Bible Question:

I have a few questions on the Ark of the Covenant spoken about in the Old Testament that I can't seem to figure out: 1) Did Moses put the second pair of tablets into the Ark of the Covenant, or some other ark that he had made? 2) If it was the Ark of the Covenant that Moses made and put the pair of tablets into in Deuteronomy 10:5, when was the Ark made - before he went up to meet with the Lord on the mountain OR after he came back down? 3) Who made the Ark of the Covenant - Bezalel or Moses? As background, in Exodus 34-35, it seems to indicate that Moses had already received the pair of tablets from God and carried them down the mountain before the Ark of the Covenant was made. Soon after that, Moses spoke to the artisans, and it says in Exodus 37 that Bezalel made the Ark of the Covenant. Then later in Deuteronomy 10:3 and 10:5, it says that Moses made an ark to hold the tablets BEFORE he went up to see the Lord, and that he placed the tablets into the ark he made after he came back down. Is there something in the Hebrew language that didn't translate well here or something? Its not clear on just who made the Ark of the Covenant and when they did so.

Bible Answer:

Here are the responses to your questions:

The First Tablets

Two tablets, on which the Ten Commandments were written, were created by God. The first set of tablets was thrown to the ground and destroyed when Moses saw that the Israelites were worshipping foreign gods.

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. (NASB) Exodus 32:15-16

It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain . . . Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us . . .'” (NASB) Exodus 32:19, 21-23

A second set of tablets was made later and placed into the Ark of the Covenant.

At that time the LORD said to me, “Cut out for yourself two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to Me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood for yourself. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered, and you shall put them in the ark.” So I made an ark of acacia wood and cut out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hand . . . Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the LORD commanded me. (NASB) Deuteronomy 10:1-3, 5

The English words do not reveal when the Ark of the Covenant was made. The Hebrew word that is translated “made” is a QAL perfect. This implies that the ark was made but we do not know when. It could have been made after Moses returned from Mt. Sinai. The passage does not tell us how much time elapsed between Moses’ return and the time that the tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

The Second Tablets

The second time that Moses went up the mountain he took another set of blank stone tablets that he had made. After God wrote the Ten Commandments on them, Moses came down the mountain and placed them into the Ark of the Covenant. That is the message of the passage above (Deuteronomy 10:1-3, 5).

Bezalel’s Ark of the Covenant

According to Exodus 31:1-6, God directed Moses to use Bezalel and Oholiab to make the Ark of the Covenant.

I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan . . . (NASB) Ex. 31:2-6

Yet, Exodus 36:1 indicates that other people helped Bezalel and Oholiab. They did not make the Ark of the Covenant by themselves. Moses was like the owner of the building project who directed activity. Bezalel and Oholiab were foremen who directed the workers. In Ex. 37:1 we see that Bezalel gets the credit for building the Ark of Covenant which was made of acacia wood.

Now Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood . . . (NASB) Exodus 37:1

Conclusion:

Some months ago I visited a pastor of a very large church whom I had known many years ago. When he saw me, he welcomed me and informed me that his church building had been built by a contractor whom we both knew. I understood what he was saying. He did not mean that the man had built the 4,000 seat church by himself. The man was a contractor who had hired a foreman who directed the workmen to perform the work. Moses was like the contractor. Bezalel and Oholiab apparently were foremen, and apparently Bezalel was the lead man. Together they built the Ark of the Covenant.

Reference Links:

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Did Moses write the terms of the covenant while God wrote the Ten Commandments?
What were the different sacrifices?