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.
22. Et similitudo super capita animalis hoc est animalium firmamenti: tanquam aspectus chrystalli terribilis; expansi super capita ipsorum animalium desuper.
Now the Prophet states the principal thing in this vision -- that God was seated on his throne: because if he had spoken only of wheels and living creatures, the vision had been partial, and therefore inefficient. But when he places God upon his own throne, we understand that angels, who inspire motion in other things, have neither vigor nor motion peculiar to themselves. On the whole, the Prophet here says that angels so move all things that are done under heaven, that no proper motion ought to be ascribed to them. And why? because God presides over them and governs their actions. This is the object of the latter part of the vision, which we are now going to explain.
He says then, above the heads of the living creatures was the likeness of a firmament By these words he wishes gradually to draw us to God himself, and God also so deals with his Prophet that he places different steps by which the Prophet himself according to his capacity may gradually climb to an immense altitude. The Prophet does not here speak concerning the throne of God, but only concerning the firmament. For when we raise our eyes upwards, God's glory appears nearer to us than it does on earth. True it is, that it shines equally on all sides; but heaven has in itself: greater excellence than the whole earth, and the nearer we approach to God, the more conspicuous to us becomes his image. For truly God there exercises his own power and wisdom much more clearly than on earth. How many wonders does the sun present to us! If we consider first the planets, and next the stars, we shall be inspired a hundred times with admiration. Therefore when the Prophet speaks of the firmament, he raises our thoughts so that they approach by degrees unto God. He saw therefore the likeness of the firmament Had he simply seen the firmament, it would not have been a vision: for this is always visible. I know not why the Greeks used the word stereoma, nor why the Latins followed them: for the Hebrew word rqy, rekiang, has nothing like it or in affinity with it. Yet I use the received word. The heavens then, which are always visible, could not render the Prophet sufficiently attentive. But he saw the likeness of the firmament, whence he noticed that it was not the mere sky, but a new form submitted to his eyes, as if God were bringing the Prophet himself into heaven with outstretched hand. Above the heads of the living creatures an expansion was spread out Here another participle is used, ntvy, netvi, signifying |extended,| for the word nth, neteh, means to extend or stretch out. As the appearance of terrible crystal, he says; for the color of crystal was in this sky which the Prophet saw, but God added the terror, because, as I have previously mentioned, on account of our sluggishness God must put forth violence when he wishes to attach us entirely to himself. Above the heads of the living creatures themselves, he says, upwards; that is, that we may understand them to be subject to the sway of Almighty God, as we shall afterwards see. It follows --