Mysteries of the Lost Ark Revealed
James Scott Trimm
In the Book of Hebrews Paul writes of the furnishings of the Tabernacle:
1 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.
(Hebrews 9:1-5 KJV)
Paul is telling us that he has information was of a SOD (secret) nature that he was not permitted to reveal to the world at that time. There are, in fact, many wonderful things we can learn concerning the Ark of the Covenant. In this article I will deal with just the one.
The Zohar tells us that the two cherubim mounted on the mercy seat (the cover) represent the opposing male and female aspects of YHWH:
“It has been taught: Three times daily a miracle occurred with their wings. When the holiness of the King was manifested upon them, they raised their wings in their own, spreading them and shielding the cover. Afterward, they folded their wings, resting them on their bodies, as is written: The cherubim shall be spreading wings above (Ex. 25:20)– spreading, not [with wings] spread. Sheltering the cover with their wings (ibid.)– not with sheltering wings. For they stood miraculously, rejoicing in Shekhinah.”
Rabbi Abba said, “What is this doing here: For in the cloud I appear over the cover (Leviticus 16:2)? And it is written: בזאת (Be-zot), With this shall Aaron enter the sanctuary (ibid.,3). After all, the priest did not see when he entered! Well, the cloud descended, and when it descended it reached this cover, and the wings of the cherubim stirred and they fluttered them and uttered song.
“What song did they sing? For great is YHVH and highly praised, awesome is He over all gods (Psalms 96:4). This, when they raised their wings; when they spread them, they would say, For all gods of the peoples are useless, but YHVH has made the heavens (ibid., 5). When they shielded the cover, they would say, Before YHVH, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, render judgment upon the nations with equity (Psalms 98:9).
“The priest would hear their voices in the Temple, and then he set the incense in its place, focusing his intention so that all would be blessed. The sound of cherubim’s wings ascended and descended as they chanted song; they sheltered the cover, and then raised them, as it is written: sheltering [the cover] with their wings (Exodus 25:20)– sheltering, precisely! And how do we know that their sound was heard? As is written: I heard the sound of their wings… (Ezekiel 1:24).”
Rabbi Yose said, “He will render judgment upon the nations במישרים (be-meisharim), with equity. What is be-meisharim, with equity? As is said: מישרים (Meisharim), Rightly, do they love you (Song of Songs 1:4)– including both cherubim, male and female; meisharim, surely! Thus, He will render judgment upon the nations with meisharim. And it is written: He would hear the voice being spoken to him from between the two cherubim, and he would speak to him (Numbers 7:89).
Rabbi Yitzak said, “From here we learn that wherever male and female are not found, one is not worthy to see the face of the Shekhinah, as is written: ישרים (Yesharim), The upright, will dwell in Your presence (Psalms 140:14). And we have learned: It is written Righteous and upright is He (Deuteronomy 32:4)– male and female. Here too, the cherubim– male and female– of whom is written It was You who founded מישרים (meisharim) , equity (Psalms 99:4); He will render judgment upon the nations במישרים (be-meisharim), with equity. Thus, their faces toward each other (Exodus 25:20), and we have established.”
(Zohar 3:59a Pritzker edition)
The first century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria taught that the two cherubim represented “the two most ancient and supreme powers of the divine God, namely, his creative and his kingly power”:
(97) But the ark is the depository of the laws, for in that are placed the holy oracles of God, which were given to Moses; and the covering of the ark, which is called the mercy-seat, is a foundation for two winged creatures to rest upon, which are called, in the native language of the Hebrews, cherubim, but as the Greeks would translate the word, vast knowledge and science. (98) Now some persons say, that these cherubim are the symbols of the two hemispheres, placed opposite to and fronting one another, the one beneath the earth and the other above the earth, for the whole heaven is endowed with wings. (99) But I myself should say, that what is here represented under a figure are the two most ancient and supreme powers of the divine God, namely, his creative and his kingly power; and his creative power is called God; according to which he arranged, and created, and adorned this universe, and his kingly power is called Lord, by which he rules over the beings whom he has created, and governs them with justice and firmness; (100) for he, being the only true living God, is also really the Creator of the world; since he brought things which had no existence into being; and he is also a king by nature, because no one can rule over beings that have been created more justly than he who created them.
(Life of Moses II)
(57) Why God places a cherubim in front of the Paradise, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life? (Gen. 3:24). The name cherubim designates the two original virtues which belong to the Deity, namely, his creative and his royal virtues. The one of which has the title of God, the other, or the royal virtue, that of Lord. Now the form of the creative power is a peaceable, and gentle, and beneficent virtue; but the royal power is a legislative, and chastising, and correcting virtue.
Philo also taught that “the third thing which was between the two, and had the effect of bringing them together was reason (the LOGOS) [Word]:
(27) I have also, on one occasion, heard a more ingenious train of reasoning from my own soul, which was accustomed frequently to be seized with a certain divine inspiration, even concerning matters which it could not explain even to itself; which now, if I am able to remember it accurately, I will relate. It told me that in the one living and true God there were two supreme and primary powers–goodness and authority; and that by his goodness he had created everything, and by his authority he governed all that he had created; (28) and that the third thing which was between the two, and had the effect of bringing them together was reason (the LOGOS), for that it was owing to reason that God was both a ruler and good. Now, of this ruling authority and of this goodness, being two distinct powers, the cherubim were the symbols, but of reason the flaming sword was the symbol. For reason (the LOGOS) is a thing capable of rapid motion and impetuous, and especially the reason of the Creator of all things is so, inasmuch as it was before everything and passed by everything, and was conceived before everything, and appears in everything. (29) And do thou, O my mind, receive the impression of each of these cherubims unadulterated, that thus becoming thoroughly instructed about the ruling authority of the Creator of all things and about his goodness, thou mayest receive a happy inheritance; for immediately thou shalt understand the conjunction and combination of these imperishable powers, and learn in what respects God is good, his majesty arising from his sovereign power being all the time conspicuous; and in what he is powerful, his goodness, being equally the object of attention, that is this way thou mayest attain to the virtues which are engendered by these conceptions, namely, a love and a reverential awe of God, neither being uplifted to arrogance by any prosperity which may befall thee, having regard always to the greatness of the sovereignty of thy King; nor abjectly giving up hope of better things in the hour of unexpected misfortune, having regard, then, to the mercifulness of thy great and bounteous God. (30) And let the flaming sword teach thee that these things might be followed by a prompt and fiery reason combined with action, which never ceases being in motion with rapidity and energy to the selection of good objects, and the avoidance of all such as are evil. (31) Do you not see that even the wise Abraham, when he began to measure everything with a reference to God, and to leave nothing to the creature, took an imitation of the flaming sword, namely, “fire and a Sword,” being eager to slay and to burn that mortal creature which was born of him, that so being raised on high it might soar up to God, the intellect being thus disentangled from the body.
(On the Cherubim 27-31)
Philo taught that it was the Word which spoke to Moses from between the two cherubim:
XXXIV. (165) And he apportioned cold and heat, and summer and spring, the different seasons of the year, divided by the same dividing Word. And the three days which passed before the creation of the sun, are equal in number to the three days of the first week which came after the creation of the sun, the number six being dissected equally in order to display the character of eternity and of time. For thus God allotted three days to eternity before the appearance of the sun, and those which came after the sun he allotted to time; the sun being an imitation of eternity, and time and eternity being the two primary powers of the living God; (166) the one his beneficent power, in accordance with which he made the world, and in respect of which he is called God; the other his chastening power, according to which he rules and governs what he has created, in respect of which he is further denominated Lord, and these two he here states to be divided in the middle by him standing above them both. “For,” says he, “I will speak to you from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two Cherubims;”(Exodus 25:22). that he might show that the most ancient powers of the living God are equal; that is to say, his beneficent and his chastising power, being both divided by the same dividing Word.
(Who is the Heir of All Divine Things )
XIX. (100) These, then, are the six cities which Moses calls cities of refuge, five of which have had their figures set forth in the sacred scriptures, and their images are there likewise. The images of the cities of command and prohibition are the laws in the ark; that of the merciful power of God is the covering of the ark, and he calls it the mercy-seat. The images of the creative power and of the kingly power are the winged cherubim which are placed upon it. (101) But the divine word which is above these does not come into any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not like to any of the things that come under the external senses, but is itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect in the whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to the only truly existing God, without any partition or distance being interposed between them: for it is said, “I will speak unto thee from above the mercyseat, in the midst, between the two Cherubim.” (Exodus 25:22). So that the word is, as it were, the charioteer of the powers, and he who utters it is the rider, who directs the charioteer how to proceed with a view to the proper guidance of the universe.
(On Flight and FInding)
Thus we learn that the two Cherubim represent the distinctive male and female aspects of YHWH which are expressed in “goodness” as YHWH’s “creative” aspect and “authority” as YHWH’s “kingship” aspect. And that the sword of fire is the “Word” which brings these two aspects together and which spoke to Moses from between the two cherubim. These are the Three Pillars of the Godhead.
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