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I've heard several references in History and Discovery channel type TV programs that say that the Bible talks about the Ark of the Covenant miraculously flying. Not to mention there was a line about that in Indiana Jones. I am not aware of any Bible reference that says any such thing. Is there some verse I'm missing? If not, is there some other ancient source -- the Talmud or Josephus or something -- that makes such a statement? Or is this just some crazy idea that came out of nowhere?

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Good question. I have certainly never heard that before, and that's quite a rare occurrence. I found a discussion forum that has several verses in the thread, but all of them could easily be taken another way... Have you tried this on the Judaism site? It might be a better fit there. While the Ark of the covenant is certainly of interest to Christianity, it's arguable more of interest in Judaism, and the experts there may have a more definitive answer. –  David Stratton Jan 3 '14 at 6:30
You may find that asking your question here will help too: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com –  The Freemason Jan 3 '14 at 17:59

2 Answers 2

The Ark of the Covenant is never recorded as having flown in Scripture.

There were only two means by the Ark ever moved -

  1. Per God's command, the Ark was transported by the priests, using the Acacia poles which held it through the base, for this purpose.

    When the Priests carried it into the Jordan River when it was still flowing in Joshua 5, for example, the river receded. If it could have flown, there would have been no need for the priests to "step out" in faith.

    enter image description here

  2. On two occasions, contrary to God's command, an ox cart was used to transport it.

    a. In 2 Samuel 6, the Ark is being drawn "on a new ox cart," as follows:

    And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio,[a] the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart,[b] 4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.

    Famously, it began to tip, and Uzziah tried to steady it. For this, he was immediately zapped (that's not a technical term) by God, and died instantly. Had the Ark been capable of flight, one would have assumed that it would have steadied itself in such an instance.

    enter image description here

    b. Also, in 1 Samuel 5, the Israelites had lost the Ark in battle to the Philistines. When the Philistine's local deity Dagon kept falling over before it, as if it were bowing, the Philistines started moving it from Ashdod to Gath and throughout their cities. Problem was- people kept dying. So, eventually they decided to get rid of it, and send it on its merry way with a bunch of gifts for the Israelites.
    enter image description here

    1 Samuel 6 records:

    The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. 12 And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.

  3. The story of the Ark of the Covenant being moved by Nazi jeep pickup truck is, alas, non-canonical, and adheres only to the obscure Spielbergian sects of Christianity.

    enter image description here

In all seriousness, however, the legends of the ark flying may be attributable to the winged cherubim on top of the mercy seat. This ornament of two angels, only either end of the ark, their wings touching, may have inspired such an idea, but they were strictly ornamental.

enter image description here

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+1 Great information... and GRAPHICS TOO!!! –  Narnian Jan 3 '14 at 12:52
Thanks! When I heard in Indiana Jones about the Ark flying I figured that was something they just made up for the movie. Then I heard the same thing on some documentary that was full of things the Bible supposedly said that I was pretty sure it didn't, so I dismissed that too. But then last night I was watching something on History channel that seemed to take the Bible seriously -- one of those "can we find naturalistic explanations for Bible miracles" -- and then they went off about the Ark flying, and I was wondering if I was just missing something. –  Jay Jan 3 '14 at 17:04
And of course the Ark was never transported by Nazi jeep. They would have needed a pickup truck. –  Jay Jan 3 '14 at 17:06

Consider Numbers 10:33-36, the ark seems to be flying in this text:

33 So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days' journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp. 35 And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” 36 And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” (ESV)

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Can you expand on this, and maybe copy in the relevant verse? This might answer the question, but it's nowhere near the type of answer expected on this site. –  David Stratton Aug 7 '14 at 3:40
It's possible to interpret the ark as moving of its own volition in those verses, but it is hardly the most likely interpretation, seeing as how the ark moved was described earlier in the text, and miraculous events are usually explicit in the text. –  trlkly Aug 7 '14 at 7:08
Welcome to the site! It looks like you've got the making of a good answer here and we hope you stick around and make further contributions. I've taken the liberty of providing a link and including the text of the verses you've cited. As David says, the standard of this site is a little higher in terms of what is expected of an answer - can you provide any further support to show that this text should be understood to mean the ark actually flew by itself? (Perhaps statements from bible commentaries etc.) –  bruised reed Aug 7 '14 at 8:52
If you'd like further info, browsing the help centre can be a good way of starting to come to grips with the site standards with respect to questions and answers. –  bruised reed Aug 7 '14 at 8:54
This is a good start but it'd be nice if you have some more explanation. –  LCIII Aug 7 '14 at 13:34

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