Exodus 25:15 seems to be saying that once the poles were inserted into the Ark upon its construction, they were to remain there; they were never to have been removed.
Numbers 4:6 mentions that one of the duties of the Kohathites is to "insert the poles" (NASB)
The commentaries that I have looked at either don't mention it, or it is a footnote. The two most common explanations that I found was:
1) The poles were apparently able to be removed for the purpose of wrapping the Ark with the porpoise skins and reinserted to hold the wrap in place.
This seems to me to not be allowed in the statement in Exodus, for this seems like an iron glad prohibition.
2) The statement in Numbers has more to do with readjusting the poles. The Kohathites were to realign the poles to center in case they were perhaps bumped during the services in the Holy of Holies.
While this seems to set well with me in one sense, at least in the English versions, that does not seem to be what Numbers 4:6 is saying. I realize that I do not know Hebrew.
While my faith is not in jeopardy, contradictions of interpretation do not set well in my mind. Blowing it off is not an option either for me, because I am an inerrantist and mathematician at heart. I can perhaps live with this "contradiction" though this would be the first, but only after exhausting all possible sources. I am grateful for any help.
Last Edit: Jan 16, 2014 4:35:26 GMT -5 by athanasius
Post by Mike Miller on Jul 18, 2013 14:33:47 GMT -5
Lange, Schaff, Lowrie, and Gosman discuss this, as do Keil and Delitzsch. They all go with your first explanation--that the poles had to be removed for the wrapping of the ark for transport, then inserted after it was thus prepared. I don't see this as a problem when considering Exodus 25:15, as it still keeps the spirit of the command that the poles should remain inserted whether at rest or in transport. The Exodus passage does say the poles "shall not be taken from it," but that is more a prohibition for normal circumstances involving transporting the ark or leaving it in the Most Holy Place.
Compare the command of the poles not being removed to the prohibition of entering the Most Holy Place. The high priest was the only one allowed entrance, and he only one day a year (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9:7). However, when the ark was to be transported, the sons of Aaron removed the veil and entered the Most Holy Place to prepare the ark for transport and then uncovered it when the tabernacle was erected again. How can they go in when they have been prohibited? The rules for transporting the tabernacle provided allowance for that. The same is true for the removal and reinsertion of the poles.
Think of it like this. What if we had a rule at church that clearly stated that a large Bible was to remain on the communion table at all times, and that it should never be removed (we don't have that rule, by the way, nor do we have one of those large Bibles). However, when the worship center is cleaned once a week, the cleaning crew picks up the Bible to dust the communion table. Would we consider that a violation of the rule? No, for the spirit of the rule is upheld. If the table is to be cleaned, the Bible has to be moved. Similarly, if the ark was to be covered, the poles had to be removed. God allowed for that in Numbers 4.
Since the time I asked this question, I talked to one of my Hebrew professors. He had a thought that I thought you might find interesting.
"Ex 25:15 lit. says, "in the Ark's rings there are (will be) poles: don't cast them aside." The Hebrew here can mean, "remove," but it could also mean, "lose." When I first saw the Hebrew, I thought "turn aside" since that's what God told Joshua not to do: don't turn to the left or right..." So, "deviate" is a common understanding. What I'm trying to say is that the command may have little to do with the 24/7 placement of the poles but more so to do with care for the consecrated means (poles) by which the Ark was conveyed. The later work of the Kohathites does seem to support this idea of reverence and care."
To make clear I was understanding, I said:
"So you are saying (correct me if I am wrong) that Exodus 25:15 is saying to never regard these poles as mundane; they are holy (set apart) and are just as much a part of the Ark as anything else.
This would I guess suggest that our picture of the poles always being in the rings is not an accurate picture of what the Ark looked like in the stationary position."
He confirmed that was his assessment of it.
Last Edit: Jan 16, 2014 4:49:07 GMT -5 by athanasius
Post by Mike Miller on Jan 16, 2014 15:30:31 GMT -5
I just looked at the passage in Hebrew, and the preposition affixed to the word for "rings" can be translated as "in," "by," or "with." Therefore, I can see how this could be translated to say that the poles were to remain "with" or "by" the rings and not separated from them. The LXX could also be taken that way. Therefore, that certainly seems like a legitimate translation.