Cherubim (singular: cherub) are heavenly beings that are depicted as the throne-bearers of God. The imagery of the Cherubim involves them lifting Yahweh or him riding on them, probably akin to people carrying a king’s throne on a litter. This is not necessarily (though potentially is) a literal description of the Cherubim’s role in the universe, but symbolic imagery of God’s own majesty in a manner that would have been understood by the ancient Hebrews. The Cherubim’s brief appearance in the Garden of Eden protecting the Tree of Life in the east is their only actual historical appearance described in Scripture.
Every other appearance of cherubim is poetic, symbolic or doxological. The Cherubim are described in the most detail in the prophet Ezekiel’s early visions. They are also mentioned frequently in conjunction with their artistic depictions in the Ark of the Covenant, the First Temple (and less so, Solomon’s Palace). The rest of their literary references are in doxological epithets of Yahweh in the Book of Psalms, and the historical narratives of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles and once in Isaiah (quoting Kings verbatim).
|Ezekiel 1||Ezekiel 10|
|Given Name||Living Creature||Cherubim|
|Faces||Man, Lion, Ox, Eagle||Cherub, Man, Lion, Eagle|
|Wings||4 wings each (Two upward attached to each other, and two covering their bodies.)||4 Wings each|
|Hands||Hands of a Man under their wings||Hands of a Man under their wings|
|Feet||Hooves like cows; brass colored|
|Movement||Always walked straight forward; do not turn as they move
They move as fast as the flash of lighting
|Always moved straight forward; do not turn as they move|
|Apperance||They glow like burning coal with lightening sparking out|
|Wheels||The color of Beryl by the Cherubim that moved with them|
|Eyes||Rings of eyes high above and around them|
|Sounds||When they move, the sound of their wings are described as a noise of great water, as the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.|
|*It is possible that the four beasts of Revelation 4 are separate beings, not just four different faces on the same being.|
From Israel's earliest days, there has been a recongition of the cherubim. In those days, the study of spiritual beings in hybrid man and animal forms was common. Unfortunately, the Hebrew etymology for their name is unknown.
Guardians of Eden
The first recorded act and probable first mention of the Cherubim is found in the Book of Genesis. After Adam and Eve eat the prohibited fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. This was done to prevent mankind from retaining immortality by eating the fruit from the Tree of Life. Once he expelled the first humans, cherubim were assigned at the east of the Garden. Alongside a sword of fire that covered all angles, the cherubim guarded the pathway to the Tree of Life. They are described here without explanation, demonstrating how the readers knew what the cherubim were.
The Ark of the Covenant
For the majority of the biblical record, cherubim were understood symbolically or relative to their symbolism. The most important cherub symbols were the figurines on the Ark of the Covenant.
As recorded in Exodus, Moses was given divine instruction on the specifications of the Ark and the Tabernacle. Detailing the requirements of the Ark, God instructed Moses to have a golden mercy seat or lid for the Ark. Embedded on the lid, there would be one cherub on each end facing parallel to each other. The wings of the cherubim would shadow the mercy seat. The space between them, the "mercy seat" would be the place God would dwell inside the Holy of Holies. This was a representation of the idea that cherubim were litters or throne bearers for God. In the same way, the Ark of the Covenant itself was to be shuttled around on poles carried on the shoulders of Levites.
With the impending threat of an Assyrian invasion of Jerusalem, King Hezekiah sought God in prayer in his temple. Seeking the refuge and protection of God, Hezekiah called his master Yahweh, "the one enthroned above the cherubim". Using an epithet, Hezekiah brought to mind both the majesty and power of God who is carried around by the cherubim.
It is generally accepted that the cherubim are a type of Angel, although only Lucifer is described as both a cherub and an angel. In Ezekiel, Lucifer is described as the anointed Cherub. The Apostle Paul explains Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. This is the only link in the Bible showing that cherubim are angels, no other cherub is described as an angel directly. Jesus says in Luke that he saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven, which is consistent with the movement of a cherub described by Ezekiel.
In Exodus the LORD instructs Moses to make two cherubim statues out of hammered gold to be placed on both ends of the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle. Images of cherubim are also present in the fine linen used throughout the Tabernacle. Since cherubim are present in the Tabernacle, it is no surprise that cherubim would be found later in the Temple. That is exactly what we find in the First Book of Kings; a pair of statues of cherubim are placed in the inner sanctuary in the Temple, made from olive wood, and overlaid with god.
Two different Psalms paint an image of God sitting enthroned between the cherubim in Heaven. In Psalms 80:1 it is the "Shepard of Israel" that dwells between the cherubim, and in Psalms 99:1 it is the LORD that sits between the Cherubim. The Psalms parallel with the Ark of the Covenant in Second Samuel where the LORD of Hosts is described to dwell between the cherubim.
The Prophet Ezekiel describes living creatures in Ezekiel Chapter 1, then cherubim in Ezekiel Chapter 10, and at the end of Chapter 10 he clarifies the cherubim are the same living creature he saw before. He witnessed them both times with the Throne of God.
It is entirely possible that not all cherubim look the exact same. Lucifer is described differently than the four described by Ezekiel in Chapter 1 and 10. The four cherubim in Chapter 1 are described as having four faces (Man, Lion, Ox, Eagle). The four cherubim in Chapter 10 also have four faces, but one is different (Cherub, Man, Lion, Eagle). Although they are described with some differences in Chapter 10, Ezekiel confirms that these are the same living creatures he wrote of in Chapter 1.
It is interesting to speculate that Lucifer, as a cherub, could have four faces one of which may be a human face. It is also possible as many as three faces could be faces of earthly creatures. It must have been an interesting event as the cherubim witnessed the creation of the earth and saw the creation of the living creatures of their faces. This could also have been one reason Lucifer would have been so quick to visit earth, and cause the fall of mankind; taking dominion of the earth. The devil is also described as walking around the earth like a roaring lion which one could also speculate may be one of his faces.
It is worth noting that John in the Book of Revelations described four beasts around the throne of God that share similarities with the Cherubim described in Ezekiel. They are described as having 6 wings, and bodies covered in eyes vs rings of eyes high above them.
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:5 (Link)
- Ezekiel 1:6
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:14 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:6, 9, 11 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:21 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:8 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:8 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:7 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:9, 12, 17 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:14 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:11 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:13 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:15, 16, 19-21 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1: 18 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:24 (Link)
- ↑ Gen 3:22-24 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Kings 19:5, Isa 37:16 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 28:14 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Corinthians 11:14 (Link)
- ↑ Luke 10:18 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:14 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 3:24 (Link)
- ↑ Exodus 25:18-20 (Link)
- ↑ Exodus 26:1, 26:31, 36:8, 36:35 (Link)
- 1 Kings 6:23-28; 8:6-7
- ↑ Psalms 80:1, 99:1 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Samuel 4:4 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Samuel 6:2 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 1:5 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:1 (Link)
- Ezekiel 10:15, 20
- ↑ Ezekiel 28:12-13 (Link)
- ↑ Ezekiel 10:14 (Link)
- ↑ Job 38:4,7 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 3:1-7 (Link)
- ↑ Romans 5:12 (Link)
- ↑ Job 1:7, 2:2 (Link)
- ↑ Matthew 4:8-9 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Peter 5:8 (Link)
- ↑ Revelation 4:7-9 (Link)