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What Would God Drive?

font size="1">sourcehariot of Fire, woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Chariot of Fire, woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible. They are often hard to distinguish from descriptions of Yahweh himself, who was known for making big noisy fiery spectacles in the sky. In fact, as many people have noted, Yahweh behaved a whole lot like a jet airplane.

Below are some descriptions of divine chariots in the Bible (you may also be interested in my post about vehicles of other deities).

Isaiah 66:5 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

Psalms 68:17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

Jeremiah 4:13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.

2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

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'Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880). Oil, canvas. 165x297 сm. a depiction of the hero of Russian folklore, Ivan Tsarevich, on exhibit at the Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum.'

In an experience reminiscent of flying carpets, Zechariah reports:

Zechariah 5:1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
2 And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

A cubit is about the size of a typical forearm, about 20 inches.

In the book of Acts, Peter gets take-out delivered by Yahweh:

Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

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Mystic Wheel (Ezekiel's Vision) by Fra Angelico, circa 1451.

And then there’s Ezekiel’s wheel, the Biblical prophet’s famous encounter with the physical “word of God” and his very detailed (if odd) description of it, which so many people have interpreted as describing a spaceship.

Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,
3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

We can’t blame Ezekiel for being confused; it sounds as if he just had no frame of reference for what he was seeing. Even modern-day people having encounters with “UFOs” have trouble understanding and describing what they have seen, and try to make sense of it by comparing it to things they do understand—in Ezekiel’s case, “living creatures” and wheels. For info on various interpretations of Ezekiel’s vision, see the section on the Book of Ezekiel on Wikipedia’s Ancient Astronauts page.

sourceEzekiel's Wheel. Woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Ezekiel’s Wheel. Woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
sourceEzekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
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Ezekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
source'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
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'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
sourceThe Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
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The Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.
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Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.

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Legend of St Francis, Vision of the Flaming Chariot, by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE.
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.source
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.
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'God in Majesty' from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry.
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According to Babelfish's translation from the Russian caption, 'Paternity of icon (Yaroslavl, 17 c.) of.jpeg FATHERLAND Yaroslavl'. Third quarter OF XVII v. Tree, levkas, the tempera.'
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
A detail from the above painting.
A detail from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
sourceElijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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Elijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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What Swallowed Jonah and Why?

Raised with Sunday School sensationalism, I was aware that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but the finer points escaped me. The info I picked up from Geppetto and Pinocchio’s Disney adventures inside Monstro was not much help, either. Now I’ve learned the whole Jonah story, or as much of it as has survived the ages.

Medieval paintings of Jonah and the whale by Albertus Pictor.
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The Jonah best-known to Yahweh-followers is an Israeli prophet circa 8th century BCE, whose story is told in the Bible’s Book of Jonah. Many Christians call him a saint. Jewish tradition has it that Jonah was the boy that Elijah is famous for bringing back to life. He is one of the 12 minor prophets in the Tanakh, and the Book of Jonah is read every year on Yom Kippur. Jonah (Yunus in Arabic) is a very important Islamic prophet, and the big fish story in the Qur’an is very similar to the Bible’s. Jonah may be the Oannes of the Babylonians, and the Jason of the Greeks.

The whale in the story was originally a big fish, becoming a whale in a 16th-century Bible mistranslation. Even so, scientists assert that there is no known sea creature that would swallow a man whole. Some whales eat plankton and would choke on a herring. Others, while capable of consuming something the size of a man, have shown no interest in doing so, and prefer to chew their food first. The big fishes under consideration all have deal-breaker problems, such as sharp turns in their gullets, or throats only four inches wide.

And let’s not forget: Jonah stays “in the belly of the fish” for three days and nights, praying about how sorry he is. What kind of fish would allow that? And how did all this happen?

It all starts when Yahweh tells Jonah, a minor prophet, to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that Yahweh is offended by their behavior and they have 40 days to shape up or the city will be destroyed. Instead of doing Yahweh’s bidding, Jonah leaves town and gets on a ship going the other direction.

If you’re familiar with how Yahweh mistreats his prophets, you can’t help rooting for Jonah. But it’s very hard to hide from God, as Jonah discovers when Yahweh sends a “mighty tempest in the sea,” such a ferocious storm the sailors have never seen anything like it. Jonah tells them it is his fault and that they should throw him overboard. With some moral qualms, they do (although why he didn’t just jump, I don’t know), and the storm stops. The sailors become on-the-spot true believers in Yahweh, and fire up the sacrificial altar (throw some shrimp on the barbie, in Australian).

Jonah, meanwhile, is right where Yahweh wants him.

Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, after Jonah repeatedly says he is so, so sorry, and he will do whatever Yahweh wants:

Jonah 2:10 …the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

So then Jonah goes to Nineveh and tells everybody they’d better repent, and, to his fury, they listen to him. Everybody from the king on down to the sheep fasts and puts on sackcloth and ashes, repenting.

Why is Jonah upset? Because these people are Assyrians, hated enemies of Judah and Israel. He wants Yahweh to nuke them. He is angry that he had to go warn them, and he is angry that they listened to him and aren’t going to get destroyed, and his pride is hurt because he is going to look like his prophecy has failed. He actually camps outside the town for a while, hoping it will get destroyed. Yahweh asks him if he is angry, and he replies, basically, “You bet I am.” But Yahweh is impressed with the sackcloth and ashes, and spares the city, while Jonah continues to wish Yahweh’s mercy would be reserved for the Israelites.

800px-HMS_Plumper_sea_serpent_1848
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I think it’s obvious, from a 21st-century perspective, that the fish/whale/sea monster that Jonah entered and stayed in for three days and nights was a vehicle that Yahweh sent to fetch him, just as the flying elephants and thunderbirds and dragons associated with sky gods were vehicles under their control. The sky vehicles are now called UFOs, and the sea monsters are now called USOs (Unidentified Submarine Objects).

As with UFOs, people have been having encounters with USO “sea monsters” in oceans, lakes, and rivers throughout the world for thousands of years.

I’m sure that being forced into whatever “swallowed” Jonah was a severe shock to his system, but the “great fish” was no more a fish than the Lernaean hydra was a many-headed water serpent (with “poisonous breath so virulent even her tracks were deadly”), no more than Indra’s flying Airavata was a three-headed elephant. Mythical animals often have the characteristics of vehicles (such as being made of bronze).

Btw, as a Biblical prophet, Jonah had it easy — compared to Isaiah, for instance, who had to walk around naked for three years, or Ezekiel, who had to lie on his side for 390 days and eat “measured food.”

Who knows what Yahweh was thinking?