Carrying Ark of the Covenant
In the Bible, in First Chronicles, chapter 15, it is written that David brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord into Jerusalem.
“David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. …Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the singers, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a linen ephod. So all Israelbrought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps.” (15:25-28)
Illustration of Israeli people carrying the Ark of the Covenant
When I read these passages, I think; “How well does this look like the scene of Japanese people carrying our ‘omikoshi’ during festivals? The shape of the Japanese ‘Omikoshi’ appears similar to the ark of the covenant. Japanese sing and dance in front of it with shouts, and to the sounds of musical instruments. These are quite similar to the customs of ancient Israel.”
Japanese “Omikoshi” ark
Japanese carry the “omikoshi” on their shoulders with poles – usually two poles. So did the ancient Israelites: “The Levites carried the ark of God with poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 15:15) The Israeli ark of the covenant had two poles (Exodus 25:10-15). Some restored models of the ark as it was imagined to be have used two poles on the upper parts of the ark. But the Bible says those poles were to be fastened to the ark by the four rings “on its four feet” (Exodus 25:12). Hence, the poles must have been attached on the bottom of the ark. This is similar to the Japanese “omikoshi.” The Israeli ark had two statues of gold cherubim on its top. Cherubim are a type of angel, heavenly being having wings like birds. Japanese “omikoshi” also have on its top the gold bird called “Ho-oh” which is an imaginary bird and a mysterious heavenly being. The entire Israeli ark was overlaid with gold. Japanese “omikoshi” are also overlaid partly and sometimes entirely with gold. The size of an “omikoshi” is almost the same as the Israeli ark. Japanese “omikoshi” could be a remnant of the ark of ancient Israel.
Many Things Concerning the Ark Resemble Japanese Customs.
King David and people of Israelsang and danced to the sounds of musical instruments in front of the ark. We Japanese sing and dance to the sounds of musical instruments in front of “omikoshi” as well. Several years ago, I saw an American-made movie titled “King David” which was a faithful story of the life of King David. In the movie, David was seen dancing in front of the ark while it was being carried into Jerusalem. I thought: “If the scenery of Jerusalemwere replaced by Japanese scenery, this scene would be just the same as what can be observed in Japanese festivals.” The atmosphere of the music also resembles the Japanese style. David’s dancing appears similar to Japanese traditional dancing.
At the Shinto shrine festival of “Gion-jinja” in Kyoto, men carry “omikoshi,” then enter a river, and cross it. I can’t help but think this originates from the memory of the Ancient Israelites carrying the ark as they crossed the Jordan river after their exodus from Egypt.
In a Japanese island of the Inland Sea of Seto, the men selected as the carriers of the “omikoshi” stay together at a house for one week before they would carry the “omikoshi.” This is to prevent profaning themselves. Furthermore on the day before they carry “omikoshi,” the men bathe in seawater to sanctify themselves. This is similar to an ancient Israelite custom:
“So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 15:14)
The Bible says that after the ark entered Jerusalem and the march was finished, “David distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins” (1 Chronicles 16:3). This is similar to a Japanese custom. Sweets are distributed to everyone after a Japanese festival. It was a delight during my childhood.
The Robe of Japanese Priests Resembles the Robe of Israeli Priests.
The Bible says that when David brought up the ark into Jerusalem, “David was clothed in a robe of fine linen” (1 Chronicles 15:27). The same was true for the priests and choirs. In the Japanese Bible, this verse is translated into “robe of white linen.” In ancient Israel, although the high priest wore a colorful robe, ordinary priests wore simple white linen. Priests wore white clothes at holy events. Japanese priests also wear white robes at holy events. In Ise-jingu, one of the oldest Japanese shrines, all of the priests wear white robes. And in many Japanese Shinto shrines, especially traditional ones, the people wear white robes when they carry the “omikoshi” just like the Israelites did. Buddhist priests wear luxurious colorful robes. However, in the Japanese Shinto religion, white is regarded as the holiest color. The Emperor of Japan, just after he finishes the ceremony of his accession to the throne, appears alone in front of the Shinto god. When he arrives there, he wears a pure white robe covering his entire body except that his feet are naked. This is similar to the action of Moses and Joshua who removed their sandals in front of God to be in bare feet (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15). Marvin Tokayer, a rabbi who lived in Japan for 10 years, wrote in his book: “The linen robes which Japanese Shinto priests wear have the same figure as the white linen robes of the ancient priests of Israel. ”
Japanese Shinto priest in white robe with fringes
The Japanese Shinto priest robe has cords of 20-30 centimeters long (about 10 inches) hung from the corners of the robe. These fringes are similar to those of the ancient Israelites. Deuteronomy 22:12 says: “make them fringes in the… corners of their garments throughout their generations.” Fringes (tassels) were a token that a person was an Israelite. In the gospels of the New Testament, it is also written that the Pharisees “make their tassels on their garments long” (Matthew 23:5). A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage came to Jesus (Yeshua) and touched the “tassel on His coat” (Matthew 9:20, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People, translated by Charles B. Williams). Imagined pictures of ancient Israeli clothing sometimes do not have fringes. But their robes actually had fringes. The Jewish Tallit (prayer shawl), which the Jews put on when they pray, has fringes in the corners according to tradition.
Japanese Shinto priests wear on their robe a rectangle of cloth from their shoulders to thighs. This is the same as the ephod worn by David: “David also wore a linen ephod.” (1 Chronicles 15:27) Although the ephod of the high priest was colorful with jewels, the ordinary priests under him wore the ephods of simple white linen cloth (1 Samuel 22:18). Rabbi Tokayer states that the rectangle of cloth on the robe of Japanese Shinto priest looks very similar to the ephod of the Kohen, the Jewish priest. The Japanese Shinto priest puts a cap on his head just like Israeli priest did (Exodus 29:40). The Japanese priest also puts a sash on his waist. So did the Israeli priest. The clothing of Japanese Shinto priests appears to be similar to the clothing used by ancient Israelites.
Waving the Sheaf of Harvest Is Also the Custom of Japan.
The Jews wave a sheaf of their first fruits of grain seven weeks before Shavuot (Pentecost, Leviticus 23:10-11), They also wave a sheaf of plants at Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Leviticus 23:40). This has been a tradition since the time of Moses. Ancient Israeli priests also waved a plant branch when he sanctifies someone. David said, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” [Psalm 51:7(9)]. This is also a traditional Japanese custom.
Shinto priest waving for sanctification
When a Japanese priest sanctifies someone or something, he waves a tree branch. Or he waves a “harainusa,” which is made of a stick and white papers and looks like a plant. Today’s “harainusa” is simplified and made of white papers that are folded in a zigzag pattern like small lightning bolts, but in old days it was a plant branch or cereals. A Japanese Christian woman acquaintance of mine used to think of this “harainusa” as merely a pagan custom. But she later went to the U.S.A.and had an opportunity to attend a Sukkot ceremony. When she saw the Jewish waving of the sheaf of the harvest, she shouted in her heart, “Oh, this is the same as a Japanese priest does! Here lies the home for the Japanese.”
The Structure of the Japanese Shinto Shrine is Similar to God’s Tabernacle of Ancient Israel.
The inside of God’s tabernacle in ancient Israelwas divided into two parts. The first was the Holy Place, and the second was the Holy of Holies. The Japanese Shinto shrine is also divided into two parts. The functions performed in the Japanese shrine are similar to those of the Israeli tabernacle. Japanese pray in front of its Holy Place. They cannot enter inside. Only Shinto priests and special ones can enter. Shinto priest enters the Holy of Holies of the Japanese shrine only at special times. This is similar to the Israeli tabernacle. The Japanese Holy of Holies is located usually in far west or far north of the shrine. The Israeli Holy of Holies was located in far west of the temple. Shinto’s Holy of Holies is also located on a higher level than the Holy Place, and between them are steps. Scholars state that, in the Israeli temple built by Solomon, the Holy of Holies was on an elevated level as well, and between them there were steps of about 2.7 meters (9 feet) in width.
Typical Japanese Shinto shrine
In front of a Japanese shrine, there are two statues of lions known as “komainu” that sit on both sides of the approach. They are not idols but guards for the shrine. This was also a custom of ancient Israel. In God’s temple in Israel and in the palace of Solomon, there were statues or relieves of lions (1 Kings 7:36, 10:19).
“Komainu” guards for shrine
In the early history of Japan, there were absolutely no lions. But the statues of lions have been placed in Japanese shrines since ancient times. It has been proven by scholars that statues of lions located in front of Japanese shrines originated from the Middle East.
Located near the entrance of a Japanese shrine is a “temizuya” – a place for worshipers to wash their hands and mouth. They used to wash their feet, too, in old days. This is a similar custom as is found in Jewish synagogues. The ancient tabernacle and temple of Israelalso had a laver for washing hands and feet near the entrances.
In front of a Japanese shrine, there is a gate called the “torii.” The type gate does not exist in China or in Korea, it is peculiar to Japan. The “torii” gate consists of two vertical pillars and a bar connecting the upper parts. But the oldest form consists of only two vertical pillars and a rope connecting the upper parts. When a Shinto priest bows to the gate, he bows to the two pillars separately. It is assumed that the “torii” gate was originally constructed of only two pillars.
In the Israeli temple, there were two pillars used as a gate (1 Kings 7:21). And according to Joseph Eidelberg, in Aramaic language which ancient Israelites used, the word for gate was “tar’a.” This word might have changed slightly and become the Japanese “torii”. Some “toriis,” especially of old shrines, are painted red. I can’t help but think this is a picture of the two door posts and the lintel on which the blood of the lamb was put the night before the exodus from Egypt.
In the Japanese Shinto religion, there is a custom to surround a holy place with a rope called the “shimenawa,” which has slips of white papers inserted along the bottom edge of the rope. The “shimenawa” rope is set as the boundary. The Bible says that when Moses was given God’s Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, he “set bounds” (Exodus 19:12) around it for the Israelites not to approach. Although the nature of these “bounds” is not known, ropes might have been used. The Japanese “shimenawa” rope might then be a custom that originates from the time of Moses. The zigzag pattern of white papers inserted along the rope reminds me of the thunders at Mt. Sinai.
The major difference between a Japanese Shinto shrine and the ancient Israeli temple is that the shrine does not have the burning altar for animal sacrifices. I used to wonder why Shinto religion does not have the custom of animal sacrifices if Shinto originated from the religion of ancient Israel. But then I found the answer in Deuteronomy, chapter 12. Moses commanded the people not to offer any animal sacrifices at any other locations except at specific places in Canaan (12:10-14). Hence, if the Israelites came to ancient Japan, they would not be permitted to offer animal sacrifices.
Shinto shrine is usually built on a mountain or a hill. Almost every mountain in Japan has a shrine, even you find a shrine on top of Mt.Fuji. In ancient Israel, on mountains were usually located worship places called “the high places”. The temple of Jerusalem was built on a mountain (Mt.Moriah). Moses was given the Ten Commandments from God on Mt.Sinai. It was thought in Israel that mountain is a place close to God. Many Shinto shrines are built with the gates in the east and the Holy of Holies in the west as we see in Matsuo grand shrine (Matsuo-taisya) in Kyoto and others. While, others are built with the gates in the south and the Holy of Holies in the north. The reason of building with the gates in the east (and the Holy of Holies in the west) is that the sun comes from the east. The ancient Israeli tabernacle or temple was built with the gate in the east and the Holy of Holies in the west, based on the belief that the glory of God comes from the east. All Shinto shrines are made of wood. Many parts of the ancient Israeli temple were also made of wood. The Israelites used stones in some places, but walls, floors, ceilings and all of the insides were overlaid with wood (1 Kings 6:9, 15-18), which was cedars from Lebanon (1 Kings 5:6). In Japanthey do not have cedars from Lebanon, so in Shinto shrines they use Hinoki cypress which is hardly eaten by bugs like cedars from Lebanon. The wood of the ancient Israeli temple was all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20-30). In Japan the important parts of the main shrine of Ise-jingu, for instance, are overlaid with gold.
Taken from: http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~magi9/isracame.htm