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Cherubim: The Powerful Angels of Abrahamic Religions

During Valentine’s Day, pictures of Cherubim riddle stores and fill our imaginations. These winged, chubby children shoot their heart-shaped arrows at humans, causing them to fall madly in love. But this is not what the Cherubim are.

Although representatives of purity, innocence, and love, the Cherubim (singular Cherub) of the Bible are not adorable babies with wings. According to the Abrahamic religious texts, Cherubim are angels with an important role in the company of Heaven.

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Appearance of the Cherubim

Cherubim public domain
Cherubim with four heads. PD.

The Cherubim are described as having two pairs of wings and four faces. The four faces are those of a:

  1. Man – representing humanity.
  2. Eagle – representing birds.
  3. Lion – all wild animals.
  4. Ox – all domestic animals.

The Role of the Cherubim

The Cherubim are a class of angels sitting next to the Seraphim. Together with the Seraphim and the Thrones, the Cherubim make up the highest rank of angels. They are the second closest to God and sing the Trisagion, or thrice holy hymn. The Cherubim are God’s messengers and provide humankind His love. They are also the celestial record keepers, marking down every deed that humans do.

These particular tasks of the Cherubim extend to how they help people deal with their sins which prevent them from entering Heaven. They urge people to confess their wrongdoings, accept God’s forgiveness, offer lessons for spiritual mistakes and help guide people on a better path.

Cherubim are not only close to God in Heaven but also represent His spirit on earth. This symbolizes the worship of God, giving humanity the mercy required.

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Cherubim In the Bible

There are several mentions of the Cherubim throughout the Bible, in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, 2 Kings, 2 Samuel, Ezekiel, and Revelations. Known for their wisdom, zeal and keeping universal records, the Cherubim offer constant praises to God for His glory, power, and love.

1- Cherubim In the Garden of Eden

God charged the Cherubim to oversee the eastern entrance of the Garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve. They protect the integrity of His perfect paradise and guard it against sin. The Cherubim are described here as having flaming swords to avert evil away from the Tree of Life.

2- Sacred Chauffeurs and Security Guards

Cherubim ensure God receives the honor he deserves and act like security personnel to prevent unholiness from entering the realm. These angels enthrone God between them and act as transportation when He descends from his throne, being the vehicle under his feet. The Cherubim are the force of God’s heavenly chariot within the propulsion of the wheels.

3- Fiery Descriptions

Cherubim also appear as coals of fire that burn like torches, with light flashing up and down their bodies. This image accompanies a brilliant flame that emanates from them. They move about and disappear like flickering illumination. These angels never change directions midflight and always move in straight lines; either upward or forward.

Cherubim vs. Seraphim

The main difference between these two types of angels is their appearance, as Cherubim have four faces and four wings, while Seraphim have six wings, and are sometimes described as having a serpent-like body. The Cherubim are mentioned many times in the Bible, while Seraphim are only named in the book of Isaiah.

There is some debate that exists between scholars about which type of creatures are mentioned in the Book of Revelations. In Revelations, four living creatures appear in a vision to Ezekiel, who describes them as having the face of a man, lion, ox, and an eagle each, much like Cherubim. However, they have six wings like the Seraphim.

This remains a topic of debate as no one knows exactly what type of beings is being referred to here.

Cherubim and the Archangels

There are many references inferring that the Cherubim work with and are under the tutelage of the Archangels. But this seems to concern maintaining celestial records. Nothing humans do goes unnoticed; Cherubim grieve when they record evil deeds but rejoice when they mark down good ones.

In this role, the Cherubim among rabbinic Judaism come under the supervision of Metatron and record every thought, deed and word into the celestial archives. Alternatively, the Cherubim in Kabbalism come under the guidance of Archangel Gabriel for similar reasons.

Cherubim in Other Religions

Judaism and some sects of Christianity hold the Cherubim in the highest regard. There are detailed descriptions of these angels in many places within the Torah and Bible, probably more than any other class of angel. The word “Cherubim” in Hebrew means “effusions of wisdom” or “great understanding.”

1. Orthodox Christianity

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Cherubim have many eyes and are keepers of the mysteries of God. The enlightened Cherubim are wise and all-seeing who decorate God’s sanctuary. Some comprise gold and others adorn veils at the tabernacle.

The Cherubim comprise four creatures of great speed and bright, blinding light. Each one has an exotic and memorable profile with the face of various creatures. One is a man, another an ox, a third is a lion, and the last is an eagle. All have the hands of men, and four wings. Two wings stretch upward, hoisting the firmament and the other two cover their bodies in a downward position.

2. Judaism

Most forms of Judaism accept the existence of angels, including the Cherubim. The Cherubim have human faces and are enormous in size. They guard sacred entrances and are not merely relegated to the gates of Eden.

In Kings 6:26, Cherubim made of olive wood are described being within the Temple of Solomon. These figures are 10 cubits tall and are located at the innermost sanctuary facing the door. Their wings are five cubits and extend in such a way so that two meet in the center of the room while the other two touch the walls. This arrangement indicates God’s throne.

In Judaism, Cherubim have close associations to olive wood, palm trees, cedar, and gold. Sometimes each cherub is depicted as having two faces looking in opposing directions, or at each other, one of a man and the other of a lion. Images of Cherubim are also woven into veils or fabrics of many holy and sacred places.

Comparisons with Ancient Mythologies

The Cherubim being oxen and lions have some similarity with the winged lions and bulls from ancient Assyria and Babylon.  When thinking about the Cherubim in this context, their guardianship of entrances is akin to the ancient Egyptian Sphinx.

The ancient Greek concept of Griffins takes this comparison one step further. They are the quintessential image of beings keeping jealous watch over gold and other precious mysteries. Griffins are described as having the heads and wings of an eagle with the body and hind legs of a lion. Lions, eagles, oxen, and bulls are ancient symbols signifying royalty, majesty, and power. It’s entirely possible that the Cherubim have much older origins than what Christianity or Judaism present.

Cherubim vs. Cupid

Cherubim vs cupid

There is some misconception that the Cherubim are pudgy, winged babies but this couldn’t be further from the description in the Bible.  

This idea that most people have about the Cherubim comes from depictions of the Roman god Cupid (Greek equivalent Eros), who could cause people to fall in love with his arrows. During the Renaissance, artists began looking for different ways to represent love in their paintings, and one such representation became Cupid, who they depicted not as an adult but as a baby with wings.

Another likely source for the misconception of the Cherubim’s appearance may be from the Jewish Talmud where they are depicted as having the appearance of youth. However, according to another Talmudic book, the Midrash, they appear as men, women, or angelic-like beings, and not as children.

The Cherubim of the Bible are powerful, strong angels, with multiple faces, eyes, and wings. They play an important role in the realm of Heaven and have the power to challenge humans.

In Brief

The Cherubim are the epitome of God’s love, a task that extends to protection, guardianship, and redemption. They are humanoid-like creatures who carry God from Heaven and keep celestial records of humankind.

Human reverence for these precious beings is unceasing. Albeit an adorable prospect to consider them as children, they are chimera-like creatures. The Cherubim have great power and, of all classes of angels, are most frequently described in ancient religious texts.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.