1. (cherʹub). An angelic creature of high rank having special duties, distinguished from the order of seraphs. The first of some ninety times they are mentioned in the Bible is at Genesis 3:24; after God’s driving Adam and Eve out of Eden cherubs were posted at the E entrance with a flaming blade of a sword “to guard the way to the tree of life.” Whether more than two were stationed there is not disclosed.
Representative figures of cherubs were included in the furnishings of the tabernacle set up in the wilderness. Rising above each end of the Ark’s cover were two cherubs of hammered gold. They were facing each other and bowing toward the cover in an attitude of worship. Each had two wings that spread upward and screened over the cover in a guarding and protecting manner. (Ex. 25:10-21; 37:7-9) Also, the inner covering of tent cloths for the tabernacle and the curtain dividing the Holy from the Most Holy had embroidered cherub figures.—Ex. 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35.
These were not grotesque figures fashioned after the monstrous winged images worshiped by pagan nations round about, as some contend. Rather, they had human form according to the unanimous testimony of ancient Jewish tradition (the Bible is silent on this matter), were finest works of art, representing angelic creatures of glorious beauty, and were made in every detail “according to . . . the pattern” Moses received from Jehovah himself. (Ex. 25:9) The apostle Paul describes them as “glorious cherubs overshadowing the propitiatory cover.” (Heb. 9:5) These cherubs in reality depicted the presence of Jehovah: “And I will present myself to you there and speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubs that are upon the ark of the testimony.” (Ex. 25:22; Num. 7:89) Hence, Jehovah was said to be “sitting upon [or, between] the cherubs.” (1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Ki. 19:15; 1 Chron. 13:6; Ps. 80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16) In symbol, the cherubs served as “the representation of the chariot” of Jehovah upon which he rode (1 Chron. 28:18), and the wings of the cherubs offered both guarding protection and swiftness in travel. So David, in poetic song, described the speed with which Jehovah came to his aid, yes, like one who “came riding upon a cherub and came flying” even “upon the wings of a spirit.”—2 Sam. 22:11; Ps. 18:10.
The detailed architectural plans for Solomon’s magnificent temple called for two huge cherubs in the Most Holy. They were made of oil-tree wood overlaid with gold, each standing ten cubits high. They both stood facing the E on a N-S line running presumably through the center of the room. Although standing ten cubits apart, one wing of each cherub reached to touch the tip of the other’s extended wing in the center of the room, overshadowing the ark of the covenant and its poles, which rested beneath. The outer wings of each cherub touched the N and S walls respectively. Thus the wings of the cherubs spanned the twenty-cubit width of the room. (See TEMPLE.) Engraved carvings of cherubs, overlaid with gold, also decorated the walls and doors of the temple. Likewise the sides of the copper water carriages were ornamented with cherubs. (1 Ki. 6:23-35; 7:29-36; 8:6, 7; 1 Chron. 28:18; 2 Chron. 3:7, 10-14; 5:7, 8) In a similar manner, carved cherubs ornamented the walls and doors of the temple that Ezekiel envisioned.—Ezek. 41:17-20, 23-25.
Ezekiel also relates a number of visions in which symbolic cherubs of unusual description were seen. After speaking of them as “living creatures” (1:5-28), he later identifies them as “cherubs.” (9:3; 10:1-22; 11:22) In these pictorial visions the cherubs are intimately associated with the glorious personage of Jehovah and constantly attendant upon him.
In this prophetic book, Ezekiel was also told to “lift up a dirge concerning the king of Tyre,” in which he calls the king a glorious covering cherub that was once “in Eden, the garden of God,” but who was stripped of his beauty and made as ashes upon the ground. “This is what the Lord Jehovah has said: . . . ‘You are the anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. You were faultless in your ways from the day of your being created until unrighteousness was found in you. . . . I shall put you as profane out of the mountain of God, and I shall destroy you, O cherub that is covering [O protecting cherub, Vg].’”—Ezek. 28:11-19.
2. (pronounced keʹrub). A city in Babylonia from which certain exiles returned to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E., but who were unable to trace their genealogy, whether they were Israelites.—Ezra 2:59; Neh. 7:61.