The mercy seat was a kind of lid, which closed the chest from above. It was made of pure gold and was held in place by a golden ridge or crown. Beaten out of this mercy seat were two cherubim, (a winged creature with human face) with their wings overshadowed the mercy seat. They were beaten out of the same piece of pure gold as the mercy seat. 2
God had commanded Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25.10-22) and inside it Moses placed the two tables of the law. Later on, Aaron's rod that budded was placed in it (Num. 17.10), together with the golden pot that had the manna (Ex. 16.33, Heb. 9.4). Together these three items form the Testimony (Exodus 25:21); hence the Ark is called the Ark of the Testimony.
The Ark of the Covenant is the best-known item in the Tabernacle, (the tent carried by the Jews through the desert and used as a temple). It resided in the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the Tabernacle. It was famous for its mysterious powers against the enemies of Israel (I Samuel chapters 5 & 6). 3 Access was only allowed once per year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and was limited to one person only, the high priest. He had to come into the Holy of Holies with the blood of a goat, on behalf of his own and the people of Israel's sins.
1. The Stone Tablets of the Law
The Ten Commandments were written on these two pieces of stone, by the finger of God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 31:18; 32:16,19; 34:1). The tablets of stone are also called the tables of testimony (Exodus 31:18), because they show us what God is like: protective, kind,...