25:17mercy seat. Lit. the “atonement covering,” a place at which estranged parties were reconciled. “Atonement” is the normal English translation for the Hebrew root that means “to wipe away” or perhaps “to cover” the guilt of sin from God’s eyes so that believers may be reconciled with God. Propitiation (i.e., turning away divine wrath and satisfying the claims of divine justice) is effected by blood sacrifice in the Old Testament (Lev. 17:11). This shedding of blood dramatizes the cost of forgiveness, and points forward to the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross, where the symbolism of the Day of Atonement was fulfilled. Paul declares that Jesus has been made the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25; cf. 1 John 2:2).
The “mercy seat” was the ark cover, which is sometimes mentioned in distinction from the ark as the place where God was propitiated. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), the Greek term for “mercy seat” (hilasterion) lit. means “place of propitiation” (also in Heb. 9:5).
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