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18 Photo by David Harris, Bible Lands Museum, published in Hershel Shanks: “Jerusalem: An Archaeological Biography”, Random House, New York, 1995, page 46.



19 J.E. Cirlot: “A Dictionary of Symbols”, Dorset Press, New York, 1991, page 100 middle.



20 by Arthur Upgren, Plenum Press, New York, 1998, as reviewed in Scientific American, November 1998, page 121.



21 The hill near the center of the Old City where this palace probably stood has not been excavated. It rises only five to six meters above the surrounding terrain, but that is enough for watching stars on the horizon. See Wayne T. Pitard: “Ancient Damascus -- A Historical Study of the Syrian City- State from Earliest Times until its Fall to the Assyrians in 732 BCE”, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1987, page 4.



22 By Chris Marriott at www.skymap.com





  The northern night sky on an ivory cherub


and the spirit in its wheels   


1.2. From Cherub arcs to star chart

This scenario of a Damascene origin fits the internal evidence from the Cherub itself, but before we explore the links of this carving with that city, let us look at the wheels that define its shape and display its spirit.

cherubcirclescombinedoptim.JPG (37801 bytes)




38 KB in JPEG

Figure 1- 1 is a photograph of this Cherub18 which I overlaid with a mylar grid to then trace on it  34 of the circles that compose most of its design. The dimensions of the image and the coordinates of those circles are recorded on Cherub Table 1 - 1.

Cherarc1.jpg (65546 bytes)




66 KB in JPEG

Figure 1- 2 highlights the arcs in the Cherub design that Figure 1-1 showed as full circles, and it lets you see which centers belong to which arcs, or which hubs to which wheels.  View vector version  52 KB

To view this .dwf format vector drawing, you need a vector viewer plug-in for your browser, such as Express Viewer from Autodesk which you can download free from


These circles illustrate Ezekiel’s description that the wheels on the cherubim

“had hubs, and each hub had a projection which had the power of sight, and the rims of the wheels were full of eyes all round”. (1:18)

Multiple eyes were a common symbol for the myriads of stars in the night sky19; even today this intuitive and poetic metaphor appears, for instance, in the book title “Night has a Thousand Eyes: A Naked-Eye Guide to the Sky, its Science, and Lore”20.

The cherubim Ezekiel saw shared their profusion of celestial eyes, or stars, with the Cherub because the location of the 34 surviving circle centers on that carving matches the distribution of the major stars in the northern night sky.

SkyNorthDamascusCompare.gif (20560 bytes)  

Figure 1- 3 at left charts the stars that astronomers in

king Hazael’s time could see from the roof of his palace on a hill in Damascus21, or from any other unobstructed viewing spot at about that latitude. 

The lines crossing at the center of the large circles mark where the celestial north pole was located around 848 BCE, the start of king Hazael's reign.   However, the changes in the sky are so slow that the picture was very similar for several centuries before and after that date.

I made that chart with the SkyMap Pro 4.0 astronomical program22 which lets you pick your observing spot and also allows you to dial the sky backward and forward in time. 

Figure 1- 4 at right shows the Cherub circle centers, plus some connector lines between some of them which I added for comparison with the similar connector lines that I drew between the matching stars on the SkyMap.

A comparison of the two pictures above show a strong visual similarity between the groupings of major stars and of Cherub centers.

mapdisto2.gif (31335 bytes)


Figure 1-5 at left explains how some of the differences in the shapes of the matching groups can be due to the different distortions caused by the different map projections.

View vector version  28 KB

CherstarnamesCompare.gif (57519 bytes)   

Figure 1- 6 at left is the same star chart as the one shown above for

Hazael's Damascus, but with the modern names of the stars and with modern constellation lines drawn by the SkyMap program.

Figure 1- 7 at right assigns these star names to the corresponding Cherub centers and sizes these according to the star magnitudes.  These star names are also listed for each circle in Cherub Table 1 - 1.

The carver’s criterion for including a star among the Cherub centers seems to have been its apparent magnitude, so I listed also this measure of observable brightness next to the star names.

The nomenclature in this magnitude system goes back to the Hellenistic Greek astronomer Hipparchos (c. 190 to 126 BCE) and is all backwards to modern eyes.  It assigns the lowest numbers to the brightest stars, and each increase by one unit means the star is  2.5 times fainter.

In this topsy- turvy system the most prominent stars wind up with size zero, and even negative magnitude numbers, because Hipparchos had lumped together all the brightest stars and planets in his magnitude 1 and left us no other digits open for further distinctions between these. The dimmest objects that good naked- eye observers can discern in clear dark skies are about magnitude 6.

Except for one apparent omission to which we shall return, the Cherub chart includes all the major stars in its area down to magnitude 3.75.  Then it continues selectively to 4.54 Kappa Böotis which is about four times brighter than those barely discernible sixers.



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