a reply to: Utnapisjtim
Few know about the second Ark, the one that contained the actual slates God himself wrote the commandments upon, and not the two Moses broke when he
saw Aaron had made the golden calf:
The ark of testimony is a good study and controversial matter. Good post Utnapisjtim.
Just as there were two distinct trips up the mount, so there could be two distinct containers of the commands. Most people are shown Moses carrying
the two slates of engravings but in reality they were carried in the ark by the Levitical family of Kohath with the slates in the Ark. According to
tradition this was the second trip and second set of commands.
So it could have been that Moses did carry the first set and the ark was instigated to prevent another mishap as being broken again. Nevertheless of
tradition, it is said in the Soncino b Talmud Yoma 72b that there were three arks made which were that the center wood ark was placed inside the gold
inlaid ark and both were then placed inside of the outer gold inlaid Ark. All in all there were then two gold inlaid Arks and one wooden Ark with the
wooden Ark being the center Ark.
Talmud - Mas. Yoma 72b
Rehaba said in the name of Rab Judah: Three arks did Bezalel make: the middle one of wood, nine [handbreadths] high; the inner one of gold, eight
high, the outer one of gold,9 a little more than ten high. But it was taught: A little more than eleven [high]?- That is no contradiction: the one
opinion agrees with the view that the thickness thereof10 was one handbreadth, the other was in accord with the view that the thickness thereof was
not one handbreadth.11 And what purpose served the ‘little more’?12 — It is the space of the crown.13
R. Johanan said: There were three crowns: that of the altar, that of the ark, and that of the table. The one of the altar Aaron deserved and he
received it. The one of the ark, David deserved and received. The one of the ark is still lying and whosoever wants to take it, may come and take
it.14 Perhaps you might think it is of little account, therefore the text reads: By me kings reign.15
In Yoma 72b, and Yer. Sheḳ. vi. 49d, it is recorded that Bezaleel made three arks which he put inside of one another. The outside and inside ones
were made of gold, and measured respectively ten cubits and a fraction and eight cubits, while the middle one was of wood and measured nine cubits.
Again, according to one opinion (Yer. Sheḳ. vi. 49c), there were two arks travelling with the Israelites in the wilderness. One contained the Law,
in addition to the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the other the tables of stone which Moses had broken. The one that contained the Law was
placed in the "tent of meeting"; the other, containing the broken tables, accompanied the Israelites in their various excursions, and sometimes
appeared on the battle-field. According to still another view, (l.c.), there was only one Ark, and it contained both the Law and the broken tables
(Ber. 8b; B. B. 14b). R. Johanan in the name of Simon ben YoḦai, basing his opinion on the repetition of the word "name" ( ) in II Sam. vi. 2,
maintains that the Ark contained the Ineffable Name and all other epithets of God (B. B. l.c.; Num. R. iv. 20).
In Deut. x. 1-5 a rather different account of the making of the Ark is given. Moses is made to say that he constructed the Ark before going upon Mount
Sinai to receive the second set of tables. The charge of carrying the Ark and the rest of the holy utensils was given to the family of Kohath, of the
tribe of Levi; but they were not to touch any of the holy things until after the latter had been covered by Aaron (Num. iv. 2-15).
As said before this is a great study and even the most Jewish scholars have opinions of difference.