Ark. I. The vessel (Heb. tebah) constructed by Noah, according to Gen. vi., for the preservation of his family and of the different species of animals during the deluge. The form of the ark was that of an oblong chest, while its dimensions were 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth, and 30 in height. Two questions have been raised, with a design to throw discredit on the Biblical account: the first as to the form of the ark. that it was not adapted for floating; the second as to its dimensions, that it was not large enough to answer the purposes for which it was designed. Both to strengthen and to obviate the objections raised, many curious speculations have been resorted to, to prove the basis of calculations, but no valuable results have been attained on either side.
II. The ark (Heb. aron) of the covenant, or testimony, among the appointments of the Jewish tabernacle and temple. This was built of shit-tim (acacia wood), inlaid and overlaid with pure gold. Its dimensions were two cubits and a half in length, and one and a half in width and height. Its location was in the holy of holies. The cover of this ark was the mercy seat, over which stood the two cherubim. The contents of the ark of the covenant were, according to 1 Kings viii. 9, exclusively the tables of the law received by Moses (from which the ark had its name); but, according to Heb. ix. 4, it also contained the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, and at a later period probably also a copy of the book of the law. The Jews esteemed this ark peculiarly sacred. It was made to be carried in procession before them in the journey to the promised land, and for this purpose was committed to the care of the Kohathites, and none were permitted to touch it but the tribe of Levi. In war times, after the conquest of Palestine, it sometimes accompanied the army. At the close of the judgeship of Eli it was captured by the Philistines, but subsequently restored. It seems to have perished in the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar.