Burning ones, celestial beings surrounding the throne of God. Compare De 4:24; Heb 12:29. They appear to be distinguished from the cherubim, Eze 1:5-12. The prophet Isaiah, Isa 6:2-3, represents them as reverently adoring the triune God, and burning with zeal to fly and execute his will. Each one had six wings, with two of which he covered his face, with two his feet, and with the two others he flew. They cried to one another, and said, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
mentioned in Isa 6:2-3,6-7. This word means fiery ones, in allusion, as is supposed, to their burning love. They are represented as "standing" above the King as he sat upon his throne, ready at once to minister unto him. Their form appears to have been human, with the addition of wings. (See Angel.) This word, in the original, is used elsewhere only of the "fiery serpents" (Nu 21:6,8; De 8:15; comp. Isa 14:29; 30:6) sent by God as his instruments to inflict on the people the righteous penalty of sin.
Isa 6:2-3. ("God's attendant angels".) Seraphim (plural) in Nu 21:6 means the "fiery flying (not winged, but rapidly moving) "serpents" which bit the Israelites; called so from the poisonous inflammation caused by their bites. Burning (from saraph "to burn") zeal, dazzling brightness of appearance (2Ki 2:11; 6:17; Eze 1:13; Mt 28:3) and serpent-like rapidity in God's service, always characterize the seraphim. Satan's "serpent" (nachash) form in appearing to man may have some connection with his original form as a seraph (singular) of light. The serpent's head symbolized wisdom in Egypt (2Ki 18:4). Satan has wisdom, but wisdom not sanctified by the flame of devotion. The seraphim with six wings and one face differ from the cherubim with four wings (in the temple only two) and four faces (Eze 1:5-12); but in Re 4:8 the four living creatures (zooa) have each six wings. The "face" and "feet" imply a human form.
Seraphim however may come from sar, "prince" (Da 10:13); "with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain He did fly." Two wings alone of the six were kept ready for instant flight in God's service; two veiled their faces as unworthy to look on the holy God or pry into His secret counsels which they fulfilled (Ex 3:6; Job 4:18; 15:15; 1Ki 19:13). Those in the presence of Eastern monarchs cover the whole of the lower part of their persons (which the "feet" include). Service consists in reverent waiting on, more than in active service for, God. Their antiphonal anthem on the triune God's holiness suggests the keynote of Isaiah's prophecies, "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts; the fullness of the whole earth (is) His glory" (Ps 24:1; 72:19).
Besides praising God they are secondly the medium of imparting spiritual fire from God to His prophet; when Isaiah laments alike his own and the people's uncleanness of lips, in contrast to the seraphim chanting in alternate responses with pure lips God's praises, and (Isa 6:5-7) with a deep sense of the unfitness of his own lips to speak God's message to the people, one of the seraphim flew with a live coal which he took from off the altar of burnt offering in the temple court, the fire on it being that which God at first had kindled (Le 9:24), and laid it upon Isaiah's mouth, saying, "lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged." Thus he was inaugurated in office, as the disciples were by the tongues of fire resting on them, the sign of their speaking of Jesus in various languages; his unfitness for the office, as well as his personal sin, were removed only by being brought into contact with the sacrificial altar, of which Messiah is the antitype.
The seraphim are mentioned only in a single passage of Scripture (Isa 6:2 ff.). In his inaugural vision, Isaiah sees these supernatural creatures grouped about Jehovah's throne in His heavenly palace. The prophet furnishes no elaborate description of the form of these beings, and apparently assumes that his readers will be able to fill in what he omits; but he does make clear that they are six-winged creatures. With one pair of wings they hover around Jehovah's throne; and with the other two they cover their faces and their feet,
Symbolical celestial beings seen by Isaiah standing above the Lord on His throne (Adonai, but many MSS read Jehovah). Each had three sets of wings: with one pair he covered his face, in token of reverence; with another he covered his feet, in token of humility; and with the third he flew to accomplish his mission.
Gesenius and F?rst give to the word saraph the meanings 'to burn,' and 'to be exalted.' They trace the seraphim to the latter signification, as 'exalted ones.' The word occurs only in Nu 21:6; De 8:15, translated 'fiery;' and in Nu 21:8; Isa 14:29; 30:6, translated 'fiery serpent.' In Isa 6:2-7 (the plural) the seraphim are exalted beings, but the only actions recorded there are that one brought a live coal from off the altar and laid it upon the prophet's mouth, and said, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." They cried to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."
The distinction between seraphim and cherubim may be that, while the former bear witness to God's holiness (that is, to His nature), in the latter are exhibited the principles of His righteous government on the earth. The 'living creatures' of Rev. 4 combine the characteristics of both cherubim and seraphim.
(burning, glowing), an order of celestial beings, whom Isaiah beheld in vision standing above Jehovah as he sat upon his throne.
They are described as having each of them three pairs of wings, with one of which they covered their faces (a token of humility); with the second they covered their feet (a token of respect); while with the third they flew. They seem to have borne a general resemblance to the human figure. ver. 6. Their occupation was two fold to celebrate the praises of Jehovah's holiness and power, ver. 3 and to act as the medium of communication between heaven and earth. ver. 6.