25:20 The cherubim are to be spreading their wings upward, overshadowing 1 the atonement lid with their wings, and the cherubim are to face each other, 2 looking 3 toward the atonement lid. 25:21 You are to put the atonement lid on top of the ark, and in the ark you are to put the testimony I am giving you. 25:22 I will meet with you there, 4 and 5 from above the atonement lid, from between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will command you for the Israelites.
1 tn The verb means “overshadowing, screening” in the sense of guarding (see 1 Kgs 8:7; 1 Chr 28:18; see also the account in Gen 3:24). The cherubim then signify two things here: by their outstretched wings they form the throne of God who sits above the ark (with the Law under his feet), and by their overshadowing and guarding they signify this as the place of atonement where people must find propitiation to commune with God. Until then they are barred from his presence. See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 330-35.
2 tn Heb “their faces a man to his brother.”
3 tn Heb “the faces of the cherubim will be” (“the cherubim” was moved to the preceding clause for smoother English).
4 sn Here then is the main point of the ark of the covenant, and the main point of all worship – meeting with God through atonement. The text makes it clear that here God would meet with Moses (“you” is singular) and then he would speak to the people – he is the mediator of the covenant. S. R. Driver (Exodus, 272) makes the point that the verb here is not the word that means “to meet by chance” (as in Exod 3:18), but “to meet” by appointment for a purpose (וְנוֹעַדְתִּי, vÿno’adti). The parallel in the NT is Jesus Christ and his work. The theology is that the Law condemns people as guilty of sin, but the sacrifice of Christ makes atonement. So he is the “place of propitiation (Rom 3:25) who gains communion with the Father for sinners. A major point that could be made from this section is this: At the center of worship must be the atoning work of Christ – a perpetual reminder of God’s righteous standard (the testimony in the ark) and God’s gracious provision (the atonement lid).
5 tn The verb is placed here in the text: “and I will speak”; it has been moved in this translation to be closer to the direct object clause.