The Ark of the Covenant

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Ark of the Covenant is ארון הברית, aron habrit in Hebrew. It is described in the Bible as a sacred container, wherein rested the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

The Ark was built at the command of God, in accord with Moses's prophetic vision on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:9-10). Its primary function was for God to communicate with Moses, "from between the two cherubim" on the Ark's cover (Exodus 25:22). The Ark and its sanctuary were "the beauty of Israel" (Lamentations 2:1).

During the journeys of the Israelites, the Ark was carried by the priests in advance of the host (Numbers 4:5, 6; 10:33-36; Psalms 68:1; 132:8). The Ark was borne by priests into the bed of the Jordan, which separated, opening a pathway for the whole of the host to pass over (Joshua 3:15, 16; 4:7, 10, 11, 17, 18). The Ark was moreover borne in the procession round Jericho (Josh. 6:4, 6, 8, 11, 12). When carried, the Ark was always wrapped in a veil, in badger skins, a blue cloth, and was carefully concealed, even from the eyes of the Levites who carried it.

It signifies the symbol of the presence of God. Exo 30:6, “And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you.”

In olden times these things appeared more realistic to the people than they do to us; and when the ark was considered the visible representation of the presence of Yahweh, and as guaranteeing His presence, a close material connection was thought to exist between the ark and Yahweh, by virtue of which Divine powers were also thought to be present in the ark.

But the view advocated by some of the modern critics, that the Israelites had thought that the ark was the dwelling-place or the throne-seat of Yahweh, is nevertheless not correct. This opinion cannot be harmonized with this fact, that in the sources, dating from the same olden times, mention is made of His dwelling in many places in Canaan and outside of Canaan, so that the idea that His presence or even He Himself is confined to the ark is impossible.

Picture from

- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor
- “The Ark of the Covenant”,

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3 comment(s)

  1. Great picture, and great clarification. I get so sick of our picture of the ark coming from Indiana Jones. Thank you for restoring its true purpose.

  2. Maeghan,

    Cool stuff, I just wanted to add a small input here. The belief that God's presence in the ark is not just recorded in Judaic history, it is recorded in ancient texts, including Egyptian, and other aramaic sources.

    Whether it was factual that God chose to confine himself to the ark, or it was perception, The ark was the symbol of His presence, and in the Ark presence things happened. Perhaps it was a pedestal of faith, for the children of Israel. But we know, as in the case of Phineas and Hoffas defeat to the Mideanites, it was taken out and descecrated by these two defiant sons.

    At the end, at the very least you could say that it was an instrument of faith.

    God Bless

  3. Enjoyable read,
    Thank you.