The Bible testifies how God preserved the tablets and scrolls of scriptures from one prophet to the next over centuries of time. The holding area for at least a good part of the Old Testament was in and around “the ark of the covenant”, God’s earthly throne in the earlier tabernacle (where God would appear to Moses) and the latter temple of Israel.
The ark was one of God’s primary methods of preserving the writings of the Old Testament. God kept adding books of the Bible over a period of many centuries in each new generation until the years of silence before the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. After God fulfilled His purpose of sending Jesus to die for our sins (Jesus said, “It is finished” …John 19:30), he made an end of writing Scripture shortly thereafter through the letters of the early apostles.
Although the New Testament scriptures were not set by the ark of the covenant, God did preserve them as they circulated from church to church at the beginning of the Christian era (Colossians 4:16; I Thessalonians 5:27; II Peter 3:15,16). There are many scholarly books written on the subject of how the gospels and letters of the apostles were “canonized”. You may search them out at your own leisure. The purpose of this article is solely to see how the Bible provides its own proof of authority and preservation.
With regards to the ark of the covenant in particular, God commanded Moses:
And you shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will appear among you. And you shall make for Me according to all things which I show you in the mountain; even the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all its furniture: so shall you make it. And you shall make the Ark of Testimony of incorruptible wood; …And you shall put into the ark the testimonies which I shall give you. And you shall make a mercy seat, a lid of pure gold; …And you shall set the mercy seat on the ark above, and you shall put into the ark the testimonies which I shall give you. And I will make Myself known to you from there, and I will speak to you from above the mercy seat between the two cherubim, which are upon the Ark of Testimony, even in all things which I shall charge you concerning the children of Israel.- Exodus 25:8-22, LOGOS BIBLE
God actually descended in Spirit and communicated with Moses from the Mercy Seat of the ark, as is confirmed again in Numbers 7:89.
At one point, Moses reminded Israel that after he brought the tables of the Ten Commandments down from the mountain, he “put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me." (Deuteronomy 10:5, ESV)
And after Moses had completed writing the various laws contained in his books, he
“commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take
this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD
your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:24-26, KJV) It may be that God told Moses to place the original Ten Commandments inside the ark, and all subsequent writings outside the ark.
We can see this pattern of communication with God from the ark of the covenant
in many passages of Scripture. After Joshua led Israel into their promised land, God
appointed Judges to lead His people for about a 300 year period, during which time “the
children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days),” (Judges 20:27, KJV)
God first communicated with the prophet Samuel from the ark of the covenant (I Samuel 3:1-4). Samuel recorded God’s Word and also placed it beside the ark as the next verse reveals to us.
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. – I Samuel 10:25, KJV
About 500 years after God first commanded Moses to build the ark of testimony, King Solomon directed the construction of the Temple. When it was ready, they brought the ark to the house of the LORD, and the original ten commandments were still in it.
There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. – I Kings 8:9-11, ESV
You don't have to wonder where the rest of the Bible is though. About another 400 years after the Temple was built, God’s people had been worshiping false gods and the book of the laws of God had not been read for many years. When a scribe had shown King Josiah the book of the law which he found preserved in the house of the LORD, the king was very sad to learn how disobedient his kingdom had become (II Kings 22:8-11). King Josiah reinstated the Law of Moses and destroyed everything he could that had to do with worshiping false gods (II Kings 23:1-25).
And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. – II Kings 23:2,3, ESV
During the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of King Josiah, God proved how He preserves His word another way as well (read Jeremiah 36:1-32). Remember how God rewrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone after Moses threw the first set down off the mountain? God was going to make sure that those Ten Commandments were chiseled and preserved.
Well, during the reign of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah was God’s main prophet. God had told him, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.” (Jer. 36:2, ESV) Jeremiah’s assistant Baruch wrote down all the words that Jeremiah dictated to him, which God had spoke to him in all his years of ministry as a prophet. But after King Jehoiakim read a few leaves of the scroll (basically the book of Jeremiah), he disrespectfully cut them up and burned them in a fire (Jer. 36:21-23). But as with Moses, God made sure that His words were going to be preserved.
Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned". …Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. –Jeremiah 36:27,28,32, ESV
Here we have a testimony of how God preserved His words through the prophet Jeremiah even after the wicked king of Judah had thrown his scroll in the fire. No one can destroy the preserved word of God. God’s word will always remain (I Peter 1:25)!
We see that God had a clear way of preserving the Old Testament scriptures through placement in or by the ark of the covenant or elsewhere in the temple, and even caused them to be rewritten if they were corrupted. All the Words God wanted humanity to know were kept safe for future generations.
He has remembered His covenant forever; the Word He commanded to a thousand generations. – Psalm 105:8, LITV
Stop back again to see how "Writers of the bible support other portions of scripture"
Or read this series from the beginning: Why believe the Bible, Introduction