November 18, 2010

The Ark of the Covenant


The Ark of the Covenant is a container described in the Bible as containing the tablets of stone on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments as well as Aaron’s rod and manna. According to the Pentateuch, the Ark was built at the command of God in accord with Moses’' prophetic vision on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25: 10-16). God communicated 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).

The Biblical account relates that during the exodus of the Israelites, the Ark was carried by the priests (Numbers 35:5; Joshua 4:5) in advance of the people and their army or host (Num. 4:5-6; 10:33-36; Psalms 68:1; 132:8). When the Ark was borne by priests into the bed of the Jordan, the river was separated, opening a pathway for the whole of the host to pass over (Josh. 3:15-16; 4:7-18). The Ark was borne in a seven-day procession around the wall of Jericho by seven priests sounding seven trumpets of ram’s horns, the city taken with a shout (Josh. 6:4-20). When carried, the Ark was always wrapped in a veil, in tachash skins (the identity of this animal is uncertain), and a blue cloth, and was carefully concealed, even from the eyes of the those who carried it.

Over time, the accounts of the Ark have gathered a number of references in popular culture.

Description

The Bible describes the Ark as made of shittah-tree wood (acacia), known to the Egyptians as the Tree of Life and an important plant in traditional medicine containing in many cases psychoactive alkaloids. It was 1.5 cubits broad and high, and 2.5 cubits long, conforming to the golden ratio. (~130 x 78 x 78 cm or 4.27 x 2.56 x 2.56 ft, using the Egyptian royal cubit). The Ark was covered all over with the purest gold. Its upper surface or lid, the mercy seat (Hebrew: כפורת, Kaporet), was surrounded with a rim of gold.


On each of the two long sides were two gold rings, wherein were placed two wooden poles (with a decorative sheathing of gold), to allow the Ark to be carried (Num. 7:9; 10:21; 4:5,19, 20; 1 Kings 8:3, 6). Over the Ark, at the two extremities, were two cherubim, with their faces turned toward one another (Leviticus 16:2; Num. 7:89). Their outspread wings over the top of the Ark formed the throne of God, while the Ark itself was his footstool (Ex. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). The Ark was placed in the "Holy of Holies," so that one end of the carrying poles touched the veil separating the two compartments of the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:8). The Book of Deuteronomy describes the Ark as a simple wooden container with no mention of ornaments or gold. Similarly, the Quran makes a reference to the Ark as a wooden box with holy relics inside it.

Contents

According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments were kept within the Ark itself. A golden jar containing some of the manna from the Israelites' trek in the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron that budded, were added to the contents of the Ark (Ex. 16:32-34; Heb. 9:4), but apparently were later removed at some point prior to the building of Solomon's temple, as I Kings 8:9 states that there "was nothing in the Ark save the two tablets of stone." While Heb. 9:4 states these items were placed "inside" the Ark, Ex. 16:33-34 and Num. 17:10 use the expression "before" the Ark; some see a contradiction here, as the correct meaning of these phrases is open to interpretation. A Rabbinic tradition states that Moses also put the broken fragments of the first tablets of the Law into the Ark. Some scholars have argued that the plans to the Tabernacle were contained in the Ark.

Sanctity and Consecration

Even Aaron, brother of Moses and the High Priest, was forbidden to enter the place of the Ark, except once a year on a designated day, called The Day of Atonement, when he was to perform certain ceremonies there (Lev. 16). Moses was directed to consecrate the Ark, when completed, with the oil of holy ointment (Ex. 30:23-26); he was also directed to have the Ark made by Bezalel, son of Uri of the tribe of Judah, and by Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan (Ex. 31:2-7). These instructions Moses carried out, calling upon every "wisehearted" one among the people to assist in the work (Ex. 35:10-12). Bezalel the artist made the Ark (Ex. 37:1); and Moses approved the work, put the testimony in the Ark, and installed it.

In Deut. 10:1-5, a different account of the making of the Ark is given. Moses is made to say that he constructed the Ark before going upon Mount Horeb

1 comment :

ChristinaKing.com said...

Wonderful Brian. Also, the Ark of the new Covenant is visibly seen in the Icon/codex of Our Lady Of Guadalupe. Thank you for all you do.