Diving into the deep and rich reservoir of biblical lore, we find the fascinating realm of angelic beings, specifically the Cherubim. Far from their famous depiction as cute, chubby infants, these celestial entities are described in the Bible with awe-inspiring and mysterious traits. Their purpose and symbolism stretch far and wide within the biblical narrative.
Understanding the biblically accurate Cherubim is essential for a deepened comprehension of the Bible’s overall theological landscape. It allows us to accurately interpret and reflect upon biblical narratives, ensuring we remain faithful to the text. These heavenly beings play significant roles in biblical events and are often employed to denote divine presence or action.
The Bible provides a vivid depiction of Cherubim, mainly in the book of Ezekiel. These beings are depicted as having four faces — that of a man, a big lion, an ox, and an eagle. With four wings covered with eyes, their legs were straight, and their feet resembled a calf’s, shining like burnished bronze.
|Faces||Man, Lion, Ox, Eagle|
|Wings||Four, covered with eyes|
|Legs and Feet||Straight legs with calf-like feet, shining like burnished bronze|
The term ‘Cherub’ derives from the Hebrew word ‘Keruv.’ While its exact origin is uncertain, it is speculated to carry the meaning of ‘one who intercedes’ or ‘one who is near.’ These interpretations resonate with Cherubim’s role in the biblical narratives — as intermediaries between the divine and the human realms and as direct attendants of God’s divine presence.
‘Cherub’ is singular, while ‘Cherubim’ is plural. Cherubim thus refers to multiple beings of this angelic order.
|Cherub||Singular form, referring to one of these angelic beings|
|Cherubim||Plural form, referring to multiple entities of this order|
While we aim to provide an accurate biblical interpretation of Cherubim, variations may exist due to different translations and interpretations of the original biblical texts. Always refer to your religious or spiritual authorities for personalized advice and interpretations.
Description of Cherubim in Biblical Texts
Initial Appearance of Cherubim in Genesis
In the book of Genesis, the very first mention of Cherubim appears following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. To guard the whole way to the Tree of Life and prevent humankind from eating its fruit and achieving immortality, God stationed the Cherubim with a flaming sword that turned every way.
|Genesis||Genesis 3:24, “So he drove out the man himself, and he placed at the east of the heavenly garden of Eden Cherubims, and a big flaming sword which turned around every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”|
Detailed Description in the Book of Ezekiel
The book of Ezekiel provides the most detailed depiction of the Cherubim. As mentioned earlier, they are described as having four different faces, wings covered with eyes, and legs like a calf’s, gleaming like burnished bronze. In addition, the text states that each Cherub has a wheel beside it, full of eyes around the rim. These “wheels within wheels” move along with the Cherubim, denoting the omnipresence and omniscience of God.
|Ezekiel||Ezekiel 10:14, “And every one had four different faces: the first great face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a nice man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.”|
Brief Look into Cherubim in Other Biblical Books
Cherubim also make appearances in other biblical books. In Exodus, God instructs Moses to make two cherubim of gold on either end of the greatest mercy seat. The Cherubim are also present in the heavenly visions described in Revelation.
|Exodus||Exodus 25:18-20, “And thou shalt make two big cherubim of gold, of beaten great work shalt thou make them, in the two different ends of the mercy seat. And make one Cherub on the one end, and the other great Cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their large wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.”|
|Revelation||Revelation 4:6-8, “And before the biggest throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, the second scary beast like a calf, the third beast had a face like a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four scary beasts had each of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Great Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”|
The presence and role of Cherubim throughout the Bible highlight their significance in the cosmic order as presented in the biblical narratives. Their appearances are often associated with pivotal moments where the divine intersects with the human realm, further emphasizing their function as intermediaries between God and humankind.
Faces and Gaze of Cherubim
Examination of the Four Faces as Described in Ezekiel
Ezekiel’s description of the Cherubim is arguably the most detailed in the Bible. It indicates that each Cherubim possesses four faces: a human, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.
|Human||It is often suggested that the human face represents reason and intelligence.|
|Lion||The lion face could symbolize courage and strength, often associated with “the king of the jungle.”|
|Ox||An ox is generally a symbol of servitude and sacrifice, referencing the animal’s role in ancient agricultural societies.|
|Eagle||The eagle face might symbolize divine vision and swiftness due to the bird’s renowned eyesight and speed.|
These faces represent varying aspects of the divine nature, symbolizing omnipotence (lion), omniscience (human), omnipresence (eagle), and sacrificial love (ox).
Explanation of the Multitude of Eyes Mentioned in Various Texts
The multitude of eyes on the Cherubim is especially intriguing. In the book of Revelation, the Cherubim (often translated as “beasts”) are described as “full of eyes in front and in back.” This detail is usually interpreted as a sign of the Cherubim’s all-seeing nature, symbolizing God’s omniscience. The Cherubim see and perceive all things as heavenly beings, signifying their watchfulness and vigilance.
|Revelation||Revelation 4:6, “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the greatest throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.”|
Discussion on Why Cherubim Face Each Other
Biblical texts often describe Cherubim as facing each other, particularly in their positioning on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. It is often suggested that this arrangement represents their reverence and subservience to God. Their gaze is directed inward toward the symbol of God’s presence, signifying their role as guardians of the divine.
|Exodus||Exodus 25:20, “And the cherubim shall stretch forth their big wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.”|
The attention given to these seemingly obscure details in the biblical text underscores the immense symbolism imbued within the Cherubim, exploring the divine attributes in the eyes of ancient biblical writers.
Wings and Movement of Cherubim
Examination of the Wings of Cherubim, Their Number and Purpose
The wings of the Cherubim are another notable element in their descriptions across biblical literature. Cherubim are most often depicted with two or four wings.
In the Ark of the Covenant context, each Cherubim has two wings. The wings spread upwards, overshadowing the Mercy Seat, creating an intimate space that symbolizes the dwelling place of God.
|Number of Wings||Context and Purpose|
|Two Wings||The two wings of each Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant are used to create a sacred and sheltered space above the Mercy Seat, as mentioned in Exodus 25:20.|
|Four Wings||In the visions of Ezekiel, the Cherubim have four wings. Two cover their bodies, and the other is used for flight, indicating their readiness to execute divine commands (Ezekiel 1:6).|
Exploration of the Movement of Cherubim, Including the Notion of “Wheels”
One of the most mystifying descriptions of Cherubim comes from the book of Ezekiel, where their movement is associated with “wheels.” Ezekiel describes these heavenly beings as moving in any direction without turning, thanks to their accompanying “wheels.”
The ‘wheels’ mentioned alongside the Cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision are often interpreted as symbols of divine omnipresence and the ability to be everywhere, see everything, and act in all places.
|Ezekiel||Ezekiel 1:16, “The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the beautiful color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.”|
The overall impression derived from the biblical descriptions is that Cherubim are dynamic, awe-inspiring creatures, mobile and ready to serve the divine command. Their representation captures a sense of majesty and mystery that has intrigued readers for centuries.
Role and Function of Cherubim
Cherubim fulfill various roles within biblical texts, each associated with their fundamental function as servants and symbols of the divine. These roles range from guardians and protectors to bearers of God’s divine throne.
|Guardians||In the book of Genesis (3:24), Cherubim are placed by God to guard the way to the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden.|
|Symbolic Protectors||As part of the Ark of the Covenant, Cherubim overshadow the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18-22), symbolizing God’s protective presence.|
|Throne Bearers||In Ezekiel’s visions, Cherubim appear as bearers of God’s divine throne, demonstrating their integral role in divine cosmic order (Ezekiel 1 and 10).|
The Bible presents unique instances of God’s interaction with the Cherubim. One of the most compelling descriptions is God riding upon the Cherubim. This depiction primarily serves to highlight the omnipotence and majesty of God.
In 2 Samuel 22:11, it is written, “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.” It is repeated in Psalms 18:10 with identical wording. In these verses, the image of God riding the Cherubim likens the divine to a mighty king or warrior, using these celestial beings as a vehicle or throne.
|2 Samuel||2 Samuel 22:11, “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.”|
|Psalms||Psalm 18:10, “He mounted the cherubim and flew fast; he soared loud on the wings of the wind.”|
Such verses add a new dimension to the understanding of Cherubim. Far from being just symbolic figures, they are dynamic, living creatures interacting closely with the divine, serving as guardians, enforcers of divine will, and symbols of God’s majestic omnipresence.
Cherubim and Angelic Hierarchy
The divine hierarchy of angels is typically understood as “orders” or “choirs.” A common classification, derived from the works of theologians like Dionysius the Areopagite and Thomas Aquinas, includes nine orders grouped into three spheres.
|First Sphere (closest to God)||Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones|
|Second Sphere||Dominions, Virtues, Powers|
|Third Sphere||Principalities, Archangels, Angels|
In this hierarchy, Cherubim are part of the first sphere and are second only to the Seraphim. This position underscores their importance regarding proximity to God and their responsibility in executing divine will.
Comparison of Cherubim With Other Classes of Angels
In comparing Cherubim with other classes of angels, we notice distinctions in function, appearance, and role within the divine hierarchy.
|Angelic Order||Function and Appearance|
|Seraphim||Seraphim, meaning “the burning ones,” are known for their closeness to God and are often depicted with six wings, covering their faces and feet in a sign of humility and reverence. They are seen as heralds of divine love.|
|Cherubim||Cherubim, as discussed throughout this article, are multi-faced beings associated with knowledge of God, protection, and the bearing of God’s throne. Their depiction is complex, symbolizing their multi-faceted roles.|
|Thrones||The Thrones, or Ophanim, are depicted as wheels and known for their submission to God’s will. They symbolize divine justice and authority.|
Thus, while Cherubim share specific characteristics with other angelic orders, their unique role and symbolic representations set them apart, underscoring their distinctive place within the celestial hierarchy.
Depictions and Representations of Cherubim
The image of the Cherubim has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times throughout history. In early Christian art, Cherubim were represented as blue (symbolizing the sky) and covered in eyes (an allusion to their omniscience). Over time, these creatures began to be personified, often bearing a likeness to solid and youthful faces.
The cherubic figure took a different form as we moved into the Renaissance. They were commonly depicted as chubby infants or young children with wings, a far cry from their ancient and biblically accurate depictions.
In modern times, Cherubim have been incorporated into popular culture. In films, literature, and various forms of artwork, their depictions can range from historically accurate, multi-faced figures to the more whimsical and familiar cherubic babies.
|Period||Depiction of Cherubim|
|Early Christian Art||Blue, covered in eyes, signifying the sky and omniscience|
|Renaissance||Chubby infants or young children with wings|
|Modern Times||Varied, from multi-faced figures to cherubic babies|
Discussion About Biblically Accurate Cherubim Tattoos
In recent years, interest in biblically accurate Cherubim tattoos has been resurgent. These tattoos often adopt the description provided in the book of Ezekiel, representing Cherubim with four faces and four wings. This adherence to the biblical text starkly contrasts the more traditional cherub tattoos, which typically depict a single angelic face and a pair of wings.
Reflection on the Importance of Understanding Biblically Accurate Depiction of Cherubim
Our exploration of the Cherubim has offered insights into their multi-faceted roles and depictions within various religious and cultural contexts. As we have discovered, these celestial beings are not merely decorative figures or whimsical cherubs as commonly depicted in popular culture. They are complex entities imbued with profound symbolism and theological significance.
A clear understanding of the biblically accurate depiction of Cherubim allows us to appreciate the depth and richness of religious texts and their interpretations over time. It also reinforces the importance of accurate portrayal and its role in maintaining the integrity of these ancient and revered figures.
Note that while we have delved deep into the understanding of Cherubim, the discussion continues. The mystery and fascination surrounding these heavenly beings continue to spark interest, research, and interpretation. As we continue to explore and contemplate, we enrich our understanding, appreciation, and admiration for these divine protectors and servants of the celestial order.
Marta Savova is a journalist, health, technolgy and science writer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she has published numerous research papers and articles and has a passion for sharing his knowledge with others. He is a regular contributor to several media.