Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Was the Pattern of the Ark Original?

The ark shown on a wall of the Temple of Edfu in Egypt (c.300 BC) is one of many arks incorporating two “cherubim” facing each other, their wings extending over the mercy seat. 
Photo: Don Knebel

The Ark of the Covenant was a gilded wooden chest with a lid cover. Approximately one year after the Israelites left Egypt, the Ark was fabricated according to the pattern God gave to Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Ark of the Covenant is also called the Ark of Testimony.

Moses, Bezalel (Betzalel) and Oholiab are the names associated with the Ark's construction. Bezalel appears to have been the head craftsmen. His name means "overshadowed by God." He was a Horite Hebrew craftsmen (son of Uri, son of Hur, according to Exodus 31:1).

In reality, the pattern was not entirely original. Arks have been found in East Africa and in the tombs of Egyptian kings. The ark found in King Tut's tomb has a pylon shape whereas the Ark of the Covenant is described as rectangular, like the shape of the Yeha altar found in Tigray, Ethiopia (shown above).

Ark found in the tomb of King Tut. 1922 photograph by Harry Burton (1879-1940).
It has Anubis, one of the four manifestations of Horus, the son of the High God.

The Ark was plated with gold. Four gold rings were attached to its four feet, two on each side. Gold plated wood rods were placed through these rings to carry the Ark. A golden cover, called kapporet, was placed above the Ark. This is often described as the "mercy seat" thought kapporet is likely derived from kaphar, which means to mean cover, or to wipe out, as in cleansing.

The Lemba people of South Africa and Zimbabwe claim that their ancestors carried an ark that they called ngoma lungundu or "voice of God." In 2008, Tudor Parfitt described his research into this claim. He says that the object described by the Lemba has attributes similar to the Ark. It was of similar size, was carried on poles by priests, was not allowed to touch the ground, was revered as a voice of their God, and was used as a weapon of great power, sweeping enemies aside.

In the book of Exodus the Ark is said to contain the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The author of the book of Hebrews states that the Ark also contained Aaron’s rod, a jar of manna, and the first Torah scroll as written by Moses. These additional items appear to be from a later Talmudic source. I Kings 8:9 states, "There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where Yahweh made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt."

The Ark of the Covenant moved from place to place, always resting in the place of the divine appointment. It rested in Shiloh. Jeremiah 7:12 makes reference to this first resting place. “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.”

The place of divine appointment came to be where the king resided. The Ark rested in Gibeah, Saul's hometown. After David became king, he brought the ark "from the house of Abinadab, that was in Gibeah” to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:1-12). However, for three months the ark rested in David’s hometown of Bethlehem in the house of Obed-Edom.

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