A cherub (b/;[1] plural cherubim; Hebrew: כְּרוּבkərūv, pl. כְּרוּבִים kərūvîm) is one of the unearthly beings who directly attend to God according to Abrahamic religions. The numerous depictions of cherubim assign to them many different roles; their original duty having been the protection of the Garden of Eden.[2]

In Jewish angelic hierarchy, cherubim have the ninth (second-lowest) rank in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (12th century), and the third rank in Kabbalistic works such as Berit Menuchah (14th century).De Coelesti Hierarchia places them in the highest rank alongside Seraphim and Thrones.[3]

In the Book of Ezekiel and (at least some) Christian icons, the cherub is depicted as having two pair of wings, and four faces: that of a lion (representative of all wild animals), an ox (domestic animals), a human (humanity), and an eagle (birds).[4] Their legs were straight, the soles of their feet like the hooves of a bull, gleaming like polished brass.Later tradition ascribes to them a variety of physical appearances.[4] Some early midrashic literature conceives of them as non-corporeal. In Western Christian tradition, cherubim have become associated with the putto (derived from classical Cupid/Eros), resulting in depictions of cherubim as small, plump, winged boys.[5]

Origins and etymology

A pair of shedu protecting a doorway (the bodies of the creatures extend into the distance)

Mythological hybrids are common in the art of the Ancient Near East. One example is the Babylonian lamassu or shedu, a protective spirit with a sphinx-like form, possessing the wings of an eagle, the body of a lion, and the head of a king. This was adopted largely in Phoenicia. The wings, because of their artistic beauty, soon became the most prominent part, and animals of various kinds were adorned with wings; consequently, wings were bestowed also upon man,[2] thus forming the stereotypical image of an angel.[6] Albright (1938) argued that "the winged lion with human head" found in Phoenicia and Canaan from the Late Bronze Age is "much more common than any other winged creature, so much so that its identification with the cherub is certain".[4]

A possibly related source is the human-bodied Hittite griffin, which, unlike other griffins, appear almost always not as a fierce bird of prey, but seated in calm dignity, like an irresistible guardian of holy things;[2][6] some have proposed that the word griffin (γρύψ) may be cognate with cherubim.[7][8] The traditional Hebrew conception of cherubim as guardians of the Garden of Eden is backed by the Semitic belief of beings of superhuman power and devoid of human feelings, whose duty it was to represent the gods, and as guardians of their sanctuaries to repel intruders; these conceptions in turn are similar to an account found on Tablet 9 of the inscriptions found at Nimrud.[2] It has been suggested that the image of cherubim as storm winds explains why they are described as being the chariot of Yahweh in Ezekiel's visions, the Books of Samuel,[9] the parallel passages in the later Books of Chronicles,[10] and passages in the early[2] Psalms: for example "and he rode upon a cherub and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind."[11][12] In particular, in a scene reminiscent of Ezekiel's dream, the Megiddo Ivories depict an unknown king being carried on his throne by hybrid winged-creatures.[6]

Delitzch (Assyrisches Handwörterbuch) connects the name it with Assyrian kirubu (a name of the shedu) and karabu ("great, mighty"). Karppe (1897) glosses Babylonian karâbu as "propitious" rather than "mighty".[2][13] Dhorme (1926) connected the Hebrew name to Assyrian kāribu (diminutive kurību), a term used to refer to intercessory beings (and statues of such beings) that plead with the gods on behalf of humanity.[14][14] The folk etymological connection to a Hebrew word for "youthful" is due to Abbahu (3rd century).[5]

Other Languages
العربية: كاروبيم
беларуская: Херувім
български: Херувим
català: Querubí
čeština: Cherub
dansk: Kerub
Deutsch: Cherub
Ελληνικά: Χερουβείμ
español: Querubín
Esperanto: Kerubo
فارسی: کروبی‌ها
français: Chérubin
한국어: 지천사
հայերեն: Քերովբեներ
hrvatski: Kerubin
Ido: Kerubo
Bahasa Indonesia: Kerub
italiano: Cherubino
עברית: כרוב (תנ"ך)
ქართული: ქერუბიმნი
Kiswahili: Kerubi
Latina: Cherubim
lietuvių: Cherubinas
magyar: Kerub
Malagasy: Kerobima
മലയാളം: കെരൂബ്
Bahasa Melayu: Kerub
Nederlands: Cherubijn
日本語: 智天使
norsk: Kjeruber
norsk nynorsk: Kjerubar
polski: Cherub
português: Querubim
română: Heruvim
русский: Херувимы
slovenčina: Cherubín
српски / srpski: Херувими
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kerubin
suomi: Kerubi
svenska: Kerub
Tagalog: Kerubin
ไทย: เครูบ
українська: Херувим
žemaitėška: Cherubins
中文: 智天使