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Aaron and the golden calf, Mount Zion, Moses and Zipporah,
the high priest's attire, and the ark of the covenant.

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Question #1: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill

About two months ago you sent me the answer to a question about tattoos. And your website I found so very helpful. I appreciate the support of your answers by Biblical verse. I already have a tattoo and would not get another. I thank God that some one like you puts answers in reach for those of us looking to lead a more Christian life in an increasingly wicked world. And I read an article you wrote concerning drug use and specifically about what the Word of God says of sobriety.

I have another question. In Exodus 32 Aaron acquiesces to the Israelites and collects gold from the them and makes them an idol. When Moses, in his fury, questions Aaron he says the people are evil and after melting the gold out comes a calf. I posit that at the least, Aaron was a coward. He should have categorically, unmovingly denied the people and reproved them. Aaron should have reminded of all that God had done for them and their recent commitment to the covenant. He gives in to the pressure. Also, he doesn't even own his part in the graven image making. He puts the sin all on the people.

When I brought this point of view up at a Sunday School teachers meeting, it was dismissed. The consensus was that since priests are descendants of Aaron, he was blameless and not a coward.

Please, give me any insight you may have on this. Thanks a lot. I appreciate your help.

In Christ,

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I am always most pleased to learn when my brothers and sisters in Christ find some of these things helpful. In my experience, once a person commits themselves to serious seeking of God through diligent attention to His Word and its teachings, all sorts of good things begin to happen. One of those things is an increased ability to "rightly divide the Word of truth", and that is so for all members of the Body of Christ, whether or not they have the gift of teacher. Clearly this is happening in your case.

Yes, you are spot on about Aaron and the calf. What is amazing (a little scary, actually), is that anyone who styles themselves a Christian would not see that you are correct (even if they didn't see the point before it was explained). But I have seen that sort of thing many times among groups and individuals who lack spiritual maturity and who are not genuinely interested in remedying the situation.

One of the great things about spiritual growth is that it tends to snowball in a good a direction, giving the believer an increasing ability to discern the truth and make correct spiritual judgments (about life as well as about scripture). One of the sad things about the same is that the process often creates friction and an increasingly large gap between the spiritually advancing Christian who is responding to Jesus Christ and their "Christian" acquaintances who are happy to abide in spiritual infancy (for whatever reason and the reasons are many). As in the case of two people who marry in their early teenage years, and one party grows up emotionally while the other refuses to do so, uncomfortable times often lie ahead. Spiritual growth is not only a great thing it is what we are here to do: grow up and then produce a crop for Jesus (instead of letting the weeds of neglect choke off all potential production for our Lord). All genuine progress in the Christian life, however, is always opposed by the evil one, and so it behooves us to have a very clear and realistic view of the road ahead. Jesus told us to "count the cost" of being His disciples before we committed to embarking on the road of following Him. The road is long, narrow, and filled with ambushes. However, it is the only "Way" to honoring our Lord and earning the eternal rewards scripture encourages us to set before ourselves as motivators for running the Christian race. Sitting on the sidelines is not only unpleasing to Jesus it is also very spiritually dangerous. I commend your commitment to the truth, and encourage you to persevere no matter what.

As to Aaron, there is not much left for me to say since you have said it so well. I was just thinking about this passage the other day, actually. The words "out came this calf" are so unbelievable that it is hard not to laugh and feel embarrassed for Aaron at the same time. We can imagine what happened. Aaron was a great man but he was no Moses. When he found himself "in charge", the people must have sensed the leadership vacuum that now obtained, and no doubt the pressure on Aaron mounted every day Moses did not return. We are told at Numbers 14:4 (cf. Neh.9:17) that later on the people were actually on the point of staging a coup d'etat, selecting new leaders, and heading back to Egypt. No doubt Aaron felt that they were on the point of doing that sort of thing then in Moses' absence (and also on the point of stoning him if he offered any resistance!). When he makes the calf, he says "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (Ex.32:4). So the best I can do in explaining Aaron's horrifically blasphemous and unfaithful conduct (it cannot be defended), is to say that he must have felt in fear of his life, and he must have also thought that if he gave the people something "to do" and some tangible "god" which would still "want" them to move away from Egypt rather than to return, well, he was "saving the show".

This is a good example of how it is when people whose faith is imperfect face a tremendous test of pressure. More often than not, instead of waiting on the Lord (Ps.27:14; 37:34; Prov.20:22) for His "way of escape" (1Cor.10:13), such people search frantically for human solutions, rationalize conduct that is clearly anti-God and could never be compatible with His WILL, then seek to justify and excuse their conduct after the fact. That is not the stuff of great spirituality.

As I say, Aaron was not perfect. None of us is. He is blessed to have his name in scripture for all the honors he is accorded, but also to have his faults set very clearly in the Word for the edification, blessing, and warning of us all. I like to think that I would have done better at least by this point in my life. Then again, without the examples of scripture, I am sure that I would have erred even more egregiously than I have.

Thanks for your good words and encouragement! Keep fighting the good fight of faith, persevering in the truth of the Word, no matter the cost.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Click here: Israeli history photo o... JPost - Features - Insights & Features

From today's Jerusalem Post!

Response #2: 

Interesting pictures. The tomb is not David's inasmuch as what is now called "Mount Zion" where the tomb in question is located is not the Mt. Zion of the Bible. That is actually the ridge containing the city of David and the temple mount (e.g., 1Ki.8:1). What is called "Mount Zion" today is the hill located on the other (western) side of the Tyropoean valley. David was buried in "the city of David", the southern portion of the ridge south of the temple which was the original citadel of Jerusalem (1Ki.2:10; cf. 2Sam.5:7).

Thanks for the link!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Mr. Luginbill,

Good morning my brother in Christ. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Exodus 4:24 when Moses wife Zippora had to circumcise Gershom? Was it Moses the Lord sought to 'kill' or Gershom? Does verse 23 have any connection to it?

Thank you in advance for your time and response.

The Lord bless and keep you and your family.

Response #3: 

Always a pleasure. It is true that the text of Exodus 4:23 is potentially ambiguous in that it says "the Lord sought to kill him", and does not explicitly say "Moses". However, since Moses has been the person in the forefront of the chapter (and his son is not even mentioned until after the phrase "sought to kill him"), Hebrew usage (as well as the reasonable expectation in any literature regarding who should be the object in such cases) certainly argues for Moses. Moreover, if Moses were not the one under divine displeasure (which seems here to have had a debilitating effect on him after all), then it would be difficult to see why Zipporah would have had to do the circumcision. For these reasons, it is best to take the passage in the most natural way. Moses was the one responsible for failing to circumcise his firstborn, so that Moses was held to account by the Lord for this violation of the covenant before he was allowed to stand before Pharaoh (in the course of which he had just been told by the Lord that he would have to say "let my son go, but you refused so I will kill your firstborn son"). Without having behaved in the appropriate way towards his own firstborn (and failure to carry out this sign of the covenant had the punishment of being "cut off" from Israel), Moses would have been in a compromised position as the Lord's spokesman.

I have written this up before from several other aspects of the question, and I invite you to take a look at the link: "Moses and Zipporah".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Robert D. Luginbill,

I am studying the different pieces of the high priest's attire and his work on the day of atonement. Do you have any information about that at all? I believe the high priest's attire is different from that of the common priest, especially when he goes into the most holy place on the day of atonement.

What is your perspective on that? I'd really appreciate your help on this subject.

Sincerely,

Response #4: 

The only thing I have written on the high priest's attire concerns the breastplate with its gemstones (please see the link: "Gemstones on the Breastplate"). On the festival generally, please see "The Day Atonement". I would certainly agree that there is a major difference in that the high priest alone wears the ephod containing the urim and thummim (engraved with the names of the twelve tribes), and the panel of gemstones which represented the tribes of Israel, so that they were "remembered before God" when the high priest appeared before the ark.

I hope this proves to be of some small help.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dr. Robert D. Luginbill,

God's providence has led me to your website. Glory be to God alone. I read your answer to another brother's question and it answered my question as well.

Just one more question please. I have been reading the Scriptures but have not yet found any reference about the location of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most holy place of the early tabernacle, whether it was located in the north side as was the table of shewbread, or towards the middle westward, facing the south? It seems to me from some verses that it was in the west, or in the middle of the Most holy place facing south. I have been accused of misinterpreting scripture as to its location.

What is your perspective on that?

Your help will be very much appreciated.

In our Lord Jesus,

Response #5: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.

As to your question, I know of no scriptures which would lead us to think that the ark was not centered in the holy of holies. On the other hand, everything we know about the details of the inner sanctum of the tabernacle and temple seem to me to suggest that it was centered (though the scripture does not say so directly). For example, in the first temple, it is very clear that the two olive-wood cherubim overlaid with gold positioned on the back wall of the holy of holies were symmetrically arranged (1Ki.6:23-28). Since this was a divinely ordained arrangement (1Chron.28:18), the ark would have seemed out of place if it were not likewise centered in the space. And it would be doubly troubling if that were not true because the cherubs on the reverse wall were clearly meant to fill out the picture of the two cherubs on the mercy seat: after all, in the real holy of holies which the earthly temple and tabernacle merely represent, the four cherubs surround the throne in what also seems to be described as a symmetrical manner (Rev. chapters 4-5). The two cherubs on the back wall of the first temple give the back (and front) view to complement the side views provided by the cherubs on the mercy seat (that is, if we understand it to be positioned parallel to the long axis of the tabernacle/temple).

The last statement above shows my understanding of the correct orientation of the ark. The ark is often portrayed as presenting its long side to the curtain, but there are good reasons to suppose that in fact it was placed with its long side parallel to the long axis of the tabernacle/temple (i.e., the rectangle of the ark parallel to the rectangle of the tabernacle/temple). For example, we are told that the carrying poles of the ark "pushed out" the curtain slightly in Solomon's temple (1Ki.8:8) no doubt because the space was slightly smaller now that the two huge cherubs had been added on the back wall, and it would have been preferable to have the poles protrude slightly from the curtain rather than to have come into physical contact with these cherubs. Secondly, and importantly, as I have written before, the ark is symbolic of a battle-chariot (see the links below). Therefore its "wheels", angelic in the case of the actual throne of God with the cherubs carrying it at the corners (Ezek. chapters 1-2), and human bearers in the case of the ark itself, would be oriented parallel to the long walls of the tabernacle for moving in and out. When carried, clearly, the long sides would be the true "sides" and short sides would be the front and back (just as if it had actual wheels and were being used as a chariot). You can find my schematic at the link: The earthly and heavenly tabernacles and the throne of God (in CT 2B)

Here are those other links I mentioned where all this is covered in greater detail.

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant and the Orientation of its Poles

The Appearance of the Ark in the Third Heaven 

Thanks again for your interest and encouragement. Please feel free to write back any time.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Dear Bob Luginbill,

Thank you for your e-mail.

1Ki 6:23 And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, 1Ki 6:27 And he set the cherubim within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubim, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.

1Ki 8:6 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim.

1Ki 8:7 For the cherubim spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and the staves thereof above.

One interesting truth that I have found from reading the above Scriptures is that even though the Bible does not directly say which side of the most holy place the Ark of the Covenant was located, but the Scriptures below do clearly detail the location of the cherubim. You are aware of all this but I just like to mention where it says "where their wings touched one another in the midst of the house", it was under which the Ark of the Covenant was placed. Record also says when the priests brought in the Ark, they brought it unto his place. The understanding that clearly comes to mind, in my own simple words, is that wherever we want to place God (the Ark of the Covenant), it must be "between the cherubim". So instantly I understood that the location of the Ark could be nowhere else but in the middle of the most holy place, for it is the only place where we can find God between the cherubim. And that God then does not exist without these cherubim, not that He depends on them for His existence but that He created them to attend Him, as you correctly phrased it, "they are intimately connected with His throne; or intimately a part of His throne". Very true. Praise the Lord! How I rejoice in these amazing discoveries. He is a God that dwells between the cherubim. Praise the Lord!

The day before I e-mailed you my question, I was so burdened about finding out the answer to my question that the Lord lead me to read 1 Kings 6 & 8, and there I found evidence that the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the middle of the most holy place, but I did not quite understand the concept of God dwelling between the cherubim. This is such a wonderful revelation. God has shed light through your explanation to much more than I was aware of. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Rev 3:21-To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Praise His holy name alone.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Response #6: 

You are most welcome.

And thank you for your very good observations that nail this point down decisively. Look for it to be posted to the site soon.

In Jesus our Lord.

Question #7: 

Dear Bob

I'm a full time Bible illustrator based in the UK and I'm just about to illustrate the Ark of the Covenant. Many thanks for your article on the ark at the link here: http://ichthys.com/mail-ark of the covenant.htm, this was very helpful and is in agreement with the comments of Dr Leen Ritmeyer in his book 'The Quest'. When I first illustrated the ark I noticed that the poles were placed at the bottom of the ark, unlike the other tabernacle furniture, which meant that the Levites had to 'bow down' in order to pick up the ark! This would suggest that the ends of the poles were probably showing under the veil as in 1 Kings 8:8 as opposed to just pushing on the veil as mentioned in Jewish tradition. Because of this we can be certain that the poles ran from East to West.

Another reason which would suggest that the poles ran parallel with the long side of the ark is the distance between the posts at the entrance to the tabernacle. Although its possible for the four pillars into the Holy of Holies to be positioned in such a way that would allow a larger gap between the centre two poles which would enable the ark to enter if the poles were positioned along the short ends of the ark, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the ark to enter this way in between the five pillars at the entrance into the tabernacle itself. Its hard to imagine that 5 pillars would be positioned in any other way than equally spaced out across the 10 cubit entrance. If the pillars were around 6 inches thick - this would allow a gap of 37 1/2 inches between each pillar which would allow the ark to pass through if the poles were parallel with the long side but impossible if the poles ran parallel with the short side. All this is of course assuming that the ark was brought into the tabernacle, and the tabernacle was not built around the ark!

The only possible problem that I can see with the ark and poles all running East to West in the Holy of Holies is if there is any spiritual significance in the way that the High Priest would be facing as he officiated. (He faced East I think in Herod's Temple). If the high priest faced East in the tabernacle looking towards the veil and entrance - and if we presume that the sprinkling of the blood was done at the long side of the ark, (again this is presuming that the cherubim were positioned at the short sides of the ark and would therefore restrict direct access to the mercy seat, then the ark would need to run North to South which would mean that the poles would run parallel with the short side. If there's no significance in the way that the priest faced then this isn't a problem.

One last point on the poles - some have suggested that for the poles to be showing under the veil the poles would need to be 15 feet in length (the approx length of the Holy of Holies) protruding 5 1/2 feet from each side on the ark which seems a lot more than would be needed for one man at each corner to hold. Also this would mean that the high priest would have to step over the poles in order to move around the ark! If the poles were 10 feet long however, (this is just my suggestion), this would mean that the poles would protrude only 3 feet from either side of the ark - more than enough to hold onto but more importantly, if the poles were moved forward to appear under the veil as the KJV rendition of 1Kings 8:8 suggests, moving the poles only 3 feet forward would leave clear access for the priest to three sides to the ark and the poles would still be located in all four rings. (a requirement in Exodus 25:15).

I would appreciate any comments you might have on the look of the ark before I begin illustrating it. I received an interesting email with attached word doc from a Bible translator (Diana Green) which I've attached below as you might find it interesting. I would also value your comments on the post I published on the Bible illustration blog titled 'Illustrating the Tabernacle'. I hasten to add that I'm not a scholar - but I like to try and get the illustrations as biblically accurate as possible.

http://bibleillustration.blogspot.com/2009/05/illustrating-tabernacle.html

God willing, I will be writing a post on the Bible illustration blog titled 'Drawing the Ark of the Covenant' and I would like to link to your article above with your permission. I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless

Response #7: 

Good to make your acquaintance. You make a good point about the poles being on the feet of the ark requiring the Levites who carried it to "bow". The ark is a representation of the Lord's "battle chariot"; it is a type of the chariot seen in Ezekiel (chapter one in particular). That is why the short sides are the front and back, not the long sides. The Levites carrying the ark are symbolic of the four cherubs (aka seraphs) who propel the actual chariot. While much of this is explained in the link you cite, here are some other links where I go into some of these things in more detail:

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant and the Orientation of its Poles

The Appearance of the Ark in the Third Heaven 

The four cherubs (in SR 5)

The main issues I would have with the illustrations in the attached document would be 1) the orientation of the picture on page 8 (but from your email you seem to understand very well that the correct orientation is long axis east-west, not north south, and that the poles are along that long axis not the short axis); 2) the orientation of the two cherubs on the cover in the illustration on page 2. My understanding of the mercy seat (Hebrew, caporet) is that the cherubs are placed on the long sides of the cover and face each other. They are supposed to represent the four cherubs who propel the antitype chariot-throne; there are only two because of the ancient Middle Eastern conventions of representation (as we see in Babylonian and Egyptian art), rendering in fully three-dimensional forms was not the practice. That is also why the cherubs decorating the other walls of Solomon's temple also have only two faces (1Ki.6:29), though we know from Ezekiel and Revelation that they actually have four faces. This also explains why the enormous olive-carving of the cherubs in the temple was placed on the rear wall and not on the sides: there were already two cherubs on the atonement cover facing north and south; the addition of the two on the rear wall gives us the two east-west facing cherubs to complete the set of four. This carving also explains, I would argue, why the poles caused a bulge in the inner curtain of the temple but apparently not in the tabernacles: the ark with poles in place fit precisely into the holy of holies of the tabernacle, but the addition of a large carving to the back wall of this space in the temple reduced the space available by some inches, requiring the poles to touch the curtain and push it out slightly in order to fit (my impression is that the curtain went all the way to the floor). Since the cherubs were on the long sides of the ark and the ark was oriented with its long axis east to west, the high priest would only need to open the curtain and enter between the poles in order to perform the atonement ritual. Furthermore, since the ark is a chariot throne above which the Lord had said "there I will meet with you", we can be sure that the approach is not from the side. The Lord is to be understood as seated (invisibly) on this throne looking straight forward as any king would do, and all who approach Him would need to do so directly, face to face.

I hope this response is helpful to you. As I say, in addition to the article you mention, there is more detail on some of these issues at the links provided. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

Dear Bob

Many thanks for this! You've given me a lot to think about here! I hadn't thought of the ark as a chariot before - this does shed some light on the cherubim description. I had always wondered about the significance of the wheels within wheels part. I have never considered that the winged cherubs might be along the long edge of the ark - probably because I've never seen it illustrated that way! The ark being approached from the front, or short side, would explain why the ends of the poles were showing too, as a guide for the priest to enter between! This would make sense if the curtain was split in the middle but wasn't it in one piece only allowing access from either the left or right?

I had always thought before that the cherubs and seraphs were two different types of angelic being - one with 4 wings the other with 6. I had wondered in the past if the two faced cherubs in Solomon's temple were flattened 2D depictions of 4 faced cherubs. There are only two ways to depict 4 faces, (if the faces are positioned like points on a compass). You either show 2 faces at a 3/4 angle - or 1 face facing forward and 2 side on.

I need to spend more time digesting your articles. Once again many thanks for getting back to me with all this very helpful information - I really appreciate it.

Blessings

Response #8: 

You are very welcome. Yes, I believe you are correct about the curtain. My translation of 1Ki.8:8 would be along the lines of "the ends of the poles were evident from the Holy Place" in the sense of being obvious only by pushing out the curtain rather than extending beyond it. In no case would it be appropriate for there actually to be an opening of the Holy of Holies, even one small enough for the poles to physically extend past the curtain into the Holy Place. In my view that is why the text does not say "the poles extended into the Holy Place" but merely "were visible/evident/manifest from the Holy Place".

On cherubs, yes, the traditional view (which has not taken into account the fact that the living creatures, cherubs, and seraphs all play an identical role in their guardianship of the chariot-throne) is to see these as discrete groups. The reasons why it is much better to see them as merely different descriptions of the same college of four angels are put forth at some length in the links provided previously. The differences in the faces come from the differences of perspective in the case of those who describe them: since they have four faces, it depends on one's perspective to any given cherub which of the faces is visible.

Do feel free to write back about any of this as you make your way through the material.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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