Were There Additional Arks
Lecture 132: Were there additional arks
Rav Yitzchak Levi
A third ark
The last few shiurim were devoted to the ark in general and to the question regarding the numbers of arks in particular. Thus far, we have seen the positions of Rashi and the Ramban, which trace back to the viewpoints of R. Yehuda ben Lakish and the Sages:
1) There was one ark - the ark in the Holy of Holies. This ark was generally not taken out to battle; when it was taken out during the days of the sons of Eli, it was taken captive by the Pelishtim.
2) There were two arks - one in the Holy of Holies, and another that appears to have been kept in the tent of Moshe and that went out with Israel to battle.
As for the contents of the two arks, we saw conflicting opinions regarding the location of the Torah scroll, the second set of tablets, and the broken first set of tablets.
The Netziv, in his commentary to the Sifrei, Ein Ha-Netziv, proposes another explanation. The Sifrei states as follows:
"And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them" (Bamidbar 10:33) This ark that went out with them in the camp contained the broken tablets, as it is stated: "The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp" (Bamidbar 14:44). (Sifrei, Beha'alotekha 24)
The Netziv discusses the various Tannaitic sources:
That went out with them in the camp and was not in the Ohel Mo'ed in the Holy of Holies. And during the journeys, it was also not in the hands of those who bore the Mikdash with all the holy vessels.
Contained the broken tablets and that which was in the Holy of Holies contained the second set of tablets.
As it is stated: The ark [of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp]" so that we not say that the one that went before them three days journey during the journeys was the same ark that was in the Holy of Holies during the times of encampment, and if so there was only one ark. Therefore, it brings the verse: "The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe [departed not out of the camp]" implying that the ark of the covenant was in the camp, and not in the Holy of Holies, and this was at a time of encampment. Thus, there were two arks. If so, we learn that this ark that went before them during the journeys was also the ark containing the broken tablets. This is the view of the Sifrei, which maintains that this ark that went before them was the ark that sat among them in the camp at a time of encampment. But in Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan, chap. 6, it was taught: "R. Yehuda ben Lakish said: There were two arks, one that sat in the camp, and one that went out to war with them, and it contained the broken tablets. As it is stated: 'And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them.' And that which was with them in the camp contained the Torah scroll, as it is stated: 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp.'" And so too it was taught in the Tosefta (Sota 4): "R. Yehuda ben Lakish said: There were two arks, one that went out with them to war, and one that stayed with them in the camp. That which went out with them to war contained the book of the Torah, as it is stated: 'And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them.' And the one that stayed with them in the camp contained the broken tablets, as it is stated: 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp.'" The Tannaim disagree, according to R. Yehuda ben Lakish, regarding which ark went out before them and which ark stayed with them in the camp. But it is clear according to R. Yehuda ben Lakish that there were two arks apart from the one made by Betzalel that contained the second set of tablets, and that was found at all times in the Holy of Holies. And R. Yehuda ben Lakish agrees with the view that the Torah was given in separate scrolls (Gittin 9a), and there were several sections of the Torah in the wilderness, and Moshe did not place them next to the tablets until he completed the Torah in Arvot Moav. It is written: Take this book of the Torah and put it in the side of the ark, etc. (Devarim 31:26). And this was after they were put together, as is explained in Gittin (ibid.). But until then, they were deposited in a separate ark. It turns out that according to R. Yehuda ben Lakish, there were three arks in the wilderness: one of Betzalel, which contained the second set of tablets, one which contained the broken tablets, and one which contained the sections of the Torah. And from the time of Arvot Moav and on, when the Torah was completed and deposited next to the tablets, there were [only] two arks. And the Tanna of Sifrei maintains that even in the wilderness there were only two arks, one made by Betzalel and one containing the broken tablets, which went out before them when they journeyed and which was with them in the camp during the time of encampment. He maintains that the Torah was given as a complete text, and there were no separate sections of the Torah, or else they were together with the broken tablets. And from this you learn regarding the baraita of R. Yehuda ben Lakish that is brought in the Yerushalmi Shekalim (6:1) and Sota (8:1) in the following way: "R. Yehuda ben Lakish said: Two arks went with Israel in the wilderness, one that contained the Torah, and another in which the broken tablets were placed. This is what it says: 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp.'" The commentators have explained that the one with the Torah had the second set of tablets, and they gave a forced explanation of the Yerushalmi; see there. But this is a great mistake, for surely in the wilderness there was no Torah together with the tablets until Arvot Moav, shortly before the death of Moshe, when the Torah was completed. From the baraita itself there is a difficulty, for why did he relate the ark to the Torah, and not say "which contained the tablets," they being the main thing? Rather, it should be understood as I have explained.
And that which it says "in the Ohel Mo'ed," does not refer to the Mishkan in the Holy of Holies, but rather to the tent of Moshe, which is also called Ohel Mo'ed, as it is written, "And he called it Ohel Mo'ed" (Shemot 33:7). Moshe pitched his tent in the camp at the word of God, and the Torah was with him at all times. This is what is written: "The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp."
And the Sages said that there was one ark, and once it went out in the days of Eli and it was taken captive. And the viewpoint of the Rabbis who disagree there with R. Yehuda ben Lakish is that there were only two arks in the wilderness: one, that of Betzalel, which contained the [second set of] tablets and the broken tablets, and one which contained the Torah, and this one went out before them when they journeyed and was found among them in the camp. If so, from the time of Arvot Moav and on, when the Torah was also placed next to the tablets, there was only the one ark made by Betzalel. And since their main proof is from the fact that it was taken captive in the days of Eli, they brought that as proof. And this is why the Yerushalmi does not raise an objection there against the Rabbis from that which was brought by R. Yehuda ben Lakish: "The ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp," and from the verse: "And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them." For they must agree that there was another ark in the wilderness in which the Torah was placed, and they only disagree about the ark containing the broken tablets and about the explanation of these two verses. For R. Yehuda ben Lakish explains that ark that went before them was not the ark that was in the camp, whereas the Sages say that they are the same, in accordance with the Sifrei. But according to the Sifrei, there was no Torah then at all, and there was only one ark containing the broken tablets, and thus from the time of Arvot Moav and on there were two arks: one of Betzalel, and another containing the broken tablets, as was written above, v. 18, see there.
This contradicts what the Ramban writes in Parashat Ekev, that the viewpoint of R. Yehuda ben Lakish is the viewpoint of a single authority, for even the Sifrei holds this way, and the mishna in Sota agrees with R. Yehuda ben Lakish.
Let us summarize the Netziv's explanation:
First, the Netziv rejects the possibility that the ark that went before them was the ark that was found at the time of encampment in the Holy of Holies. He explains according to the Sifrei that the Torah emphasizes that "the ark of the covenant of the Lord and Moshe departed not out of the camp," which implies that there was another ark "the ark of the covenant of the Lord" which remained in the camp.
The Netziv then infers from the words of the Sifrei that the ark that went before them contained the broken tablets; it was this ark that was with them in the camp at the time of the encampment. This stands in contrast to what is stated in the Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan in the name of R. Yehuda ben Lakish that these were two separate arks: one that was with them in the camp containing the book of the Torah, and one that went out with them to war containing the broken tablets. Thus, according to R. Yehuda ben Lakish, there were two arks in addition to the ark that Betzalel made, which contained the second set of tablets and which was always found in the Holy of Holies.
It is here that the Netziv comes to a novel position. The Netziv assumes that R. Yehuda ben Lakish agrees with the view brought in the gemara in Gittin (60a) that the Torah was given in sections. In the wilderness, they had several sections of the Torah, which Moshe did not put alongside the tablets until the Torah was completed in Arvot Moav. Since the various sections were only placed alongside the tablets after the Torah was completed in Arvot Moav, another ark was needed to hold those sections of the Torah during Israel's wanderings in the wilderness. Thus, it turns out that according to R. Yehuda ben Lakish, there were three arks in the wilderness: One made by Betzalel and containing the second set of tablets, one containing the broken tablets, and one containing the sections of the Torah. After the Torah was completed at Arvot Moav and it was put alongside the tablets, there were only two arks.
There is no hint to this novel position of the Netziv either in the Scriptural verses or in the words of Chazal, although it is certainly reasonable that the sections of the Torah were not scattered about, but rather were preserved in a protected and orderly place, apparently in an ark.
The Netziv brings the Yerushalmi in Shekalim and the Tosefta in Sota regarding the view of R. Yehuda ben Lakish, where it is stated that two arks went with Israel in the wilderness: one which contained the Torah and was found in the Ohel Mo'ed and one which contained the broken tablets. He cites the commentators who say that the ark containing the Torah also contained the second set of tablets, and he argues that their understanding of the Yerushalmi is forced.
The Netziv argues that this is a big mistake, for in the wilderness the Torah was not together with the tablets until Arvot Moav. Therefore, he asks, why is the ark associated with the Torah and not with the tablets? In his view, the source which speaks of the ark in the Ohel Mo'ed refers to the tent of Moshe, for Moshe pitched his tent in the camp according to God's command.
According to the Sages who disagree with R. Yehuda ben Lakish, from the time of Arvot Moav and on, when the Torah was placed beside the whole tablets, there was only the ark of Betzalel.
As we emphasized above, there is no mention of a third ark anywhere in Scripture or in the words of Chazal. The whole idea of a third ark is based on the Netziv's argument that it is reasonable to assume that the sections of the Torah which were given to Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness were kept in a secure and dignified place.
On the face of it, it is possible that if there was such an ark, it theoretically should have been located next to the place where the book of the Torah was found, for the sections of the Torah given to Israel in the wilderness were also Torah. But until the fortieth year, according to this view, there was not yet a book of the Torah, and therefore on the practical level, it is logical that it should have been found in the Ohel Mo'ed of Moshe. Of course, we have no details about the shape or materials of this ark. It is reasonable to assume that it was a simple and functional ark, and not embellished like the rest of the vessels of the Mishkan.
A special ark for the Efod and the Choshen together with the Urim Ve-tUmim
Several verses in the book of Shmuel mention an ark of the Lord by various different names in such a way that it is clear that we are dealing with an ark different from the ark of the Testimony that was found in the Holy of Holies. R. Yoel Bin-Nun argues that it is logical to assume that the choshen, efod, and urim ve-tumim and other priestly garments did not hang outside on hooks, but rather they were stored in a special ark. The fact that there was no explicit command regarding such an ark teaches that it does not involve a special mitzva, but rather is connected to the general obligation to take care of the priestly garments.
In this context, there is an interesting parallel between the Scriptural
verses dealing with the ark and the verses describing the efod,
choshen, and urim ve-tumim. Regarding the ark, the Torah states:
And you shall put the kaporet above upon the ark; and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I shall give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the kaporet, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. (Shemot 25:21-22)
Regarding the choshen and urim ve-tumim, the Torah states:
And Aharon shall bear the names of the children of Israel on the choshen of judgment upon his heart, when he goes in to the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. And you shall put in the choshen of judgment the urim ve-tumim; and they shall be upon Aharon's heart when he goes in before the Lord: and Aharon shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually. (Shemot 28:29-30)
This parallel directs us to the conceptual parallel between commandment and judgment - between the commandment of God through the prophecy of Moshe and the judgment of the children of Israel through the mouth of Aharon. This is the parallel between prophecy and leadership, on the one hand, and priesthood and purity on the other.
This ark had to go out with Israel to war, for the time and the place that it was most necessary to inquire of God was at the battlefield, as the Torah explains in the book of Bamidbar:
And the Lord said to Moshe, Take you Yehoshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay your hand upon him, and set him before Elazar the priest and before all the congregation, and give him a charge in their sight. And you shall put some of your honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Elazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of the urim before the Lord; at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. (Bamidbar 27:18-21)
According to this understanding, the ark of the Testimony, which contains the tablets, expresses the word of God to Moshe when the Torah was given to Israel at Sinai, and its continuation in the Ohel Mo'ed, whereas the ark of the covenant of the Lord, which contains the urim ve-tumim, expresses the spirit of God in the mouth of Aharon, for the purpose of the children of Israel inquiring of God by way of the High Priest. From here we can also learn about the relationship between the domain of prophecy and kingship represented by Moshe and by the prophets and kings that succeeded him, and the domain of the priesthood, the Mikdash, prayer and sacrifices represented by Aharon and the priests.
The proofs adduced by R. Yoel Bin-Nun
1) In Shmuel 1 it says:
And the child Shmuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no frequent vision And the lamp of God had not yet gone out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Shmuel was laid down to sleep. That the Lord called Shmuel: and he answered, Here I am Now Shmuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him. (I Shmuel 3:1-7)
According to the plain sense of the verse, the ark of God was located in the Temple of the Lord. According to the proposed understanding, the lamp and the ark refer to the ark of the urim ve-tumim, which was in the courtyard of the Levites and which was related to the holy spirit of the priesthood with which Eli was familiar, and this was when prophecy was very infrequent.
2. The second proof is connected to the ark in the hands of Achiya. Scripture states as follows:
And Achiya the son of Achituv, I-Khavod's mother, the son of Pinchas, the son of Eli, was the Lord's priest in Shilo, wearing an efod. And the people knew not that Yonatan was gone And Shaul said to Achiya, Bring the ark of God here. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel. And it came to pass, while Shaul talked to the priest, that the noise that was in the camp of the Pelishtim went on and increased. (I Shmuel 14:3, 18-20)
This is similar to what is stated in the book of Shoftim:
And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Binyamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the Lord said, Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand. (Shoftim 20:27-28)
These verses imply that there is a direct connection between the ark and inquiry made of God and the priest standing before it.
3. The third proof is connected to the efod in the hands of Evyatar. In I Shmuel it says:
And it came to pass, when Evyatar the son of Achimelekh fled to David to Ke'ila, the he came down with an efod in his hand. (I Shmuel 23:6)
In addition, attention should be paid to a verse in I Melakhim:
And to Evyatar the priest the king said, Get you to Anatot, to your own fields; for you are worthy of death: but I will not at this time put you to death, because you did bear the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you have been afflicted in all my father's afflictions. (I Melakhim 2:26)
This verse states that Evyatar bore the ark, but nowhere do we find supporting evidence for this assertion. At that time, the ark of the Testimony was not found in Nov, but rather in Kiryat-Ye'arim, and therefore it seems that we are dealing with an ark for the efod.
In addition to these proofs, Rav Yoel argues that the emphasis found in the verse in II Shmuel
And David rose, and went with all the people that were with him from Ba'aleYehuda, to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim. (II Shmuel 6:2)
sharpens the uniqueness of this ark as opposed to the ark in which the urim ve-tumim rested together with the efod. This proves that there was a great need to distinguish between the two arks, with special emphasis on the meaning of the name connected to the ark of the Testimony located in the Holy of Holies the site of the keruvim.
An Ark for the priestly garments
Thus far, we have presented the main points in R. Yoel Bin-Nun's article. Now we shall relate to his main argument and to the proofs that he brought to support it.
It is important to note that R. Bin-Nun's proposal is exceedingly novel. Nowhere in Scripture or in the words of Chazal do we find explicit mention of a special ark for the efod, the choshen, and the urim ve-tumim. This presents various difficulties.
First, we would have expected that if indeed such an ark existed, this should have been stated explicitly, even if the rationale for such an ark is strong and logical.
Is it reasonable or even possible that such an ark should have existed without there being any mention of it in the Torah or in the words of Chazal? Without a doubt, it is reasonable to assume that the urim ve-tumim were stored in a particular container, rather than placed in some undefined place, but need we say that they were kept in an ark, an ark that was called "the ark of God"?
In addition, is it reasonable that the term "the ark of God" is used in some places to describe the ark found in the Holy of Holies, whereas in other places it relates to the ark containing the urim ve-tumim? For example, when the ark is brought up from Kiryat-Ye'arim to the city of David, the ark is called "the ark of God" (II Shmuel 6:2). Does Scripture assign that name also to the ark containing the urim ve-tumim?
As for the proofs adduced by R. Bin-Nun, one of his main proofs is from the ark of God mentioned in the war waged by Shaul and the people of Israel against the Pelishtim:
And Shaul said to Achiya, Bring the ark of God here. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel. (I Shmuel 14:18)
Later in the chapter, it says:
Then said the priest, Let us draw near here to God. And Shaul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Pelishtim? Will You deliver them into the hand of Israel? But He answered him not that day. (ibid. vv. 36-37)
To which ark is Shaul referring here? The Rishonim offer several understandings:
Rashi says: The urim ve-tumim.
Metzudat David: "Bring the ark of God here to inquire in its presence of the urim ve-tumim, whether we should go up after them And the ark was with the children of Israel and among them."
The Radak: "That is to say, the efod and the urim ve-tumim which were with the ark of God to inquire with them about Yehonatan.
Mahari Kra: "Bring the ark of God here the urim ve-tumim that are in the ark were there with Achiya ben Achitov.
According to one approach, then, the term "ark of God" refers to the urim ve-tumim. According to this, it is interesting that the urim ve-tumim themselves are called "the ark of God."
According to the Metzudat David, the ark of God was meant to make inquiry by way of the urim ve-tumim possible. This understanding accords with the Rambam's position in Hilkhot Kelei ha-Mikdash 10:11: "How was inquiry made? The [High] Priest would stand facing the Ark, and the person making inquiry was behind him."
The Radak and Mahari Kra, each in his own way, understand that the efod and the urim ve-tumim where with the ark or in the ark itself. According to the Mahari Kra, it turns out that the urim ve-tumim were kept in the ark which was generally found in the Holy of Holies.
The Torah does not note where the urim ve-tumim were kept, but according to these Rishonim, the urim ve-tumim were with the ark or in the ark itself.
R. Yoel Bin-Nun tries to prove from here that there was an additional ark not the regular ark which was used to store the urim ve-tumim.
R. Bin-Nun adduces a second proof from the efod worn by Evyatar. When Evyatar manages to flee from Nov the city of the priests, Scripture says about him: "And it came to pass, when Evyatar the son of Achimelekh fled to David to Ke'ila, that he came down with an efod in his hand" (I Shmuel 23:6).
In the continuation, David inquires of God about Ke'ila through Evyatar, and later Evyatar brings the efod to David and David inquires of God whether to pursue Amalek after they raided Tziklag. But in I Melakhim 2:26, it says: "And to Evyatar the priest the king said, Get you to Anatot, to your own fields; for you are worthy of death: but I will not at this time put you to death, because you did bear the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you have been afflicted in all my father's afflictions." Here, it speaks about bearing the ark and also about the afflictions suffered by David.
We find Evyatar in connection with the ark during Avshalom's rebellion, as it is explicitly stated in II Shmuel 15:24: "And lo Tzadok also came, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God, and Evyatar went up until all the people had finished passing out of the city." But when Evyatar fled from Shaul and wandered with David and suffered afflictions with him, the efod was in his hand. It is about this that the verse in Melakhim states: "Because you did bear the ark of the Lord God before David my father." From here we see that the ark contained the urim ve-tumim.
R. Bin-Nun brings a third proof from I Shmuel 3:3: "And the lamp of God had not yet gone out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was." There is a well-known difficulty in this verse - how is it possible that Shmuel laid down in God's temple in which there was the ark of God?
The commentators offered several solutions. Some of the commentators explain that Shmuel slept in the courtyard of the Levites. According to R. Bin-Nun, the ark of the urim ve-tumim was found in the Levitical courtyard.
This proof is not as strong as the previous ones, for it is possible to understand the passage in accordance with the other interpretations offered by the commentators.
To summarize, there is no proof to a special ark set aside for the urim ve-tumim either in the words or Chazal or in the words of the Rishonim, and so the very existence of such an ark is an exceedingly novel idea.
As for the ark mentioned in connection with Achiya and Evyatar, it is possible that it refers to the ark containing the urim ve-tumim, but it is not necessarily so.
According to Mahari Kra, the urim ve-tumim were found in the regular ark, and according to the Radak, they were found alongside it.
In this shiur, we discussed two additional arks, the existence of which has no source in the verses themselves, and also not in the words of Chazal or in the various commentators.
One possible ark contained the words of God to Moshe, which were given to him in sections, the various sections of the Torah which were given to him from the time of the revelation at Mount Sinai until the fortieth year. The second possible ark contained the urim ve-tumim.
The underlying assumption (apart from the possible proofs from the verses) is that these holy objects had to be stored in a secure place and in a dignified manner.
This discussion of additional arks raises the fundamental exegetical question regarding what is stated explicitly in the Torah and what not, and whether it is possible that there existed important objects that are not mentioned anywhere in the Torah.
(Translated by David Strauss)
 The view of the Tanna in the Sifrei who mentions only two arks (the ark of Betzalel that was in the Holy of Holies and an additional ark which contained the broken tablets) is explained by the Netziv as follows: That Tanna agrees with the view brought in Gittin 60a, according to which the Torah was given in complete form, and not in sections.
 According to the plain sense of Scripture, Moshe's tent was outside the camp (see Shemot 33:7).
 This section is taken from the article of Rav Yoel Bin-Nun, "Aron ha-Berit u-Ma'amado be-Sefer Shemuel," in Be-Ikvot Aron Ha-Shem, Leket Ma'amarim u-Mekorot, published by Orot Israel, pp. 21-24.
 See, however, what is related at the time of Avshalom's rebellion: "And lo Tzadok also came, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God, and Evyatar went up until all the people had finished passing out of the city" (II Shemuel 15:24).
 It is possible that this idea is alluded to in the gemara in Sota 42b, according to which "the name and all His substituted names were deposited in the ark." Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this was the ark that went out with the people to war, and later they also added the broken tablets.
In addition, it is possible to understand from the account of the transfer of the ark from Kiryat-Ye'arim to the city of David in II Shemuel chapter 6 that there were two arks, for verse 4 speaks of the removal of an ark from the house of Avinadav which was at Giv'a "accompanying the ark of God." The verse might mean that there were two arks there, the ark which was regularly found with the priests and the Levites and the ark of the Testimony which was there in exceptional manner.
 The gemara in Yoma 73a states: "Our Rabbis taught: How were [the urim ve-tumim] inquired of? The inquirer had his face directed to him who was consulted, and the latter directed himself to the Shekhina." Rashi explains, ad loc: "The inquirer - the king or head of the court; His face directed to him who was consulted toward the pirest; To the Shekhina to the urim ve-tumim and the explicit name [of God] in the choshen." The Rambam explains "directed to the Shekhina" to the ark, whereas Rashi explains it to the urim ve-tumim. See Kesef Mishneh, ad loc.
 It is of course reasonable to assume that the ark was covered and that it would have been possible to store the urim ve-tumim alongside the tablets and the broken tables found in the ark. This issue is connected to the Tannaitic dispute regarding the contents of the ark and the number of arks.