The Secret Of The Ark Of The Covenant's Lid

The Ark of the Covenant is one of the most sought-after treasures from Judeo-Christian scripture. The only other artifact that comes close would be the Holy Grail, and just like the Grail, depending on who you believe, no one has ever found the Ark. Not only is the Ark a piece of religious history, it's believed to hold wondrous powers that could wipe out whole nations, part seas, and probably do some other miraculous biblical stuff.

What is this Ark of the Covenant thing, anyway? (Besides propelling the plot of the first Indiana Jones movie, of course.) Back when the Israelites were homeless and wandering around the desert with Moses, they came to Mount Sinai, where God appeared to and spoke with Moses. God gave Moses the laws by which his Chosen People were supposed to live, engraved on stone tablets: the Ten Commandments. The only thing left was to find something to put them in to keep them safe — after all, they were sacred. The Israelites put the tablets in a special gold-covered box, known as the Ark of the Covenant. Other things were stored there as well — the staff of Aaron, the brother of Moses, and portions of manna, the miraculous food God provided to the people to sustain them on their journey.

The tablets within the Ark aren't the only thing that makes this box a powerful and sacred artifact. The lid to the box is considered its own special artifact, and it's pretty important.

The Mercy Seat

Sitting on top of the Ark of the Covenant, keeping its contents well hidden, is a lid carved of solid gold, with a cherub on opposite sides. God was very specific about the design, as told in Exodus 25:19. God also outlined a secondary function for this special lid. In Exodus 25:22, the Almighty says the lid is to serve as a seat at which he will meet his followers. He calls it the "Mercy Seat." "There I will meet with you," the Deity explains.

The Mercy Seat, according to Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, was the place on Earth where God would manifest, where he would judge souls and offer them salvation. Offerings of blood and incense were left on the Mercy Seat yearly to cleanse sins and stave off God's wrath for the rest of the year. It may seem a little out of character for this God to desire animal sacrifice, but if you're ever read The Bible, you'd know this isn't exactly a rare occurrence.

The cute little cherubs probably balanced out the gore of blood dripped all over it, except that the cherubs from biblical texts, posted at Bible Gateway, are anything but "cute." According to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, they're depicted as a four-faced creature resembling an angel, human, lion, and eagle, all at the same time, with their entire bodies and wings covered with eyes. The Ark's lid was quite possibly a terrifying thing to behold.