Mercy Seat

(Hebrew כַּפֹּרֶת, kapporeth, a "covering). The covering or lid of the ark of the covenant. It was of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, or perhaps rather a plate of solid gold, 2½ cubits long and 1½ cubits broad.1 It is compared to the throne of grace.2 The holy of holies is called the "place of the mercy-seat."3

It has been conjectured that the censer (thumiaterion, meaning "anything having regard to or employed in the burning of incense") mentioned in Heb. 9:4 was the "mercy-seat," at which the incense was burned by the high priest on the great day of atonement, and upon or toward which the blood of the goat was sprinkled.4

The English term mercy seat is translated from Greek hilasterion,"thing for propitiation," and influenced by Gnadenstuhle, "mercy seat," in the Luther Bible. Hence it is also used for covering or atonement for sin. In the Vulgate Bible the term appears as propitiatorum.



  1. Ex. 25:17; 30:6; 31:7.
  2. Heb. 9:5; Eph. 2:6.
  3. 1 Chr. 28:11: Lev. 16:2.
  4. Lev. 16:11-16; comp. Num. 7:89 and Ex. 25:22.


  • Easton, M.G. (1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

This article incorporates text from Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897) by M.G. Easton, which is in the public domain.