Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Ark of the Covenant, continued

The ark was a mere "covenant box" without its cherubim icons. But who or what were these cherubim?

The cherubim are far from the baby faced angels that many people imagine. They are rather untamed, archetypal, composite beings that tend to array themselves about an archetypal cosmic center. From archaeology we know that they were sphinxes, winged bulls or lions. In Israel they were most likely thought of as bovine. Above is a relief of one of them at the ancient temple of 'Ain Dara, Syria. (The photo is courtesy of my former student, Laura F.)

The recent production "Exodus Decoded" suggests another piece of archaeology images the ark. A small gold relief from Mycenae, now at the Athens Museum fascinatingly depicts two animalistic beings atop a cubic structure or platform, perhaps guarding an entrance ramp and /or an altar.

The image certainly enlivens one's imagination. However, one need not posit a direct connection between the iconography here at Mycenae and the iconography of the Israelite ark. As I said, the cherubim are cross-cultural archetypes, part of all our collective unconscious minds. Could cherubim sometimes have the face of a bird? See Ezekiel 1:10; 10:14.

As always, comments and further observations are welcome. I plan to continue this series for at least two more days.


Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


As I read the descriptions of the Cherubim I am struck with how similar they are to the Akkadian lamassu or šêdu.

Wed Aug 30, 01:25:00 PM GMT-5  

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