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Journal Article

The Poles of the Ark: On the Ins and Outs of a Textual Contradiction

Raanan Eichler
Journal of Biblical Literature
Vol. 135, No. 4 (Winter 2016), pp. 733-741
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Page Count: 9

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Topics: Arks, Tabernacles, Altars, Chest, Torah, Pentateuch, Museum exhibitions, Sumer, Bronzes, Incense
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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 בדים, 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 (בטבעת הארן ויהיו הבדים לא יסרו ממנו, 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 (ושמו בדיו, 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.

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