The Tav, Cross, and Mercy Seat :: By Jeff Van Hatten

The Tav

The word translated tree in Deuteronomy is the Hebrew word ets [H6086], and in Galatians is the Greek word xylon [G3586].

Some say that the cross was in the shape of a lower case “t” (or plus sign +), which is the way the tav was written in ancient Hebrew. Others say the cross upon which Yeshua was hung was in the shape of an upper case “T.” Both styles were used.

The Cross

Deuteronomy 21:22 – “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, you hang him on a tree.

Galatians 3:13 – “Yeshua has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”

The first Adam lost everything at the foot of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Today, Christians speak of leaving their sins at the foot of the cross upon which Yeshua was crucified.

A traditional cross was rarely two wooden posts nailed together, as shown in most churches today, but was most often an olive tree upon which a crossbeam was attached, as required by both Deuteronomy 21:22 and Galatians 3:13. In Romans 11:17-24, Paul compares Israel to an olive tree. He says the Jews are as the natural branches of the olive tree, and the Gentiles as wild branches. Yeshua, a natural branch (Isaiah 11:1-2), is hung on an olive tree!

Ezekiel 9:4 – “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

In the passage above, the word translated mark [H8420] is the Hebrew word tav.

A similar marking is noted in Revelation 7:3 – “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” The word translated sealed is the Greek word sphragizo [H4972], which means to mark. In Hebrew it would be the word tav [H8420]. The tav denotes a mark, sign, or cross, and in ancient Rabbinical tradition, the Tav is known as the Seal of God and also the Seal of Truth. Yeshua is referred to as the aleph-tav [H853], and he is the truth. On the cross, he sealed our eternal salvation with his blood.

The Mercy Seat

Romans 3:25 – “Yahweh has set forth Yeshua to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”

A small wedge was generally placed on the tree just below the feet of the person being crucified. This wedge allowed the person to relieve the pressure on their arms, thus making breathing a tad easier, and was called the mercy seat! The word propitiation, used in Romans 3:25, is the word hilastērion [G2435], which literally means: the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies. In other words: the mercy seat.

The Heel

Genesis 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”

Romans 16:20 – “And the God of shalom will quickly crush Satan under your feet.”

In the third chapter of Genesis, Yahweh prophecies that Satan will bruise the heel of Yeshua. This prophecy was fulfilled during the crucifixion as Yeshua hung on the cross.

When a person’s heels were nailed to the tree, a small piece of acacia wood was placed on the outside of each heel. The nail was then driven through the acacia, through the heel, and into the olive tree. Interesting that all of the furniture in the Tabernacle was constructed of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10 and 37:1).

The Outstretched Arms

Mark 15:27 – “They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left.”

1 Corinthians 1:22 – “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom.”

As Yeshua is hanging on the tree (cross), his outstretched arms and his hands are pointing to two robbers, one on his right, and another on his left. One of the robbers wants Yeshua to prove he is the Mashiach by saving himself and both robbers (Luke 23:39). The second robber, using his wits (in other words, his wisdom), tells the first robber that they both deserve their punishment and asks Yeshua to remember him when he comes into his kingdom (Luke 23;40-42).

Yeshua’s outstretched hands can be seen as an offer of salvation to both robbers. Looking once again to Paul’s comparisons in Romans 11:1-36, is it possible that one of the robbers was a Jewish man from Jerusalem, and the other robber a Greek or Gentile man from Galilee?

Quite likely, for Paul tells us that the natural branches have rejected Yeshua’s offer but the Gentiles have accepted it. Even agricultural observations of that time tell us that the natural olive trees grew in Jerusalem but the wild olive trees grew in Galilee!


Exodus 25:22 – “I will meet with you, from above the mercy seat.”

Yeshua is our mercy seat. Satan bruised his heel upon the cross, but his resurrection has crushed Satan’s head. Yeshua’s outstretched arms ask us the same question he posed to the two robbers: “Will you follow me?”

Who will you be: a person who has rejected his offer, or one who has accepted his offer and been given eternal life? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.