The Travels of the Ark Of The Covenant -- By: William H. Shea

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:3 (Summer 1990)
Article: The Travels of the Ark Of The Covenant
Author: William H. Shea


The Travels of the Ark Of The Covenant

William H. Shea

Dr. William H. Shea, M.D., Ph.D., is on the staff of the Biblical Research Institute, Washington, DC. He formerly taught at Andrews University, Berrien Springs. MI.

Is it possible that a potsherd with very early Israelite writing on it, found at “Isbet Sartah, tells of a tragedy which-befell Israel during the period of the Judges?

Restored four-room building from the early 10th century, looking northeast. The ostracon was found in a pit from an earlier phase on the east side of this building.

The Biblical Account

The Israelites suffered a major reverse during the period of the Judges when they lost the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines as a result of their defeat at the Battle of Ebenezer. Actually, there were two battles at Ebenezer. The first, or preliminary, battle is described in 1 Samuel 4:1–3. After suffering a defeat in this battle the Israelites decided to bring up further reinforcements. These reinforcements were not Just more troops, but they now enlisted the service of Yahweh himself. To insure His presence with them when they went into battle the second time they brought the Ark of the Covenant down from Shiloh. It had been there in the tabernacle, or portable tent shrine, since the days of the wilderness wandering.

The opposing camp of the Philistines was not unaware of these developments. When the Ark was brought down from Shiloh and into the camp of the Israelites, the shout of the welcoming Israelite troops was loud enough that it was heard in the Philistine camp, and they readily recognized its significance. Nevertheless, they resolved to “quit themselves like men” and fight courageously, even though faced by the supernatural presence of the God of the Israelites who was thought to accompany the Ark.

Unfortunately for the Israelites, God did not approve of this course of action and He left them to their own devices. His supernatural presence did not fight for them on this occasion and when left to their own military strength and tactics, the Israelites lost the second battle at Ebenezer. As a matter of fact, it was a massive defeat for the Israelites. Not only did they lose large numbers of

troops, with the rest of the army scattered to the winds, but they also lost the Ark Itself, and the two priestly attendants who accompanied it, Hophni and Phineas, sons of Eli the high priest, we...

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