4 July 2004
The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was created in order to symbolize Yahweh’s
presence to the people. In order to dismiss the belief that the ‘invisible
God’ himself resided in the ark, it became the resting place for the
tablets of the law.
The Ark of the Covenant is the best-known item in the Tabernacle, a
structure built by the children of Israel under the instruction of Moses,
known for its powers against the enemies of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant
resided in the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the Tabernacle. Access
was only permitted once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Access was
restricted to one person only, the high priest, who would come into the
Holy of Holies with the blood of a goat, on behalf of his own and the
people of Israel’s sins. The Ark itself was a small box made of acacia wood
covered with gold. It measured 1.15 meters long, 0.7 meters wide and 0.7
meters high. Two long bars, also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold,
carried the Ark.
The Ark was believed to be God’s throne in the Tabernacle. There was
a cover on the Ark, known as the Mercy Seat, or Propitiation Cover. It was
here that the high priest sprinkled the blood of a goat on the Day of
Atonement to soothe God’s anger for the sins of the people of Israel.
Attached to the Ark’s covering lid were two Cherubim. God’s presence did
not dwell inside the box, but remained over the Ark, in between the two
Cherubim. The high priest had to shield his eyes, because “no man shall see
Me and live”. The two Cherubim on the Mercy Seat represented God’s
The ark and the Tent of Meeting were very important during the desert
years of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. They acted as symbols to inspire the
carrying out of the covenant with Yahweh. The creation of the ark was a
very tedious task. God gave specific directions that had to be followed
exactly. These details are located in Exodus twenty-five through thirty-
one, and repeated almost word for word again in chapters thirty-five
through forty. The repetition indicated the great importance that the
instruction be followed carefully and precisely.
The arks final resting place was the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
King Josiah ordered it be returned to this place in the last mention of the
ark in the bible, 2 Chronicles 35:3, “Put the Holy Ark in the house which
Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden
upon your shoulders.” The ark remained at there until the fall of
Jerusalem and the burning of the temple in approximately 586 B.C. The
Ark of the Covenant disappeared at this time; its location is still unknown
and remains a mystery.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament An Introduction.
New York. Paulist Press 1984.
iTanakh: Resources for Academic Studyhttp://itanakh.org/
Old Testament Gatewayhttp://www.otgateway.com/
The Bible and Interpretationhttp://www.bibleinterp.com/index.htm
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Third Edition. 1 Samuel 5-6, 2 Chronicles
The Unbound Biblehttp://unbound.biola.edu/
The New Oxford Annotated Bible Third editionExodus 33:20
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Third edition. 2 Chronicles