It seems that Moses made an Ark for the tablets, and then Moses was instructed to have Bezalel make one. So, were there two different Arks? Did Moses first make a simple one of wood, and then later have Bezalel make a gold one?
The Ark of the Covenant is first mentioned in the book of Exodus. Its description and construction is first described in Exodus 25:8-16 and then again in Exodus 37:1-9 when Bezalel was commissioned to make the ark. Our question is, “How many Arks of the Covenant were made?” Was there an ark made of wood and then a second one made of gold?
Design Given For The Ark of the Covenant
The design for the Ark of the Covenant was first given to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai. In fact, Exodus 25:8-9, 40 states that God showed Moses a pattern for the tabernacle and all of the furniture in the tabernacle.
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it . . . And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain. Exodus 25:8-9, 40 (ESV)
But what did Moses see? Where did this pattern exist? Hebrews 8:5 answers that question by telling us that the tabernacle Moses was told to build is like something that exists in heaven.
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5 (ESV)
Hebrews 9:23 further tells us that the tabernacle is a copy of something in heaven.
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Hebrews 9:23 (ESV)
Also, Acts 7:44 says,
Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. Acts 7:44 (ESV)
These verses teach that Exodus 25:8-16, 40 refers to the instructions that God gave Moses for building the Ark of the Covenant. Exodus 25:10-16 does not describe the actual building of the Ark.
Bezalel To Build The Ark of the Covenant
Exodus 37:1-9 describes the actual building of the Ark of the Covenant. We are told that a man named Bezalel made the ark. The pattern that he followed matches exactly the one given to Moses in Exodus 25:10-22. In that passage we are told that God directed Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant from acacia wood (Exodus 25:10) and then overlay it with gold and add gold molding (Exodus 25:11). It was to have four gold rings and attach them to the four feet. The two poles were to be overlaid with gold. The contents of the ark are described in Exodus 25:17-22.
The Ark of the Covenant was built after a “tabernacle” that exists in heaven. Most likely the pattern of the “tabernacle” in heaven was made of solid gold. The Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:17) and two golden cherubim (Exodus 25:18-20) were placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:21). Hebrews 9:4 tells us that inside the Ark of the Covenant were three items: a golden jar containing the manna, Aaron’s rod and tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Hebrews 9:5 adds that the cherubim covered the Mercy Seat.
Now this is important since Exodus 25:22 says that God promised to meet them at the Mercy Seat between the two cherubim.
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 25:22 (NASB)
There God would speak to them. Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes this about the Mercy Seat,
The word translated as “propitiation” is in the Greek the same word for the mercy seat. Christ is the mercy-seat today for the world. This phase of His work is enlarged upon in Hebrews 9:24-28, where Christ is seen as the sacrifice which taketh away the sins of the world.
Today, Jesus has replaced the Mercy Seat and, consequently, the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus is God and no other! Is He your God and Savior?
1. J Vernon McGee. The Tabernacle. Reprint From Bibliotheca Sacra. 4th ed. cic=rc 1980. p. 90.
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