cherubim thrones

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld at
Sat Jan 8 04:44:07 EST 2000

Ezekiel portrays Yahweh's throne as possessing some form of  "locomotion,"
and this locomotion is achieved through the movement of four creatures
called cherubim, who move in unison under a firmament below this throne (Ez.
10:9-11). As pointed out in my earlier post, Neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs
portray enthroned gods upon the backs of "striding" beasts, lions, bulls,
dragons, etc.  So, the Assyrian gods possessed like Yahweh, a throne that
had "the ability of locomotion" powered by  beasts/creatures that moved
beneath it.

Ezekiel describes "a firmament" between the throne and the creatures. I note
that the Neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs sometimes portray the gods standing upon a
"platform or pavement," that is above the beast/creature's back, perhaps
this is the "firmament" Ezekiel is alluding to (Ez.1:22; cf. p. 153, a
bas-relief showing Sennacherib adoring two gods standing on platforms
resting upon mythological beasts' backs, Micheal Roaf, Cultural Atlas of
Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, Facts on File, NY, 1990, ISBN
0-8160-2218-6) ?

Wei asked if it was possible that the cherubim might be the arms of Yahweh's
throne. That is indeed another possibility, as Phoenicians were employed by
Solomon to build the Temple and decorate it, and Phoenician thrones with
winged sphinxes as arms are attested to in bas-reliefs, three-dimensional
stone thrones, and seal engravings. Such a throne also appears on an ivory
from Iron Age Samaria (cf. p.166, Werner Keller, The Bible as History...,
Lion Books, Oxford, England, 1991, ISBN 0-74592168X ).

Exodus suggests the "two ends" of the mercy seat are probably "arms" with
cherubs at either side, like Phoenician thrones:

"And he made two cherubim of hammered gold; on the two ends of the mercy
seat he made them, one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other
end; of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends.
The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with
their wings, with their faces one to another..." (Ex. 37:7-9)

Phoenician thrones show the wings of the sphinxes flanking either side of
the seat as fully extended, overshadowing the seat, like an armrest (cf. pp.
127,148,287,291,344, seals: 398,516,694 (fig.654),727(fig. 843), Sabatino
Moscati, The Phoenicians, Bompiani, Milan, 1988, pp.765)

In conclusion, Ezekiel's notion of a throne possessing locomotion from
creatures moving beneath it is attested in Neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs, while
Exodus (37:7-9) description of the cherubim flanking the mercy seat as
"armrests," is attested to in Phoenician art forms.

All the best,

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

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