Cherubim are not a Hieroglyphic

John Gill, “A Sermon at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. John Davis”:

“First, That these were not emblems of the divine persons in the Godhead. It is a fancy that some of late have embraced, and are greatly elated with it, as a wonderful discovery; that the cherubim are an hieroglyphic, the three faces of the ox, lion, and eagle, of the Trinity of persons in the Deity, and the face of a man joined to them, of the incarnation of the Son of God; and would have the word cherubim pronounced ce-rubbim, and translated as the mighty ones; but this is a mere fancy and false notion: For,


4. If the cherubim were an hieroglyphic of the Trinity, this would give a similitude of the divine Being, and of that in him which is the most incomprehensible to us, a Trinity of persons in the Deity, and would furnish with an answer to such a question, suggested as unanswerable, To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare with him? Isai. xl. 18, 25. and xlvi. 5. for then it might be replied, To the cherubim: but there is no likeness of God, nor any to be made of him; though the Son of God often appeared in an human form, and in the fulness of time became incarnate; and the Holy Ghost once descended as a dove; yet the Father’s shape was never seen at any time, John v. 37. This notion also is repugnant to the second command, which forbids the making any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, Exod. xx. 4. and then most certainly forbids the making of any likeness of the divine Being. Supposing the cherubim at the garden of Eden were made by God himself, as those in the tabernacle and temple were made by his order; yet he would never make nor order to be made such as he forbid, which he must, if they bore the similitude of him; but the truth is, the cherubim were not a likeness of any thing above in heaven, nor of any thing on earth; there never having been seen nor known by any man on earth, as Josephus affirms, any such creature whom they describe; and a certain Jewish writer observes, the making of them came not under the interdict or prohibition of the second command; which if made in the likeness of God it would.

Source: A Collection of Sermons and Tracts …: To which are Prefixed, Memoirs of … – John Gill – Google Books, p?

Source:, Comment #15

No Angels, No Apostles

“From this ground also it would seem, that painting of angels might be condemned, as a thing impossible, they being spirits, which no corporeal thing can represent, beside that the representing of them has some hazard with it: and for those cherubims that were made by God’s direction under the Old Testament, they were rather some emblem of the nature and service of angels, as being full of zeal, and always (as it were) upon wing ready to obey God’s will, than any likeness of themselves. And it is hardly possible to fancy representations of spirits, good or evil, but thereby men will wrong themselves in the right description of them; though we grant angels being but finite spirits, there is another kind of danger and impossibility of representing God, who is an infinite Spirit. Also some say, That these cherubims mentioned did not represent the nature of angels, but angels appearing under such visible shape; and we find, Ezek. 1. there are divers shapes by which they are pointed out, but it is as to their fitness and readiness for service, and not as to their nature.”

-James Durham, The Law Unsealed, Exposition of the Ten Commandments

“We declare, on the contrary, that the making of images of the Trinity is absolutely forbidden. We neither know the spiritual nature of the angels nor the true physical appearance of Christ and the apostles. Thus, the images made of them are without resemblance, and it is vanity to make an image and say: That is Christ, that is Mary, that is Peter, etc. … In the first place, one may make no images of God whatsoever; that is, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

– Wilhelmus a Brakel

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