The Divine Throne-Chariot

The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Divine Throne-Chariot

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The Divine Throne-Chariot
Introduction by Geza Vermes
The Divine Throne-Chariot draws its inspiration from Ezekiel (1:10) and is related to the Book of Revelation (4). It depicts the appearance and movement of the Merkabah, the divine Chariot supported and drawn by the cherubim, which is at the same time a throne and a vehicle. The “small voice” of blessing is drawn from 1 Kings 19:12: it was in a “still small voice” that God manifested himself to Elijah. In our Qumran text this voice is uttered by the cherubim and it is interesting to note that although the Bible does not define the source of the voice, the ancient Aramaic translation of 1 Kings (Targum of Jonathan) ascribes it to angelic beings called “they who bless silently.” The Throne-Chariot was a central subject of meditation in ancient as well as in medieval Jewish esotericism and mysticism, but the guardians of Rabbinic orthodoxy tended to discourage such speculation. The liturgical use of Ezekiel’s chapter on the Chariot is expressly forbidden in the Mishnah; it even lays down that no wise man is to share his understanding of the Merkabah with a person less enlightened than himself. As a result, there is very little ancient literary material extant on the subject, and the Qumran text is therefore of great importance to the study of the origins of Jewish mysticism.

— Excerpt from: The Other Bible, ed. Willis Barnstone (Harper & Row, 1985), p. 705.

The Divine Throne-Chariot

…The ministers of the Glorious Face in the abode of the gods of knowledge fall down before him, and the cherubim utter blessings. And as they rise up , there is a divine small voice and loud praise ; there is a divine small voice as they fold their wings.

The cherubim bless the image of the Throne-Chariot above the firmament, and they praise the majesty of the fiery firmament beneath the seat of his glory. And between the turning wheels, angels of holiness come and go, as it were a fiery vision of most holy spirits; and about them flow seeming rivulets of fire, like gleaming bronze, a radiance of many gorgeous colors, of marvelous pigments magnificently mingled. The Spirits of the Living God move perpetually with the glory of the wonderful Chariot. The small voice of blessing accompanies the tumult as they depart, and on the path of their return they worship the Holy One, Ascending they rise marvelously; settling, they stay still. The sound of joyful praise is silenced and there is a small voice of blessing in all the camp of God.

And a voice of praise resounds from the midst’s of all their divisions in worship. And each one in his place, all their numbered ones sing hymns of praise.

The Dead Sea Scroll Collection at The Gnostic Society Library

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