(an outtake from Once More, From the Beginning. This is one of the bits that didn’t make it into the book.)
During the period of their captivity in Babylon, the Jews had to become quite inventive in order to keep their spirits up. Even the priests were expected to contribute an interesting selection of visions to augment the traditional tales with which the people whiled away the dreary hours. Naturally, some were more successful than others. One of the most creative was a self-effacing little priest named Ezekiel.
Among his most popular offerings – it came to him in broad daylight – was a set of four brassy multi-winged creatures, sporting four faces apiece, only a scattering of which were human, and accompanied by wheels . . . with eyes. Above them perched a throne, with what appeared to be a man sitting thereon. This was understood to be merely an image of the Glory of God, of course, because it will be remembered that God was rather shy about having his own likeness on display, and would never have allowed it (a subtle distinction, to the common layman.)
What might have seemed like a hallucination in a lesser man satisfied Ezekiel that he was in the presence of The Lord himself.
Having hand-picked Ezekiel to deliver a most important message to the Jews, The Lord was acutely aware of his messenger’s weaknesses as well as his more stellar qualities. The wee prophet was as faithful as any master could have required, but his memory left a little something to be desired. Anticipating a potential problem and not wishing to put any unnecessary strain on Ezekiel’s limited intellectual capacity, The Lord had the foresight to write his message on a scroll, which he instructed the obliging priest to eat – perhaps intending the information to be absorbed through his stomach lining by an innovative application of osmosis. The addition of a celestial sweetener made the words taste of honey, and Ezekiel was able to nibble his way through the entire scroll without even the hint of a bellyache.
He was finishing up the last few phrases when God thought to give him a heads-up. “Just so you know,” he warned, “you’ll be kidding yourself if you think the house of Israel will listen to one word of it.” This must have made the whole meal seem a bit pointless, but Ezekiel was much too loyal to say so.
In fact, The Lord must have had some very serious concerns about the prophet’s safety, for he took the singular precaution of strengthening Ezekiel’s forehead so that it would be harder than flint. (It must be assumed that the children of Israel had formed an unseemly habit, at that time, of butting heads with anyone whose pronouncements displeased them; otherwise The Lord would not have found it necessary to provide Ezekiel with this particularly unusual form of protection.)
The wheely, winged creatures – which must have been much more corporeal than he had any reason to suspect – carried Ezekiel from vision dream-land back to Babylon where he sat, stunned, for the next week or so. Eventually, God noticed him sitting there, appearing to be somewhat unclear about the exact nature of his duties as prophet; perhaps the slow-witted priest assumed that eating the book had been enough, and that no further action need be taken.
“Look,” The Lord suggested, testily, “if you don’t get busy warning the people to reform their wicked ways right away,” (that appears to have been one of the issues covered in the book) “you’re going to be paying for their sins out of your own pocket!”
Unfortunately, this ultimatum simply sent the little man to bed with a sick headache and God was forced to realize that his plan was not going at all well. He cast about for a more creative way to spread his message.