Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Other Ark of Moses

Two different Hebrew words are translated ark in English, tevah and aron. At their simplest, they both mean box. Tevah is used to describe two things in the Bible, Noah's ark, and the basket the infant Moses floated down the Nile River in. You might say that Moses was the new Noah. See The Ark Of Moses [1] for more details on tevah. Aron is used to describe the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle, called Aron HaBrit, sometimes ark of testimony Aron HaEdut, sometimes simply holy ark Aron Kodesh.

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Ark of the Covenant with Kapporet
After insisting that two different words are used, you're probably wondering what the ark of the covenant has to do with Noah's ark. Noah's ark was covered inside and out with pitch, in Hebrew it reads "to kafar it with kofer" - Gen 6:14, where kafar (or kippur) means cover, many translations say "pitch it with pitch". And it turns out the ark of the covenant had a cover called the kapporet, the same root Hebrew word as kafar or kippur. Kapporet is only used to describe the cover of the ark. In English, the kapporet is called the mercy seat, but "Jewish translations traditionally avoid the translation 'mercy seat' " - Wikipedia (mercy seat) [2], so I will stick with kapporet. This covering (kapporet) appears to have a slightly different function than the other coverings described by kafar - Day Of Coverings [3].

Noah's ark / Moses' ark

Depiction of Noah's Ark

Let's examine some of the similarities and differences between kafar and kapporet, and between Noah's ark and ark of the covenant.

Noah's ark was a (large) wooden box covered inside and out with pitch.
The ark of the covenant was a wooden box covered inside and out with gold.

In Noah's ark, the pitch (kofer)  covered wood.

The kapporet was pure gold, with two cherubim outstretched over it. It rested on top of the ark of the covenant, literally a cover.

The ark of the covenant contained things.

Noah's ark contained people and animals.

The ark of the covenant contained the Ten Commandment tablets of stone, Aaron's rod that budded, and a jar of manna, though at the time of Solomon's temple, Aaron's rod and the manna are not mentioned - 2 Chron 5:7-10.

Noah's ark held eight people, and two of air breathing animals.

The people were inside Noah's ark and couldn't go out.

The people were outside the ark of the covenant and couldn't go in.

The kapporet was sprinkled with blood.

Noah's ark was smeared with pitch, that is, covered completely.

The ark of the covenant was carried with two poles, which were never removed.

Noah's ark traveled by floating on the water.

The ark of the covenant was NEVER to be opened, it was only seen once a year by the high priest, and maybe by the priests that carried it. Three items were placed there by Moses, and there is no provision or ceremony to open it EVER.

People and animals left Noah's ark.

We don't know where Noah's ark is.

We don't know where the ark of the covenant is.

Noah is a savior and deliverer, that is, a type of Christ.

Moses is a savior and deliverer, that is, a type of Christ.

Blood sprinkled on the ark of the covenant and kapporet cleansed the nation of Israel from sin year after year on Yom HaKippurim. There's the kapporet covering sin.

Noah's ark cleansed Noah's family (all mankind at the time) once. Some say the flood cleansed the earth of mankind.

Noah's ark and Moses' first ark (tevahwere temporary, used once.
The ark of the covenant (aron) is permanent.

Cover My Ark

This other ark of Moses, its cover (kapporet), and its contents are rich with symbolism. For example, w
hen the Old Covenant was ratified, Moses sprinkled blood on the people . On Yom HaKippurim, the High Priest sprinkled blood on the kapporet of the ark, which contained the Ten Commandments tablets. Note the strong connection between the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant, "And he (Moses) wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments - Exodus 34:28. See Ten Little Known Facts About the Ten Commandments [4]. 

Everything about the ark of the covenant points to Jesus Christ in some way - Ark of the Covenant: An Earthly Symbol [5]. He is symbolized by both the High Priest and the sacrifice, and even the furniture of the Tabernacle. 
Heb 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
The ark of the covenant, wood covered in gold, pictures a human Jesus covered with the divine. The kapporet pictures His work of cleansing through the sprinkling of blood. "Just as the blood on the mercy seat, the blood of Christ stands between the Law of God and the Presence of God." -  The Symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant [6]. The location of the ark is in the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Tabernacle. The original tablets of stone engraved with the Ten Commandments symbolize Jesus, the Lawgiver and Law keeper. Aaron's rod pictures His resurrection, a dead stick brought to life and bearing fruit. The manna was called the bread from heaven, but Jesus is the true bread from heaven.

But the ark of the covenant also pictures each believer. The apostle Paul referred to his own body as an earthly tabernacle. The innermost part of a man is his heart and mind. "If we are a type of a Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) for Adonai, than it stands to reason that we also contain an Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). This ark is our heart." - The Glory Of The Ark [7]. Ezek 36:26 says "I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." As the Old Covenant was written on tablets of stone, the New Covenant is written in our hearts and in our minds, Jer 31:31. 

Aaron's rod that budded
Continuing the analogy, the rod, a walking stick, pictures us "walking in the newness of life" - Rom 6:4. We were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13), given a new life at baptism, and expected to bear much fruit (John 15:8). And one day resurrected to eternal life. It also pictures the authority of God's chosen - Useful Bible [8]. 

And the manna, the bread from heaven. John 6:51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” The Feast of Unleavened Bread teaches us to take in "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5:8) for a lifetime. This is how we actually write the law of God in our inward parts, in other words, we have a part to play internalizing the word of God. It is also expressed simply as "give us this day our daily bread" Matt 6:11. But it's not about physical bread, "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD" - Deut 8:3, Matt 4:4.

A Place To Meet The Divine

But what is the point of the ark of the covenant? Is it to hide God's word and our new life, never to be seen by anyone ever again? NO. The purpose of the ark and the kapporet was not to hide things, but  to communicate with God Himself. In Exodus 25:8, God tells Moses to build a holy place for Him, "Let them construct a sanctuary (literally, a holy place) for Me, that I may dwell among them. And Exodus 25:22 "There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat (kapporet), from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel."

Shekinah Glory Between the Cherubim

God's glory, known to some as the shekinah, came down from heaven to rest between the cherubim, and He would talk to Moses there. Just as Moses made a holy place in the innermost part of the Tabernacle, we are to make a holy place for God in the innermost part of ourselves (the heart and mind) where He can dwell.

Discussion Questions

Why were those three items placed in the ark of the covenant? What do they have in common? 

Why would the rod and manna be removed from the ark? By whom?

Why is blood sprinkled on the kapporet, but pitch is smeared on Noah's ark?

How do the carrying poles of the ark of the covenant picture Jesus?

Why were the poles never removed?