The NT author of Hebrews 9:4 recounts items in the Ark of the Covenant (while at the >> desert tabernacle).

[Hebrews 9:4] "Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant" (9:4  χρυσοῦν ἔχουσα θυμιατήριον καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης περικεκαλυμμένην πάντοθεν χρυσίῳ ἐν ᾗ στάμνος χρυσῆ ἔχουσα τὸ μάννα καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος Ἀαρὼν ἡ βλαστήσασα καὶ αἱ πλάκες τῆς διαθήκης)

However - The Torah reveals in [Numbers 17:25] that Elohim commanded Moshe to place Aharon's Staff "in-front" (לִפְנֵ֣י) of the Ark (not inside the Aron).

[Numbers 17:25] in Torah - but Numbers 17:10 in English bibles:

YHVH said to Moshe, “Put Aharon’s staff back before the Pact, to be kept as a lesson to rebels, so that their mutterings against Me may cease, lest they die." (וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הָשֵׁ֞ב אֶת־מַטֵּ֤ה אַהֲרֹן֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הָעֵד֔וּת לְמִשְׁמֶ֥רֶת לְא֖וֹת לִבְנֵי־מֶ֑רִי וּתְכַ֧ל תְּלוּנֹּתָ֛ם מֵעָלַ֖י וְלֹ֥א יָמֻֽתוּ)

Also - We read in 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10 that the only items IN the Ark of The Covenant (prior to entering the 1st Temple) were (the two tablets) of stone which Moshe put there at Horev :

[1 Kings 8:9 | 2 Chronicles 5:10] "There was nothing in the ark save the two tablets of stone which Moshe put there at Horev, when YHVH made [a covenant] with the children of Yisrael, when they came out of the land of Mitsrayim." ( אֵין בָּֽאָר֔וֹן רַ֗ק שְׁנֵי֙ לֻח֣וֹת הָאֲבָנִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִנִּ֥חַ שָׁ֛ם משֶׁ֖ה בְּחֹרֵ֑ב אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרַ֚ת יְהֹוָה֙ עִם־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּצֵאתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם )

  • 1st Temple Kohanim would not have discarded Ark inventory.

Why did Hebrews 9:4 claim the additional items (specifically Aharon's Staff) were "In" בָּֽ "the Aron" אָרוֹן - at the wilderness tabernacle?

  • Good question, but we are not told.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 23:32

3 Answers 3


As you point out, Hebrews 9.4 is describing the priestly service in the tabernacle that was shown to Moses, in which these items were present. This is because the text is focusing on the the pattern that was revealed on the mountain, of which the earthly tabernacle was a type. It then discusses how these are representations of Christ's ministry. Thus the earthly items discussed are the ones in the book of Exodus, not in Samuel or 1 Kings.

In terms of the actual distribution of these items, how they were lost, so that by the time of Herod's Temple, the Holy of Holies was empty and only replicas of the sacred items in the Holy Place were made, all we know is that Israel's apostasy caused these items to be lost.

For example, the apostasy of Eli's family led to the Philistines capturing the ark (1 Sam 4), and then the apostasy of Judah led to Babylon destroying the temple, and in each case some items were permanently lost, although the text does not say what happened to the items.


The commentary of Barnes’ Notes on the Bible writes regarding Hebrews 9:4:

“In 1 Kings 8:9, it is said that there was nothing in the ark, ‘save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb,’ and it has been supposed by some that the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron were not in the ark, but that they were in capsules, or ledges made on its sides for their safe keeping, and that this should be rendered ‘by the ark.’ But the apostle uses the same language respecting the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron which he does about the two tables of stone, and as they were certainly in the ark, the fair construction here is that the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron were in it also.

“The account in Exodus 16:32-34; Numbers 17:10, is, that they were laid up in the most holy place, ‘before the testimony,’ and there is no improbability whatever in the supposition that they were in the ark. Indeed, that would be the most safe place to keep them, as the tabernacle was often taken down and removed from place to place. It is clear from the passage in 1 Kings 8:9, that they were not in the ark in the temple, but there is no improbability in the supposition that before the temple was built they might have been removed from the ark and lost. When the ark was carried from place to place, or during its captivity by the Philistines, it is probable that they were lost, as we never hear of them afterward.”

J.H. Blunt, The Annotated Bible, agrees, offering these additional thoughts:

“It is expressly mentioned, in the account of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, that at that time ‘there was nothing in the ark save the two tablets of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt [1 Kings viii. 9]. But this does not prove that the memorial pot of manna [Exod. xvi. 33,34] and the memorial rod [Numb. xvii. 10,11] were not in the ark at the time of which the apostle is writing, and Jewish commentators make the same statement as St. Paul respecting them. It rather expresses surprise that nothing was found there but the two tables, and that the priests had expected to find the manna and the rod of Aaron inside the ark.

“Probably both were taken out of it by ‘the men of Beth-shemesh’ when they ‘looked into the ark of the Lord’ while it was in captivity among the Philistines [1 Sam. vi. 19]. They were not of so sacred a character as the tables of the Law, and it may have been after their removal, and when the two tables were about to be removed also, that the men of Beth-shemesh were smitten.”

So, it is entirely possible that the pot with manna and Aaron’s rod were “near” or “beside” the ark of the covenant, but not in it, while it is also conceivable that they were in the ark at one time, but that they were subsequently removed, so that only the tables of stone were in the ark at the time when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated. In neither case would there be a contradiction between Hebrews 9:4 and 1 Kings 8:9.


The words "There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb" do not limit all that Moses put in the ark at Horeb, but rather to limit all that there was in the ark at the time being described. That is, there is a difference between saying 'Moses put the tables of the Law in the ark,' and 'Moses put ONLY the tables of the Law in the ark.'

In fact, one could argue that the very existence of this verse, which begins with the words "there was nothing in the ark except," implies that it is noteworthy that nothing else was in there, either added (or having been removed).

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