Faith & Wisdom

What are Cherubim?

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Date Published:
April 11, 2022

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Cherubim appear in the Bible with huge wingspans and flaming swords. However, in modern western civilization, we still consider them cute little baby angels depicted in pictures or figures on our knickknack shelves. 

Why is there such a preconception around the word “cherub”?

The meaning of cherub is taken from a form of Akkadian karabu' meaning "to bless.” However, there’s much more to the role of a cherub than what many think of when they see a cute baby angel with wings. 

In this article, we will learn what cherubim are, along with their role in the Bible. We will also learn about the hierarchy of angels.

What are Cherubim?

Cherubim are always in the presence of the Lord, and they do much more than just float on clouds around Him all day. Cherubim are powerful angels. In fact, they are not the only angels in the scripture. There is an entire hierarchy of angels that cherubim are a part of.

Two female angel statues on top of building

Modern-day culture depicts cherubim as cute little baby angels who are always smiling. They are seen in statues or paintings as babies or toddlers with wings. However, in literature, they have taken many different forms. Cherubim have been depicted as women, men, children, a Torah scholar, an angel, and even a bird.

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Cherubim in different cultures

In Christian, Islamic, and Jewish literature, cherubim are celestial winged beings that have animal, birdlike, and human characteristics. The purpose of a cherub is to be a throne bearer of the Almighty, always attending to God. The cherubim are so bright, none of the lower angels of the hierarchy can see them.

In Middle Eastern literature, the cherub is depicted as a lion or even a bull with the wings of an eagle and the face of a human. In Islam, they are associated with angels living in the six heavens. These are also known as the angels of the Throne of God. The angels around the Throne of God include four archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Azrael. 

In addition to these four archangels, there are four who are known as the Bearers of the Throne.

The Book of Ezekiel 10 describes cherubim with four faces and two pairs of wings. The four faces of the cherub consist of; a lion, an ox, a human, and an eagle. Their straight legs and feet were more similar to hooves but shined like brass.

We see a less intimidating cherub appearance in Western Christian culture, resembling that of a small, plump, winged boy. The prior images are starkly different from the Biblical imagery rooted in Christianity.

Baby angel statue with legs crossed

In Psalms 18:10 a cherub’s size is described: “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.” This image conjures the description of God riding in a chariot pulled by flying cherubim.

Ezekiel 10:5 describes the power of their wings: “Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks.”

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Cherubim and their roles

In Jewish angelic hierarchy, Cherubim are viewed as angels of the second highest order of a nine-fold celestial hierarchy. 

They continually praise the Lord and are celestial attendants to Him. They even have functions seen as roles, such as protecting the entrance to the Garden of Eden so Adam and Eve could not return once they were cast out. 

This is described in Genesis 3:24.

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In Exodus 25, two cherubim created the mercy seat, a gold lid placed on the Ark of the Covenant, which covered the space where the Divine Presence was said to appear.

Perhaps one of the most important mentions of cherubim is in relation to the Holy of Holies. 

“The Sanctuary” in the Hebrew Bible is also known as The Holy of Holies. This is in reference to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle. This is where the Lord made His presence.

The sanctuary contained four pillars holding up the veil. Beneath is where the Ark of the Covenant was held above the floor. On the Ark of the Covenant were the Ten Commandments. 

These Commandments were given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. Cherubim motifs were heavily used in their creation. Notably, cherubim were seen in the fabric from the loom used as a curtain that divided the Holy of Holies from the less Holy place. Two measured 10 cubits (15 feet) high.

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Cherubim vs Seraphim

Seraphim are angelic beings. They are the highest level in the nine-fold celestial hierarchy, directly above the cherubim. The Seraphim are associated with light, purity, and ardor (also known as enthusiasm and passion).

In the Old Testament, Isiah chapter 6, the seraphim are called 'the burning ones.' 

In a vision in the Temple of Solomon, the prophet Isiah views these celestial beings. Isiah described them as six-winged creatures, and they have a fiery and intense passion for doing the Lord's work.

Statue of an angel and a woman

The seraphim are different from the cherubim as they have a collection of abilities. The seraphim can control and manipulate fire, purify sin, and stir up feelings in human emotions and thoughts, including the Lord's love onto human beings.

Another difference between the two is that cherubim have four wings, and seraphim have six. The function of a cherub is to help the Lord, while the role of seraphim is to praise the Lord.

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Cherubim: More than cute baby angels

Those who don't know the Bible see Cherubim very differently than how they are portrayed in scripture. 

Western civilization has put images of cute, chubby baby angels with curly hair and floating on clouds on t-shirts and calendars from coast to coast. That is not the case.

Cherubim are not baby angels looking lovingly at each other. Nor are cherubim just celebrated during Christmas time. They symbolize power, intelligence, and swiftness to represent the likeness of the glory of God. They praise God daily. The devotion to cherubim shown to Him should guide us in our own faith and praise of the Almighty every day.

For more information on cherubim, download the Pray.com app on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Cherubim appear in the Bible with huge wingspans and flaming swords. However, in modern western civilization, we still consider them cute little baby angels depicted in pictures or figures on our knickknack shelves. 

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