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The Mercy Seat

The Mercy Seat was the top section, or lid, of The Ark of the Covenant which contained The Ten Commandments (see also What Did The Ten Commandments Look Like?). The original Hebrew word translated as Mercy Seat is (pronounced) kap-po-reth, and means to cover, in two ways; as a noun, meaning a lid, or a top, but also, based on the Hebrew root from which it was derived, as a verb meaning to pardon, or to atone for, as in to cover a debt. The Hebrew word kap-po-reth is used exclusively in the Scriptures for The Mercy Seat, for nothing else.

Like the rest of The Ark, The Mercy Seat was made of acacia word and was covered with gold. It measured 2½ cubits (about 3¾ feet) long and 1½ cubits (about 2¼ feet) wide. Atop The Mercy Seat were two carved cherubim whose wings covered the cover.

The Mercy Seat in The Most Holy Place

Ark Of The Covenant The instructions for constructing The Ark of the Covenant, including The Mercy Seat, were given to Moses.

"And thou shalt make a Mercy Seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of The Mercy Seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of The Mercy Seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering The Mercy Seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward The Mercy Seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put The Mercy Seat above upon The Ark; and in The Ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee."

"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, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." (Exodus 25:17-22 KJV)

"And thou shalt put The Mercy Seat upon The Ark of the testimony in The Most Holy Place." (Exodus 26:34 KJV)

After it was completed, the High Priest, Aaron (and later, his successors, one at a time), was the only person permitted to enter The Most Holy Place where The Mercy Seat was, and even then, only once per year, on The Day Of Atonement with the blood of the sacrifice which was sprinkled upon The Mercy Seat:

"And The Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into The Holy Place within the veil before The Mercy Seat, which is upon The Ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon The Mercy Seat." (Exodus 16:2 KJV)

"And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before The Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before The Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover The Mercy Seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon The Mercy Seat eastward; and before The Mercy Seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times."

"Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon The Mercy Seat, and before The Mercy Seat: And he shall make an atonement for The Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel." (Leviticus 16:12-17 KJV)

The Lord (see Jehovah) spoke to Moses from The Mercy Seat, within the Most Holy Place (Moses remained in the Holy Place, outside of the Most Holy Place)

"And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with Him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off The Mercy Seat that was upon The Ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and He spake unto him." (Numbers 7:89 KJV)

When The Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem in the time of King David, and the Tabernacle was replaced (see What Happened To The Tabernacle?) by the Temple (see Temples and "My Father's House"), David gave Solomon the instructions, that The Lord gave to David, on how to construct the place for The Mercy Seat, along with everything else:

"Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern [see Layout Of Solomon's Temple] of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of The Mercy Seat, And the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit" (1 Chronicles 28:11-12 KJV)

By the time of the New Testament, the symbolic meaning and purpose of The Mercy Seat was made clear - Jesus Christ, the ultimate High Priest (see What Is Jesus Christ Doing Right Now?) appearing before the Throne of God after His making Atonement, or covering, the sins of humanity:

"And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and The Ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat"

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place [see also Why Was It Torn?], having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:3-5,11-12 KJV)

Fact Finder: Where might the Ark of the Covenant be today?
See Raiders Of The Lost Ark

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