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Don Stewart :: Who Are the Cherubim?

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Don Stewart
Scripture speaks of angelic creatures known as cherubim. They are possibly the highest form of angelic beings. The word "cherubim" is the plural form of "cherub." In some of the older English versions, cherubim was made plural by "cherubims." This however, is a mistaken translation since cherubim is the plural form, and cherub the singular.

We find the cherubim mentioned a number of times in Scripture.

Guarding Eden

Cherubim guarded the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were banished.

He drove them out; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).

They were placed there to keep Adam and Eve from re-entering the Garden and eating from the tree of life.

Cherubim On The Mercy Seat

The Bible describes two golden figures of the cherubim with their wings stretched over the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant.

You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other; of one piece with the mercy seat you shall make the cherubim at its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one to another; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you (Exodus 25:18-21).

God promised to meet with His people there.

There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all My commands for the Israelites (Exodus 25:22).

Veil Of Tabernacle

The figure of the cherubim were interwoven into the veil of the tabernacle.

Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and blue, purple, and crimson yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them (Exodus 26:1).

Carved Cherubim

Two large-sized olive cherubim were constructed and placed next to the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple.

In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings toward the center of the house were touching wing to wing (1 Kings 6:23,27).

The Lord Riding A Cherub

The Bible speaks of the Lord symbolically riding a cherub.

He rode on a cherub, and flew; He was seen upon the wings of the wind (2 Samuel 22:11).

The Bible also speaks of God as enthroned on the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:1-22).

Who Are The Cherubim?

The exact identity of the cherubim has not been revealed in Scripture. There are three main theories as to who they are, and what they represent.

1. Actual Angels

Many believe that the cherubim are actual angels. They are similar to the seraphim, but a different order. In some instances they seem to be connected to God's judgment and redemption of humanity (Genesis 3:24, Exodus 25:22).

2. Symbolic Representative Of The Godhead

There are some who hold that the cherubim are symbolic representative of the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

3. Symbolic Representations Of Redeemed Humanity

Others contend that cherubim are actually symbolic of redeemed humanity. According to this view, the perfections of humanity that were lost at the fall are now reflected in the cherubim. They represent, not fallen humanity, but redeemed humanity - they are symbolic of what God has done for us. Consequently they are placed near the symbolic presence of God.

Personal Beings?

Therefore, we have two views about the cherubim and their identity. Some see them as personal beings while others see them as only symbolic figures.

Symbols Of God's Mercy

It seems what we can say is that the cherubim were symbols of the mercy of God. While the flaming sword in the Garden of Eden symbolized God's justice, the position of the cherubim, to keep them from re-entering the Garden, was a sign of God's mercy. The position of the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Holy of Holies, would also seem to speak of the mercy of God.

Nearness To God

In addition, their nearness to God gives to all creation the assurance that someday it will be set free from the of sin. The Bible says.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19).

What Did They Look Like?

Not only is the exact identity of the cherubim not known, it is also not known how they looked. Some identify them with the living creatures of Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. If that is the case, then they would have four faces.

the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle (Revelation 4:7).

These four faces are thought to illustrate the strength of God's creatures - lion-like strength, ox-like service, human-like intelligence, and eagle-like speed.

Human Face?

Others, however, believe the cherubim had human faces and are not to be identified with the living creatures that had four faces.

Summary

The cherubim were winged creatures that appear in a number of places in Scripture. They guarded the Garden of Eden, their form was fashioned on the Ark of the Covenant, and two large carved cherubim were placed in the temple. As to their exact identity and appearance, no one knows. It is not certain that they are the living creatures identified in Ezekiel 1 or Revelation 4. Much about them still remains a mystery.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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