What Is Acacia Wood?

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What is Acacia wood? Was the Ark of the Covenant crafted from it? Which sacred items, used to worship God, were composed of it? How is it related to shittim?

Acacia wood, which was a highly prized resource, is mentioned 29 times in 29 verses in the Holy Bible Faithful Version. It is also recorded in the NKJV, NASB, NIV and other translations. Acacia is derived from the Hebrew word shittim (Strong's #7848) which is used in the King James Bible (Exodus 25:5, 10, 13, 23, etc.).

Acacia trees were common in the Sinai and surrounding regions. The writings of fourth century theologian Jerome reveals why they were so desirable.

"The wood is hard, tough, smooth, and without knots, and extremely beautiful . . ." (Dictionary of the Holy Bible).

The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia also states the following about the lumber produced by this tree.

"A hard and durable but light wood; at first yellowish, but gradually turning very dark, like ebony . . . It is a large, spreading, thorny tree with many branches, found in Africa and Arabia" (Article on Shittim).

Picture of Acacia Tree (Shittim wood)
Vachellia (or Acacia) tree used to
create Israel's wilderness tabernacle.

Ark of the Covenant

God commanded Moses, after freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, to make a portable sanctuary "so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). This structure was called the "tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 1:1, KJV) or the tabernacle in the wilderness. Patterned after a pre-existing heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:5), much of it was crafted from Acacia.

The Ark of the Covenant was made from Acacia (shittim, Deuteronomy 10:3) donated by the children of Israel.

And they shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide and a cubit and a half high. And you shall overlay it with pure gold. You shall overlay it inside and out, and shall make on it a crown molding of gold all around the top edge (Exodus 25:10 - 11, see also 35:5 - 7).

If we assume a cubit was, conservatively, 18 inches (.46 meters) long, then the Ark of the Covenant was 3.75 feet (1.14 meters) long and 2.25 feet (.69 meters) high and wide. If we assume 20 inches per cubit, then the Ark was roughly 4.2 feet (1.27 meters) long by 2.5 feet (.76 meters) high and wide.

Furniture and Fixtures

The Lord commanded several other of the tabernacle's sacred objects, as well as the structure itself, be made from Acacia wood. Staves used to transport various tabernacle objects, such as the Ark of the Covenant, were made from this natural resource.

The veil of the tabernacle, which separated the Holy of Holies (which contained the Ark of the Covenant) from the Holy Place, was hung on four posts made of Acacia wood covered in gold (Exodus 26:31 - 37).

The altar of burnt incense, found in front of the curtain (veil) that led to the Holy of Holies, was also formed from Acacia overlaid with gold (Exodus 30:1 - 10). The altar of burnt offering (or brazen altar), where animal sacrifices were offered, was additionally composed of this material (Exodus 27:1 - 8).

The shewbread table, placed in the tabernacle's Holy Place, was constructed using this wood. The shewbread (showbread or the "bread of presence") were twelve loaves, replaced every Sabbath (Exodus 25:23 - 31, 26:35, 40:22), which symbolized each of the twelve tribes.

The boards that were utilized for the walls of the tabernacle were hewn from Acacia wood (Exodus 26:15 - 30). They were coupled together using gold rings and kept firm utilizing bars made from this hardwood (Exodus 26:26).

And you shall make boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood standing up. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of a board. (Exodus 26:15 - 16, HBFV).

Prophetic Future

God promises to soon console Israel, in part, by restoring the Acacia (shittim) tree to the wilderness (Isaiah 41:19).

List of All Terms in
Dictionary of Biblical Words

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1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
Dictionary of the Holy Bible