KALEO Notes: Who are Seraphim and Cherubim?

Introduction and Opening Scripture: As we conclude our sermon series on angels, I’d like to point out two verses that seem to indicate the existence of a variety of angelic forms or ranks:

  • Ephesians 1:21: …(Christ is seated) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
  • Colossians 1:15-16: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities.

We aren’t sure how angels are organized, but these terms may indicate some general categories. One of our TDF attenders drew my attention to the fact that the medieval theologians divided the orders of angels into a series of ranks that was later reflected in a hymn entitled “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.” The list was: seraphs, cherubim, thrones, dominions, princedom, powers, virtues, archangels, and angel choirs. Well, the Bible does not give us a specific organizational chart for the angels, but there are two words that intrigue us very much: seraphim and cherubim.

1. The Seraphim are mentioned only in Isaiah 6. The words “seraphs” and “seraphim” probably come from an ancient Hebrew verb meaning “to burn.” If so, we could describe seraphim as “burning ones” or “fiery ones.” These six-winged creatures are awesome, able to fly, and capable of speaking. Their praise shook the Temple. They conveyed to Isaiah an assurance of God’s grace and buttressed him as he surrendered himself fully to the ministry to which God was calling him.

2. The Cherubim seem to be very similar and are mentioned 89 times in the Bible, beginning in Genesis 3:21 where a cherub guarded the way to the tree of life. We read about them in passages like:

  • Exodus 25:17-22 – in the Tabernacle
  • Exodus 26:1 – in the Tabernacle
  • Numbers 7:89 – in the Tabernacle
  • 1 Samuel 4:4 – in the Tabernacle
  • 1 Kings 6:23-35 – in Solomon’s Temple
  • Ezekiel 1 – This is a very interesting and emotional chapter. Ezekiel was a young man, 30 years old, who was snatched away from Jerusalem just as he was about to begin service in temple as a priest. He had prepared his whole life for the priesthood, and just when he turned thirty (the age of service) he was kidnapped and taken to a refuge camp in Babylon. He was understandably frustrated, but Lord called him to a special ministry with a remarkable vision. He was allowed to see the real cherubim. It’s as though the Lord said to him, “You may not be in My temple, but you are in My service. You may not see the carvings of cherubim, but you’re going to be surrounded by the real ones. They are described in Ezekiel 1:4-28 and notice they are called cherubim in Ezekiel 10:15
  • These cherubim are remarkable similar to the four living creatures of Revelation 4:6-8

Conclusion: It enhances our appreciation for worship, our reverence for prayer, and our fear of God when we visualize as nearly as we can the Lord as He actually is—surrounded by His heavenly host. The British hymnist, Reginald Heber, composed one of the greatest anthems of Christendom when he wrote his classic hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,

Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,

Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.