The Berean Expositor
Volume 34 - Page 43 of 261
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"placed above upon the ark", epitithemi . . . . . anothen. Now this tells us the material of
which the article was made, "gold", the purpose it served, "a lid", and where it was
placed, "above upon" the ark. So far so good. We now enquire, Did this article of
furniture have any spiritual significance? The answer is "Yes, the golden lid is explained
to be `a propitiatory', a place where atonement or propitiation could be made". This "lid"
is therefore explained in the Septuagint to be an "hilasterion". But how from this data
anyone can say that the term "Mercy-seat" should be removed and the word "lid"
substituted passes comprehension. Further, the N.T. sets its seal upon the essential
purpose of the Mercy Seat, for in Heb. 9: we read concerning the furniture of the
tabernacle, "And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing", not the epithema, the mere
"lid", but the "mercy seat", hilasterion (Heb. 9: 5). The apostle could have selected from
his Greek Bible the word epithema, enforcing upon us the fact that all we had here was a
golden lid but he passes this word by, and enforces its symbolic purpose; it was a
propitiatory. That he most certainly meant a propitiatory, or a propitiation, is proved by
his one other use of hilasterion where he speaks of the sacrifice offered by Christ as "a
propitiation through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3: 25).
Now it has been suggested that in Rom. 3: we could read, "set forth a mercy seat
through faith in His blood", and this would do no violence to faith or sense, but the
possibility of suggesting that we could substitute the word "lid" in Rom. 3: 25 is
beyond consideration.
Having thus said, the fact remains that the word epithema, used by the Greek
translators, is an addition to the Hebrew they were translating, no equivalent Hebrew
word being used in the original. It is therefore without authority, and must not be used as
a basis for doctrinal teaching.
We have considered two aspects of the subject before us:
That the idea of "covering" for sin is scriptural; the only reservation being that
God must provide the covering, and that by means of sacrifice.
That, apart from the ancient use of kaphar, preserved for us in Gen. 6: 14, and
used before the confusion of tongues, the established use of kaphar by Moses and
the Prophets upon every occasion that it is employed is "propitiation". This also is
the meaning of the word translated "mercy seat" and is entirely independent of
whether it also be a "lid", or made of "gold", or whether it be of the same size as
the ark, or not.