Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Transporting the Ark of the Covenant, gilded brass relief, Cathedral of Sainte-Marie, Auch, France. Jesus was of a bloodline that held certain mystic teachings, that Moses himself was taught at the court of the Pharaohs. The power of the ark was not in the thing itself, but in the wonder and majesty of Jehovah, whose presence once rested there, but now indwells within each believer. It vanished after Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. They left them out overnight, “and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8). Within this ark were to be placed the tables of the law which God was about to give to Moses. Quick Overview of the Ark of the Covenant. Taken to Jerusalem by King David, it was eventually placed in the Temple by King Solomon. Since its disappearance from the Biblical narrative, there have been a number of claims of having discovered or of having possession of the Ark, and several possible places have been suggested for its location. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ark-of-the-Covenant, JewishEncyclopedia.com - Ark of the Covenant, Jewish Virtual Library - The Ark of the Covenant, The Catholic Encyclopedia - Ark of the Covenant. As the ark was being transported, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, and a man named Uzzah took hold of the ark. According to the Bible, The Ark of the Covenant was a box which housed the two tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Omissions? On top of the ark, was the mercy seat, or kapporeth in Hebrew. These were the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budded staff, and manna. If God abolished the Ten Commandments at the cross, the Ark would not have this covenant inside, leaving just an empty box. Today, Christians believe Jesus Christ serves as our High Priest and as the sacrifice. Temple Mount. According to the Tanakh, עזה, Uzzah or Uzza, meaning "Her Strength", was an Israelite whose death is associated with touching the Ark of the Covenant.The account of Uzzah appears in two places in scripture: 2 Samuel 6:3–8 and 1 Chronicles 13:7–11 Construction of the Ark of the Covenant . Sometime during the wilderness wanderings, God commanded that a bowl of manna be added to the ark’s cargo: “Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. 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Here are six facts about the Ark of the Covenant: Much like we have the exact dimensions and instructions for Noah’s ark in Genesis, Exodus 25:10-22 describes the process and the parameters for the creation of the chest. The Ark was in the Philistines’ possession for 7 months (1Samuel 6:1). It is, moreover, to be the place of God’s occasional dwelling and meeting with the people. However, what truly made it special - what made it important - was the actual manifestation of God’s presence. The Ark of the Covenant wasn't always in the hands of the Israelites. They must carry the Ark by using two wooden poles inserted through rings on its sides, as touching the Ark itself will result in death at the hands of God. What I can tell you-There were many arks not just one. 4:3). Made from a base of acacia wood - a hard wood, scratch resistant, and known for its durability - it had a gold overlay. In Exodus 25:10, Moses receives the command to build an ark of acacia wood. It had no power itself. Navigate parenthood with the help of the Raising Curious Learners podcast. The Ark of the Covenant was a physical sign that the God of all the earth was in Israel "and let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in them" (Ex. and its fate remains a mystery. 1 Samuel 5:4 says, “...and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold.” The Philistines only kept it seven months according to 1 Samuel 6:1, because of all the troubles that befell the cities that held the Lord’s ark. God’s presence settled on the mercy seat when it came into the tabernacle to be with the nation of Israel. While the Bible is silent on the ark’s ultimate fate, there are still centuries of history covered in the Bible that detail its construction, use of worship, and how its presence testified to the power of God. The mercy seat served as an actual seat for the Lord in the Tabernacle, and eventually in Solomon’s temple. Now protect it. the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. The ark of the covenant is more than Biblical history; it is mythical. The Mercy Seat was where God would dwell. The descendants of Kohath, called Kohathites, were the only priests who were allowed to move the tabernacle. To prove the chosen priesthood of Aaron and his line, the Lord commanded the tribes of Israel to set out twelve staffs, with Aaron’s representing the tribe of Levi, the tribe God appointed to the priesthood. This space was accessible only to the Israelite high priest and only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The true power of God rested upon the Ark. After these victories, David felt led to bring the ark of the covenant to the capital city. Because the ark was…, … and the loss of the ark of the Covenant to the Philistines. 1 Kings 8:9 ESV / 30 helpful votes. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that … The ark served as the altar once a year for a sacrifice for the sins of the people. The word manna appears to express their confusion about what it was, as they exclaimed upon seeing it for the first time, “what is it?” Every morning for forty years, the sweet, flaky, white substance that was similar to coriander kept the Israelites fed, combined with quail in the evening. The Lord’s presence should still inspire us to rejoice like David today, for today we do not need the ark to experience it; He lives within us! The priest who went into the temple during the time of Yom Kippur had to be fully right with God, lest he be struck dead. Made of acacia wood, the Ark was covered inside and out with pure gold and measured two and a half cubits long by a cubit and a half wide by a cubit and a half high (45" x 27" x 27"). It did not stay in any one place for very long, as disaster seemed to strike the Philistines whenever they moved what they believed to be a war prize. The Israelites honored God for His kept promises and miraculous provision by keeping a sample of manna in the ark. Moses smashed the original tablets in Exodus 32 after the Israelites made the golden calf to worship. Hollywood even elevated it to superstardom by making it the primary focus of the Stephen Spielberg blockbuster "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." It was taken from them by the Philistines for a period of time until it was returned. On occasions the Israelites needed to move the tabernacle. The last years of King Saul’s reign were tumultuous and bloody. …astuteness was to bring theark of the Covenant to Jerusalem; but because of pressures from conservative elements who wanted to retain the tent that housed the ark (which had symbolic value from the days of the Exodus), David was not able to build a temple. When David came to the throne of Israel, he had to take Jerusalem from the Jebusites and fight back an attack from the Philistines. While a fun time, the film fails to capture the spiritual significance of the golden chest. The History of the Ark of God. 6 Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people. Ark of the Covenant, Hebrew Aron Ha-berit, in Judaism and Christianity, the ornate, gold-plated wooden chest that in biblical times housed the two tablets of the Law given to Moses by God. The Ark of the Covenant is a gold-plated wooden chest that, in Jewish and Christian tradition, houses the two tablets bearing the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses by God. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Despite this, many theories and claims exist about the Ark’s subsequent location. Once in the town of Beth-Shemesh, and once with a man named Uzzah. Here, the Lord’s Spirit indwelled and filled the space as a cloud. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). This is an area in the Old City of Jerusalem and what’s believed to be standing above … Rather than using the Ark for worship as it was intended, they tried using it as a weapon. So joyful was David, the Bible records, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment” (2 Samuel 6:14). Ark of the Covenant into battle ‘that it might deliver us for the power of our enemies’” (1 Sam. From hemorrhoids, to mice, no matter where the Philistines moved the Ark, trouble followed. It culminated in them putting the Ark in their pagan temple, and the statue of their false god Dagon was found prostrate before the Ark twice - the second time, broken. According to Numbers 4:4, etc., it was the Kohathites who carried the ark on the journey through the desert; but they seem merely to have acted in this respect as the servants or helpers of the priests, who alone might touch the ark, and by whom it was carefully wrapped up … Sometime during the 10th century BCE, King Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Ark was moved to the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies (Qodesh Ha-qadashim in Hebrew). [This article continues after a message from the authors] These Articles are Written by… The Ark of the Covenant’s final fate is unclear. Then he said, "Only Levites should carry the Covenant Box, because they are the ones the LORD chose to carry it and to serve him forever." 1.1) Whereas the Israelites regarded the ark as a magic trinket to imbue luck, the Philistines realized that they ought to fear the God it represented: Let us (Israel) bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies. Because the Lord’s … In the book of Numbers, the Lord gives an explicit command that only Levites may handle the ark, and that, “...if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death” (Numbers 1:51). Jewish and Christian holy scriptures dictate that the Ark of the Covenant can be carried only by Levites , who constituted the ancient Jewish priestly class. This Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines around the 29th year of King Saul’s reign. He said, “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites” (Exodus 25:22).Unlike the statutes of gods idolized by many of the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant served as a religious symbol where the people could meet with God. Elevated to soaring heights of fantasy and legend after disappearing centuries ago, people have long sought to discover the truth about it. Under King David, the Ark was laid to rest in the city of Jerusalem. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain/Benjamin West. In Bible times, the only people permitted to touch the poles attached to the Ark were Kohath’s descendants. One of those was the Ark of the Covenant. Because it disappeared, many misconceptions about God’s ark arose. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It can be easy to assume the gold-plated, special vessel that held the law, the symbol of the priesthood, and the proof of God’s provision held a special, perhaps mystical status. If they did, they would die. The rod of Aaron was the same rod which God turned into a serpent before Pharaoh. What Are Advent Readings & Why Are They Important? Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. All rights reserved. Answer: The story of Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12. Upon the top of the ark, probably not as a lid but above the lid, was a golden plate upon which two cherubim, with raised wings and facing each other, covered the ark. However only the Aaronites were allowed to touch it - at least by carrying it with the poles. God had warned that no one was to even see the Ark, let alone touch it, except the High Priest—and he only once a year during the Day of Atonement. Who can touch the Ark of the Covenant? (1Ki 4:3) The ark is the first one described. Leaving the ark, the symbol of Yahweh’s presence, at Shiloh, the Israelites go out to battle against the Philistines near the Mediterranean coast but are defeated. The chapter begins, “The Lord said to Moses”, and begins to outline God’s specifications for the creation of objects to be used in worship. The Israelites who looked in the ark were actually violating several laws: they came near to the ark (a violation if they weren't Levites), they looked at the ark, they touched the ark and they moved the atonement cover, which was God's symbolic throne. The poles used to carry the ark were of the same material. There are three arks mentioned in the Bible, Noah’s ark, Moses’s ark and the ark of the covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was said to be a gold-covered wooden chest with carved angels and handles, to carry the 10 commandments, manna, and Aaron's rod, and be covered so no one views it, never to touch the ground. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and from Tiffin University with a Masters of Humanities. Holman Christian Standard Bible Then David said, "No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister before Him forever." The Philistines captured God’s Ark after the battle of Shiloh, where the sons of the High Priest Eli - Hophni and Phinehas - were killed. One of the questions that has been thought of by many and even addressed on numerous documentaries is: Does the Ark of the Covenant possess some kind of powerful electrical/energy charge that prevents anyone from touching it? In Numbers, the people of Israel began to  grumble against Moses and Aaron’s leadership, and the Lord had just struck down a group of rebels. The Ark of the Covenant was simply a manmade wooden chest overlaid with gold as instructed by God through Moses that represented God's judgment, mercy, presence and throne of authority. You've planned for your future. One person helping to transport it was said to try to rescue it from falling and when he touched it, it was immediate death. So where does the ark of the covenant get its fearsome reputation that lead to its portrayal as a weapon in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Corrections? 6 Things You May Not Know about the Ark of the Covenant, 3 Beautiful Reasons Jesus Had to Be Born of a Virgin, California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information. There are a few possibilities for how 1 Kings 8:9 saying that only the tablets were inside the Ark of the Covenant and Hebrews 9:4 saying that the tablets, manna, and staff were inside the ark can both be true. God had instructed the priests that no one should in any way touch the Ark of the Covenant. In the Ark of the Covenant was the original tablets of stone in which the ten commanments were inscribed and the precense of the Lord dwelled. The legendary Ark of the Covenant has been sought by archaeologists for centuries and was the subject of the fictional 1981 Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark. According to Jewish and Christian tradition, ancient Israelites carried the Ark of the Covenant through the wilderness and occasionally into battle. Finally, the cup of manna was clear evidence of God’s provision for His people. The waters of the flood transported Noah’s ark, Moses’ mother transported the ark Moses was placed in and God gave commands concerning how the ark of the covenant was to be transported. God never has and never will tolerate disobedience. God’s anger burned against Uzzah and … The Lord commanded: “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold...And you shall make two cherubim of gold...Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends” (Exodus 25:17-19). Article Images Copyright ©. Though it had a brief three-month stay in the house of a man named Obed-edom, it was finally ushered to David’s city. There are two incidents in its history that most likely informed this portrayal where the Lord struck down people who did not treat the ark with appropriate reverence. In both instances, Israelites who knew the law chose to disobey, and interacted with the ark of the covenant contrary to God’s word. For the Israelites, this rod represented the line of the priesthood. Bible Study Resources - Tips, Online Bible Search, Devotions. Therefore, God had given the Israelites directions as to how to move it. However, the moment noted more significant by the writer of Hebrews, was the budding and flowering of the rod. Archaeologists believe that there are no reliable records of the Ark’s whereabouts after this date. Jewish tradition maintains that the Ark disappeared during the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The final fate of the Ark is unknown. Jewish and Christian holy scriptures dictate that the Ark of the Covenant can be carried only by Levites, who constituted the ancient Jewish priestly class. 25:8). According to the Second Book of Samuel, the Levite Uzzah touched the Ark with his hand in order to steady it, and God instantly killed him. Once a year, on the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the temple and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice upon the cover of the ark. An object of immense power - capable of laying waste armies, of killing those who dared touch it in a flash of sparks, and guaranteed victory to those who carried it … The two evil sons of the priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were in charge of the Ark. Learn more. Because the Lord’s Spirit came in all His glory, few could come into its direct presence. The Israelites return to Shiloh for the ark; but even though they…, …tablets of the Covenant—the famous ark of the Covenant. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Manna sustained the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness after they fled Egypt. Some believe that because certain people had with an instant death encounter with the Ark, there must be […] Scholars believe that the elaborate details and materials described stem from a later, Canaanite, period but that the essential concept of a tent of meeting…. Following the conquest of Canaan, the Promised Land, the Ark resided at Shiloh, but from time to time it was carried into battle by the Israelites. This event is listed on the Bible Timeline Poster around 1180 BC. When God first gave Moses the instructions on building the ark, He said, “Put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you” (Exodus 25:16). As King David was having the Ark moved one of the oxen stumbled causing the Ark to … Only the direct descendants of Aaron who were also the High Priest Levites. God would have no reason to show an empty box to everyone at the seventh trumpet. Updates? So at some point in time, all three items were inside the Ark of the Covenant. But they were not allowed to see or touch the holy objects. From the place between the two cherubim God promises to speak to Moses, as often as He shall give hi… The Ark of the Covenant held tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. As a container vessel, the ark carried artifacts that spoke to key moments during Israel’s time in the wilderness. Ark of the Covenant Summary PDF (276 KB), Quick Summary Slideshow, Interesting Facts. The Ark rested in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem and was seen only by the high priest of the Israelites on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The ark of the covenant acted as the symbol of God’s holiness, and not abiding by the rules set forth brought about His wrath. It is God who is powerful. They took They must carry the Ark by using two wooden poles inserted through rings on its sides, as touching the Ark itself will result in death at the hands of God. The Levites (priestly functionaries) carried the Ark with them during the Hebrews’ wanderings in the wilderness. As the Online Etymology Dictionary explains, the word "ark" comes from the Latin word arca, meaning "big box. Moses stole the ark from Egypt when he left, and was chased because of this theft. They took the ark of the covenant and went before the people. The Ark of the Covenant–also sometimes called the Ark of the Testimony or the Ark of God–is not, despite the prevalence of the perhaps more famous ark in the Bible, a boat. Bethany Verrett is a writer and email marketing coordinator. God commanded Moses to make a box, or Ark, to house the Tables of the Law, and to be a seat for the Lord God. This action atoned for the sins of the whole nation.