The Missing Contents of the Ark of the Covenant: What Was Inside the Ark? (HINT: Not just the 10 Commandments)

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A model of the Ark of the Covenant from biblical description

The Missing Contents of the Ark of the Covenant: What Was Inside the Ark? (HINT: Not just the 10 Commandments)

Whenever the subject of ancient technology comes up, most people have been conditioned by spectacular movies and TV shows to think right away about the Ark of the Covenant. Some say it was a capacitor of some kind—a power source containing a communicator with which to converse with ancient aliens. Others insist it was a weapon of mass destruction. Fantastic claims have been published describing beams issuing from it that destroyed entire armies, although those claims are not found in the Bible. The Ark is also said to have been the place where the Ten Commandments were kept.  But if you read the passage quoted above from the book of Hebrews, and parallel passages from Exodus and Numbers, you soon realize that's only part of the story. 

“The first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Holy of Holies, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This Ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.”
(Hebrews 9:1-5)

The Ark of the Covenant According to the Book of Exodus

The book of Exodus tells us that when Moses climbed Sinai to receive the Law (delivered to the Israelites after their escape from Egypt), he was instructed to build an Ark upon which the glory of God would rest.

"Ark" comes from the Greek word for chest. A "covenant" is a binding contract or legal agreement. When the original Hebrew texts were translated into Greek, forming what is now called the Septuagint, (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament), the translated words carried over into our English versions of the Bible. Hence, the Ark of the Covenant was originally meant to serve as a religious symbol of God's ‘contract’ with the Israelite people—not a technological marvel or weapon of war.

Model Ark of the Covenant

Model Ark of the Covenant (Public Domain)

It was a box, about two and a half feet high and wide and four and a half feet long, made of wood, covered with gold leaf, and transported by means of two long poles that ran through rings placed on its side.  When not being carried about it was housed within the Holy of Holies—the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, during the forty years the Israelites were said to have wandered in the Sinai desert. After the conquest of Canaan, it was placed in a sanctuary at Shiloh, and was later brought by King David, it is said, to the site of the future Temple at Jerusalem, built by King Solomon. This was the occasion that so inspired David that he "danced before the Lord," much to the disgust of his wife.

By the time the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's temple in 586 BCE the Ark had disappeared from history. Although many have tried to find it, its location has remained a mystery. Some think it resides in a temple in Ethiopia, brought there by the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Others believe it is hidden in the caves of Qumran, buried under the temple mount, or even hidden in a booby-trapped pit on Oak Island off the coast of Nova Scotia! Most scholars believe it was destroyed. Many doubt it ever existed.

The Missing Contents of the Ark

Although most people who have watched the History Channel or read some of the spectacular articles about the Ark know it housed the Ten Commandments, there were actually two more symbolic objects that were alleged to have been placed within the Ark.  Exodus 16 and 25, along with Numbers 17, emphasize all three items equally. I Kings 8, which describes the ceremony when Solomon brought the Ark into the temple, mentions only the Ten Commandments. Apparently by then, some 500 years after the Ark had first been constructed, the other two objects so important to the original authors had either been lost or forgotten.

What were they and why were they so important to the story of the original Ark of the Covenant?  

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