Mary the Mother of the Lord and the Ark of the Covenant

I was reading Dr. Arthur A. Just’s commentary on Luke 1:1-9:50 in preparation for my sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The alternate text for the Gospel reading is Luke 1:36-59 (The Visitation and the Magnificat) and I am preaching on this text this year instead of the historic Gospel (GASP!) from John. I had heard Mary compared to the Ark of the Covenant before, but I had never seen the exegetical support for this until I read the textual notes for v. 39 in Just’s commentary, where he includes the following quote from J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, 62:

The two stories open with the statement that David and Mary “arose and made a journey” (2 Sam 6:2; Lk 1:39) up into the hill country, into the land of Judah. On arrival, both the Ark and Mary are greeted with “shouts” of joy (2 Sam 6:12, 15; Lk 1:42, 44). The verb used for Elizabeth’s greeting in Lk 1:42, (anephoneisen) is, in the LXX, used only in connection with liturgical ceremonies centred around the Ark; it is best translated as “intoned“. The Ark, on its way to Jerusalem, was taken into the house of Obededom, and became a source of blessing for his house (2 Sam 6:10-12); Mary’s entry into the house of Elizabeth is also seen as a source of blessing for the house (Lk 1:41, 43-4). David, in terror at the untouchable holiness of the Ark, cried out: “How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9); Elizabeth, in awe before the mother of her Lord, says, “Why should this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). Finally, we read that “the Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededeom three months” (2 Sam 6:11), and that Mary stayed with Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56).

Just writes in response: “As a temporary and portable vessel housing the immanent presence of the true God, Mary appears to fulfill the purpose of the ark of the covenant.”


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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