The Ark of the Covenant
The ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:10–22; 37:1–9) was the only piece of furniture in the Most Holy Place; the ark and its contents were kept hidden from view at all times. The ark itself was a wooden chest, overlaid with pure gold, measuring 3.75 feet long, 2.25 feet wide, and 2.25 feet high (1.1 m x 0.7 m x 0.7 m). It contained within it the two stone tablets of the Testimony (the Ten Commandments). The author of Hebrews adds that it also contained “a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded” (Heb. 9:4). The ark was not to be touched by human hands. Two wooden poles, overlaid with gold, were used to transport it and were not to be removed from the ark. The mercy seat, or atonement cover, was a solid golden slab that fitted perfectly on top of the ark. The golden cherubim, which were hammered out of the same piece of gold, had wings outstretched over the mercy seat and faces that looked downward (in reverent awe). It was here, from between the cherubim, that God spoke to Moses, the representative of the people of Israel. Ancient iconography often depicts cherubim as having a lion-like body, wings, and a human face.