“So they set out from Adonai’s mountain and traveled for three days. Ahead of them on this three-day journey went the ark of Adonai’s covenant, searching for a new place to stop.”-Numbers 10:33
Today you may think I’m getting too insanely detailed about a certain point in our textual study of Numbers Chapter 10, but in my defense, the point I’m going to talk about has been aggressively debated by the ancient Jewish sages.
I’m talking about verse 33 where it says “ahead of them…went the Ark of Adonai’s covenant”.
Other translations may say “the Ark of the Covenant LED the column of Israelites”.
So in what way does verse 33 present a problem to us?
Well, up until now we’ve been studying how the Ark of the Covenant traveled “in the center” or “in the midst of” Israel with Judah’s division leading the pack.
Since this appears to be an obvious contradiction, the rabbis have been tearing their hair out trying to figure out a way to reconcile the difference.
What could possibly be the answer to this?
The answer is we don’t know.
This is one of those many parts of Scripture where it is possible for there to be more than one interpretation.
The following are some of the different interpretations the rabbis came up with.
–Sometimes the ark led and sometimes it didn’t
-There were actually two arks (this seems quite implausible for me).
-The words “led” or “went ahead of” is referring to the ark leading in a general sense, not a literal sense.
If I was to pick from the above what I consider to be the most plausible option, I’d probably go with the first one-that the ark sometimes led and sometimes didn’t.
For example, we know that when Israel finally made their first move to cross the Jordan, we’re told that THE FEET OF THOSE CARRYING THE ARK touched the eastern bank of the Jordan River FIRST triggering the divine reaction of the water damming up so the Israelites could cross over.