The symbolical figure so called was a composite creature-form which finds a parallel in the religious insignia of Assyria, Egypt and Persia, e.g. the sphinx, the winged bulls and lions of Nineveh, etc. A cherub guarded paradise (Genesis 3:24). Figures of Cherubim were placed on the mercy-seat of the ark (Exodus 25:18). A pair of colossal size overshadowed it in Solomon’s temple with the canopy of their contiguously extended wings (1 Kings 6:27). Those on the ark were to be placed with wings stretched forth, one at each end of the mercy-seat.” Their wings were to be stretched upwards, and their faces “towards each other and towards the mercy-seat.” It is remarkable that with such precise directions as to their position, attitude, and material, nothing, save that they were winged, is said concerning their shape. On the whole it seems likely that the word “cherub” meant not only the composite creature-form, of which the man, lion, ox, and eagle were the elements, but, further, some peculiar and mystical form. (Some suppose that the cherubim represented God’s providence among men, the four faces expressing the characters of that providence: its wisdom and intelligence [man], its strength [ox], its kingly authority [lion], its swiftness, far-sightedness [eagle]. Others, combining all the other references with the description of the living creatures in Revelation, make the cherubim to represent God’s redeemed people. The qualities of the four faces are those which belong to God’s people. Their facing four ways, towards all quarters of the globe, represents their duty of extending the truth. The wings show swiftness of obedience, and only the redeemed can sing the song put in their mouths in Revelation 5:8-14. –ED).
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866).