CHAPTER 3: THE CHERUBIM
The visions of the cherubim and living creatures all seem to have
Angelic associations, many of which are detailed elsewhere (1).
One of the clearest is that the cherubim were to keep "the way"
to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24), whereas the keeping of the way
is later said to be in the control of Angels- e. g. in Gen. 18:19
the Angels decide Abraham will keep "the way of the Lord", implying
they were the ones guarding it; and in Ex. 32:8 the Angel talking
with Moses on Sinai comments "They have turned aside quickly out
of the way which I commanded them" (see too Dt. 9:10,12). Thus in
Gen. 6:12 "God looked (the Angels are God's eyes) upon the earth,
and. . . all flesh had corrupted His way". Further connections between
Angels and the flood are found in Chapter 7.
John Thomas(2) highlights the
fact that God is described as being fundamentally light (1 Jn. 1:5),
Spirit (John 4:24) and a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). These three
elements figure strongly in the cherubim visions. The Angels are
very closely connected with light, Spirit and fire, leading to the
conclusion that God is very largely manifested through the Angels.
It is emphasized that the cherubim have wings. The Angel that lead
Israel through the wilderness is likened to a bird with large protecting
wings, similar to the idea of the cherubim: "As an eagle stirreth
up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings,
taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead
them" (the work of the wilderness Angel); Dt. 32:11,12.
The cherubim seem to represent God's system of manifestation remaining
fundamentally the same in different times. Thus in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel
1 and Revelation 4 there appear to be different beings sitting upon
a central throne, surrounded by various arrangements of Angels.
The "living creatures" of Ez. 1 are the cherubim of the similar
vision of Ez. 10. On the heads of the living creatures was a firmament
with the throne on it. Ez. 1:4,5 says that the creatures came out
of the midst of the amber, whilst Rev. 4 says they were from the
midst of the throne, thus suggesting that the creatures were still
very close to the throne, although apparently beneath it in Ez.
1. The cloud, brightness and amber of Ez. 1:4 therefore equates
with the throne in the midst of the cherubim in the other visions.
The visions of the cherubim alternate between the refugee encampment by the river Chebar in Babylon, and the temple. The same living creature seen by Chebar was seen over Jerusalem (Ez. 10:15,20). The glory which Ezekiel saw in the cherubim over the Jerusalem temple was also in Babylon (Ez. 10:4)- to try to teach Judah that they didn’t need to have a physical temple, an outward religion, in order to have God’s cherubim presence of glory with them. The way this all worked out in practice was presumably that the Angelic cherubim system did literally remove from Jerusalem to Chebar in a literal, geographical sense.
Notice the Angelic language in Ezekiel 1:
- v. 4 "a whirlwind. . . a great cloud"- the Angels will be revealed
in a cloud (the Shekinah glory?) at the second coming. Note too
how Job's satan Angel (see Chapter 9) was also manifested in a
- "A fire"- God "maketh His Angels. . a flame of fire".
- "A brightness was about it. . . out of the midst of the fire".
The language of this verse is reminiscent of the Angelic manifestation
The four wings of the creatures point to them being Angels- Angels
are spoken of as 'flying ' in Dan. 9:21. The creatures running and
returning would relate well to the notion of Angels literally travelling
to and fro in God's service, as made specific in Jacob's ladder
vision. The firmament with a rainbowed throne upon it on the heads
of the living creatures indicates that the same system of God manifestation
occurs at different levels- with Israel, both natural and spiritual,
and in the organization of Heaven itself. This concept is
a key to understanding the cherubim visions- that each vision can
be interpreted with reference to God manifestation through both
human and Heavenly beings. The layout of the tabernacle was a "pattern
of things in the (literal) Heavens" (Heb. 9:23). In the wilderness
journey, the ark was covered in the tabernacle by the various layers
of the tent detailed in Ex. 26:1-6: sea cows' skins, red rams skins,
goats hair, blue, purple, scarlet and linen. These would form a
kind of rainbow over the ark, and above that there was the Angel
in the pillar of cloud or fire. This "pattern of things in the Heavens"
replicated the visions of a throne (the ark) over-arched by a rainbow
and the glory of God.
The mercy seat- or throne- was surrounded by the four cherubim,
and between these a mighty Angel dwelt. The four cherubic wings
over the ark equate with the four wings of the Ez. 1 cherubim; however,
we must digress to show how the ark was covered by four cherubic
wings. On two of the walls of the Most Holy were cherub wings, which
met in the middle, over the ark. This in turn had two cherub wings
overshadowing it, thus making a total of four wings over it. Relevant
passages are 1 Kings 6:27; 8:6-8.
That the throne of God is represented by the ark of the covenant
is shown by comparing Rev. 11:19 and 4:1-5:
"The temple of God was opened
"A door was opened in Heaven"
"There was seen in the temple
the ark of His testament"
"A throne was set in Heaven,
and one sat on the throne. . . there
was a rainbow round about the throne".
"There were lightnings, and
voices and thunderings"
"Out of the throne proceeded
lightnings and thunderings and voices"
The throne in Rev. 4 was surrounded by cherubim, as was the "throne"
of the ark of the covenant.
We are going to suggest that there was one mighty Angel, perhaps
the one representative of Jesus (see Chapter 12), who physically
dwelt between the cherubim. The four cherubim covered the ark, over
which dwelt an Angel; Ps. 99:1,7 therefore describes the Angel as
dwelling between the cherubim: "The Lord reigneth. . He sitteth
between the cherubims. . . He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar:
they kept His testimonies, and the ordinance that He gave them".
These latter things were all done by the Angel. Also relevant is
Ps. 68:17,18: "The chariots of God are. . . thousands of Angels;
the Lord is among them, as in. . . the Holy place". One Angel, which
dwelt in the Holy Place, was therefore central to those thousands
of others. See too Is. 37:16,17 on this. Similarly, Isaiah saw "the
King, the Lord of Hosts (Angels) sitting between the cherubim" (Is.
6:5). The phrase 'living God' may mean 'the God of the living ones',
and would therefore describe this mighty Angel- it is linked with
"the Lord of Hosts" (Angels) in Jer. 23:36 and the Angel that dwelt
in the temple (Ps. 42:2).
This Angel would have manifested the supreme presence of God Himself
in the midst of the cherubim visions. The association between the
living creatures and the rainbow leads to the
speculation that the 'rainbowed Angel', "a mighty Angel"
of Rev. 10:1, was the same powerful Angel surrounded by the four
living creatures/ cherubim. That these were four specific Angels
separate from the other Angels is suggested by Rev. 15:7: "One of
the four beasts gave unto the seven Angels seven golden vials. .
"; in Rev. 7:11 the Angels stand around the beasts, and in 5:12
they are closer to God's throne than the other Angels. Are these
"the first princes" (Angels) of Dan. 10:13?
David and the Cherubim
Almost as a footnote, it is worth showing how David's description
of how the cherubim acted in his life in 2 Sam. 22 is full of Angelic
v. 2 "My rock"- an Angel (Gen. 49:24)
v. 3 "My shield"- the Angel who made the promises to Abraham (Gen.
v. 3 "My saviour"- as the Holy Spirit Angel was to Israel (Is.
v. 7 "He did hear my voice out of His temple, and my cry did enter
into His ears"- the language of Angelic limitation regarding the
Angel who dwelt in the temple.
v. 9 "fire"- God makes His Angels a flame of fire (Ps. 104:3,4).
v. 10 "came down " - God manifest in the Angels, as at Sodom and
v. 11 "a cherub. . did fly. . wings of wind". Gabriel could "fly
swiftly"; the Angels are made "spirits"- winds.
v. 12 "darkness. . thick clouds"- the Angel dwelt over the darkness
of the Most Holy and in the pillar of cloud; cp. the scene during
the Angelic manifestation at Sinai.
v. 15 "arrows. . . lightning"- Angel cherubim language
v. 16 "the blast of the breath (spirit) of His nostrils".
God's spirit is manifested through Angels.
v. 17 "He sent from above, He took me"- the physical movement of
the Angels from Heaven to earth to obey God's word (see Chapter
v. 25 "Before His eyes"- Angels
v. 37 "Thou hast enlarged my steps. . so that my feet did not slip"-
the Angel keeping David from sinning?
23:1 "God of Jacob"- an Angel
23:3 "the rock of Israel" (an Angel) inspired David- which is the
work of Angels (see Chapter 8).
See J. Allfree The Cherubim (Mansfield: Bible Study Publications,
(2) John Thomas, Elpis
Israel (Birmingham: C. M. P. A. , 1979 ed. ) p. 151.