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the name of certain symbolical figures frequently mentioned in Scripture
In Ezekiel’s vision (10:1-20) they appear as living creatures supporting the throne of God. From Ezekiel’s description of them (1:10; 41:18-19), they appear to have been compound figures, unlike any real object in nature; artificial images possessing the features and properties of several animals.
Ezekiel (1:4-14) speaks of four; and this number of “living creatures” is mentioned in Rev. 4:6. Those on the ark are called the “cherubim of glory” (Hebrews 9:5), i.e., of the Shechinah, or cloud of glory, for on them the visible glory of God rested. They were placed one at each end of the mercy-seat, with wings stretched upward, and their faces “toward each other and toward the mercy-seat.” They were anointed with holy oil, like the ark itself and the other sacred furniture.
The cherubim were symbolical. They were intended to represent spiritual existences in immediate contact with Jehovah. Some have regarded them as symbolical of the chief ruling power by which God carries on his operations in providence (Psalm 18:10). Others interpret them as having reference to the redemption of men, and as symbolizing the great rulers or ministers of the church.
Many other opinions have been held regarding them which need not be referred to here. On the whole, it seems to be most satisfactory to regard the interpretation of the symbol to be variable, as is the symbol itself.
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