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In Joshua 3:3 (NASB)

and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.

And in Numbers 4:15 (NASB)

When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them by the poles, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

Isn't carrying the ark a function for non-priests?

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Note Matthew Poole's comments:

The priests the Levites, who were not only Levites, but priests also. For although the Levites were to carry the ark, Num 4, yet the priests might perform that office, and did so upon some solemn occasions, as here, and Joshua 6:6. Go after it towards Jordan, to go over it in such manner as I am about to describe. Till this time the ark went in the middle of the cloudy pillar, probably being now vanished, now it goes in the front.

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This question has puzzled me as well. Poole's comment is merely an observation of the situation, rather than an explanation. God has such specific instructions regarding the details of who and how the holy things of the Tabernacle were to be handled; and He demanded such explicit adherence to these instructions (cf 1 Sam 6:13-16; 2 Sam 6:1-7), I would like a more descriptive explanation regarding this exception.

My speculation is that this occasion is so momentous in the history of Israel, it marks the point in time when things change so dramatically it called for monumental events to mark it (Israel would no longer be led by the Shekinah Glory, but rather by the direct presence of God Himself, as signified through His throne, the mercy seat). As such, I speculate that when the cohanim carried the ark, it was uncovered and in full display for the people and leaders of Jericho to see. If the Kohathites would have touched the ark without the veil (Num 4:5) and the other coverings to protect them, they would have died (see Num 4:17-20).

This is only my opinion, which means its probably wrong. I wish God would have explained it more fully.

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