Artist’s rendition of Solomon’s Temple, including their idea of the Holy of Holies. At the time of Christ, however, the Holy of Holies in the Temple (Herod’s) was empty — the Ark of the Covenant was missing and had been for hundreds of years.
Also missing from the Holy of Holies were two huge cherubim, statues made of olive wood and overlaid with gold. These were separate from and addition to the cherubim that were attached to the Ark itself.
Ten cubits (fifteen feet) tall, these cherubim stood side by side in the Holy of Holies, facing toward the entrance with outstretched wings. The outer wing of each cherub reached out to the side wall of the Holy of Holies, with their inner wings touching. When the Ark was brought in, it was positioned under these inner wings of the Cherubim (see I Kings 8:6).
Other than their size, no description of the Cherubim is included in these passages. Did they resemble human beings with wings? Or animals with multiple faces? (See Ezekiel 1:5-10.)
Whatever they looked like, these large angelic statues were created by Solomon and apparently not duplicated for the rebuilt first Temple, nor by Herod for his Temple. Read the account in I Kings 6:23-28 and II Chron. 3:10-13.
The golden Cherubim disappeared with other articles when the Temple was destroyed, nearly 600 years before Jesus was born. Most if not all of the gold (gold plating, vessels, implements and other articles) was stolen, although the most accepted theory is that the Ark was hidden for safekeeping by the priests. Just where, however? No-one seems to know for sure. Were the Cherubim stolen, or hidden too? Good question.
One more piece of Bible Trivia — did you know the Holy of Holies had two doors, in addition to the heavy, embroidered veil that separated it from the Holy Place?
“For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and doorposts were one-fifth of the wall (thus each door was 3 feet wide). The two doors were of olive wood; and he carved on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees.” (I Kings 6, NKJV)
For more about the Ark, the Cherubim, the Temple, the Holy of Holies, and more, check out the scripture references, and click on these links. It’s fascinating reading.