Emerging Truths

One man's unorthodox views of selected bible stories

The Ark of the Covenant

Pasted Graphic

Introduction


Perhaps the most famous of all religious artifacts is the ark of the covenant. This mysterious device, kept at first under a tent and later in Solomon's temple, was considered the throne of the LORD because he appeared there when Moses would go in to speak with Him.

Today, most of the fascination with the ark seems to revolve around finding it, because it was lost at some point and then never mentioned again in the bible. However, this article is not about finding it, it's about learning more about it, because it's one of the most obvious uses of technology found in the bible. Technology which could effect face-to-face meetings with the LORD as well as darker things like killing people. We'll get into that later in this article.

What is the ark of the covenant?


The ark of the covenant is a gold-plated acacia wood chest measuring about 5 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet deep, with lifting staves on the sides (which were never to be removed) and a solid gold lid referred to as "the mercy seat", with two cherubim (angels) on top, positioned facing each other with their wings outstretched towards each other, forming a sort of roof over the ark. It was under this roof, between the two cherubim that The LORD was said to appear and speak with Moses. The bible calls this spot "the mercy seat", because it was seen as the throne of the LORD. It is unclear whether the mercy seat was the lid of the Ark, or merely sat on top of the Ark, possibly with the Ark having a cover beneath it:

Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.


Leviticus 16:2 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy [place] within the vail before the mercy seat, which [is] upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.


Notice in the Leviticus passage, the LORD says he will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. The cloud was the result of incense that was to be burned there as this verse explains:

Leviticus 16:13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:


So what we have here sounds like a projection device that needed the 'cloud' of incense to function, much as we use smoke with lasers today, where the smoke in the air is what allows us to see the laser beam.

url

Notice the end of the verse: "that he die not". The reason given for the incense cloud was to partly obscure the perfect image of God, thus nullifying the law that anyone who sees God would die. But as is the case so often in the Old Testament, one suspects that this reason was not the real reason for the cloud. The real reason may have been to allow the image to be seen.

Many may be asking at this point: Why would anyone who saw the LORD's face die? The LORD himself told this to Moses, but didn't explain it:

Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.


Did he want to keep his appearance a secret? If so, why? Or was it because, as some commentaries suggest, our mortal bodies could not take the shock. We simply don't know, but there are dozens of verses that attest to this concept. To see a list of these verses, visit Death Due To God's Presence.

Why is it called the ark of the covenant?


The word ark just means a chest or box used to house and preserve something. Covenant means contract or agreement. This contract was simple: if you keep my commandments, I will be your God and protect you. The ten commandments were written upon two stone tablets which the LORD gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. The ark was intended to be the home of these tablets, hence the name ark of the covenant.

What else was in the ark?


In addition to the two stone tablets, the ark also contained Aaron's rod and a golden pot of manna. Both Moses and Aaron had rods that were endowed with miraculous power during the Plagues of Egypt, and it was in fact Aaron's rod that, when cast down on the ground in Pharaoh's court, became a snake. Later, during the exodus, Aaron's rod became the target of another miracle: The people had been grumbling against Aaron, a Levite, being made a high priest, so Moses placed a rod from each of the twelve tribes into the tabernacle (tent) with the ark. The next morning, Aaron's rod (and only his) had budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds. Moses hoped this would stop the grumbling against Aaron and ordered the rod to be kept in the ark.

Pasted Graphic

Numbers 17:8 And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.


What kind of technology—if it is technology—could produce this effect? Could this same technology heal the sick, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf?

The Holy Anointing Oil


Curiously, instruction was also given to anoint the tent, the ark, and all the vessels in the tent (incense utensils, etc) with the mysterious Holy Anointing Oil, which oil was to be used strictly by the priests alone. Interestingly, the primary component was Myrrh, one of the gifts brought by the Magi to baby Jesus. And Frankincense is Myrrh resin. So it seems that the Magi were providing the ingredients of a Holy Anointing oil to Jesus.

starofbethlehem

Back to the Old Testament, no one knows why the LORD required his priests to use this oil, but it was serious business: any non-priest caught wearing this oil was to be put to death.

The golden pot of manna


The reason for keeping the golden pot of manna in the ark remains mysterious, partly because no one knows what the manna really was. There are some tantalizing clues, however. Psalms declares it to be angels' food and seems to marvel that man was given the opportunity to eat of it:

Psalms 78:24-25 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.


And the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin declares the manna to be the flesh in which divinity resides: In this excerpt, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, is seen as the new ark because within her was "the true manna", the baby Jesus:

Athanasius of Alexandria, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Ark of the Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.


In The Mt. Sinai Event, we presented evidence that the manna may have been a form of a recently re-discovered miraculous substance known as The White Powder of Gold, a room-temperature superconductor, something that mainstream science today believes is impossible. This substance was observed to have supernatural qualities such as negative weight and the ability to vanish and re-appear during heating and cooling. When Moses, in his wrath, saw the golden calf, something remarkable happened: he used fire to somehow convert the gold to a powder (the White Powder of Gold is not metallic due to the high spin state of the atoms). He then mixed that powder with water and made the Israelites drink it.

Exodus 32:20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.


The reason for this is never explained, but it would seem he believed it would have a positive effect on them. This idea fits nicely with the idea that the manna was the flesh in which divinity manifests. In the New Testament, Jesus declares himself to be the true manna from heaven which, if a man eats, he will not die. The eucharist is based on this idea.

So why was a golden pot of manna kept in the ark? No one knows. But it's clear that the manna was not just bread, because bread would decay and rot quickly. If this was indeed the White Powder of Gold, then one might reasonably conclude, given its miraculous properties, that it had something to do with the functioning of the ark. That's about as far as we can take it.

When was it built and by whom?


During the first of Moses' two stays on Mt. Sinai with the LORD, the LORD commissioned him to build the ark, giving him detailed instructions. When he returned down the mountain, Moses commissioned a skilled craftsman, Bezalel, to build it. The name Bezalel name is composed of two parts: Bezal (in the shadow of i.e., "under his protection"), and el (of God).

Where did they get the gold for the ark?


The construction of the ark required a large amount of gold. But from where did the Israelites get the gold? As it turns out, the LORD had instructed each and every one of them to borrow jewels of silver and gold from their Egyptian neighbors just prior to their exodus:

Exodus 11:2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver and jewels of gold.


which is interesting for two reasons: 1) we're told the Israelites had been slaves, yet they were apparently on good enough terms with their Egyptian neighbors that they could borrow gold and silver from them, and 2) It would appear that the LORD had always intended to have the ark built since he instructed them to borrow the gold for it prior to their exodus from Egypt.

The golden calf


url

While it was the LORD's plan to use the gold to build the ark, the Israelites had developed other plans. It turns out that because Moses had been gone for so long in the mountain, his people below had become impatient, perhaps imagining that he might be gone for good, so they took matters into their own hands and used the gold to build the golden calf:

Exodus 11:2 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.


The phrase which shall go before us isn't explained, but when the ark was built, it's written that the ark itself went before them during their journeys to find them a good place to camp and to scare off or kill their enemies in advance:

Numbers 10:33-36 And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.


Back to our story. Moses comes down from the mount and sees merriment, hears singing, and sees the golden calf. He destroys it and then, presumably, uses the gold from the calf to build the ark of the covenant.

The pillar of cloud


Each time Moses went into the tent to speak with the LORD, the famous pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night appeared at the door to the tent. One wonders if this column of light had a facilitating role in enabling the ark to project the image of the LORD:

Leviticus 10:1-2 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, [that] all the people rose up, and stood every man [at] his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand [at] the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man [in] his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.


Recently, the image below, and many more like it, made the rounds of the internet, purporting to be mysterious, but were easily debunked: the beam is an artifact of a rolling shutter camera, the type found on iPhone 6 or greater. The photo is taken during a lightning strike. Nevertheless, the image serves well to illustrate what the pillar of cloud by day may have looked like. At night it would be glowing, hence the term pillar of fire.

pillar-of-cloud

The ark kills Aaron's sons on the spot


One of the first signs that the ark was more than it appeared was when it killed two of Aaron's sons. Aaron, who was Moses' brother and right hand man, had delegated to his sons the task of burning incense in the tent where the ark was. Apparently they had been drinking (this is inferred from what Moses later spoke on this incident). And whereas they were supposed to use the coals from the altar of incense in the tabernacle Lev 16:12, they used coals from some other fire. For this seemingly minute transgression they were killed on the spot:

Leviticus 10:1-2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.


We get more and remarkable detail about exactly how they were killed from the Midrash (rabbinical commentary on the Torah): Two threads of "fire" (perhaps we should read "light"), one for each son, emanated out from the mercy seat, and then each thread was forked into two threads, and entered into their nostrils, burning them from the inside while leaving their clothes untouched:

Midrash Two threads of fire came out from the Holy of Holies, and they were disparted into four: two entered the nostrils of the one, and two entered the nostrils of the other, and thus consumed them. Their souls were burned, but not their garments, for it is said, "so they went near and carried them in their coats"


This raises a lot of questions. First, why the nostrils? Given that incense is related to the nose (scent), was this an intentional act of the LORD intended to make the point that the smell offended the LORD? Or were the nostrils simply the easiest way for the threads to get into the body?

Moreover, this punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime. How could such a seemingly small error exact a punishment of death? Could this have been unintentional? If so then we're left to speculate that their error triggered a machine malfunction. Hard to say, but there is another similar incident with the ark killing someone for the most trivial of reasons, mentioned later. Search for "Uzzah" below.

The ark destroys snakes, scorpions, and thorns


This same mechanism—the laser-like beams of light that burned Aaron's sons to death—was also witnessed during their journeying. The ark went before them using these beams to destroy snakes, scorpions, thorns, as well as their enemies:

Midrash Two fiery jets issued from between the cherubim above the ark, burning up snakes, scorpions and thorns in its path and destroying Israel's enemies.


This begs the question: Who was controlling the ark such that it could locate and target these objects on the ground for destruction via its beams? Someone had to be able to see these objects and active the ark's beams. Was this done from above, or was the LORD's presence somehow inside the pot of manna as suggested by the Midrashim?

The ark stops the River Jordan to allow it to be crossed


One of the most famous miracles of the Old Testament was when Moses held up his rod to part the Red Sea, but another equally amazing and almost identical incident occurred later, but this time it was attributed to the Ark. As the Israelites were about to cross the River Jordon to come into Jericho, marking their coming into the promised land, the priests carrying the ark went first. The moment their feet touched the water, the river ceased flowing as if dammed upstream, and they could see the waters building up there, being held back. The priests then tarried to allow the people to cross over the dry river bed, then crossed over themselves. Once all were all across, the river resumed its flow.

2016-01-10_10-51-28

Joshua 3:15-17 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.


The ark destroys the walls of Jericho


In the Battle of Jericho, the Ark was marched around the city once a day for seven days, preceded by the armed men and seven priests sounding seven trumpets of rams' horns (Josh. 6:4-15). On the seventh day, the seven priests sounding the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the Ark compassed the city seven times and, with a great shout, Jericho's wall fell down flat and the people took the city:

upload

Leviticus 10:1-2 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.


The ark kills thousands for merely gazing at it


During a battle with their enemy the Philistines, the Philistines captured the ark from the Israelites and kept it for 7 months. However, after 7 months, they gave it back in a hurry because an array of plagues befell them wherever they took the ark. At Ashdod it was placed in the temple of Dagon. The next morning Dagon was found face down, bowed down before it; and on being restored to his place, he was on the following morning again found face down and broken.

url

The people of Ashdod were smitten with hemorrhoids; a plague of mice was sent over the land. The affliction of boils was also visited upon the people of Gath and of Ekron. On advice from their diviners, the Philistines gave the ark back to Israel in the field of Beth-shemite, and the Beth-shemites offered sacrifices and burnt offerings. Out of curiosity the men of Beth-shemesh gazed at the Ark; and as a punishment, seventy of them (fifty-thousand and seventy in some manuscripts) were killed dead:

Leviticus 10:1-2 And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.


The ark kills an Israelite for merely trying to help hold it up


In this, the last incident we'll cover in this article, an Israelite named Uzzah put his hand on the ark as it was being transported in order to help stabilize it because the oxen were shaking it. For this transgression, he was killed on the spot by the ark:

2 Samuel 6:1–7 And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.


Pasted Graphic 2

Here we have another incident where the punishment does not appear to fit the crime. Recall the commandment that the lifting staves were never to be removed. The Midrash interprets this commandment to mean that the ark must be carried by men using the lifting staves, never carted by oxen. Why would this be important? Well, we see in this case that they were using oxen to cart the ark, and that the oxen shook the ark. Could it be that excessive shaking of the ark might produce a dangerous malfunction? If so, then it's at least possible that what happened to Uzzah was an accident (electrocution?) caused by the shaking of the ark.

Where is it now?


No one knows. It was either hidden prior to an enemy attack, or was captured by an enemy. But this may have been according to design, because the prophet Jeremiah revealed that the LORD had planned an end to the use of the ark, saying that while it was originally considered the throne of the LORD, Jerusalem itself will become the new throne of the LORD, and the ark will be forgotten:

Jeremiah 3:16–17 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.


Conclusion


Through twenty-first century eyes, when we read the story of the ark, we can easily imagine that this was a piece of technology. It seems to have been, among other things, a projection device by which Moses was able to have face-to-face conversations with the LORD. The use of smoke (incense) seems to have provided the medium in which the image of the LORD appeared, and the wings of the cherubim forming a roof over the mercy seat seem to be part of the design of this viewport. And while this device was built by men, one can't help but wonder if the angel of the LORD added some finishing touches to it, to account for the miraculous things it did.

Recently, scientists have speculated that the ark was a giant capacitor, a common electrical component having two electrically conductive plates separated by a gap, where one plate carries a positive charge and the other a negative charge. The ark could have functioned as a capacitor, they say, because each piece of wood was gold plated on the inside and the outside, and gold is best electrical conductor on the planet, better than copper. The wood in between provided the gap. They point out that the tips of each cherubim's wings did not quite touch each other, and from this gap, it is written, came the two laser-like beams that destroyed the snakes, thorns, etc, from before their path as they travelled. The LORD only knows the details of this technology, but we can see from the text that it certainly does sound like technology.


blog comments powered by Disqus