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Angels and Cherubim

Did you know that angels don’t have wings? Take a look at biblical portrayals of angels and cherubim and see their significant role in the Bible.

Biblical Themes Apr 4, 2019


Who are the Cherubim? [00:00-00:49]

Jon: We’ve been talking about spiritual beings in the Bible. And we’ve looked at how God is in the heavenly realms but not by himself. There’s a whole staff team that the Bible calls the divine council.1

Tim: But in the Bible, there are still more beings in the spiritual realm like the cherubim and also the angels.

Jon: So let’s talk about them.

Jon: Okay. First, the cherubim. These are chubby little babies with wings, right?

Tim: No. You’ve got to get that image out of your head. Cherubim, or in Hebrew, keruvim, they are way more fascinating. They’re described as hybrid creatures, a collage of different animals. And every time they do appear, they look a little bit different.2

Jon: That’s intense!

Tim: Yeah. They’re supposed to be intimidating! They stand guard at the boundary between Heaven and Earth. If you see them, you know you’re entering the presence of the one who is above all and truly other.

Cherubim in the Bible [00:50-02:20]

Jon: The first time cherubim show up in the story of the Bible, they are standing outside of the garden of Eden.3

Tim: Right the garden is God’s temple residence, and so he places these spiritual bodyguards at the entrance so that the rebel humans can’t get back in and ruin everything.

Jon: But the biblical story is about how God wants us back in his presence.

Tim: Yes exactly. So this is why he chose the people of Israel and gave them the gift of a symbolic miniature Eden called the tabernacle, and then later the Jerusalem temple. In both of these spaces, cherubim were painted and engraved all over, reminding the priests that they’re working in God’s presence.4

Jon: Now, if a priest went into the holy of holies, he would see there a golden box called the ark of the covenant, and on it were two cherubim. What’s going on here?

Tim: Well, the biblical authors describe the ark as the footstool of God’s throne, which the cherubim are carrying. Like we read in Psalm 99, God sits enthroned above the cherubim.5

Jon: But there was no actual throne above the box.

Tim: Right. The Israelites weren’t supposed to represent God with any physical image. But when the prophets had visions about this space, they saw Yahweh sitting on his throne.

Jon: Okay, so cherubim guard the sacred space, carry God’s throne, but why do they look like animal mashups?

Tim: Well, they’re symbolic representations of all the creatures of the earth because they all belong to God. This is why in Isaiah’s vision, all of the creatures are singing, “Everything that fills the earth is God’s glory.”6

Jon: Like a choir.

Tim: Yeah! Through the cherubim, all creation offers praise to its maker.

Who are the Angels? [02:21-02:41]

Jon: Great. That’s the cherubim. Now, let’s talk about angels. I’m way more familiar with them— human-like figures with feathery wings.

Tim: No. Wait. Stop. Angels in the Bible don’t have wings.

Jon: What? No wings?

Tim: No angel wings. In fact, angels are often mistaken for people because they look like us, just a bit more impressive.7

Jon: But the cherubim have wings.

The Purpose of Angels [02:42-04:05]

Tim: Yeah, and the angels are different because they have a different purpose.

Jon: Okay, which is?

Tim: Well, humans can’t just march into God’s realm, so God will reach out to us, and he often does so through these spiritual ambassadors.

Jon: So angels are like spiritual messengers.

Tim: Yeah. In fact, that’s what the word angel means, a messenger. 8

Jon: Right. This happens a lot in the Bible, like the angel who tells Mary she’s pregnant with Jesus.9

Tim: Yeah. And then the other main role of angels is to perform missions on God’s behalf.10

Jon: Sometimes they rescue people from danger, like when Peter is released from prison. And there are some really cool angels, like Michael and Gabriel.11.

Tim: Yeah. The name Gabriel means “God is my power,” and Michael means “Who is like God?” But also notice these names point to God not to the angels. Like humans, the angels are images of God’s presence and power.

Jon: But still, how cool would it be to meet an angel?

Tim: Yeah, and maybe you will, and maybe you already have! But no one in the Bible is ever encouraged to go looking for angels. And when angels do show up, people are usually puzzled or freaked out.

Jon: So angels are really awesome, but they play a supporting role in the Bible.

Tim: Yes because God’s ultimate purpose is to bring humans back into his presence in a reunited Heaven and Earth. And in the meantime, he uses angels to guide and to serve his people.

Credits [04:22-04:32]

Jon: You just watched a video on cherubim and angels in the Bible.

Tim: And there’s one angel character in the Bible who’s a bit more complicated. He’s called the Angel of the Lord, and that’s what we’re gonna look at next.

1. Isaiah 6:1-4, 8, 14:11-15
2. Exodus 25:20; 1 Kings 6:27; Ezekiel 1:6; Exodus 25; 1 Kings 8:6-7; Ez. 41:18; Ez. 10:14
3. Genesis 3:24
4. Exodus 25:17-22; 26:1,31; 1 Kings 6:23-28, 29
5. Psalm 99:1; 88:1; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2
6. Isaiah 6:3
7. Genesis 18:1-2, 22
8. 1 Samuel 16:19; Judges 11:12
9. Luke 1:28
10. Luke 1:11-13; Psalm 34:6-7; Acts 12:6-7; 1 Kings 18:5-6; Mark 1:13
11. Daniel 8-10, 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7; Luke 1:19, 26
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