We are going to go back now and take a look at the Ark of the Covenant and pick up some valuable concepts. The Ark was seen as the Throne of God (Jer 17.12; Ezek 43.7). God planted the Garden of Eden “eastward in Eden” and the question is, eastward of what? The answer is “his throne.” Now, that becomes an important concept because the Garden of Eden was a place of kedusha. Man also had a kedusha so he was able to be Eden. When Adam sinned, man was changed and was no longer in the image of God. He had lost the kedusha that was upon him, and man lost the knowledge of kedusha. God institutes a “house of kedusha” as a place where he can be in the midst of the people. Not only could the people meet with him, but he can teach them about kedusha.
The Ark stood on a stone, and this stone is called the “Even (stone) Shetiyah (foundation).” Why is it called that? Because it is said that from this stone creation began. With this being the throne of God on earth, the exact location of this throne would have been in the Garden of Eden. So, Eden may have been the Temple Mount and God planted a garden east of that (Gen 2.8).
The Ark is called the “Aron Kodesh” (Holy Ark) and anytime you have the word “kodesh” or any derivative of it you want to take notice of that. There will be special restrictions and limitations related to anything with “kodesh” associated with it, it had a kedusha (remember the definition of kedusha). The restrictions may be different, and what you can do with it may be different, but that is what makes it to have a kedusha. The Ark had more restrictions and limitations than anything else.
The kedusha is what made it that way. You couldn’t touch it. Some have believed that the Ark was a weapon, or some kind of conductor, and many other things. If you touched it, it could kill you. But, that wasn’t why that happened. It was the kedusha that made it special. Now we are going to cover some concepts about the Ark and the acacia wood.
Acacia is also called “Shittim” in Hebrew and the Ark was 2.5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide and 1.5 cubits high. Now, we need to go over the length of a cubit. There were three cubit lengths used in the Mishkan/Temple. You will find many scholars with different lengths, but they have found three different lengths in the Temple. The Royal cubit used in the 500 x 500 cubit Temple Mount was 20.67 inches. In the Court of the Women it was a five hand-breadth cubit of 19.2 inches. In the Azarah there was a six hand-breadth cubit of 23.04 inches. A “hand-breadth” in Hebrew is called a “tefach.” The plural is “tefachim.” One tefach is 3.84 inches.
So, is there a way to find out what cubit Moses used in the Mishkan? Yes, there is. In the Mishnah, Kelim 17.10 it says, “R.Meir says: All measurements in the Temple were according to the cubit of the middle size (standard) excepting those of the Golden Altar and the horns and the circuit (saviv) and the base (yesod) of the Altar. R. Judah says: the standard of the cubit used for the Temple building was six hand-breadths and that for the utensils five hand-breadths.” Let’s go back to Kelim 17.9. This verse tells us the five hand-breadth cubit of 19.2 inches was used in the Mishkan and it was the cubit of Moses. The word “amah” means cubit in Hebrew and the five tefachim cubit was used in the Mishkan. This became known as the cubit of Moses. With this information, we can do some measuring (later).
Shittim wood, or Acacia, is the wood for the Ark. An Ibex goat plays a role in this. The acacia is a family of tree and in the southern desert it is a unique wood. Weapons were made from choice materials, and so was the Mishkan. Shittim was a special wood. It is a tree with a flat top. It has long thorns and if you put your arm into its branches, it would be torn up. It has a short trunk. So, how did they make the boards of the Mishkan?
The tree puts out this root, and it is said, that when you look at an acacia tree, two-thirds of it will be below ground. Some have found roots one hundred feet below when digging the Suez Canal in the 1800’s. The root goes that deep to find water. When it does, it can send that energy to the top of the tree. We have found and discussed the same water system in the Temple earlier in this teaching. From this material, all the wooden articles of the Mishkan were made. It has a unique root.
In Job 14.7-9 it talks about “hope for a tree” and when it is cut down, that it will sprout up again, and its roots shall not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. Isa 11.1,10 tells us the root of the olive tree will come back. Rom 11.17-24 tells us that Paul is talking about Israel as an olive tree, and if the root is “kodesh” so are the branches. But if some were cut off, a “wild olive” is grafted in. The wild olive is the Oleaster tree. It can be grafted into the olive tree but it is not an olive tree. The olive tree is Israel and the oleaster is the non-Jews. Here is what Paul is saying here. The oleaster tree is cut down and burned, and the only branches that “get saved” are the ones grafted into the olive tree. They will not produce olives because they are not an olive tree, no family resemblance to the olive tree. But the only way these “saved” branches can have “life” is to be grafted into the olive tree. That is a complete refutation of Replacement Theology.
It has berries but you can’t eat them. It has an oil in the wood that makes it great for burning. It was a preferred wood for the altar in the Temple because it burned long and clean. The only problem with the oleaster or “oil tree” (etz shemen) is that it did not have much of a root. Big storms are usually devastating. The only way it can survive is if it is grafted into another tree. The non-Jews are the “etz shemen” and they need to be grafted into the olive tree to “live” because it has a good root (Rom 11.18).
The materials of the Ark and the shittim wood teach us that we need to have a good root (like the olive tree). It should extend down below the surface, and deep. Many so-called believers are only “surface people” and everything they do is for show. They appear “flowery” and full of spiritual one-liners, but deep down there is nothing. They all repeat the same platitudes. Contemporary Christian music is full of these people, for example, and their songs are amateurish and repetitive. They just borrow from whatever the secular music business is sounding like, put some spiritual words to the music, and then they try to get the next big worship song that can be sung in a church. Their songs are just lip-service. They sing about following the Lord, but then reject the Torah. Believers need to have deep roots that extend down deep, not visible to to people. These roots have a “desire” for water, even in very difficult circumstances (a desert). We need water to exist, and good water. Bad water will kill you.
The berries of the shittim wood also give us instruction, and this is where the ibex goat comes in. These goats (Ya’el) can eat them even though people can’t. There is a coating around the berry that protects the seed inside. If it falls on the ground it dies. But, if the ibex eats it, the acid in the stomach eats the coating of the berry. When the ibex defecates, the seeds are inside the manure and protects the seeds, and gives the seed the nutrients in order to grow. Whenever you see an acacia (shittim) tree, or a number of them, you know that an ibex was there.
Why was the shittim chosen by God? Like the root and the berry, there is a lesson to it. This tree was knotty but inside the wood there was a potential board. Once you see a potential board in a crooked tree, it is marked for its potential. This is like us. God can see us in all our “crookedness.” He chooses us and we have been marked since before the world was (Eph 1.4). We are “hidden” in the Messiah. We must be severed from our roots by a sharp saw (sword is the word of God). Then it lays there helpless. Then the log goes through a process where the branches are cut off and the bulges and crooked places are made straight. The tree must die. We must die or this process would be too painful. The workmen will seem “irksome” but this is the process. The sap inside is like our anger and bitterness and must be “dried out.” The log goes through further “hewing” until the board fits into its role in the Mishkan, then it is clothed with gold, which is the glory of God.
In Part 46, we will pick up here in our look at the Ark.