The Message of the Covenant

Characteristics

of the

Ark of the Covenant

Chapter 2

The Message of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant at Jerico

Characteristics

The small details about the Ark of the Covenant that can be gleaned from the Bible impart a great deal of information about its fate. Where they do not tell the story, they substantiate the conclusions.

Aron

The Hebrew term for the Ark of the Covenant is Aron and this word simply means a chest, box, casket or coffin. It is not the same word as found in reference to Noah's Ark. The following entries are from Strong's King James Concordance in reference to the Ark of the Covenant.

0727 'arown aw-rone'
or laron {aw-rone'}; from 0717 (in the sense of gathering); a box:--ark, chest, coffin. (see Hebrew for 0717)
0717 'arah aw-raw'
a primitive root; to pluck:--gather, pluck
(Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)

The word Aron means a chest or box, which the Ark is. The word also means a coffin or casket. One might place a corpse in a coffin. This is a highly important clue for deciphering the later words of the prophets.

Building the Ark

The Israelites built the Ark of the Covenant along their journey to Canaan. Subsequently, they wandered forty years in the wilderness. G-d gave detailed instructions for the design and construction of the Ark to Moses and he in turn relayed the instructions to the Israelites that constructed it, principally Bezalel. It was made at the same time as the tent tabernacle along with all of the many items used therein. All of these things were made to exact specifications given to Moses by G-d and patterned exactly after others in heaven.

Exodus 25:40 And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee in the mount. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Hebrews 8:5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." (NIV) (Emphasis added)

The following excerpt is from the Kebra Nagast. Note that there are certain departures from convention in terminology contained in this text, one being that this manuscript at times refers to the Ark of the Covenant as Zion.

Kebra Nagast; Chapter 17; Concerning the Glory of ZION
And as concerning ZION, the Tabernacle of the Law of God: at the very beginning, as soon as God had stablished the heavens, He ordained that it should become the habitation of His glory upon the earth. And willing this He brought it down to the earth, and permitted MOSES to make a likeness of it. And He said unto him, "Make an ark (or, tabernacle) of wood that cannot be eaten by worms, and overlay it with pure gold. And thou shalt place therein the Word of the Law, which is the Covenant that I have written with Mine own fingers, that they may keep My law, the Two Tables of the Covenant." Now the heavenly and spiritual [original] within it is of divers colours, and the work thereof is marvellous, and it resembleth jasper, and the sparkling stone, and the topaz, and the hyacinthine stone (?), and the crystal, and the light, and it catcheth the eye by force, and it astonisheth the mind and stupefieth it with wonder; it was made by the mind of God and not by the hand of the artificer, man, but He Himself created it for the habitation of His glory. And it is a spiritual thing and is full of compassion; it is a heavenly thing and is full of light; it is a thing of freedom and a habitation of the Godhead, Whose habitation is in heaven, and Whose place of movement is on the earth, and it dwelleth with men and with the angels, a city of salvation for men, and for the Holy Spirit a habitation. And within it are a GOMOR of gold [containing] a measure of the manna which came down from heaven; and the rod of AARON which sprouted after it had become withered though no one watered it with water, and one had broken it in two places, and it became three rods being [originally only] one rod.
And MOSES covered [the Ark] with pure gold, and he made for it poles wherewith to carry it and rings [in which to place them], and they carried it before the people until they brought it into the land of [their] inheritance, which is JERUSALEM, the City of ZION. And when they were crossing the JORDAN and the priests were carrying it, the waters stood upright like a wall until all the people had passed over, and after all the people had passed over the priests passed over bearing the Ark, and they set it down in the city of JUDAH, the land of [their] inheritance. And prophets were appointed over the children of ISRAEL in the Tabernacle of Testimony, and the priests wore the ephod, so that they might minister to the Tabernacle of Testimony, and the high priests offered up offerings, so that they might obtain remission of their own sins and of the sins of the people likewise.
(Kebra Nagast; Chapter 17, Concerning the Glory of ZION) (Emphasis added)

The Ark was made to house the Ten Commandments more correctly called The Decalogue or The Law that G-d gave to Moses. It is extremely enlightening to rip the word Decalogue to its roots. The roots of the word are traced from Greek and the prefix "deca" means ten. The suffix "logue" is from the root word "logos", meaning word. Therefore, Decalogue means the Ten Words. The Ark was made at Horeb near Mount Horeb and the name Horeb means "the desert or mountain of the dried-up ground." Generally, the region is called Horeb and the mountain is called Mount Horeb. The mountain was located in the land of Midian, a portion of present-day Arabia.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it. 10 And they shall make an ark of acacia-wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. 12 And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four feet thereof; and two rings shall be on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 And thou shalt make staves of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 And thou shalt put the staves into the rings on the sides of the ark, wherewith to bear the ark. 15 The staves shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. 17 And thou shalt make an ark-cover of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold; of beaten work shalt thou make them, at the two ends of the ark-cover. 19 And make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end; of one piece with the ark-cover shall ye make the cherubim of the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, screening the ark-cover with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And thou shalt put the ark-cover above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. 23 And thou shalt make a table of acacia-wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. (JPS)

Bezalel and Oholiab

Bezalel, an Israelite craftsman miraculously endowed with special skill, wisdom and knowledge built the ark and other items of the tabernacle such as the altar. (Exodus 35:30 - Exodus 37:9) Other Israelite craftsmen including Oholiab were chosen to help with other fixtures of the tabernacle. Oholiab was especially skilled in textiles.

Exodus 35:30 And Moses said unto the children of Israel: 'See, the Lord hath called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 31 And He hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship. 32 And to devise skilful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 33 and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of skilful workmanship. 34 And He hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 Them hath He filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of workmanship, of the craftsman, and of the skilful workman, and of the weaver in colours, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any workmanship, and of those that devise skilful works. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Physical Details

The underlying structure of the Ark was made of acacia wood and its dimensions were 2½ cubits long by 1½ cubits wide by 1½ cubits high. The common cubit was a unit of length derived from the distance of an ancient man's forearm from the elbow to the fingertip with the hand held straight inline. The unit is about 18 inches (457.2mm) long, so this made a rectilinear box about 45" X 27" X 27" or 1143mm X 686mm X 686mm. The box-structure was overlaid with pure gold, both inside and out, and it had gold moldings around it with gold rings near the feet through which poles were placed to carry it. The poles were also made of acacia wood, and likewise, they were overlaid with gold. They were never to be removed from the Ark after it was completed. The bottom portion of the Ark consisted of a box-structure that was open on top.

Acacia wood is a beautiful, dense wood that comes from very fragrant and drought-resistant acacia trees that are indigenous to Africa and Arabia. In Israel, the range of the specie diminishes beyond the Negev. It is known in Hebrew as the shittah or shittum tree. Its wood is a finely grained orange wood that darkens with age and it is unaffected by insects. It is the source of natural-gum Arabic and also provides tannin.

After the ark was completed, Moses placed the testimony inside it and then G-d dwelt in between the two cherubim. From there, he spoke directly with the Israelites. It is important to note that G-d did indeed physically and literally dwell at the Ark.

Exodus 25:21 And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above on the ark, and shalt put in the ark the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there will I meet with thee, and will speak with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, everything that I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (Darby)
(Emphasis added)
Exodus 25:21 And thou shalt put the ark-cover above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan - J. James Tissot

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan - J. James Tissot
NOTE: The Ark of the Covenant did not actually look exactly like this,
but may have had an appearance somewhat on this idea.
Furthermore, the Ark had to be covered with veils
before it could be transported by the Kohathites.

The Kapparah

The closure or lid for the Ark of the Covenant was made of solid gold and it was called the mercy-seat, atonement cover, ark-cover or kapparah. "Kapparah" is the Hebrew word for this. This word is from the same root as the word for atonement; this point, the parallelism between atonement and this kapparah as well as the generic concept of covering is exceedingly important. In fact, in Hebrew the word Kapparah or covering and the idea of atonement are more-or-less synonymous.

The way that the kapparah works is that it literally covers The Law to avert judgment for those whose sins are to be forgiven. Through the mercy-seat some obtain mercy. The kapparah is the provision for mercy. The propitiation afforded through the kapparah relied in part upon sacrifice. In other words, the kapparah shields the transgressor from The Law housed inside the Ark. The penalty for transgressing any part of The Decalogue was death. Nearly everyone that ever lived was guilty of transgressing The Decalogue so it is highly probable that simply viewing the stone tables without proper remediation would automatically result in instant death. The mechanics of the kapparah appear many times in passages such as Psalm 32:1-2.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (NIV) (Emphasis added)
Atonement
The setting at one, or reconciliation, of two estranged parties-translation used in the Authorized Version for "kapparah," "kippurim." The root ("kipper"), to make atonement, is explained by W. Robertson Smith ("Old Testament in the Jewish Church," i. 439), after the Syriac, as meaning "to wipe out." This is also the view taken by Zimmern ("Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Babylonischen Religion," 1899, p. 92), who claims Babylonian origin for both the term and the rite. Wellhausen ("Composition des Hextateuchs," p. 335) translates "kapparah" as if derived from "kapper" (to cover). The verb, however, seems to be a derivative from the noun "kofer" (ransom) and to have meant originally "to atone."
(Jewish Encyclopedia, Atonement; by Kaufmann Kohler)
Original Meaning
Just as by old Teutonic custom the owner of a man or beast that had been killed was to be pacified by the covering up of the corpse with grain or gold ("Wergeld") by the offender (Grimm, "Deutsche Rechts-Alterthümer," p. 740), so Abimelech gives to Abraham a thousand pieces of silver as a "covering of the eyes," in order that his wrongdoing may be over-looked (Gen. xx. 16, R. V.; A. V., incorrectly "he" for "it"). "Of whose hand have I received any [kofer] bribe [A. V., "taken a ransom"] to blind my eyes therewith?" says Samuel (I Sam. xii. 3)
(Jewish Encyclopedia, Atonement; by Kaufmann Kohler)
Kofer
"Kofer" was the legal term for the propitiatory gift or ransom in case a man was killed by a goring ox: "If there be laid on him a [kofer] ransom [A. V., inaccurately, "a sum of money"] (Ex. xxi. 30); but this "kofer nefesh" (ransom for the life) was not accepted in the case of murder (Num. xxxv. 31, 32). The dishonored husband "will not regard any ransom" ("kofer"; Prov. vi. 35). No man can give a kofer for his brother to ransom him from impending death (Ps. xlix. 8, Hebr.; A. V. 7). At the taking of the census "they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord . . . half a shekel" (Ex. xxx. 12, Hebr.). Similarly, Jacob, in order to make his peace with his brother Esau, says, "I will appease ["akapperah"] his [angry] face with the present" (Gen. xxxii. 21, Hebr. [A. V. 20]); that is, "I will offer a kofer." When the blood of the murdered Gibeonites cries to heaven for vengeance, David says: "Wherewith shall I make atonement ["bammah akapper"]?" that is, "With what kind of kofer shall I make atonement?" (II Sam. xxi. 3). "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will [by some propitiatory offering or kofer] pacify it" (Prov. xvi. 14). Every sacrifice may be considered thus as a kofer, in the original sense a propitiatory gift; and its purpose is to "make atonement ["le kapper"] for the people" (Lev. ix. 7, x. 17).
(Jewish Encyclopedia, Atonement; by Kaufmann Kohler)

It was necessary that some of the blood of certain sacrifices be placed upon the mercy-seat in order for atonement to be accomplished.

It is highly probable that the stone tables were housed inside the Ark simply to protect people from the penalty of death that automatically occurs and results from viewing the Decalogue. If one considers the essence of the Decalogue, it is apparent that the Ten Words could be considered the face of the document of The Law. In fact, lawyers frequently refer to the substance or text of their documents by the term "face." The Law or Decalogue inscribed into the face of the stone tables automatically brings death without atonement. It is also relevant -- and certainly not a coincidence -- that no one can look upon G-d's face and live.

Exodus 33:17 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken, for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name.' 18 And he said: 'Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory.' 19 And He said: 'I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.' 20 And He said: 'Thou canst not see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Additionally, two cherubim were made of hammered gold and placed at either end of the cover as an integral part of it. The cherubim faced each other and their wings spread upwards - toward the center - somewhat in roof-like fashion.

The Throne of G-d

The Ark of the Covenant is actually the throne of G-d. G-d projected no image or form during this period, so the Ark was the principal physical manifestation of Him. Certain people such as Moses could always converse directly with G-d at the Ark, but generally it was not possible for others to enter His presence and that is to say enter the presence of the Ark. It is not appropriate to say that the Aron was a symbol of G-d's presence because it was much more than that, it was the throne of G-d. G-d literally dwelt between the two cherubim that were on either end of the Ark and would meet with people above the mercy-seat. If one wished to ascertain His actual dwelling place during this period, that person would need to think inside the box. While this much is certain, one must also remember that G-d is omnipresent and a multiple entity. The omnipresent aspects of G-d are also important to keep in mind because the Ark is additionally referred to as His footstool. It is significant that the Ark is rarely called the throne of G-d, but rather, scripture frequently states that He was enthroned there or that it was His dwelling place. Obviously, He would be enthroned upon a throne.

Joshua 3:10 And Joshua said: 'Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Hivite, and the Perizzite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Jebusite. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the L-rd of all the earth passeth on before you over the Jordan. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

There are many clear mentions that G-d dwelt in between the two cherubim as well as the fact that He dwells above the earth.

Deuteronomy 4:39 know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. (NIV)
(Emphasis added)

The Ark is Called G-d

Notwithstanding the point that G-d had no discernible image or form during this period, in some cases the Ark is actually called G-d in scripture. This was no doubt due to the fact that one with a position enabling them to approach the Ark could always enter into His presence and find Him above the mercy-seat. Although the Ark is at times called G-d, the Ark is certainly not G-d; but rather, the Ark was the throne of G-d.

2 Samuel 6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him, from Baale-judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whereupon is called the Name, even the name of the Lord of hosts that sitteth upon the cherubim. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
2 Samuel 6:2 And David arose and went with all the people that were with him from Baale-Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God which is called by the name, the name of Jehovah of hosts who sitteth between the cherubim. (Darby) (Emphasis added)

Exclusive Possession of G-d

Throughout scripture the Ark was G-d's exclusive possession as were all of the things of the tabernacle and House of Meeting. While we know that everything belongs to G-d, the tabernacle and all of its items belonged solely to G-d. The Levites had possessions in the temple in a way, but G-d was actually their only possession. Their livelihoods were derived from G-d's bounty and they had no inheritance in the land. The importance of this is that it establishes that the materials of the temple and the temple itself were the exclusive possessions of G-d. None of these things were part of the royal treasures or the property of any man or king although nearly everything else in the land was.

Deuteronomy 18:1 The priests the Levites, even all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His inheritance. 2 And they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance, as He hath spoken unto them. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Glory of the L-rd, Chabod or Shekhinah

Another phenomenon that was closely associated with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant was the Glory of the L-rd or Chabod and this component is also known as the Shekhinah. The term Shekhinah was coined long after the Tanach was written and it never appears in original Hebrew scriptural texts, but it does occur in the Talmud, the Midrash and the Kabbalah. Some scholars allege that the word "Shekhinah" is actually a Chaldean or Babylonian term meaning "resting-place." There are many variations in spelling of the word Shekhinah such as Shechinah, Shchinah, Shekinah, Shekhina as well as a plethora of others. The author makes no assertion that the spelling used and preferred here is any more correct than alternate spellings some of which may be more common. Chabod also has spelling variations such as Kabod and Chabad.

In some cases, translators of various versions of scripture into various languages such as Aramaic have employed the word "Shekhinah" haphazardly, thereby inadvertently greatly muddling meaning and understanding. For example, the word "dwell" is sometimes rendered "let the Shekhinah rest" in Aramaic, whereas some translators render the name "Elohim" to "Shekhinah." Alternatively, the word "Shekhinah" is employed to denote "the presence of the L-rd" in some instances; furthermore, at times it has been stated that "the Shekhinah rested" on specific humans such as Moses. In additional uses "THE NAME" or "YHWH" has even been rendered to "Shekhinah." Additional instances where the word "Shekhinah" has been substituted aimlessly for words actually appearing in original Hebrew texts include "Memra" which equals "word" or "logos" and "Yekara" which equals "Chabod" or "glory" (see Ichabod, 1 Samuel 4:21). It should be evident that the word "Shekhinah" cannot possibly be applied correctly in all of these varied applications. Obviously, in light of these facts the word "Shekhinah" has taken on errors of greater proportion than Jewish scholars attribute to the transliteration of the word "Jehovah."

There is a Hebrew term of relatively clear meaning for the Glory of the L-rd, that being Chabod. Chabod has variants such as Ichabod meaning that the glory is departed, sometimes written I-chabod or I-kabod. Therefore, Chabod actually occurs in scripture and has relatively clear meaning for the Glory of the L-rd. Consequently, the terms "Chabod" or "Glory of the L-rd" will be used here.

1 Samuel 4:15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were set, that he could not see. 16 And the man said unto Eli: 'I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to-day out of the army.' And he said: 'How went the matter, my son?' 17 And he that brought the tidings answered and said: 'Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.' 18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off his seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck broke, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years. 19 And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered; and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and brought forth; for her pains came suddenly upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her: 'Fear not; for thou hast brought forth a son.' But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying: 'The glory is departed from Israel'; because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said: 'The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.' (JPS) (Eemphasis added)

It is evident that considerable misunderstanding exists concerning the Glory of the L-rd or Chabod. Some incorrectly perceive that the term Shekhinah refers to the Holy Spirit, a feminine aspect of G-d or even a separate a female deity. The Glory of the L-rd is not the Holy Spirit and some might wish to consider that the most conspicuous mention of any form or visual manifestation of the Holy Spirit consists of its appearance as a dove.

Luke 3:21 And it came to pass, all the people having been baptised, and Jesus having been baptised and praying, that the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon him; and a voice came out of heaven, *Thou* art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight. (Darby) (Emphasis added)

It is apparent that the term Shekhinah has inaccurately taken on some supernatural personification aspects independent of both G-d and scripture among some mostly non-Jewish groups. In consideration of the indistinct and muddled rendering of the word Shekhinah, the Holy Spirit suggests that it would be best to resume with terms that actually appear in scripture -- thereby completely abandoning the use of the term Shekhinah. The terms Glory of the L-rd or Chabod actually occur in scripture.

It is important to be aware of the fact that the term "glory" necessarily means light - that is to say - something that is luminous. This is a key and crucial point, that the Chabod or Glory of the L-rd is light.

Chabod or Shekhinah
In the Apocrypha and New Testament
Since the Shekinah is light, those passages of the Apocrypha and New Testament which mention radiance, and in which the Greek text reads δόξα, refer to the Shekinah, there being no other Greek equivalent for the word. Thus, according to Luke ii. 9, "the glory of the Lord [δόζα Ḳuρĺou] shone round about them" (comp. II Peter i. 17; Eph. i. 6; II Cor. iv. 6); and it is supposed that in John i. 14 and Rev. xxi. 3 the words σκηνοũν and σκηνή were expressly selected as implying the Shekinah. The idea that God dwells in man and that man is His temple (e.g., Col. ii. 9; II Cor. vi. 16; John xiv. 23) is merely a more realistic conception of the resting of the Shekinah on man.
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Shekinah; by Kaufmann Kohler and Ludwig Blau) (Emphasis added)
Nature of the Shekinah Maimonides ("Moreh," i. 28 [Munk's translation, "Guide des Egarés," i. 58, 73, 88, 286, 288; iii. 43, 93]; Maybaum, l.c. pp. 5, 34) regarded the Shekinah, like the Memra, the Yekara, and the Logos, as a distinct entity, and as a light created to be an intermediary between God and the world;……
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Shekinah; by Kaufmann Kohler and Ludwig Blau) (Emphasis added)
The Shekinah as Light
The Hellenists, both Jews and Gentiles, characterized the god of the Jews as unseen, and translated the Tetragrammaton by "invisible" (àóρατος). In like manner Hag. 5b declares that "God sees, but is not seen," although כּכנל was rendered by δόζα ("glory"), even in the Septuagint (Deissmann, "Hellenisirung des Semitischen Monotheismus," p. 5). According to this view, the Shekinah appeared as physical light; so that Targ. to Num. vi. 2 says, "Yhwh shall cause His Shekinah to shine for thee." A Gentile asked the patriarch Gamaliel (c. 100): "Thou sayest that wherever ten are gathered together the Shekinah appears; how many are there?" Gamaliel answered: "As the sun, which is but one of the countless servants of God, giveth light to all the world, so in a much greater degree doth the Shekinah" (Sanh. 39a). The emperor (Hadrian) said to Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah, "I desire greatly to see thy God." Joshua requested him to stand facing the brilliant summer sun, and said, "Gaze upon it." The emperor said, "I can not." "Then," said Joshua, "if thou art not able to look upon a servant of God, how much less mayest thou gaze upon the Shekinah?"(Hul. 60a). Rab Sheshet (c. 300) was blind, and could not perceive when the Shekinah appeared in the Shaf we-Yatib synagogue of Nehardea, where it rested when it was not in the synagogue at Huzal. In the former synagogue Samuel and Levi heard the sound of its approach and fled (Meg. 29a). The Shekinah tinkled like a bell (Sotah 9b), while the Holy Spirit also manifested itself to human senses in light and sound. The Holy Spirit had the form of a dove, and the Shekinah had wings. Thus he who acknowledged God took refuge under the wings of the Shekinah (Shab. 31a; Sanh. 96a); and Moses when dead lay in its pinions (Sifre, Deut. 355; Sotah 13b; Targumic passages in Maybaum l.c. p. 65). The saints enjoy the light of the Shekinah in heaven (Ber. 17a, 64a; Shab. 30a; B. B. 10a).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Shekinah; by Kaufmann Kohler and Ludwig Blau) (Emphasis added)

The Chabod was a visible manifestation of G-d and it is important to bear in mind the fact that G-d took no discernable form in the pre-Horeb period. That He took no form is to say He had no discernable physical body; that is to say - He was not in the form of a man at that point. The Glory of the L-rd frequently accompanies G-d's presence and is something very similar to - but not exactly - plasma. Plasma could be described as a cloud of luminosity. Apparently, G-d can appear without the Chabod. While plasma visually has cloud-like characteristics, the clouds frequently noted as being clouds and the Glory of the L-rd are very separate things although at times the plasma-like material is noted as being a cloud.

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God. (JPS)

The Chabod is also similar to but not exactly the same as the aurorae that sometimes appear at the polar regions of the Earth. While these luminous phenomena do have some cloud-like characteristics, they are obviously not the same as actual clouds of moisture that did frequently, but not always, accompany the presence of the Chabod. The Hebrew word rendered into English as "cloud" actually means "a covering" derived from the aspect of clouds of water vapor covering the sky. In fact, most specific mentions of the Glory of the L-rd pertain to the appearances of fire. Appreciate that flames do occupy a physical space and are visually similar to luminous clouds.

Psalm 19:1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David. 2 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork;(JPS)
(Emphasis added)

The following passage refers to G-d's actual appearance atop Mount Horeb during the Exodus.

Exodus 24:9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet the like of a paved work of sapphire stone, and the like of the very heaven for clearness. 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; and they beheld God, and did eat and drink. 12 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Come up to Me into the mount and be there; and I will give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment, which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.' 13 And Moses rose up, and Joshua his minister; and Moses went up into the mount of God. 14 And unto the elders he said: 'Tarry ye here for us, until we come back unto you; and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whosoever hath a cause, let him come near unto them.' 15 And Moses went up into the mount, and the cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses entered into the midst of the cloud, and went up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Deuteronomy 4:12 And the Lord spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

It does necessarily follow, therefore, that the luminous Chabod is distinct from the actual clouds or pillar of cloud that frequently accompanied the manifestations of the Chabod. The description of the specific appearance of the Chabod is that of fire, the simplest form of luminosity. A cloud of moisture was frequently employed in varying degrees to shield viewers from the overwhelming aspects of the Chabod. The cloud probably also served to make the Chabod more glorious by contrasting the luminosity against a dark background. Furthermore, the pillars of cloud and fire that accompanied the Israelites during the Exodus are independent and distinct from the Chabod. These phenomena, the pillar of cloud, the pillar of fire, the Chabod and the clouds of moisture that frequently accompanied it are quite distinct and separate.

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God. (JPS)

For example, if one reads the following passage very carefully, a person operating under that condition will observe that the cloud covered the tent of meeting while the Glory of the L-rd filled the tabernacle. Therefore, it should be evident that this denotes a separation of the two by the tent. The Chabod was inside the tabernacle while the cloud was outside it. There are several other passages recording this distinction sprinkled throughout the Torah.

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.-- 36 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 29:43 And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and the Tent shall be sanctified by My glory. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

It is important to take notice of some of the finer points that are revealed in Exodus 40:34-35 above. Notice again the clear delineation between the cloud positioned outside the tent and the Glory of the L-rd filling the inside. It is also a crucial point to take notice of the fact that there is no mention of darkness filling the tabernacle. If the Chabod were luminous as has been clearly established, then obviously the tabernacle would have been filled with light, not darkness. The prophet Ezekiel augments this point with conclusive eyewitness evidence.

Ezekiel 43:1 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east; 2 and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east; and His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth did shine with His glory. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Ezekiel 43:2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. (NIV) (Emphasis added)
Ezekiel 44:4 Then he brought me the way of the north gate before the house; and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell upon my face. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

In Exodus 16:10 below, observe that the Glory of the L-rd appeared in the cloud thereby denoting that the glory is separate from this particular cloud.

Exodus 16:10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spoke unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

In Exodus 24:15 et seq. below, a bit more specificity is extant about the distinction between the cloud that is not the pillar cloud and the Chabod. One should observe that the Glory of the L-rd had the appearance of fire while a cloud is also present.

Exodus 24:15 And Moses went up into the mount, and the cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses entered into the midst of the cloud, and went up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Numbers 17:7 And it came to pass, when the congregation was assembled against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting; and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Therefore, it is obvious that the cloud is discrete from the Chabod. In fact, the cloud was frequently employed to shield people from the Glory of the L-rd. However, one could notice many instances where the L-rd appeared in, was covered with, or came down in a cloud. That is to say that clouds of water vapor could accompany the Chabod. From Psalm 18:12 below, it can be clearly determined that these clouds that frequently accompanied the appearance of the Chabod were composed of moisture, clouds of the skies.

Psalm 18:12 He made darkness His hiding-place, His pavilion round about Him; darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. 13 At the brightness before Him, there passed through His thick clouds hailstones and coals of fire. 14 the Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High gave forth His voice; hailstones and coals of fire. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

If one entered into the presence of the Chabod those individuals that survived could become radiant as in the case of Moses. Therefore, some of the Chabod could rub-off onto certain individuals, so to speak.

Exodus 34:29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not that the skin of his face sent forth beams while He talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face sent forth beams; and they were afraid to come nigh him. 31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the Lord that He might speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out; and spoke unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face sent forth beams; and Moses put the veil back upon his face, until he went in to speak with Him. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Glory of the L-rd was independent of the Ark and could move about on its own. Most frequently, it appeared over the Ark, His throne. The Glory of the L-rd was a visible manifestation of G-d during this period. Certainly it had no distinct form and this is a key point to the manifestation of G-d during this period. He had no image or form whatsoever - only the manifestation of the glory.

Deuteronomy 4:12 And the Lord spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The aspect of the Glory of the L-rd that is most important for this investigation into the fate of the Aron is simply its visual appearance as light and the fact that it is necessarily luminous. The Chabod is so luminous that it was usually necessary for G-d to shield people from it with thick clouds. By contemporary dictionary definition such as Merriam-Webster's, the word "glory" denotes a spot or ring of light as in an aureole, corona or halo.

There are not many extremely detailed descriptions of the Glory of the L-rd in the Torah, but Ezekiel relates a thorough description of it during the daytime. He describes the appearance of a cloud with luminosity about it. He mentions a golden luminosity within the phenomenon with the appearance of fire and lightning.

Ezekiel 1:4 And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire flashing up, so that a brightness was round about it; and out of the midst thereof as the colour of electrum, out of the midst of the fire. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
(Electrum is a naturally occurring pale yellow alloy of gold and silver)
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying, *This* is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight: hear him. (Darby)
(Emphasis added)
Matthew 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the land lament, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Darby) (Emphasis added)

The Pillars

Additional phenomena that led the Israelites during their journey out of Egypt included the pillars of cloud and fire. The pillar of cloud provided shade during the day and the pillar of fire provided illumination at night. In at least one case the two pillars appeared simultaneously. The pillars of cloud and fire have become confused with the Chabod, but they are actually quite distinct and separate. Part of the reason for this confusion is that the L-rd did appear in the pillar of cloud on several occasions, but it is important for the purpose here to assimilate the fact that these pillars were independent of the Glory of the L-rd. While the pillars generally led the way through the wilderness, in some cases it was the Ark that led the way.

Numbers 9:15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony; and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning. 16 So it was alway: the cloud covered it, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. 18 At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they encamped: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they remained encamped. 19 And when the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. 20 And sometimes the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they remained encamped, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. 21 And sometimes the cloud was from evening until morning; and when the cloud was taken up in the morning, they journeyed; or if it continued by day and by night, when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22 Whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, abiding thereon, the children of Israel remained encamped, and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23 At the commandment of the Lord they encamped, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)
Numbers 10:33 And they set forward from the mount of the Lord three days' journey; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting-place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, when they set forward from the camp. 35 And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said: 'Rise up, O the Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.' 36 And when it rested, he said: 'Return, O the Lord, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Nature of the Pillars

Exodus 23:20 Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Take heed of him, and hearken unto his voice; be not rebellious against him; for he will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed hearken unto his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23 For Mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; and I will cut them off. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 23:27 "I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run". (NIV) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud removed from before them, and stood behind them; 20 and it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud and the darkness here, yet gave it light by night there; and the one came not near the other all the night. 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Kebra Nagast contains supporting information about this. There are some anomalies in the vocabulary of the Ethiopic text in that the Ark of the Covenant is routinely referred to as Zion or the Tabernacle of the Law of God. Nevertheless, this ancient text provides some clarifying information.

It seems that at that point, G-d said, "very well, I will give it to them." By the way, the Ethiopians maintain that they keep the Ark in accordance with G-d's precepts and have done so all of these years, a position that is supported by scripture.

Kebra Nagast 48. How they carried away Zion
And behold, the Angel of the Lord appeared again to AZÂRYÂS (Azariah) and he stood up above him like a pillar of fire, and he filled the house with his light. And he raised up AZÂRYÂS and said unto him, "Stand up, be strong, and rouse up thy brother ÊLMEYÂS, and 'ABESÂ, and MÂKARÎ, and take the pieces of wood and I will open for thee the doors of the sanctuary. And take thou the Tabernacle of the Law of God, and thou shalt carry it without trouble and discomfort. And I, inasmuch as I have been commanded by God to be with it for ever, will be thy guide when thou shalt carry it away."
(Kebra Nagast; 48. How they carried away Zion) (Emphasis added)
Kebra Nagast 52. How Zadok the Priest Departed
And they loaded the wagons, and the horses, and the mules in order to depart, and they set out on their journey prosperously, and they continued to travel on. And MICHAEL the [Arch] Angel marched in front, and he spread out [his wings] and made them to march through the sea as upon dry land, and upon the dry land he cut a path for them and spreading himself out like a cloud over them he hid them from the fiery heat of the sun. And as for their wagons, no man hauled his wagon, but he himself (i.e., MICHAEL) marched with the wagons, and whether it was men, or horses, or mules, or loaded camels, each was raised above the ground to the height of a cubit; and all those who rode upon beasts were lifted up above their backs to the height of one span of a man, and all the various kinds of baggage which were loaded on the beasts, as well as those who were mounted on them, were raised up to the height of one span of a man, and the beasts were lifted up to the height of one span of a man. And every one travelled in the wagons like a ship on the sea when the wind bloweth, and like a bat through the air when the desire of his belly urgeth him to devour his companions, and like an eagle when his body glideth above the wind. Thus did they travel; there was none in front and none behind, and they were disturbed neither on the right hand nor on the left.
(Kebra Nagast; 52. How Zadok the Priest Departed) (Emphasis added)

It should be apparent that the Glory of the L-rd had the appearance of fire. It should also be apparent that the pillar of cloud had the appearance of cloud during the daytime. Furthermore, the pillar of cloud did appear at night at one point and probably provided impenetrable darkness throwing the Egyptians into total immobility. The following passage does not specifically mention a cloud, but it does tend to explain the events of Exodus 14:19 et seq. above.

Exodus 10:20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go. 21 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Stretch out thy hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.' 22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; 23 they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Therefore, it should be apparent that the Chabod and the pillar of cloud are distinctly different entities. Since the Chabod did indeed appear during the day, it is also evident that the pillar of fire is not the Glory of the L-rd since the pillar only appeared at night.

Oracle

There are numerous accounts of the Ark of the Covenant being used as an oracle where one could go before it and ask important questions of G-d. He would answer from the Ark because He literally dwelt in between the two cherubim. In some instances, the use of the Ark as an oracle is clear while in others it is not. In the cases where it is not so clear one might see the phrase, "let us inquire of the L-rd," and so on. In the event that this phrase appears, the exact details of what is meant must be derived from the context of the passage because the Urim and Thummim still existed during most of this period.

Exodus 28:29 And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. 30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Urim and Thummim was another method of inquiring of the L-rd and this technique is sometimes called inquiring by ephod, because the Urim and Thummim were attached to the ephod. The ephod was an article of clothing loosely similar to a vest worn by the priests. There are cases where someone that was not a priest wore an ephod.

The exact nature of the Urim and Thummim are unknown today, The exact nature of the Urim and Thummim are unknown today, but the most prevalent view is that they might have been stones attached to the ephod that would illuminate to indicate G-d's answer. There are accounts of King David using the Urim and Thummim in the field during military conquests (1 Samuel 30:7), so it is clear that it was unnecessary to be in the tabernacle to inquire of the L-rd by ephod. King David's predecessor, King Saul, also made frequent use of the ephod in the field. It is significant that after the death of King David, there is no further mention of consulting the L-rd by means of the Urim and Thummim or ephod. It is not clear exactly when they disappeared. Jewish tradition maintains that they vanished with the destruction of the first temple; however, it seems highly likely that they vanished during King Solomon's reign because there is no further mention of their use in narrative scripture after the reign of King David.

1 Samuel 30:7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech: 'I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod.' And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 8 And David inquired of the Lord, saying: 'Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?' And He answered him: 'Pursue; for thou shalt surely overtake them, and shalt without fail recover all.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Notwithstanding the existence of the Urim and Thummim, there are still several clear instances of using the Ark as an oracle. Not everybody was able to inquire of the Ark because only certain people were allowed to approach it. This method of inquiring of the L-rd was used only for very important questions, except in the case of Moses. Moses could approach the Ark at any time and talk to G-d as one would a friend. There are many accounts of using the Ark as an oracle and the following passage of Exodus 25:21 records G-d's direct instructions to Moses.

Exodus 25:21 And thou shalt put the ark-cover above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Judges 20:27 And the children of Israel asked of the Lord--for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days--saying: 'Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?' And the Lord said: 'Go up; for to-morrow I will deliver him into thy hand.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Chronicles 13:3 and let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we inquired not of it in the days of Saul. (Darby) (Emphasis added)
1 Chronicles 14:10 And David inquired of God, saying: 'Shall I go up against the Philistines? and wilt Thou deliver them into my hand?' And the Lord said unto him: 'Go up; for I will deliver them into thy hand.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Samuel 3:2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place--now his eyes had begun to wax dim, that he could not see-- 3 and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was laid down to sleep in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, 4 that the Lord called Samuel; and he said: 'Here am I.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The inner sanctuary of the temple is also called an oracle in some translations the Old Testament. This inner sanctuary is also known as the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place. Since the Ark was located in the Holy of Holies It is likely that the Holy of Holies derived its other designation as an oracle from the presence of the Ark because G-d dwelt upon the Ark. In the following excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopedia, there is a description of this.

Oracle
Solomon worshiped before the Ark after the dream in which the Lord promised him wisdom (ib. iii. 15). In Solomon's Temple a Holy of Holies (Hebr. , A. V., "oracle") was prepared to receive the Ark (ib. vi. 19); and when the Temple was dedicated, the Ark, containing nothing but the two Mosaic tables of stone, was placed therein (ib. viii. 1-9; II Chron. v. 1-10).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Ark of the Covenant; by Morris Jastrow Jr., Charles J. Mendelsohn, Marcus Jastrow, Isaac Husik, Duncan B. McDonald, George A. Barton)
In Solomon's Temple the Holy of Holies formed a part of the house of Yhwh (I Kings vi. 1 et seq.), which was 60 cubits in length, 20 cubits in breadth, 30 cubits in height, and built of stone (Josephus, "Ant." viii. 3, § 2: "white marble"), and was divided into two sections by a partition of cedar-wood with a door covered by a costly curtain (Josephus, l.c. § 3; II Chron. iii. 14). The section farthest from the entrance, designated also as the "debir" (the "oracle" "the most holy place," I Kings vi. 5, R. V. margin), was 20 cubits high and presented the shape of a cube. The stone of this inner or hinder part, like the outer room, was completely hidden with cedar boards carved with knops or gourds and open flowers and then covered with pure gold. This room must have been without light. In it was placed the Ark (ib. vi. 18, 19).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Holy of Holies; by Emil G. Hirsch)

The following passages establish the facts that the ability to enter the Holy of Holies was limited to the high priest and the date of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur
Leviticus 16:1 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord, and died; 2 and the Lord said unto Moses: 'Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the ark-cover which is upon the ark; that he die not; for I appear in the cloud upon the ark-cover. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Leviticus 16:29 And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord. 31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Ark is Self-propelled

The Ark of the Covenant was able to move about on its own without the assistance of people and perhaps even literally walk. The Ark may have actually been given the breath of life and while there are no clear accounts of this, there are some suggestions that this might be the case. However, it is also possible that the Ark's living and mobile characteristics were simply derived from G-d's presence upon the Ark. Be aware that G-d could leave the Ark and move about independently. Whatever the case about the Ark's mobility and living characteristics, in several instances the Ark led the Israelites by moving in front of them while it propelled itself. The Ark propelled the entire entourage at times. In fact, the Ark bore its bearers and this fact is very important. The Ark necessarily had to bear its bearers because it was too far too heavy to carry. It is also evident that in a few instances it moved at very high speeds.

Numbers 10:33 And they set forward from the mount of the Lord three days' journey; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting-place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, when they set forward from the camp. 35 And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said: 'Rise up, O the Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.' 36 And when it rested, he said: 'Return, O the Lord, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Chronicles 15:25 So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obed-edom with joy. 26 And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they sacrificed seven bullocks and seven rams. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Estimated Weight of the Ark of the Covenant

There are extensive records about the physical characteristics of the Ark and some of these are included in the Tanakh and Talmud (See Baba Batra 14a, Sota 35a). Jewish Priests and other sources have attempted to estimate the weight of the Ark and its contents. According to this speculation, the Ark alone weighed something like 150-200 kilograms or 330-440 pounds. This figure does not include the two cherubim at either end and records indicate that the cherubim of the Ark were solid and not hollow. Nevertheless, the Tanakh contends that they were made of hammered work thereby heavily inferring that they were constructed of sheet metal. Be that as it may, if solid they are thought to have weighed thousands of kilos or pounds each. According to Levitical tradition, each stone table weighed 40 Se'ah and this quantity of this unit can be converted to about 500 kilograms or about 1100 pounds avoirdupois. Since there were two of these, their combined weight equals roughly 1000 kilograms or 2200 pounds. If one adds the estimated weight of the Ark by itself of 150-200 kilograms plus the estimated weight of the cherubim plus the weight of the stone tables, it immediately becomes clear that it was extremely heavy. Something extraordinary must have occurred to propel this object across the desert. The Talmudic saying for this is: "The Ark bore its bearers and passed."
(On the weight of the Ark see: Sefer Haparshiot, Eliyahu Kitov, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 159-160).

In consideration of this information, it becomes clear that men holding poles attached to it by solid gold rings could not simply have carried the Ark - nor could the poles withstand such forces. Keep in mind that while gold has certain properties for which it is unexcelled, it is not particularly strong and these rings would need to be exceptionally strong. Furthermore, each man would have to bear a weight greater than 226 kilograms or 500 pounds and this would have to be done for hours on end. Frankly, it is just not ordinarily possible for an ordinary man to carry that much weight for a lengthy time and the strongest of men are doing well to simply lift such a load for a few seconds.

There are references in scripture to the fact that the Ark was able to move about on its own and that it bore its bearers, some of which appear above. There are also historical records apart from the Bible supporting that the Ark could do this and The Kebra Nagast contains substantial descriptions of the Ark moving on its own.

Isaiah 46:1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols are upon the beasts, and upon the cattle; the things that ye carried about are made a load, a burden to the weary beast. 2 They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden; and themselves are gone into captivity. 3 Hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, that are borne by Me from the birth, that are carried from the womb: 4 Even to old age I am the same, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; yea, I will carry, and will deliver. 5 To whom will ye liken Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be like? (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The Veils

THE ARK PASSES THROUGH THE JORDAN - J. James TissotVeils were used to cover the Ark when it was moved outside the Holy of Holies and they are also important. The veils protected the people and the Levites assigned to carry it, the sons of Kohath, from the Ark. The Kohathites had the sole specific duty of carrying the Ark. There were three veils used to cover the Ark; also note that contained in this segment of scripture is the information that the Ark was at times called a sanctuary. This can be deduced clearly because the solitary duty of the Kohathites was to transport the Ark (Numbers 4:15 & 10:21).

Numbers 4:4 This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting, about the most holy things: 5 when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall go in, and his sons, and they shall take down the veil of the screen, and cover the ark of the testimony with it; 6 and shall put thereon a covering of sealskin, and shall spread over it a cloth all of blue, and shall set the staves thereof. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The first of these was also the veil of separation used in the tent tabernacle and it separated the holy place from the most holy place where the Ark was kept. Oholiab made this curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn of finely twisted linen with cherubim worked into it like fine embroidery (Exodus 26:31-32 & Exodus 38:23).

The second veil used to cover the Ark was probably made of animal hides. There is conflicting information about this item despite the fact that it has received a great deal of study. Since the research produced conflicting conclusions, it is impossible to determine its exact characteristics with certainty.

Most contemporary scholars believe it means the hides of the dugong and this animal is also known as the sea cow. Some scholars believe the confusing word refers to a color instead of an animal, but there is also confusion about what color it would be. The majority of researchers concluded that it would be violet. A theory based on the majority of research produces the idea that this was some type of hide from a marine animal dyed violet.

The final covering for the Ark was a blue cloth or "cloth wholly of blue." There is not much confusion about this particular covering.

Numbers 4:4 This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting, about the most holy things: 5 when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall go in, and his sons, and they shall take down the veil of the screen, and cover the ark of the testimony with it; 6 and shall put thereon a covering of sealskin, and shall spread over it a cloth all of blue, and shall set the staves thereof. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Numbers 4:15 And when Aaron and his sons have ended covering the sanctuary, and all the utensils of the sanctuary, when the camp setteth forward, then afterwards the sons of Kohath shall come to carry it; but they shall not touch the holy things, lest they die. This is what the sons of Kohath have to carry in the tent of meeting. (Darby) (Emphasis added)
Numbers 4:18 'Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; 19 but thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden; 20 but they shall not go in to see the holy things as they are being covered, lest they die.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Numbers 7:6 And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites. 7 Two wagons and four oxen he gave unto the sons of Gershon, according to their service. 8 And four wagons and eight oxen he gave unto the sons of Merari, according unto their service, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none, because the service of the holy things belonged unto them: they bore them upon their shoulders. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Numbers 10:21 And the Kohathites set forward bearing the sanctuary: and [the others] set up the tabernacle whilst they came. (Darby)
(Emphasis added)

It is worthwhile to assimilate the fact that the Ark is sometimes referred to as a sanctuary as in Numbers 4:15 and 10:21 because this information will be important later.

Untouchable

G-d whacks Uzzah - J. James TissotIt was not normally possible for anybody except Aaron and his descendants to touch the Ark of the Covenant or else they would die. This was at G-d's sole discretion, however, and there are instances where G-d did not strike down people that entered into the presence of the Ark or touched it even though their deaths would have been required through strict policy. It seems that ignorance with a pure heart was a great mitigator for those that transgressed the protocol of approaching the ark. According to the proper procedures, it was not enough to be a descendant of Aaron either, as these people had to be ceremonially clean and offer a sacrifice before entering into the presence of the ark. After the Ark settled into more permanent facilities, even the high priest was normally only allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies where the Ark was one time per year and that was on Yom Kippur, which is known in English as the Day of Atonement.

Numbers 4:15 And when Aaron and his sons have ended covering the sanctuary, and all the utensils of the sanctuary, when the camp setteth forward, then afterwards the sons of Kohath shall come to carry it; but they shall not touch the holy things, lest they die. This is what the sons of Kohath have to carry in the tent of meeting. (Darby) (Emphasis added)
2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

There were exceptions to this rule, like when they moved the Ark. It was examined earlier that in order to move the Ark it had to be wrapped in several layers of veil by either Aaron or one of his descendents before the Kohathites could touch it.

The Israelites had to be careful about the Ark because anybody that came near it had to be ceremonially clean in addition to the previous restrictions. It was best to keep some distance unless you were specifically charged with the duty of going near it. One will notice that Joshua instructed the people to sanctify themselves on the following occasion. Sanctify is another way of saying to purify or consecrate oneself.

Joshua 3:2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the midst of the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying: 'When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure; come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; for ye have not passed this way heretofore.' 5 And Joshua said unto the people: 'Sanctify yourselves; for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

In this instance, the narrative says that they were to allow 2000 cubits between the people and the Ark so that they would know the way. This would be roughly 3000 feet, 1000 yards, 0.5618 or about 9/16 US statute miles, 0.494 nautical miles, 4.55 furlongs, 182 rods, 45.5 Chains, 9000 hands, 0.914 kilometers, or 914 meters.

The Contents of the Ark of the Covenant

One of the principal purposes of the Ark of the Covenant was to house the Decalogue or Ten Commandments that G-d gave to Moses atop Mount Horeb. However, there were also other items placed into the Ark and in this section we will examine all of these in greater detail.

Decalogue or Ten Commandments

Bezalel made The Ark of the Covenant to house the Ten Commandments that G-d wrote on stone tables with His own finger. It is extremely important to be aware of the fact that these first tables themselves were also the work of G-d. Obviously, in this first case the stones themselves were not cut by hand. Stating this slightly differently one could say that they were stones not cut by hand. It is also significant that many rabbinical legends maintain that the stones were made of sapphire and the tables were optically clear or transparent rather than opaque. Unfortunately, Moses broke the first stone tables when he came down from the mountain (Exodus 32).

Exodus 24:9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet the like of a paved work of sapphire stone, and the like of the very heaven for clearness. 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; and they beheld God, and did eat and drink. 12 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Come up to Me into the mount and be there; and I will give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment, which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.' 13 And Moses rose up, and Joshua his minister; and Moses went up into the mount of God. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 24:12 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Come up to Me into the mount and be there; and I will give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment, which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 31:18 And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of speaking with him upon mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 32:15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand; tables that were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. 16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. 17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses: 'There is a noise of war in the camp.' 18 And he said: 'It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome, but the noise of them that sing do I hear.' 19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

In Exodus 34, Moses makes two new stone tables and takes them up the mountain where G-d writes the Ten Commandments again and Moses writes the beginnings of the book of the law (Exodus 34:1, 27-28).

Exodus 34:1 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which thou didst break. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 34:27 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.' 28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Why Two Tables?
In Rabbinical Literature:
The two tables furnish copious suggestions for amplifications and analogies. According to R. Berechiah, the tables were six handbreadths in length. In their delivery to Moses two handbreadths were held in the grasp of the Almighty, two constituted the distance between God and Moses, and two were seized by Moses (Ex. R. xxviii.). (Jewish Encyclopedia; Tables of the Law; by Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Bacher)
The Breaking of the Tables
As to the arrangement of the words, rabbinical opinions differ: according to some, five commandments were inscribed on one table and five on the other; according to others, each table contained the complete Decalogue (Cant. R. v. 14). Moses was able to carry the heavy tables because God helped him; but when God saw that the people were worshiping the Golden Calf, He withdrew His support; and this compelled Moses to cast the tables away. According to another version, the letters supported themselves as well as the stone in which they were encased; but, learning of Israel's lapse from grace, they flew back to heaven, and thus Moses was left, too feeble to carry the heavy burden. Again, the account is varied to introduce a struggle between God and Moses, or between Moses and the letters, Moses doing his utmost to save the tables from falling (Yer. Ta'an. iv.).

After all, it was well that the first tables were not delivered to Israel; for, having been written by the finger of God, they would have brought about the annihilation of every creature on account of their intense brightness (Tan., l.c.). As the first set had been given after loud proclamation and amid great pomp, the Evil Eye had control over the tables; therefore the second set was given quietly to teach the lesson of humility (ib.). The seventy elders, indeed, endeavored to prevent Moses from breaking the tables; but in the struggle Moses prevailed. He, knowing their contents, would not deliver them to the faithless Israelites lest he should entail punishment on them; but when the letters flew away Moses was forced to drop the tables. When Moses broke the tables God was wroth with him: "Hadst thou worried and labored to produce them, thou wouldest have been more careful"; therefore Moses was commanded to hew the second set, which was given on the Day of Atonement, in the afternoon (Yalk., Ex. 392). According to some, Moses did not cast away the first set until God had encouraged him, saying, "May thy strength increase because thou brakest the tables" (Ab. R. N. ii. 3; Yalk., Ex. 363, 740). The instrument by which the inscription was traced was God's third finger (Pirke R. El. xlviii.). Moses broke the first set on the 17th of Tammuz (ib. xlvi.).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Tables of the Law; by Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Bacher)

The Decalogue that was written by the finger of G-d is probably the reason that almost no one can approach the Ark of the Covenant because the law only condemns everyone and the penalty for breaking any of the commands is death. Later, scripture notes that if one is guilty of breaking any of the commands, they are guilty of breaking all of them. It is unlikely that anyone could even look at or touch the stone tables of The Law without being killed and this is probably why they were housed in the Ark. The Ark of the Covenant seems to have served as a shield from the Decalogue. It does not appear that anyone that touched the Decalogue after Moses placed it into the Ark lived to tell about it. There exists a case where people opened the Ark and gazed upon the tables thereby garnering mass slayings, a fact to be examined in further detail. It is also useful to note that the stone tables that the Ten Commandments are written on that are inside the Ark are sometimes referred to simply as the Decalogue, The Law, commands, commandments, testimony and covenant.

Deuteronomy 5:19 These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice, and it went on no more. And He wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them unto me. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
(Note: this verse appears as 5:22 in many other translations)
Deuteronomy 10:1 At that time the Lord said unto me: 'Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto Me into the mount; and make thee an ark of wood. 2 And I will write on the tables the words that were on the first tables which thou didst break, and thou shalt put them in the ark.' 3 So I made an ark of acacia-wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in my hand. 4 And He wrote on the tables according to the first writing, the ten words, which the Lord spoke unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them unto me. 5 And I turned and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

This would be a good point to review The Decalogue.

The Decalogue or Ten Commandments

  • Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me
  • Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; 6 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
  • Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
  • Exodus 20: 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; 11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  • Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  • Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not murder
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  • Thou shalt not steal.
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  • Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. (JPS)
Deuteronomy 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Deuteronomy 4:32 For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man on the earth, and from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens, whether there hath been anything as this great thing is, or if anything hath been heard like it? (Darby) (Emphasis added)

The Tanakh is divided into several sections and the first division is considered the most holy portions of scripture. This portion consists of the first five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. There are a number of names for this portion of texts and the first of these is simply Torah which means law. Torah can further refer to a collection of scripture that only contains those five books or Torah can refer to that particular portion of the entire Tanakh. Sometimes Torah is applied to the entire Tanakh, but most specifically it applies to the five the books of Moses. This particular segment of scripture is also sometimes called a Chumash as can be a small collection of scripture only comprised of those five books. This exact collection is also known as the Pentateuch. The following information contains some fascinating concepts about The Law, the Torah, the Chumash, the Pentateuch or the five books of Moses.

Torah
Preexistence of the Torah

The Torah is older than the world, for it existed either 947 generations (Zeb. 116a, and parallels) or 2,000 years (Gen. R. viii., and parallels; Weber, "Jüdische Theologie," p. 15) before the Creation. The original Pentateuch, therefore, like everything celestial, consisted of fire, being written in black letters of flame upon a white ground of fire (Yer. Shek. 49a, and parallels; Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," p. 156). God held counsel with it at the creation of the world, since it was wisdom itself (Tan., Bereshit, passim), and it was God's first revelation, in which He Himself took part. It was given in completeness for all time and for all mankind, so that no further revelation can be expected. It was given in the languages of all peoples; for the voice of the divine revelation was seventyfold (Weber, l.c. pp. 16-20; Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," pp. 84-100). It shines forever, and was transcribed by the scribes of the seventy peoples (Bacher, "Ag. Tan." ii. 203, 416), while everything found in the Prophets and the Hagiographa was already contained in the Torah (Ta'an. 9a), so that, if the Israelites had not sinned, only the five books of Moses would have been given them (Ned. 22b). As a matter of fact, the Prophets and the Hagiographa will be abrogated; but the Torah will remain forever (Yer. Meg. 70d). Every letter of it is a living creature. When Solomon took many wives, Deuteronomy threw himself before God and complained that Solomon wished to remove from the Pentateuch the yod of the word (Deut. xvii. 17), with which the prohibition of polygamy was spoken; and God replied: "Solomon and a thousand like him shall perish, but not one letter of the Torah shall be destroyed" (Lev. R. xix.; Yer. Sanh. 20c; Cant. R. 5, 11; comp. Bacher, l.c. ii. 123, note 5). The single letters were hypostatized, and were active even at the creation of the world (Bacher, l.c. i. 347), an idea which is probably derived from Gnostic speculation. The whole world is said to be only 1/3200 of the Torah ('Er. 21a).

Israel received this treasure only through suffering (Ber. 5a, and parallels), for the book and the sword came together from heaven, and Israel was obliged to choose between them (Sifre, Deut. 40, end; Bacher, l.c. ii. 402, note 5); and whosoever denies the heavenly origin of the Torah will lose the future life (Sanh. x. 1). This high esteem finds its expression in the rule that a copy of the Pentateuch is unlimited in value, and in the ordinance that the inhabitants of a city might oblige one another to procure scrolls of the Law (Tosef., B. M. iii. 24, xi. 23). The pious bequeathed a copy of the Torah to the synagogue (ib. B. K. ii. 3); and it was the duty of each one to make one for himself, while the honor paid the Bible greatly influenced the distribution of copies and led to the foundation of libraries (Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," pp. 84-97).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Torah; by Joseph Jacobs and Ludwig Blau) (Emphasis added)

One might wish to note that hypostatized means substantially existing or to attribute real identity to.

It is essential to cognize or become aware of the fact that in the purest sense the Decalogue is the Torah in the narrowest sense. There exists in rabbinical theory expressed in post-Talmudic literature and liturgy the correct notion that the Decalogue is the fountainhead that all other laws - or Torah - flow from.

Tables of the Law
In post-Talmudic literature and liturgy the Decalogue is also expounded and expanded as the fountainhead whence all other laws flow. Shebu'ot being the day of the revelation (Shab. 86a), this idea was prominently utilized in the piyyutim and Azharot for the holiday. Saadia adopts the numeration of the letters of the Decalogue given in Num. Rabbah xviii. as 613, a number likewise fixed by Nahshon Gaon ('Aruk, under ). Eliezer ben Nathan has the same number in the "Ma'arib" for Pentecost, Eleazar b. Judah the same in the "Sefer ha-Hayyim." In reality, the Decalogue contains 620 letters, the mnemotechnic word for which is ("crown"; "the Crown of the Law"), which number, according to its expounders, corresponds to the 613 Commandments, one for each letter, the seven others, auxiliary vowel-consonants, indicating the seven Noachian commandments (see beginning of "Bet" in the "Sha'ar ha-Otiyyot").
(Emphasis added) (Excerpt from The Jewish Encyclopedia; The Decalogue in Jewish Theology; by Kaufmann Kohler & Emil G. Hirsch)
The Decalogue Fundamental
Many "poetic" elaborations of the Decalogue are in existence, but the plan was also carried out by writers on legal matters (Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 95; Steinschneider, "Hebr. Bibl." vi. 125). The philosophical writers of the tenth to thirteenth centuries occasionally emphasized the fundamental nature of the Decalogue. Judah ha-Levi, in his "Cuzari" (ii. 28), remarks: "The root of knowledge was placed in the Ark, which is like the innermost chamber of the heart, and this [root] was the Ten Words and their derivatives; that is, the Torah." BaHya Ben Joseph, in his "Hobot ha-Lebabot," gate i., urges the importance of the Decalogue, and connecting therewith the Shema', construes the latter as laying down ten main principles corresponding to the Ten Words. Albo, in his "'Ikkarim" (iii. 26), develops in extenso the idea of the Decalogue's fundamentality, calling attention to the difference between the "words" on the first table as theological, and those on the second as ethical, both together covering the whole field of religion. Of Bible commentators following on the same line may be mentioned Rashi to Ex. xxiv. 12: "The first word of the Decalogue is the fountainhead of all." (Emphasis added) (Excerpt from The Jewish Encyclopedia; The Decalogue in Jewish Theology; by Kaufmann Kohler & Emil G. Hirsch)

A clear accounting of what happened to the first tables made entirely by G-d is lacking in the Tanakh. It is nonetheless possible to sort this out to some extent from scripture through logic. While it is possible that the first stone tables were taken back to heaven at one point as one legend maintains, it is certain that they were also placed into the Ark for a considerable period of time. However, it is certain that they did not remain there for all posterity although the slabs chiseled out by Moses are still in the Ark today. The following supporting evidence is of admittedly dubious nature but nonetheless contains certain elements of historical fact from ancient sources. The logical argument concluding that the fragments were indeed housed in the Ark for some time based solely upon accepted scripture is developed later.

The Tables in the Cabala
Both the second set and the fragments of the first were deposited in the Ark (Ber. 14b); and in connection with this the expression "fragments of the tables" came to be used to designate a learned man who in consequence of old age or infirmity had forgotten his learning, but to whom respect was nevertheless due. Similarly the phrase "the tables of the covenant" was employed to paraphrase "the heart of Rabbi" (Yer. Kil. ix. 32b, above).
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Tables of the Law; by Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Bacher) (Emphasis added)

Additional Contents of the Ark

At a later time, Aaron's staff that budded and a jar of manna were also placed into the Ark and these items will be important to the investigation later. The Tanakh does not specifically state that these items were placed into the Ark. However, the Apostle Paul states in the New Covenant Book of Hebrews that these items were indeed housed in the Ark.

While the accounts of these items state that they were placed before the Ark, the Tanakh does not specifically say that they were actually placed inside it. It is important to resolve this problem because of the literal way that scripture is being used in this investigation. There are Jewish records apart from the Bible that contend that these items were placed inside the Ark. Unfortunately, the only place in any Bible where it is specifically stated that these items were actually placed inside the Ark is in the New Covenant. While every effort has been made to avoid using that collection, it is not completely possible and the following passage from Hebrews serves to pin this detail down exactly. Since Hebrews was written by Paul, a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), there is a high degree of probability that this information was supported by historical Levitical records.

Hebrews 9:3 but after the second veil a tabernacle which is called Holy of holies, 4 having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant, covered round in every part with gold, in which [were] the golden pot that had the manna, and the rod of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tables of the covenant; 5 and above over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; concerning which it is not now [the time] to speak in detail. (Darby) (Emphasis added)

Aaron's Staff

The story of the staff that budded is found in Numbers 17 and this item was created as the result of a rebellion against Moses by Korah and some others. (Numbers 16) In order to establish G-d's choice of leaders, the head of each of the twelve tribes presented a staff with their name written on it. The staffs were cut from the branches of an almond tree. G-d caused the staff of the tribe He had chosen to sprout and bud overnight. The branch of Aaron's family not only sprouted and budded, but also it blossomed and produced almonds. The symbolic meaning of this item is G-d's choice of leaders.

Numbers 17:16 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 17 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of them rods, one for each fathers' house, of all their princes according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods; thou shalt write every man's name upon his rod. 18 And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi, for there shall be one rod for the head of their fathers' houses. 19 And thou shalt lay them up in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 20 And it shall come to pass, that the man whom I shall choose, his rod shall bud; and I will make to cease from Me the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you.' 21 And Moses spoke unto the children of Israel; and all their princes gave him rods, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. 22 And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tent of the testimony. 23 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. 24 And Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord unto all the children of Israel; and they looked, and took every man his rod. 25 And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept there, for a token against the rebellious children; that there may be made an end of their murmurings against Me, that they die not.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
(Note: This passage appears as Numbers 17:1-11 in most English translations)

Jar of Manna

The Gathering of the Manna - J. James TissotThe other item that was housed in the Ark of the Covenant was a jar of manna, sometimes referred to as a pot, and this vessel was made of gold. The purpose of this was that the manna (food) that miraculously fell nearly daily from heaven would be preserved for future generations as a witness of G-d's provision for Israel while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. G-d's provision for Israel is the symbolic meaning of this item.

Exodus 16:4 Then said the Lord unto Moses: 'Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or not. 5 And it shall come to pass on the sixth day that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 16:13 And it came to pass at even, that the quails came up, and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew round about the camp. 14 And when the layer of dew was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness a fine, scale-like thing, fine as the hoar-frost on the ground. 15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another: 'What is it?' --for they knew not what it was. And Moses said unto them: 'It is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. 16 This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded: Gather ye of it every man according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, shall ye take it, every man for them that are in his tent.' 17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered some more, some less. 18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. 19 And Moses said unto them: 'Let no man leave of it till the morning.' 20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and rotted; and Moses was wroth with them. 21 And they gathered it morning by morning, every man according to his eating; and as the sun waxed hot, it melted. 22 And it came to pass that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them: 'This is that which the Lord hath spoken: To-morrow is a solemn rest, a holy sabbath unto the Lord. Bake that which ye will bake, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and all that remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.' 24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade; and it did not rot, neither was there any worm therein. 25 And Moses said: 'Eat that to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto the Lord; to-day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Exodus 16:31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna; and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 And Moses said: 'This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded: Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.' 33 And Moses said unto Aaron: 'Take a jar, and put an omerful of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.' 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35 And the children of Israel did eat the manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat the manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Significant Historical Events of the Ark of the Covenant

Several momentous events involving the Ark of the Covenant establish some fundamental principles about it such as the fact that it was present at and integral to the miraculous battle of Jericho. Other events that demonstrate that it was much more than simply a three-dimensional object spring from the events of its Philistine capture as recounted in 1 Samuel.

Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.-- 2 And the Lord said unto Joshua: 'See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, even the mighty men of valour. 3 And ye shall compass the city, all the men of war, going about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven rams' horns before the ark; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the horns. 5 And it shall be, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the horn, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him.' 6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them: 'Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven rams' horns before the ark of the Lord.' 7 And he said unto the people: 'Pass on, and compass the city, and let the armed body pass on before the ark of the Lord.' 8 And it was so, that when Joshua had spoken unto the people, the seven priests bearing the seven rams' horns before the Lord passed on, and blew with the horns; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew the horns, and the rearward went after the ark, the priests blowing with the horns continually. 10 And Joshua commanded the people, saying: 'Ye shall not shout, nor let your voice be heard, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.' 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to compass the city, going about it once; and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp. 12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven rams' horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the horns; and the armed men went before them; and the rearward came after the ark of the Lord, the priests blowing with the horns continually. 14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp; so they did six days. 15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times; only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the horns, that Joshua said unto the people: 'Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be devoted, even it and all that is therein, to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the devoted thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed by taking of the devoted thing, so should ye make the camp of Israel accursed, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are holy unto the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.' 20 So the people shouted, and the priests blew with the horns. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the horn, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Philistine Capture

Israel later waged war with the Philistines and suffered a major defeat because G-d's hand was against them. Subsequently, the hapless Israelites decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant onto the battlefield as a talisman to secure victory. The Ark actually derives its powers from G-d so it does not necessarily perform as a Genie granting every wish of its possessors. Since the L-rd was against Israel because of the corruption of Eli the priest's sons, the Philistines managed to capture the Ark. Eli's sons were killed in this battle, as was Eli, upon hearing of these events.

1 Samuel 3:11 And the Lord said to Samuel: 'Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even unto the end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity, in that he knew that his sons did bring a curse upon themselves, and he rebuked them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Samuel 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer; and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. 2 And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel; and when the battle was spread, Israel was smitten before the Philistines; and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. 3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said: 'Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to-day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that He may come among us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies.' 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, and they brought from thence the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who sitteth upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Samuel 4:10 And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man to his tent; and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. 12 And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. 13 And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon his seat by the wayside watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out. 14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said: 'What meaneth the noise of this tumult?' And the man made haste, and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were set, that he could not see. 16 And the man said unto Eli: 'I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to-day out of the army.' And he said: 'How went the matter, my son?' 17 And he that brought the tidings answered and said: 'Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.' 18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off his seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck broke, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years. 19 And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered; and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and brought forth; for her pains came suddenly upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her: 'Fear not; for thou hast brought forth a son.' But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying: 'The glory is departed from Israel'; because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said: 'The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.' (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

Despite the fact that the Philistines managed to seize the Ark, they were soon seeking ways to return it because many disasters fell upon them due directly to its presence. These perils were similar to those experienced by the Egyptians before they freed the Israelites. The Philistines suffered great afflictions of tumors, rats and many deaths while they had the Ark. The leaders moved the Ark from city to city because of the plagues that came upon each city where it was kept. The residents of the cities did not want the Ark and they cried out for their leaders to send it away. After seven months, the officials inquired of priests, diviners and magicians to figure out a way to get rid of the Ark of the Covenant. It seems highly probable the Philistines tried everything they could think of to get rid of the Ark before they inquired of the priests, diviners and magicians because they wanted to get rid of it almost immediately upon acquiring it. Is it not probable that the Philistine Army tried to destroy it first and only at wits end inquired of soothsayers? Does it not seem likely that they had tried everything they could think of to get rid of it and nothing had worked?

1 Samuel 5:1 Now the Philistines had taken the ark of God, and they brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. 2 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. 6 But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and He destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the borders thereof. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said: 'The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us; for His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

The solution to getting rid of the Ark devised by the seers involved some elaborate preparations of making guilt offerings of models of the tumors and rats out of pure gold and sending the Ark back to Israel on a special newly-made cart. (1 Samuel 6) This plan was successful and the cart arrived in Israel in Beth Shemesh, where the people rejoiced greatly that the Ark had returned and they offered sacrifices.

1 Samuel 5:11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and they said: 'Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go back to its own place, that it slay us not, and our people'; for there was a deadly discomfiture throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12 And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods; and the cry of the city went up to heaven. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

Levites were on hand at Beth Shemesh to handle the Ark as nobody else could approach it. However, some of the men from Beth Shemesh looked inside the Ark and G-d struck down many of them because of this. In most Hebrew manuscripts, the number of casualties is stated as 50,070 while in others the number is 70 that were struck down for looking inside the Ark. Whichever case is the true extent of the slaughter, the real reason for this is likely because of the automatic death sentence of the law written on the tables. It is useful to consider that even the Levites had to be properly prepared to approach the Ark.

Please note that in the following passages the word "kine" means bovine creatures such as cows or oxen and the word "emerod" is frequently rendered tumor. This could alternatively be translated to English as hemorrhoid.

1 Samuel 6:1 And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying: 'What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? declare unto us wherewith we shall send it to its place.' 3 And they said: 'If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return Him a guilt-offering; then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.' 4 Then said they: 'What shall be the guilt-offering which we shall return to Him?' And they said: 'Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. 5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel; peradventure He will lighten His hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
1 Samuel 6:11 And they put the ark of the Lord upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods. 12 And the kine took the straight way by the way to Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14 And the cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone; and they cleaved the wood of the cart, and offered up the kine for a burnt-offering unto the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. 17 And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a guilt-offering unto the Lord: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages, even unto Abel by the great stone, whereon they set down the ark of the Lord, which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite. 19 And He smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had gazed upon the ark of the Lord, even He smote of the people seventy men, and fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because the Lord had smitten the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Beth-shemesh said: 'Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? and to whom shall it go up from us?' 21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying: 'The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

In 1 Samuel 6:19 of the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh above, it notes that the people of Beth-Shemesh gazed upon the Ark while most other translations specifically note that they looked inside it. The following verse from the American Standard Version of the Bible is included to establish that; however, it could be that gazing upon it was the reason these people were smitten because the Ark was supposed to be covered with veils.

1 Samuel 6:19 And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, he smote of the people seventy men, [and] fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because the Lord had smitten the people with a great slaughter. (ASV) (Emphasis added)
Additional Legends of the Ark of the Covenant
The following history of Saul is given by the Afghans, a people generally supposed to be of Jewish origin: "In a war which raged between the children of Israel and the Amalekites, the latter being victorious, plundered the Jews, and obtained possession of the ark of the covenant. Considering this [as] the God of the Jews, they threw it into the fire, which did not affect it. They afterwards attempted to cleave it with axes, but without success: every individual who treated it with indignity, was punished for his temerity. They then placed it in their temple; but all their idols bowed to it. At length they fastened it upon a cow, which they turned loose in the wilderness. - Asiatic Researches, vol. ii. p. 119, et seq.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledgeby by R. A. Torrey - 1 Samuel 10 (Emphasis added)

All Idols Bowed before the Ark of the Covenant

In the narratives of the historical events regarding the Ark of the Covenant one will observe instances where the Ark ended up in pagan temples and the pagan idols could not stand in the presence of the Ark. This is an important detail because it provides bona fide proof that the Ark could not have been present simultaneously with pagan idolatry. This is to say that idols could not have survived in the presence of the Ark of G-d.

As was aforementioned, the Ark of the Covenant was the Throne of G-d and in some instances in scripture simply called G-d. The significant point of its presence causing all idols to bow is that the Hebrew temple could not have been used for idolatrous purposes if the Ark of the Covenant were present; therefore, this is absolute proof that the Ark was missing a considerable time before that which was previously widely believed.

1 Samuel 5:1 Now the Philistines had taken the ark of God, and they brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. 2 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Isaiah 46:1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols are upon the beasts, and upon the cattle; the things that ye carried about are made a load, a burden to the weary beast. 2 They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden; and themselves are gone into captivity. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

G-d Replaced as King

During most of the period of time that is covered here, G-d was actually the King of Israel, but the people told Samuel that they wanted a human king so that they could be just like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8:6). This was not a minor thing in that they actually rejected G-d. It is notable that the Israelites were given the option to get out of the covenant, but chose to continue in it and this can be found in Joshua 24:15-16. Despite the fact that the Israelites wanted a king and were therefore rejecting G-d, G-d told Samuel to do as they said and establish a human king. G-d told Samuel, and he thereby told the people, exactly what would happen when Israel had a king.

G-d's warning to the people of Israel about kings is important and these are the general characteristics of most regular monarchies throughout the world. In general, everything in a kingdom, including all of the land and also the people are the property of the ruling family. This is why the populace of true monarchies is usually referred to as subjects. This particular concept is important in relation to the point made earlier that the temple and its utensils were the property of G-d while everything else was the property of the monarch. True monarchies are not very common today in the Western world and most nations that are known as kingdoms are actually constitutional monarchies. There are major distinctions between the two forms of government.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the Lord said unto Samuel: 'Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, in that they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice; howbeit thou shalt earnestly forewarn them, and shalt declare unto them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.' 10 And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. 11 And he said: 'This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants. 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not answer you in that day.' 19 But the people refused to hearken unto the voice of Samuel; and they said: 'Nay; but there shall be a king over us; 20 that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

True Ark

Near the end of the reign of King David, the genuine Ark was in the tent tabernacle that David pitched for it. This can be established with great certainty because its whereabouts are clearly accounted for in scripture during this time period and this was the same Ark that killed Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13:9-10).

2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

The Chastisement of Uzzah

G-d whacks Uzzah - J. James Tissot

J. James Tissot
The Chastisement of Uzzah

This is an important detail because we know that not just anybody can touch the Ark and, in fact, not just anybody can even look at it. It was supposed to be kept covered with several layers of veil to protect people from it and only the Levites that were the descendants of Kohath were supposed to transport it. They were to carry it on their shoulders, not on a cart. The reason that this incident occurred was because the Israelites had forgotten the correct procedures for handling the Ark. While the death of Uzzah seems severe, this incident actually reflects great mercy on behalf of G-d because the whole group that was transporting the Ark should probably have been smitten for their irreverence. It might be useful to observe that Uzzah probably experienced a painless and speedy death and it is possible that he ended up in Paradise, so the whole affair might not really have been a bad thing for him.

One result of this incident is that one can ascertain with absolute certainty that this was the real Ark. From this point until the death of King David there is a very clear accounting of the Ark's whereabouts in scripture that continues into the reign of King Solomon.

1 Chronicles 15:11 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab, 12 and said unto them: 'Ye are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, unto the place that I have prepared for it. 13 For because ye bore it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not according to the ordinance.' 14 So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders with the bars thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
It's cohesive!
The reader's appropriate response to this material:
Acts 17:11 And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, receiving the word with all readiness of mind, daily searching the scriptures if these things were so. (Darby) (Emphasis added)