Numbers 4:6—Were the staves to remain in the Ark or to be removed?

Problem: According to Exodus 25:15, “The poles shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.” But, in the Numbers passage it says that when the ark was moved by the Levites “they shall insert its poles.” This seems to be conflicting instructions.

Solution: The Hebrew word for “insert” (sum or sim) has a wide range of meanings, including, leave, put, place, set, and turn. Hence, it may mean no more than the priests were to fasten or adjust the poles when they moved the ark so that it did not slip when being moved. This would make sense in view of the command not to remove the poles from the ark.

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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.