|Photo by Joachim Bär via www.sxc.hu|
New Living Translation (NLT)
9 I looked, and each of the four cherubim had a wheel beside him, and the wheels sparkled like beryl. 10 All four wheels looked alike and were made the same; each wheel had a second wheel turning crosswise within it. 11 The cherubim could move in any of the four directions they faced, without turning as they moved. They went straight in the direction they faced, never turning aside. 12 Both the cherubim and the wheels were covered with eyes. The cherubim had eyes all over their bodies, including their hands, their backs, and their wings. 13 I heard someone refer to the wheels as “the whirling wheels.”14 Each of the four cherubim had four faces: the first was the face of an ox,[a]the second was a human face, the third was the face of a lion, and the fourth was the face of an eagle.
When you hear the word 'cherub', do you automatically picture a couple of cute, chubby little toddlers with miniature wings and no clothes? Maybe they're resting their chins in their palms above a swag of garland, or maybe they're playing musical instruments. One popular image of a cherub depicts a blond, curly headed little girl with her head down on a table in restful slumber, with that telltale pair of feathery wings seeming to grow right out of her shoulder blades.
How sweet. Kind of like syrup. Not even the real syrup with a thick taste of sugar. Nope, this is more like that runny, watery, artificially sweetened with chemicals and imitation maple flavoring kind of syrup. There's just no comparison to the real thing. But who can tell what a cherub really looks like? Who has seen one?
Ezekiel saw several of them, on more than one occasion.
Ezekiel was just a regular guy, living among the Judean exiles near a river in Babylon the first time he witnessed these angelic beings. Jehoiachin, the former king of Judah, had been in captivity for five years, and Zedekiah was currently on the throne over in Jerusalem. One lazy afternoon in late July, when he was thirty years old, God took a hold of him like never before. I don't know what he'd been doing, but I can imagine he was probably sitting on the river bank waiting for a fish to nibble at the line he had thrown in, when suddenly his life spun him around in a whole new direction.
He writes his story like a journal, a first person narrative. He says that he felt the hand of the Lord take hold of him, and as he looked up, he saw a great storm coming from the north. A huge cloud was leading the storm, and he could see lightening flashing, and the edge of the cloud was shining with a brilliant light. It looked like there was a fire inside the cloud. And then right from the middle came four cherubim.
Odd looking beings, they were! They didn't look like innocent young babes, that's for sure. Each was tall and upright, like a human, but each had four faces! The front face was definitely human-like, but the right face was that of a lion. They each had the face of an ox on the left, and an eagle's face on the back of their head. They each had two pairs of wings; One pair that extended so far that it touched the wings of the adjacent cherub, and another pair of wings that were folded over it's body. Each had hands like a person, and hooves for feet. (Ez. 1:7). And each of them had its own ball. The balls were like two wheels, one inside the other, the smaller one perpendicular to the larger one that it rested in. The spheres were the spirit of the cherubim, causing them to move up, down, or in any direction, and since they had faces on each side of their head, they never had to turn their bodies when changing directions. Oh, and one last detail... They were covered completely with eyes. Eyes on their wings, their backs, their hands, their spheres.
Kind of reminds you of your high school english teacher, doesn't it?
Poor Ezekiel. This must have been an overwhelming vision for him to see. This was how he was introduced to his calling as a prophet! If I had a vision like that, I'd think someone had slipped me a hit of acid. (Can someone slip acid to another unaware?) I'd probably be trying to check myself in to the nearest psyche ward.
I could tell you about the prophecies he was instructed to give to his people, but they were pretty much the same doom and gloom that Jeremiah had also foretold. And although I'm not trying to discount their significance, it's just not what I wanted to tell you about today. I really just wanted to dispel the cutesy little angel-baby images that cloud our mind when we think of cherubim. One of these days I'll get to a chapter where I can dispel the slender, graceful, long-haired, haloed, and distinctly feminine picture we have in our heads of other kinds of angels. I have no doubt that in their own way, every angel is incredibly beautiful, but they really don't look like the cover of a Christmas card.