Monday, January 29, 2007

Covering the Ark

An interesting comment was left a few days ago by Jason from North Carolina, on the 'Day of Atonement' post. Jason pointed out that, in Numbers 4:1-15 the Ark of the Covenant along with the other items of furniture in the Tabernacle were always covered while in transit.

I have drawn the Ark uncovered while in transit at least twice that I can think of! This highlights another problem that Bible illustrators face. We tend to only read the portion of scripture that we're about to illustrate. Numbers 4 is one of those passages that sets a precedent for all the verses that follow concerning the Ark.
Just about every Bible artist I know has missed this one! The fact is, the only time we should show the Ark uncovered, is when it's in the Holy of Holies.

I'm slowly redoing all of our earlier Bible stories in the new (more detailed) style. So, when I redo both the 'Crossing of the Jordan' and 'The walls of Jericho' stories, the ark will be well and truly covered! Thanks Jason.
Another interesting question is, what was the Ark of the Covenant actually covered with?

Badger skins or Dugong hides?
When I was reading the verses above, (in the amplified Bible), I was very surprised to read that the Ark was covered with 'porpoise or dolphin skins'! (not badger skins). On further inspection, I noticed that the amplified Bible also records that the Tabernacle itself was covered with dolphin or porpoise skins! If you're as confused as I was, then you might find the excert below, (from, enlightening.

The word 'Badger' is found in Ex. 25:5; 26:14; 35:7, 23; 36:19; 39:34; Num. 4:6, etc. The tabernacle was covered with badgers' skins; the shoes of women were also made of them (Ezek. 16:10). Our translators seem to have been misled by the similarity in sound of the Hebrew tachash_ and the Latin _taxus, "a badger." The revisers have correctly substituted "seal skins." The Arabs of the Sinaitic peninsula apply the name tucash to the seals and dugongs which are common in the Red Sea, and the skins of which are largely used as leather and for sandals. Though the badger is common in Palestine, and might occur in the wilderness, its small hide would have been useless as a tent covering. The dugong, (pictured above), very plentiful in the shallow waters on the shores of the Red Sea, is a marine animal from 12 to 30 feet long, something between a whale and a seal, never leaving the water, but very easily caught. It grazes on seaweed, and is known by naturalists as Halicore tabernaculi.

I have only ever seen the covering of the Tabernacle depicted in illustrations, (and on models), as consisting of brown fur. If Dugong hides were used, the covering would have been a bluish-grey in color, and almost leather like. If anyone has any other comments on this, we'd like to hear them!
(Dugong image:

Related posts:
The Day of Atonement
The contents of the Ark