Cherubim RevealedBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
The following section contains further descriptions of Heavenly phenomena. We will continue to relate them without additional embellishment. The next paragraph describes the withdrawal of the shechina, G-d’s presence, from the Temple.
Ezekiel looked and saw a sapphire-like canopy over the heads of the angels (specifically cherubim – see below), with something resembling a throne over it. G-d told the man in white linen to go between the wheels beneath the cherubim and fill his hands with coals, to throw upon the city. The cherubim stood to the south side of the Temple as the man in linen passed. The glory of G-d rose from the cherubim to the entrance to the Temple, filling the courtyard. The sound made by the wings of the cherubim was heard to the Temple Mount, like the voice of G-d. The man in linen went and stood near an ofan (a type of angel) and a cherub handed him the fire.
Under their wings, the cherubim had human hands. Ezekiel saw four ofanim by the cherubim, one each, and the ofanim looked like crystal. The ofanim all looked alike, like a single ofan. Among the four of them, they could travel in any direction without turning, and they could see in any direction. Collectively, the ofanim were called “The Galgal,” “The Wheel.” (Or, since ofan and galgal both mean “wheel,” perhaps it means that Ezekiel heard the ofanim being addressed.) Each cherub had four faces: one like a cherub, one like a person, one like a lion and one like an eagle. The ofanim moved when the cherubim moved and they did not depart when the cherubim raised their wings.
The glory of G-d went from the entrance to the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. They raised their wings and ascended, accompanied by the ofanim. The cherubim each had four faces with four wings, with human hands beneath the wings. This was the same angelic vision Ezekiel had before (in chapter 1), but now he knew that they were cherubim.
The English word “cherubim” comes directly from the Hebrew “k’ruvim.” In secular society, a cherub is almost universally depicted as a winged, naked baby. As you can see from Ezekiel’s description, the real thing is somewhat more awe-inspiring. The cherubim are the bearers of G-d’s glory. The cherubim here had four faces, one being the face of a cherub, rather than the face of an ox as in chapter 1. What is the face of a cherub? The Talmud (Chagiga 13b) says that the cherub face was human, but a child rather than an adult. (This may contribute towards the popular depiction.)