26 Mar. Exodus 25:1-26,33

26 Mar. Moses is told to construct the Ark of the Covenant 

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me gifts… These are the gifts that you should receive from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and red thread, fine linen, goat hair and ram’s skins that are dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood, olive oil to burn in their lamps, spices for sweet-smelling incense, and the special olive oil poured on a person’s head to make him a priest…'”

“'The people must build a holy place for me so that I can live among them. Build this Holy Tent and everything in it by the plan I will show you.'”

“'Use acacia wood and build an Ark [a wooden chest] 110 centimetres long, 70 centimetres wide and 70 centimetres high. Cover the Ark inside and out with pure gold, and put a gold strip all the way round it. Make four gold rings for the Ark and attach them to its four feet, two rings on each side.'”

“'Then make poles from acacia wood and cover them with gold. Put the poles through the rings on the side of the Ark, and use these poles to carry it. These poles must always stay in the rings of the Ark. Do not take them out. Then put in the Ark the Agreement [the Covenant] which I will make with you.'”

“'Then make a lid of pure gold for the Ark; this is the mercy seat… Then hammer gold to make two creatures with wings, and put one on each end of the lid… Put this lid on top of the Ark, and put in the Ark the Agreement which I will make with you.'”

“'I will meet with you there, above the lid, between the two winged creatures on the Ark of the Agreement [the Ark of the Covenant]. There I will give you all my commands for the Israelites.'”

“'Make a table out of acacia wood, 90 centimetres long, 50 centimetres wide and 70 centimetres high. Cover it with pure gold, and put a gold strip round it… Make the plates and bowls for the table, as well as the jars and cups, out of pure gold. They will be used for pouring out the drink offerings. On this table put the bread that shows you are in my presence so that it is always there in front of me.'”

“'Hammer pure gold to make a lampstand… The lampstand must have six branches going out from its sides… Then make seven small oil lamps and put them on the lampstand so that they give light to the area in front of it…'”

“'Make for the Holy Tent ten curtains of fine linen and blue, purple and red thread… And make 50 gold hooks to join the two sets of [five] curtains so that the Holy Tent is one piece…'”

“'Then make another tent that will cover the Holy Tent… Use acacia wood to make upright frames for the Holy Tent… Make crossbars of acacia wood to connect the upright frames of the Holy Tent… Make a curtain of fine line and blue, purple and red thread, and have a skilled craftsman sew designs of creatures with wings on it… Hang the curtain from the hooks in the roof, and put the Ark of the Agreement containing the two flat stones behind it. This curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place…'”

          (Exodus 25:1-26,33)

 


 

On Mount Sinai, Moses received instructions for building a holy tent or sanctuary where God could dwell among his people. The ‘Ark of the Covenant’ – a portable gold-covered wooden chest containing the two tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments – was to rest in the innermost part (‘The Most Holy Place’) of this sanctuary. It was to be accompanied by a gold-covered table containing an offering of twelve loaves of unleavened bread (the ‘shewbread’ – see Leviticus 24:5-9), and a gold lampstand (a ‘menorah’) with seven candles – a central candle and those on its six branching arms.

The ‘Ark of the Covenant’ was constructed to hold the two tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses by God on Mt Sinai. The guidelines inscribed on the two stone tablets formed part of the solemn covenant agreement (or ‘testament’) undertaken between the Israelites and God (see Exodus 24:1-11). The Israelites, as God’s chosen people, agreed to follow these guidelines, while God, for his part, promised to bless and protect them.

The Ark housing the two stone tablets was, essentially, a portable wooden chest made from acacia wood - a thorny tree which grows in the desert. It was carried on wooden poles, attached to the chest on each corner through a golden ring, and protruding at the front and rear. The chest and the poles were overlaid with gold to show how much the ark was valued and esteemed. On top of the cover, facing each other, were two golden cherubim – lions or bulls with human heads and outstretched wings – forming a throne (the ‘Mercy Seat’ or ‘Judgement Seat’) on which God could sit and dispense justice (see Exodus 25:10-22). The ark could be carried from place to place as the Israelites travelled towards the ‘promised land’ of Canaan.

Every time the Israelites made an encampment, the Ark of the Covenant was housed inside the holy tent or ‘Tabernacle’ – a structure of fine linen curtains – inside a sheepskin and leather tent – called the ‘Tent of the LORD’s presence’ or the ‘Tent of Meeting’. The portable altar for burnt offerings, the smaller incense altar and the movable ceremonial washing stand were also housed inside the Tabernacle (see Exodus 27:1 – 30:38).

When the Israelites attacked Jericho in c.1406 BC during their conquest of Canaan, the Ark of the Covenant – symbolising God’s presence with his people – was carried into battle to encourage the Israelites and to strike terror into their enemies (see Joshua 6:4). On a later occasion in c.1024 BC, the Ark and (presumably) the other treasures inside the Tabernacle were captured by the Philistines at the Battle of Ebenezer, and were then taken via Ashdod and Gath to Ekron. The Ark was only returned to the Israelites after debilitating diseases broke out in these Philistine cities (see 1 Samuel 4:1-11 & 5:1-12).

When David conquered Jerusalem and became king of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah in c.1004 BC, he brought the Ark from Kiriath Jearim to his new capital (see 2 Samuel 6:1-19). It was some years, however, before his son Solomon, in c.968 BC, began building the magnificent Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (see 1 Kings 6:1-38).

After the overthrow of Jerusalem in 587 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Solomon’s Temple was demolished and there is no further reference to the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish Tanakh (the ‘Old Testament’).

There are many theories concerning the whereabouts of ‘The Lost Ark’. Some suggest that the Ark, together with other Temple treasures, was taken with the Jewish exiles to Babylon. The Ethiopian Orthodox church claims that the Ark was taken to Ethiopia by Solomon’s son Menelik, and today lies in the Church of Mary of Zion at Aksum.

The apocryphal Second Book of the Maccabees, however, records that the prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting from the Temple before Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem in 587 BC, and hid them in an unmarked cave on Mount Nebo (see 2 Maccabees 2:4-8).

The design of the Ark of the Covenant was not dissimilar to other portable arks used to carry the gods of Egypt. The photo shows a sacred ark (designed on similar lines to the Ark of the Covenant) in the Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt.

You can read more about the construction of the Ark, the Tabernacle, the altars, hand basins, priestly garments and the consecration of the priests @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/moses-constructs-the-ark-of-the-covenant/


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