“a stormy wind came out of the north.” It is certainly no accident that God appeared to Ezekiel coming out of a storm cloud. Nippur was one of the most ancient Sumerian cities, and the name “Nippur” comes from the ancient Sumerian and means “Lord wind.” In Sumerian mythology Nippur, the city close to where Ezekiel was located, was the home of Enlil, the Sumerian storm god and creator of mankind. In fact, the ancient mythology was that Enlil actually created mankind at Nippur. Through the centuries and conquests of nations, Enlil lost his powerful position to the Babylonian god Marduk, but Enlil remained as one of the powerful Mesopotamian gods and the god who carried out the decrees of the council of gods that met at Nippur. The sanctuary of Enlil at Nippur was considered sacred by all the various dynasties that ruled Mesopotamia.
Understanding the religious context of the area where Ezekiel was located helps us understand why Yahweh showed Himself to Ezekiel in the way He did. Yahweh showed Himself to Ezekiel not only as the true God and thus the creator of mankind, but as the “real” storm God as well, approaching Ezekiel like a powerful storm on His chariot-throne, complete with wind, clouds and lightning. Yahweh is rightfully called, “the Most High God” because He rules over all other gods and lords (cp. Gen. 14:18; Ps. 7:10; Isa. 14:14; Dan. 4:2; Mark 5:7; Acts 16:17. this is often abbreviated to simply “Most High”).
“a great cloud with fire flashing back and forth.” Although this is described as if Ezekiel is seeing an actual storm coming, we learn as we read that this “storm” is Yahweh approaching, and what Ezekiel is seeing is part of a grand vision in which Yahweh appears to him. The “cloud” surrounding God was the cloud of glory around him (cp. Ezek. 1:28).
“And out of the center of it gleamed something like the glow of gleaming amber.” As Yahweh’s chariot-throne approached, surrounded by clouds and flashing like lightning, it makes sense that the inside would gleam and glow like amber, for Yahweh Himself was on the throne of His chariot. As for the “gleaming amber,” the meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain, and it is only used in Ezekiel 1:4, 27; and 8:2. We know that God’s presence caused a gleam or glow, but the exact nature of it is unknown, although amber is a likely candidate. The fact that Ezekiel describes the gleam from the presence of God in rare and uncertain terms shows us that it was a rare and hard to describe sight. The phrase, “the glow of,” which in some versions is “the color of” (CJB; JPS; KJV) is the same Hebrew word as “eye” in Ezekiel 1:18.