When Solomon constructs the first temple, not only are there images of cherubim included in the design of the separating curtain, but representations of cherubim are to be found throughout the temple. “In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubs of olive wood; each stood fifteen feet high” (1 Kings 6:23). Their wingspans were also said to be fifteen feet (6:24-25), so that their wings reached out to touch the walls (6:27). These cherubim would have shined brilliantly, as they were overlaid with gold (6:28). Though the temple did not have curtains all around it, as did the tabernacle, Solomon still made it a point to mimic the decorative cherubim of the tabernacle curtains, carving cherubim into the walls, into the doors, and into the stands for the large basin.
When the temple was completed and the Ark was brought into the most holy place, it is pointed out that “The cherub’s wings extended over the place where the ark sat; the cherubs overshadowed the ark and its poles” (8:7). Of course, the reader goes on to learn that Solomon did this because his father, David, “gave him the blueprint for the seat of the gold cherubim that spread their wings and provide shelter for the ark of the Lord’s covenant” (1 Chronicles 28:18b). Naturally, in its recapitulation of a portion of Israel’s history, the second book of the Chronicles also details the construction of Solomon’s temple, with numerous references to the cherubim to be seen there.
Many years later, when Hezekiah and the southern kingdom of Judah are threatened by the Assyrians, Hezekiah is said to have went to the temple and prayed to the “Lord God of Israel, Who is enthroned on the cherubs!” (2 King 19:15a) The Psalms speak of cherubim (80:1,99:1). Isaiah calls upon the “Lord Who commands armies, O God of Israel, Who is enthroned on the cherubim!” (37:16a). Though in a different way, cherubim feature prominently in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Though there is no veil with cherubim in the vision of Ezekiel’s temple, representations of cherubim are still to be found there. Finally, cherubim make their way into the New Testament, being referenced in the letter to the Hebrews, where the author writes, taking in the full scope of cherubic presentations, of “the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (9:5).
Why all this talk of cherubim? Were these people just very fond of all things angelic, or are the people of the Creator God to be reminded of something quite specific each and every time they hear about and see these cherubim? These are good and important questions. With these numerous and regular presentations of cherubim, what was it that was being communicated to the covenant people? When they would see the cherubim, what is it that would spring to mind? These questions can likewise be posed for the veil. As one considers the veil of the temple, along with the veil of the tabernacle, what was it that made the veil so important? It would seem to be obvious that it was something that served to keep the Creator God’s people from the place where He was to be encountered. It seems to have been designed to limit their fellowship with their God.
One can know from the Scriptural narrative that a promise that had been made by the Creator God was the promise to meet with Moses, and the High Priest of His people, above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, between what must be considered to be guardian cherubim. This meeting between cherubim took place behind the veil that was adorned with guardian cherubim. This forces an observer to reflect upon and consider where it is that cherubim are first introduced into the narrative. Where does this take place? To obtain that answer, it is necessary to look to the book of Genesis. There, in the third chapter, it can be read that “When He drove the man out, He placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:24). Those angelic sentries, of course, were cherubim.