Last week in Parasha Mishpatim, God gave to the Israelites about 53 mitzvot (laws) out of the 613 commandments. These laws included the treatment of parents, slaves, and foreigners, as well as other people’s property.
This title of this week’s Torah reading, Terumah (תְּרוּמָה) is taken from a Hebrew word meaning offering, gift or contribution. In this Parasha, the Lord commands Moses to take up a free will offering from the people of Israel in order to build a sanctuary in the wilderness.
This sanctuary, called the Mishkan, was meant to be a visible reminder for the people of God’s holy Presence that dwelt among them.
The offerings that the people were asked to bring included precious metals and stones, fine linens, animal skins, wood, oil for the lamps, and fragrant spices for the incense.
The Lord instructed Moses to take an offering only from those who gave “willingly and from their heart.”
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Because of our sinful nature, we tend to be selfish and seek for what we can receive; but the Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
The truth of the matter is that when we give, especially toward the work of the Lord, we receive back so much more than what we have given. As we give generously, we will find ourselves receiving generously in return, as well.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
Building the Sanctuary
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:8–9)
The Israelites were to make a Sanctuary for God’s Presence, as well as all of its furnishings. They were not to be made according to any design they imagined, but only according to God’s specific blueprint, which God showed Moses on the mountain.
“And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40)
This wilderness sanctuary was a copy of the actual Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony in Heaven. (Revelation 15:5)
One very special “furnishing” in the Tabernacle was the Aron haBrit (אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית or Ark of the Covenant), which was to be made out of acacia wood covered with gold. In it, the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments were to be laid.
According to the Book of Hebrews in the New Covenant (New Testament–Brit Chadashah), it also contained a golden pot with the manna and Aaron’s rod that budded, although it is written in the Book of Kings that at the time of King Solomon, the Ark only contained the two Tablets of stone. (1 Kings 8:9)
Adventures of the Ark of the Covenant
The Tanakh has many stories concerning the Aron HaBrit, which give us part of its history.
Throughout the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites carried the ark using poles placed through four gold rings.
When they camped, the Ark was placed inside the Tabernacle.
Priests carried the Ark into the Jordan River when the Israelites, led by Joshua, crossed over into the Promised Land.
The Ark was also carried around the city of Jericho once a day for seven days. On the seventh day, seven priests, blowing on seven shofarot (ram’s horns), marched around with the Ark seven times before, with a great shout, the walls of Jericho fell down, and they went in and took the city. (Joshua 6:16–20)
During the time of Eli, the Israelites carried the Ark into battle, hoping that its presence would secure victory against the Philistines.
Instead, it was captured by the Philistines. Misfortune befell every place that the Philistines brought the Ark, so they eventually sent it back to Israel.
It remained at Kiriath-Jearim for some 20 years until King David brought it back to its rightful place in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:17–20; 1 Chronicles 15:1–3; 2 Chronicles 1:4)
What Happened to the Ark?
Today, the location of the Ark remains a mystery.
There are many theories regarding what eventually happened to the Ark of the Covenant. It is generally believed that the Babylonians carried away the vessels and the Ark when they destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC (according to the Greek Apocrypha book of 1 Esdras):
“And they took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, with the vessels of the ark of God, and the king’s treasures, and carried them away into Babylon.” (1 Esdras 1:54)
The Bible, however, does not tell us that the Babylonians took away the Ark itself, and although there have been many reported findings, its location has never been discovered.
Some believe that it is under the very spot where Yeshua (Jesus) was executed by the Romans, and that His blood was sprinkled upon the mercy seat below the earth.
As well, visitors who tour the Western Wall tunnels are shown the spot closest to where others believe the Ark of the Covenant is buried.
The Golden Cherubim Over the Mercy Seat
Upon the Ark’s cover and over the mercy seat were placed two golden cherubim. From above the cover and between these two cherubim God spoke with Moses.
Other Scriptures speak of this as God’s throne. (2 Samuel 6:2; Isaiah 37:16)
When King Hezekiah prayed, he addressed YHVH as the One enthroned above the cherubim (referring to the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant).
“O LORD of hosts [YHVH Tzeva’ot], God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:16)