Word Nerd Wednesday – Ark of The Covenant

I’m excited to welcome back my friend AdeleAlys again this week to chat about the Ark of the Covenant. I think you’re going to love her in depth look at its construction!


The Ark of the Covenant Ark ​- aron kodesh -​ literally means Holy Cabinet or Holy Chest Known as the Ark of the Covenant (or Testimony) ​the Ark​ contained 7 things:Word Nerd Wednesday Ark Covenant

1 ) The Tablets of the Ten Commandments ( two tablets each) ​

2) The original tablets ​that Moses broke​ (traditional rabbinic commentary​)-again two tablets each ​

3) A Jar of manna (see Ex.16:13) ​

4) ​Staff of Aaron ​that blossomed almonds (see Numbers 17:23) & ​

5) Torah scroll written by Moses ​before his death (see end of Deut.) The Ark ​traveled with the Jews throughout their time in the desert.

When they crossed into the land of Canaan (Joshua 3)​, the ark went ahead of them miraculously splitting the waters of the Jordan River. It was with them in every battle. ​And when the Jews breached the walls of Jericho ​merely by circling them, blowing horns in hand, it was the Ark ​that gave the victory and carried the day (Joshua 6).

The Ark of the Covenant contained 7 things... Find out what they were in this week's #WordNerdWednesday, Click To Tweet

For several years -five in fact- I have taken one of those “Read thru the Bible in One Year Challenges.” During the process I have discovered amazing stories, deepened my understanding of familiar verses, and honed in on the common ground between Old and the New Testament. If I am asked for advice on how to complete the process, I always reference prayer, and obedience, and accountability partners. And that’s all true. But my real secret…it’s “skimming.” That’s right. Whether I am bogged down in a list of begats or dazed by too many details, I just skim over it all until I land on my main point and I count on the commentator’s notes to fill in the gaps. There is nothing really wrong with that method. Still -it feels a bit like cheating. If the Bible is literally true and Divinely inspired, then every syllable counts and every word choice is important. So-when Liz asked me to write about this passage from Exodus and the Ark of the Covenant I thought, the time has come. How much meaning can be mined from just six  verses?

Come along as we explore that together.

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length,

a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. “

Exodus 25:10 ESV

Acacia Wood

Why Acacia Wood?

The simplest answer is that it is common.There are over 800 varieties of Acacia tree in the world. It would have been available in the wilderness. The use of the word “they” shows that God enjoined every Israelite to contribute to the building of the Ark, so they needed an abundant supply of materials to make that happen. But there is a deeper reason as well. Acacia ​in Hebrew is shitim ​which comes from the root word sh’toot meaning folly. ​ What better representation could there be for how God placed his Word and his Law for safekeeping among men who are fallible and routinely behave foolishly-then a cabinet made from folly wood​.


Why Are They Broken ?

It’s hard enough to build from a workshop with the proper tools at hand. But Moses and his people were in the desert, exposed to the elements, and worried by an erratic and seemingly endless travel schedule. Knowing the hardships, wouldn’t God give them something easy to build? Instead, He presents them with a complicated blueprint that includes half measures on all three sides (length, width, and height).


Perhaps to teach them about humility and about their own imperfection. We may carry within us souls made in God’s image, but we are just the imperfect container not the holy contents​. Only God is whole and perfect. We can eat as many apples as we like and cast Golden Calfs until the cows come home, but it will not change that fact. He is God and we are not. We will never have wisdom enough to understand His ways , hearts pure enough to understand his goodness, or eyes clear enough to see His face rightly.

“You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it,

and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. “

Exodus 25: 11 ESV

Knowing the hardships, wouldn't God give them something easy to build? #WordNerdWednesday #ArkoftheCovenant Click To Tweet

Three Boxes

Why Three Boxes?

Did you catch that there are three boxes ? It’s hidden in those verses about overlays and inlays- but scholars agree that-practically speaking- there would have been three boxes: a small inner box of gold resting in a chest of wood, set inside a larger outer box of gold. Could this be ​a shadowing of the Holy Trinity?​ Very possibly. But I think it is also a picture of us as God’s people. God’s physical creation (trees, earth, streams, animals) is good-golden in fact.​ Our souls too have a vestige of goodness (goldness)​. But our bodies-​that middle container- the wood layer​- are hard and slow growing and subject to corruption. It also served to remind the Israelites of the importance of right action. Our beliefs might be right but if our actions do not match ​in righteousness- we all fall short.

“ You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold…And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another….”

Exodus 25:16

“here I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

Exodus 25:22


Aren’t Cherubim Idols in the Temple?

The timing couldn’t have been worse​. Imagine. You have just been chastised over the Golden Calf and given the “ no idols lecture.” Then God tells you to cast not one but two more figures of gold​. What was He thinking? And how did the people have enough trust to do it . I would have thought it was a trick and refused. It would take the faith and the heart of a child. Since the word Cherubim (in Hebrew cheruvim) comes from the root word keravya- which means like a child​. In fact- these cherubim were said to have the faces of children. Cherubs are still depicted that way. The reference to Eden (Genesis 3:24) is unmistakable​. Just as the cherubim there guard the way to the big tree of life…the cherubim here keep watch over the smaller tree of life that is the Torah​.

But there is more : the cherubim sit atop the arks cover- one on either side it- and they were to be looking at each other​. The space in between- a space made by hammering one piece of gold until it was 10 handbreadths long- ​was to be called the kapporet (the mercy seat). It was here that God would speak with Moses.

There’s so much more I could say, but let’s stop here.

What did you already know? What did you learn that was new? And …. How do these details about the ark illustrate our relationship to God the Father and the depth of His mercy toward them? I will let you answer that last one. And- if you are willing- I would love if you would answer by leaving a comment here (one or two paragraphs only- please) I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!! And I will stop back by later with my version.


The daughter of a Lutheran minister and a Catholic college professor, Adele-Alys faith life has always been a patchwork. Married to a Jewish man for 38 years, she delved deeply into his faith. It sharpened my picture of Jesus and popped my spiritual ears in ways I could not imagine.” You can connect Adele-Alys via Twitter (@morgantonrose), Pinterest, and  her blog (adelealysblog.wordpress.com).


For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and TruthFaith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul SurvivalMonday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His StoryWoman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.

13 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday – Ark of The Covenant

  1. Thank you so much for those interesting facts and thoughts. I read one verse or a couple at a time. Then I study them like this using references, study notes and commentaries. I love in depth reading.
    This was excellent. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Susan. I love how Scripture always reveals something new. There is not much else in this world you would day that about.

  2. Awesome explanation. Never thought about there being three boxes, & that they might be a foreshadowing of the Trinity.
    Our God loves detail and will be merciful to us, poor sinners, forevermore. PTL!
    Thanks, Adelealys.

    1. I always wonder if when I get to heaven I’ll even care to know some of the things I’ve spent so much time pondering here on earth…

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