The Ophanim are a rank of angels that first appear in the Book of Enoch. Ophanim is a plural word, which refers to more than one Ophan angel or celestial being. These Biblical creatures like the Seraphim and Cherubim, are said to never sleep, as they ceaselessly watch over and guard God's throne. With regard to the Ophanim name itself, it is the ancient Hebrew word for wheel, a word that fits well with how these beings are described in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Book of Ezekiel Chapter 1, verses 15 through 21, and again in Daniel Chapter 7, verse 9, the Ophanim are described with quite a bit of detail. It goes on to say that the Ophanim were giant wheels of fire, which is often why they are sometimes referred to as the wheels of gagallin, or simply gagal. The scripture states that there were four Ophanim around God's throne, and that these giant wheels are completely covered with eyes, which see all of God's truth.
Occasionally the Ophanim are said to be the same Christian class of angels known as the Thrones, which are also described as great wheels in Heaven. However many scholars disagree with this conclusion, and state that the Ophanim are a totally separate group of liberated free spirits, whereas the Thrones are actual wheels on God's throne. Paul of Tarsus mentions the Thrones in Colossians Chapter 1 verse 16, and based on that bit of scripture, they appear to be quite different from the Ophanim. The reason differences or errors like this Ophanim verses Thrones debate occur, is because there are many different language sources for the early Bible, and occasionally translations can widely vary. Thus parallels are sometimes made that link New and Old Testament characters together as if they are the same, despite them being different. If you come across claims the Ophanim are Thrones, know that this conclusion is false.
With regard to the rank that the Ophanim hold, again a whole lot of confusion has been injected into this subject, due mostly to the Ophanim verses Thrones confusion that we just mentioned. Many Christian angelic ranking systems have the Ophanim listed as the third most holy angels, however this is also the same class that the Thrones hold. So one can only conclude that when some Christian literature ranks Thrones as number three, what they actually mean is that the Ophanim hold that position. Within the Jewish Angelarchy, Maimonides lists the Ophanim as the second rank of angels out of ten separate classes, and there appears to be no confusion between the Ophanim and the wheels on God's throne. As we state in various other sections within our website, the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic angelic hierarchies are all different, despite the fact that they share certain characteristics that are based on Old Testament scripture.
As far as the function of these Ophanim is concerned, most scholars can agree upon the conclusion that they shower God with glory and praise for all of time, and that they also deliver divine justice throughout the universe and material world. So in a way, they are the force behind the physical laws that govern the universe, as well as the force behind the universal laws of man. It is said that these four Ophanim reside within the place of the cosmos where all of the material that forms the universe originates. Some Biblical scholars that are heavily influenced by contemporary science, have concluded that the Ophanim are actually some sort of physical structure within our universe, and that the prophet who first described them was actually shown something in the cosmos, and then described this in the only way that he could without scientific knowledge. Perhaps these giant holy fiery wheels were not covered with eyes at all, but with many bright shining stars.