1 Kings 8:9
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
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(9) There was nothing.—The emphasis of this (repeated in 2Chronicles 5:10) is remarkable, and seems intended to make it clear that the various things laid up “before the testimony”—the pot of manna (Exodus 16:33-34), the rod of Aaron (Numbers 17:10), the copy of the Law (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)—were not in the ark, but (as in the last case is actually stated), at “the side of the ark.” Unless any change afterwards took place—which is highly improbable—this clear statement must determine the interpretation of the well-known passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews (1Kings 9:4), in which no stress need be laid on the literal accuracy of the word “wherein;” for its purpose is simply a general description of the Temple, its chief parts, and its most sacred furniture. The command to deposit the tables in the ark is recorded in Exodus 25:16, and the actual deposit of them there in Exodus 40:20, immediately after the erection of the Tabernacle.

There is something singularly impressive in the especial hallowing of the granite tables of the Law of Righteousness, as the most sacred of all the revelations of the Nature of God; thus indissolubly binding together religion and morality, and showing that God is best known to man, not in His omnipotence, or even in His infinite wisdom, which man can only in slight degree imitate, but in His moral nature, as the very Truth and Righteousness, of which all that in man is called true and righteous is but the reflection. The one main object of all prophetic teaching was to bring out the truth here implied, thus writing the law on the heart and on the mind (Jeremiah 31:33), and rebuking moral evil at least as strongly as religious error and apostasy. The very name of the Messiah for whom they prepared is “Jehovah our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).

1 Kings 8:9. There was nothing in the ark, &c. — Strictly and properly speaking. But in a looser sense, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod were also in or by it, (Hebrews 9:4,) being placed by Moses, as God commanded, (Numbers 17:10,) before the ark of the testimony, in the most holy place.8:1-11 The bringing in the ark, is the end which must crown the work: this was done with great solemnity. The ark was fixed in the place appointed for its rest in the inner part of the house, whence they expected God to speak to them, even in the most holy place. The staves of the ark were drawn out, so as to direct the high priest to the mercy-seat over the ark, when he went in, once a year, to sprinkle the blood there; so that they continued of use, though there was no longer occasion to carry it by them. The glory of God appearing in a cloud may signify, 1. The darkness of that dispensation, in comparison with the light of the gospel, by which, with open face, we behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord. 2. The darkness of our present state, in comparison with the sight of God, which will be the happiness of heaven, where the Divine glory is unveiled.Comparing this statement with Hebrews 9:4, it would seem that Solomon, now that the sacred chest had reached its final resting-place, and stood in a large chamber surrounded by tables 2 Chronicles 4:8, removed the pot of manna and the rod from the interior, and set them elsewhere in the holy of holies. 9. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone—Nothing else was ever in the ark, the articles mentioned (Heb 9:4) being not in, but by it, being laid in the most holy place before the testimony (Ex 16:33; Nu 17:10). Nothing in the ark; strictly and properly: for in a more large sense, as in is oft taken for by or near, as is confessed, and hath been proved before; so the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were also in it, Hebrews 9:4, i.e. by it, to wit, in the most holy place, before the ark of the testimony, where God commanded Moses to put them, as it is expressed, Exodus 16:33,34 Num 17:10, and not strictly in it. But of this more, God assisting, on Hebrews 9:4. There was nothing in the ark, save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb,.... That is, there were no other writings; or, as Ben Gersom says, no other part of the law, but the decalogue otherwise he observes there were in it Aaron's rod and the pot of manna, according to Hebrews 9:4 though the particle there may be rendered "at", or "with", or "by"; see Gill on Hebrews 9:4 and so they might be not within it, but in some place on the sides of it, see Deuteronomy 31:26,

when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt; about two months after.

There was nothing in the ark {e} save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

(e) For it is likely that the enemy when they had the ark in their hands took away the rod of Aaron and the pot of manna.

9. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone] We read in Hebrews 9:4 that in the ark of the covenant ‘was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded’ as well as the tables of the covenant, and we may be sure that the writer there speaks according to tradition. The Old Testament narrative (Exodus 16:34) says that the pot of manna was laid up ‘before the testimony’ and the same expression is used (Numbers 17:10) concerning Aaron’s rod. This does not define whether they were put inside or on the outside of the ark. But it is most probable that during the time when the ark was moved from place to place they were kept inside it, but as soon as it was placed within the Temple they were removed. For the tables of stone were alone intended to be stored in the ark, being ‘the testimony (Exodus 25:16) which God had given to Israel.’ The other things would still be ‘before the testimony’ if they were placed outside.

when the Lord made a covenant] There is no word for ‘covenant’ in the Hebrew, but the verb is the technical term used in this sense, meaning literally ‘to cut’ in allusion to the sacrifices which usually accompanied covenant-making. No doubt by this time the verb alone had come to have the sense of ‘making a covenant.’ So the italics of the A. V. are rather misleading. The same verb without any noun following is found in this sense 1 Samuel 11:2; 1 Samuel 20:16; 1 Samuel 20:18 and in other places. The verse is a little expanded but not changed in sense in the LXX.

Josephus adds here an account of the other furniture of the Temple, with the position which it occupied, and adds, what no doubt he had seen in his own time, that the brazen altar stood before the shrine, straight opposite the outer door, so that when that was thrown open the altar was visible, and the priestly acts and the completion of the sacrifice could all be seen. This is, in a way, a comment on 1 Kings 8:8. The people outside could see through all the length of the holy place, but only one coming near to the partition, could, when the door into the most holy was open, notice the extended heads of the staves.Verse 9. - There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there [Exodus 25:16; Exodus 40:20; Deuteronomy 10:5. This statement appears to be at variance with Hebrews 9:4, which mentions "the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded," as in the ark, along with "the tables of the covenant." And it is to be observed that, while our text excludes these relics from the ark (temp. Solomon), no other scripture save that just cited expressly includes them. In Exodus 16:34 and Numbers 17:25 (Heb. A.V., Numbers 17:10) they are commanded to be laid up "before the testimony," words which no doubt may mean, as they were long interpreted to mean, "before the tables of testimony in the ark" - observe, the words are "before the testimony," not "before the ark" - but which are now generally thought to import "in front of the ark which con-rained the testimony." We know the book of the law was put "at the side (מִצַּד) of the ark" (Deuteronomy 31:26), and hence it is held by some that the golden pot, etc., occupied a similar position. It seems preferable, however, considering the distinct statement of St. Paul, or the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, to say the least, embodies Jewish tradition, to adhere to the ancient interpretation that the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod were in the ark. And this in no wise conflicts with the statement of the text, for these treasures might well have been removed by the Philistines, whose first thought, we may be sure, would be to open their new acquisition. It is not improbable, indeed, that the object of the men of Bethshemesh in looking into the ark was to see whether these treasures were still there. For if the golden pot ever was in the ark, we can hardly suppose it would escape the rapacity of the Philistines, who would leave the two tables of stone as things of no value. Indeed, it is just possible that the trespass offering, the golden mice, etc., were designed as a return for the golden pot which had been removed. And the statement of the text, "there was nothing," etc., almost implies that there had been something there at one time (see Alford on Hebrews 9:4). It seem probable, therefore, that the golden pot and Aaron's rod were originally deposited "before the testimony" in the ark; that they were removed during its captivity (1 Samuel 5:6.); and that the sacrilege was discovered at Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 6:19). This last mentioned episode explains how it came to be known that "there was nothing," etc. It is hardly likely after that memorable visitation that Solomon could have opened the ark and taken out the two relics, as Rawlinson suggests. Nor have we any warrant for the view that the mercy seat, with the cherubs, was removed to make way for a new lid without them, and so the interior of the ark was disclosed to view (Stanley) ] at Horeb [See Exodus 3:1; Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:6; 1 Kings 19:8. This name, which means dry ground, desert, would appear to have belonged to two or three different places in the wilderness. But as the name of the place where the law was given and the covenant with God made (Deuteronomy 4:10, 13) it became subsequently a nomen generale for the whole of the Sinaitic region (Dict. Bib. 3. p. 1326). Here the mount of the law is clearly meant] when [Heb. which, אֲשֶׁר is occasionally found in the sense of quum, as in Deuteronomy 11:6; Psalm 139:15; 2 Chronicles 35:20; cf. 1 Kings 9:10 (Gesen., Thessalonians, s.v.) ] the Lord made a covenant [Heb. cut; see note on 1 Kings 5:12. בְּרִית is to be understood. Same ellipsis in 1 Samuel 20:16; 1 Samuel 22:8] with the children of Israel when they came [Heb. in their coming] out of the land of Egypt. [Exodus 34:27, 28; Deuteronomy 4:13.] After the arrival of all the elders (i.e., of the representatives of the nation, more particularly described in 1 Kings 8:1), the priests carried the ark and brought it up (sc., into the temple), with the tabernacle and all the holy vessels in it. The expression אתם ויּעלוּ, which follows, introduces as a supplementary notice, according to the general diffuseness of the early Hebrew style of narrative, the more precise statement that the priests and Levites brought up these sacred vessels. מועד אהל is not the tent erected for the ark of the covenant upon Zion, which can be proved to have been never so designated, and which is expressly distinguished from the former in 2 Chronicles 1:4 as compared with 1 Kings 8:3, but is the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon in front of which Solomon had offered sacrifice (1 Kings 3:4). The tabernacle with the vessels in it, to which, however, the ark of the covenant, that had long been separated from it, did not belong, was probably preserved as a sacred relic in the rooms above the Most Holy Place. The ark of the covenant was carried by priests on all solemn occasions, according to the spirit of the law, which enjoined, in Numbers 3:31 and Numbers 4:5., that the ark of the covenant and the rest of the sacred vessels should be carried by the Levites, after the priests had carefully wrapped them up; and the Levites were prohibited from directly touching them, on pain of death. When, therefore, the ark of the covenant was carried in solemn procession, as in the case before us, probably uncovered, this could only be done by the priests, more especially as the Levites were not allowed to enter the Most Holy Place. Consequently, by the statement in 1 Kings 8:3, that the priests and Levites carried them (אתם), viz., the objects mentioned before, we are to understand that the ark of the covenant was carried into the temple by the priests, and the tabernacle with its vessels by the Levites.

(Note: Instead of כּהנים in 1 Kings 8:3, we have הלּויּם in 2 Chronicles 5:4; and instead of והלּויּם הכּהנים in 1 Kings 8:4, we have הלּויּם הכּהנים, "the Levitical priests." These variations are to be attributed to inexactness in expression. For it is obvious that Thenius is wrong in his notion that the chronicler mentioned the Levites instead of the priests, from the simple fact that he states in 1 Kings 8:7 that "the priests carried the ark," etc., in exact agreement with our account.)

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