The Strange Story of the Ark and the Tabernacle

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of contents

The Ark in the Promised Land

[Bible references: Joshua 4-5; 18:1; 1 Samuel 4-6; 6:19; 21-22; 1 Kings 8:27; 1 Chronicles 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:13; 1 Samuel 4:1-11; 2 Samuel 6:5-7; 12-13]

After Israel entered the Promised Land, the tabernacle and all its furnishings were originally placed in Gilgal.[1] After the land was settled the tabernacle was then set up in Shiloh where it stayed for two hundred years. During the time of Samuel, Samuel’s sons, without consulting God, removed the ark from the tabernacle to take it into battle with the Philistines who not only won the battle but took the ark with them. The Philistines found that although Yahweh did not see fit to help Israel win the battle, Yahweh did create issues with the Philistines. The Philistines responded by moving the ark a couple of times, but the problems did not disappear and so the ark was sent back to Israel.

The ark initially ended up in Beth Shemesh, but after 70 people died when they tried to look in the ark, the people of Beth Shemesh sent the ark to Kiriath Jearim where it stayed for 20 years. The Bible is not explicit about when it happened, but sometime during the reign of King Saul, the tabernacle, sans the ark, was moved to Nob and then to Gibeon.

After David established the capital in Jerusalem, King David set up his own tabernacle and then moved the ark there. In moving the ark, David had to learn a lesson. He first tried to have the ark carried in a cart, but when the ark started to slip out of the cart, the people died who touched the ark to prevent it from slipping out. So, the ark ended up in Obed-Edom’s house for a while. Hophni and Phineas learned the hard way that you don’t necessarily take the presence of God when you take the ark, but David learned the hard way that you can’t ignore the presence of God when you take the ark. David was successful in moving the ark to Jerusalem after he had the ark moved according to the instructions God had given Moses.

The Tabernacle and the Temple.

[Bible references: I Kings 6-8; 7:13-51; 1 Chronicles 6:31-32; 2 Chronicles 6:18; Amos 9:11-15; Acts 15:1-21]

During the time of Solomon, the temple was built to replace the tabernacle. All the furnishings except the ark itself were built by a foreigner from Tyre named Hiram. The original furnishings of the tabernacle were probably put into storage in the temple. Although the temple was much more grandiose than the tabernacle, Solomon recognized that it still could not hold God. Solomon’s temple was eventually destroyed by the Babylonians.[2]

The interesting thing with this history is that during the time of King David all the rituals of Moses were carried out at the tabernacle in Gibeon where there was no ark and no presence of God, while the ark itself, with the presence of God, was in Jerusalem where there was a service of joy, dancing and singing instead of the ritual sacrifices. Also, the ark was no longer concealed in the Holy of Holies where there was limited access, it was now in a place where everyone could access it.

This brings us to the prophet Amos who prophesied that God was going to destroy most of Israel, except for a remnant, and that David’s tabernacle will be restored – not the one at Gibeon, not the temple Solomon built, but David’s tabernacle. This scripture passage in the Old Testament was quoted in Acts 15 where it was determined that Amos was referring to Gentiles now being accepted into the kingdom of God. The tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were restricted to the nation of Israel, but God was now going to make himself available to the whole world, Jews, and Gentiles alike.

[1] Joshua 4-5 – Although the tabernacle is not specifically mentioned, Gilgal seems to be the place where Israel settled until the land was divided and is where Passover was celebrated. In Joshua 9, Gilgal is where the Gibeonites come to make a treaty with Israel.

[2] Jewish Bible Quarterly “Reconstructing the Destruction of the Tabernacle at Shiloh”

The ark in the Promised Land


Some people use objects or rituals as “good luck charms.” How does the story of the ark relate to that? Have you used a “charm” instead seeking the will of God?


Read 1 Samuel 4:1-11; 2 Samuel 6:1-7. What do these passages tell you about the presence of God?

The tabernacle and temple


What does the story of the “Tabernacle of David” mean for today’s worship services?


Read Amos 9:11-15; Acts 15:1-21. How was Amos’ prophecy used by the apostles to allow Gentiles into the church without needing to submit to Jewish practices?

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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