“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. It shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. You shall overlay it with pure gold. Inside and outside you shall overlay it. You shall make a molding of gold upon it all around. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side. You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, by which to carry the ark. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark. They shall not be taken from it. You shall put into the ark the covenant that I shall give you.”
The instructions that Yahweh gives are very clear and exact, according to the Priestly tradition. The ark shall be of acacia wood. It should 2 ½ cubits long, 1 ½ cubit wide and high. A cubit is an ancient unit of length, equal to the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, approximately 43-56 cm or 17-22 inches, a little less than two feet. So this acacia wood box is not that big, about 5 feet long and about 3 foot high and 3 foot wide. However, it should have a gold overlay with gold molding around it. Thus we have a small wooden box with gold all around inside and outside. It would have 4 rings of gold, with 2 on each side with 2 golden acacia wood poles in these gold rings. The divine covenant would go inside this ark.
“Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width. You shall make two cherubim of gold. You shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and one cherub at the other. Of one piece with the mercy seat you shall make the cherubim at its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one another. The faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark. In the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the Ark of the Covenant, I will deliver to you all my command for the Israelites.”
On top of this ark they were to build ‘a mercy seat,’ about 5’ by 3’, something like a cover for the ark. This mercy seat, the Hebrew word Kapporet, atonement piece, propitiation, or the cover, rested upon the Ark of the Covenant and was connected with the rituals of the Day of Atonement. Two golden winged cherubim were at both ends of this mercy seat, facing each other. The cherubim in the Babylonian culture were half human and half animals that guarded the doors to the temple places. Both Judaism and Catholicism hold these cherubim as a rank in the angelic order. From atop the mercy seat, God would give his commands.