ADD 401, Seraphim and Cherubim

The Gospel of Matthew
"Seraphim and Cherubim"


Seraphim and Cherubim

C. I. Scofield


The Book of MATTHEW



Seraphim and Cherubim

Scofield's Note from New Schofield Reference Bible


The role of Seraphim

Isaiah's vision - Isa. 6


Isaiah sees the seraphim in his vision. It is as important to note what he does not see as to note whet he does see. He sees seraphim and not cherubim. Normally images of the cherubim guarded access to the presence of God in the garden and the temple. Their wings protected the mercy seat of the ark, and they were on the curtains guarding the Holy of Holies.


The English word "seraphim" is, in fact, not of English origin, but rather a loan word from Hebrew based on a rough transliteration of the plural form of the word seraph.


The word "saraph" is rare in the Hebrew Bible. It occurs in Numbers 21:6 and 8 and refers to fiery snakes, or serpents, that struck the Israelites. It also refers to a fiery snake in Deuteronomy 8:15, Isaiah 14:29, and 30:6. In the occurrences in Isaiah 14 and 30 the seraphim are specifically designated as winged serpents, which clearly connects them to the instances in Isaiah 6. Finally we have the two occurrences in Isaiah 6 for a total of seven instances in the entire Hebrew Bible. Probably the word was transliterated instead of translated because the translators did not see how the seraphim here could be connected to the other occurrences where the word refers to snakes.


Just because they have feet, hands, and faces, however, does not mean that they cannot be snakes. Pictures of winged snakes from both Egypt and Syria show them with feet, hands, and faces. According to Isaiah 14:29, a winged seraph is a symbol of a future Hebrew king. In fact Hebrew seals, some of them royal, have winged snakes on them.


If this interpretation is regarded as far-fetch, recall 2 Kings 18:4, a passage that describes King Hezekiah's efforts to rid the temple worship of idols and idolatrous objects. One item mentioned is the bronze snake, the "saraph" made by Moses, which by this time had become an object of idolatrous worship to which the Israelites burned incense. Since Hezekiah became king in 715, this bronze snake was in the temple at the time of King Uzziah's death in 740, when Isaiah was given this vision.


Seraphim constitute a direct allusion to Numbers 21:6, 8. Their purpose and role in the vision is to remind Isaiah and readers of when the Israelites complained in the desert about God's great provision in food and water. By complaining about His provision for them, the people were in reality saying that God was not completely devoted, and so they impugned His holiness. The people of Isaiah's time were promoting a society full of social injustice and saying that God should hurry up and bring the day of judgment that He promised (Isa. 5:18-19). In this way they were saying He was not devoted to His justice and so impugned His holiness. Thus there is a clear parallel between the people of Isaiah's time and the people who journeyed through the  desert.


Note: Out of respect eh seraphim cover their faces with one of their three pairs of wings and their feet with another. It is possible that the context may require the meaning "pudenda" for feet here, so that covering the feet means "covering their genitals." According to Exodus 20:26; 28:42, Israelite priests contrasted with priests in the ancient Near East in that they were not to expose themselves in worship of Yahweh. The action of the seraphim may be similar to this.


Also - please see:

Addendum 010, Jesus Miracle at Cana

Addendum 012, The Miracles of Jesus

Addendum 013, The Kingdoms of God