The veil of the temple, with its cherubim, would have served the purpose of reminding the covenant people of the Creator God’s narrative story of creation, of fall, of cursing, of a way now barred, of covenant, of promises, of slavery, of exodus, of redemption, of a promised land, of their responsibilities to their God, of exile, of a promised messiah that would be the physical embodiment of their God, of His coming to set things right, of the eventual end of their long exile, of their being empowered to fulfill their God’s intentions for them, of their gift of their long-promised inheritance of the land, of their redemption from oppression, of their being granted another exodus, of the fulfillment of all of the blessings promised to them by their God, of the establishment of a new covenant, of the granting of access to His presence, of the reversal of the curse that man had wrought in the earth, of the bringing of man back into right standing with their Creator, and the long-hoped for restoration of creation to the state of perfection in which it had been created.
This now brings this study to the issue of Jesus’ death. As has been presented by the authors of the Gospel accounts, that death was said to have been accompanied by the tearing of the temple’s veil, from top to bottom. That veil, and all that it represented for the covenant people, and which had been in place for so very long, was destroyed. That veil, with its cherubim that were presumably woven into the curtains in the same manner as the curtains of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, which served as an ever-present, physical reminder of the blocking of the pathway to the source and giver of life (calling to mind the Adam story), was taken out of the way. The veil, which spoke of man’s fall and the Creator God’s curse, and the death that was said to have ruefully entered into this world at man’s hands, was put aside. Of course, it is also significant that the tearing was from top to bottom, because, yes, it is presumed that it was Israel’s God Himself that did the tearing.
The Creator God would be understood to have done the tearing because of what had been accomplished by the long-awaited and expected Messiah. Because the community of Jesus believers set forth a clear and direct association between Jesus’ death and the tearing of the veil, and because the veil, as has been seen from the Garden of Eden through the second temple that stood just a short distance from the place that saw the crucifixion of the Messiah, was a reminder of cursing and separation, its tearing would have to have meant, at the very least, that the curse had been broken.
This is what could have been readily understood by those that witnessed the event, as well as by those that would hear about the event or come to learn about the event through either the telling of the Gospel tale or by the reading of the written record that now stood in the line of Israel’s long-running and defining narrative. Yes, this tearing would be folded into the story of the activity of the Creator God and the people that He continued to set forth for His purposes. This was yet another chapter in Israel’s long, narrative history, and in their God’s single plan of redemption for all of mankind.
According to that story, Adam had been placed in the Garden of Eden. He was said to have been created in the image of the one who formed him. His story is one of failure and fall and the delivery of a curse upon himself and this world that he was charged with stewarding. He was expelled from Eden. The Creator God, following this expulsion, is said to have placed cherubim at the entrance to that Garden, figuratively (and literally?) veiling man’s access to the Creator God’s place, and in some way, to the purpose for which the man had been created.
Because Adam is presented as the father of all of mankind, much like would be the case for Abraham and his descendants, or of those that were brought forth from Egypt and their descendants, all that would follow from him would share in the curse that descended upon him because of failure to keep his covenant charge. Thus, because Adam had been given dominion over all of creation, the curse extended to the whole of creation as well (the story of Abraham and Israel and their covenant-making speaks of blessings flowing forth to the world, reversing the curse of Adam). From that point in Genesis, up to and through the eleventh chapter, what can be seen is a world in decay, with murder and corruption and a flood of judgment that would ultimately serve to produce the even greater rebellion of the tower of Babel and its defiance of the Creator God, rather than repentance.