Noah’s Ark, made of gopher wood (Genesis 6:14), measured “450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high” (Genesis 6:15). That’s big enough to hold a zoo!
Moses’s Ark was a tiny papyrus basket, an “ark of bulrushes” (Exodus 2:3, KJV), a watertight bassinet.
On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses instructions concerning the Ark of the Covenant. “Make an ark of acacia wood, forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. Overlay it with pure gold; overlay it both inside and out. Also make a gold molding all around it … Set the mercy seat on top of the ark and put the tablets of the testimony that I will give you into the ark. I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites” (Exodus 25:10–11, 21-22).
“The Ark of the Testimony” (Exodus 25:22), a.k.a., the Ark of the Covenant, was a wooden box about the size of grandma’s cedar chest. In fact, the Hebrew word for “Ark” is also translated “chest” (2 Chronicles 24:11) and “coffin” (Genesis 50:26).
But the Ark of the Covenant was no ordinary box. It was plated inside and out with pure gold and held the Ten Commandments, the stone tablets etched by the finger of God (Exodus 34:1). Also, in the Ark were placed a pot of manna, the miraculous bread of Heaven graciously provided by God (Exodus 16:33), and Aaron’s rod that had budded (Numbers 17:10; Hebrews 9:4).
The ark was a reminder of God’s presence to guide the pilgrims and lead them in battle. “They set out from the mountain of the Lord … with the ark of the Lord’s covenant traveling ahead of them.”
Forty years after Sinai, God commanded a new generation of Israelites: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God carried by the Levitical priests, you are to break camp and follow it” (Joshua 3:3). “Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season. But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge and the water flowing downstream stood still, rising up in a mass … The water flowing downstream into the Sea of the Arabah—the Dead Sea—was completely cut off, and the people crossed opposite Jericho” (Joshua 3:15–16).
At Jericho, the symbol of God’s powerful presence led Israel into battle against the seemingly impenetrable city. “Now Jericho was strongly fortified because of the Israelites—no one leaving or entering. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its best soldiers over to you. March around the city with all the men of war, circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s-horn trumpets in front of the ark. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the rams’ horns’ ” (Joshua 6:1–4).
Where’s the Ark of the Covenant today?
Unless Indiana Jones was right, the Ark of the Covenant was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. “The Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles” (2 Chronicles 36:19).
But in the Revelation, John saw “the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant appeared in his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder…” (Revelation 11:19). Oh… we can only imagine!