|Demus, Otto. The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco, Venice.|
Ezekiel gives a startling and specific description of these creatures. I say 'creatures', because in Ezekiel 1:5 that is how the Prophet describes them. And again in Ezekiel 1:13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22. But in Ezekiel 10, another chapter given to a lengthy and amazing description of these beings, he calls them cherubim, beginning in verse 1.
Then I looked, and behold, on the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in appearance like a throne. And he said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the whirling wheels underneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” (Ezekiel 10:1-2)
And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling beryl. And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went, but in whatever direction the front wheel faced, the others followed without turning as they went. And their whole body, their rims, and their spokes, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around—the wheels that the four of them had. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing “the whirling wheels.” (Ezekiel 10:9-13)
John MacArthur describes the wheels as, "representing the power of God as He acts against sin." Charles Spurgeon describes the wheels this way, "The machinery of heaven as Providence is enacted."
It is interesting to note that the wheels act in unison, and from the context, we can understand they act instantly, also. When God commands, they act, perfectly in precision with each other as they perform the dance of Providence up and down, back and forth, between and above and below the throne.
Who is the Man in Linen? Most surmise it is Jesus, but it could be a high ranking angel. Linen was always given to high ranking people. It was used for priestly robes, and was so finely woven it was like silk. It was a quality garment! Luke 16:19 mentions it, as a luxury item. Do a study on linen one day, after all, we will be given fine linen robes when we get there.
And when he commanded the man clothed in linen, “Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim,” he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire that was between the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings. (Ezekiel 10:6-8)
In Isaiah 6:7 the seraphim used a burning coal from the altar to purify Isaiah, taking away his guilt. In the above passage from Ezekiel, a cherubim took fire from between the wheels and gave it to the man to use to purify a city (through wrathful destruction). So much activity in heaven!
In the next two verses, one of God's names is God of Israel that 'dwellest between the cherubim'!
O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. (Isaiah 37:16, KJV)
To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. (Psalm 80:1)
In this next one it is metaphorical (I think).
He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 18:10).
Pulpit Commentary says,
The imagery here transcends all experience, and scarcely admits of comment or explanation. God is represented as borne through the heavens, as he proceeds to execute his purposes, by the highest of his creatures, the cherubim.The cherubim are active in performing God's will and are at the highest of his hierarchy. Cherubim are represented as the angels with wings over the Mercy Seat, (Exodus 25:20), and on the decorative elements of the temple (1 Kings 6:32). For example, life sized versions were made of wood overlaid with gold. Twenty cubits was about 30 feet-
The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits. The cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. (2 Chronicles 6:13)
And their likeness was also woven into the tapestry in the temple. (2 Chronicles 3:14)
They are first mentioned in the first book of the bible, Genesis.
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
And they are mentioned in the last book of the bible, Revelation.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: (Revelation 4:6)
These amazing creatures are associated with God's power, presence, and holiness. Isn't it wonderfully humbling to think that we will be there one day, and see them, and join them in singing the praise He is so worthy of,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”