Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Will the real Ark please stand up…..

submitted by david a.

As I have posted several times, the compelling argument (to me at least) that the Torah is
a composite of multi-authored sources is the fact that the book is replete with dozens of
contradictions, notwithstanding the explanations provided by the sages and commentators
in their attempts to reconcile these contradictions. The most blatant are the dozens of
examples found in Devarim that disagree with the corresponding event or commandment
found in the rest of Chumash

This week’s parsha provides an excellent example of this.

Ex. 25:10+ describes a beautiful, ornate ark that God commands Moses to built as
one of the major components of the Sanctuary (Mishkan), wherein he is to house the
Testimonial Tablets (note the name assigned to these tablets)

In Devarim (Deut 10:1-5), we find an (apparent) corresponding command whereby God
tells Moses to build an ark to house the Tablets, (the Tablets which in other parts of the
narrative are referred to as Covenantal Tablets, already a contradiction). He text reads:

1. At that time God said to me: “Carve for yourself two stones tablets like
the first ones, and ascend to Me to the mountain and make a wooden ark for
yourself. 2. And I shall inscribe on the tablets the words that were on the
first tablets, that you smashed and you shall place them in the ark.” 3. So
I made an ark of cedar wood and I carved out two stone tablets like the first
ones. Then I ascended the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4. He
inscribed on the tablets according to the script, the Ten Statements that God
spoke to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the
congregation, and He gave them to me. 5. I turned and descended from the
mountain and I placed the tablets in the ark that I made and they remained
there as God had commanded.

The contradiction is blatant. Here the ark is a simple wood box, not the ornate gold-
covered ark of Exodus. Now, of course the sages were well aware of the contradiction
and resolved the issue by stating simply enough, that this ark was only temporary. And
that the tablets were transferred to the ornate one once the Mishkan was completed.

But, its not very satisfying.

First, because the Torah does not say this at all. The text is quite clear. “ they remained
there”. There is no indication of the temporary nature of this ark.

Secondly, and much more compelling is that given that the Torah is supposed to be a
very concise book and is very particular about its wordage, how is it that Devarim tells us
about an unimportant temporary box and yet completely and totally omits any reference
to the Mishkan or any of its components. To me it seems that author of Devarim had a
different oral tradition about events in the Midbar. Specifically, he had no tradition of a

Mishkan. This tghought is further supported by Deut 10:8

At that time, God set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the Ark of the
Covenant of God, to stand before God to minister to Him and to bless in
His name until this very day.

No mention that Levites transported a Mishkan.

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