Sunday, May 15, 2016


An explanation of what seraphim are and a look at how the snake Moses put on a pole relate to the seraphim and to Jesus.  This study also explains the chariot of Ezekiel's vision.


Isaiah 6:1-7
Ezekiel 10:5-7
Ezekiel 1:10-15 (NASB)
Numbers 21:4-9
John 3:11-15
2 Corinthians 5:21
Galatians 3:13

*You'll probably need to watch the two previous lessons to catch up.

Seraphim and Ezekiel’s Vision

Isaiah 6:1-7
1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
  • Isaiah was assuming that the reader knew what seraphim looked like
  • Each had 6 wings
    • Not all “seraphim” do otherwise he didn’t need to point that out
    • I wouldn’t say “there were two dogs; each with 4 legs”
  • Their voices shook the building when they spoke
  • The seraphim interact with man
  • Purify man
  • They covered their faces, implying showing reverence to God
    • Or unworthiness to be in His presence
  • “Holy, holy, holy” is referred to as the Trisagion

What are the similarities and differences from the creatures of Revelation and Ezekiel?

  • They have 6 wings like the 4 living creatures in Revelation
    • Ezekiel’s had 4
  • The sang a similar song to the Living Creatures of Revelation
    • The Trisagion

  • The seraphim were above the throne
    • The cherubim of Ezekiel’s vision were beneath the throne
    • The cherubim in Revelation were around the throne
  • Seraphim interact with humans
  • We aren’t told what their faces look like

Where else have we seen someone getting hot coals or fire to give to a human?
  • In Ezekiel’s vision

Ezekiel 10:5-7
5The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.
6When the Lord commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. 7Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out.
  • The fire was “among” the cherubim
  • The cherubim  gave it to the man in white linen
  • The cherubim and the man handled the fire with their hands whereas the seraphim used tongs and touched Isaiah’s mouth with the coal
Cherubim interact with righteous men made holy - ML
Ezekiel 1:10-15 (NASB)`
10 As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and [fn]all four had the face of an eagle.
11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies.
12 And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went.
13 In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire.
14 And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.
  • The things that looked like burning coals was something other than the cherubim
  • It was a different being
  • Those beings were the ones darting back and forth among the cherubim
  • These beings ran to and fro like lightning bolts
These beings are believed to be seraphim
Seraphim are darting back and forth among the cherubim and ophanim

Seraphim: Part of the Chariot

The chariot is then made up of three separate beings:
  • Cherubim
  • Ophanim - wheels
  • Seraphim

Jewish Description of the Chariot (Merkabah)

The Merkaba image consists of a chariot made of many angels being driven by the "Likeness of a Man." Four angels form the basic structure of the chariot. These angels are called the "Chayot".

The bodies of the "Chayot" are like that of a human being, but each of them had four faces, corresponding to the four directions the chariot can go (north, east, south and west).   The faces are that of a man, a lion, an ox (later changed to a cherub) and an eagle.  Since there are four angels and each has four faces, there are a total of 16 faces. Each Chayot angel also has four wings.

Two of these wings spread across the length of the chariot and connected with the wings of the angel on the other side.   This created a sort of 'box' of wings that formed the perimeter of the chariot. With the remaining two wings, each angel covered its own body. Below, but not attached to the feet of the "Chayot" angels are other angels that are shaped like wheels. These wheel angels, which are described as "a wheel inside of a wheel", are called "Ophanim" - wheels, (cycles or ways).  These wheels are not directly under the chariot, but are nearby and along its perimeter much like the wheels of a car. The angel with the face of the man is always on the east side and looks up at the "Likeness of a Man" that drives the chariot. The "Likeness of a Man" sits on a throne made of sapphire.  The Bible later makes mention of a third type of angel found in the Merkaba called "Seraphim" (lit. burning) angels. These angels appear like flashes of fire continuously ascending and descending.  

These "Seraphim" angels functioned somewhat like pistons in that they powered the movement of the chariot.

Definition of Seraphim

Seraphim is plural for saraph

saraph: serpent
Original Word: שָׂרָף
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: saraph
Phonetic Spelling: (saw-rawf')
Short Definition: serpent

From saraph; burning, i.e. (figuratively) poisonous (serpent); specifically, a saraph or symbolical creature (from their copper color) -- fiery (serpent), seraph.

akin to I. ׳שׂ, as beings originally mythically conceived with serpents' bodies (serpent-deities, compare Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 30:6), or personified of lightning

The Hebrew name, śārāf means 'the one that burns’, and is the same word as used for the black-necked cobra (see Numbers 21:6-9 and Deuteronomy 8:15).

Seraphim in Hebrew means “flaming serpents.” In Judeo-Christian tradition, the Seraphim are the order of angels who surround the Throne of the Presence. They appear by name in the bible only once, in the vision of Isaiah.
The Seraphs are associated with the “fiery serpents” who assaulted the Israelites in the Book of Numbers.

They are possibly descended mythologically from the Egyptian flaming winged uraeus serpents who guarded the Pharaohs.

Seraphs appear in the 2nd-century BC Book of Enoch where they are mentioned, in conjunction with cherubs, as the heavenly creatures nearest to the throne of God.

What Do Seraphim Look Like?

A flaming copper serpent
  • Often with wings
  • Possibly with legs and feet (as in Isaiah)

They were viewed as a personification of lightning

Some traditions claim that seraphim have the ability to change their form/appearance.
  • Referred to as “shape shifters”

Summary of Seraphim

  • They are considered to be part of the chariot of God
  • They are ministering spirits
  • They interact with man.
  • They minister to God
  • They are distinct from the messenger angels
    • And are never referred to as angels
  • Seraphim look like fiery bronze [copper] snakes with wings
  • Seraphim are seen as a personification of  lightning

Snake on a Pole

Numbers 21:4-9
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[c] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous[seraph] snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake[seraph] and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
  • Notice that many heavenly beings were described as being bronze like the snakes
    • Cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision, Jesus in Revelation, the likeness of a man above the throne in Ezekiel

  • Why did God send the snakes?
    • Because the people were complaining when they should have been thankful.
  • Who saved the people in this story?
    • God (through Moses’ act)

Jesus as the Snake on the Cross

John 3:10-15
10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.e 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,f 15that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
  • Jesus was telling them that if they don’t understand the earthly things He’s telling them then, get ready, because He’s about to blow them away with what He’s gonna say next

What He tells them is:
  1. He came from Heaven
  2. Just as the snake in the wilderness was “lifted up” so will He be
    1. The Greek for lifted up also means exalted
  3. He can bring them eternal life if they believe in Him

Jesus compares Himself to the snake that Moses put on the pole

Notice a few things about the story of the serpent on the pole:
  1. The serpent on the pole didn’t keep them from getting bitten.
    1. It was for people who had already been bitten and had poison is in them.
    2. It was for people who are going to die unless they got help.
  2. The snakes in the wilderness came from God.
    1. He sent them because of their sin.
  3. God chose to rescue the people from the curse that He Himself put on them out of His mercy.
  4. All they have to do in order to be saved from God’s wrath is look at his provision hanging on a pole.
    1. They didn’t have to apologize for complaining
    2. They didn’t have to pray and fast
    3. They didn’t have to consult with Moses
    4. They didn’t even have to stop complaining!
    5. They just had to look at the snake on the pole

All they had to do was look at it!

We usually think of snakes as negative.  How could a snake represent Jesus?

2 Corinthians 5:21
21God made him who had no sin to be sinb for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • What sin did He become?
    • Our sin

Galatians 3:13
13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[Deut. 21:23]

The snake doesn’t represent Christ on the represents us.   It represents our sin that Christ took on for us.

  • God pronounced the curse on humanity because of the sins of Adam and Eve.
  • God also gave us the cure for the curse.
  • Jesus died for those who have been cursed
  • Jesus died for those who have sinned.
  • Jesus died for those who were about to die.
  • Jesus took our sin upon Himself.
  • Jesus allowed our sin to be nailed on the cross.
  • All we have to do is look at the image of Jesus on the cross and believe that He died for us.
  • Once we do this, we have attained eternal life.

All we have to do is to look upon Him.  

All we have to do is believe in Him to be saved!

Charles Spurgeon’s Testimony

The day was January 6, 1850. Spurgeon was not quite 16 years old.  He writes in his autobiography...

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. . . . The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . . He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22].”
He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.
“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me’. . . . Many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. Ye will never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the father. No, look to him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’”
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ and great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death — if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”
Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a primitive Methodists could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said — I did not take much notice of it — I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away.
There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to him. . . . And now I can say —

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And Shall be till I die.


  • In Ezekiel’s vision it speaks of fire darting back and forth like lightning between the cherubim.   These were seraphim.
  • Seraphim were part of the chariot of Ezekiel
    • The 4 cherubim with their connected wings formed a box which was the perimeter of the chariot
    • The opanim were the wheels
    • The seraphim were ascending and descending like the pistons which powered the chariot
  • In the Jewish, angelic hierarchy  seraphim, cherubim and ophanim are listed as the highest class of angels
  • Seraphim were thought to be a personification of lightning
  • Seraph is singular for seraphim and means burning one, or a bronze snake.  The word is also used for the black neck cobra snakes.
  • Therefore seraphim were depicted as snakes with wings sometimes with legs or arms and hands
  • We looked at the story where the Israelites were in the wilderness and God sent snakes to bite them for complaining.  God told Moses to put a brazen snake on a pole to heal them.  
  • The word used for the bronze snake on the pole was “seraph”.  
  • So the seraphim in Isaiah’s vision would have been snakes with wings.
  • We saw in Luke that Jesus said that just like the snake [seraph] was lifted up so would be the Son of Man.
  • Jesus took on our sin when He died on the cross therefore the snake on the cross represented our sin on the cross

Presenter: Michael Leadon


Ezekiel's Wheel & Chapter 1 Vision - Michael S. Heiser, PhD
Cherubs and Seraphs - Mike Hoggard

Michael S. Heiser - Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Cherubim, and other spiritual beings

  • John Piper

Related Scriptures

Isaiah 14:29
29“Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you,
           Because the rod that struck you is broken;
           For from the serpent’s root a viper will come out,
           And its fruit will be a flying[venomous] serpent.
  • KJV: fiery flying serpent
  • NASB: flying serpent
  • ESV: flying fiery serpent

2 Kings 18:4
4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.[b])
  • God used a snake/seraph to save the people and the people made an idol out of it
  • Would we do something like that?
  • How did God bring Jesus into the world?
    • Through Mary
  • Would anyone ever pray to Mary?
    • Many do

No comments:

Post a Comment