Oct 26, 2022 I Brent Swancer

UFOs, the Bible, and the Strange Story of the Wheel of Ezekiel

There have been many UFO reports alleged to have come from ancient times, far predating the modern phenomenon as we know it. Among these, some of the weirdest and most controversial are those that have supposedly popped up in various religious texts throughout history. Pretty much every major religious text there is boasts at least one strange encounter that has been attributed to aliens and UFOs, and here we will look at a persistent one from the Bible. 

The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Tanakh and considered to be one of the major prophetic books of the Bible. It follows the words of the Judean prophet Ezekiel ben-Buzi, a priest living in exile in the city of Babylon between 593 and 571 BCE, who is written to have encountered God there and received six visions structured around three themes: Judgment on Israel, Judgment on the nations, and Future blessings for Israel. One of these bizarre visions came to Ezekiel in the form of a vision of four burning wheels, which “sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel,” with God atop a chariot attended by angels. Called “Ezekiel’s Wheel,” interpretations have varied as to what exactly it is all supposed to actually mean, but one common idea is given by the site Bible Study Tools, which says of it:

The Bible story of Ezekiel's wheel features a vision of four wheels that illustrates the spiritual, divine essence of God and His omnipresence in our reality. This story is predominately found in the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, as part of his inaugural vision. God approaches Ezekiel as the divine warrior, riding in his battle chariot. The chariot is drawn by four living creatures, each having four faces (those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle) and four wings. Beside each "living creature" is a "wheel within a wheel", with "tall and awesome" rims full of eyes all around. God appoints Ezekiel as a prophet and as a "watchman" in Israel: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites.” Ezekiel’s vision of the four wheels dramatically illustrates the omnipresence and omniscience of God. These wheels were associated with the “four living creatures” (Ezekiel 1:4), who were later described (Ezekiel 10:5-20) as cherubim, angelic beings appointed as guardians of the holiness of God. The Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. As a result, the creatures were able to move any direction the wheels moved. Most biblical scholars hold to the idea that the Spirit of God gave direction to the wheels through direct knowledge of and access to the will of God. The mobility of the wheels suggests the omnipresence of God; the eyes, His omniscience; and the elevated position, His omnipotence.

Although this is an oft-cited interpretation of Ezekiel’s wheel, it was only a matter of time before someone looked at it and came to the conclusion that it was not God, but aliens. Enter Austrian- born American engineer Josef F. Blumrich, who interestingly started out as a hardcore skeptic of UFOs in the Bible. Blumrich began his research with the aim of debunking ancient astronaut theories and the notion that aliens and UFOs are present in the Bible after reading Erich von Daniken’s controversial book Chariots of the Gods. It must be made clear that Blumrich was no hack, at the time serving as the chief of NASA's systems layout branch of the program development office at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and he approached it all from a scientific engineering standpoint in a sincere effort to disprove what he saw as Von Daniken’s bonkers ideas. However, when he came to Ezekiel’s Wheel and began a detailed analysis of the story, his mind seems to have begun to change, and he slowly came to the conclusion that Ezekiel's account in the Bible was not a description of a meeting with God in a prophetic vision, but that he had in fact seen an alien spacecraft. 

Blumrich would meticulously analyze six different translations of the Bible while applying his experience in engineering and land on one possible version of Ezekiel's visions of how God—described as riding in an elaborate vehicle attended by angels- was in fact an alien being riding a spaceship. He would even make numerous detailed drawings of the alien craft, as well as technical specifications of the hypothesized spacecraft, and elaborate at length on how the craft depicted in the Bible would actually operate. He would claim that the craft operated on a basic concept now known as the Omni wheel, which is a wheel that is capable of rotating not only in a forward and backward direction, but also sideways, even going as far as to patent the idea. He would compile all of this into a book called The Spaceships of Ezekiel (1974), originally published in German under the title Da tat sich der Himmel auf. The book goes into great detail on Blumich’s far out ideas, coming complete with robust appendices chock full of very detailed, elaborate drawings of the proposed craft, technical specifications, descriptions of alien beings, and all sorts of weird stuff. Throughout it all he goes through a point by point breakdown of the text of the original account and gives his own reasons for why it was aliens. For example, here is one version of the story from the Bible:

I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. 

Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces.

This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Now, traditionally, this would have been interpreted as a visitation from God and an entourage of angels, but not to Blumrich, who responds in his book nearly sentence by sentence to the above passage, saying:

The spacecraft begins at some distance from the prophet in its initial descent. Vapour cloud is from cooling preliminary to firing of rocket engine. Rocket engine is then fired. Looking upward, the prophet sees four shapes surrounded by fire and vapour that look alive. These are helicopter-like bodies deployed before landing. The prophet is now able to see more detail because the craft is at low altitude. He sees the four blades of the rotors and the fairing housings above the rotors that give the appearance of faces. There are landing legs. The legs have shock absorbers and round footpads. Remote-controlled mechanical arms hanging alongside the cylindrical helicopter bodies are also referenced, and a reference to the helicopter blades protruding outward is made. 

The fairing surfaces, which protect the gears and other control devices above the rotors, look to the prophet like faces. The fairings are irregular in shape with some raised and some cut out areas, all of which lends itself to an awe-struck interpretation on the prophet’s part. Because like faces face in like directions, we see that the rotors are synchronized at rest position. The first part refers to the rotor blades being divided. The suggestion is that there is a kind of gap in the control mechanism or fairing. The last part of the verse refers to the rotor blades folded in an up and down position.

One passage refers to the landing leg assembly and the retractable wheels as part of each leg assembly. Ezekiel doesn’t see the wheels until they are actually deployed in verse fifteen. Verses nine, twelve and fifteen are interrelated. Ezekiel is referring to the flowing reactor radiator and the bursts from the control rockets. The lightning effect comes from what would seem like leaping random fire but in fact is controlled bursts from the various control rockets for stabilization purposes. The spacecraft hovers and moves in various directions until a suitable landing site is found. The wheels are deployed. They appear at the very moment they become necessary. The greenish-bluish color of the wheels suggests a protective film or coating. A further description of advanced reversible wheels is given. Ezekiel is confused – looks to him like a wheel within a wheel. These wheels look like they are obeying orders. He has had experience with wheels but these are puzzling. Thus he gives much time to their description. The craft rolls on the ground, probably in a maneuver to find the most suitable site. There is a description of the main body of the craft. We get its basic shape, spreading out like a “firmament.” The surface of the main body is metallic, shining, bright.

We are given additional information concerning the position of the helicopter-like appendages relative to the main body. Rotor blades are at rest. The prophet sees the command module shaped and colored like a cabachon-cut sapphire. Seated in the pilot’s seat is a man. The prophet describes the light effects of the commander’s flight suit. There are the optical light effects of the translucent cabachon-shaped command module sitting atop the main body of the spacecraft. Sunlight hitting the translucent surface and reflecting off other surfaces inside the module causes a rainbow light effect. The brightness was “round about him.” It did not emanate from “him.” Him, we should carefully note, refers to Ezekiel’s initial mistake of identity – confusing the spacecraft with God himself.

Do you see any of that in the original passage, or is Blumrich perhaps reading a bit too much into things? There is much more to his analysis, pages and pages of it. He even goes on in the book to describe Ezekiel actually going aboard the spaceship, and it is all some pretty wild stuff, especially coming from a respected NASA engineer who went into this expressly to debunk the very same kind of talk he would end up writing a whole book about. Of course there has been a great amount of criticism and skepticism aimed at Blumrich’s book, with one critic Ronald Story saying of it:

Blumrich doctors up his Biblical quotes just a smidgen to make them conform a little better to his spaceship interpretation, and The Spaceships of Ezekiel, in all honesty, can only be described as an extreme form of rationalization, with a good supply of technical jargon, charts, and diagrams, carefully designed to impress the general reader. The book does contain a good collection of impressive drawings which prove nothing more than that whoever prepared them is a good draughtsman.

Indeed it is hard to know what to make of all of this. Is Blumrich just delusional and reading too much into all of this? If so, why would such a well-respected scientist who had set out to out it all as hogwash do such a thing? What did he see that convinced him so much and were there ever aliens and UFOs really in the Bible? It is all some very strange stuff indeed, and the ultimate answers remain unclear. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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