The Bible makes mention of a peculiar group of creatures referred to as Cherubims. These creatures are first encountered in our reading of Godís Word in Genesis 3:24.
Gen 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Throughout this preparatory study, we will discuss the various instances throughout the Bible in which these creatures are mentioned and determine what purpose they serve in Godís plan. I say preparatory because the Lord has shown grace to us in our studies by way of impartation of various revelations regarding cherubims. And it is necessary for you, the reader, to take special note of the basic instances where these creatures are mentioned in Godís Word and what they appear to represent before we can truly explain the deeper thoughts regarding their part in the message which God desires His children to know today, for such wonderful thoughts from Godís Spirit have much to do with our Christianity today! We pray you may continue your own search into Godís Word to enhance your understanding of His truths as you share these studies with us.
The Bible has a principle that people have discovered through comparison of cross references in the holy writ. It may be called the principle of first mention. This principle states that the first mention of an element or a thing in Godís Word, in consideration of the setting in which this thing is first mentioned along with itís purpose in that setting and the circumstances of associated use in that setting, will determine similar thoughts in following instances where the particular element is again mentioned. For example, the number SEVEN is first used in Genesis when God rested after completing His work in making the world. So, number 7 denotes completion and fullness. This is clearly seen in many, many instances in which the number seven is mentioned in other places of the Bible.
Gen 8:4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
The ark of Noah RESTED and finished its journey in the seventh month.
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Jesus told Peter that he had to forgive people for as many times as they seek his forgiveness, not simply 490 times. Some have called 70 times 7 the multiplication of perfection, knowing that the number 7 denotes completeness or perfection. Peter had to have COMPLETE forgiveness for people.
One could go on and on, but clearly we see how the first mention of a thing determines a hint as to itís meaning in following instances in which the same element is mentioned throughout the Word of God.
The first mention of Cherubims has much to say about the relationship which cherubims have in the Word of God and in His plan throughout the remainder of the Bible, for these creatures are mentioned time and again.
Let us find the setting of these creatures as they are first mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis 3:24, these creatures stood vigil in front of the seeming single, eastern entrance to the garden of Eden to bar man from entering in and gaining access to the Tree of Life. We know that this was the only entrance to the Garden, for God would have otherwise placed similar guardians around the complete circumference of the garden. Therefore, a wall or some other kind of barrier, possibly natural vegetation, surrounded the Garden keeping out all that was not intended to enter.
So the aspect of guardianship was involved with the first mention of cherubims. They were said to have been put there that they might keep the way of the garden. The word keep is defined as to guard or protect in the Bible. And the fact that these creatures were placed in this position of protection after man fell into sin is also very notable. And we must keep these thoughts in mind when we read other references to the Cherubims in the Bible in order to determine what messages God is saying to us in the mere mention of them in the various settings we find them involved with. These creatures are seen in the most strange settings. And without comparing the various references to them, and their various involvements in each of the associated settings, it will be rather difficult to determine the reason for their presence. We do know, by common sense itself, that God does nothing without purpose and meaning. And since the Bible is the Word from God which has been given to man for the purpose of leading man to salvation, there is an aspect of our salvation with which these cherubims are involved. Otherwise they would never have played a part in anything in Godís Word. And this makes perfect sense, too, for the first mention of these beings involved the scene where Adam lost place in fellowship with God in the Garden, making it necessary for God to redeem mankind to Himself again. The whole reason we have Godís Word to us today is that we must be saved due to Adamís transgression!
Ezekiel seen a vision, not an actual physical sighting, of a chariot, as some have called it.
Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour 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. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. (Ezekiel 1:15-21)
Wheels within wheels were beside each of the four cherubims.
An expanse of sorts stood over the heads of the cherubims like a platform.
Ezek 1:22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
A throne was positioned on top of the firmament over their heads.
Ezek 1:26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
It seems a theophany of God, Himself, sat on the throne. And comparison of this passage with the Book of Revelation proves most enlightening!
And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. (Ezekiel 1:27)
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (Rev. 1:12-15)
John saw Jesus as One with legs life burning brass, just as Ezekiel saw One on the throne with the appearance of fire from His loins downward. And John saw Jesus with a golden girdle about His paps, while Ezekiel saw God with the colour of amber from His loins upward. They saw the same One!
He mentions that four such cherubims stood on the chariot at seemingly four corners.
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. (Ezekiel 1:4-13)
Later, he saw these same creatures, and called them cherubims.
Ezek 10:1 Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
We know these are the same creatures as seen in chapter 1 because of the identical description as that which is found in Chapter 1 of the four living creatures.
Ezek 10:14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
It is interesting to compare these cherubimsí faces with a particular note concerning Adam in the Bible. We will find that the mention of cherubims at the Garden of Eden is not the only thing which connected Adam with these beings.
Gen 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
Adam named specifically the cattle, beasts and fowl. Now cattle refers to domesticated animals, whereas beasts refers to undomesticated animals. And a lion is a beast. Oxen are cattle. And, of course, eagles are fowl. So Adam already had an intimate connection with the cherubims before he even fell, since three of the four faces of these cherubims represented the very four classes of animals which Adam named! And since the fourth face was of man, himself, we see the intimate connection most plainly!
There is another instance when these four specific classes of creatures were noted by God.
Gen 9:9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you,
and with your seed after you;
Gen 9:10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
God made a covenant with Noah, a man, and the fowl, cattle and beasts! Every MAJOR event that affected creation moved God to indicate something special about these four classes of creatures. For whatever reason He excluded fish and creeping things, we may not altogether understand. However, we can see something special with these four classes. And that is enough to link together some thoughts.
Moses even spoke about Cherubims when God gave him instruction to build the tabernacle.
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. Exo 25:18
The Mercy Seat was actually the lid for the ark of the covenant. This ark, or chest, proved to be the item of furniture within the tabernacle upon which Godís voice was actually heard, and spoken to the one, single individual who could enter the room in which it was placed.
And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him. Num 7:89
It was a secluded room, and accessible only by the single individual chosen to be High Priest, besides Moses. This man would enter the room called the Holiest of Holies once a year on the day of atonement to offer the blood in order to atone for Israelís sins committed each year.
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. (Leviticus 16:15-17)
The entrance to the secluded room was barred by a veil. And it is most enlightening to notice that, as the garden entrance was blocked by the cherubims, the veil which blocked entry into the holiest had images of cherubims on it, too!
And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:31-33)
We see, then, cherubims guarding the entrance to the Garden, and also guarding the entrance into the most holy place. Notice, also, the wording regarding the cherubims on the mercy seat of the ark.
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their 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 cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment (Exodus 25:18-22)
These creatures were represented as guarding the mercy seat since they COVERED it with their wings. Seeing that Godís Word offers eternal life (John 6:63,68), and the fruit from the tree of life offered man eternal life, we can see a definite parallel. We know that Jesusí truth was unrevealed during the period of time before He came.
Mat 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
These truths were hidden from mankind. Could it be that the guardianship of the cherubims over the mercy seat where Godís WORD spoke represented the MYSTERY of the Word being hidden from man, which gives eternal life, until Christ came!
And when Christ died, something else that was most notable happened.
Mat 27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice,
yielded up the ghost.
Mat 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
That was the veil which had the cherubims in it! And we know that eternal life came to us through Christís death, since He died that we might be freed from Adamís heritage of bondage to sin. We gained access to the tree of life, figuratively speaking, that we might have eternal life through Christís death.
Rom 5:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and
become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1 Cor 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
We have seen the appearance of the Cherubims as witnessed by the prophet Ezekiel as each having the four faces of a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man. These same faces are seen on what John the Revelator called four beasts in his book of Revelation.
Rev 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 throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and
Rev 4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
BEAST in this passage is translated from the Greek word zoon, meaning a live thing. Ezekiel called the Cherubims living creatures in his first chapter.
Ezek 1:5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
Therefore we clearly see that the beasts of Revelation are the Cherubims of the Old Testament. The aspect of guardianship is also seen in Revelation, for these beasts stand around the throne of God in heaven, just as the cherubims were seen about the ark of the covenant and its mercy seat, or mercy throne. .
After the tabernacle was removed from Israelís history, Solomon erected a temple in Jerusalem with basically the same layout as the Tabernacle. The temple, too, had a courtyard with a holy place and a holiest of holies. And whereas the ark sat in the holiest place of the tabernacle alone, the templeís holiest place not only had the ark of the covenant, but also two giant cherubims made from olive wood and covered with gold.
And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits. And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub. And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house. And he overlaid the cherubims with gold. (1 Kings 6:23-28)
The ark was then placed underneath these giant creatures.
1 Ki 8:6 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant
of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to
the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.
1 Ki 8:7 For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.
So, not only was the presence of cherubims associated with the expulsion of mankind from the Garden, and the deluge of Noah, but they were also associated with the very important ceremonies involved with the tabernacle and temple worship. Their presence played an important role in the most serious and important dealings of God with mankind. We have seen their presence in the Garden of Eden and in the book of Revelation! Their meaning, therefore, has something to do with the inception of sin and the ending of sin.
The fact that we see the presence of the face of a Lion and the face of an Ox upon each Cherub indicates another truth. The coming of Jesus Christ promised to accomplish some wonderful events, along with the great salvation made available to all mankind. Isaiah prophesied of His coming in Chapter 11 of his book, and in that same chapter we read:
Isa 11:5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his
loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
Isa 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
The calf and the young lion would dwell together. Now, today this would be impossible, for the two animals are enemies since lions eat calves of oxen. However, before Adam fell, they did not.
Gen 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb
bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and
every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding
seed; to you it shall be for meat.
Gen 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
The picture in Isaiah shows a restorative thought in regards to creation. Some interpret this as a literal restoration of animal behaviour to itís originally designed state, while others maintain the picture in Isaiah represents a spiritual union of peoples who once were violent and damaging into non-violent personalities by the changing power of Christís Spirit within. Either way, the thought of restoration is still the main thought. And the Cherubims are definitely linked with Christís salvation in some form of symbolism.
The greatest restoration we can imagine is that of mankind being restored into fellowship with God once again. And that occurs through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Many of these points discussed will be discussed further in
following studies, along with expansion of them, but
suffice this study to be a preparation of basic
understandings concerning the truth that the cherubims are
representative creatures that have a major role in
symbolizing truths regarding Godís great plan of restoring
mankind to God through salvation.