The Appearance of Cherubim and Seraphim- A Biblical Study

Many of us are drawn to the idea of angels as lovely winged beings, or cute infants with halos and harps. But it might come as a shocking surprise to learn that the angels described in the Bible do not match the images we often imagine. In Thrones of Angels: Meaning, Origins and Characteristics, we have talked about how biblically accurate Thrones angels look like, but there are still two unique angels in the Bible: The Cherubim and Seraphim. This article delves into the appearances and descriptions of Cherubim and Seraphim in the Bible and explains why some people confuse the depictions of Cherubim and Seraphim.

Description about the Cherubim

The Cherubim is mentioned in various books in the Bible. Below are all the verses I found which have any description of Cherubim in visions.

Ezekiel 1:5

Our best description of a Cherubim comes from the book of Ezekiel. His account is as follows: 

And in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides, they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body.

It opens with a prophet experiencing a profound vision, in his vision, Ezekiel describes them as living creatures, but they are later revealed in chapter 10 as Cherubim. In Ezekiel 1:5, we know that cherubim are angels with four faces, four pairs of wings, the shape of a man, and the hooves of an ox. Their skin color was sparkled like burnished bronze.

Ezekiel 10- 8

Ezekiel’s encounter with the cherubim continues in Chapter 10, where additional details emerge.

Their whole body, including their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes all around, even the wheels that the four of them had.

In this chapter, Ezekiel enriches the portrayal of Cherubim by noting that the Cherubim were covered with eyes. This explains why some artistic interpretations of Cherubim do not feature them entirely covered in eyes, as these representations often draw solely from the first chapter of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 41:18

In Ezekiel 41:18, the Cherubim are depicted alongside palm trees in the temple and only have two faces.

It was carved with cherubim and palm trees; and a palm tree was between cherub and cherub, and every cherub had two faces, a man’s face toward the palm tree on one side and a young lion’s face toward the palm tree on the other side; they were carved on all the house all around.

So, what does cherubim look like?

  • Cherubim are described as having four wings. (Ezekiel 1:5)
  • They have a general humanlike form but a head with four faces! (Ezekiel 1:5)
  • Cherubim their feet were like those of a calf. (Ezekiel 1:5)
  • Cherubim are described as transporting God’s throne on supernatural “wheels” full of “eyes”. (Ezekiel 1:5)
  • Cherubim their wings and hands are covered with eyes. (Ezekiel 10- 8)

Description about the Four Living Creatures

In Revelation 4:6–8, four living beings are seen in John’s vision. These appear as a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle, much as in Ezekiel but vary in detail. They have six wings, whereas Ezekiel’s four living creatures are described as having four.

Before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal. In the middle of the throne, and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within. They have no rest day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy[a] is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”

Here is what we can glean from the Revelation 4:

  • The Four Living Creatures are amid God’s throne and round about it.
  • They have six wings
  • Each has a different face, resembling a lion, an ox, an eagle, a human.
  • They are full of eyes.
  • The four living creatures never rest.
  • They praise God continually.

Description about the Seraphim

The Seraphim, though less frequently mentioned, are no less significant. Their name, derived from the Hebrew for “burning ones,” reflects their role as purifiers and illuminators of the divine truth. Isaiah 6:1-7 provides a detailed account of Seraphim:

Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

This is the only Scriptural reference to the word “Seraphim”. They are described in Isaiah as covering their feet and faces, as well as having hands, and a slightly humanoid appearance. And they are not described as covered with eyes on their body.

We may know the features of Seraphim:

  • Seraphim have six wings.
  • Seraphim cover their faces with a set of wings.
  • They cover their feet with a set of wings.
  • They fly with a set of wings.
  • Their form may resemble a person standing upright—but with wings.
  • They hover above God’s throne.
  • They worship and praise God a lot!

Why do people often mix up Cherubim and Seraphim?

To provide a clearer distinction between Cherubim and Seraphim, here is a form:

Seraphim are always depicted either with one big eye in the center or covered with many small eyes. But in the Bible, we know that the angels with eyes depiction are actually of an ‘ophanim’ or Cherubim. So why do people often mix up Cherubim and Seraphim?
The main cause for this confusion is the diverse understanding of the verses in Revelation 4. In Revelation 4, John saw four living creatures, they had a human face, a cow’s face, a lion’s face, and an eagle’s face, and each of the living creatures had six wings with eyes covering their wings and bodies. These are not the same as, but have strong resemblances to the cherubim at the beginning of Ezekiel, each combining features of a human, lion, bull, and eagle, and all covered with eyes. Therefore, some individuals believe the “four living creatures” represent Cherubim. Meanwhile, cause they had six wings, some argue it signifies Seraphim. They depicted angels with six wings based on the Book of Revelation and Isaiah, such as the picture below:

On this basis, some people believe that the lion, bull, eagle, and human faces are symbolic, not real. So the face in the center gradually turned into a big eye. Eventually, representations of Seraphim in artwork began to mix with elements of big eyes.

The Bible does not provide a clear explanation regarding what type of angels the four living creatures are. So any interpretations are to be considered valid. For myself, I believe that the four living creatures are the cherubim, refer to: Revelation Four Living Creatures and Ezekiel Cherubim.

Conclusion

Angels as spiritual beings can take different forms. We do not have a clear description of angels, but we can learn from the Bible how they sometimes appear. That way, when angels appear to us in frightening images and say, “Don’t be afraid,” we won’t go to pass out.

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