Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

The Might and Power of the Lord’s Ark

Posted by foryourfaith on January 3, 2010


One of the most mysterious objects described in the Old Testament is the ark of the covenant.  It’s awesome presence is captured in the ancient verse:  “And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.’  And when it rested, he said, ‘Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel’” (Numbers 10:35-36).  To the Israelites, the ark was Yahweh’s throne, and thus represented his presence among them.

The Bible refers to the ark of the covenant by a variety of names.  In some of the early texts it is called the “ark of the Lord” or the “ark of God.”  Elsewhere it is called the “ark of the covenant” and the “ark of the testimony.”

Deuteronomy 10:3 indicates that the ark was rather simple:  a wooden chest, built at God’s command to hold the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.  However, according to Exodus 25, it was far more elaborate.  There, the ark is described as a wooden chest almost four feet long and over two feet wide and high.  It was overlaid with gold inside and out; and it also had golden moldings.  The ark was fitted with golden rings for the poles, made of acacia wood like the chest itself, that were used to carry it.  Because the Israelites were a wandering people, without fixed abode, the ark had to be portable.

On top was a golden cover, called in Hebrew kapporet, or mercy seat.  It held two golden winged creatures called cherubim.  The Bible describes these mysterious creatures as having spreading wings that encircled the mercy seat.  As God said to Moses, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” (Exodus 25:22)

The Israelites believed that Yahweh was enthroned above the mercy seat of the ark.  Thus, by his presence the ark was so holy and possessed such great power that it had to be treated with the greatest respect and care.  Not to show this respect was to invite the wrath of God.

When the portable sanctuary of the Tabernacle was set up, the ark and mercy seat were alone installed in the innermost cubicle called “the most holy place” (Exodus 26:34).  No one except the high priest was allowed within that inner sanctum.  Even the priest could enter but once a year, on the Day of Atonement, “lest he die” (Leviticus 16:2).  The ark eventually found a permanent home in the First Temple, built by Solomon in Jerusalem.


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