Ezekiel's vision

One traditional depiction of the chariot vision, based on the description in Ezekiel.

The ophanim or ofanim, also Ophde (Hebrew "wheels" אְוּפַּנים; singular ofan) refer to the wheels seen on Ezekiel's vision of the chariot (Hebrew merkavah) in Ezekiel 1:15-21. These are first construed as angels in one of the Dead Sea scrolls (4Q405), and as a class of celestial beings in late sections of the Book of Enoch (61:10, 71:7) where with the Cherubim and Seraphim they never sleep, but guard the throne of God.

These "wheels" have been associated with Daniel 7:9 (mentioned as gagal, traditionally "the wheels of gagallin", in "fiery flame" and "burning fire") of the four, eye-covered wheels (each composed of two nested wheels), that move next to the winged Cherubim, beneath the throne of God. The four wheels move with the Cherubim because the spirit of the Cherubim is in them. These are also referred to as the "many-eyed ones" in the late Second Book of Enoch (20:1, 21:1).

The Ophanim are also equated as the "Thrones", associated with the "Wheels", in the vision of Daniel 7:9 (Old Testament). They are the carriers of the throne of God, hence the name. However, they may or may not be the same Thrones (Gr. thronos) mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament).

Function and philosophy

These Angelic Princes are often also called "Ofanim, Wheels of Galgallin." It is said that they were the actual wheels of the Lord's Heavenly Chariot (Merkabah). "The four wheels had rims and they had spokes, and their rims were full of eyes round about." They are also frequently referred to as "many-eyed ones."

Rosemary Gulley (1996: p. 37) states that:

The 'thrones'; also known as 'ophanim' (offanim) and 'galgallin', are creatures that function as the actual chariots of God driven by the cherubs. They are characterized by peace and submission; God rests upon them. Thrones are depicted as great wheels containing many eyes, and reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. They chant glorias to God and remain forever in his presence. They mete out divine justice and maintain the cosmic harmony of all universal laws.[1]

Ophanim in specific spiritual traditions

Ophanim in Judaism

Maimonides lists Ophanim as occupying the second of ten ranks of angels in his exposition of the Jewish angelic hierarchy.

Ophanim are mentioned in the kel adon prayer, often sung by the congregation, as part of the traditional Shabbat morning service.

In the Jewish angelic hierarchy thrones and wheels are different. This is also true in the Kabbalistic angelic hierarchy.

Thrones in the Catholic Church

De Coelesti Hierarchia refers to the Thrones (from the Old Testament description) as the third Order of the first sphere, the other two superior orders being the Cherubim and Seraphim. It is mentioned that "The name of the most glorious and exalted Thrones denotes that which is exempt from and untainted by any base and earthly thing, and the super mundane ascent up the steep. For these have no part in that which is lowest, but dwell in fullest power, immovably and perfectly established in the Most High, and receive the Divine Immanence above all passion and matter, and manifest God, being attentively open to divine participations."

Lords of the Flame in the Western Wisdom Teachings

The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception refers that the "Lords of the Flame", the Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically assigned to Leo, are the Thrones (from the Old Testament description, "because of the brilliant luminosity of their bodies and their great spiritual powers."); the other two superior hierarchies being also the Cherubim and Seraphim. According to this teaching, these three Hierarchies have already reached liberation, and thus are no longer active in the work of evolution.

Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam identifies the ophanim with the Mother Plane, which Wallace Fard Muhammad described as a "small man-made planet" located approximately 40 miles (64 km) above the earth that would one day destroy the cities of white people. His successor Elijah Muhammad also identified them with contemporary sightings of flying saucers.[2][3]

Ophanim in popular culture

  • The concept of the Ophanim, and the gospel song "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" are likely sources of inspiration for the Grateful Dead song "Estimated Prophet", written by John Perry Barlow.
  • "Ofanim" are one of the Choirs in the RPG In Nomine. They are depicted as giant flaming wheels and embody motion.
  • The Ophanim appear throughout the Shin Megami Tensei video game series (under the name "Thrones") as powerful angels. They are among the highest ranks of the Divine clan, sometimes as the highest of all (the Seraphim appear as a separate class of angels).
  • The image of the Ophanim is implied to represent the spacecraft of the Whisper People in the film Knowing.
  • The Creature called the Scourge in Clive Barker's Weaveworld is described as a wheel with a hundred eyes and identifies itself as Uriel the flame of God.
  • "Orphan"(オーファン Ōfan) is the final antagonist from Final Fantasy XIII, a wheel-shaped fal'Cie whose desired its own destruction to summon Maker back to their world.
  • Enchants appear in "Bayonetta" as lower ranking angels that are wheels of fire.
  • The Ophanim are the physical manifestation of the Sopia of the pillars in the RPG "Chaos Rings 2"
  • The Digi-evolution Mega of Angewomon in Digimon is Ophanimon"


  1. Gulley, Rosemary Ellen (1996). Encyclopedia of Angels. ISBN 0-8160-2988-1, p.37
  2. Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America, ch. 125
  3. Elijah Muhammad, The Fall of America, ch. 58

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