York Rite Education - The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant

Graig Huber

The Ark of the Covenant is a central relic for the Royal Arch Degree. According to biblical accounts, the Ark was created based on a pattern given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The construction of the Ark itself was given to Bezaleel and Aholiab under the direction of Moses. According to Hebrews 9:4 - “The ark of the covenant was covered on all sides with gold, in which was a gold jar holding the mana, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant.” This is a very good short description of the vessel; however, the Book of Exodus gives a very detailed description of the ark:

"They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it. You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherubim at one end and one cherubim at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 25: 11-22)

(For reference the dimensions of the Ark would be about 52 inches long, 31 inches wide and 31 inches tall converting from cubits to imperial measurement.)

The Ark was carried by the Israelites as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. As Masons, we know that the Ark was eventually placed in King’s Solomon’s Temple where it was “carried away" when the Babylonians took Jerusalem and destroyed King Solomon’s Temple. It was lost to history at that point and many theories abound as to its whereabouts. A quick Google search will lead you to some of these theories; however, I think it is safe to say that Steven’s Spielberg’s concept of the Ark’s re-discovery, while quite entertaining, can be removed from the list of reasonable theories. I don’t think Indiana Jones has the answer to the question of “Where is the Ark of the Covenant”?


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