OVERLAY (צָפָה, H7596, sheet over, חָפָה, H2902, cover). Archeology reveals that the process of overlaying was known quite early among the Egyptians, and the offspring of Jacob may have learned it during their stay in Egypt. By far, gilding was the most prominent type of overlaying practiced by Israel. Gold plates covered parts of the Tabernacle structure: the pillars that supported the veil and the side frames of the Tabernacle with their bars. Gold-plated items of Tabernacle furniture were the Ark of the covenant (inside and out) with its carrying bars, the table of shewbread with its bars and the altar of incense with its bars (Exod 25; 26; 36; 37).
Even more extensive was the amount of gold used in this way in Solomon’s Temple. “The whole house,” meaning the Holy of Holies and the holy place; the altar next to the Holy of Holies; the cherubim; the floor; the two doors to the Holy of Holies and the doors at the entrance to the Temple were overlaid with gold. The enormous quantity of this precious metal required for such an undertaking could hardly be estimated, but the six hundred talents within the Holy of Holies alone amounts to more than twenty tons (1 Kings 6; 2 Chron 3). The gold plates were fastened to the walls with gold nails, but were removable under extreme circumstances (2 Kings 18:16). Solomon also used gold to overlay his own ivory throne (1 Kings 10:18; 2 Chron 9:17).
Overlaying with silver was done only sparingly, being limited to the capitals of the pillars in the court of the Tabernacle (Exod 38:17, 19, 28). The altar of burnt offering with its carrying poles and the doors to the court of the Temple were coated with bronze (Exod 27:2, 6; 38:2, 6; 2 Chron 4:9).
The lone NT occurrence of “overlay” is in Hebrews 9:4 (KJV) dealing with the Ark of the covenant. There is substantial agreement between KJV and RSV in the use of “overlay.” There is but one Heb. word so tr. in KJV that is not handled the same in RSV (sakab); this is the instance of a mother “overlaying” her child, which is properly revised to “lay upon.” Two Heb. words (raqa’ and tapas) are tr. by “overlay” in the RSV, but not in the KJV. See Architecture.