Hebrews 9:4—Were there three things in the ark or only the tables of stone?

Problem: This passage claims that the ark of the covenant had the golden bowl of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the two tables of stone. But elsewhere it affirms that only the tables of stone were there (Ex. 40:20; Deut. 10:5; 1 Kings 8:9). Which is correct?

Solution: The two “tables of stone” (i.e., the Ten Commandments) are not the same as the “book of the law.” The latter was not put in the ark, but was placed along side of it (Deut. 31:26). Originally, all three items (tables of stone, pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod) were in the ark (as Heb. 9:4 says). Subsequently, the last two were removed (Ex. 40:20).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.