The Poles of the Ark and the Philistines

1 Samuel 4 through 6 tells the story of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant. For them to even put it on a cart they had to use the poles that were part of the Ark. In my other post, I explain why I think those poles represent the Holy Spirit. God allowing His Ark to be captured has always puzzled me and my study of the Poles really stirred a lot of questions. (Please read 1 Samuel 4-6 as I am not trying to tell the whole story.)

The first time the Ark was moved in this story. The army of Israel had been beaten by the Philistines. The elders decided to bring the Ark into the battle. Yes, Joshua marched it around Jericho, but God had told him to do it. I am not sure God liked being used as a good luck charm; it is bad luck to be superstitious. The idea may sound like a good one, but God had not told them to take His Ark into battle. Since Eli had sent Hophni and Phinehas with the Ark let us assume that Levities of the Kohath clan moved it on their shoulders and that the cover was over it.

Points to think about.

  1. This seems to be God’s plan to rid Israel of Eli and his sons.
  2. The High Priesthood changed hands that day because Eli’s grandsons were too young for service.
  3. Samuel was a prophet not a priest, he was not a son of Aaron. I have never found an adoption cause for being a Levitical priest.
  4. There were other Sons of Aaron who served. We see both families during David’s reign. As the number of men grew certain tasks were chosen by lot. Remember Zechariah, John’s father.
  5. Shiloh was still important, but the Ark did not return there.

The Ark was moved by the Philistines. Israel lost; the battle, two corrupt priests, and God. The Philistines had God and they were not going to give Him back; it took seven months and a lot of misery for them to change their minds. Two cities were hit hard by a plague and the third city did not want the Ark. See my post on rats for a possible tumor that may have cause agony.

From the battle field to Dagon’s temple and to other cities the Philistines probably used a cart, any cart. But someone still had to pick it up and take it off that cart. They had to use the Poles, that was the only part of the Ark that non-priest could touch and they were not Kohaths. (Hold this thought.)

What happened to the three layers of covers for the Ark when it was being moved? The covers are never mentioned. You would think that they were over it in Israel. Had some of the rules gone by the wayside? (It seems that Samuel slept close to the Ark. That should not have been allowed. David and his team did not know how to move it.) I cannot imagine the Philistines not wanting to take a look at the God they had captured. So, between no cover and touching the Poles, no wonder the Philistines started dying. If Israel had disrespected the Ark by not having it covered that may be another reason they lost the battle.

Numbers 4 tells of God’s concern for the Kohaths and what Aaron and sons had to do to protect them. We know that Uzzah disrespected the Ark by touching it when the ox stumbled-2 Samuel 6:6 and 1 Chronicles 13:9. So, why did God not “break out” against every Philistine that touched the Ark? How about one big teachable moment for two nations. I think this psalm says it well – Psalm 74:22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. (KJV) Plead could be replaced with defend, and reproacheth could be talks about. The Philistines still attacked Israel, but I am sure they wanted nothing to do with God or the Ark. Israel had to learn to take the promises of God with them into battle and not a good luck charm. Jesus, Peter, and Paul experienced God rising against those who disrespected God’s cause-the soldiers fell down, Ananias and Sapphira died, and Elymas was blinded for a time.

From the Philistines to Jerusalem – Chapter 5 was a bad time for the Philistines, by #6 they were thinking that the God of Israel was very powerful. Not wanting to accept that they constructed a test and a peace offering. I knew the “new cart” was a sign of respect, but it makes more sense if they had been moving it on any cart they had or carrying it by the Poles. The cows added a level beyond their natural world, those cows would not have been contented walking away from the calves. The leaders were happy and they could get back to making the Israelites miserable as long as they left their God out of it.

The sad story is that the Levities had to learn a hard lesson about respecting their God and the rules that applied to them and their life. Beth Shemesh was a Levite town, they should have known better than to look in the Ark of God. Why did they do it? Maybe they thought that the Philistines had gotten away with peeking, or Shiloh had farther-reaching fingers than we thought, (Eli had not taken care of business and things happened.) or they just had to check that nothing was taken. Seventy men died, that may have been the majority of men in that town.    

Kiriath Jearim was called, they were a town of priests. Even though priests are from the clan of Kohath, I am not sure they should carry the Ark. But if it was covered and the Poles were on their shoulders it had to be better than a cart.    

Towns with all Levities and all priest was part of the agreement with God for being chosen to serve the Tabernacle and the Ark. So, to extend that idea Eleazar was a priest and he now had Eli’s job. (Eleazar was a “priestly” name.) It seems the Ark stayed there a long time-twenty-plus years before Saul became king, all of Saul’s reign, and however long David let it stay in Kiriath Jearim/Baalah of Judah. (Just because-No, I do not think the Ark sat outside on a hill.)

Just because their story is not told, where did the Table and the Lampstand go? Were they left in Shiloh or moved away? David got bread from the Table at Nob, but there was no mention of the Ark in that story. You hope the articles of the Tent were united in Solomon’s Temple.

In 2 Samuel 6 David is on a mission to bring the Presence of God to him in Jerusalem. It seems that the knowledge of the proper way of moving the Ark was lost or ignored. Instead of using the Poles and having Levities carry the Ark, David copies the Philistines and puts them on a cart. Someone died. You have to know there were committee meetings and scroll searches but David finally got it right and he moved the Ark to Jerusalem. Again, there is no mention of the rest of the Tabernacle. It seems that David moved the sacrifices away from the Ark. (So many questions and few answers, sorry.)

My purpose was to explore why the Philistines could move the Ark. Another question soon appeared. What happened to Israel and the Ark?

Israel – These are just some musings.

  • Your thoughts and plans may not be God’s plans and desires. The elders had a “thought’ but they did not ask God or the High Priest.
  • The Book of Judges ended with a dark tale of doing what you think is right. This is an extension of that.
  • The Father holds His children to a higher standard than the Philistines. We should not act like them.
  • You can follow rules and not have your heart right with God. The Levities had forgotten the rules.
  • I believe there was a remnant, a “seven thousand” who still wanted God.


  • God will use whom he needs to for His plan to work. Their “victory” did not mean they were right.
  • Their pride brought their downfall. Would you have given back the Ark after the second time Dagon fell?
  • They treated Jehovah as they did their idols. God did not strike them dead immediately, like Uzzah, but rats, plague, and panic came and did their jobs.
  • The Philistines touched the Poles (the Holy Spirit) and disrespected the Ark of the Covenant of God. He took His vengeance.

Wow. My study spread out into areas I did not expect. Israel proved herself from the beginning to the end of this tale. Then it took twenty years for Samuel to spark a renewal. The Philistines were being Philistines, they hated God’s children before, during, and after touching the Poles of the Ark, the Father gave them a chance and they did not take it.

The Ark – Mercy Seat

The Ark of the Covenant, which represents God, was made of three parts: the Mercy Seat, the Ark or Box, and the Poles. I have seen the Mercy Seat is a type of the Father, the Ark or Box being Jesus, and the Poles representing the Holy Spirit. These echo 2 Corinthians 13:14 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (KJV)

Christians, our triune God is still a mystery. Yes, He has given us His Spirit and His Word but there are still things about Him we do not know. Isaiah 45:15 says that He is a God who hides Himself. Jesus gave us hope of knowing Him when He said, “if you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. I do wish that the writer of Hebrews 9:5 would have taken the time to explain the Mercy Seat. With all of that said I will share some things that are plain to see and some that we do not know about the Mercy Seat that I think represents the Father.

Moses got to see the real Ark and Tabernacle while he was in Heaven. The instructions he wrote for the Ark’s construction and purpose are in Exodus 25:10-23. The iconic Mercy Seat or Atonement Cover starts with verse 17. The sixth side of the Ark of the Testimony or Mercy Seat was two and a half cubits long by a cubit and a half wide. It sat within the crown that was made around the Box or Ark, which would have kept it from sliding off. It had two Cherubim as part of the top whose wings spread out over the Cover and those wings touched. God promised Moses that He would meet with him there. Not much or just enough information? The artwork through the ages has kept the basics but added embellishments to suit the artist and the times. As I said a mystery.

My Questions

  • How much gold was used for the base and the angels?
  • How thick was the base?
  • How tall and wide were the angels?
  • Were the wings horizontal or vertical to the base? (More on that idea later.)
  • How high were the wings off of the base?
  • How wide were the wings and how much did they touch?

This is where God would meet with Moses. What if, one set of wings were vertical and the other set were horizontal, they would form a seat or chair. Given the size of the lid and guessing with the angels, it would be a good size seating area with a low back.


It is easy to get lost on what we don’t know, but the purpose of the Mercy Seat is a major topic.

1. Between the Cherubim and above the rest of the Ark is where God wanted to meet with Moses, His man of the hour.

2. Leviticus 16:2 shows another ceremony, that speaks about what did Jesus after His ascension into Heaven. This is where the Priest would sprinkle the blood on the Day of Atonement.

3. As the Cover for the Ark, it covered or hid the Tablets of the Law. They were the first things put inside the Ark and they were the only things that remained at the last mention of any contents. A pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were also put in there, but they seem to have disappeared. That is a mystery.

The Father “covered” these three items as they were “held” by Jesus. My original question of this study was-did they represent reminders of rebellion or did God show Himself as a giver of good things in the middle of our problems. Personally, I have not decided on that problem as I can see both in our great God.   

No, I have not covered all of the types and shadows of the Ark. I thought the Mercy Seat of the Ark would be the last post in this series, but I was given several other ideas.

The Ark- the Chest

The three parts of the Ark of the Covenant are the Mercy Seat, the Chest or Ark, and the Poles. This post will look at the Chest of the Ark and its symbolism of Jesus. The given instructions are in Exodus 25:10-12 and its purpose is in verse sixteen. The Chest was to hold the stone tables of the Law. Over the course of time a pot manna and Aaron’s symbol of leadership, the sprouted staff was also placed inside the Chest. (Hebrews 9:4)

Materials and Parts

  • Acacia wood
  • Gold (to cover the wood)
  • A gold molding
  • Four gold rings (for the Poles)
  • Four feet

(Symbols and symbolism can be like beauty – “it is in the eyes of the beholder”. There is always more that can be said, please add these to your list.)

  1. I looked but did not see where ornaments or decorations were added to the sides of acacia wood.
  2. The gold on the wood speaks of Jesus’ dual nature God/Man, heavenly/earthly, plain/rich. This list could go on for a while.
  3. The gold molding can represent the crown that was always His. It should have helped to maintain the Mercy Seat on the top of the Ark.
  4. The feet were necessary for the attachment of the rings. This arrangement would have the Ark high and lifted above the Levities who carried it.
  5. The rings held the Poles (the Holy Spirit).

The Real Ark

Moses made a copy of what he saw in heaven when he talked with God on Mount Sinai. Revelation 11:19 is John seeing the Ark in the heavenly Temple. Is there possibly still an ark here on earth? Sure, why not, but it is still a copy of what Moses saw. John 1:17 says it differently, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” 


Numbers and symbols are tools of our God to teach us lessons. They are not to be feared or worshipped, they do not bring you good or ill, they are just tools. Instead of fearing them, fear the One who made them. With that said, pundits of the past and present see five as representing grace. Why? When they count things in the Bible, they see sets of five as being associated with the things of grace. (Remember what your eyes see.) Are they wrong, NO? If you do an internet search for things in the Bible, please be aware that many secular and New Age sites work biblical numbers in with their non-godly philosophies.

Jesus is the reason we have God’s grace. The ark/chest, which I see as representing Jesus, has five sides. The sixth panel of the box is the Mercy Seat, which is the Father. This idea helped me to make sense of why five fish fed the 5,000. The five fish were broken into pieces (like Jesus was broken) and that allowed for the 5,000 to receive grace and be fed. If you continue your study to when the crowds found Jesus on the other side of the lake; Jesus called them out for only wanting to be fed. The forty years of manna was in this conversation. A jar of manna was in the Ark for a long time.  

Rules, Provisions, Leadership

Moses was directed by God to put three items in the Ark: Tablets of the Law, a gold jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod. These items are the reason I began this study. A pastor I respect rightfully said that these things are associated with rebellion against God. He continued by saying that they are covered by being in “Jesus”. I saw the items as positive things that Jesus has waiting for us in Him. Like the Tree in the Garden, many things can have good/bad thoughts associated with them.

  • Manna – This heavenly bread was going to be supplied because the people had to eat. The congregation of Israel just had to complain instead of thanking God for His provision. The amount stored was an omer. The same amount that one person needed for one day.
  • Aaron’s Rod – God had a dead stick blossom and fruit so everyone could see whom He picked to be responsible for leading the Levities. This came about because Korah (a Levite) wanted authority that was not for him to have. The stick blossomed as an almond. See the post on Fruit and Nuts.
  • Stone Tablets of the Law – The tablets that went in were the second set God wrote. Moses broke the first set because of the golden calf Aaron had made and how quickly the people went wild. The Law was given to help us and would have been stored somewhere.
  • Gold – (How you look at things.) The inside of the Ark was covered with gold. Just saying.


When and how did the manna and rod leave the Ark? Were the contents ever brought out and shown to the people? How big were the tablets?

A Little of the Ark’s Travels

  • In Judges the Ark was in Bethel, this is where Jacob saw the stairs and angels coming and going from heaven.
  • Samuel starts with the Ark in Shiloh.
  • After the Philistines returned it, they had it for seven months. The people took it to Kiriath Jearim (Baalah of Judah), a Levitical town. It stayed there for twenty years. It is hard to say if the Ark and the rest of the Tabernacle were together at this time, but it did not go back to Shiloh. This is a serious separation. No, sacrificing near the presence of God.
  • David puts it on a new cart (like the Philistines) and tries to move it to Jerusalem. A priest dies and it goes to the house of Obed-Edom for three months. The question here is did anyone know the correct way to transport the Ark? The priest and Levites seemed to agree and go along with this improper way of honoring God.
  • David pitches a tent for the Ark in Jerusalem, and it stays there until Solomon moves it into the Temple.
  • Through good kings and bad, the Ark stays in the Temple. 2 Chronicles 35:3 is the last mention of the physical Ark I can find. Josiah is telling the Levites to stop carrying it around Jerusalem and teach the people. Treasures had been removed by several invading countries, and kings have used the Temple’s treasures to buy off bully nations, but no one touched the Ark. You have to wonder if the seven months in the land of the Philistines had something to do with it?
  • Jeremiah 3:16 is the last mention of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament timeline. It actually is a promise from God to the people about not needing it. The last part of the verse, to me, is strange- “nor will another one be made”. Bible translations seem to be split on how to handle this verse. Many infer that seeking the Ark won’t happen. (There are legends that Solomon may have made a copy.) It is assumed that Jeremiah, a priest, removed the Ark from the Holy of Holies and hid it or carried it off.

The shadows that these movements and events create are complex. The symbol of the triune God in the hands of the Philistines is very unnerving. I could see links to Jesus’ life and sacrifice here. The roughly 400 years of silence in scripture about the Ark also leaves many questions. I will take for granted that the priest still carried out their duties, but did the people join them? Hezekiah and Josiah both had “cleaning out the Temple” and “finding the Book of the Law” moments, so it seems that the priest had lapses in doing what was right.

Simple links and comparisons of the chest of the Ark to Jesus may be few. I know this study has challenged me to see and seek God are more insight into this mystery.


Shadow is a metaphor for protection in many verses of the Bible. As I have mused on these verses, it is God who is doing the protecting and His people are what is being protected. Shadow and shade are not the only ideas we need to look at for the area of protecting someone. We will add the words pillar and cloud to expand the study. 

Pillar of Cloud and Clouds 

Okay, I will touch on these as two different things, but the cloud will not just produce shade but protect you from the glory of God. Wait a minute, shadows are produced by solid objects, and clouds are not solid! This is true, the blocking ability of clouds is in the billions of waterdrops that scatter the light rays from being able to get through them in a straight line. The darker the appearance of the cloud is due to how dense the droplets are in it. “Silver-linings” are from this light-scattering property. 

Many references to clouds are part of a story where the glory of God is involved. From Exodus 13 through Deuteronomy 31 “a cloud” and the “pillar of cloud” are usually the same thing if they are talking about God interacting with people. In Samuel, just a cloud is covering things or hiding the glory. The “pillar” that led the Children is not mentioned past Deuteronomy except in Nehemiah 9 when he is used it to show the faithfulness of God. Did the pillar of cloud go past the Jordan? Isaiah 4:5-6 does describe what my paradigm of the pillar of cloud did for those forty years. In Psalm 99:7, a function of the pillar is told of how and when Moses spoke with God.  

What did the cloud by day and the fire by night look like? I recently saw a drawing where the “pillar” was a narrow thing that only stood over the Tent that housed the Ark. Many of the references in Exodus may lend weight to this idea. I always had the idea that the “cloud” provided shade for the camp during the day and light and warmth at night. I had hoped that Balaam (Numbers 23) or Rahab (Joshua 2) said something about the pillar and cloud, but they did not, so for now I will hold on to both of those ideas. 

Shadow Of 

In the NIV “shadow of” followed by “His wings, His hand, and the Almighty” is found in seven verses. His hand is found in Isaiah 49:2 and 51:16. God’s hand was protecting Isaiah as part of him doing his ministry. I believe the other five have a connection to the Exodus. 

The “shadow of His wings” puzzled me. I just never thought of the Father as having or needing wings. More metaphors, possibly? In studying the Ark, the Mercy Seat or lid to the box offered a better picture. The two angels that are part of the lid were made to spread their wings over the Mercy Seat, which was sprinkled with blood and where God talked to Moses from. Being in the shadow of those wings would put you at the mercy of God. The shadow would be greater if the wings spread out horizontally and not vertically (Exodus 25:17-22). A Google search of the Mercy Seat shows the artist making the wings in both directions. I like that picture of being in the shadow protected while resting on His mercy. 

I believe Moses wrote Psalm 91 as a singing lesson to teach the Children in the wilderness. Verse one is the first visual as they lived under the cloud of the Almighty. The rest of that psalm could be connected with many of the things that happened as Israel left Egypt. 

Study work-connect the verses of Psalm 91 to events in the Exodus. 


Shadow as an idea or a real thing is used in the Bible and literature, especially poetry, as a metaphor. In Psalms, we may “hide (or rest) in the shadow of the Almighty” and know we are protected, or the Law and the earthly Ark are but shadows of better things (Hebrews). So, when you read passages and stories you have to read things in the context of what the writer is saying. 

Good or Bad 

Like knowledge or wine/grapes, a shadow may be a good thing or a bad thing. We can hide in the shadow of God’s wings, or someone can shoot arrows at us from the shadows (hiding). In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo was passing into the shadows or shadowland after he was stabbed. On a hot day, who does not like to sit in the shadow (shade) of a tree or umbrella?  

Luke 13:19 is the story of a mustard seed (Kingdom of God) growing into a tree and birds using its shade (shadow) to nest in. In this story, the shade is good because it represents the Kingdom, but those birds (usually a metaphor for bad things) are taking advantage of the Kingdom and raising things that will just use the Kingdom.  

The Ancients 

Moses, David, and Jesus (the Holy Spirit) all used shadow as a metaphor in their teachings and writings; it has been around for a very long time. (Use the sites below as a learning tool, I did. I just may not agree with everything they wrote.) I enjoy looking at the roots and early thoughts of words and ideas, it is how our “box” was formed so we can think outside of it. 

A shadow is a place of separation. It can separate light from dark and thus became a divider for good and evil. The shade also becomes a symbol of protection because of His hand, wings, or Himself. 

In the NIV shadow is used in forty-four verses, some things the KJV (60+ times) would call shadow, it uses darkness. Other translations have varying numbers of verses that use shadow. To be fair you might have to search shade or even cover to find verses that you want.  

WORD STUDY – THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS – בצל כנפיכ | Chaim Bentorah  

Tselem: Being IMAGE bearers – Hebrew Word Lessons