SPECIAL TOPIC: CHERUBIM (BDB 500, KB 497)

A. One of several types of angelic beings mentioned in the OT (i.e., Cherubim, Seraphim, Arch Angels, Messenger Angels). This particular type guarded sacred areas (cf. Gen. 3:24; Exod. 25:18-22; 1 Kgs. 8:6-7).

B. Etymology is uncertain.

1. from Akkadian "intercessor" or "mediator" between God and mankind

2. from Hebrew there is a possible word play between "chariot" and "cherub" (cf. Ezek. 1; 10)

3. some scholars say it means "brilliant appearance"

 

C. Physical form – This has been difficult to ascertain because of varying descriptions within the Bible and varying animal-human forms found in the Ancient Near East. Some link them to

1. winged bull of Mesopotamia

2. winged eagle – lions of Egypt called "griffins"

3. winged creatures on Hiram's (King of Tyres) throne

4. sphinx of Egypt and similar forms found in King Ahab's ivory palace in Samaria

 

D. Physical Description

1. The form of the Cherubim is linked with the form of the Seraphim of Isaiah 6.

2. Examples of different forms

a. Number of faces

(1) two – Ezek. 41:18

(2) four – Ezek. 1:6,10; 10:14,21

(3) one – Rev. 4:7

b. Number of wings

(1) two – 1 Kgs. 6:24

(2) four – Ezek. 1:6,11; 10:7,8-21

(3) six (like Seraphim of Isa. 6:2) – Rev. 4:8

3. Other features (also called "the Living Creatures")

c. Human hands – Ezek. 1:8; 10:8,21

d. Legs

(1) straight, no knee – Ezek. 1:7

(2) calf feet – Ezek. 1:7

4. Flavius Josephus admits that no one knew what a cherub looked like (cf. Antiquities of the Jews, VIII.3.3).

 

E. Places and purpose found in the Bible

1. Guardian of the tree of life, Gen. 3:24 (possibly used metaphorically in Ezek. 28:14,16)

2. Guardian of the Tabernacle

a. over the Ark of the Covenant; Exod. 25:18-20; Num. 7:89; 1 Sam. 4:4; Heb. 9:5

b. depicted on veil and curtains of the tabernacle; Exod. 26:1,31; 36:8,35

3. Guardian of Solomon's Temple

a. two large carved cherubs in Holy of Holies; 1 Kgs. 6:23-28; 8:6-7; 2 Chr. 3:10-14; 5:7-9

b. on walls of inner shrine; 1 Kgs. 6:29,35; 2 Chr. 3:7

c. on panels that were associated with the several lavers; 1 Kgs. 7:27-39

4. Guardian of Ezekiel's Temple – carved on walls and doors; Ezek. 41:18-20, 25

5. Connected with transportation of deity

a. possibly a metaphor for wind; 2 Sam. 22:11; Ps. 18:10; 104:3-4; Isa. 19:1

b. guardian of God's throne; Ps.80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16

c. guardian of God's portable throne chariot; Ezek. 1:4-28; 10:3-22; 1 Chr. 28:18

6. Herod's Temple – painted on walls (i.e., guardian cf. Talmud "Yoma" 54a)

7. Revelation throne scene (i.e., guardian cf. Revelation 4-5)

 

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