The charter of our translation forbids using older religious terms that are mistranslated and/or have later meanings not intended by the original authors. This certainly includes the Ark of the Covenant.
The ancient Greek Septuagint text usually calls it the kiboton marturion, which literally means, Box [of] Testimony. This is a logical name, because the box was built to hold many pieces of testimony, that is, proofs, or pieces of evidence, of the things that God did for IsraEl.
It contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the writings of Moses, some manna, and Aaron’s walking stick.
So we choose to translate the name kiboton marturion as the Chest of Proofs. It could also be called the Chest of Evidence, or if you wish, the Box of Evidence.
Note, however, that it was only called the kiboton marturion, or Chest of Proofs in the Septuagint text after the IsraElites had settled in the Promised Land. Before that time, it was called something else – the kibotos diathekes, or Chest of the Sacred Agreement. You’ll find this second name used in 42 places in the Septuagint text (for example, at Exodus 31:7) and once in the Greek version of Hebrews 9:4.
So, to recap:
The common name Ark of the Covenant just isn’t what it’s called most of the time in the Septuagint.
The meaning of the ancient English word ‘ark’ has been lost; it confuses people who only know about ‘Noah’s Ark.’
The second word, ‘covenant’ is completely alien to modern English speakers, especially younger people and non-Christians.
And finally, the name obscures its function – a box to hold evidence. Thanks to movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, people think it was some sort of magical box that held spirit creatures!
Something else that most people don’t realize, is that during the time of the Prophet SamuEl and the High-Priest Eli, the Philistines captured the Chest, emptied its contents, and returned it to IsraEl empty. According to the Bible account, they returned it because it brought a plague on their people (1 Samuel 5:12).
However, later on, the sacred tablets containing the Ten Commandments are once again mentioned as being in the Chest during the time of King Solomon – but nothing else (1 Kings 8:9). So we must assume that these less-perishable items had been recovered or returned.
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