Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/797

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ARK


solemnly carried to Jcnisalem. And never was it returned to its former place in Silo. In the opinion of the Philistines, the taking of the Ark meant a victory of tlicir (jods over the God of Israel. Tliey accorJintly hrouslit it to Azotus and set it as a trophy in the teinjile of Dagon. Hut the next morning tnoy found Dagon fallen upon his face before the .\rk; they raised him up and set him in his place again. Tlie following murning Dagon again was lying on the groimil. hadly mutilated. .At the .same time a cruel disease (perliaps the bubonic plague) smote the .-Vzotites, while a terrible inva.sion of mice afflicleil the whole surrountling country. These scourges were soon attributed to the presence of the .Ark within the walls of the city, and regarded as a direct judgnunt from Vahweh. Hence was it decided by the assembly of the rulers of the Philistines that the .\rk shoulil be removeii from .Vzotus an<l brought to some other place. Carrieil succes.sively to (iath and to .\ccaron, the Ark brought with it the same scourges which had occasioned its removal from .Azotus. Finallj', after seven months, on the sug- gestion of their priests and their diviners, the Philis- tines resolveil to give up their dreadful trophy.

The Miblical narrative acquires here a special in- terest for us, by the in.siglit we get therefrom into the religious spirit among the.se ancient peoples. Having ma<le a new cart, they took two kine that had sucking calves, yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they laid the .Ark of (!iid u|)on the cart, together with a little box contain- ing golden mice and tTie images of their boils. Then the kine. left to themselves, took their course straight in the direction of the territorj' of Israel. .As soon as the Bethsamites recognized the .Ark upon the cart that was coming towanls them, they went rejoicing to meet it. When the cart arrived in the field of a certain Josue, it stood still there. .And as there was a great stone in that place, they split up the wood of the cart and offered the kine a holocaust to Yah- weh. With this sacrifice ended the e.\ile of the .Ark in the land of the Philistines. The people of Beth- sames, however, did not long enjoy its presence among them. Some of them inconsiderately cast a glance upon the .Ark, whereuiwin they were severely punished by God; seventy men (the text usually received .says seventy men and fifty thousand of the common people; but this is hardly credible, for Bethsames was only a small country- place) were thus smitten, as a punishment for their boldness. Fright- ened by this mark of the Divine wTath, the Beth- samites .sent messengers to the inhabitants of Caria- thiarim, to tell them how the Philistines had brought back the .Ark, and invite them to convey it to their own town. So the men of Cariathiarim came and brought up the .Ark and carried it into the house of .Abinadab, whose .son Eleazar they consecrated to its service (I Kings, vii, 1).

The actual Hebrew text, as well as the Vulgate and all translations dependent upon it, intimates that ilie .\rk was witli the army of Saul in the famous expedition against the Philistines, narrated in I Kings, xiv. This is a mistake probably due to some late scribe who, for theological reasons, substituted the "ark of God" for the "ephod". The (ireek tran.sla- tion here gives the correct reading; nowhere else, indeed, in the history of Israel, do we hear of the -Ark of the Covenant as an instrument of divination. It may consequent^ be safely affirmed that the .Ark remained in Cariathiarim up to the time of David. It was natural that after this prince had taken Jeru- salem and made it the capital of his kingdom, he should <lcsire to make it also a religious centre. For this end, he thought of bringing thither the .Ark of the Covenant. In point of fact the .Ark was undoubt- edly in great veneration among the people; it was looked upon as the palladium with which heretofore 1.-46


Israel's life, Ixith religious and political, had been as.soeiated. Hence, nothing could have more suita- bly brought about the realization of David's purpose than such a transfer. We read in the Bible two accounts of this .solemn event: the first is found in the Secoiul Book of Kings (vi); in the other, of a much later ilate, the chronicler has cast together most of the former account with some elements reflecting ideas and institutions of his own time (I Par., xiii). According to the narrative of 11 Kings, vi, which we shall follow, David went with great pomp to Baal-Juda, or Cariathiarim, to carry from there the .Ark of God. It was laid upon a new cart, and taken out of the house of .Abinadab. Oza and .Aliio, the .sons of .Abinadab, guided the cart, the hitter walking before it, the former at its side, while the King and the people that were with him, dancing, singing, and playing instruments, escorted the sacred chest. This day, however, like that of the coming of the .Ark to Bethsames, was to be saddened by death. .At a certain point of the procession, the oxen slipped; Oza forthwith stretched out his hand to hold the .Ark, but was struck dead on the spot. David, frightened by this accident, stopped the pro- cession, and now unwilling to remove the Ark to Jerusalem, he had it carried into the house of a Gethite, named Obededom. which was probably in the neighbourhood of the city. The presence of the Ark was a source of blessings for the house to which it had been brought. This news encouraged David to complete the work he had begun. Three months after the first transfer, accordingly, he came again with great solemnity and removed the Ark from the house of Obededom to the city, where it was set in its plaie in the midst of the tabernacle which David had pitched for it. Once more was the .Ark brought out of Jerusalem, when David betook himself to fliglit liefore .Absalom's rebellion. Whilst the King stood in the ("edron valley, the people were passing before him towards the way that leads to the wilder- ness. .Anumg them came also Sadoc and .Abiathar, bearing the .Ark. Whom when David saw, he com- mandeil to carry back the Ark into the city: "If I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord", said he, "he will bring me again, and will .shew me both it and his tabernacle". In compliance with this onler, Sadoc and .Abiathar carried back the .Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem (II Kings, xv, 24-Ji)).

The tabernacle which David had pitched to re- ceive the .Ark was not, however, to be its hist dwelling place. The King indeed had thought of a temple more wort liy of the glorj' of Yahweh. .Although the building of this edifice was to be the work of his successor, David hiiiKself took to heart to gather and prepare the mateiials for its erection. From the very beginning of Solomon's reign, this prince showed the greatest reverence to the .Ark, especially when, after the mysterious dream in which God answered his request for wisilom by promising him wisdom, riches, and honour, he offered up bumt-ofTerings and peace-offerings before the .Ark of the Covenant of Vahweh (111 Kings, iii. lii). When the temple and all its aiipurtenances were completeil, Solomon, be- fore the iledic.ition. a.s.sembled the elders of Israel, that they might solemnly convey the -Ark from the place where David had set it up to the Holy of Holies. Thence it was, most likely, now and then taken out, either to accompany military expeditions, or to enhance the splendour of religious celebrations, perhaps also to comply with the ungodly commands of wicked kings However this may be, the chron- icler tells us that Josias commanded the Levites to return it to its place in the temple, and forbade them to take it thence in the future (II Par., xxxv, 3). But the memory of its sacredness was soon to pjiaa away. In one of his prophecies referring to the Messianic times, Jeremias announced that it would