Recall, the tabernacle and its furnishings were completed in the beginning of the second year after the Exodus and would be the place where God would talk with Moses and give instructions during the remaining years of the wilderness journey.
“And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:22
Consider the first verse in the Book of Leviticus.
“Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting…” Leviticus 1:1
The Book of Numbers begins with the same statement.
The Ark of the Covenant was considered to represent the very presence of God. Thus there were times when the Ark was removed from the tabernacle during significant events to represent God’s presence.
Recall the explicit instructions when crossing the River Jordan and the subsequent taking the city of Jericho. Both of those major events included the priests carrying the ark without the tabernacle.
The tabernacle was subsequently set up in the town of Shiloh located approximately 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
“Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them.” Joshua 18:1
The tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant were prevalent throughout the time of the Judges.
Now when the LORD directed the ark to be carried, all was fine; but when the people used the ark as a symbol of God’s presence and power without His direction, things didn’t go so well.
Israel’s enemies, as well as Israel, learned that lesson the hard way.
During a battle with the Philistines, shortly after young Samuel was established as a prophet in Shiloh, Israel was defeated and 4,000 of their army men were killed. Israel didn’t understand the defeat. Their solution:
“Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3
When the ark arrived the Israelites shouted so loud with joy that it stirred the Philistines. Then the Philistines learned that the reason for the joy was the arrival of the ark into the war zone.
“Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.” 1 Samuel 4:8
Nevertheless, the Philistines fought with great vigor and again won the next battle; this time killing 30,000 Israeli soldiers including the two sons of Eli, and capturing the ark of God.
The stress caused the death of the aged Eli. The wife of Phinehas, one of Eli’s sons killed in that battle, shortly thereafter died during child birth, but not before naming the newborn son Ichabod, meaning ‘the glory has departed from Israel.’
The Psalmist subsequently confirmed God’s forsaking of His tabernacle.
“…so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had placed among men, and delivered His strength into captivity…” Psalm 78:60-61
The misfortunes experienced by the Philistines after capturing the ark are humorous. The Philistines then took major efforts to return the ark to the Israelites.
“…The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up with you…then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab.” 1 Samuel 6:21, 7:1
The ark remained in the house of Abinadab for 20 years until the rule of David.
“…David gathered all the choice men of Israel…to bring up…the ark of God…and they brought it out of the house of Abinadab…So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it.” 2 Samuel 6:1-2, 4, 17
So the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem and placed in a tent erected by David.