Translation commentary on Ezekiel 1:8

Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands: The creatures also had human hands (it is best to understand this to include arms, not just hands), but it is not certain how many hands each creature had. Many translations understand that each creature had four hands, one underneath each of their wings. But it is also possible that each creature had only two hands, which were visible under their wings; for example, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh says “They had human hands below their wings.” If so, there was a pair of human hands on each of the four sides of the group of the four creatures, as they stood with wings touching, forming a square, and supporting the throne of God above them (see verses 22-27). Translators who wish to follow this interpretation may render the first half of this verse as “Each creature had [a pair of] human hands under its wings. There were hands on all four sides [of the group] of the creatures.”

And the four had their faces and their wings thus: In verse 6 Ezekiel began to describe the four creatures, and he mentioned that they each had four faces and four wings. He then went on to describe their legs and their hands, but here at the end of verse 8, he returns to their wings and faces, which he describes in more detail in the next four verses (9-12). Revised Standard Version is strained here. Better renderings are “All four of them had faces and wings” (New International Version, New Century Version) and “The faces and the wings of the four creatures were like this.”

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 .