Sacred chest measuring about 45 x 27 x 27 inches (Exodus 37) and containing the Tables of the Law and perhaps also a golden vessel of manna and the rod of Aaron (Exodus 16; Numbers 17; 3 Kings 8; Hebrews 9). It was constructed of setim-wood overlaid with gold within and without, and furnished with rings through which passed setim-wood bars for carrying it. Upon its cover, termed the “propitiatory,” were two cherubim of beaten gold.
The ark was the only piece of furniture placed in the inner room (holy of holies) of the Temple. The one time it was carried to battle by the Hebrews, it fell into the hands of the Philistines who, however, were soon compelled to restore it to Israel (1 Kings 4). From Cariathiarim David brought it solemnly to Jerusalem, and Solomon had it later on placed in the Temple. According to a tradition, the value of which is much discussed, the Ark, with the Tabernacle and the altar of incense, was hidden by Jeremias before the siege of Jerusalem by Nabuchodonosor (2 Machabees 2); however, the view that it was carried to Babylon as a trophy (4 Esdas 10) seems to enjoy greater probability.
The phrase “Ark of the Covenant” is also a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary to signify her Divine motherhood, that as the ark of old, made of incorruptible wood and adorned with pure gold, contained the precious treasures of the Divine law and the manna from heaven, so she, the true ark, bore within her not merely the law but the Lawgiver, not merely the Divine presence as manifested over the ark of the covenant, but the Divine One Himself, and the Living Bread from heaven.