1 Kings 6:23
And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high.
That the cherubim were symbolic no one denies. They are so often mentioned in Scripture that their meaning has been frequently discussed. Enumerate some of the opinions held. The view we accept is that they were symbolic representations of redeemed humanity. They were intended to inspire men with hope of redemption, from the day when the Lord placed them at the east of the garden of Eden, till the vision of John (Revelation 21.) is fulfilled in the "new heavens and new earth," wherein the cherubim are no longer seen, having vanished before the reality they symbolically represented. In the cherubim we are reminded of the following -
I. THE PERFECTING OF HUMANITY. Some obscurity lingers about the forms of these beings. They are introduced in Genesis without a word of description; and in Exodus (25 and 37.) little is said beyond this, that they had "wings and faces." Turning to their visionary appearances - to Ezekiel and to John - there is variety in form. But whatever latitude there may be in detail, the leading form was always that of a man - e.g., Ezekiel says (Ezekiel 1:5), "they had the likeness of a man." With this, other creature forms were combined, viz., the lion, the ox, and eagle. These were selected for special reasons. They belonged to the noblest kingdom, that of animal life, as distinguished from that which was vegetable or mineral. They were amongst the highest after man in the nature of their life; very different, for example, from sea anemones, etc. They had loftier attributes than those of other creatures; greater powers or wider usefulness. Hence, combined with the image of man to form the cherubim, they suggested the addition to him of the powers they specially represented. The lion, especially to the Hebrews, was a type of kingly majesty and glorious strength. Give quotations from Scripture. The eagle, with its keen vision and swift flight, was a type of rapidity of thought and movement (Deuteronomy 28:49; Job 9:26; Proverbs 23:5). The ox, used in ploughing, harrowing, carrying home the sheaves, and treading out the corn, represented patient and productive activity. In the cherubim all these were grafted on man - an ideal combination, to show that, though man was the highest creature of God (he alone having a moral and a rational nature), he could be, and would be, ennobled by having hereafter the powers bestowed, of which in creature life these animals were representatives. Show the Scripture evidence for expecting in heaven the faculties for knowing, for serving, for enjoying, which we have not here.
II. THE FULNESS OF LIFE. In Ezekiel and Revelation the cherubim are frequently spoken of as "the living ones" (animantia, ζωα). This expression is obscured in our translation by the unhappy rendering "beasts" (Revelation 4:6), etc. The expression denotes life in its highest and most active form. In harmony with this, Ezekiel speaks of their "running and returning." John says, "they rest not day nor night." Though the cherubim in the temple and tabernacle were of necessity stationary, the same idea was there expressed by the outspread wings. The cherubim pointed on to the plenitude of life, Divine and spiritual, over which weald. ness should have no power, and towards which death would never approach. "I give unto them eternal life," etc. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," etc.
III. THE DWELLING WITH GOD. The cherubim were always associated with the Divine Presence. After man was driven from Eden, the cherubim was placed there to occupy the place he had forfeited; where life was full, and where holiness was a necessity. When the tabernacle was constructed, all the inner curtains were inwoven with cherubic figures, and images of cherubim appeared on the sacred ark, which was the throne of Jehovah. This was repeated in the temple, as the passage before us shows; for the magnificent cherubim, each ten cubits high, were stationed in the "oracle," the place where the Shechinah proclaimed God's presence. We must add, therefore, to the ideas we have dwelt on - this thought, that the life represented was life essentially connected with God Himself. Not only will the life of the future be full, but it will be holy. Holiness will be its essence. "The pure in heart shall see God." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Neither shall there enter into it anything that defileth," etc.
IV. THE BLISS OF THE FUTURE. A careful reading of Genesis 3:24 shows that the "sword" and the "cherubim" were not only distinct, but had different functions. The sword "kept" the way to the tree of life, so that it was more accessible to fallen man. It was a symbol of repulsion and alarm. The cherubim "kept" the garden in a different sense. They did not defend it against man, but occupied it for man, and therefore gave to those who were shut out the hope of that which the promise of Jehovah had already announced. The presence of the cherubim said to fallen man: "This region of life is not destroyed, it is not given over to other creatures, but it is occupied and kept provisionally for you by a being in whom your nature predominates; and hereafter, you yourself changed, enriched with new powers, restored by redemptive love to holiness, shall share Paradise regained." The means of realizing this became more clear as the ages rolled by. The hope that ideal humanity would inherit bliss did not die out, but the method of its fulfilment was unfolded in the Mosaic institutions. Not only did the cherubim in the oracle witness, as the cherubim in Eden had done, but once a year the high priest, as the representative of the people, went in, and stood with the cherubim in the presence of Jehovah. He entered not "without blood," but after atonement had been made for the sins of the people. Apply this to the truth revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Show how Christ, who has atoned for the world's sin, has entered as our High Priest into the holiest of all, and how He has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. No wonder that in the Revelation "the Lamb that was slain" is depicted as being the object of heaven's praise; the link between man's guilt and God's mercy. [For justification of this use of the cherubim, see Fairbairn's "Typology of Scripture."] - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high.