Ox, Lion, Eagle, Man

Ox, Lion, Eagle, Man May 10, 2014

In Ezekiel and Revelation, the cherubim-living creatures are ox, lion, eagle, and man. If they represent the whole of living creation as worshipers, why are there no fish? Why two land creatures – ox and lion? Isn’t that discriminatory? Why not ox, crab, eagle, man?

Other biblical lists of creatures, after all, include sea creatures: There are clean and unclean land animals, birds, swarmers, and sea-creatures (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). Why didn’t sea creatures merit inclusion in the cherubim? Where are the fish-faces?

The four creatures do match different zones of the created order. Already at creation, Yahweh distinguished behemah from chayyah, domesticated from wild animals. Ox and Lion are creatures from different environments of earth, garden and land. Eagle are land animals, nesting and reproducing on land (Genesis 1:22), but also fly on the face of the firmament, and hence represent a different zone of creation. Human beings build ships and sail, but they travel on water for long distances only by turning bits of dirt-and-water combinations into floating gardens known as boats. So humans are essentially land critters too. 

We seem to have covered our bases as far as land is concerned: Tame animal, wild animal, flying animal, and man-face to rule them all. Still, one wonders: Where are the fish-faced creatures?

One possibility is that the land-oriented cherubim link with land-bias of the old covenant. Israel is a nation of shepherds, not traders or sailors or fishers of men. A covenant of land-lubbers is fittingly linked with angelic versions of land-creatures. Perhaps the fact that the cherubim are land-based is a sign of their temporariness, their built-in obsolescence at a time when the gospel goes to sea-based Gentiles. 

For a little while, we were under angels – under land-based angels – but now in Christ the Fish we have been elevated to rule earth and sky and sea.

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