Exodus 25:22 – The Meeting Place

Exodus Chapter 25 begins the instructions God gave to Moses about the building of the Tabernacle.

The Ark

The most significant place in the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies. This is the section of the Tabernacle that the High Priest entered only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The only object in the Holy of Holies was the Ark, also called the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark was a gold-plated rectangular box which was designated to hold the Tablets that God gave to Moses. The cover of the Ark was a solid gold plate.

At each end of the cover was a cherub. Each cherub faced toward the middle of the cover and spread its wings over the cover of the Ark.

Exodus 25:22 The Ark of the Covenant

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The Meeting Place

Here is what God said to Moses after He described the Ark, its cover, and the cherubim in detail:

Exodus 25

22. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will command you for the people of Israel.

Let’s look at Exodus 25:22 phrase by phrase.

And there I will meet (Hebrew: v’noadti) Rabbi Hirsch points out that the 3-letter root of this word is yud-ayin-dalet. This root means to designate a place and a time for a meeting.

Rashi makes a similar point in his commentary. The significant idea in this verse is not designating a time to meet, but rather a fixed place to meet.

The Daat Mikra commentary explains it this way: When God calls to Moses, this is where God will be, in this fixed place. Moses will come to meet God at this place.

And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you Because by means of this (building the Tabernacle in the proper way as commanded) the Divine Presence dwelled there. In addition, it will dwell in every place where the sages of the generation are found who are seeking to know and understand God. [Sforno]

In other words, Sforno sees this verse not only as a statement of fact about the past, but also a promise for the future. God’s Divine Presence can be with those who seek Him with a high level of devotion.

and I will speak with you This phrase explains why God is designating a place. It’s to speak to Moses. It’s not to reveal to him new visions. [Daat Mikra]

from between the two cherubim The verse details with great specificity exactly where God’s voice will be heard from. [Daat Mikra]

Rambam states that Moses was the only prophet to hear God’s voice directly.

Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed, Friedlander translation

2:45 …all prophets are prophetically addressed through an angel, except Moses our Teacher, in reference to whom Scripture says, “Mouth to mouth I speak to him” (Numbers 12:8). … but Moses heard the voice addressing him “from above the covering of the ark from between the two cherubim” (Exodus 25:22)…

cherubim These are angelic beings that are mentioned most frequently with regard to building the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, and Ezekiel’s visions.

They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24 where God appointed them “to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Rabbi Hirsch states, “The cherubim always appear as the bearers of God’s glory revealing itself to man, intervening in human affairs.”

Based on these words, we can understand why cherubim are part of the Ark and its cover. The Ark holds the tablets which are a significant demonstration of God being involved in human affairs. And in our verse, Exodus 25:22, we are informed that God will speak to Moses, that is, be involved in human affairs, from between the cherubim.

of all things which I will command you God continued to speak with Moses and teach him new commandments even after the Tabernacle was completed. [Chizkuni]

Rashi’s Dilemma

Exodus 25:22 was stated when God was commanding Moses about the building of the Tabernacle.

Exodus 25

22. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will command you for the people of Israel.

As Rashi explains, this verse is designating the place where God will meet with Moses after the Tabernacle is completed.

As a reminder, the main structure of the Tabernacle was a tent. It was divided into 2 sections separated by a curtain. The outer section, called the Tent of Meeting, was where the Table, Menorah, and Incense Altar were placed.

The inner section, called the Holy of Holies, contained only the Ark.

In other words, Exodus 25:22 tells us that God will speak to Moses from the Holy of Holies, with the sound of His voice seeming to come “from above the cover.”

In later verses, the Tabernacle is set up and God calls to Moses:

Leviticus Chapter 1

1. And the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying,

This is the first time that God called to Moses from the completed Tabernacle.

Rashi is bothered by a contradiction. This verse says that God spoke to Moses from the outer section of the Tabernacle, from the Tent of Meeting. But Exodus 25 promises that God will speak from the Holy of Holies.

Rashi resolves the contradiction by introducing another verse:

Numbers Chapter 7

89. And when Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking to him from the covering that was upon the ark of Testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke to him.

This verse is at the end of the chapter which details the dedication offerings brought by the head of each tribe for the Tabernacle.

Rashi’s explanation is that God would call to Moses to initiate a meeting. That call could emanate from any place. Then Moses would come into the Tent of Meeting. Once he entered there, he would hear God’s voice coming from the Holy of Holies, “from above the cover, from between the two cherubim.”

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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