24. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood they let down their wings.
24. Et audivi vocem alarum ipsorum sicuti vocem aquarum magnarum vel multarum sicuti vocem Dei,1 cum ambularent vocem sermonis sicuti vocem castrorum, hoc est exercitus: cum starent remittebant alas suas.
When the Prophet says, he heard the voice of wings, it is an explanation of his former teaching, when he said that the wings followed the course of the living creatures, and stood, unless when they were drawn by the living creatures: this he now expresses more clearly by the word voice. We know that, precepts are expressed by the voice, and this is the means of human intercourse, so that he who bears sway proclaims by the voice what he wishes to be done. Since therefore what we have previously said was obscure -- that the wheels were moved by the living creatures -- therefore the Prophet says there was a voice in the motion of the wings. He had said this before, and he now repeats that the living creatures sometimes rested and let fall their wings. When the wings were thus let fall there was no motion in the wheels; but as the wheels obey the motions of the living creatures, he says the wings were vocal; not that the wheels were endued with ears or could hear any commands. But the Prophet could not otherwise express what I have just said: viz., that heaven and earth are full of angelic motion, unless he said that in such motion there was something like a voice, as he said that whatever happens obeys God's will. But this obedience cannot be conceived unless a voice go before it. Now therefore we see the Prophet weaving his own discourse, and by a new form of speech expressing and confirming what we formerly saw -- that the wheels were mowed by the living creatures, because in the wings themselves a voice was heard, he adds, it was as it were a voice many or mighty waters. We know that a great noise arises from the overflow of art impetuous river. Nothing is more terrible than its sound, for it is something like a crash which seems to threaten the breaking up of the whole earth, and this vehemence the Prophet now expresses. He adds, a voice of God. It will be harsh to explain this of God himself, to whom although the phrase is often attributed, yet we know that it is done metaphorically. But there ought to be some external likeness which may show the Prophet what was not visible of itself. But that cannot suit the phrase, "the voice of God," unless we understand it as in Psalm 29:5, 6, 9, concerning thunder: the voice of God shakes the cedars and the mountains, and makes the animals miscarry in the woods. Here David calls thunder the voice of God, but I know not whether this metaphor is suitable to the present place. Nor yet if we could take the word of God in another sense, could it mean anything but thunder. Others translate
He says, when they walked, because there was no other motion, for he said that the wings of the animals were let fall while they stood. Then it was not necessary for earthly things to be agitated, unless when the inspiration goes forward in the living creatures, that is the angels. He adds, the voice of speech. Here Ezekiel proceeds further, asserting the voice to be articulate. True, inanimate things cannot hear a voice, but as I have said, he wished to represent the obedience in the wheels to be such as if they had been taught, and God had eloquently and articulately commanded what he wished to be done; or as if the wheels had spoken intelligibly, so that the wheels might not afterwards roll round rashly, but in accordance with a received command. He says, as it were the voice of armies. And the simile is to be diligently noticed, because in an army, in consequence of the multitude, one can scarcely notice another with the view of promoting union, and yet military discipline requires this.2 Therefore, in camps there is great clamor and confusion, yet each accommodates himself to others, and so order is preserved. The Prophet therefore signifies, that although infinitely numerous events meet together, yet nothing is left without guidance, because God governs all earthly motions with much better skill than a general, though endued with singular foresight, rules his army. We see therefore what the Spirit intends by this part of the vision, when he compares the things that are carried on in the world to mighty forces; for he says that such reason was displayed among this multitude, that although their clamors are tumultuous, yet all things are mutually suited to each other. Again he says, when they stood they let down their wings. This question may be asked, how can the living creatures rest when God is always at work: as also Christ says, My Father and I work even to this day? (John 5:17.) Since therefore the power of God is never at rest, what can the resting of the living creatures mean? for God works by angels as we have seen: if they rest, God has his periods of repose, which is absurd. But when the Prophet says they rested, he wishes to mark the variety of human events. For sometimes they are so tranquil, that we think God is taking some repose, and is completely at rest in heaven: not that he ever ceases, but because we do not perceive the agitations, which plainly show his virtue to consist in motion and in action. Therefore the Prophet here wishes only to denote variety; not that we ought to imagine God to rest at any time or his angels to repose, but because he does not always work in the same equable manner.
Grant, Almighty God, that though we have wandered far from thee, we may be taught by thy word, and hold on in the right way of approach to thyself, and by faith contemplate what is otherwise hidden from us, and thus depend entirely on thee. May we so rely on thy providence, as not to doubt our perfect safety while our life and salvation are in thy care, so that while tossed about by various storms we may remain quiet, until at length we enjoy that blessed and eternal rest which thou hast prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Or a strong voice, or the voice of a strong one, as some think. -- Calvin.
2 The French Translation rather amplifies than accurately renders this sentence.
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