A photo capturing a wooden chest, covered in intricate carvings and adorned with golden cherubim, symbolizing the Ark of God as mentioned in 1 Samuel.

What Is The Ark Of God In 1 Samuel

The Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Ark of God, was a sacred chest described in the Book of Exodus as containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. It played a key role in several Bible stories, perhaps most famously in 1 Samuel when the Philistines captured the Ark but later returned it after being afflicted with plagues.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The ark of God referred to in 1 Samuel is the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred chest containing the Ten Commandments that was stolen by the Philistines after a battle but later returned when they were afflicted by tumors and plagues.

In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the ark of God in depth, looking at its origins, purpose, key events involving the ark in 1 Samuel, what happened after its return, and the ark’s lasting spiritual significance.

Origins and Purpose of the Ark of the Covenant

Made by Bezalel According to God’s Instructions

The Ark of the Covenant was constructed around 1445 BC according to the instructions that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. God commanded Moses to have the Israelites build a wooden chest covered in gold.

The man chosen for this task was Bezalel, who filled with the spirit of God had wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to oversee the Ark’s construction (Exodus 31:1-6). The Ark measured 2.5 cubits in length, 1.5 cubits in width, and 1.5 cubits in height (approximately 3.75′ x 2.25′ x 2.25′).

It was to be carried by poles placed through rings attached to its sides. The Ark served as the most holy piece of furniture in the Tabernacle and later the Temple.

Contained the Stone Tablets of the Ten Commandments

The major purpose of the Ark was to contain the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16). God inscribed these laws on the tablets when Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God (Exodus 31:18).

The Ten Commandments represented the covenant between God and Israel. Placing them inside the Ark signified God’s presence among His people and His relationship with them. The Ark was situated in the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and Temple, which represented God’s throne room.

Housing the Ten Commandments showed that God’s law and presence was central to the Israelite’s worship of Him.

Served as a Physical Symbol of God’s Presence

In addition to the tablets of the law, the Ark held other items that represented God’s presence with His people. It stored Aaron’s rod that budded, showing his priestly authority, and a golden jar of manna from when God provided food in the wilderness (Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:10, Heb. 9:4).

The lid of the Ark known as the mercy seat had two golden cherubim facing each other with wings spread. This is where God’s presence dwelled and where atonement was made (Ex. 25:17-22). The Ark was considered so holy that only the high priest could approach it, and only on the Day of Atonement.

The size, mobility, and items inside made the Ark a perfect symbol of God’s power and proximity to His people.

The Ark in Action: Key Events in 1 Samuel

The Ark Brought to the Battle Against the Philistines

In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the Philistines, believing it would help them defeat their enemies. However, the Philistines captured the Ark and killed Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas, showing that the Ark itself had no inherent power apart from God (1 Samuel 4:10-11).

This teaches us not to put our faith in objects, but to trust in God alone.

Capture and Return of the Ark

After capturing the Ark, the Philistines took it to several of their cities, but God afflicted them with tumors and mice wherever it went (1 Samuel 5-6). So the Philistines finally sent the Ark back to Israel on a cart pulled by milk cows.

The cows took it straight to Beth-shemesh, showing God’s providence (1 Samuel 6:7-14). However, some Israelites looked inside the Ark and were struck dead, showing that treating holy things casually brings judgment (1 Samuel 6:19).

The Ark in Kiriath-jearim

From Beth-shemesh, the Ark was taken to Kiriath-jearim where it stayed for 20 years (1 Samuel 7:1-2). During this time, Israel mourned over the Ark and turned back to the Lord. According to the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, having the Ark near but not at the tabernacle may have taught Israel an important lesson about having God’s presence without proper obedience.

When we willfully disobey God but still want His blessings, we are living inconsistently.

After 1 Samuel: The Ark in Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies

David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem

After the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant, it stayed over 20 years in Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:2). When David became king over all Israel, one of his first priorities was to bring the Ark representing God’s presence to Jerusalem, the new capital city (2 Samuel 6:1-19).

This act strengthened David’s political power and helped establish Jerusalem as the central place of worship for the Israelites.

However, David’s first attempt to transport the Ark ended in tragedy when Uzzah died touching the Ark despite good intentions (2 Samuel 6:6-7). This caused David to fear moving the Ark. Three months later after ensuring proper worship procedures, priests and Levites carried the Ark into Jerusalem without incident as David and Israelites celebrated with offerings, music, dancing, feasting and blessings (2 Samuel 6:12-19).

The Ark resided in a tent David pitched to house the symbol of God’s presence until his son Solomon built the first temple.

The Ark Placed in Solomon’s Temple

When Solomon completed construction on the opulent Jerusalem Temple to permanently house the Ark of the Covenant, priests brought the holy Ark from its temporary tent dwelling into the Most Holy Place (1 Kings 8:1-9).

As they set the Ark containing the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments under the Temple’s two towering cherubim statutes, God’s glory filled the Temple.

For nearly 400 years, the Ark occupied this restricted inner sanctuary room as Israel’s religious and political focal point until 587 BCE when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple (2 Kings 25:9).

With the Ark’s fate unknown, the rebuilt second Temple featured an empty Holy of Holies room. The New Testament book of Hebrews revealed Jesus Christ fulfilled the Ark’s role as the new meeting place between God and humanity (Hebrews 9:1-14).

Spiritual Significance of the Ark of the Covenant

Representation of God’s Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant was a sacred chest that represented God’s presence and His covenant with the Israelites. This holy relic was the most sacred object of the Tabernacle and symbolized God’s divine favor towards His chosen people (Exodus 25:22).

According to the Bible, God instructed Moses to build the Ark during the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. It served as the tangible sign of God’s covenant promise to dwell among His people (Exodus 29:45).

This divine agreement was God’s pledge to be their God and protector if they faithfully worshipped Him alone.

The Ark powerfully reassured the Israelites of God’s holy presence in their midst during their desert journey. Whenever they saw it, they were reminded of His love, care, and guidance. It gave them hope and courage to press on towards the Promised Land despite hardships along the way.

Whenever the Ark was carried into battle, God miraculously gave them victory over enemies that were far stronger, proving that He was fighting for them (Joshua 6:6-20). This reinforced the truth that God was faithful to His covenant with them.

Powerful Religious Symbol

The Ark was the most sacred religious symbol to the Israelites. During their wilderness travels, the Ark was housed within the innermost section of the Tabernacle. It indicated that God’s presence dwelled in the midst of their camp (Numbers 10:33-36).

The Ark was revered with the greatest care and respect.

Later when the Temple was built in Jerusalem, the Ark was installed in the Most Holy Place and seen only by the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. This annual ceremony made atonement for the sins of the people.

The Ark’s location indicated God’s presence resided there in the Temple’s innermost sanctuary.

The Ark was a powerful reminder of God’s supremacy, holiness and worthiness to be worshipped. Its place in the Most Holy Place was a visual cue that humanity could not casually approach God, but needed a mediating priest to make intercession on their behalf.

The loss of the Ark was a national catastrophe for Israel (1 Samuel 4:17). The Ark’s absence left them feeling abandoned by God. Later, when the Ark was recovered and installed in Jerusalem once again, there was tremendous joy and celebration, indicating God’s renewed presence with His people (1 Kings 8:1-13).


The Ark of the Covenant was a sacred object that played an important narrative and symbolic role starting in Exodus. In 1 Samuel, the ark demonstrated both divine power and vulnerability when it empowered and then was captured by the Israelites’ enemies, the Philistines.

After its return and placement in Kiriath-jearim, David brought the ark triumphantly to Jerusalem, where his son Solomon later enshrined it in the Holy of Holies in the newly built First Temple. As the physical container for the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God, the Ark served as a powerful reminder of God’s covenant and presence with His chosen people, making it one of the most sacred objects in all of Scripture.

Similar Posts