In Gen 3:24, the way to the “tree of life” in the garden of Eden is said to be guarded by the biblical cherubim, as well as by a similarly intimidating, uniquely depicted sword. The latter is said to be in a continuous, apparently revolving motion and has what seems to be a fiery appearance. This passage was the subject of a Critical Note by Ronald S. Hendel in JBL 104 (1985), which, in essence, interpreted the fiery aspect of the weapon as representing the presence of a sword-bearing, quasidivine being belonging to YHWH's mythic entourage. The present discussion takes issue with Hendel's approach, concentrating rather on the sword as an independent, inanimate entity and defining in detail the terminology employed in its description. It goes on to suggest that the biblical imagery corresponds to, and may possibly derive from, the design of ancient Persian scythed chariot wheels, as described in Greek historical accounts.

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