Angels, like people, belong to families or clans. Many names have been given to them, but in the opinion of a number of angel historians, the most familiar can be arranged in three categories, or spheres, starting at the top with those closest to God, and moving down to those who are connected to the physical world. …The word ‘angel’ itself is used both as a generic term to refer to all heavenly beings, and as a specific term to refer to the members of the third sphere, those closest to the physical. So, too, the word ‘archangel’ is often used as a generic term to refer to all the
high orders of heavenly beings, although they are in fact but one of the higher orders.
According to Abigail, there are four orders within the heavenly hosts that particularly concern us now: angels, archangels, principalities, and thrones. …While it looks like there is a higher and lower echelon, it’s more accurate to visualize all these orders in a great circle, with the highest and the lowest holding hands. For example, seraphim, who appear to be closest to the Creator, also serve the God in us.
To understand about the celestial hierarchy it is important to know exactly what an angel is. Briefly it can be described as: a spiritual being that is believed to be much more powerful than a human. In Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other theologies an angel can be one who acts as a messenger, attendant or agent of God. Regarding the celestial hierarchy, the majority of scholars believe that angels are divided into clearly defined ranks. Depending on the rank of the angel it will have separate honors and duties.
One of the most well-known listings of the celestial hierarchy, or ranking of angels, is the one produced by the scholar Dionysius the Areopagite. This listing has a total of nine distinct orders of angels which in turn fall under three major headings known as choirs. Although it is common to find variations within all aspects of angiology most listings contain the same ranks and the only difference is in the order that they are presented. A hierarchy of angels is a belief or tradition found in the angelology of different religions, which holds that there are different levels or ranks of angels. Higher ranks may be asserted to have greater power or authority over lower ranks, and with different ranks having differences in appearance, such as varying numbers of wings or faces.
According to medieval Christian theologians, the Angels are organized into several orders, or Angelic Choirs.
The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century, in his book “The Celestial hierarchy”. However, during the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications (some authors limited the number of Choirs to seven). Several other hierarchies were proposed, some in nearly inverted order. Scholars of the middle Ages believed that angels and archangels were lowest in the order because they were the most involved in the world of men and thus more susceptible to sin. The Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. Our Lord often spoke of angels; in the New Testament they are numerous and seven orders are mentioned: Angels, Powers, Principalities, Dominions (ations), Thrones and Archangels the Old Testament specifically mentions two others Seraph (im) and Cherub(im).
In The Celestial hierarchy and in the Summa Theologica the Catholic Church theologians drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16 (considered by modern scholars to be very tentative and ambiguous sources in relation to the construction of such a schema), in an attempt to reveal a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs.
|First Choir||Second Choir||Third Choir|
|1). Seraphim||4). Dominations||7). Principalities|
|2). Cherubim||5). Virtues||8). Archangels|
|3). Thrones||6). Powers||9). Angels|
The Choirs in the second and third spheres, of the present hierarchical list, appear to be also united in pairs. The existence of these pairs of Orders is inferred through their etymological proximity and the apparent affinity in the description of their work-activity (cf. 1 Peter 3:22):
• Thrones and Dominions (Might, dunamis);
• Principalities and Powers (Powers, exousia; cf. Eph 6:12);
• Archangels and Angels (Angels, aggelos).
Angel Appearances: The following are descriptions of how these orders are commonly portrayed in religious art:
Seraphim – a child’s head and wings depicted, usually in red, and may have a candle; or in human form with three pairs of wings.
Cherubim – a child’s head and several pairs of wings, usually blue or gold, with a book. The following are usually of human shape, dressed in flowing white and gold garments from which large gold wings protrude, either outstretched or folded, and they are commonly barefooted:
Thrones – may hold a throne.
Dominions – may be crowned and hold an orb and scepter.
Virtues – hold a rose or a lily.
Powers – may be in armor.
Principalities, Archangels, and Angels – unless named, have a youthful, feminine appearance.
These angels are closest to the material world and human begins. They deliver the prayers to God and God’s answers and other messages to humans. Angels have the capacity to access any and all other Angels at any time. They are the most caring and social to assist those who ask for help.
|FIRST ORDER: CLOSEST IN ORDER TO GOD|
|Seraphim’s||The guardians before God’s throne, referred to as “the fiery spirits”, they are usually pictured with six wings and flames. They constantly sing God’s praise and regulate heaven. They are colored a flaming red and gold to symbolize fire. God’s grace flows through the seraphim to the Angels below, dispelling darkness and purifying the universe. It was from this order that Satan emerged. Before his fall from Grace, he was considered the Angel who outshone all others. Seraphim’s are the highest order of Angels.|
|Cherubim’s||Gods record keepers and guardians of God’s glory. Over the years Cherubim’s have undergone radical transformations from the Assyrian leonine-monster guardian to the winged creature of the Old Testament to a chubby baby with blue wings which appeared in the 1600s. Originally, Cherubim’s were depicted with multi-eyed peacock’s feathers to symbolize their all-knowing character. The first Angels mentioned in the bible, God placed the Cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the Tree of Life. They are the charioteers of God and bearers of his throne.|
|Thrones||Referred to as “the many eyed ones”, portrayed as winged wheels within wheels, whose rims were covered in eyes. They support the Throne of God and consider how God’s decisions should be manifested. Their mission is to bring judgment for individual karma and society as a whole.|
|SECOND ORDER: PRIEST-PRINCES OF THE COURT OF HEAVEN|
|Dominions||These are the Angels who bring you the teachings of intuition. Through them the majesty of God is manifested. They carry scepter and sword to symbolize the given power over all creation and decide what needs to be done to accomplish God’s needs and regulate the duties of Angels to ensure the universe keeps working as it should. They appear in human shape, wearing a triple crown to signify their position over the physical form. They can be seen carrying a scepter, holding a cross and/or a sword to symbolize the balance between the active and passive forces.|
|Virtues||Drawing on God’s force to work miracles on earth, the “brilliant” or “shining ones” are the Angels of miracles, encouragement and blessings. Virtues are the ones who become involved whenever people are struggling with their faith. They have four blue feathered wings and war sparkling armor. They can often be seen with a scepter, axe spear, sword and/or a shield for protection. But each of these “tools” are decorated with instruments of passion. They work hand-in-hand with the Thrones to bestow grace and rewards on those who have overcome deeds in their physical lives.|
|Powers||First order of Angels created by God, it is the job of the Powers to prevent the fallen Angels from taking over the world and keep the universe in balance. They also bring the power of intellect in such matters as math, geometry, astronomy and so on, making them the professors and educators.|
|THIRD ORDER: THE MINISTERING ANGELS|
|Principalities||The protectors of religions, guardian Angels of cities, nations, rulers. They keep watch over nations and attempt to inspire their leaders to make wise decisions. Often depicted wearing soldier’s garb and sandals, they are seen in human form. They provide strength to the tribes of Earth to pursue and endure their faith.|
|Archangels||The “chief-Angels”, they carry God’s messages to humans and command God’s armies of Angels in constant battle with the “Sons of Darkness”. They look after the affairs of humankind and act as guardian Angels to leaders of world movements. These are the Angels who stand around God’s throne, ready to carry out the divine and most important decrees to humans. According to the book of Revelation, there are seven Archangels who stand in the presence of God, but only four are mentioned in the Old Testament, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. The identity of the other three is subject to debate. The three recognized in the Judeo-Christian belief are Raguel, Jophiel and Chamuel. Other possible candidates are Ariel, Azrael, Camael, Haniel, Jeremiel, Metatron, Raziel, Sandalphon and Zadkiel.|
|Angels||Celestial beings closest to humans, Angels are the intermediaries between God and mortals. Assigned by God to every human being at the time of his or her birth, they assist every aspect of life in the universe. They deal with the aspects of everyday life and act as the direct gateway for information, knowledge and communications between human kind and the God force. These Angels are seen with human bodies, wings and clothed in various garments depending on the traditions and visual acceptance of the human they have “been assigned to”. In reality, Angels do not have human bodies, wings or clothing, they are made up of energy and love. The only thing Angels do not help humans do is destroy themselves, the planet and other human beings, they are always a force for all that is positive, good and true.|
Principalities: They are Guardian Angels of cities, nations and rulers, and guards against the invasion of evil angels.In the New Testament Principalities refers to one type of spiritual (metaphysical) being which are now quite hostile to God and human beings. Along with the principalities are the powers and cosmological powers; Dominions and thrones. The clarity of the New Testament witness helps see that these beings were created through Christ and for Him. Given their hostility to God and humans due to sin, Christ’s ultimate rule over them (ibid) expresses the reign of the Lord over all in the cosmos. This is the Lordship of Christ, which reveals God’s tremendous salvation in conquering sin and death at the cross, and now takes place in the Church.Principalities in biblical times was known as a state ruled by a prince, governor or satrap and was usually a relatively small state or a state that falls within a larger state or nation such as in the Roman Empire. It can be that which holds or has held rule over a population that is either republics or principalities. Taken as it is, a principality can have dominion within the confines of a larger dominion or rule.
They are the head of the final choir and preside over the third hierarchy. They guide and protect the world’s nations, towns and cities, directly watch over the mortal world and are executive in regard to the visible world of men. Religion and of politics are also guarded by them and, “as such, they are assumed to be given more freedom to act than the lesser angels below them and are responsible for carrying out divine acts concerning their area of jurisdiction. Finally, they are given to the task of managing the duties of the angels.”
“The execution of the angelic ministrations consists in announcing divine things. Now, in the execution of any action there are beginners and leaders; this-the leadership-belongs to the Principalities.”
“The name of the Celestial Principalities signifies their Godlike princeliness and authoritativeness in an Order which is holy and most fitting to the princely Powers, and that they are wholly turned towards the Prince of Princes, and lead others in princely fashion, and that they are formed, as far as possible, in the likeness of the Source of Principality, and reveal Its superessential order by the good Order of the princely Powers.”
The “Principalities” (Latin: principati) also translated as “Princedoms” and “Rulers”, from the Greek archai, pl. of archē (see Greek root ), are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over the bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry. There are some who administer and some who assist.
The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the upper sphere angels and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.The Principalities are named thus because they have command over the lower angels, directing them to the fulfillment of divine orders. The management of the universe and the keeping of all the kingdoms and princedoms, of lands and all peoples, races and nations, is also entrusted to them since each kingdom, race and people have for themselves a special deeper and manager from the heavenly order called the principalities, for all their country. Further, the service of this angelic order (according to the explanation of St Gregory the Dialogist) consists in teaching the people to requite each person in authority according to his calling. Finally, the angels of this order raise worthy people to various honorable offices and direct them so that they take power not for the sake of their own gain and benefit, nor for the sake of love of honor and vain renown, but for the sake of honor from God, for the sake of spreading and augmenting of His holy glory, and for the sake of the benefit of their neighbors – as serving the general needs of all their subordinates.
Archangels: Archangels are generally taken to mean “chief or leading angel”, they are the most frequently mentioned throughout the Bible. They may be of this or other hierarchies as St. Michael Archangel, who is a princely Seraph. The Archangels have a unique role as God’s messenger to the people at critical times in history and salvation as in The Annunciation and Apocalypse. A feast day celebrating the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael is celebrated throughout the Church Sep 29. A special part of the Byzantine Liturgy invokes the “Cherubic Hymn” which celebrates these archangels and the guardian angels particularly.Of special significance is St. Michael as he has been invoked as patron and protector by the Church from the time of the Apostles. The Eastern Rite and many others place him over all the angels, as Prince of the Seraphim. He is described as the “chief of princes” and as the leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over Satan and his followers. The angel Gabriel first appeared in the Old Testament in the prophesies of Daniel, he announced the prophecy of 70 weeks. He appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist. It was also Gabriel which proclaimed the Annunciation of Mary to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. (Lk 1:26) The angel Raphael first appeared in the book of Tobit (Tobias)Tb 3:25, 5:5-28, 6-12). He announces “I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God.
They are normally described as important or special angels. However, here the term is used as the second to last rank in the celestial hierarchy. Archangels are entrusted with the more important missions to men. They act as the leaders in the divine army during battle and protect the Church under the leadership of St. Michael. They serve as guardians of guardians of great personages, such as the Holy Father, Cardinals, Bishops, Rulers of States, this includes others with special work to do for the glory of God upon earth. Finally they are charged with overseeing the duties of the angels.
The confusion about the collective celestial rank of archangels and archangels arises from ” the ancient Hebraic way of defining angels which was simple angel and archangel. It was not until later that the hierarchy was defined, and many of the angels previous named as simply archangels were given new posts.”
“The choir of the holy Archangels is placed in the same threefold Order as the Celestial Principalities; for, as has been said, there is one Hierarchy and Order which includes these and the Angels. But since each Hierarchy has first, middle and last ranks, the holy Order of Archangels, through its middle position, participates in the two extremes, being joined with the most .holy Principalities and with the holy Angels.”
All Archangels end with the “el” suffix. “El” meaning “in God” and the first half of the name meaning what each individual Angel specializes in. Archangels are able to be in many places at one time. You never have to feel that your “problem” isn’t important enough to bother them with. That is what they’re there for, to help you grow *. The most popular Archangels are Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel who are depicted in the Christian Bible. There is a debate as to the name of the other Archangels. In the eighth century, the Christian Church became alarmed at the rampant adoration of Angels by the Christian community. For some unknown reason, in 745 A.D. under Pope Zachary, a Roman council ordered seven Angels removed from the ranks of the ChurchвЂ™s recognized Angels, two of them being Archangels Uriel and Raguel. This website recognizes there are many Archangels, and there’s much debate to who they are and how many there actually are, but we’ve listed the seven Judeo-Christian Archangels as:Michael Raphael Gabriel Uriel Chamuel Jophiel Raguel
Powers:Powers are Warrior Angels against evil defending the cosmos and humans. They are known as potentates. They fight against evil spirits who attempt to wreak chaos through human beings. The chief is said to be either Samael or Camael, both angels of darkness. Powers are those that hold power within a kingdom, a principality, or even an empire. This could be wielded by kings or emperors, like King Nebuchadnezzar held absolute power over the kingdom of Babylon. For example, a local power means to have the ability or capacity to act or do something effectively exerting control, influence, creating and enforcing laws or authority over a people or nation.Powers are those that hold power within a kingdom, a principality, or even an empire. This could be wielded by kings or emperors, like King Nebuchadnezzar held absolute power over the kingdom of Babylon. For example, a local power means to have the ability or capacity to act or do something effectively exerting control, influence, creating and enforcing laws or authority over a people or nation. The “Powers” (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates), or “Authorities”, from the Greek exousiai, pl. of exousia (see Greek root in Eph 3:10). The primary duty of the “Powers” is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. Being warrior angels, they also oppose evil spirits, especially those that make use of the matter in the universe, and often cast evil spirits to detention places. These angels are usually represented as soldiers wearing full armor and helmet, and also having defensive and offensive weapons such as shields and spears or chains respectively.
The Powers are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12). Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.
Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10. He may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of humanity, instead of referring to angels
They are believed to be “the favorites among mortals” They hold one of the most dangerous tasks, maintaining the border between Heaven and Earth. Constantly on guard for demonic attacks, the powers act like an elite guard. They are appointed in a special way to fight against the evil spirits and to defeat any wicked plans.
“When we see storms gathering either in the Church or in the State, machinations to resist those who are working for the glory of God, extraordinary conspiracies to defeat some great good which is being planned for some diocese, city or country, then it is that we ought to perform frequent devotions in honor of these Powers of heaven, that they may overturn and destroy all the might and miserable plotting of hell.” (Boudon).
During heavenly warfare they are a major line of defense. “They are also tasked with guarding the celestial byways between the two realms and ensuring that souls which leave the mortal world reach heaven safely. Perhaps not surpassingly, given their proximity to the nether regions, there are more angels from the ranks of the powers listed as fallen than from any other member of the hierarchy.”
“The name of the holy Powers, co-equal with the Divine Dominions and Virtues, signifies an orderly and unconfined order in the divine receptions, and the regulation of intellectual and supermundane power which never debases its authority by tyrannical force, but is irresistibly urged onward in due order to the Divine. It beneficently leads those below it, as far as possible, to the Supreme Power which is the Source of Power, which it manifests after the manner of Angels in the wellordered ranks of its own authoritative power.”
Virtues: Virtues are known as the Spirits of Motion and control the elements. They are sometimes referred to as “the shining ones.” They govern all nature. They have control over seasons, stars, moon; even the sun is subject to their command. They are also in charge of miracles and provide courage, grace, and valor.
Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή “arete”) is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness.
They are also known as the Malakim and the Tarshishim, carry out the orders issued by the Dominations, they also have two main tasks; to maintain the aspects of the natural world, and to bestow blessings upon the material world. They are attributed with having strength and their assistance should be sought to combat the enemies of salvation. Their primary duty is to: “preside over the movements of the celestial bodies as well as events of weather including rain, snow, wind and the like”. Their secondary duty is to: “take the orders given to them and in turn convert them into miracles for God’s favored”. Bouden states that: “It is through them also that God governs the seasons, the visible heavens and the elements in general, although angels of the lower hierarchy have charge of them.”
“The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue.”
Dominions: Dominions are Angels of Leadership. They regulate the duties of the angels, making known the commands of God.
The “Dominions” (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16) (lat. dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotētes, pl. of kyriotēs, as “Lordships”) or “Dominations” are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships” in some English translations of the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans.
They are so called because “they rule over all the angelic orders charged with the execution of the commands of the Great Monarch.” They are also known as the Hashmallim, whose purpose is to regulate the duties of the lower angels. They act as a form of middle management between the upper choir and the lower. Receiving their orders from the seraphim and cherubim these bright spirits make known to us the commands of God and ensure the cosmos remains in order. Their main virtue is zeal for the maintenance of the King’s authority. Only on very rare occasions do they reveal themselves to mortals, instead they quietly concern themselves with the details of existence.
“The name given to the holy Dominions signifies, I think, a certain unbounded elevation to that which is above, freedom from all that is of the earth, and from all inward inclination to the bondage of discord, a liberal superiority to harsh tyranny, an exemptness from degrading servility and from all that is low: for they are untouched by any inconsistency. They are true Lords, perpetually aspiring to true lordship, and to the Source of lordship, and they providentially fashion themselves and those below them, as far as possible, into the likeness of true lordship. They do not turn towards vain shadows, but wholly give themselves to that true Authority, forever one with the Godlike Source of lordship.”
The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.
Thrones: Thrones are the Angels of pure Humility, Peace and Submisssion. They reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. The lower Choir of Angels needs the Thrones to access God.
The “Thrones” (Greek: thronoi, pl. of thronos), or Elders, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament). They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority, and have as one of their symbols the throne.
They are form the last choir of the first’ hierarchy which is the closest to the Divine Majesty. They are also known as the Ophanim. The primary function of these angles is to be God’s chariot but they are also noted as meting out God’s judgement. Their main characteristics are submission and peace, however they act with impartialness and humility to bring about the desires of the Lord.
“Having the most bizarre physical appearance of the celestial host, they are described a great wheels, covered with a great many eyes and glowing with light. One explanation given for this (besides them acting as God’s chariot), is that they mark the end of the first Choir, where the emanations of God begin to take on more material forms and as such exist in a state of transition.”
God’s spirit is conveyed in a certain manner to these angels, who in turn pass on the message to men and the inferior angels.
“The name of the most glorious and exalted Thrones denotes that which is exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly thing, and the supermundane ascent up the steep. For these have no part in that which is lowest, but dwell in fullest power, immovably and perfectly established in the Most High, and receive the Divine Immanence above all passion and matter, and manifest God, being attentively open to divine participations.”
It is not unusual to find that the Thrones are associated, by some, with the Ophanim or Erelim from the Jewish angelic hierarchy, however there is very little evidence, if any, to sustain this idea. The Ophanim (Heb. ofanim: Wheels, from the vision of Daniel 7:9) are unusual looking even compared to the other celestial beings plus they are said to be moved by the spirit of other beings, which raises the question if the Ophanim are spiritual beings at all or if they are purely material beings. They appear as a beryl-colored wheel-within-a-wheel, their rims covered with hundreds of eyes. They are closely connected with the Cherubim instead: “When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures [Cherubim] was in the wheels.” Ezekiel 10:17 NRSV.
Christian theologians that include the Thrones as one of the choirs don’t describe them as wheels, describing them as adoring elder men who listen to the will of God and present the prayers of men. The Twenty Four Elders in the Book of Revelation are usually thought to be part of this group of angels.
Cherubim: Cherubim rank after the seraphim and are the second highest in the nine hierarchies or choirs of angels. The Old Testament does not reveal any evidence that the Jews considered them as intercessors or helpers of God. They were closely linked in God’s glory. They are manlike in appearance and double-winged and were guardians of God’s glory. They symbolized then, God’s power and mobility. In the New Testament, they are alluded to as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse. Catholic tradition describes them as angels who have an intimate knowledge of God and continually praise Him. They are second to only the seraphim and their name signifies “fullness of knowledge”. Characterised by a deep insight into God’s secrets, the cherubim hold the knowledge of God and they truly possess the fullness of the divine science of heaven. “It is also they who are often sent to earth with the greatest of tasks; the expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden and the Annunciation of Christ were both performed by cherubim”. They enlighten the lesser choirs of angels and are to them the Voice of Divine Wisdom.
“They are described as the charioteers of God, steering the Ophanim. Contrary to paintings on greeting cards and new age book covers, the cherubim are not depicted as fat, winged babies. Instead they are described as sphinx like creatures in Assyrian lore, or the angels gracing the Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s temple in biblical terms.”
“The name Cherubim denotes their power of knowing and beholding God, their receptivity to the highest Gift of Light, their contemplation of the Beauty of the Godhead in Its First Manifestation, and that they are filled by participation in Divine Wisdom, and bounteously out pour to those below them from their own fount of wisdom.”
Cherubim have four faces: one of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle (later adopted as the symbols of the four evangelists). They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, a lion’s body, and the feet of oxen. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)and the throne of God.
Modern English usage has blurred the distinction between cherubim and putti. Putti are the often wingless human baby/toddler-like beings traditionally used in figurative art. St. Thomas Aquinas imagined Satan as the fallen Cherub.
When most people think of Cherubs they’ll think of pudgy little baby-like creatures, with two little wings, who are rather cute. However, that’s not how the Bible describes them! Cherubs (the correct pural is Cherubim) are described in two books of the Bible, Genesis and Ezekiel (a Jewish prophet).
In Genesis they guard the Garden of Eden, following Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden, and are described holding flaming swords .
The prophet Ezekiel has a vivid vision of heaven where he sees many angelic beings. His description of the Cherubim is powerful – almost frightening .
Not your average cute little angel! These are powerful heavenly beings with four faces and four wings.
The Cherubim are also described in the construction of the ‘Ark of the Covenant’. (Yes, the one out of the Indiana Jones film!) The Ark was the dwelling place of God with the Israelites during their exodus in the desert .
The ark was placed in the Jewish Temple, when it was built in Jerusalem. The holy part of the Temple (where the ark was placed and where the highest alter was located) also featured statues of Cherubim .
In Ezekiel’s vision he also describes another type of angelic beings that seem to be associated with the Cherubim. Their description is even more strange, to our eyes .
Certainly an amazing scene. Ezekiel’s vision might seems strange, it might well be that human eyes and senses just can’t properly describe the wonder of heaven.
The Bible doesn’t say how many Cherubim there are, but we’re told that Ezekiel saw four – and there may be more than that! Their role is to guard God’s Holy domain and presence from any sin and corruption. They are sometime known as the throne angels as they are seen to be around the throne of God .
In Jewish folklore the ‘Throne Angels’ are known as Merkabah.
Having four faces on four side of their heads and being arranged in a square, they can travel in any direction without having to turn.
The word Cherub may come from a term ‘to guard’ which would fit well with their role. No where in the Bible are the Cherubim actually called angels!
So far from being cute, cuddly creatures, the Cherubim are the mighty and powerful guardians of God.
Seraphim: These are the highest order or choir of angels. They are the angels who are attendants or guardians before God’s throne. They praise God, calling, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”. The only Bible reference is Isaiah 6:1-7. One of them touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar, cleansing him from sin. Seraphim have six wings, two cover their faces, two cover their feet, and two are for flying. Seraphim (singular “Seraph”) literally translated “burning ones”, the word seraph is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible. Mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7, Seraphim are the highest angelic class and they serve as the caretakers of God’s throne and continuously shout praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” According to Isaiah 6:1-8, the Seraphim are described as fiery six-winged beings; with two wings they cover their faces, with another two they cover their feet, and the last two they use to fly. They are a type of celestial or heavenly being in the Abrahamic religions. Literally “burning ones”, the word seraph is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible. A seminal passage in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8 ) used the term to describe fiery six-winged beings that fly around the Throne of God crying “holy, holy, holy”. This throne scene, with its triple invocation of holiness (a formula that came to be known as the Trisagion), profoundly influenced subsequent theology, literature and art. Its influence is frequently seen in works depicting angels, heaven and apotheosis. Seraphs are mentioned as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and the Book of Revelation. Tradition places seraphs in the fifth rank of ten in the Jewish angelic hierarchy and the highest rank in the Christian angelic hierarchy. These are the angels that come first and are closest to the throne of God. They exist in the uppermost part of the hierarchy and their very name means ardor. They are said to encircle the throne, existing off the love emanated by God and unceasingly chant the Trisagion, “Holy, holy, holy…”. This burning love keeps them ever close to God’s Throne and they bear love and light to the lesser choirs of angels. It is also this fiery love which gives them the term ‘fiery serpents’.
“In this form of fiery serpents, it is said that the light they give off is so intense, that not even other divine beings may look upon them. There is said to be four of these angelic beings. They are listed as the four holy beasts in the book of Revelation and are also described as angels with four faces and six wings.”
“The name Seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all- consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness.”
The word Seraphim (one seraph, two or more seraphim) means “burning ones” or nobles. They are also sometimes called the ‘ones of love’ because their name might come from the Hebrew root for ‘love’. Seraphim are only fully described in the Bible on one occasion. This is in the book of the prophet Isaiah, when he is being commissioned by God to be a prophet and he has a vision of heaven .
So these types of heavenly beings have six wings, but they only use two of them for flying. It sounds strange to use wings to cover your face and feet. They may well cover their face because, being so close to God, they would witness His full glory which would be too powerful to behold. Feet are considered ‘unclean’ and so not worthy to be shown to God. (Some scholars also think that ‘feet’ could actually mean ‘genitals’.) We’re not told how many Seraphim there are, but it’s more than one.
Their position is flying above God’s throne, unlike the Cherubim who are beside/around it. Their primary duty is to constantly glorify and praise God and they may also be the personal ‘attendant’ angels of God. Their eternal song “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” has been used by Jews and Christians for thousands of years to join with the angels in praising God. In Hebrew, to use the same word three times to describe something means that the person/object is utterly like the word. So calling God Holy three times means that God is utterly and perfectly holy.
In Jewish folklore, and some later Christian works, the Seraphim are said to be the highest rank of angel. This is probably because of their very close proximity to God.
In art, Seraphim are often red (because of their names ‘burning ones’) and are shown holding a flaming sword with the words ‘holy, holy, holy’ on the blade.
The coal in Isaiah’s vision, that touches his lips, is used to signify that Isaiah is now purified and fit to be a prophet. The coal came from the altar in heaven, so would have been very powerful. Fire is also used in many religions and faiths as a way of purifying and cleansing something.
Wings symbolize freedom from material limitations. Six wings indicate that the purification must go through the six avenues of consciousness in the body. Those who are spiritually quickened have a partial development of intuition, in addition to the five senses. The intelligence, represented by the face, is concealed, because the work to be done is too deep for human understanding; the flying shows the divine action. The “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts” is the word of Truth, the statement of wholeness in the whole body–“the whole earth is full of his glory.” This spiritual perception of the all-pervading glory of the divine perfection is well understood by those who have had visions of the heavenly law.
An Arel, Ar’el, or Er’el, more commonly referred to in the plural as “the Erelim”, are a rank of angels in Jewish Kabbala and Christian religion. The name is seen to mean “the valiant/courageous”. They are generally seen as the third highest rank of divine beings/angels below God. A specific Arel, or the erelim, are also referenced in other modern mysticism, in various ways, like the various Kabbalistic traditions, and elsewhere. There may be an etymological relationship between the Arelim and the angel Ariel.