The Ark of the Covenant was made after the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai in 1445 B.C. After the Israelites confirm their acceptance of the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:3 - 8) and the elders meet with the Lord (verses 9 - 11), Moses is alone with God for 40 days and nights. He is commanded to make an box of shittim wood in which to store "the testimony" (Exodus 25:10 - 21) or two tablets which will have the Eternal's holy laws. What few people realize, however, is Moses himself did not construct the Ark of the Covenant!
God empowered, through his Holy Spirit, a man named Bezaleel and several others for the task of creating the Ark of the Lord and other necessary items to worship Him.
Behold, I, I have called by name Bezaleel . . . And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all workmanship, to devise designs; to work in gold, and in silver, and in bronze to devise designs; to work in gold, and in silver, and in bronze . . .
And I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the wise-hearted, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is upon it, and all the vessels of the tabernacle . . . (Exodus 31: 2 - 4, 6 - 7, see also chapter 37, HBFV).
What did it symbolize?
The physical ark was patterned after the spiritual one which existed in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). Its purpose was to be the centerpiece of Israel's relationship with God. It was a physical object that symbolized God presence, power and glory among his chosen people.
How big was it?
The Bible records the Ark of the Covenant was 2 1/2 cubits long, 1 1/2 cubits wide and 1 1/2 cubits high (Exodus 25:10, 37:1). Biblical commentaries differ, however, concerning the length of the cubit used to construct this holy container.
If we assume a commonly used cubit was used, which was roughly 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters), then the Ark of God was 43.75 inches (3.64 feet or 1.1 meters) long, 26.25 inches wide (2.18 feet or .66 meters), and 26.25 inches high.
If a long or "royal" cubit was used, which stretched to roughly 20.4 inches (51.8 centimeters), then the Ark of the Covenant was 51 inches (4.25 feet or 1.29 meters) with its width and height being 30.6 inches (2.55 feet or .77 meters).
These dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant do not include the chest lid, called the "mercy seat" (Exodus 25:17). The mercy seat had the same length and width as the sacred box but included two cherubim on top of it of an unspecified height (25:17 - 21, 37:6 - 9). Crafted from a single piece of gold, the cherubim faced each other and each had two wings that stretched out and covered the ark.