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"There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel." (Exodus 25:22 NASB)

"So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel." (Deuteronomy 31:9)

I'm trying to understand the "of" in the phrase "the Ark of the Covenant" or "Ark of the Testimony" in these and other passages in the Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 3.

Is the phrase to be read "The Ark that is associated with the Covenant" or "The Ark that is a vessel of the Covenant?"

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The Ark (Heb. אָרוֹן) was known as "the Ark of the testimony" (אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת cp. Exo. 25:22) and "the Ark of the covenant" (אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית cp. Jos. 3:6) (among other things) since the two stone tablets contained therein were known as "the two tablets of the testimony" (שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת; cp. Exo. 31:18) and "the two tablets of the covenant" (שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הַבְּרִית; cp. Deu. 9:15).

Yahveh commanded Moses,

And you shall put the testimony that I shall give you into the Ark. (Exo. 25:16)

As for the significance of the word "of" in the phrase "Ark of the testimony" and "Ark of the covenant," each phrase would likely be categorized as a genitive of content which indicates that the head noun contains or is full of the dependent (genitive) noun. In this case, the Ark contains [the two tables of] the covenant or the testimony.

A simple example of a genitive of content is the phrase "basket of unleavened bread" (cp. Exo. 29:23). It means that the basket contains unleavened bread.

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