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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The Hebrew name literally denotes a cover, and, in fact, describes the lid of the ark with cherubim, over which appeared 'the glory of God' (, sq.; 37:8; 31:7, and elsewhere) [ARK]. The word used in the Septuagint and New Testament to translate this term, signifies the 'expiatory' or 'propitiatory,' in allusion to that application of the Hebrew word which we have noted: which application is in this instance justified and explained by reference to the custom of the high-priest once a year entering the most holy place, and sprinkling the lid of the ark with the blood of an expiatory victim, whereby 'he made atonement for the sins of the people.' As this was the most solemn and significant act of the Hebrew ritual, it is natural that a reference to it should be involved in the name which the covering of the ark acquired. By a comparison of the texts in which the word occurs, it will be seen that there would, in fact, have been little occasion to name the cover of the ark separately from the ark itself, but for this important ceremonial.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Mercy-Seat'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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