What are Seraphim and What Power Do They Have?

Contributing Writer
What are Seraphim and What Power Do They Have?

What image comes to mind when you think of angels? How about seraphim or cherub?  If you’re like most people, you may picture a beautiful woman with a halo and feathery wings. Or maybe you envision an adorable, dimpled infant who totes a bow that shoots arrows of love. These visually appealing depictions may work well for greeting cards, but they aren’t biblically accurate. Renaissance artists and Hollywood moguls have altered our perception of angels for eons, and when it comes to seraphim—their renderings couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Bible has much to say about angels. Scripture suggests that “the number of angels is incomprehensible.” Says Dr. Roger Barrier, in 17 Things the Bible Says about Angels. He goes on to say that Revelation 5:11 records the number of Angels as: “Ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands.” But not all angels are the same. Like humans, these spiritual beings vary in appearance and were designed by God to fill different roles.

The Greek word angelos, from which the word angel is derived, suggests that angels are messengers. Hebrews 1:14 further defines angels as, “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” On top of these basic duties, each class of angel serves and worships God in unique ways.

Some Biblical scholars believe a hierarchy exists among angels, though Scripture doesn’t make that explicit. The theory is—the closer to the throne of God an angel serves, the higher that angel ranks. If that’s the case, seraphim are among the top-ranking angels.

What Are Seraphim?

Seraphim are super-natural beings who were created by God to serve and worship. These six-winged angelic creatures continually attend God at His throne. Each set of the seraphim’s wings serves a different purpose; one set covers the face, denoting reverence and awe and acts as protection from the radiance of God’s glory—another set of wings is used for flying, to aid in their swift servitude—and the third set is used to cover the seraphim’s feet so that they can humbly conceal their unworthiness, while in God’s holy presence (Isaiah 6:2).

These angels may have the appearance of burning flames. The word seraph comes from the Hebrew verb sarap, which means to literally burn with fire—or more specifically, destruction by means of fire. The name may also hint at the seraphim’s role as purification agents (Isaiah 6:6-7).

God created seraphim as sinless creatures, but they are not to be equated with God. The fact that seraphim must cover their faces to protect themselves from the blinding light of God’s presence proves that their sinless nature is nothing compared to the Lord’s transcendent purity. In fact, the seraphim spend day and night worshipping God for His holiness. During this perpetual worship, they call out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The significance of the seraphim’s proximity to God in conjunction with their revelatory praise cannot be overstated. When the seraphim say, “The whole earth is full of his glory,” they are revealing a first-hand account of what they witness from the pinnacle of Heaven.

Through the seraphim’s super-natural perspective, we can see that God’s glory is so infinite, so indescribably valuable, and so powerful that it can’t be contained in a single realm; His glory bursts through Heaven unfolds through the spiritual realm and overflows into the whole earth. This revealed glory gives us a sacred glimpse of a holy God.

seraphim angels

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/cranach

What Do We Know about the Seraphim from the Bible?

The seraphim make their scriptural debut in Isaiah 6. There we see God preparing Isaiah for prophetic ministry during a critical time in Israel’s history. King Uzziah, who had reigned as one of Judah's greatest kings for over 40 years, had just died and left the wayward nation without a strong leader.

God needed to get His people’s attention and draw them back into a right relationship with Himself. For that task, He chose the prophet Isaiah to speak on His behalf. But before Isaiah could be used to prophesy to a sinful nation, God first needed to reveal to Isaiah the depth of his own uncleanness. Here’s Isaiah’s account of the experience:

In 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. Above 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. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The seraphim’s revelation of God’s holiness elicited a physical reaction from everything around them. Not even the earth could remain still at such a proclamation. At the sound of the seraphim’s collective voice, the doorposts and thresholds shook, the entire temple filled with smoke—and Isaiah was undone.

 “Woe to me!” [he] 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” (Isaiah 6:5).

The seraphim helped Isaiah see the holiness of God in such a way that it exposed the deepest, darkest places of his own heart and woke him up to the stark reality of his own inadequacy. But these mighty servants of God didn’t leave Isaiah in his state of desperation. Upon hearing Isaiah’s confession, one of the seraphim removed a live coal from the altar of God, touched Isaiah’s mouth with it, and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” The seraphim were a powerful tool in God’s hand, to reveal His transformative glory.

“With his sins cleansed, Isaiah could now speak directly to God. When God called out for a prophet— ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’—the “purified” Isaiah was able to accept this prophetic commission to the people of Israel by responding— ‘Here am I. Send me!’”(Isaiah 6:8)” says Dolores Smyth in Who Are the Seraphim? The Seraphim in the Bible.

Why Is it Important that We Know about Seraphim?

Angels are a topic of fascination with people around the globe. Many enthusiasts study angels and venerate them as creatures worthy of worship, prayer, and attention. But ask any angel, and they’d quickly inform you that attention and worship is the last thing they desire (Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:8-9).

So what role should seraphim play in the life of a Christian? While serving God through worship, the seraphim remind us that God is, “Holy, holy, holy.” Their whole job is to honor God with that proclamation and to make His holiness known to everyone who dares to approach the throne of God.

As children of God, we’re invited to come boldly before God’s throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). “Whenever we see God’s holiness with the eyes of faith, we will find ourselves reacting as the prophet Isaiah did. Yet as soon as we verbalize this sense of our own sinfulness, God will move in to clean us up,” says Jill Briscoe, in Happiness in Holiness. It’s Christ’s blood that now soaks the coals of the altar, and it’s His righteousness alone that enables us to stand before a God so holy that even the seraphim must cover themselves in His presence.

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What Do We Know about Angels in the Bible?
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Photo credit: Unsplash/Joshua Newton

Annette GriffinAnnette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.