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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 9 - Verse 5
Verse 5. And over it. That is, over the ark.
The cherubim of glory. A Hebrew mode of expression, meaning the glorious cherubim. The word cherubim is the Hebrew form of the plural, of which cherub is the singular. The word glory, used here in connexion with "cherubim," refers to the splendour, or magnificence of the image, as being carved with great skill, and covered with gold. There were two cherubim on the ark, placed on the lid in such a manner that their faces looked inward towards each other, and downward toward the mercy-seat. They stretched out their wings "on high," and covered the mercy-seat, or the lid of the ark, Ex 25:18-20. Comp. 1 Ki 8:6,7; 1 Ch 28:18. In the temple, the cherubim were made of the olive-tree, and were ten cubits high. They were overlaid with gold, and were so placed that the wing of one touched the wall on one side of the holy of holies, and that of the other the other side, and their wings met together over the ark, 1 Ki 6:23-28. It is not probable. However, that this was the form used in the tabernacle, as wings thus expanded would have rendered it inconvenient to carry them from place to place. Of the form and design of the cherubim much has been written, and much that is the mere creation of fancy and the fruit of wild conjecture. Their design is not explained in the Bible, and silence in regard to it would have been wisdom. If they were intended to be symbolical as is certainly possible comp. Eze 10:20-22, it is impossible now to determine the object of the symbol. Who is authorized to explain it? Who can give to his speculations anything more than the authority of pious conjecture? And of what advantage, therefore, can speculation be, where the volume of inspiration says nothing? They who wish to examine this subject more fully, with the various opinions that have been formed on it, may consult the following works, viz.: Calmet's Dictionary, Fragment No, 152, with the numerous illustrations; Bush's Notes on Ex 25:18; and the Quarterly Christian Spectator, vol. viii. pp. 368—388. Drawings resembling the cherubim were not uncommon on ancient sculptures. The preceding winged figure, taken from the sculpture at Persepolis, may perhaps have been a rude image of the ancient cherub. The common representation of the ark and cherubim is something like the following, which may perhaps be as correct as it is possible now to furnish.
Shadowing. Stretching out its wings so as to cover the mercy-seat.
The mercy-seat. The cover of the ark, on which rested the cloud or visible symbol of the Divine Presence. It was called "mercy-seat," or propitiatory— ilasthrion—because it was this which was sprinkled over with the blood of atonements or propitiation, and because it was from this place, on which the symbol of the Deity rested, that God manifested himself as propitious to sinners. The blood of the atonement was that through or by means of which he declared his mercy to the guilty. Here God was supposed to be seated; and from this place he was supposed to dispense mercy to man when the blood of the atonement was sprinkled there. This was undoubtedly designed to be a symbol of his dispensing mercy to men, in virtue of the blood which the Saviour shed as the great sacrifice for guilt. See Heb 9:13,14.
Of which we cannot now speak particularly. That is, it is not my present design to speak particularly of these things. These matters were well understood by those to whom he wrote, and his object did not require him to go into a fuller explanation.
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