Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ark of the Covenant, Post 3

In several key theologies in the Bible, the ark is closely associated with the presence or appearance of God. Because of God's powerful otherness, it is kept in the innermost holy place of the temple, the adytum or "Holy of Holies."

In one set of these biblical traditions, the ark forms a symbolic stand, throne, or chariot for God. Both Psalm 80:1 and Psalm 99:1 speak of God sitting enthroned upon the cherubim. The poetic image was familiar in the ancient Near East. Here is an ivory carving from Canaanite Megiddo, showing a king sitting enthroned upon a cherub throne:

This understanding of the ark is most developed in Ezekiel and the HS strand of the Pentateuch, where not God, God's self, but God's "glory" permanently dwells atop the ark. For examples, see Ezekiel 1:26 and Exod 25:8; 29:45–46; Lev 26:11, all HS.

The neat thing in this theology is that God is wondrously present in the midst of God's people, who emulate God's holiness and are magnificently transformed by it. (See Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7. 26, all HS; Ezek 37:24; 43:9.) From the midst of Israel, God radiates the divine holiness out to the entire land and to every sector of society.


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