Translation commentary on Ezekiel 1:7

Their legs were straight probably means the four creatures had human legs, and they were standing upright with their legs straight, not bent at the knees. They were not animals standing on their hind legs, because the back legs of most animals are crooked. The Hebrew is not absolutely clear at this point. Literally it reads “And their legs [were] a straight leg,” which some scholars have suggested means that each creature had only one leg; for example, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh says “the legs of each were [fused into] a single rigid leg.” Very few translations follow this interpretation. It is better to follow Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation here.

And the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot: The soles of their feet is better rendered “their feet” (New International Version, New Century Version; similarly New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh), which looked like the hoofs of calves. The Hebrew word for calf refers to a young bull, but if it is more natural, translators may say “bull.” The important thing is that this clause refers to the cleft hoofs of cattle. Good News Translation provides a helpful model here, saying “and they had hoofs like those of a bull.”

And they sparkled like burnished bronze: The pronoun they probably refers to the hoofs of the four creatures. Their hoofs were bright and shiny, and they reflected the light like burnished bronze, that is, highly polished bronze. Good News Translation and New Living Translation use the verb “shone” rather than sparkled. If burnished bronze is not known, translators may say “metal polished very bright.” A model for this whole clause is “and their hoofs were very shiny like metal that had been polished until it was very bright.”

Quoted with permission from Gross, Carl & Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on Ezekiel. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2016. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .