Exodus 25:18
And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shall you make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
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(18) Two cherubims.—“Cherubims,” or rather cherubim, had been known previously in one connection only—they had been the guardians of Eden when Adam and Eve were driven forth from it (Genesis 3:24). It is generally allowed that in that passage, as in most others where the word occurs, living beings, angels of God, are intended. But not all angels are cherubim. The cherubim constitute a select class, very near to God, very powerful, very resolute, highly fitted to act as guards. It is probably with this special reference that the cherubic figures were selected to be placed upon the mercy seat—they guarded the precious deposit of the two tables, towards which they looked (Exodus 25:20). The question as to the exact form of the figures is not very important; but it is one which has been discussed with great ingenuity and at great length. Some hold that the proper figure of a cherub is that of a bull or ox, and think that the cherubim of the tabernacle were winged bulls, not unlike the Assyrian. Others regard them as figures still more composite, like the Egyptian sphinxes or the chimæræ of the Greeks. But the predominant opinion seems to be that they were simply human figures with the addition of a pair of wings. (So Kaiisch, Keil, Bishop Harold Browne, Canon Cook, and others.) In this case they would bear a considerable resemblance to the figures of Ma, or Truth, so often seen inside Egyptian arks, sheltering with their wings the searabæus or some other emblem of deity.

Of beaten work—i.e., not cast, but brought into shape by the hammer. In the Egyptian language karabu was “to hammer,” whence, according to some, the word “cherub.”

In the. two ends.—Literally, from the two ends—rising, that is, from either end of the mercy seat.

Exodus 25:18-22. The cherubim (cherubim is the plural of cherub, not cherubims) were fixed to the mercy-seat, and of a piece with it, and spread their wings over it. It is supposed these were designed to represent the holy angels, (who always attend the Shechinah, or divine majesty,) not by any effigies of an angel, but some emblem of the angelical nature, probably one or more of those four faces spoken of Ezekiel 1:10. Whatever the faces were, they looked one toward another, and both downward toward the ark, while their wings were stretched out so as to touch one another. This denotes their attendance upon the Redeemer, their readiness to do his will, their presence in the assemblies of saints, (Psalm 68:17; Psalms 1

Corinthians Exodus 11:10,) and their desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel, which they diligently contemplate, 1 Peter 1:12. God is said to dwell or sit between the cherubim, on the mercy-seat, Psalm 80:2; and from thence he here promiseth for the future to meet with Moses, and to commune with him. Thus he manifests himself willing to keep up communion with us, by the mediation of Christ.25:10-22 The ark was a chest, overlaid with gold, in which the two tables of the law were to be kept. These tables are called the testimony; God in them testified his will. This law was a testimony to the Israelites, to direct them in their duty, and would be a testimony against them, if they transgressed. This ark was placed in the holy of holies; the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled, and the incense burned, before it, by the high priest; and above it appeared the visible glory, which was the symbol of the Divine presence. This was a type of Christ in his sinless nature, which saw no corruption, in personal union with his Divine nature, atoning for our sins against it, by his death. The cherubim of gold looked one towards another, and both looked downward toward the ark. It denotes the angels' attendance on the Redeemer, their readiness to do his will, their presence in the assemblies of saints, and their desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel. It was covered with a covering of gold, called the mercy-seat. God is said to dwell, or sit between the cherubim, on the mercy-seat. There he would give his law, and hear supplicants, as a prince on his throne.The cherubim of the mercy-seat were human figures, each having two wings. They must have been of small size, proportioned to the area of the mercy-seat. Comparing the different references to form in this place, in 2 Samuel 22:11 Psalm 18:10, in Ezekiel 1; 10 and in Revelation 4:1-11, it would appear that the name "cherub" was applied to various combinations of animal forms. Among the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Greeks, as well as the Hebrews, the creatures by far most frequently introduced into these composite figures, were man, the ox, the lion, and the eagle, as being types of the most important and familiarly known classes of living material beings. Hence, the cherubim, described by Ezekiel, have been regarded as representing the whole creation engaged in the worship and service of God (compare Revelation 4:9-11; Revelation 5:13); and it would be in harmony with this view to suppose that the more strictly human shape of the cherubim of the mercy seat represented the highest form of created intelligence engaged in the devout contemplation of the divine law of love and justice. (Compare 1 Peter 1:12.) It is worthy of notice that the golden cherubim from between which Yahweh spoke Exodus 25:22 to His people bore witness, by their place on the mercy-seat, to His redeeming mercy; while the cherubim that took their stand at the gate of Eden, Genesis 3:24, to keep the way to the tree of life, witnessed to His condemnation of sin in man.

Exodus 25:18

Of beaten work - i. e. elaborately worked with the hammer.

18. two cherubim—The real meaning of these figures, as well as the shape or form of them, is not known with certainty—probably similar to what was afterwards introduced into the temple, and described in Eze 10:8-22. They stretched out their wings, and their faces were turned towards the mercy seat [Ex 25:20], probably in a bowing attitude. The prevailing opinion now is, that those splendid figures were symbolical not of angelic but of earthly and human beings—the members of the Church of God interested in the dispensation of grace, the redeemed in every age—and that these hieroglyphic forms symbolized the qualities of the true people of God—courage, patience, intelligence, and activity. Figures of human shape, in which alone the angels used to appear; but they had wings, to signify their expedition in God’s work and messages. And between these angels God is said to sit and dwell. So this place was a representation of heaven, where God sitteth and dwelleth among the cherubims and other glorious angels.

Of beaten work; not made of several parcels joined together, as images commonly are, nor yet melted and cast in a frame or mould, but beaten by the hammer out of one continued piece of gold, possibly to note the exact unity or indivisibility and the simplicity of the evangelical nature. And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold,.... Which some take to be in the form of birds, and others of winged animals, such as the like were never seen, so Josephus; the Jews commonly suppose they were in the form of young men, which they observe the word signifies in the Chaldee language; others, that they were in the form of an ox, the face of an ox and a cherub being the same, Ezekiel 1:10 and indeed their form is best discerned from account of them in Ezekiel, and in the Revelation, and from the latter we best learn what they were; they were hieroglyphics or emblems, not of the two Testaments, as many of the ancients, nor of the angels, since they are distinguished from them, much less of the trinity of persons in the Godhead; but either of the saints and true believers in Christ in common, of both dispensations, legal and evangelical, and so signified by the number "two"; and being made of gold may denote their excellency, worth, and value in the esteem of Christ; for the precious sons of Sion are comparable to fine gold for their preciousness, solidity, and duration, as well as for their sincerity and simplicity; or rather of the ministers of the word in particular; and these may be signified by two, and at the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New; and the ministers of the word in all ages, and particularly during the reign of antichrist, are called the two witnesses that prophesy in sackcloth; and being said to be of gold, may respect the grace of God bestowed on "them", comparable to gold, the gifts of the Spirit of God they are furnished with, as well as the precious truths of the Gospel committed to their trust:

of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat; not of gold melted and poured into a mould, and so received the form of the cherubim; nor were they first made by themselves, and then placed at the two ends of the mercy seat, and soldered to it; but they were made of the same mass of gold with the mercy seat, and beaten out of it with an hammer, and planished and smoothed, and so wrought up into this form, as appears by the following verse; and may denote the union of believers to Christ, who are one body and one spirit with him; and the union of the Old and New Testament churches in him, and who are but one church, one body, of which he is the head; and as he is the foundation of the apostles or prophets, on whom they are laid, he is the cornerstone in which they are united; and so it may likewise signify the nearness of the ministers of the word to Christ, their dependence on him, and their partaking of the same gifts and graces of his Spirit, only in measure, being made by him able ministers of the Gospel.

And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
18. of beaten work] like the lampstand (v. 31), and the two silver trumpets (Numbers 10:2). RVm. is not probable. LXX. here τορευτὸς (in Nu. ἐλατός), Vulg. ductilis, perductilis, i.e. drawn or beaten out.

18–20. The cherubim. The cherubim were composite emblematic figures, always implying the nearness of the deity, and appearing distinctively in the OT. (1) as bearers of the deity, (2) as guardians of a sacred spot. Thus (1) in Psalm 18:10 Jehovah rides on a cherub in the thunderstorm; in Psalm 80:1 and elsewhere, He is described, with allusion to the cherubim in the Temple, as ‘sitting upon’ them; and in the vision of Ezekiel (Exodus 1:5 ff., cf. Exodus 10:1 ff.) four cherubim bear the ‘firmament,’ which supports Jehovah’s throne: in Ezekiel 1:6-10 it is said that each had four faces (of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle), fourth wings, the hands of a man, and the feet of calves. Figures of cherubim were also carved as ornaments upon the walls and doors of the Temple (1 Kings 6:29; 1 Kings 6:32; 1 Kings 6:35), and on the bases of the ten lavers (1 Kings 7:29): in Exodus 26:31 they are to be worked into the veil in front of the Most holy place, and in Ezekiel 41:18-20; Ezekiel 41:25 cherubim with two faces, one that of a man, the other that of a lion, are to be carved on the walls and doors of the restored Temple. (2) As guardians of a sacred spot, cherubim appear in Genesis 3:24, and in the remarkable picture of the glory of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:13-17 [read, after LXX., in v. 14 ‘With the cherub I set thee, thou wast in the holy mountain of God,’ and v. 16 end ‘and the cherubis destroyed thee from the midst,’ &c.; see Davidson’s notes in the Camb. Bible]. In origin, the cherub doubtless a mythological conception; Psalm 18:10 would suggest that it arose in a personification of the thunder-cloud, within which the Hebrews believed Jehovah to be borne along (see on Exodus 9:23 a). Composite figures of different kinds were, however, common in the art of many of Israel’s neighbours,—Egyptians, Phoenicians, Hittites, Babylonians, and Assyrians,—from one or other of whom they also found their way into early Greek art1[201]; and it is highly probable that elements from some of these quarters were also combined in the Hebrew idea of a cherub2[202]. See further Cherub in DB., EB.,; and DB. v. 644.

[201] Comp. the illustrations of winged human figures, including one with an eagle’s head, in Ball’s Light from the East, pp. 28–33; and the gold-guarding γρῦπες (eagle-headed lions), told of by the Greeks (Aesch. P. V. 803 f.; Hdt. iii. 116, iv. 13, 27), derived, as Furtwängler thinks, from Hittite art; also the winged animals on the bronze stands from Larnaka, figured in Burney’s Notes on the Heb. text of Kings, opp. to p. 91. The etymology of cherub is not known; nor has the word been found hitherto [1910] in any Bab. or Ass. inscription (see KAT.3 p. 632, n. 5).

[202] See Furtwängler’s very full art. Gryps in Roscher’s Mythologisches Lexicon.Verse 18. - Two cherubims. The form "cherubims," which our translators affect, is abnormal and indefensible. They should have said either "cherubim," or "cherubs." The exact shape of the Temple cherubim was kept a profound secret among the Jews, so that Josephus declares - "No one is able to state, or conjecture of what form the cherubim were" (Ant. Jud. 8:3, § 3). That they were winged figures appears from verse 28 of this chapter, while from other parts of Scripture we learn that cherubim might be of either human or animal forms, or of the two combined (Ezekiel 1:5-14; Ezekiel 10:1-22). These last have been with some reason compared to the symbolical composite figures of other nations, the andro-sphinxes and crio-sphinxes of the Egyptians, the Assyrian winged bulls and lions, the Greek chimaerae, and the griffins of the northern nations. But it is doubtful whether the cherubim of Moses were of this character. The most sober of recent inquirers (Bp. Harold Browne, Canon Cook, Kalisch, Keil),while admitting the point to be doubtful, come to the conclusion that they were in all probability, "winged human figures, with human face too." In this case their prototype would seem to have been the winged figures of Ma, the Goddess of Truth, frequently seen inside Egyptian arks, sheltering with their wings the scarabaeus or other emblem of the deity. (See Lepsius, Denkmaler, pt. 3. pl. 14; Wilkinson in Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. it. p. 85, 2nd edition; Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1. p. 3040 Of beaten work shalt thou make them. Not cast, i.e., but hammered into shape (LXX. τορευτά. The word "cherub" is thought to be derived from an Egyptian root, karabu, signifying "to hammer" (Speaker's Commentary, vol. 4. p. 207). In the two ends. Rather, "From the two ends" - i.e., "rising," or, "standing up from the two ends." The Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 37:1-9). - They were to make an ark (ארון) of acacia-wood, two cubits and a half long, one and a half broad, and one and a half high, and to plate it with pure gold both within and without. Round about it they were to construct a golden זר, i.e., probably a golden rim, encircling it like an ornamental wreath. They were also to cast four golden rings and fasten them to the four feet (פּעמת walking feet, feet bent as if for walking) of the ark, two on either side; and to cut four poles of acacia-wood and plate them with gold, and put them through the rings for carrying the ark. The poles were to remain in the rings, without moving from them, i.e., without being drawn out, that the bearers might not touch the ark itself (Numbers 4:15).
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