The Cherubim
Psalm 80:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; you that dwell between the cherubim, shine forth.…

Who and what were they? We regard them as types of redeemed humanity, and designed to prefigure and promise that redemption. In proof, consider -


1. In connection with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. (Genesis 3:24.) This passage tells but little of the nature of these exalted beings, only that they were held fit to occupy the place where only perfect righteousness could dwell. But neither their form, number, nor service are revealed to us. But inasmuch as the word "place" signifies rather "to place in a tabernacle," it seems as if the spot (see Genesis 4:14-16) where God had placed them had become a sort of local tabernacle, and was called "the presence of the Lord," and so for a long time remained, probably until the Deluge. Thus the idea of the cherubim seems to have become familiar to the Jews. Bezaleel, when he was bidden make cherubim for the ark of the covenant, knew exactly what he was to do (Exodus 31:2; Exodus 25:18, etc.). There must, therefore, have been some tradition concerning these mysterious beings, though that tradition is almost entirely lost to us. But we cannot but believe that our unhappy first parents, as they looked upon the cherubim, must have had some idea as to what they meant, and, like the first promise made to the woman of her seed that should bruise the serpent's head, so these mysterious beings would convey to their minds a gleam of bright, blessed hope, that restoration to what they had lost was destined for them, and that, though not now, yet in the future, they should again find themselves amid that favour and joy and righteousness from all which their sin had cast them out.

2. In the construction of the ark of testimony. (See Exodus 25:18, etc.) Now, at first sight this seems as if it was a contradiction of the command not to "make any graven image, nor any likeness," etc. (Exodus 20.). But that command had reference to the making of such likenesses for the purpose of worship, as did the Egyptians, who paid to such things religious honour. But this Israel was not to do; nevertheless, they might and did make these cherubim, on the ark, woven in the curtains, and all about the tabernacle and temple. They were not representations of God, or of angels, or of anything upon earth, but, as we believe, of the spiritual character and condition of humanity when redeemed. Then:

3. The cherubim are told of in Ezekiel Ezekiel 1:10, and in ch. Ezekiel 10., where a description is given of them, but such as is impossible of pictorial representation. They were, when represented as in the tabernacle, but sacred hieroglyphs, symbols, not of earthly or heavenly bodies, but of spiritual realities. Then:

4. In Revelation 4 the "four living ones" told of there (not "beasts," as our most unfortunate translation gives it) are again the cherubim.

II. WHAT THEY REPRESENT. We have already said that we take them as symbols of redeemed man.

1. They represent humanity, not the elemental forces of nature. This has been affirmed from Psalm 18:10; Psalm 104:4, etc. Hence the air, fire, winds, have been regarded as the cherubim. But if so, how can they be called "living ones"? The blind forces of nature have no "life" in them. But the cherubim have. And it is the life of humanity.

2. The creature representation tells of character. The ox (see Ezekiel and Revelation) tells of patient meekness, readiness for sacrifice or for toil, accustomed to the yoke - the character our Lord tells of, and exemplified, when he said (Matthew 11.), "Take my yoke upon you." The lion, symbol of nobleness of nature, of courage and might. Hence Christ is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah." The eagle tells of the swift, strong, upward-soaring spirit that mounts heavenward, Godward. Man, the chief of all creatures, in whom all these excellences combine.

3. Of perfect man. For the cherubim are in the presence of God, but standing on the mercy seat; hence they tell of man redeemed by the blood of Christ, and ever there, abiding always. Amid such God loves to dwell.


1. The infinite compassion of God. See the depths of distress in which they were to whom these visions were given. But then God thus came to them with hope, and so with help. It is his blessed way.

2. We may be as the cherubim, shall be, if "in Christ." That is, we shall be perfect, holy, blessed, because dwelling forever in God's presence. - S.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician upon ShoshannimEduth, A Psalm of Asaph.} Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

WEB: Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, you who sit above the cherubim, shine forth.

The Almighty in Relation to Erring Man
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