The Construction Of The Ark Of The Covenant Explained

The Ark of the Covenant is the chest that is said to hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments given to Moses, among other sacred items (via Britannica). It was carried on two rods by the Levite priests during the nomadic period of the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. Eventually, the story goes, the Israelites settled in Canaan, and when David became king of Israel, he placed the Ark in the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the Temple fell and the Ark vanished, hidden in a cave on Mount Nebo, according to Live Science.

Traditionally, the Ark is understood to be a box of acacia wood sheathed in gold (via Got Questions). In fact, there are two accounts of the Ark's construction, one simple and one ornate. There may have been two or even many arks in historical Judaism. "Before all the cultic affairs of the Israelites were concentrated exclusively in the capital, Jerusalem, there had been arks, probably of different sorts, wherever [God] was worshiped," said Tudor Parfitt, a professor of religion at Florida International University, to Live Science.

'A sanctuary, that I may dwell among them'

In Exodus 25, God tells Moses to make an Ark as a kind of home for God to live in: "a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (via Bible Gateway). The Ark, God instructs, should be two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, and one-and-a-half cubits tall — note that a cubit is about 18 inches, according to Britannica. The Ark was then coated in gold and carried on poles that were threaded in golden hoops on the sides of the chest. On top of this Ark, according to Exodus, God instructed Moses to make a lid with two cherubim hammered out of gold at either end. God is so specific here that he even recommends a carpenter for the job — Bezaleel.

In Deuteronomy 10, though (via Bible Gateway), there's a slightly different story of the Ark's creation, that simply specifies that it's made from acacia wood and used to store the second set of tablets of the Ten Commandments, created after Moses smashed the first tablets in anger over the Israelites' worship of a golden calf.

The Book of Revelation says that the Ark will not be seen again until the apocalypse, though that hasn't stopped people from making claims to its ownership over the years. But actually owning the Ark sounds rather dangerous, unless you're a Levite priest. According to Britannica, the Ark is carried by poles because actually touching the box would kill you instantly.