Tips to Help in Understanding Biblical Imagery
Before diving headfirst into the meaning of Biblical symbols, in this case the cherubim and flaming sword, and other symbols used in the Adam and Eve story, I thought it might be useful to forth some ideas that I think are essential in helping to understanding Biblical symbols.
In the footnotes of The Lost Language of Symbolism, Gaskill quotes from a book called Dictionary of Biblical Imagery:
"Bible dictionaries and commentaries commonly err in … [that] some resources channel all their energies into uncovering the original context of an image, making sure that we get the literal picture but never asking what the feelings or meanings are elicited by the image. Images call for interpretation, and to leave biblical imagery uninterpreted is a great waste. The images of the Bible exist to tell us something about the godly life, something they will not do if they are allowed to remain as physical phenomena only. In short, a common failing of commentaries and dictionaries is that they do not adequately speak to the issue of significance (what an image signifies by way of meaning)." (1)In another footnote, Gaskill quotes another scholar as writing:
"The significance of a symbol is based upon the literal or actual nature and characteristics of that which is being used as a symbol. A symbol is meant to represent something essentially different from itself. The link between that which is used as a symbol and that which is symbolized is the characteristic common to both." (2)1. Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman. Dictionnary of Biblical Imagery (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., 1998), p. xiv-xv.
2. Conner, kevin J.. Interpreting the Symbols and Types (City Bible Publishing: Portland, Ore, 1992), p.13.