Question: What was the Ark of the Covenant?
Answer: The Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Tabernacle, was the chest which held the two stone tablets of law which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments, the basis for God's covenant with the children of Israel, was engraved on the two stone tablets contained in the Ark.
The Ark itself, built by the craftsman Bezalel, was a small box made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. It measured 1.15 metres long, 0.7 metres wide and 0.7 metres high. It was carried by two long bars, also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold.
The Israelites carried the Ark with them throughout their wanderings in the desert. The Ark of the Covenant was renowned for its mysterious powers against the enemies of Israel. According to the Bible, the walls of Jericho collapsed when the Jews walked around with the Ark.
The Ark was eventually brought to Jerusalem by King David.
After the First Temple was built, King Solomon placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in a special chamber within the Temple called the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kodashim). No one was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies except for the high priest, and he was only allowed to enter once a year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
When the First Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, the Ark of the Covenant disappeared.