What is a Cherub? The Cherubim in the Bible

A Cherub, or known in the plural form as Cherubim, is an angelic figure repeatedly mentioned in the Bible. Cherubim are described as serving the will of God, performing divine duties in the earthly realm.

Updated May 28, 2024
What is a Cherub? The Cherubim in the Bible

"Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle." (Ezekiel 10:14 NIV)

What is a Cherub?

A Cherub, or plural form Cherubim, is a celestial figure frequently referenced in the Bible. In Christian, Jewish, and Islamic literature, the cherubim are angelic winged beings with human, animal, or birdlike attributes who serve as throne bearers of God.

Cherubim are described as serving the will of God, performing divine duties in the earthly realm. Their initial responsibility was being the Guardians of Eden in the book of Genesis, protecting the Garden of Eden.

The cherubim played a significant role in the Holy of Holies, the innermost and most sacred area of the ancient Tabernacle of Moses and the temple in Jerusalem.

The Cherubim are angelic beings associated with the worship and praise of God. Cherubim are first introduced in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, “After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Before his rebellion and fall from heaven, Satan was a cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15).

The New Testament does not include many depictions of cherubim. However, their presence and symbolism can still be understood through references and descriptions rooted in Old Testament traditions and contexts.

Discover further scripture references to the Cherub and their relation to other angelic beings, including Lucifer, before his fall.

Cherubim in the Bible

In the Bible, cherubim (singular: cherub) are a type of angelic being or spiritual creature that are mentioned in various books, primarily in the Old Testament. Cherubim are described as having specific characteristics and roles. Here are some key points about cherubim in the Bible:

  1. Guardians of God's Presence: Cherubim are often associated with guarding the presence of God. The Bible describes them as being present in the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve were expelled.

  2. Description of the Cherubim: They are typically described as having a complex and symbolic appearance. They are often depicted with multiple wings and faces, sometimes with the face of a man, lion, ox, and eagle. 

    Psalm 18:10 describes God as riding on a cherub and flying, using the phrase "wings of the wind" to illustrate the speed and majesty of God's movement. The cherub serves as a divine vehicle, symbolizing the angelic beings that carry out God's will. "He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind" (Psalms 18:10).

    In Ezekiel 10:14, the face of the cherub is specifically equated with the face of an ox. This indicates that the term "cherub" can be used to signify an ox, highlighting the ox's qualities of strength and servitude as attributes of the cherubim.

  3. Symbolism: Cherubim are often seen as symbolic representations of God's might, holiness, and transcendence. Cherubim are often seen as symbolic representations of the Holy Spirit. They embody the presence and activity of God's spirit on earth, serving as a bridge between heaven and earth. Their presence signifies the sacredness of the places they guard.

    In Ezekiel 41:18, the cherubim are depicted with two faces, one of a human face and one of a lion. This is different from the earlier vision in Ezekiel 1 where cherubim have four faces: a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. The two faces in this vision likely emphasize specific aspects of the cherubim's symbolism.

    The features described in the book of Ezekiel are highly symbolic, with each face representing different aspects of creation. 

    Face of a Man: This represents humanity and intellect in the likeness of a man. It signifies the wisdom and rationality that humans possess, reflecting the image of God in human beings. It signifies the wisdom and rationality that humans possess, reflecting the image of God in human beings.

    Face of a Lion: The lion symbolizes strength, courage, and majesty. It is often associated with kingship and dominion, reflecting God's powerful and royal nature.

    Face of an Ox: The ox represents servitude, patience, and strength in labor. It is a symbol of sacrifice and hard work, illustrating the service and perseverance required in Christian living.

    Face of an Eagle: The eagle signifies swiftness, vision, and the ability to rise above earthly matters. It represents spiritual insight and the divine nature, symbolizing God's omniscience and omnipresence.

    Wings of the Cherubim: Cherubim are often depicted with multiple wings, symbolizing their divine nature and role in protecting sacred spaces. For example, the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant are depicted as having four wings, representing their union with the ark and each other. Wings of celestial beings including those of cherubim, resemble the wings of an eagle, evoking feelings of serenity, strength, and compassion.

  4. Ark of the Covenant: Cherubim are also associated with the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred object in the Hebrew Bible. Two solid gold-plated cherubim with outstretched wings were positioned on the lid of the Ark, known as the Mercy Seat. God's presence was said to dwell between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat.

    For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits—ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. The height of each cherub was ten cubits. He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. He overlaid the cherubim with gold. On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers (1 Kings 6:23-29).

    The veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) was embroidered with images of cherubim. This veil symbolized the barrier between God and humanity, with the cherubim representing the guardians who prevent access to the divine presence, similar to the cherubim placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve's expulsion. Many of the decorative elements of both the early Tabernacle and the Holy Temple included representations of cherubim as well. 

  5. Prophetic Visions: Cherubim are described in prophetic visions, such as those of the prophet Ezekiel, where they play significant symbolic roles, representing God's heavenly entourage and serving as a sign of divine authority.

  6. Worship and Praise: Cherubim are sometimes depicted as praising and worshiping and bringing glory to God in the heavenly realm. In Isaiah's vision in the temple (Isaiah 6:1-3), Seraphim (another type of angelic being) are described as calling out "Holy, holy, holy" in God's presence. While not explicitly called cherubim in this context, they serve a similar purpose of praising God.

Cherubim Bible Meaning

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Cherub, or Cherubim, are first mentioned in connection with removing our first parents from Eden (Genesis 3:24). There is no implication given of their shape or form. They are next discussed when Moses was commanded to provide furniture for the Tabernacle in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 25:17-20). God promised to commune with Moses "from between the cherubim" (Exodus 25:22). This expression was afterward used to denote the Divine abode and presence (Isaiah 37:16; Psalm 80:1). 

The Bible says in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 10:1-20), they appear as living creatures supporting the throne of God. From Ezekiel's description of them (Ezekiel 1), they appear to have been compound figures, unlike any real object in nature; artificial images possess several animal features and properties. Two cherubim were placed on the mercy seat of the ark; two of colossal size overshadowed it in Solomon's temple.

Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4-14) speaks of four, and this number of "living creatures" is mentioned in Revelation 4:6. Those on the ark are called the "cherubim of glory" (Hebrews 9:5), i.e., of the Shechinah or cloud of glory, for on them the visible glory of God rested. They were placed at each end of the mercy seat, with wings stretched upward and their faces "toward each other and toward the mercy seat." They were anointed with holy oil, like the ark and other sacred furniture.

The cherubim were symbolic. They were intended to represent spiritual existence in immediate contact with Jehovah. Some have regarded them as symbolical of the chief ruling power by which God carries on his operations in providence (Psalm 18:10). Others interpret them as having reference to the redemption of men and as symbolizing the great rulers or ministers of the church. Many other opinions have been held regarding them, which need not be referred to here. Overall, it seems most satisfactory to regard the interpretation of the symbol as a variable, as is the symbol itself.

The positioning of cherubim represents their eternal watchfulness and ministry to God. This reflects Jesus Christ's ongoing intercession both in human form and through the Holy Spirit. They are another example of his guardianship over his followers, providing protection and guidance.

Cherub and Seraphim

The critical distinction between the heavenly beings known as cherubim and seraphim is their form: cherubim have four faces and four wings, while seraphim have six wings. In the Bible, the central purpose of the cherubim and seraphim is to sit near the throne and serve God.

Most scholars agree that the cherubim are regarded highly in the hierarchy of angels because of their role in guarding things that are holy both in heaven and on earth.

The cherubim are often depicted in various forms, including as throne-bearers in the Heavenly host, holding up the vault of the heavens where God's throne sits. This reinforces their role as spiritual beings in maintaining the order and structure of the cosmos.

Cherubim appear in several books of the Bible, including Genesis, Ezekiel, Kings, and Revelation. Their four faces are ox, lion, man, and eagle, although Ezekiel replaces the ox with the face of a cherub. They move quickly, using a wheel within a wheel, and their wings cover their body.

Seraphim only appear in the book of Isaiah. Their name means "burning ones, flying serpents." Seraphim use two of their wings for flight. Like the cherubim, they are among the highest order of angelic beings.

Find more information about the Seraphim Angels

Cherubim in Revelation

The description of Revelation 4:6-9 also seems to be representing cherubim. The cherubim follow the purpose of magnifying the righteousness and sovereignty of God. This is one of their primary responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to glorifying God, they also serve as a visible reminder of the power and glory of God and His lasting presence with His people.

The Heavenly Worship: Revelation 4

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."

Cherubim Names from Scripture

Here are angelic figures from the Bible that are mentioned as being Cherubim:

Bible Verses about Cherubim

"And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth." (2 Kings 19:15).

"Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it" (Ezekiel 9:3-4).

"Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us." (Psalms 80:1-2).



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