A Commentary by Alan F. Alford
when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put forth
his hand to the Ark of God and took hold of it; for the oxen
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God
smote him there for his error; and there he died by the Ark
(Samuel II, 6:6-7)
the Ark of the Covenant? Was it a highly charged capacitor, as
the Bible seems to suggest, and, if so, what was the intended
function of this powerful electrical device?
1996, I highlighted the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was
used by the Israelites in the manner of a sophisticated communication
system to converse with their God, Yahweh. This, at least, is
what seems to be suggested in the Old Testament when Yahweh instructed
Moses as follows:
thou shalt put the atonement cover on top of the Ark; and in
the Ark thou shalt put the Testimony that I shall give thee.
And there, above the cover, between the two cherubim which are
upon the Ark of the Testimony, I will meet with thee, andI will
give thee all my commands for the children of Israel."
kind of God was it that communicated with the Israelites? In my
book 'When The Gods Came Down' I observed that Yahweh was originally
a physical 'mountain-god', El Shaddai, who had died and come back
to life again, in the same manner as pagan gods such as Osiris.
Furthermore, I observed that Yahweh's act of creation was a physical
act, in which he created the Earth as we know it by unleashing
upon it, from the heavens, a Flood of water and meteorites, again
in the same manner as the pagan creator-gods.
conclusion was that Yahweh, was no different in concept from the
supreme god of the pagans. In short, Yahweh was the God of an
was Yahweh using the Ark of the Covenant to communicate with the
Israelites? If Yahweh was an ex-planet, or more accurately the
surviving Spirit (or soul) of a deceased planetary body, why would
he need an electrical contraption to converse with the children
of Israel? Why did he not just speak to them in dreams and visions?
a sceptic, but the conclusion I have come to is that Yahweh probably
did not need an electrical contraption to converse with
the children of Israel. Rather, it seems to me that the electrical
functions of the Ark were designed (a) to impress the Israelites
with its dramatic effects; and (b) to ward off the uninitiated,
thereby safeguarding the Ark and its precious contents.
the 'precious contents' of the Ark? In order to answer this question,
we have to enter into the minds of the Hebrews and try to understand
the religious symbolism of their Ark.
of the Ark
It is highly significant that the Ark of the Covenant was designed
and built at the foot of Mount Sinai, the same mountain where Moses
- the supreme prophet of the Israelites - met God face to face and
received the Tablets of Testimony which had been inscribed by the
finger of God.
It is apparent
from reading the books of the Old Testament that the Ark became
a portable substitute for Mount Sinai - enabling the Israelites
to continue their face to face meetings with God even when far
removed from their sacred mountain. In this respect it should
be noted that God appeared above the Ark in exactly the same way
as he appeared upon Mount Sinai, i.e. in fire and a cloud of vapour
and, furthermore, in the form of his 'Glory' (the Hebrew word
Kavohdh, literally meaning 'Heaviness').
the Ark was a portable substitute for Mount Sinai, what was the
significance of Mount Sinai itself?
revealed in my book 'When The Gods Came Down', is that Mount Sinai
was the archetypal 'cosmic mountain' which connected Heaven and
mountain' is a religious archetype which has been well documented
by Mircea Eliade, who explained how it symbolised the Bond between
Heaven and Earth. (This, incidentally, explains the biblical tradition
that Mount Sinai was covered in fire and smoke.) But Eliade failed
to appreciate the full significance of this 'cosmic mountain',
which lay in the fact that the ancients regarded Heaven and Earth
themselves as 'mountains', metaphorically speaking. More to the
point, the ancients regarded Heaven and Earth as twin 'mountains',
i.e. twin planets, conceived in the image of one another.
then, was a 'cosmic mountain' in the sense that it symbolised
the planet of Heaven. But it actually symbolised the planet of
Heaven in three separate senses - first, the fallen planet (interred
physically in the underworld); second, the resurrected planet
(lifted up metaphysically to Heaven); and third, the planet of
Heaven in metamorphosis (i.e. in its celestial passages between
Heaven and Earth).
seem a difficult concept to those who have not read my book 'When
The Gods Came Down' but it is a very simple concept once you get
your head around the ancient way of thinking.)
It is for
this reason that we find the 'cosmic mountain' appearing in ancient
texts as a kind of cosmic elevator between Earth and Heaven. A
classic example is the subterranean mountain 'Mount Mashu' which
the Sumerian king Gilgamesh used in order to visit Utnapishtim
in Heaven. Another fine example appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls
text entitled 'Testament of Levi', where the chief priest, Levi,
I was shown visions . . . in the vision of visions, and I saw
Heaven opened and I saw the mountain beneath me, as high as
to reach to Heaven, and I was on it.
Then the gates of Heaven were opened to me, and an angel spoke
It is evident
from texts such as this that the 'cosmic mountain' was a supreme
magical device, which connected Heaven and Earth in a metaphysical,
other-worldly kind of way.
to the Ark of the Covenant, it is apparent from the Old Testament
(a) that the Ark was a portable substitute for Mount Sinai; and
(b) that Mount Sinai was a classic example of the 'cosmic mountain'.
The Ark itself was thus a symbol and microcosm of the 'cosmic
Israelites came to occupy Jerusalem, it is notable that the Ark
of the Covenant was placed inside the holy-of-holies of the Temple
of God. Once again we see symbolism in action, with the Ark representing
a microcosm of the 'cosmic mountain' or Bond of the two twin planets
- Heaven and Earth.
example of the Ark as microcosm of Heaven-and-Earth may be found
in the rites of Atonement Day ( yohm hakkippurim).
On this sole occasion during the entire year, the high priest
of the Israelites would enter the holy-of-holies of the tabernacle
or temple. He would then approach the 'atonement cover' ( kapporeth)
of the Ark of the Covenant and would use his finger to sprinkle
the blood of sacrificed animals (a bull and a goat) on the cover.
The idea behind this was to atone for all the sins of the Israelites
and purify their most holy place.
As I observed
in 'When The Gods Came Down', the smearing of the blood on the
atonement cover undoubtedly re-enacted the sacrifice of the creation,
which had occurred at the beginning of time on top of the fallen
'cosmic mountain'. I also observed that the ceremony as a whole
atoned for the inherited sins of the Israelites - the sins which
they had brought up out of the darkness of the underworld into
the world above. (The rites of Atonement Day, otherwise known
as the 'Day of the Coverings' and the 'Day of Ransoms', thus commemorated
the 'covering over' of the fallen human race and the 'ransoming'
of the Israelite first-born from the underworld.)
to appreciate the full significance of the Ark of the Covenant,
one must realise that the Ark symbolised the fallen planet of
Heaven interred inside the Earth. The hidden interior of the Ark
thus symbolised the mysterious underworld of the Earth, known
to the Hebrews as 'Abaddon' or 'the Place of Destruction'.
To the Hebrew initiates, the Ark thus contained the powerful magic
of God's creation, which was simultaneously destructive and creative.
that the two cherubim above the cover of the Ark symbolised the
cherubim of Genesis 3:24, which were assigned by God to prevent
access to the Tree of Life, which was hidden in the underworld.
that the contents of the Ark would have symbolised the Tree of
Life, which was forbidden to the Israelites. No wonder, then,
that any man who dared look inside the Ark was risking the wrath
of God (see Samuel I, 6:19).
The Actual Contents
of the Ark
What were the actual contents of the Ark? In the Old Testament we
are told that Moses placed inside the Ark the two Tablets of Testimony
which had been inscribed by the finger of God with the Ten Commandments.
accounts, these tablets were the sole contents of the Ark.
But some passages in the Bible suggest that the Ark also contained
'the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded'.
Bible 'Kebra Nagast' confirms that the Ark contained not only
the stone Tablets of Testimony but also a pot of manna and the
rod of Aaron. Indeed the Kebra Nagast provides a wonderful description
of the Ark and its contents:
He [God] said to him [Moses]: "Make an Ark or tabernacle
of wood... and overlay it with pure gold. Thou shalt place therein
the Word of the Law, which is the covenant that I have written
with my own fingers... The heavenly and spiritual (thing) within
it is of diverse colours and the work thereof is marvellous,
resembling jasper and the sparkling stone, the topaz and the
hyacinthine stone, and the crystal and light. It [the Ark] catches
the eye by force and astonishes the mind and stupefies it with
wonder. It was made by the mind of God and not by the hand of
man. He Himself created it for the habitation of His glory;
it [His glory: i.e. the thing inside the Ark] is a spiritual
thing and is full of compassion; it is a heavenly thing and
is full of light...'
it [the Ark] are a vessel of gold containing a measure of the
manna which came down from Heaven; the rod of Aaron which sprouted
after it had become withered though no-one watered it, broken
in two places it became three rods being originally only one
we today understand these mysterious sacred objects which were
placed inside the Ark?
with the manna, it is apparent from the description above that
the manna 'came down from Heaven'. The Bible, too, confirms this.
In Psalm 78:24, for example, manna is referred to 'the grain of
Heaven' and 'the food of angels'. And in Nehemiah 9:15, manna
is referred to as 'bread from heaven' (the latter incidentally
is equivalent to the body of Jesus Christ as described in the
gospel of John 6:51).
As I noted
in 'When The Gods Came Down', the term 'bread' was a metaphor
and thus the ancient expression 'bread from Heaven' was referring
to the meteorites which had fallen from Heaven.
follow logically that the manna which was placed inside the Ark
was a meteorite. And this would support my contention in 'When
The Gods Came Down' that the biblical story of the Exodus is largely
metaphorical (and thus the eating of the manna by the Israelites
in the wilderness should be understood metaphorically).
the word 'manna' mean?
book 'Antiquities of the Jews', the 1st century Jewish historian
Flavius Josephus wrote: 'the Hebrews call this food manna, for
the particle man in our language is the asking of a question:
'What is this?''
this observation the fact that 'na' meant 'stone' in ancient Near
Eastern languages, and we have an interesting possible translation
for 'manna', namely: 'What is this Stone?' In my book 'When The
Gods Came Down' I suggested that religion as we know it began
with the asking of this very same question, which was aimed at
determining the composition and origin of the meteorites which
fell, somewhat incredibly, from out of the heavens.
now the following passage from the book of Revelations, where
the Holy Spirit said to the churches:
him that overcometh I will give to eat the hidden manna and
I will give him a white stone, with a new name written therein,
which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it."
seem that the manna was indeed a sacred stone, albeit something
of a 'shape-shifter' in terms of its colour and appearance.
now to the 'rod of Aaron', might this too be a metaphor for meteoric
Ethiopian Bible 'Kebra Nagast' we read that the staffs of Moses
and Aaron were made of an indestructible, living wood, which was
the same wood by which Adam had sinned (the wood of the Tree of
Life) and the same wood by which Adam and his children had been
'delivered from the punishment of devils' (the wood of the Cross
of Christ). The 'Kebra Nagast' also speaks cryptically of the
staff of Aaron being the Virgin Mary 'from whom was born the Word
of God, without the seed of man'.
wise teach the mystery to the wise.
we must not forget the two Tablets of Testimony, i.e. the two
tablets of stone which had been inscribed by God and brought down
from the top of Mount Sinai by Moses. As noted earlier, Mount
Sinai was a 'cosmic mountain' and its peak symbolised the midst
of Heaven. Symbolically, therefore, the Tablets of Testimony were
stones which came down from Heaven, i.e. they were meteorites.
Doubtless this is the reason for the tradition of the stone tablets
being broken at the foot of Mount Sinai (the same theme being
found, incidentally, in the tradition that the rod of Aaron had
been broken in two places).
In summary, one can say with a fair degree of confidence that the
Ark of the Covenant would have contained a meteorite, or perhaps
fragments of several meteorites.
is drawn in part from the metaphorical meanings of the manna,
the rod of Aaron and the stone Tablets, all of which were reputed
to have had a heavenly origin. But the conclusion is drawn also
from the symbolism of the Ark.
earlier, the Ark was a microcosm of the 'cosmic mountain', i.e.
the fallen planet of Heaven which was contained (or 'covered')
by the planet of Earth. The implication is that the Ark contained
the powerful magic of the creation and, by the same token, the
catastrophic seeds of life. These seeds of life were, by all ancient
traditions, the meteorites of God which had impregnated the Womb
of the Earth at the beginning of time. It is thus entirely predictable
that the Ark would indeed have contained meteorites.
on an esoteric note, it is a fact that the ancient Egyptians and
Sumerians (and indeed early Christians) referred to meteorites
as 'the Word' of God. It is highly significant, therefore, that
the Ark contained the Covenant - the written 'Word' which had
been inscribed on the stone tablets by the finger of God. As the
'Kebra Nagast' put it: "Thou shalt place therein the Word
of the Law." This, it must be said, was a catastrophic Word
of God, which symbolised a catastrophic renewal of the Earth.
To open the Ark and view this Word of God was thus considered
extremely dangerous for it would unleash the powers of the First
Time and threaten a further catastrophic renewal of the world.
probably for this reason that the Ark was built as a highly charged
electrical capacitor (though it is unlikely to have been a high-tech
communication device). The objective, I suggest, was to prevent
the ignorant from opening the Ark and unleashing the catastrophic
forces of the creation.
it is for this reason - a powerful religious taboo - that the
Ark of the Covenant is today kept well away from the prying eyes
of Westerners. Unfortunately, such is the ignorance of people
in the Western world that the first thing they would do upon discovering
the Ark would be to open it and inspect its sacred contents.
might thus one day prove me right but perhaps, all things considered,
it would be better if they were to let sleeping gods lie (sic).
Eisenman & M. Wise, 'Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered', Penguin
Books, 1992, p. 140.
I, 8:9, 8:21. Also Chronicles II, 5:10.
9:4; compare Exodus 16:32-34, Numbers 17:10.
paragraphs from M. F. Brooks trans., 'Kebra Nagast (The Glory
of Kings)', The Red Sea Press, 1995, p. 14. See also p.139.
Josephus, 'The Antiquities of the Jews', III, 1:6.
2:17. Compare Revelations 2:7 where a parallel is drawn to the
'tree of life in the paradise of God'.
F. Brooks trans., 'Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings)', op. cit.,
pp. 139-41, 152-3, 166.
F. Brooks trans., 'Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings)', op. cit.,
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This article is copyrighted (C) 1998, by Alan F. Alford. All rights reserved.