Two Angels with Wings Sitting on a Box

Two Angels with Wings Sitting on a Box
Exodus 25, 26, and 27; 1 Kings 6:14-28; 1 Kings 8:8-11; 2 Chronicles 3:3-14; 2 Chronicles 5:1-10; Leviticus 16; Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-8; Hebrews 9:1-14

You shall make two cherubim of hammered gold. You shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end. You shall make the cherubim on its two ends of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces toward one another. The faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. (Exodus 25:18-20, World English Bible)

This Bible Bit presents several Old Testament scripture passages describing the design and building of the Israelite tabernacle and the later Jewish temple. We will focus attention on the innermost room of both structures, which the Bible refers to as either the “most holy place” or “Holy of Holies.” This is the interior room where God resides. This is the room where God sits on his seat of judgment with his feet resting on the footstool ark and tablets of law.

And then we will point out an absolutely amazing return to this room in the Christian New Testament.

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And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Ex 25:8-9, King James Version)

While Moses and the Israelites are spending their days wandering in the Sinai desert, God gives Moses detailed instructions for erecting a tabernacle for worship. Moses and his team carefully prepare and build this place of worship and sacrifice. It has walls of fabric supported by posts, making it portable. It is in essence a large multi-room tent with a number of very specific design and function requirements demanded by God.

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. 2 The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits…. 4 And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling…. 7 And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle…. 14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins. 15 And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up…. 26 And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood…. 31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: 32 And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver…. (from Ex 26, KJV)

It is God’s literal house.

and Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Most Holy Place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark; lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:2, WEB)

At the core of this tabernacle’s layout is an inner room, a “most holy place” inside of a surrounding “holy place” where God himself sits and makes himself manifest. This inner room holds a gold-covered wooden box, a special and holy chest made for the tabernacle. This box is constructed to hold the two copies of the covenant contract, the ten fundamental words of law etched by God on stone, and given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, one copy the possession of God and the other the possession of his Hebrews.

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Its length shall be two and a half cubits, its width a cubit and a half, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold. You shall overlay it inside and outside, and you shall make a gold molding around it…. 16 You shall put the covenant which I shall give you into the ark. 17 You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two and a half cubits shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width. 18 You shall make two cherubim of hammered gold. You shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end. You shall make the cherubim on its two ends of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces toward one another. The faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I will give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and I will tell you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the covenant, all that I command you for the children of Israel. 23 “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Its length shall be two cubits, and its width a cubit, and its height one and a half cubits. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it…. 31 “You shall make a lamp stand of pure gold. The lamp stand shall be made of hammered work. Its base, its shaft, its cups, its buds, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. (from Ex 25:10-31, WEB)

You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring the ark of the covenant in there within the veil. The veil shall separate the holy place from the most holy for you. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant in the most holy place. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lamp stand opposite the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south. You shall put the table on the north side. (Ex 26:33-35, WEB)

You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, by which to carry the ark. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 You shall put into the ark the covenant that I shall give you. 17 Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width. (Ex 25:13-17, New Revised Standard Version)

This seat-on-a-box, this chair-on-a-chest: it sits inside the throne room of God. God sits and judges and rules from this most holy, Holy of Holies room.

Because the narrative is filled with details of building specifications, and what seem to be minutia, your eyes may glazed over by this point. But do not miss this next bit:

You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other; of one piece with the mercy seat you shall make the cherubim at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one to another; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites. (Ex 25:18-22, NRSV)

The covering lid of the ark is a golden seat of mercy. On either side of God’s mercy seat are two carefully fashioned and placed winged cherubim, covering and glorifying the presence of God.

God. Power. Law. Angels. In a holy, closed inner room.

A few hundred years later, during the more settled kingdoms of David and then Solomon, God again instructs his people through Solomon to build a new tabernacle. This time the construction will be a fixed, stationary temple, intended for permanence. It is placed on the solid rock site of Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, God’s holy and eternal city.

[By the way: Is this perhaps the site of the garden? Is this perhaps the site of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac?]

Again the temple has an outer “holy place” and an inner “most holy place,” the Holy of Holies. This is again the room where resides the physical presence of God. Sitting on a seat on top of a box, a seat of judgment resting on an ark of covenant and law. All covered by the wings of angels.

Hold on to this image. The inner room. The Holy of Holies. The presence of God and the wingspans of angels.

3 Now these are the foundations which Solomon laid for the building of God’s house. The length by cubits after the first measure was sixty cubits, and the width twenty cubits…. and the height one hundred twenty; and he overlaid it within with pure gold. 5 He made the larger room with a ceiling of cypress wood, which he overlaid with fine gold…. 8 He made the most holy place. Its length, according to the width of the house, was twenty cubits, and its width twenty cubits; and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents…. 10 In the most holy place he made two cherubim by carving; and they overlaid them with gold. 11 The wings of the cherubim were twenty cubits long: the wing of the one was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house; and the other wing was five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. 12 The wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house; and the other wing was five cubits, joining to the wing of the other cherub. 13 The wings of these cherubim spread themselves out twenty cubits. They stood on their feet, and their faces were toward the house. (from 2 Chronicles 3:3-13, WEB)

14 So Solomon built the house, and finished it…. 19 He prepared an inner sanctuary in the middle of the house within, to set the ark of Yahweh’s covenant there. 20 Within the inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in its height; and he overlaid it with pure gold…. 21 So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold. He drew chains of gold across before the inner sanctuary, and he overlaid it with gold…. 23 In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. 24 Five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub. From the tip of one wing to the tip of the other was ten cubits. 25 The other cherub was ten cubits. Both the cherubim were of one measure and one form. 26 One cherub was ten cubits high, and so was the other cherub. 27 He set the cherubim within the inner house. The wings of the cherubim were stretched out, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the middle of the house. 28 He overlaid the cherubim with gold. (from 1 Kings 6:14-28, WEB)

The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary; but they were not seen outside. They are there to this day. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, when Yahweh made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 It came to pass, when the priests had come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled Yahweh’s house, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for Yahweh’s glory filled Yahweh’s house. (1 Kings 8:8-11, WEB)

About 1000 years passes. The first temple survives about 400 years. A second temple was built and has stood another 550 years. And now, finally we come to the gospel of John. Jesus has been killed. Jesus has risen from the tomb, but the men and women disciples haven’t yet figured this out. Some of the women arrive at the newly built room, cut from rock, where the body of Christ had lain on a slab.

Here is John:

But Mary was standing outside the tomb, weeping; so as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. (John 20:11-12, New American Standard Bible)

See it?

Jesus was lying on the “ark” but the ark and the law it holds are nowhere to be seen. God has been raised from the confined room of this first century Holy of Holies. In the mean time, the two cherubim with wings outstretched remain. One sits on one side of the room and one on the other, both covering the vacant ark and seat and throne of the risen Lord. The only physical object remaining is the face and body wrappings — the rolled up scroll in the case of the facial covering — of the risen Lord.

The tomb is the Holy of Holies. But Christ is not only God in his tabernacle Holy of Holies, but the risen Christ becomes the Holy of Holies and becomes the temple itself and becomes the New Jerusalem of the ending of all Revelation.

Of the four gospel writers, John is the one most inclined towards deeper symbolism and place this sorta thing in his writing. The beloved disciple is the only one of the four to place the two angels inside the tomb and at either end of the burial slab.

Here is the longer passage from John’s account:

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early, while it was still dark, to the tomb, and saw the stone taken away from the tomb. 2 Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him!” 3 Therefore Peter and the other disciple went out, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran together. The other disciple outran Peter, and came to the tomb first. 5 Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn’t enter in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they didn’t know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside at the tomb weeping. So as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb, 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, and didn’t know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!” which is to say, “Teacher!” 17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold me, for I haven’t yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:1-17, WEB)

The other three gospel writers relate different persons coming and going at the tomb. Here are the corresponding accounts of women at the tomb from Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky and came and rolled away the stone from the door and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men. 5 The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”
World English Bible (Matthew 28:1-7, WEB)

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 for it was very big. Looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back. 5 Entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were amazed. 6 He said to them, “Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him! 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see him, as he said to you.’” 8 They went out, and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8, WEB)

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they and some others came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They entered in, and didn’t find the Lord Jesus’ body. 4 While they were greatly perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling clothing. 5 Becoming terrified, they bowed their faces down to the earth. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He isn’t here, but is risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and the third day rise again?” 8 They remembered his words, 9 returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them told these things to the apostles. 11 These words seemed to them to be nonsense, and they didn’t believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Stooping and looking in, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he departed to his home, wondering what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12, WEB)

We will close with the book of Hebrews:

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 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; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 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; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:1-14, KJV)

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To review the relevant scripture regarding the tabernacle, temple, most holy room, and the tomb, begin with these:

Exodus 25, 26, and 27;
1 Kings 6:14-28;
1 Kings 8:8-11;
2 Chronicles 3:3-14;
2 Chronicles 5:1-10;
Leviticus 16;
Matthew 28:1-7;
Mark 16:1-8;
Luke 24:1-12;
John 20:1-8;
Hebrews 9:1-14

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Thanks to the public domain World English Bible and also to the publishers of New American Standard Bible and New Revised Standard Version for the scripture translations used here.

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Please read the actual Bible for yourself! And may God bless you with his loving grace!

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