A correspondent writes: “Note 2 Chronicles 5:10: ‘There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb’; and compare Hebrews 9:4: ‘the ark of the covenant … wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.’
Is there any mention of when and why the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were removed?”

The short answer is no; this is one of the many intriguing questions which it will doubtless be our joy to seek out from those who were around at the time, who will be our eternal companions in the Kingdom and beyond.

But there is no bar to our thinking about the issues now. Certainly the accoutrements of the Tabernacle seem to have been preserved but not reused in Solomon’s Temple. We learn from 2 Chronicles 5:5 that not only the ark, but also “the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up”. Chapters 3 and 4 of 2 Chronicles detail how all the items for the Temple were made, so that all the items for worship in the Temple were new made, save one, the ark itself. The ark represented the presence of God in the midst of His people. It would have been utterly inappropriate to make another ark – Yahweh never changes!

But those items from the Tabernacle were most likely preserved in the chambers of the Temple, a valuable historical record under the charge of the priests and Levites. It was certainly Israel’s custom to preserve important national items. Thus the brasen serpent made by Moses on the plains of Moab and recorded in Numbers 21, was preserved. But when in time it became a relic, treated it seemslike some mystic talisman, King Hezekiah at the beginning of his reign, wise beyond his years, “brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan [‘a piece of brass’]” (2 Kings 18:4).

Well, what of the items from the ark, no longer within when it was placed in the most holy place in Solomon’s Temple: the golden pot, and Aaron’s rod that budded? It seems most likely that they too were placed in the chambers of the Temple under priestly and Levitical care. They had served their purpose from an earlier time. Their lessons had most relevance to Israel, as a wandering people in the wilderness, and in the unsettled period of the Judges. Now God’s Kingdom is established in Israel: “Then Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh as king” (1 Chron 29:23). The people were no longer a kingdom in prospect but in reality, and God’s presence, represented in the ark, was now there, in “the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there” (Deut 12:5). The two tables of stone, bearing God’s law and inscribed by a Divine hand, were appropriately still there within the ark, reminding Israel that they remained a covenant people, governed by that Divine law.