Jonathan Edwards considered the wheels of Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot to be a type of the history of the world: “The whole universe is a machine which god hath made for his own use, to be his chariot for him to ride in; as is represented in Ezekiel’s vision. In this chariot god’s seat or throne is heaven, where he sits, who uses and governs and rides in this chariot, Ezek. 1:22, 26–28. The inferior part of the creation, this visible universe, subject to such continual changes and revolutions, are the wheels of the chariot, under the place of the seat of him who rides in this chariot. God’s providence in the constant revolutions and alterations and successive events, is represented by the motion of the wheels of the chariot, by the spirit of him who sits in his throne on the heavens, or above the firmament. Moses tells us for whose sake it is that God moves the wheels of this chariot, or rides in it sitting in his heavenly seat; and to what end he is making his progress, or goes his appointed journey in it, viz. the salvation of his people.”

This gives Edwards a way of speaking of the recurring patterns of history:

“The course of things from the beginning of the world to the flood may be looked upon as the revolution of a wheel . . . . The course of things from the flood to Abraham was as it were the revolution of another wheel, or another revolution of the same wheel.”

And it’s a way of speaking about the cycles of time itself. As Kyle Strobel, who quotes these passages, comments ( Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation (T&T Clark Studies In Systematic Theology) ): “monthly changes are by the revolution of another lesser wheel within that greater annual wheel, which, being a lesser wheel, must go round oftener to make the same progress. Ezekiel’s vision was of wheels within wheels, of lesser wheels within greater, each touching the circumference of its respective wheel, and all making the same progress, keeping pace one with another . . . . all of the lesser wheels are gears within one giant wheel representing all of time. This wheel makes only one great revolution, from god and back to God.”

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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