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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Ark

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The Septuagint and the NT use κιβωτός = a wooden chest or box, as a terminus technicus both for Noah’s ark (חֵּבָה), and for the ark (אֲרוֹן) of the covenant.

1. An interesting account of the successive phases of modern opinion regarding the former ark will be found in Encyclopaedia Britannica 11 (s.v.). The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:7), taking the story as he finds it, refers to Noah’s forethought as a supreme instance of that faith which is the conviction of things not seen-a faith by which he not only virtually condemned the world, bringing its careless infidelity into strong relief, but became heir of that righteousness which is faith’s crown and reward (τῆς κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης). St. Peter (1 Peter 3:18 ff.), supplementing a tradition which is found in the Book of Enoch (6-16; cf. Jubilees, 5), imagines Christ, as a bodiless spirit, preaching, in the days between His Passion and His Resurrection, to the spirits in prison. These are the disobedient and, to St. Peter (himself like a spirit in prison during those three days), unhappy children of the unlawful union between angels and the daughters of men, condemned rebels who in vain sought the intervention of Enoch on their behalf in that time of Divine long-suffering when Noah was preparing the ark in which he saved himself and his family (see R. H. Charles, Bk. of Jub., Lond. 1902, p. 43ff.).

2. The writer of Hebrews mentions the ark of the covenant (τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης) as the innermost and most sacred piece of furniture contained in the Tabernacle. His description of it as ‘completely overlaid with gold’ (περικεκαλυμμένην πάντοθεν χρυσίῳ) corresponds with the directions given in Exodus 25:11 (ἔσωθεν καὶ ἔξωθεν χρυσώσεις αὐτήν). The designation ‘the ark of the covenant,’ which was probably coined by the writer of Deut., was historic ally later than ‘the ark of Jahweh,’ and ‘the ark of God’ (Jewish Encyclopedia ), and earlier than ‘the ark of the testimony’ (P). It was a contraction for ‘the ark containing the tables of the covenant,’ the Decalogue being a summary of the terms which Israel accepted on entering into covenant with God. In Kautzsch’s Heilige Schrift it is rendered die Lade mit dem Gesetz, ‘the ark with the law.’ When the Decalogue came to be known as ‘the testimony,’ the new name ἡ κιβωτὸς τοῦ μαρτυρίου was introduced, but it did not displace the older phrases. The golden pot of manna (the adj. is an embellishment upon Exodus 16:33) and Aaron’s rod that budded, which in the original narratives were laid up before the Lord (ἐναντίον τοῦ θεοῦ, Exodus 16:33; ἐνώπιον τῶν μαρτυρίων, Numbers 17:10) are supposed by the writer of Hebrews to have been within the ark.

The ultimate fate of the κιβωτός is involved in obscurity. The popular imagination could not entertain the idea that the inviolable ark was irrecoverably lost, and there arose a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., the Tabernacle with all its sacred furniture was hidden by Jeremiah (or, according to the Talmud, by Josiah) in a cava of Mt. Nebo (2 Esdras 10:22; 2 Maccabees 2:5), whence it was to be miraculously restored to its place at the coming of the Messiah. In the second and third Temple the Holy of Holies contained no ark. ‘In this was nothing at all,’ is Josephus’ emphatic testimony (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) v. 5). Pompey, on entering, found ‘vacuam sedem et inania arcana’ (Tac. Hist. v. 9). The thought of that emptiness oppressed the minds both of devout Jews and of Jewish Christians, and in Revelation 11:19, when the seventh angel has sounded, and the temple of God in heaven is opened, the ark of the covenant is there. ‘All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist; not the semblance but itself.’

Literature.-Besides the articles in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) (J. Macpherson and A. R. S. Kennedy), Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible (A. R. S. Kennedy), and especially Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (R. H. Kennett), see R. Kraetzschmar, Die Bundesvorstellung, Marburg, 1896; H. Couard, ‘Die religiöse nationale Bedeutung der Lade,’ in ZATW [Note: ATW Zeitschrift für die alttest. Wissen schaft.] xii. [1892]; Volck, article ‘Bundeslade,’ in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3.

James Strahan.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ark'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/a/ark.html. 1906-1918.

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