Contents of the Substitute Ark
Graig Huber

In the Royal Arch degree, the substitute Ark is central to the culmination of Capitular Masonry. Let’s review the discoveries found within the substitute Ark by the three weary sojourners and some basic information about each of the three.

Pot of Manna

The first of the discoveries in the substitute Ark was the Pot of Manna. Below are two references, one from scripture and one from a well-known Masonic author, concerning the Pot of Manna.

“And Moses said, this is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of mana therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.” Exodus 16: 32-33

In "An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”, Dr. Albert G. Mackey makes the following observation on the Pot of Manna: “In the substitute ark, commemorated in the Royal Arch degree, there was, of course, a representation of it. Manna has been considered as a symbol of life; not the transitory, but the enduring one of a future world.”

Aaron’s Rod

The second of the discoveries in the substitute Ark was Aaron’s Rod. What was the origin of this discovery. Aaron’s Rod is discussed in detail in the 17th Chapter of the Book of Numbers. In summary, Moses causes a miraculous judgment as to which tribe should be invested with the High Priesthood. Moses directed that twelve rods should be laid up in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, one for each of the twelve tribes; that of Aaron represented the tribe of Levi. On the next day these rods were brought out and exhibited to the people and that of Aaron budded and blossomed and yielded fruit. After this event Moses was directed by God to “Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.” The Royal Arch degree would suggest that the “token” of the rod was kept in the Ark for safekeeping.

Book of the Law

In the context of the Royal Arch degree, the Book of the Law is the first five books of the bible or the Jewish “Torah”. The first five books of the bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Jewish tradition is that the Book of the Law was lost during the captivity of the Jewish people and was re-discovered during the building of the second temple. This tradition should sound familiar to Capitular Masons. The Torah starts with the creation of the world, the beginnings of the people of Israel, their time in Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai ending with the death of Moses.

I believe the following statement from Dr. Albert G. Mackey from “An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”, on the three discoveries and the Royal Arch degree in general, is an excellent conclusion to this article: “Hence the Pot of Manna, Aaron’s rod that budded anew, and the Book of the Law, which teaches Divine Truth, all found together, are appropriately considered as the symbols of that eternal life which it is the design of the Royal Arch degree to teach."

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