About one year after The Exodus of the Israelites, where they were delivered from slavery and began their journey to the Promised Land, they came upon Mount Sinai. Moses went up the mountain and stayed with God for forty days and forty nights. When he returned from the mountain to see the Israelites, he had with him the Ten Commandments. However, the Ten Commandments was not all that God had given to Moses on the mountain. On the mountain, he also received instructions on how to have his laborers construct the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22). What actually was inside the Ark of the Covenant?
The Bible has sparse information on the exact contents of the Ark of the Covenant. In the Book of Hebrews, we learn it contains three items: the rod of Aaron, a jar of Manna, and the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Whenever the Ark of the Covenant was moved, it was always well concealed under the veil of leather and blue cloth, even from view of the priests and Israelites that were carrying it.
“In it were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the place of expiation. Now is not the time to speak of these in detail.” – Hebrews 9:4-5
At the time of the writing of the Book of Hebrews, the Ark of the Covenant had been missing for over half a millennium which is why its exact contents could not be discussed by Saint Paul. Looking at the Old Testament, we see evidence to support the identity of its contents. In the Book of Exodus, the Lord instructs Moses to place within the Ark the manna and Covenant.
“Moses then told Aaron, “Take a jar and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.” As the LORD had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it in front of the covenant to keep it.” – Exodus 16:33-34
“In the ark you are to put the covenant which I will give you.” – Exodus 25:16
“Then the LORD said to Moses: Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the covenant, for safe keeping as a sign to the rebellious, so that their grumbling against me may cease and they might not die.” – Numbers 17:10
At some point however, both the jar of manna and the sprouted staff of Aaron were removed from the Ark of the Covenant. This was discovered when Solomon had the Ark brought into his newly constructed Temple.
“There was nothing in the ark but the two stone tablets which Moses had put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they went forth from the land of Egypt.” – 1 Kings 8:9
Manna was a sweet food given to the Israelites by God to give them sustenance during their wandering in the desert for forty years. For those forty years, they ate only manna which they were allowed to harvest enough for one day at time. The exception was for the day preceding the Sabbath, in which they could harvest enough for two days worth. The rod of Aaron placed in the Ark was the same used by Moses to part the Red Sea, make the Nile River run with blood, and bring forward the plagues of the frogs and flies. It turned into a snake and swallowed the rods of the pharaoh’s magicians to demonstrate the superiority of the Lord