The Ark of the Covenant served as a physical representation of God’s presence amongst the Israelites and played a crucial role in their religious practices. The
The mention of dragons often conjures images of formidable, fire-breathing beasts from folklore and mythology. However, the question of whether dragons exist in the Bible has intrigued many. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the subject of dragons in the Bible, exploring potential references, their symbolic significance, and the historical and cultural context.
Churchgists is always committed to offering you all the details you need on Dragons in the Bible: Unveiling Myth and Metaphor, A Cover for the Ark of the Covenant: The Mercy Seat, What Is the History of the Ark of the Covenant, The Three Important Artifacts inside the Ark, I trust that when you done with this article you will be well grounded on this subject matter.
What Is the History of the Ark of the Covenant?
Most of the time, since its creation, the Ark of the Covenant stays within the Tabernacle (a moving temple) and later the temple. But sometimes, throughout Israel’s history, the Ark goes on the move.
For instance, the Philistines manage to capture the Ark during Samuel’s childhood and take it to their god Dagon, until the Ark causes a plague in their land and breaks their idol statue. During another instance in David’s reign, the Israelites attempt to return the Ark, but because a man tries to stop the Ark from falling with his bare hands, he dies.
Sadly, the Ark disappears from the narrative when the Babylonians sack Jerusalem and destroy the temple. The Ark goes missing from the narrative then.
Now that we’ve established the identity and historical context of the Ark, are six facts about the Ark of the Covenant:
Specification and Dimensions
Much like we have the exact dimensions and instructions for Noah’s ark in Genesis, Exodus 25:10-22 describes the process and the parameters for the creation of the chest. The chapter begins, “The Lord said to Moses”, and begins to outline God’s specifications for the creation of objects to be used in worship. The ark is the first one described.
Made from a base of acacia wood – a hardwood, scratch-resistant, and known for its durability – it had a gold overlay. The poles used to carry the ark were of the same material. On top of the ark, was the mercy seat, or kapporeth in Hebrew. The Lord commanded: “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold…And you shall make two cherubim of gold…Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends” (Exodus 25:17-19). God’s presence settled on the mercy seat when it came into the tabernacle to be with the nation of Israel.
The Three Important Artifacts inside the Ark
These were the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budded staff, and manna. As a container vessel, the ark carried artifacts that spoke to key moments during Israel’s time in the wilderness. The second set of stone tablets represented the law – the Old Testament standard of righteousness. Moses smashed the original tablets in Exodus 32 after the Israelites made the golden calf to worship.
The rod of Aaron was the same rod which God turned into a serpent before Pharaoh. However, the moment noted more significant by the writer of Hebrews, was the budding and flowering of the rod. In Numbers, the people of Israel began to grumble against Moses and Aaron’s leadership, and the Lord had just struck down a group of rebels. To prove the chosen priesthood of Aaron and his line, the Lord commanded the tribes of Israel to set out twelve staffs, with Aaron’s representing the tribe of Levi, the tribe God appointed to the priesthood. They left them out overnight, “and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8). For the Israelites, this rod represented the line of the priesthood.
Finally, the cup of manna was clear evidence of God’s provision for His people. Manna sustained the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness after they fled Egypt. The word manna appears to express their confusion about what it was, as they exclaimed upon seeing it for the first time, “what is it?” Every morning for forty years, the sweet, flaky, white substance that was similar to coriander kept the Israelites fed, combined with quail in the evening. The Israelites honored God for His kept promises and miraculous provision by keeping a sample of manna in the ark.
Was it Holy?
It can be easy to assume the gold-plated, special vessel that held the law, the symbol of the priesthood, and the proof of God’s provision held a special, perhaps mystical status. However, what truly made it special – what made it important – was the actual manifestation of God’s presence. The mercy seat served as an actual seat for the Lord in the Tabernacle, and eventually in Solomon’s temple. Here, the Lord’s Spirit indwelled and filled the space as a cloud. The true power of God rested upon the Ark.
What Was the Purpose of the Ark?
Because the Lord’s Spirit came in all His glory, few could come into its direct presence. Once a year, on the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the temple and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice upon the cover of the ark. This action atoned for the sins of the whole nation. The priest who went into the temple during the time of Yom Kippur had to be fully right with God, lest he be struck dead. Today, Christians believe Jesus Christ serves as our High Priest and as the sacrifice. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Who Stole the Ark?
The Philistines captured God’s Ark after the battle of Shiloh, where the sons of the High Priest Eli – Hophni and Phinehas – were killed. It did not stay in any one place for very long, as disaster seemed to strike the Philistines whenever they moved what they believed to be a war prize. From hemorrhoids, to mice, no matter where the Philistines moved the Ark, trouble followed. It culminated in them putting the Ark in their pagan temple, and the statue of their false god Dagon was found prostrate before the Ark twice – the second time, broken. 1 Samuel 5:4 says, “…and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold.” The Philistines only kept it seven months according to 1 Samuel 6:1, because of all the troubles that befell the cities that held the Lord’s ark.
Dragons in the Bible: A Complex Subject:
The Bible does contain references to creatures that some interpretations or translations may label as “dragons.” However, these references are not about the mythical dragons of fantasy but rather symbolic or metaphorical in nature.
Leviathan and Behemoth:
Two prominent creatures mentioned in the Bible often associated with dragons are Leviathan and Behemoth. In the Book of Job, Leviathan is described as a fierce sea monster, and Behemoth is portrayed as a powerful land creature. These descriptions are highly symbolic and represent the forces of chaos and strength in the natural world.
In some biblical passages, dragon-like imagery is used to convey spiritual messages. For example, in the Book of Revelation, a great red dragon symbolizes evil and chaos. This is a symbolic representation, not a description of a literal creature.
Historical and Cultural Context:
Understanding the concept of dragons in the Bible requires consideration of the historical and cultural context in which the texts were written. The ancient Near Eastern world had its own myths and beliefs that influenced the use of dragon symbolism in biblical narratives.
Biblical authors may have drawn upon the cultural myths and symbols of their time to convey moral and spiritual lessons. The use of dragon imagery in this context is more about conveying a message than describing actual creatures.
Lessons from Dragons in the Bible:
The dragon imagery in the Bible serves various purposes, including emphasizing the struggle between good and evil, chaos and order, and the need for faith and trust in the divine. It encourages readers to reflect on their spiritual journey and the challenges they face.
A Cover for the Ark of the Covenant: The Mercy Seat
The Ark required “an atonement cover,” called the Mercy Seat, to be built with pure gold and with the same dimensions in length and breadth as the Ark. There had to be one cherubim of gold on both ends of the Mercy Seat. It was important to have the cherubim spread their wings and face one another, symbolizing the angels’ attention and readiness to do God’s will.
The Mercy Seat was where God would dwell. He said, “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites” (Exodus 25:22).
Unlike the statutes of gods idolized by many of the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant served as a religious symbol where the people could meet with God. He hovered over the Ark when the priests were present. If the priests were absent, the presence of the law tablets reflected God’s presence. Thus, the Ark of the Covenant was aptly named because of the commandments written on the tablets.
While the Bible does contain references to creatures that might be termed “dragons,” these references are best understood within their historical and cultural context. The Bible primarily uses dragon symbolism to convey spiritual and moral lessons rather than to describe literal creatures. The concept of dragons in the Bible underscores the rich symbolism and storytelling within the sacred text, inviting readers to reflect on the profound spiritual and moral messages conveyed through these enigmatic creatures.