The poles of the ark: On the ins and outs of a textual contradiction

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The ark, the primary cult object in the Hebrew Bible, is described in detail in the Priestly tabernacle pericopes of the Pentateuch. In these texts, a difficult contradiction arises with regard to its, which are universally understood as carrying poles. The commands for the construction of the ark (Exod 25:10-16) specify that the ark's carrying poles are to stay in its rings and never to part from it ) , v. 15). In the instructions regarding the packing up of the tabernacle (Num 4), however, we read that, in the course of preparing the ark for transport, its carrying poles are to be put in by Aaron and his sons (, v. 6). If the ark's poles are always "in," how can they be "put in"? This problem has received a great deal of attention from medieval exegetes and modern scholars. In this article, I review previous proposed solutions and offer a new solution based on material evidence from the ancient Near East.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-741
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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