Ezekiel 1:8

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.

8. Et manus hominis sub alis de sub alis super quatuor latera vel angulos, et facies et alae ipsis quatuor.


Now the Prophet says: hands were under their wings. Since hands are the principal instruments of action, we know that all actions are often denoted by this word: whence hands, either pure or defiled, signify the works of men either clean or unclean. When the Prophet says that the animals were endowed with hands, he signifies that they were ready for the performance of any duty enjoined upon them: for he who is without hands lies useless, and cannot execute any work. Therefore that the Prophet may express angelic vigor, he says that they had hands. This also refers to their human figure, but hands denote something peculiar: namely, that they have such agility that they can execute every commandment of God. For he says: they were under their wings, by which words he signifies, that the angels have no motions in themselves, so that they cannot be carried where they please, except they are divinely impelled, and their every action guided by the will of God. For without doubt by wings, as in this place so in others, we must understand something more than human, Since therefore the wings, with which the animals are clothed, signify nothing else but the secret instinct of God, it follows, that hands hidden under the wings denote nothing else than that angels do not move, as we say, intrinsically, but are impelled from without, namely, by the power of God himself: hence they are not carried about rashly hither and thither, but all their actions are governed by God, since he bends and directs them whithersoever he pleases. This is the reason why the Prophet says that he saw hands on the animals, and then that those hands were under their wings. He repeats again, they had faces, and four wings to them. The use of the phrase four sides is worthy of notice, just as if he had said that the animals have the power of acting equally in all directions, not that they had four hands each, although at first sight this may appear to be the meaning of the words on four sides, or in each corner, but it simply means that the hands so appeared on the animals, that they were ready for action whensoever God wishes to impel these animals. Now follows --


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