The reading from Ezekiel 1 at Evensong last night for the feast of the Ascension resounds with analogy. This is how it concludes: "Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD." What are we to make of the language of reticence?
The location is Babylon. First Ezekiel sees a cloud out of which comes a fire and in the middle of the fire, "something like gleaming amber" or "a gleam, as of amber." The NRSV repeats "something like" as a refrain: something like four living creatures; something like a wheel within a wheel; something like a throne; something that seemed like a human form seated on the throne; something that looked like fire enclosed all around and finally the conclusion quoted above.
Ezekiel uses language of analogy indicating human authorship of the text. The unseeable is described by similies. This is not a direct but an indirect vision. These are not meant to be literal representations. That this language indicates human authorship not divine speech (as in other prophetic oracles) makes it distinct.