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Question 3.46:
What is meant by G-d's throne and the Serphim worshiping him in Isaiah 6:1-6?


The "Merkavah" (Divine "Chariot") visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel are difficult to understand; in fact, it is hard to believe that any non-prophet can honestly claim to understand them. That said, we can eek out odds and ends that have more obvious meanings.

A prophet experiences something of the underlying reality, of heaven. Being a person, his mind naturally maps these experiences into visions. Metaphors. Much the way the rest of us map ideas into dreams. Man relates to G-d in many ways, among them as a subject to a King. Therefore, when a prophet sees a vision about G-d, it is quite logical that he would see a throne. A large imposing throne that captures the attention of the viewer, since the prophet obviously can't form a vision that represents G-d Himself. So you'll notice that in the vision, He never ends up "looking at" the Occupant. The commentaries relate that the "Throne" is on a chariot because G-d was preparing to join Israel in their exile. Which is why in that verse in Kings, Micaiah described a "Throne" but no chariot. The exile wasn't yet imminant.

The three kinds of angel described in Ezekiel's more elaborate description of the vision can be understood in the following manner (among others): The ofanim (wheels) are the archetype machines. They represent the spiritual forces behind man-made things. The chayos are named for undomesticated animals, which in turn are called "chayah"—living thing; life for its own sake. The contrast to ofanim is stark. Chayos are the spiritual forces behind nature. They come together and praise G-d, lifting themselves to the level of the seraphim. Saraph is to burn. Fire, the least tangible of things, the universal representation of the spiritual. Man, by proper utilization of the artificial and natural, can elevate them until they too sing the glory of G-d no less than do the obviously spiritual.

Holy, holy, holy is the G-d of Hosts. Holiness means being set aside for a purpose. Usually we speak of "kadosh le-"; that is, the item being santified to something. G-d Himself is as separate from everything else as possible, and works entirely toward His own Goal. These hosts of forces are what are embodied as angels "to His left and to His right".

"G-d of Hosts" refers to the G-d who is Master of all the forces throughout existance. The Targum, a 1st century CE commentary and Aramaic translation renders the verse: Holy in heaven (the "there-ness") on high, the abode of his Presence Holy on earth, the work of His Might, Holy for ever, until the ends of time G-d of Hosts, the whole universe is filled with His dear Emanation.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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