Monday, June 29, 2009

Keepers of the Lost Ark?

It was sometime back in the early 80’s when I first heard the claims that the Ark of the Covenant was somewhere in Ethiopia. It was shortly after Raiders of the Lost Ark first came out, and the possible location of the Ark was a topic of speculation all over the place.

Well, last week, an Italian paper said that the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abuna Pauolos, met with Pope Benedict XVI last week to discuss the Ark. The Patriarch reportedly said, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses . . . . The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia for many centuries. As a patriarch I have seen it with my own eyes and only few highly qualified persons could do the same, until now.” The Ark was supposed to be unveiled at a press conference on Friday. It’s Sunday evening as I type this, still nothing.

So, where is the Ark? Is it in Ethiopia? Is it in Egypt, or in hidden in some vast secret government warehouse, along with debris from crashed UFO’s and file cabinets containing the truth about the Kennedy assassination?

The Ark is last mentioned in the histories contained in the Scripture in 2 Chronicles 35:3, when, in about 621 BC, King Josiah ordered the Ark returned to the temple during one of the southern kingdom of Judah’s few revivals. It seems that the Ark had been removed and pagan idols set up in the Temple in Jerusalem by Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh.

621 BC is the last time that we know exactly where the Ark of the Covenant was; in the Temple in Jerusalem. Josiah’s revival period didn’t last long. In 609 BC, just 12 years later, Josiah died in battle against Egypt, and Pharaoh Neco of Egypt assumed control of Judah, replacing Josiah’s oldest son, Joahaz, with his younger brother, Jehoiakim (see 2 Chronicles 36:1-4 and 2 Kings 23:29-36.) 2 Kings 23:35 says that Neco took gold and silver back to Egypt, but the Bible also says that this gold and silver was from a special tax levied on the people of Judah. There is absolutely no mention of the Ark at all.

In 605 BC, just four years later, King Nebuchdnezzaar of Babylon defeated Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish, and took control of Judah. 2 Chronicles 36:7 tells us that, at that time, “Nebuchadnezzar also brought some of the articles of the house of the LORD to Babylon and put them in his temple at Babylon.” 2 Kings 24:13-14 gives us a bit more detail; “He carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, just as the LORD had said. Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.”

Again, we notice that there is no specific mention of the Ark.

Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest in 605 BC marked the beginning of a very unstable period in Judah’s history, as each king that Nebuchadnezzar place on the throne rebelled as soon as Nebuchadnezzar (and his army) returned to Babylon. Finally, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar had had enough, and he destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. 2 Kings 25:13-17 mentions all the bronze, gold and silver things carried from the Temple back to Babylon: shovels and pans and fireboxes, and even the great bronze pillars that stood in front of the Temple. But there is no mention of the Ark at all.

So, what happened to the Ark?

There are only a few real possibilities:

  1. It was carried off to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco in 609 BC (This is not the Indiana Jones story. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, they say that the Ark was taken to Egypt by the Pharaoh Shishak when he sacked Jerusalem in 980 BC. But we have Biblical evidence that places the Ark still in Jerusalem as late as 621 BC, some 340 (+/-) years later.)
  2. The Ark was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, sometime between 605 BC and 586 BC
  3. The Ark was destroyed during the burning of the Temple in 586 BC
  4. The Ark was hidden by the Israelites to keep it from being captured
  5. The Ark was smuggled out of Judah by the Israelites to keep it from being captured (This is the story told by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to explain how the Ark could have ended up in Ethiopia.)

So, which one is true? Let’s hear you best guess! The comment thread is now open!

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Patrick said...

We also see the Ark, or at least some kind of ark, appear in heaven in Revelation 11:19.

Rabbit said...

I'm with Patrick. God took it back at some point after 605 BC, and it is in His presence, just as it symbolized when it was in the tabernacle and temple. Although I have no scriptural evidence to offer other than what's already been stated in your post and the Revelation reference!

The Squirrel said...

The mention of the Ark in Revelation 11 is interesting, but there is no warrant to believe that it is the same Ark, any more then there is to believe that it is the same Temple.

But you are right. God could have supernaturally removed the Ark to heaven before the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC. Many Ultra-Orthodox Jews hold this view.


Fred Butler said...

Just so that you all know, that "God removed the ark to heaven" theory is straight from the trail of blood, independent fundamentalist, KJV-only crowd who make a big issue out of John MacArthur denying the blood.

In fact, the first time I ever heard this theory, it was from the writings of some KJV-onlyist chasing John on the blood issue. It may had been Pete Ruckman himself.

The Squirrel said...


Very interesting. The KJVO folks that I know have all bought into the Ron Wyatt story of the blood from the crucifixion flowing though cracks in the rock to the Ark's hiding place to drip on the mercy seat. Gullibility knows no bounds, I suppose.

I first read the "God took the Ark to heaven" theory in an article on Ultra-Orthodox Eschatology many years ago, along with the belief that the building of the Third Temple would be the sign of the Messiah's arrival.

Regardless the origin, I really don't give the theory much credence. I mean, God could have turned the Ark into a big bird that flew to the moon, too, but I've no reason to believe that is what happened.


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hmmm, I remember the Israelites had a problem with the bronze serpent Moses made, back in Number 21. (To cure those who had been bitten by snakes - God's punishment.)

Hezekiah later had to destroy it (2 Kings 18) because the Israelites had named it "Nehushtan" and were burning incense to it.

My (pure speculation) thought is that God allowed the ark to be destroyed to avoid it becoming an object of worship.

If it is ever found, I would anticipate all kinds of problems a la Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But maybe I've seen too many movies ;-)


Mrs. Squirrel said...

I tend to agree that it is not accessible to us (by being hidden/buried, taken away or destroyed) for whatever reason God has planned. I also like Julie's pointing out how God has dealt with His sacred objects being worshiped as idols.

God doesn't share his glory with anyone or any thing.

[P.S. I love the Squirrel in the fedora! Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of my inspirations that lead me into archaeology as a field of study. Not that I want to 'raid' things, but I do love the searching & finding & preserving. There are days I miss the hunt, but I have a job that allows me to play with (and create) maps. That is good enough for me.]

Craig and Heather said...

3 words.

I. don't. know.

interesting question though. will be interesting to see what happens if "the ark" is brought out of hiding. (not saying it would be the real ark, who knows?) but those would be interesting times. reminds me of a post i read somewhere. . . interesting times . . where have i read that before . .


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Can you imagine the hubbub?

How could anyone prove if any ark "they" produced was authentic?

I suspect there would be people who would believe that the object itself had power, and would want it.

While it would be interesting to see, I don't need relics to validate my faith.

The Squirrel said...

Craig raises a great point. If they came out with a pretty gold-covered box of the right size and shape that matched the description found in Exodus 25, how could we know that it is the real Ark?

And Julie is also right in pointing out our sinful propensity to worship things instead of God. As Mrs. Squirrel (Hi, Honey! Kisses!) so wonderfully put it, "God doesn't share his glory with anyone or any thing."

We don't need some sort of "Uber-Relic" to parade through town three times a year during festivals!


The Blainemonster said...

Well, I'm pretty sure that wherever the Ark is, if it is indeed still extant, there is a huge pile of lost car keys close by . . . :)

The Squirrel said...


Herding Grasshoppers said...

And unmatched socks.