Chunky little naked babies with wings are not Cherubim. Chunky little naked babies with wings are Putti (pronounced Poo-tee). Seen in Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Rococo art, Putti have often been described as “Cherubs” an obvious link to Cherubim but unfortunately not accurate. Actually “Putti” is a fun little word to say and I’m thinking of making it my husband’s new nickname — not that he is chubby or cheeky (well sometimes) but Putti were sassy little facilitators of love. (By the way, feel free to call him Putti or Putto (singular) too— maybe the harassment will make him stop rolling his eyes at me when I talk about angels! )
Alright, back to Cherubim…Cherubim are actually fierce creatures of God as described in the Bible with four wings and the heads of an ox, man, eagle and lion. Ezekiel 1:6-10 Each of them had four faces and four wings, with straight feet with a sole like the sole of a calf’s foot, and “hands of a man” under their wings. Each had four faces: The face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle. If you read my post on Seraphim, you may notice the similarity to the creatures which may be Seraphim described in Revelation 4:6-8. Actually, some scholars think the Seraphim and Cherubim may be similar but with a different number of wings and others think they may actually be the same thing. I could find nothing conclusive.
Cherubim are the second highest to God in the nine choirs of angels. Where Seraphim are above God’s throne and attend and glorify God, Cherubim are beside, around and guard it. There are many references to Cherubim in the Bible. In Genesis 3:24 He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life. Cherubim are most frequently talked about in the bible in terms of ornamentation: Exodus 25:18-21 there were placed on the kapporeth, or lid of the Ark, the figures of two cherubim of wrought gold. Also, they serve as a means for mobility as seen in Samuel 22:11 and Psalms 18:10, David said that the LORD “rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.”
While foraging for information about Cherubim, I stumbled upon this wonderful explanatory video from a lecture by Dr.David Neiman (1921-2004) . “Dr Neiman was an internationally renowned scholar, speaker, and writer who inspired many people. He was the first Jewish scholar appointed to teach Religion at Boston College, one of America’s leading Catholic Universities.” www.drdavidneiman.com. After searching endlessly for a concise explanation I am extremely excited to share part of his lecture, Genesis Lecture 2, Segment 2 Cherubim, with you. It is a wonderful synopsis of the history of Cherubim in the world and art.