The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant

God had told Moses on the mountain in Sinai that the Israelites must build an Ark, a covered chest of acacia wood overlaid with gold, to serve as a mobile container for the Ten Commandments. Carried by the Israelites throughout their wanderings in the desert and over the river Jordan in to the Promised Land, the Ark was the most sacred embodiment of their beliefs and represented the presence of God. When at rest, the Ark was housed in an elaborate tent, the Tabernacle, which served as a gathering place for worship. Now that David had conquered Jerusalem, he thought that the Ark of the Covenant should be brought into the city and given a permanent home.

Not only would Jerusalem be the centre of David’s political authority; he would also make it the centre of his people’s religious life. And so dressed in the linen loincloth of a priest and ‘leaping and dancing before the Lord’ (2 Samuel 6:14), David led the Ark of the Covenant to the Gihon Spring just outside the walls of Jerusalem where it was placed within a tent-like shrine and received the allegiance of all the tribes.

But David’s proposal that the Ark should have a permanent home within the walls met with an unexpected rejection when the prophet Nathan announced that God had not needed a temple when the tribes were wandering in the desert and he did not want one now. Instead of David building a house to God, continued Nathan, God would establish a house of David, that is a dynasty, from which the Messiah would come. In any case God’s refusal was only temporary; David was not a suitable person to build the Temple because he was a warrior king with blood on his hands, but he was permitted to choose the Temple site, to collect the materials and to draw up the plans, while the honour of building the Temple would go to Solomon, his son.

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