ISRAEL'S HISTORY: ANCIENT

The Ark Installed

The Ark Installed
By Charles E. McCracken
GROW February 10

 

So all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. Then they brought up the ark of the LORD, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle. The priests and the Levites brought them up. 1 KINGS 8:3-4

 

TODAY’S TEXT: 1 KINGS 8:1-13

 

It’s natural for Christians to project their own cultural experience into the context of Scripture. When we read about the dedication of Solomon’s temple, however, our concept—of the typical hour-long formal church service followed by light refreshments—does not do justice to the Bible narrative. The dedication of Solomon’s temple was dynamic, jubilant, God-centered and the festivities lasted 14 days.

After a mere seven years of construction, the temple was finished (1 Ki. 7:51). Solomon organized a joyful celebration to coincide with the 7-day Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). He obviously chose Sukkot not only because it assured the greatest possible attendance, but also because of the symbolism. Commemorating Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, Sukkot celebrates possession of the land as a permanent dwelling place to this day.

The completed temple was confirmation of Israel’s permanence in the land as promised by God.

The temple effectively replaced the Tabernacle as God’s appointed place for worship. Consequently, Solomon’s first priority was to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and furnishings to the newly constructed temple. This act symbolically merged all that was temporary in Israel’s previous worship with the permanence of the temple of Jehovah.

Solomon required the leaders of Israel’s tribes to accompany the Ark as it was moved from the provisional location in the City of David to the temple site. In conjunction with the move, the Tabernacle was disassembled and transported to Jerusalem from Gibeon. The Levites, who were charged with the care and transport of the Tabernacle and furnishings, took responsibility for this task.

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Bas-relief d’un autel de la cathédrale d’Auch, représentant le transport de l’Arche d’Alliance. Photo courtesy, Vassil [{{PD-US}} via Wikimedia Commons] – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios

Carried by the priests, the Ark of the Covenant led the procession. The Levites with all of the accouterments associated with the Tabernacle followed the Ark. Surrounding the entourage and streaming-out from behind, the leadership of the tribes of Israel followed. With the streets lined with the people of Israel in Jerusalem for the occasion, the procession made it’s way to the temple less than a mile away.

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Model: Solomon’s Temple: heritage building in Israel, Photo courtesy, יוני שפירא [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement courtesy, MKM Portfolios

The temple priests in the middle of the courtyard enthusiastically offered a continual course of sacrifices for the duration of the processional. In joyful celebration, the priests offered so many sacrifices they could not be numbered (v. 5).

The procession culminated with the priests setting the Ark of the Covenant in its designated place, the Most Holy Place under the wings of the cherubim (v.6).

The cherubim were massive. The Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) was constructed as a 30-foot cube. Overlaid with solid gold, each of the cherubim had a 15-foot wingspan (10 cubits) and, the wing of the one touched one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. And their wings touched each other in the middle of the room (1 Kings 6:27). Some suggest that the positioning of the Ark under the overshadowing wings of the cherubim was roughly symbolic of the throne room in heaven.

The Ark contained only the covenant on tablets of stone identifying Jehovah’s relationship with Israel. Contrary to popular belief, the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were never placed in the Ark; they were kept with the Ark in the Holy of Holies during the wilderness wanderings (Ex. 16:33; Nu. 17:10; Heb. 9:4). Relevant to the generation of the wilderness wanderings, those two symbolic relics were no longer necessary once the nation entered the land of promise.

After the priests positioned the Ark and withdrew from the Holy of Holies, the cloud filled the house of the LORD (1 KI. 8:10). The cloud was a specific manifestation, not merely a special effect styled for the occasion. It was the same cloud that filled the Tabernacle at Moses’ dedication in the wilderness (Ex. 40:34-35). The cloud was the “Shekinah”—the glory of God. The Shekinah filled the temple indicating YHWH’s acceptance of the temple as the manifest site of His gracious relationship with His Chosen People.

The worship of YHWH was now centralized in the new temple of Jerusalem. And, the joy of the people was commensurate with the magnitude of the event that focused attention on the God of Israel.

Like the jubilation of the people of ancient Israel at the dedication of the temple, your life can be characterized by the same joy when your focus is on God.

© Charles E. McCracken 2016, text content only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author.