CHERUB, CHERUBIM (cheeilb, cher'fi-bim), (Heb. ker-oob' , one grasped, held fast), in the singular only in Exod. xxv:to; 2 Sam. xxii:ii; Kings vi:24, 25, 27; 2 Chron. 1, 12; Ps. xviii:to; Ezek. x:2, 7, 9, 14; xxviii:14, 16; cherubim, plural, ker-oo-beent', the name of certain symbolical figures frequently mentioned in Scripture.
Hebrew nouns of the masculine gender generally end in im, and our translators, in adopting this torm into their version in preference to the En glish cherubs, have in several places improperly added the letter s to the termination of the word, and so given us cherubims.
(1) Symbolical of Ruling Powers. One sys tem regards the cherubim as symbolical of the chief ruling powers by which God carries on the operations of nature. As the heaven of heavens was typified by the holy of holies in the Levitical tabernacle (Heb. ix :3-12, 24-28), this system considers that the visible heavens may be typified by the holy place or the outer sanctuary, and ac cordingly finding, as its supporters imagine they do, the cherubim identified with the aerial firma ment and its elements in such passages as the fol lowing : 'He rode upon a cherub, and did fly, yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind,' where the last hemistich is exegetical of the former (Ps.
xviii :to) ; 'Who rideth upon the heavens in thy help, and in his excellency upon the sky' (Dent. xxxiii :26 ; Ps. lxviii :4) ; 'He maketh the clouds his chariot ;' he is said to descend in fire (Exod.
xix :18), and between which he dwelt in light (I Tim. vi :16), and it was in this very man lier he manifested his Divine glory in the Taber nacle and Temple—they interpret the cherubim, on which the Lord is described as riding, to be symbolical of the wind, the clouds, the fire, the light ; in short, the heavens, the atmosphere, the great physical powers by which the Crcator and preserver of the universe carries on the operations of nature.
(2) Ecclesiastical Rulers. A second system considers the cherubim, from their being insti tuted immediately after the Fall, as having par ticular reference to the redemption of man, and as symbolical of the great and active rulers or ministers of the church. Those who adopt this theory as the true explanation of their emblemat ical meaning, are accustomed to refer to the liv ing creatures, or cherubim, mentioned in the Apocalyptic vision (Rev. iv :6), improperly ren dered in our English translation 'beasts? and which, it is clear, were not angels, but redeemed men connected with the church, and deeply in terested in the blessings and glory procured by the Lamb. The same character may be ascribed
to the living creatures in Ezekiel's visions, and to the cherubim, which stood over and looked into the mercy-seat, sprinkled with the blood of the atonement, and on the Shcchinah, or divine glory arising from it, as well as the cherubic figures which were placed on the edge of Eden, and thus the cherubim, which are prominently introduced in all the three successive dispensations of the covenant of grace, appear to be symbols of those who, in every age, should officially study and pro claim the glory and manifold wisdom of God.
It may be observed in general that they both involve the leading idea that the cherubim were symbols, either directly emblematic of Deity, or significant of the ruling powers by which the agency of God is carried on in the natural and moral world.
(3) Levitical Tabernacle. Figures of the cherubim were conspicuous implements in the Levitical Tabernacle. Two of them were placed at each end of the mercy-seat, standing in a stoop ing attitude, as if looking down towards it, while they overshadowed it with their expanded wings, and, indeed, they were component parts of it, formed out of the same mass of pure gold as the mercy-seat itself (Exod. xxv:t9).
(4) Solomon's Temple. These figures were afterwards transferred to the most holy place in Solomon's temple, and it has been supposed from Chron. xxviii:18 that that prince constructed two additional ones after the same pattern, and of the same solid and costly material, but whether it was with a view to increase their number in accordance with the more spacious and magnifi cent edifice to which they were removed, or merely to supply the place of those made by Moses, which in the many vicis-atudes that befell the ark might have been mutilated or entirely separated from the mercy-seat to which they were attached—is not ascertained. This much, however, is known, that Solomon erected two of colossal dimensions in an erect posture with their faces towards the walls (2 Chron. iii:t3), covering with their out stretched wings the entire breadth of the debir, or most holy place. These sacred hieroglyphics were profusely embroidered on the tapestry of the tabernacle, on the curtains and the great veil that separated the holy from the most holy place (Exod. xxvi:t-3t), as well as carved in several places (t Kings viii :6-8) on the walls, doors and sacred utensils of the temple.