Why did God cause 2 cherubim to be placed over the mercy-seat on the ark ?
Cherubim first appear in the Bible to guard the way to the tree of life
And he cast out Adam and caused him to dwell over against the garden of Delight, and stationed the cherubim and the fiery sword that turns about to keep the way of the tree of life. Gen. 3:24
Cherubim then appear as symbols on the ark of the covenant, and finally in Revelation with a mention of the ark revealed in heaven –
Then the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple. And there were flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm. Rev. 11:19
Understanding the symbols helps us understand why the ark was kept in the Most Holy place, and the relevance to us today –
|THE ARK & CHERUBIM||EXPLANATION|
|The Ark contained the LAW (10 commandments – requirements of covenant)||Adam & Eve (Symbol of man and woman) broke God’s first covenant.|
|The LAW was covered by the Mercy-seat||Mercy-seat = Propitiation. Covering of skin in Eden & death of animal provided by God, pointed to Jesus’ sacrifice to cover sin (breaking of the covenant)|
|On top of the ark were 2 cherubim and a mercy-seat made of one piece of beaten gold
Ex 37:7 And he made a mercy-seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubim of hammered gold; on the two ends of the mercy-seat he made them, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy-seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.
| First Adam and Eve – made out of one in the image of God.
The cherubim on the ark were a symbol of the second Adam (Jesus) and the ‘woman’ of the new covenant. Their wings kept safe the things of God. They are in contrast to Adam and Eve who failed to keep safe the things of God. The cherubim faced each and their turning was toward the mercy seat of God. Jesus is in many symbols, both cherub and mercy seat. Cherubs keeps safe the things of God.
In a similar way the King of Tyre is described as a cherub in Eden giving covering – Ezek. 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;…v14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers;
WINGS- a symbol of covering/protection/defense Ps 57:1 in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge
Ruth 2:12 “The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
|Cherubim in Eden – Gen 3:24 He placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims (plural), and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.||Perhaps the Cherubim in Eden were righteous people known as “Sons of God” in Gen 6:2 – Part of the larger group outside the garden of Eden parable (See Symbols established in Genesis).Perhaps Melchizedek came from such a line of cherubim keepers guarding the way to the tree of life.|
|God spoke from the place that was above the mercy seat but below the wings of the cherubim – but only when the blood was sprinkled there
Ex 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony
|The mercy-seat is a symbol of God’s dwelling place – it is the blood which was sprinkled on the mercy-seat which is the symbol of Jesus sacrifice – the place God spoke from.|
|God’s dwells between the 2 cherubim
Ps 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth.
|The cherubim were not a symbol of angels – but of people
Heb 2:16 “For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.”
Just as the mercy seat and cherubim were all made of one piece of gold – so Jesus and his ‘bride’ will be one with God – John 17:11 Keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
|Of further interest – in rabbinic literature, the two cherubim are described as being human-like figures with wings, one a boy and the other a girl (Babylonia Talmud –Sukkah 5b)|
The cherubim – a symbol of man and woman whose faces are turned toward the Mercy-seat. God meets with them through the blood of Jesus.
AT THE CROSS – God rode on a cherub
At the foot of the cross God was with the small group of women who gave comfort to His Son. God gives comfort through people. (For more about the women at the cross see ‘Under the Banner of Love – Mary Magdalene Author of the Fourth Gospel’ http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/alsowritten)
God flew on cherub’s wings
|Ps 18:10 He rode on a cherub, and flew; He came swiftly upon the wings of the wind/(spirit)||This is highly symbolic language – God doesn’t need a cherub to fly – yet He chooses to dwell with the righteous. This passage pointed to the hour of Jesus death when God was united with Mary and the Beloved Disciple in grief and comfort for Jesus.|
|Context in Psalm 18 (also see 2 Sam 22)
5 The cords of Sheol entangled me,
the snares of death confronted me.6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.7 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.11 He made darkness his covering around him,
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds
hailstones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire…16 He reached from on high, he took me,
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me.
18 They came upon me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my stay. 19 He brought me forth into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
|The crucifixion record in Matthew echoes Psalm 18 –
From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “This man is calling Eli′jah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Eli′jah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; 52 the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
At THE RESURRECTION
After the resurrection the Beloved Disciple describes the scene at the tomb – as a symbol of the Ark –
“Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent down to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Woman, why are you weeping?” they asked. “Because they have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I do not know where they have put Him.” John 20:12-13
Here is a picture of angels who had been watching where the body of Jesus had been – Watching over the mercy seat – the propitiation for the sins of mankind. It’s a depiction of the Ark of the Covenant kept in the Most Holy Place where only the High Priest could enter once a year.
Although Peter and “another Beloved Disciple” had already entered this Holy place, it is Mary Magdalene who saw the angels at the head and feet where Jesus had lain and then is the first to see Jesus risen from the dead.
The cherubim on the ark were made of one piece of beaten gold, just as Adam and Eve were ‘one flesh’. God split Adam in half to make Eve – there was no Hebrew word for rib – See: Take-Away Ribs
The Hebrew word ‘tsela’ which is wrongly translated as rib in Genesis 2 is translated as “side” to describe the 2 halves of the Ark of the Covenant –
Exodus 25:12 (RSV) 12 “And you shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side (tsela) of it, and two rings on the other side of it.”
The word tsela clearly doesn’t mean rib – but ‘one half’ or ‘side’.
Thus the Ark of the Covenant joins the 2 halves separated from God, via the Mercy-seat. A wonderful visual image of the way back to God.
In Eden, Eve turned toward her husband when she was deceived. A fatal mistake. On the Ark the cherubim turn toward the Mercy-seat, their redemption – “their faces one to another toward the mercy-seat“. Ex. 37:9
Eve had been deceived by the serpent and turned to her husband regarding the fruit instead of turning to God. In contrast to this Mary (Jesus’ mother) got it right, her desire was for God even when she was engaged to Joseph. She said “I am the handmaid of the Lord”– it was God who ruled over Mary.
Women have a choice – to be ruled over by desire for a husband or desire for God. In fact, Paul said it’s better not to marry because such a partnership can make us put God in second place.
The so-called curse on Eve is conditional – a warning. She didn’t have to desire her husband over God nor be ruled over by him. This is only a curse if she chooses her desire for her husband above her desire for God. Jesus said that if we don’t put Him first then we can’t be His disciples –
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
The final reference to the Ark of the Covenant is in Revelation 11:19
Then the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple. And there were flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.
This brings us to the reign of Christ and His Bride in God’s Kingdom. The ultimate fulfilment of the ark of the covenant symbol. The time when God’s dwelling is with people – between the cherubim who do His will and have kept safe His covenant.
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Rev. 21:3
While orthodox Jews are hoping to build a third temple with man-made furnishings overlaid with gold – God has been doing something much greater – building a temple not made with human hands, whose foundation is Christ.
The Ark of the Covenant pointed to the sinless life of Christ to the point of death, being the propitiation for sin. It was the way back from the breaking of the covenant by Adam and Eve. Christ and His Bride keep safe the things of God and God dwells among them.