Questions on the Ark of the Covenant and tabernacle of David

Home >  Full Study List >  Questions on the Ark of the Covenant and tabernacle of David

Question / Comment -  Questions on the Ark of the Covenant and tabernacle of David


I just have one question concerning the ark of the covenant. The ark signifies the presence of God kept in the holy of holies. We know that if anyone enters or sees the ark they will die right away except for the High Priest once a year. But there is something that intrigues me. In 1 Samuel 6, we see the people at Beth Shemesh could see the ark but they did not die until they open the mercy seat. During the time of David, the ark was kept in an open place (tabernacle of David), different from that of the tabernacle of Moses, but still, they did not die. How can this be? Can you explain? Please explain more about the difference between the tabernacle of David and the tabernacle of Moses and Acts 15:16. Thanks.

JPN Reply:


concerning the ark of the covenant and 1 Sam 6, I'm not sure if there is a definitive answer but here are a few things to consider... Firstly some scriptures about the ark:

Only the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and then only on the Day of Atonement, least even he die:

Lev 16:2-3  The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.  (3)  "Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

But the Ark was obviously moved through the wilderness and even later Israel took it out thinking that it would win the war against the Philistines for them. When they moved the Ark through the wilderness they had to cover it up first and it was to be done without touching it - so they would carry it on poles:

Num 4:5-6  "When the camp sets out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and they shall take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it;  (6)  and they shall lay a covering of porpoise skin on it, and shall spread over it a cloth of pure blue, and shall insert its poles.

In 1 Sam 6 we see the Ark, which had previously been taken out into battle and lost (1 Sam 4) getting returned to Israel by the Philistines after they had been inflicted by God (1 Sam 5:9-12). Scripture doesn't tell us whether they covered it up or not at this stage. We do know that having been inflicted with a plague, the fear of God came upon them and they were eager to do the right thing and return it! (1 Sam 6:1-10) - even if they didn't know the right way to transport it (they put it on a cart lead by cows instead of carrying it on poles... but they were not to know.) Was it covered? I'm not sure. If it wasn't God obviously overlooked it because they were trying to do the right thing without knowing what to do, having never had the instruction from God themselves. 

So far all was well. The Ark was coming back and the Lord had not judged anyone. And I don't think He would have had the Israelites treated it with the holiness it deserved and followed what He had commanded them. But they specifically looked into it - which meant touching it and opening it - probably to see whether the contents were still inside. They were obviously not allowed to do this and were judged (1 Sam 6:19). Were they able to see it before this or was it covered? We don't know. But certainly, touching it and opening it was a deliberate act against the commands of God. 


Now concerning the tabernacle of David, the Bible doesn't say much. There are only a few verses and it doesn't describe how it differed at all from the tabernacle of Moses. There is a Q&A on it here if interested:


Concerning Acts 15:16, the passage says:

Act 15:13-19  After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me.  (14)  "Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  (15)  "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,  (16)  'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT,  (17)  SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,'  (18)  SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.  (19)  "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,

Acts 15:16 this is a symbolic reference to the royal line of David... not that David's tent will specifically be rebuilt. It looks forward to the day when one will rule and reign from the line of David, from Jerusalem, once again. This One is obviously the Lord Jesus: 

Rev 22:16  "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

Here is a good extended explanation of Acts 15:15-19 from William MacDonald, the Believers Bible Commentary. I'll highlight a few relevant parts: 

"15:15-19   Then James quoted from Amo_9:11-12. Notice that he did not say that the calling out of the Gentiles was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos, but rather that it agreed with the words of the prophets. The assembly should not think it a strange thing that God should visit the Gentiles with salvation, because this had been clearly predicted in the OT. God had foretold that Gentiles would be blessed as such, and not as believing Jews.

The quotation from Amos looks forward to the Millennium, when Christ will sit upon the throne of David and when the Gentiles will seek after the Lord. James did not intimate that this prophecy was being fulfilled at the time he spoke. Rather, he said that the salvation of Gentiles which was then taking place was in harmony or agreement with what Amos said would take place later.

James' argument was this: First God would visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. This is what was then happening (and is still happening). Converted Gentiles were included in the church with converted Jews. What was then happening on a small scale (the salvation of the Gentiles) would later happen on a larger scale. Christ would return, restore Israel nationally, and save all the Gentiles who would be called by His name.

James looked on contemporary events as God's first visitation of the Gentiles. He felt this first visitation was in perfect harmony with what Amos predicted—the future visitation of the Gentiles when Christ returns as King. The two events agree though they are not identical.

Notice, then, the order of events:

1.  The taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name (v. 14) during this present Age of Grace.
2.  The restoration of the believing portion of the nation of Israel at Christ's second advent (v. 16).
3.  The salvation of Gentile nations following the restoration of Israel (v. 17). These Gentiles are referred to as all the Gentiles who are called by My name.

James' quotation of Amo_9:11-12 is quite different from the rendering in the OT. Part of this difference is explained by the fact that James apparently quoted in Greek. However, the quotation is quite different even from the Septuagint. One explanation is that the same Holy Spirit who originally inspired the words now permitted them to be changed in order to meet the problem at hand. Another is that the Hebrew manuscripts have several readings in Amos 9. Alford believes James must have quoted from a translation close to a received Hebrew text, otherwise the Pharisees would never have accepted the quotation as proof.

After this I will return (v. 16). James had already stated that God's program for this present age was to open the door of faith to the Gentiles. Not all of them would be saved, but He would take out of them a people for His name. Now James added that after this, that is, after the church has been called out from the nations, God would return and rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen and in ruins. The tabernacle of David is a figurative expression describing his house or family. Its restoration is a type of the future restoration of the royal family and the re-establishment of the throne of David with Christ sitting upon it as King. Israel will then become the channel of blessing to the world. The rest of mankind will seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by His name.

The quotation from Amos closes with the statement that these are the words of the Lord who does all these things. Therefore, because God's present purpose is to call out from the Gentiles a people for Himself, James cautioned against troubling the Gentiles by putting them under the Law of Moses. As far as salvation is concerned, all that was needed was faith."

Hope that helps. 

God Bless,

Related Series Posts