What Are Seraphim and Cherubim?


Please illumine my mind. Are cherubims and seraphims angels? What about Ps. 104:47 So many Hebrew or Jewish teachings indicate that angels can assume any form according to what God wants them to do and perform, such as parting the Red Sea during the exodus of the Hebrews. Your help will be appreciated. Thank you.


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Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines seraphim as “a seraph, or symbolic creature (from their copper color), fiery (serpent).” The term occurs only twice in Scripture, and both occurrences are in Isaiah 6. In this chapter, the prophet recounts his vision at the time God called him. Describing the vision Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried unto another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory’ ” (Isa. 6:1-3). The contemporary English Version calls the seraphim “flaming creatures,” each with six wings “flying over Him. They covered their faces with two of their wings and their bodies with two more. They used the other two wings for flying, as they shouted, ‘Holy, holy, holy …. “The New Century Version translates seraphim as “heavenly creatures of fire.” The Moffatt Bible says “seraphim hovered round him.” Knox Bible reads, “Above it rose the figures of the seraphim.”

It would seem both from the usage and from the definition in Strong’s Concordance that the seraphim are symbolic representations only and not living beings as are the angels.


What about cherubims?

We also have very little information about cherubims, but from all indications they are also not live beings as angels are, but only representative beings or figures used in symbolic language. All references to them occur either in visions or dreams, or as God instructed for the making of the cherubims on top of the mercy seat, both in the tabernacle and in the temple (see Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and 10, Ex. 25:18-20; 25:22; 37:7-9; 1 Kings 6:27-29; 2 Chron 3:7; Isa. 37:16).

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word cherubim comes from the Hebrew keruwb, and means “a cherub or imaginary figure.” The Hebrew Lexicon repeats this and adds the following: “A figure compounded of that of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle (three animals which come together with man, symbolized power and wisdom. See Ezekiel 1 and 10).” The cherubims are mentioned many times in the Old Testament, once in the New. In no case are they said to perform any activities as living beings. They do not minister, or walk, or talk, or eat with humans as the angels did. Nor do they deliver a Divine Message or do any work in behalf of God. On the contrary, they are described as having been “made,” “carved,” “engraved” (see 1 Kings 6:23, 35, 36; Ex. 26:1, 37:7-9). Most references to them are referring to the cherubim figures that were upon the mercy seat, even in the days of the tabernacle in the wilderness (see Exodus 25:18-22; 26:1). God was said to dwell “between the cherubim” because the mercy seat was Israel’s symbolic point of contact with God. Here they confessed their sins and offered their prayers and offerings.

The cherubims which were carved for a place in the Temple of King Solomon were elaborate pieces of artwork, each being 10 cubits (15 feet) high and having a wingspread of 15 feet (from wingtip to wingtip) (1 Kings 6:23-24).

The cherubims are mentioned often along with the Tabernacle or Temple worship, where they served in this special capacity as a point of contact with God’s holy presence. From anything we are able to find in Scripture they are used solely and only in this representative capacity. If they have any counterpart in the celestial realm we are not told.

Both in the Tabernacle and Temple the cherubims were positioned with their wings touching overshadowing the mercy seat. The cherubim in this position symbolized the providential power and protection of God over His people. God was said to be with His people at the mercy seat; it was a point of meeting. This imagery is used in Psalms, where the Psalmist speaks of God “coming down” or “welling…between the cherubim.”

“The Lord reigns; Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; Let the earth be moved” (Ps. 99:1).

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth” (Ps. 80:1).

“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.” (Isa. 37:16).

Each of these suggests God’s presence with His people, using the imagery drawn from the Temple or the Tabernacle, but again the seraphim are not living beings.

We cannot find any evidence in Scripture that cherubim were living, animate, created beings like the angels, or that they are a different order or level of the angels. Much as we might like to know more of the Heavenly realm, we are limited to what has been recorded in the Bible for our learning.

The Angels

By contrast, the angels are living beings who move about, who travel from heaven to earth and back, and perform different services.

And you are correct, the Bible does indeed indicate that angels can assume different forms. Sometimes they were seen as men in shining white garments, at other times they looked so much like men that they were not distinguishable from ordinary travelers. And you are right, they did what God commanded. At times angels brought messages from God to specific persons, such as the prophets (Jeremiah, Elijah, Daniel). No doubt they were present at the parting of the Red Sea during the exodus, though we are not told that they parted it. They were surely present in the cloud that guided the Israelites by day and in the fiery pillar by night. We read, “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face and stood behind them” (Ex. 14:19)–this text tells us that the pillar of the cloud was the angel of God. We also read the Lord’s words to Moses, “Behold, I send an angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place I have prepared” (Ex. 23:20), indicating again that the cloud preceding them was an angel. This cloud did indeed determine whether they journeyed or whether they stayed: “When the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey until the day that it was taken up” (Ex. 40:36-37).

As for the text you cite (Ps. 104:4), I am uncertain what you are questioning. The text reads, “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” This verse seems to be a poetic description of God’s angels, who travel at His bidding and do His work. We would like to meet some of these glorious Divine messengers, and all who live to see Jesus return will see them, for Jesus said that He is coming with hosts of angels (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38).