I believe the faces of the creature may represent the different parts of God's creation as holiness illustrated. Soul of Man, Heart of a Lion, Strength of an Ox, Mind of an Eagle. I'm curious what the wings and wheels may signify?

10As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. 11Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies. Ezekiel 1:10-11

Allegorically mean sovereignty perhaps? Assuming the eyes mean 'discernment'.

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. Deuteronomy 34:7

Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. Ecclesiastes 10:20


2 Answers 2


There has been a lot of speculation about the meaning of the four faces, going back to earlier Jewish commentary: see the widely-cited comment from Exodus Rabbah 23:13 (exegetical compilation, circa 750-900 c.e.) -

Four kinds of proud beings were created in the world: the proudest of all—man; of birds—the eagle; of domestic animals—the ox; of wild animals—the lion; and all of them are stationed beneath the chariot of the Holy One....

Cited from M. Greenberg, Ezekiel 1-20 (Anchor Bible; Doubleday, 1983), p. 56.

Daniel Block explains the four faces as being "perfectly natural for Ezekiel's world", and illustrates this way:

  • lion = "strength, ferocity, courage" (cf. Jdg 14:18; 2 Sam 1:12; 17:10);
  • eagle = "swiftest and most stately of birds" (cf. Deut 28:49; Isa 40:31; Jer 48:40);
  • ox = "most valuable domestic animal ... symbol of fertility and divinity" (cf. Ps 106:19-20);
  • human = "created as the image of God and invested with divine majesty" (cf. Gen 1:28; Psalm 8).

from D.I. Block, Ezekiel 1-24 (Eerdmans 1997), p. 96.

Leslie Allen, Ezekiel 1-19 (Word, 1994), p. 29, includes a line-drawing of this 18th C. bce "Assyrian representation of a god with four human faces" (now in the Oriental Institute in Chicago):

8th C. Assyrian art

The concept, then, appears not to be unique to Ezekiel, but the assemblage of these four faces is distinctive to Ezekiel, and contributes to the impressionistic quality ("form" of their "appearance", 1:5) of the vision.


I'm curious what the wings and wheels may signify ?

Wings signify birds, which fly up to heaven, where the stars reside, whose (apparent) motion
around the earth follows circular patterns, reminiscent of a wheel. Notice that apart from their
obvious zoological interpretation, the ox and the lion also possess an astronomical one — and
the Babylonians, in whose time Ezekiel prophesied, were also master astronomers. The number
four, mentioned almost fifty times in the book, also lends itself to a similar symbolism, representing
the four winds or cardinal directions. The (countless) night stars have been regarded by various
ancient or primitive civilizations as being the eyes of God, according to Eliade. Indeed, the Jews
were probably familiar from their previous captivity with Egyptian myths concerning the Sun and
the Moon, believed to be the two eyes of Horus, who injured one of them in a battle with Set, thus
causing the lessening of the moon's radiance. I hope all of this will help shed some further light
(no pun intended) into Ezekiel's celestial imagery.

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