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Ezek. 41:18:KJV And it was made with cherubims and palm trees, so that a palm tree was between a cherub and a cherub; and every cherub had two faces;

Verses 19-25 reveal that one of these two faces was of a “man” and the other face was of a “young lion”:

So that the face of a man was toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion toward the palm tree on the other side: it was made through all the house round about. ...

We also know that there were only two faces, one on each cherub overlooking the mercy seat of the earthly tabernacle as revealed in Exodus 25:18-22. Moreover, there is much reason to believe that the cherubim of the earthly temples had no more than two faces, and that they were no different faces than that of the “man” and the “young lion”.

However, In Ezek. 1:1, the heavens were opened up and the prophet saw visions of God. Moreover, he saw four creatures, each having four faces, not two. Ezek. 5:10 described them:

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

So paired up on the right side was the same two faces that showed up in the earthly dwelling places, and on the left side they each had the face of an ox and an eagle.

Likewise, John was shown the throne in heaven, and in Rev 4:6-7 four beasts, each having a certain likeness, or face. Again, the four different faces were like a lion, a calf, a man and a flying eagle.

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

So what does the mean that only the face of the man and the face of the lion seem to apply to the earthly dwelling place of the LORD during His millennial reign, as well as to the prior earthly tabernacle and temples, whereas the heavenly throne shows four faces are required to be in connection with the heavenly throne.

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    It means Jesus Christ is Jehovah incarnate. 4 biographies: King, Slave, Man....and God.
    – Walter S
    Apr 17, 2020 at 4:31
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    Your assumption that the vision of Ezekiel reveals a 'millenial reign (on earth)' is not demonstrated in the text.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 17, 2020 at 7:05
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    Since the first passage concerns not actual cherubim, but their depictions, the answer might be that it is somewhat cumbersome to represent all four faces at once.
    – Lucian
    Apr 17, 2020 at 7:13
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    "Refusal" is an unwarranted word. I don't understand the thought-process to use that word. No one's telling or suggesting to God what to do (Rm 11:34). Ex 25:20, for Moses' tabernacle, sounds like there's only one face (per cherub). By definition, "incarnate" means Jehovah God's dwelling place is flesh. The human body, soul, and spirit of the man Jesus (Col 2:9). And thus, like Rv 21--22, the central purpose of Ezek's building is allegory: of God in Christ as the Spirit mingling with many sons to produce God's expanded home (1 Cor 3:9). The fullness of the One who fills all in all. Plz forgive
    – Walter S
    Apr 17, 2020 at 21:22
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    me for 2 comment bars in a row. It won't happen again. To the extent Ezek may also concern an inanimate temple in Jerusalem during Messiah's 1000 year reign on this old earth, the kingdom of the Son of Man (2 Sam 7:13; Ac 15:16; 1:6; Mt 13:41; Rv 11:5), then the emphasized faces would be "Matthew" and "Luke," namely the Lion (King) and Man. Since of course Jesus is Jehovah (Zech 14:3-4; Ac 1:11-12), but He will come, to Israel and the world, as the Son of Man, the Son of David (Dan 7:13; Mt 25:31; 1:1; Lk 3:38; 2:7).
    – Walter S
    Apr 17, 2020 at 21:37

4 Answers 4

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It may be worth noting that the Lord had given Moses detailed instruction of the tabernacle and its equipment, as well as the design of the Ark. But when the Lord described the cherubim, He emphasized on its wings (the posture) but no detail on its face, then how did Moses completed the cherubim? A man's face or no face?

Though the scripture did not say how Solomon got the idea of a cherubim should look like in the Holy Temple, it should be reasonable to assume that there was divine instruction given to either David or Solomon, for the Holy Temple was the House of God, and there should have no mistake. The image of cherubim in Ezekiel's Temple should be the same as the cherubim Ezekiel familiar with in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, for this was the place he was taught.

It should be allowed to say, nobody knew what a cherubim looked like until Ezekiel saw in a vision described in Ezekiel 1:5-25, but beware, Ezekiel never called them cherubim, but living creatures. Ezekiel did not know they were cherubim until his second vision, described in Ezekiel chapter 8-10, in these paragraphs, he said;

20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

21 Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like human hands.

22 Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River (Ezekiel 1st vision). Each one went straight ahead. (Ezekiel 10:20-22 NIV)

Therefore it could be justified to say the image of cherubim who made by man was only symbolic. Unlike the vision of Ezekiel and John in Revelation 4:6-7, what they saw was the true image of cherubim.

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  • Bill did not give you any feed back on your answer I see. I myself found it confusing and even in error in places, as probably did Bill. Rather than comment further in this space, I have now given my own answer, which may or may not enable you to edit your own, unless of course you don't agree with my answer. Dec 18, 2023 at 21:32
  • @OldeEnglish - The vision of Ezekiel's Temple appears to remain as a visionary concept, given the absence of a temple in the New Jerusalem and the absence of indications that it will come into existence. My response is constrained, focusing to resolve why only two faces described in Ezekiel 41:18 and does not go beyond that scope. Dec 19, 2023 at 4:17
  • You are so right! There is no temple in the New Jerusalem Rev, 21:22. I even had a "note" in my study bible to that effect because of what was written in Ezek, 42:13, the note saying:- Grain offerings; sin offerings ended in 70 AD. Cannot therefore be with regard to the Millennial Kingdom!!! - I screwed up, and here I was thinking I was helping you to understand. I need to edit my own answer. Nevertheless, I still stand by my idea that the two faces of the cherubim have to be referring to Jesus and that the four living creatures are who I have deemed them to be. Dec 19, 2023 at 5:54
  • @OldeEnglish - I don't object to your idea. However, the title question doesn't seem asking for an explanation of the symbolism of cherubim faces. Dec 19, 2023 at 14:21
  • But the fact that the question is talking about the "cherubim", and not just about the 2 but also as a comparison to the 4, obviously symbolic faces, how can one possibly address the question without regard to the obvious symbolism? Dec 19, 2023 at 16:06
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Ezek, 41:18 KJV: Why only the two of the "cherubim's" faces in Messiah's future earthly dwelling place, a man and a lion, rather than four?

Firstly, as @Nigel J points out, the vision in Ezekiel does not necessarily depict a 'millennial reign (on earth)' as per the Messiah. The "millennial reign" of our Messiah, IMO at least, will be instigated from heaven over the earth.

Secondly, in Rev, 4:7,8, the four living creatures -cherubim in actual fact - as portrayed (via the apostle John) in the heavens, around God's throne, with their distinctive faces and full of eyes all around, and within, could be depicting:- the four "heads" of the 12 tribes of Israel!!!!

When one reads Ezek, 1, one notices that the facial image of each cherubim actually depicts four faces, that of - lion; ox; man; and eagle. These faces could very well be symbolic of/represent the four leading tribes of Israel, led by:-

Judah, whose symbol was a lion;
Ephraim, whose symbol was an ox;
Reuben, whose symbol was a man;
Dan, whose symbol was an eagle.

Symbolism, taken from an article entitled "Who is America", by one Linda Watson, an historian, which although centers around the fate of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, does also make reference to the 12 tribes of Israel and their four respective "splits", encompassing three tribes in each. Then Judah for instance, along with the principals of Issachar and Zebulun (three persons) would be representative of three pairs of arms (6 in all) - a reference to the three pairs of wings perhaps, attributed to each of the four living creatures. Also, encampment of the tribes, were to the East, West, South and North, respectively, with the Levitical Priests, along with Moses, Aaron and sons, not to mention the Tabernacle Tent, being central to all - "eyes" were indeed all around and within. The "throne in heaven" scene in Rev, 4:1-11 immediately comes to mind, even though the tribal makeup is slightly, but not exponentially different.

Lastly, one has to keep in mind that all four living creatures are actually "cherubs" in their own right. Consequently, one can presumably have - cherub for lion; cherub for ox; cherub for man; and cherub for eagle, they are all still collectively "cherubim". Even though Ezek, 10 speaks of a cherub only, instead of ox/bull/calf, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not still depicting of an ox/bull/calf. The fact that John's "cherubs" go back to the same as described in Ezek, 1 would seem to be factual confirmation of that.

Now, to get back to the "crux" of the question in hand here, and in particular Exek, 41:18, where we see only two facial representations of Cherubim, that of the lion and man - a seemingly unmistakeable future reference to Jesus, himself - in what can only be a vision pertaining to the 6th Century BC and the second, yet to be built temple, particularly as the talk is of guardrooms; grain offerings; sin offerings, even guilt offerings, none (including temple) of which will be part of the "New Jerusalem", during the Messiah's "Millennial Kingdom", where the Lion of Judah/Son of Man, who, when sat at the right hand of God, in that heavenly arena, is seen to supersede, at least as towards all authority, the four living creatures.

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Possibly, there is no deeper significance to the number of cherubim depicted; it may have been an artistic decision, as @Lucian pointed out.

In Biblical texts, at times, numbers have symbolic significance, but we must be careful not to go beyond the (Spirit-inspired) author's intention.

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God always does things deliberately and with purpose. The face of a man and a lion declare the messiah from the beginning. Even the palm leaves have significance as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on a bed of palm leaves entering the gate as a triumphal king. He is hidden all through the OT but it is the water mark God leaves behind in each book. Through out our history pagan worship has included an eagle or bird of some form or an Ox or bull form. Each always representing death we even see the ox horns on the sacrificial alters were blood is smeared for the covering of sin. while the man messiah and the lion of Judah represent life and kingship. The temple on earth as it is in heaven and when Jesus returns for his 1000 year reign we know his blood is on the alter in heaven. If as ezekiels vision portrays the sacrifices are re-instituted it would be for a remembrance of what God has done for us in making atonement for us once and for all time. Those still on earth living through the millenial reign do not have access to heaven so this maybe a visual for them about Gods promises, while they see the messiah reigning for a thousand years. At the end of that time the beast will be released for a season so the people alive at that time would then need to choose life or death.

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