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Ark of the Covenant

Also known as the Ark of Jehovah and the Ark of the Testimony; an oblong chest of acacia or shittim wood overlaid with gold, 2½ cubits long, 1½ broad and high, made by Moses at God’s command (Ex. 25). It was the oldest and most sacred of the religious symbols of the Israelites, and the Mercy Seat which formed its covering was regarded as the earthly dwelling place of Jehovah (Ex. 25:22). (See Mercy Seat.) The Ark was fitted with rings and staves, by which it was carried. Prayers were recited before it moved or rested (Num. 10:35–36), and during its progress it was treated with the greatest reverence. According to 1 Kgs. 8:9 it contained only the Tables of the Law, but in Heb. 9:4 it is said to have contained the “pot of manna” and “Aaron’s rod that budded,” which had been ordered to be kept “before the Testimony” (Ex. 16:32–34; 25:16; 40:20; Num. 17:10). The usual resting place of the Ark was in the Holy of Holies (see Tabernacle). It led the way at the passage of the Jordan (Josh. 3:3–13); it was present at the capture of Jericho (Josh. 6); and during the conquest of Canaan it seems to have been kept at Gilgal (9:6; 10:43). It was present at the solemn service held at Ebal (8:30–33). Later on it was removed to Shiloh (18:1; 1 Sam. 3:3). In the days of Eli it was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4–7), who sent it back to Beth-shemesh (6:11–20), whence it was taken to Kirjath-jearim or Baale of Judah (6:21–7:2). Thence it was brought by David to Jerusalem, the journey being interrupted at Perezuzzah (2 Sam. 6; 1 Chr. 13:11). In Jerusalem it was placed in a separate tent, which David pitched for it (2 Sam. 7:2; 1 Chr. 16:1). It accompanied the army in the war against Ammon (2 Sam. 11:11), but David refused to take it with him in his campaign against Absalom (2 Sam. 15:24–25). On the completion of Solomon’s temple it was placed in the Holy of Holies (1 Kgs. 8:1–8). Apparently it was removed by Manasseh and reinstated by Josiah (2 Chr. 33; 35:3). In 2 Maccabees 2:4 there is an untrustworthy tradition of its preservation by Jeremiah at the destruction of the temple. It had certainly disappeared before the building of the second temple. It was seen by John in his vision of heaven (Rev. 11:19).