made a cover of pure gold for the sacred chest or ark of the covenant, two and one-half cubits (c. 44 inches; 111 centimeters) long and one and one-half cubits (c. 26 inches; 67 centimeters) wide. It was surmounted by two golden cherubs, one at each end of the cover, their wings spread upward, screening the cover. The cherubs’ faces were toward the cover. The Ark was placed in the Most Holy compartment of the Tabernacle.—Ex. 25:17-21; 37:1, 6-9.
On the day of atonement (yohm hak·kip·pu·rimʹ, meaning “day of the coverings or propitiations” [Lev. 23:27, 28]), the high priest entered the Most Holy and spattered some of the bull’s blood before the cover (at its front or east side), and then did the same with the blood of the goat. (Lev. 16:14, 15) Thus the gold cover of the Ark played a special role in the typical propitiation (or, covering) of sins.
JEHOVAH’S PRESENCE REPRESENTED
From between the cherubs on the propitiatory cover God spoke when he desired to communicate with Moses or with the high priest. (Ex. 25:22; Num. 7:89; compare Leviticus 10:8-10; Numbers 27:18-21.) Jehovah said that he would appear in a cloud over the cover of the Ark. This cloud apparently glowed or shone, lighting up the Most Holy compartment.—Lev. 16:2; compare Psalm 80:1.
“THE HOUSE OF THE PROPITIATORY COVER”
In 1 Chronicles 28:11 the Most Holy, the innermost compartment of the Temple, is referred to as “the house of the kap·poʹreth.” In this instance the Hebrew word is evidently not used simply as designating a lid or cover for a chest, but is employed with regard to the special function of the cover in the propitiation of sins. Accordingly, the expression is rendered “the house of the atonement” (Yg), “the house of propitiation” (AT), “the house of the propitiatory cover” (NW).
At Hebrews 9:5 the Greek word hi·la·steʹri·os, “propitiatory,” is used for the cover of the Ark. In the type or pattern God’s presence was represented between the two cherubs over the propitiatory cover. (Lev. 16:2; Ex. 25:22) The writer of the book of Hebrews points out that these things were symbolic. As the high priest on the day of atonement entered the Most Holy with sacrificial blood, so Christ took the value of his sacrifice, not before a literal propitiatory cover, but before the very presence of Jehovah God in heaven.—Lev. 16:15; Heb. 9:11-14, 24-28.
The Greek word pro·seʹly·tos means “stranger,” or “one who has come over to Judaism, convert.” It is used in both the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures.
For more than nineteen centuries Jehovah dealt with a special, select people, the family of Abraham and his seed, primarily the nation of Israel. Yet it was possible for a non-Hebrew or a non-Israelite who desired to serve Jehovah according to the requirements of true worship to do so. He would, though, have to convert to true religion, or become a proselyte. The Mosaic law made specific provisions for a person of non-Israelite origin dwelling in Israel. Such an “alien resident” could become a full worshiper of Jehovah, being circumcised, if a male, in acknowledgment of his acceptance of true worship. (Ex. 12:48, 49) A proselyte was responsible to obey all of the Law, and he was to be treated by natural Jews as a brother. (Lev. 19:33, 34; 24:22; Gal. 5:3; see ALIEN RESIDENT.) The Hebrew word ger, rendered “alien resident” (“stranger,” AV), does not always signify such a religious convert (Gen. 15:13; Ex. 2:22; Jer. 14:8), but in more than seventy instances where the translators of the Septuagint believed that it did, they rendered it by the Greek pro·seʹly·tos.
Throughout Israelite history non-Jews became proselytes, in effect saying about the Jews what Moabitess Ruth said to Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16; Josh. 6:25; Matt. 1:5) Solomon’s prayer at the inauguration of the temple reflected God’s open and generous spirit toward those of many nations who might want to serve Him as proselytes. (1 Ki. 8:41-43) Non-Jews mentioned by name who evidently became proselytes included Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 21:7), Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:3, 11) and Ebed-melech the Ethiopian. (Jer. 38:7-13) When the Jews in Mordecai’s time received permission to stand and defend themselves, “many of the peoples of the land were declaring themselves Jews.” (Esther 8:17) The Septuagint reads: “And many of the Gentiles were circumcised, and became Jews.”—Bagster.
ACTIVE IN PROSELYTIZING
As a result of the Babylonian exile Judaism became widespread. Jews of the Dispersion came into contact with pagans of many nations. The establishment of synagogues and the availability of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Greek language made it easier for persons throughout the Roman world to learn of the Jewish religion. Ancient writers such as Horace and Seneca testified that numerous persons in various lands joined themselves to the Jews, thus becoming proselytes. Josephus reported that Jews in Syrian Antioch “made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks.” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 925) points out that “the Jews in Rome exhibited such an aggressive spirit of proselytism that they were charged with seeking to infect the Romans with their cult, and the government expelled the chief propagandists from the city in 139 B.C.” This charge, of course, may have been unfounded or exaggerated, perhaps being politically motivated or due to some racial or religious prejudice. Nevertheless, Jesus himself said about the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees: “You traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves.”—Matt. 23:15.
Proselytizing by force
Not all the Jewish proselytes were won over by peaceful means. Historian Josephus related that John Hyrcanus conquered the Idumeans in 125 B.C.E. and told the people that they could stay in their country only if they submitted to circumcision, becoming proselytes by force. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, chap. IX, par. 1) Aristobulus, the son of John Hyrcanus, did the same with the Itureans. (Book XIII, chap. XI, par. 3) Later, Jews under Alexander Janneus slaughtered the inhabitants of Pella because they refused to become proselytes. (Book XIII, chap. XV, par. 3) Political considerations were undoubtedly the basis for such deeds, rather than missionary zeal.
PROSELYTES BECAME CHRISTIANS
The record in the Christian Greek Scriptures indicates that some of the circumcised Jewish proselytes were sincere in their worship of Jehovah. The crowd from many lands who heard Peter on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. and became Christians was made up of “both Jews and proselytes.” (Acts 2:10) The proselytes from other lands had journeyed to Jerusalem in obedience to Jehovah’s law. Similarly, the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip baptized had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was reading God’s Word as he traveled homeward. (Acts 8:27-38) He must have been a eunuch in the sense of “court official,” for had he been castrated he could not have become a proselyte. (Deut. 23:1; see ETHIOPIA, ETHIOPIAN.) In the early days of the Christian congregation “Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch,” was appointed to special duties in connection with the distribution of food, being a man “full of spirit and wisdom.”—Acts 6:2-6.
Good news spread among the Gentiles
Until 36 C.E. the Christian message was directed solely to Jews, to Gentiles who had become circumcised