In reading Isaiah 6:2 the translation is generally "with two he covered his face" and also "with two he covered his feet" - meaning that the Seraphim are hiding their own faces and feet from either God, Isaiah or both.

Is there anything in the Hebrew text/grammar that prevents this from being interpreted as the Seraphim blocking God's eyes & feet from being seen by Isaiah? It seems reasonable to me that Isaiah would be unable to look directly upon God and as such may be being protected by them - whilst being shown as much as possible? Ie. The hem of His garment?

Additionally is there anything in the Septuagint Greek text/grammar?

Thanks in advance!


3 Answers 3



I note that the text is talking about the faces and feet of the Seraphim. יְכַסֶּ֣ה פָנָ֗יו וּבִשְׁתַּ֛יִם יְכַסֶּ֥ה רַגְלָ֖יו וּבִשְׁתַּ֥יִם יְעוֹפֵֽף: The Hebrew commentaries have some interesting remarks about this. See for example https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15937/jewish/Chapter-6.htm#showrashi=true

Seraphim stood above: in heaven. for Him: i.e., to serve him, and so does Jonathan render: Holy servants are on high before Him. with two he would cover his face: so as not to look toward the Shechinah. and with two he would cover his feet: for modesty, so as not to bare his entire body before his Creator. And in Tanhuma (Emor 8), I saw that the feet were covered because they are like the sole of the foot of a calf, in order not to remind Israel of the sin of the golden calf.
and with two he would fly: And with two he would serve [from Targum Jonathan].

Greek LXX

καὶ Σεραφὶv εἱστήκεισαν κύκλῳ αὐτοῦ, ἓξ πτέρυγες τῷ ἑνὶ καὶ ἓξ πτέρυγες τῷ ἑνί, καὶ ταῖς μὲν δυσὶ κατεκάλυπτον τὸ πρόσωπον, ταῖς δὲ δυσὶ κατεκάλυπτον τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς δυσὶν ἐπέταντο.

And seraphim stood round about him: six wings to the one and six wings to the other: with the first two [they] covered up the face/front; with the second two they covered the feet and with the third two they flew.

Note that the Greek does not explicitly say whose feet and face was covered. However, the fact that they used two for flying implies it is probably their own especially in view of the Targum comments.

  • Hi, thankyou for your answer. Are you saying that the Hebrew text itself specifies that it's the Seraphim's face, or that the translator added it?
    – Peter
    Nov 16, 2018 at 1:20

I asked this question of a kind gentleman at Winebrenner Theological Seminary. I post his answer as it explicitly answers the question for me with regards to the Hebrew translation. (My emphasis in bold)

Briefly, it is not the grammar of the pronominal suffixes of 6:2 ("his face ... his feet"), but the context that is against identifying the Lord as the one being covered/shielding by the Seraphim.

Note that the Seraphim are positioned "above him" (‎מִמַּ֙עַל֙ ל֔וֹ) (i.e., the Lord) in 6:2, not before or in front of him, in which case one would have expected ‎לְפָנָיו. The description in 6:2 refers to what the Seraphim themselves are doing above the Lord with regards to themselves (shielding their faces and feet and flying), not what they doing so as to shield the Lord from Isaiah, for the prophet claims in the preceding verse, "I saw the Lord" (‎וָאֶרְאֶ֧ה אֶת־אֲדֹנָ֛י) (6:1) and recounts in 6:5b, "my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (‎אֶת־הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת רָא֥וּ עֵינָֽי), which is the reason (כִּי) for his "Woe" of 6:5a. Visionary experiences of the Lord or His effulgent glory are attested elsewhere in the writing prophets too: e.g., Amos 9:1; Ezek. 1:28.


I've been meditating on this text for the last year. My proposal is that the cherubim's face is a representation of it's beauty/glory and it's legs are representation of its power and might. Knowing that human beings are worshipping beings and they easily get attracted to worship the wrong things, it decides to use his assets as an act of self limitations so it does not distract Isaiah from the beauty and power of the Lord with it's own.

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