Let us take a deeper look at the Ark of the Covenant to get some answers. Just what is it and where had it been up until this point?
In Exodus, while the Jews were wandering in the Sinai dessert, God commands them to build the Ark of the Covenant. He even gives them the exact dimensions and how to embellish it. Carved out of acacia wood and overlaid and inlaid with gold, the ark sat roughly 45 inches long, 27 inches wide and 27 inches high. Under it were four golden rings where two wooden poles, also covered in gold, would be put through to carry it.
Only the Levites were instructed to do this, and they would place the Ark on their shoulder. There was a thin golden covering over the Ark with two Cherubs made out of gold. Their wings stretched out before them touching in the center.
Today a great debate still exists as to what contents were in the Ark of the Covenant. For certain, the reconstructed tablets containing the Ten Commandments were there. Some would argue that the first set of commandments that were broken were also in the Ark; some would say there were actually two arks.
Either way, the practical use of the Ark was that with it God would indicate when He was calling the Israelites to move camp and when He was ordaining them to stop. But it also had a spiritual significance. It was the physical manifestation of God’s spiritual presence.
It came about that both in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Ark was only visited once a year, on Yom Kippur, and only by the high priest. He was to make atonement for the entire nation. Something very interesting to note, as well, wherever the Ark was, clouds were always present by day and fire by night.
This helped to create a mystical aura about the Ark and to understand God’s commands as to how the Ark was to be moved, when, and by whom. A certain fear or reverence was attached to the Ark, understandably.
Examples of its holiness would be when the sons of Aaron offered sacrifices near it in the Tabernacle with some strange flame. They were devoured by the fire that streamed from the Ark. When the Ark was captured by the Philistines, innocent bystanders who simply looked at the Ark were killed. And priests that served in the Tabernacle and Temple were warned against looking into the Ark at improper times; instant death would follow.
The Ark accompanied the Israelites through he desert and every war and conquest. It eventually came to rest at Shiloh. During David’s reign, it was in the hand of the Philistines. It remained with them for seven months; wherever it was kept, it brought on plague and eventually even death. The Philistines finally sent it away. But when David transported it without seeking God’s counsel and following His instructions, it was disastrous. One of the men carrying the ark, without having used its poles, went to steady the Ark as he thought it was about to tumble, and he died instantly.
Overreaction by God?
This text is significant for the church today.
Watch this space for Part 3…
Written by Jori Sams