Ezekiel 10 describes a vivid and complex imagery of cherubim, wheels, and divine manifestations. The scene depicts celestial beings with multiple faces (cherub, man, lion, and eagle), wings, and wheels. The wheels, described as having the appearance of a beryl stone and a wheel within a wheel, are intricately linked with the movements of the cherubim. The beings are full of eyes, indicating perception and awareness, and they move in unison, guided by the spirit of the living creature within them.
A cherub (/ˈtʃɛrəb/; pl: cherubim; Hebrew: כְּרוּב kərūḇ, pl. כְּרוּבִים kərūḇīm, likely borrowed from a derived form of Akkadian: 𒅗𒊏𒁍 karabu “to bless” such as 𒅗𒊑𒁍 karibu, “one who blesses”, a name for the Lamassu) is one of the unearthly beings who directly attend to God, according to Abrahamic religions. The numerous depictions of cherubim assign to them many different roles, such as protecting the entrance of the Garden of Eden.
The status of the cherubim as constituting a sort-of vehicle for Yahweh is present in Ezekiel’s visions, the Books of Samuel, the parallel passages in the later Books of Chronicles, and passages in the early Psalms: for example, “and he rode upon a cherub and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.”
Other mentions of cherubim
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it to its place.1 Samuel 6:2
He rode upon a cherub, and flew;2 Samuel 22:11
And He was seen upon the wings of the wind.
And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed.1 Chronicles 13:6
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.Exodus 25:18–22
“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.Isaiah 37:16
Eichler’s interpretation in contrast to common translations for many years that rendered it as “who sits upon the cherubim”. This has implications for the understanding of whether the ark of the covenant in the Temple was literally YHWH’s throne or simply an indicator of YHWH’s immanence.
A midrash states that when Pharaoh pursued Israel at the Red Sea, God took a cherub from the wheels of His throne and flew to the spot, for God inspects the heavenly worlds while sitting on a cherub. The cherub, however, is “something not material”, and is carried by God, not vice versa.
- Transporting the throne of God by the river Chebar
- Guarding the Garden of Eden
- Descending to Earth from heaven in order to rescue the speaker
These faces peer out from the center of an array of four wings;
these wings are joined to each other, two of these are stretched upward, and the other two cover their bodies.
Under their wings are human hands; their legs are described as straight, and their feet like those of a calf, shining like polished brass.
Between the creatures glowing coals that moved between them could be seen, their fire “went up and down”, and lightning burst forth from it.
The cherubs also moved like flashes of lightning.
King James Version
1 And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
2 Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory.
5 And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
6 Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” that he went in and stood beside the wheels.
7 And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out.
8 The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings.
9 And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone.
10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
11 When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went.
12 And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around.
13 As for the wheels, they were called in my [e]hearing, “Wheel.”
14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar.
16 When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them.
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the [i]temple and stood over the cherubim.
19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
20 This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim.
21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
22 And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straightforward.