelic beings, really are? “Listen and see”, and I will tell you more about Ezekiel’s four angelic “chariots!”

It is evident from the above references that the various metaphors "living creatures, burning coals of fire, wheels within wheels and cheribim are all synonymous controlling, chariot-lelated metaphors. Ezekiel describes four angelic chariots as “living creatures”[etc.] to which he attributes various anatomical parts, such as wings, legs, heads, etc, each of which occupies a corresponding anatomical location and function.

Ez. 1:23:

Under the dome their wings were horizontal, the one [at an angle] towards the other. Each one had two wings that covered [concealed] its [central, hollow] body on the one quadrant [side], and each one had two wings that covered their bodies on the other quadrant.”

Ez. 1:11:

“Their wings bisected [divided, separated] from the top [from above; as two upper wings], and two wings covered their bodies: and two of each of those wings joined one to the other [at a distal point; as two lower wings on each of four quadrants]."

This represents a visual and descriptive perspective of one half of the chariot, or two of its four sides or quadrants, as such better describes a wheel-shaped chariot. It is the descriprion of two upper wings and two lower wings.

Ez. 1:6:

"..and they each had four wings."

Ez. 1:8:

"And they had a man-like hand, under their wings on their four quadrants."

The Hebrew word for side/s is reva, and is derived from a root meaning to be quadrate, thus, the “wheel-shaped chariots”[discs] have four quadrants, or quarter-sections. While all English Bibles render it as "sides", since the chariot is clearly circualr, it should accordingly be rendered as "quadrants." Accordingly, if one is to describe the chariot as a whole, it would necessarily have "eight wings."

Greek variant in Ez.10:21:

Heb text: “…and they each had four wings.”

Greek text: “…and they each had eight wings”

This describes the full "wheel-chariot." The Greeks knew how to add! 2+2+2+2=8

` Ez. 1:22:

“Over the heads of the living creatures [chariots] was something that looked like a shining glass dome…”

Ez. 1:18:

“Their [hollow, arched] backs were tall and awesome, and they were encircled by round eye[-like] ports.”

Ez. 10:2:

“And he said to the man clothed in linen; ‘go within the spinning wheel, under the cherub.”

Ez. 1:8:

“…and they had man-like hands under their wings on their four quadrants.”

Ez. 10:7:

And the cherub [chariot] stretched forth a hand from within the cherubim [chariot]

Ez. 10:8:

“And the cherubim appeared to have a man-like hand under their wings.” [“on their four quadrants” ; 1:8]

Ez. 10:6:

“And the man went in and stood within the spinning wheel. [Heb. “galgal”, and not the word rendered in chapter 1 as wheel/e, which is “ophan”. This wheel spins”! It is a rotating turbine wheel that is located on the chariot’s underside. [see below]

Ez. 1:16:

“The appearance of the wheels and their construction, was like the [sparkling, amber] color of Tarshish [a cut, amber-colored gemstone; compare to the view of the chariot in the photo rendering!]; and they each had the same [double-convex, disc] shape: and their appearance and their operation looked like a [spinning] wheel [ophan] within the middle of another wheel [ophan].

Ez. 1:7:

“Their legs were riding, and looked like they were made out of polished brass [amber metal], and the soles of their feet were hoofed [round and flat] like those of a calf.”

Psalm 68:17-18; my new translation:

“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands multiplied; the Lord was among them at Sinai, in the heavenly Temple. You [Moses] were captured and lifted away into [heavenly] captivity…”

Jewish Midrashim:

“Twenty-two thousand chariots descended at Sinai, and each of them looked exactly like the ones Ezekiel saw.”

“Twenty-two thousand chariots descended at Sinai, and each of them looked like the Merkabah.”


Vs.4) “And I looked [up into the heavens], and saw a whirlwind come from out of the north; an immense cloud that was surrounded by brightness and fire flashing forth continuously in a circle, and in the middle of which there was something that looked like something like a round amber metallic object. 5) And from out of the middle of the fire there came what looked like four living creatures. This was their appearance; they had [within them] the form of a man 6) but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7) Their legs were rigid and the soles of their feet were [round and flat] like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like polished brass. 8) They each had a manlike hand [that was capable of opening and closing] under their wings on each of their four quadrants; and they each had their four faces and their four wings. 9) Their [upper and lower] wings coupled-together [as a double-convex saucer], and when they moved they did not turn their wings to either side; they just moved straight forward [in any direction]. 10) As for the likeness of their faces, they each had a humanlike face of a man in front, the face of a lion on the left quadrant, the face of an ox on the right quadrant, and the face of an eagle in the back. 11) Their [two] wings bisected [horizontally] from the top and two wings covered their bodies: and two wings of each [the upper and lower wings] joined one to the other [at a distal point]. 12) And they moved straight forward: wherever the [angelic] Spirit desired to go, the living creatures moved and, [in so doing], they did not turn [tilt their wings from a horizontal position]. 13) As for the likeness of the living creatures [as I perceived them in the heavens], they looked like, [amber-colored] burning coals of fire that had lights within them that flashed forth intermittently and the fire was bright, and from the fire there came forth [what appeared like] flashes of lightning. 14) And the living creatures darted back and forth [through the heavens] like flashes of lightning, without turning their wings [to either side] as they moved. 15) And as I looked, one of the living creatures landed/stood on the earth, [whereby I then perceived it as being] and behold, a wheel [was fastened] on the side of the four-faced living creature. 16) The appearance of the wheels and their construction was like the [sparkling, amber] color of [the gemstone] Tarshish; and they each had the same [circular] shape: and their appearance and their operation was as if there were a [spinning 10:2,6,13] wheel in the middle of a [larger] wheel. 17) And when they moved [through the heavens], they moved in any direction and in so doing, they did not turn their wings [from a horizontal position] as they moved. 18) As for their [circular, hollow backs [which looked like rings or rims] they were tall and awesome, and were encircled with [round] eyes [like ports]. 19) When the living creatures moved, the wheels [which joined to their side] moved beside them. And when the living creatures lifted up from off of the earth, the wheels also lifted up beside them. 20) Wherever the [angelic] Spirit desired to go, and the wheels rose along with them, for there was a living Spirit inside of the wheels. 21) When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved; and when the living creatures stood still [hovered] the wheels also stood, because there was a living Spirit inside of the wheels [who navigated them]. 22) And there was something that looked like an awesome, clear glass dome that spread-out over the heads of the living creatures. 23) And under the dome their wings were horizontal, the one [extended at an angle] towards the other; each of them had two wings that covered their [central, hollow] bodies on the one side [quadrant], each one had two wings that covered [concealed from view] their bodies on the other quadrant. 24) And when the living creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, which was like the sound of roaring water, like the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, like the tumultuous sound of an army: and when they stood [landed] upon the earth, they ceased their wings [from making the sound they made while in flight].


Vs. 2) And he spoke to the man clothed in linen and said, ‘go within the spinning wheel, under the cherub. Vs. 6) When he commanded the man clothed in linen, saying: ‘go within the wheel, underneath the cherubim’, then he went in and stood within the spinning wheel. Vs.7) And the cherub opened his hand from within the cherubim… Vs. 8) The cherubim appeared to have a man-like hand under their wings.

I hope that you enjoyed your journey into antiquity and listening to the voices of the ancients, and to the words of the prophet Ezekiel, whose vision has inspired many of the ancients to seeking the awesome knowledge it contains. I also hope that you have learned form them, and you are now well-equipped to answer the question I ask!

So, I ask you, did the biblical prophet Elijah really, by means of the very same “whirlwind” that Ezekiel describes, literally “ascend into the heavens in a fiery chariot?”


*Each of the chariot’s anatomical parts occupies a normal anatomical location and related anatomical function, unless otherwise stated in the text. There is one exception, which relates to the “encircling eyes” that are located within the chariot’s “back.”

The Head
The chariot’s head-portion consists of a dome that is made of a clear, crystal-like material and occupies the chariot’s superior-most position. It is part of the chariot’s top-mounted, composite dome, the crystal head of which serves as a rotating, navigational dome.

The Four Faces
Three of the four faces are insignias that are part of a circular ring-like unit that connects superiorly to the clear domed head, occupying the chariot’s mid-portion, and inferiorly with stationary, hollow and arched back. The face identified as “the face of a man”, or “ human face”, is of the chariot’s angelic pilot, who sits in the chariot’s navigational dome.

The Back (rings/rims)
The arched, hollow back occupies the lower part of the chariot’s composite dome. It is encircled by eyes, which confirms the fact that it is also circular. The encircling eyes are explained below.

The Eyes
The eyes surround the chariot’s hollow, arched back. The eyes are round and function as ports for looking out from the chariot’s hollow, top-mounted dome.

The Wings
The wings give the chariot its overall circular or wheel-like shape. The chariot has two horizontal wings on each of its four quadrants that extend at an angle, the one towards the other thus connecting together at the distal point. The wings are for flight.

The Wheel in the middle of the wheel
The greater wheel references the chariot’s overall shape, which is circular like a wheel. The wheel in the middle of the greater wheel is a spinning, turbine-like wheel, which functions as the chariot’s propulsion system.

The Body
The body is the hollow, central portion of the chariot that is concealed by two horizontally-extended, connecting wings that present on each of the (circular) chariot’s four quadrants and, like the composite dome, is an inhabitable part of the chariot. The opening hand that is located “under their wings on their four quadrants”, the function of which is established below.

The Legs
The legs are straight and unbending, and provide support for the chariot while standing on the ground. Thus, they are incapable of movement or “walking” on the ground. The four legs are position underneath the chariot’s wings and are attached to the chariot’s body-portion which is “covered” on all four quadrants by the “two covering wings.” The legs are made of a polished amber-colored metal that are likened to highly polished brass.

The Feet
The feet are round and flat, like that sole of a calf’s foot, and are made of the same material as the legs. Their round, flat, beveled shape provides the chariot the ability to stand in a level position on the ground.

The Hand
The opening and closing hand is located under the chariot’s wings and functions as an entrance into its hollow, central body.

The Spirit of the Living Creature
This references the angelic spirit(s), inhabitant(s), or living beings that are stated in the biblical text to be located “inside of the wheel.” It also references the face of the man.”


Biblical translations:

Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha

King James Bible

The Jewish Study Bible [Oxford]

Moffatt Bible [James Moffatt]

Tanakh [Jewish Bible ; Jewish Publication Society]

The Companion Bible [Kregel Publications, USA]

The Septuagint with Apocrypha [Greek and English ; Brenton]

Biblia Hebraica; Stuttgardencia

Biblia Hebraica; Leningradencia

Text sources:

"Faces of the Chariot; Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel's Vision" [David Halperin]

"Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament" [James Charlesworth]

From the series: "Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls" ;"Eschatology, Messianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls" [Abegg Jr, Scott, Flint]; essay, "Merkabah Mysticism in Qumran and in Paul."

The Gnostic Scriptures [Bentley, Layton]

The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition [Hebrew and Aramaic texts; F.G Martinez, E Tigchellar]

Translation reference sources:

Hebrew / Aramaic [Chaldee]:

Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon [B.D.B]

Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary [W.E. Vine]

Strong's Concordance of the Bible [James Strong]

Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon [Baker]

The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon [Davidson]

Smith's Bible Dictionary [Nelson]


Thayer's Greek and English Lexicon

New Testament Greek [Hewett]



E-mail: ezekielswheels@cox.net
Received date: 04 Dec 2004 13:37:40 -0700
Received by: director@uforc.com

Article ID: 496


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