The Ark of the Covenant... or of the Testimony, was a sacred chest, constructed by Moses at God’s Command. (see Exodus 25:10) Onto its lid were placed 2 cherubim (angels) representing God's glory.
The Ark contained:
A Golden Pot filled with Manna. The Lord commanded Moses to fill a gold vessel (pot) with Manna and keep it as a memorial to future generations of how God fed them in the wilderness (Exodus 16:32-33). The Golden Pot of Manna signifies eternal life.
Aaron’s Rod that had budded as a sign of God’s continued choice of Aaron as priest. (Numbers 17:5)
The Ten Commandments…the 2 stone tablets onto which Moses engraved the Ten Commandments that God spoke to him. (Exodus 20:1-17)
It was at first deposited in the most sacred place of the tabernacle and afterward placed by Solomon in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple.
The Ark of the Covenant was lost upon the destruction of the first Temple by the Chaldeans. It was carried to Babylon among the other sacred utensils which became the spoil of the conquerors. Its subsequent fate is unknown, as all traces have been lost.
From the writings of the Talmudists, it is believed certain that it was not brought back to Jerusalem by King Zerubbabel.
The Talmudists say that there were 5 things which were the glory of the first Temple that were wanting in the second:
1. The Ark of the Covenant 2. The Shikinah (or Divine Presence) 3. The Urim and Thummim (the holy fire upon the altar) 4. The Spirit of Prophecy. 5. Unknown
Simon-Sez: For more information about the holy fire, see Masonic Altar.
Josephus and the Rabbis, as well as Hebrew scholars allege that in the second Temple, the Holy of Holies was empty,...or contained only the Stone of Foundation, which marked the place which the Ark of the Covenant should have occupied.
Material of Construction: The Ark of the Covenant was made of shittim wood, which is a species of acacia, overlaid, within and without, with pure gold, and was about 3 feet, 9 inches long, 2 feet, 3 inches wide, and of the same extent in depth.
It had on each side, 2 rings of gold, through which were placed staves of shittim wood, by which, when necessary, the Ark of the Covenant was borne (moved) by the Levites.
Its covering was of pure gold, over which was placed 2 figures called cherubim, an order of exalted angelic beings, with expanded wings.
In Hebrew, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant was called kaw-far, meaning to blot out or pardon, and hence, its English name of Mercy Seat, as being the place where the intercession for sin was made.
An Ark Before THE Ark? Archaeologists’ research have thrown much light on the Egyptian mysteries. Among the ceremonies of that ancient people was one called the Procession of Shrines, which is mentioned in the Rosetta stone, and depicted on the Temple walls. One of these shrines was an ark, which was carried in procession by the priests, who supported it on their shoulders by staves passing through metal rings.
This ark was brought into the Temple and deposited on a stand or altar, that the ceremonies prescribed in the ritual might be performed before it.
The contents of these arks were varied, but always of a mystical character.
Sometimes the ark would contain symbols of Life and Stability; sometimes the sacred beetle, the symbol of the Sun; and there was always a representation of 2 figures of the goddess Theme or Truth and Justice, which overshadowed the ark with their wings.
It is believed that these coincidences of the Egyptian and Hebrew arks are more than accidental.
Credit for the above information is given to Albert Mackey, Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume 1, Page 103, 1929.
Simon-Sez: The Ark of the Covenant is said to be God’s Footstool, whereupon he symbolically rested his feet when he was in attendance within the Holy of Holies.
The Ark of the Covenant was carried through the desert by the Israelites during their many years of wandering after their exodus from Egypt, as well as through battles. When transported, it was enveloped in a blue cloth veil. (See Exodus 25:21)
After Solomon's Temple was built, the original Tabernacle (tent and its furnishings) was dismantled. Many rabbis and authorities in Jerusalem believe that it may have been stored in a room under the Temple Mount, where it is possible that it is still there to this day.
Up through King David (Solomon’s father’s) time, the tabernacle traveled with the Israelites and was housed in a tent, due to the fact that after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were a nomadic tribe of people without a real place to call home.
Solomon built a holy inner sanctum within the temple and the Holy of Holies (Sanctum Sanctorum) was housed within this Tabernacle until King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies removed it and carried it away to Babylon, where some believe it to have been destroyed. (See 2Kings 25:13-16).
Q: Why is the Ark of the Covenant so important to both Mankind and Freemasonry?
A: It reveals God's Promise to David...and it is through this promise that we receive God's continued mercy for our transgressions, today.
Q:Isn't it just another of Freemasonry's many symbols?
A: No. It is the reason that King Solomon's Temple was built.
We spend an enormous amount of time, ritualistically, physically and symbolically learning about King Solomon's Temple...and have grown to symbolically treat the symbol of the Ark of the Covenant as equally as we treat the Mosaic Pavement, denoting good and evil, on the floor of the Temple!
The Lodge Room emulates King Solomon's Temple.
We bow to King Solomon's wisdom.
But, we circumambulate around God's word.
So, to fully feel and absorb the "light" we must not forget WHY Solomon's Temple was built. King David had a perfectly good home. Why? He was a good and strong man, but it was God who had stood with him throughout each of his battles and made him victorious over his enemies, just as it is God who walks with each of us, today.
Within the craft of Freemasonry, we must not forget that while Freemasonry makes good men, better, ...this comes from learning and living God's commandments which are contained within the Ark of the Covenant.
It is vital to understand that the light which emanates from the Ark of the Covenant WITHIN Solomon's Temple is central to Freemasonry's foundations...not the Temple, itself. Just as man's spirit is the light housed within his body, so is the Ark of the Covenant the "light" within Solomon's Temple.
The following comes from 2Samuel 7:1-29:
God's Testimony (Promise) to David
1 After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,
2 he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."
3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you."
4 That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:
5 "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?
6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.
7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" '
8 "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.
9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.
10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning
11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
" 'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:
12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.
15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.' "
17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.
King David's Prayer
18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
"Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?
19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ?
20 "What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD.
21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.
22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.
23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?
24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.
25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised,
26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.
27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer.
28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever."
The above information came from the New International Version of the Bible, copyright 1984. It was used because its wording is not as archaic as in the King James version.
Therefore, the reason Solomon's Temple was built was to house the Ark of the Covenant...the symbol of our Creator's everlasting promise of mercy for our transgressions.
Simon-Sez: One last thing. The image of the Ark of the Covenant at the top of this page doesn't even begin to fully do justice to what the Ark of the Covenant actually looked like.
To truly "feel" its glory, to understand its sacred importance and its devastatingly monumental loss to many nations and many religions throughout the world over the centuries since the loss of King Solomon's temple, here are a few pictures of recreation of the Ark of the Covenant from the exact specifications given by God to Moses within the Holy Books.
Please note that some of the size details set forth in the Holy Books, are still questioned by scholars, today, such as the true length of the biblical "cubit" and, therefore, there are slightly different artistic renderings, however this is the closest that artists, goldsmiths and other craftsmen of today, could best represent what it actually looked like.
Of especial note...please take an extra moment to look inside the Ark of the Covenant, where you will find the detailed representations of the 10 Commandments on the 2 stone tablets, the Golden Pot of Manna and Aaron's rod.
Within Freemasonry, it is sometimes easy to get so caught up in memorizing our many symbols, that we actually forget what they symbolize. We learn that the 3 columns represent Wisdom, Strength and Beauty...and believe that once we have learned it as such, it ends there.
It is my hope that you will now be able to see with the "light" of true understanding,... the Wisdom, the Strength and the Beauty of God's "Footstool".
... Brought to you by the best modern-day operative artisans of their crafts, spanning both the Science of Geometry and the Arts
......"Behold, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth"; (Joshua 3:11)