What Is the Significance of the Arks in the Bible?

“But with thee will I establish my covenant...” (Genesis 6:18). God has made a covenant with man and all creatures. This covenant is an agreement, an assurance that God would provide for man.

Contributing Writer
Published May 25, 2022
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What Is the Significance of the Arks in the Bible?

What is or was the purpose of The Ark? How many Arks have existed in the Bible?

No doubt many people have heard about the Ark. But what is the Ark, really? Is it more than the Old Testament story about a man who built a boat and put a bunch of animals on it before a great flood? What is or was the purpose of the Ark? We will take a few moments to go back and see what we can find out about the Ark.

The First Ark

In Genesis 6, we find the first account of the Ark. Man began to multiply, sin began to overcome the earth. God noticed that the wickedness of man was great, and every imaginable evil was on the minds of man. This grieved the Lord, and he said that he would destroy man.

However, by verse eight we see that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just man and he walked with God. Can the same be said about any of us in today’s society? Have we found grace in the Lord’s eyes? Are we just and do we walk with God daily?

God told Noah that man had become evil and that he would destroy man, but Noah had a job to do. “Make thee an ark…” (Genesis 6:14). God gives Noah directions on what to use and how to build the Ark.

The same can be said for us today. God has given us directions on what to do and how to do it, but how many of us have actually paid attention and are following those directions?

“But with thee will I establish my covenant...” (Genesis 6:18). God has made a covenant with man and all creatures. This covenant is an agreement, an assurance that God would provide for man.

By chapter 8, the rain has fallen, and the floodwaters have risen and covered the earth. With the exception of Noah and his immediate family, and the animals that were brought aboard the Ark, all of humanity and living things on the earth have perished in the flood.

The Ark finally came to rest upon dry land, and Noah and his family and all the animals from the Ark walked out to restart mankind’s existence.

So, what does this story tell us about the Ark? God designed it to provide protection for a just man and his family, as well as for the animals that would repopulate the earth. It was then sealed by the Lord (Genesis 7:16).

The Second Ark

In Exodus 25-31, God gives bearings for building the Tabernacle. Chapters 35 through 39 tell how these guidelines were done. In any case, what can every one of these old, development details show us today?

In the first place, the superior quality of the valuable materials making up the Tabernacle shows God's significance and greatness. Second, the shroud encompassing the Most Holy Place shows God's moral flawlessness as represented by his detachment from the unclean and common.

Third, the portability of the Tabernacle shows God's desire to always be with the Israelites as they journeyed (Exodus 25:8).

In Exodus 25:10, instructions are given on the making of the Ark. In most of the contents of the Tabernacle, including the Ark and the furniture, were made from the shittim wood, which is customarily known as acacia wood.

The acacia tree was extremely hard, which made for sturdy and magnificent furniture. Exodus 37:1-16 describes the actual building of the Ark.

The tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, were placed within the Ark. The Ark was intended to be an image of the presence of God amidst the Israelites.

The lid was alluded to as the “Mercy Seat.” Every year a priest would enter the holy tent and sprinkle blood from a sacrificial creature to offer penance for the transgressions of Israel.

This old-style covenant on the Day of Atonement is no longer required as Jesus Christ became the new covenant when he sacrificed himself upon the cross as an expiation for our sins and transgressions.

God would come to the Ark when the priests were there. Because of the holy nature of the Ark, it had to be carried with poles. No one could touch God’s presence.

Why is that? God himself and his glory cannot be touched by sinful man. Only if the Holy Spirit resides within us can we even come near to the Throne of Grace.

In Joshua 3:1-17, the nation of Israel needed to cross the Jordan River. Joshua commanded the people that when they saw the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord being carried by the Levite priests, they were to follow it.

In verse five the people were told to “sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

In 1 Samuel 4, there is a war with the Philistines, and the Philistines capture the Ark. The Israelites appropriately perceived the sacredness of the Ark; however, they thought the actual Ark, the metal and wood box, was the wellspring of power.

They started to utilize the Ark as a “good luck charm.” They anticipated that it should shield them from their foes. An image of God does not ensure his essence and power. Their disposition toward the Ark came dangerously near that of idol worship.

When the Ark was taken by their adversaries, they felt that Israel's magnificence was gone (1 Samuel 4:19-22) and that God had abandoned them (1 Samuel 7:1-2). God utilizes his power as per his insight and will.

In 1 Samuel 5-6, the Philistines took the Ark before their false god because they had thought that they had beat the God of Israel, but each morning their idol had fallen down upon its face.

Their priests were plagued with tumors. So, they decided to return the Ark back to the Israelites. People died just looking at it.

Eventually, King David took the Ark back to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13). During the journey, the oxen had stumbled, and a man put his hand upon the Ark to steady it, but in doing so he died.

Later in 2 Chronicles 5, Solomon had dedicated the rebuilt Temple, and the Ark was transferred into the Temple.

Is There a Third Ark?

Some may think of the baby Moses in a basket as a third Ark. At that time, Pharaoh had commanded that the first-born male child to be killed throughout the land. Moses’ mother tried to find a way to save her newborn son.

She knew that the Pharaoh’s daughter often came to the river to bathe, so to save her son, she placed him in a basket of reeds and placed him on the river.

Pharaoh’s daughter found him, knowing that death would come to him, and having no children of her own, decided to save the child and bring him up as her own.

Although the story of baby Moses is a good one, and yes it could possibly typify God’s grace, there seems to be a third Ark, however, it is not made with wood (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:13; Revelation 3:20).

Many would allude to this as the Sinner’s Prayer. Just saying the words does not make it so. It is believing with all of your being, believing in the person of Christ, believing in the work of Jesus and what he has done for all of humanity.

It is by faith that makes us the children of God (Acts 3:26Galatians 3:26). We are justified by faith (Romans 5:1Galatians 2:6). By grace are we saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17).

When we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit moves within us. So, does it not make sense that if Christ dwells in the hearts of every Christian believer, are we not therefore an Ark that carries the Spirit of Christ? What do you think?

For further reading:

What Is the Meaning and Significance of Noah’s Ark?

What Was the Ark of the Covenant?

What Is the Significance of the First Temple in Jerusalem?

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/rodlong


Chris SwansonChris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. You can contact Chris here, and check out his work here.

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