Lectionary Reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43:

One key moment in the dedication ceremony occurs when Solomon transfers the ark from the fortress of Zion to the temple mount. During David’s reign, the palace and the tent for the ark are both in this portion of the city, but in 1 Kgs. 8, the Zion system of worship is incorporated, with the Mosaic tabernacle (8:4), into the temple (Leithart 2003a). Solomon reunites the divided worship of Israel into a single location.

Starting from 1 Sam. 4, the story of the ark is a story of death and resurrection: the “body” of the tabernacle is divided and then reunited, and this points to the ultimate tabernacle of God in the flesh of Jesus, who is torn on the cross before he is raised and ascends to the “house” of his Father in heaven. The emphasis on the ark and the tablets of the law inside demonstrates the continuity between the order of Solomon and the Mosaic covenant (l)r#y ynb-M( hwhy trk r#)) (1 Kgs. 8:9).

The temple becomes an architectural emblem of the nation and the individual with the Torah of Yahweh written on his or her heart. Once the ark is in the temple, Yahweh descends in a cloud and consecrates the temple as his holy place. The temple is the place of Yahweh’s enthronement, again pointing to the human temple at the center of the Father’s kingdom.

Though highlighted in the dedication, the ark hereafter disappears from 1–2 Kings and is not even listed among the furniture seized by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs. 25) or among the furnishings brought back from exile. It is apparently lost at some point in Israel’s history, since Pompey found the most holy place empty when he came to the temple. The understated treatment of the ark in 1–2 Kings seems to indicate that its role is already envisioned to be temporary.

If its loss is a tragic mistake, one would expect some mention of the tragedy, but there is none. The ark serves as the transportable throne of Yahweh until he takes his rest in the temple, but once there the temple itself is seen as the “throne” of Yahweh. Jeremiah makes this point in Jer. 3:11–18, where he refers to the days after the exile when the ark will be forgotten. Instead of the ark serving as Yahweh’s throne, the entire city of Jerusalem will become a throne.


©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.