As the most tangible symbol
of the Lord’s presence among the Israelites,
the Ark of the Covenant played a central role in the worship
and religious life of Israel until it was lost or destroyed
during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
(2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10; 52:1-30).
The very construction of the Ark–an ornamented box
fitted with poles
to allow it to be transported from place to place–testifies
to the nomadic life of the early Israelites,
as does the construction of the Tabernacle,
the portable worship structure in which the Ark was housed.
The Ark was first assembled at Mount Sinai
and carried to each destination along the Israelites’ wilderness travels.
Eventually the Israelites arrived at the Promised Land
and carried the Ark across the dry bed of the Jordan River
The Ark was then carried in front of those who marched around Jericho before the city fell to the Israelites (Joshua 6).
Soon after this the Ark and Tabernacle were set up at the cult center of Bethel, and it was there that the Israelites consulted the Lord before attacking the Benjaminites at Gibeah (Judges 20).
The judge Deborah also held court near Bethel, possibly indicating that the Ark was still located at Bethel during her time (Judges 4:5).
Sometime later in the era of the Judges the Ark and Tabernacle were moved further north to Shiloh (Joshua 18; Judges 18:31).
Much later the Israelites carried the Ark into battle near Aphek to try to ensure victory against the Philistines, but the Ark was captured instead and taken to Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron (1 Samuel 4-5; also see map).
The worship center of Shiloh appears to have been overrun as well
(Psalm 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12-14; 26:6).
Many of the priests apparently relocated to the town of Nob near Jerusalem (1 Samuel 22:11), while the Tabernacle and altar were relocated to the High Place at Gibeon/Gibeah (1 Chronicles 16:39-40; 21:29).
Meanwhile, in each Philistine town where the Ark was taken, the people suffered terrible plagues (1 Samuel 5), so the Philistines eventually
placed the Ark on a cart
and sent it to the Israelite town of Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6). Then Israelites from Kiriath-jearim came and transported the Ark to their town, where the Ark remained for 20 years (1 Samuel 6:19-7:2).
After David became king over all Israel, he attempted to move the Ark to Jerusalem on a new cart, but the procession was halted when the oxen pulling the cart stumbled and the Lord struck a man named Uzzah dead as he reached out and took hold of the Ark to steady it (1 Samuel 6:1-11).
Later, David attempted to move the Ark again, but this time men carried the Ark instead of placing it on a cart (2 Samuel 6:13), perhaps indicating a new focus to carefully follow the law of Moses regarding the Ark’s transfer (Numbers 7:9).
After bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, David placed it in a special tent (1 Samuel 6:17; 2 Chronicles 1:4), but the Tabernacle and altar remained at the High Place of Gibeon (1 Kings 3:1-4; 2 Chronicles 1:5-13). Years later his son Solomon became king and built a permanent Temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark (1 Kings 6-8; 2 Chronicles 3-5)
The Entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land
The Lord helped Joshua lead the Hebrew people
into the Promised Land.
When they entered this land, the Israelites had to cross the Jordan River.
At God’s command, Joshua told the priests to
take the Ark of the Covenant into the river.
No sooner had they wet their feet in the water than the river parted.
The water that flowed from the upper reaches of the river came to a stop like a wall, and the lower part of the river flowed down to the sea and all the people crossed over the dry river bed.
After crossing the Jordan River, it was necessary to capture the city of Jericho, which had very high and strong walls. Joshua, by God’s command, ordered the people, with the priests in front with the Ark of the venant, to walk around the city for seven days: once a day for six days, and on the seventh day, the ark was to be carried around seven times. After this, the walls of Jericho crumbled to their foundations at the sound of the priests’ trumpets and the loud cries of all the people. In this way the Israelites took the city.
A great battle with the people of the land of Canaan took place by the city of Gabaon. The Israelites defeated their enemies and put them to flight while God rained stones from heaven on those who were fleeing, so that more perished from the stones than from the swords of the Israelites. The day was coming to an end, but the Israelites had not yet routed their enemies. Joshua then prayed to God and cried out aloud before the people, "Sun, stand still, and moon, do not move..." And the sun did stand still, and night did not come until the Israelites had defeated their enemies.
With God’s help, in six years Joshua conquered the entire Promised Land and divided it by lot among the twelve tribes of Israel. The two sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received the portions of Levi and Joseph. The tribe of Levi served at the tabernacle and was supported by the tithes (ten percent of the income) collected from the people.
Before his death, Joshua commanded in his last testimony that the Israelites firmly preserve the faith in the true God and serve Him
in purity and sincerity.