Welcome to Progress Planet’s four-part series on The Ark of the Covenant. This is Part 3 of 4. Click here to start by reading Part 1. Visit us on Monday, November 5 for Part 4.
Where is the Ark of the Covenant?
When the Israelites first settled in Canaan, the Ark was kept in the Tabernacle of Gilgal, then moved to Shiloh where it rested for possibly the next four hundred years. The Ark was thought to be the Israelites’ secret weapon in many battles but was eventually taken by the Philistines. That didn’t go so well for the Philistines who were happy to return the Ark after seven months of unexplainable misfortunes.
First, the Philistines placed the Ark in the Ashdod Temple of Dagon, but the next morning Dagon was found dead and the people of Ashdod were plagued with hemorroids, rats, and hosts later suffered boils. So, after the Ark had been among them for seven months, the Philistines were happy to return the scared Ark to the Israelites.
At that point, the Ark was set in the field of Joshua where either seventy or fifty thousand and seventy people were punished by death by God for loss of control of the Ark.
Custody of the Ark was then documented until in 586 BC, when the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple. There is no record of what became of the Ark except in a Greek version of the third book of Esdras (Ezra), which suggests the Babylonians: “…took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, and the ark of God, and the king’s treasures, and carried them away into Babylon.” (1 Esdras 1:54)
In Jewish culture, the final location of the Ark is still disputed. Some Rabbis think it must have been carried off to Babylon, while others think it must have been hidden so that it would not be carried off to Babylon.
One way or the other, ever since the destruction of the first Temple the Ark has remained missing. There has never been a confirmed reported sighting in history or a trail that could be picked up and followed.
For the hopeful among us, that means there is a chance that the Ark, with its precious, ancient collection of Godly things, still remains intact somewhere either underground, in a remote desert cave, or even exists possibly right under our noses in someone’s private collection in the modern world. However, most likely rumors would have gotten out by now if an individual or family were still hiding such a powerful and ancient treasure.
For an ancient treasure to have survived in secret for more than two thousand years, it would have changed hands many times over the two millennia, with many secret keepers since the time it went missing, meaning there would have been many “owners” by now of such a valued relic, and there haven’t been many rumors of private ownership.
That, plus the fact the Jews have had to be on the move many times from country to country over the centuries, makes it hard to believe it could still be anywhere in Jewish hands, but some suspected if the Ark were anywhere in the known world that it might have surfaced in the Iraq War, when some Bahgdad art collections came to light. Babylon was located where modern Iraq is today.
If the Ark had survived the Babylonian attack and was not destroyed on site, there are many possible places it could have gone. Since the Temple fell to Babylonians, it could have been taken by them back to their land where it may be still to this day, either in one or more pieces. Or, it could have been destroyed and melted down for its gold, as was often an ancient custom to eradicate religious items and repurpose them.
If the Ark survived the attack, but none of the people who knew of its whereabouts survived, which easily could have happened, a reasonable theory is that with an object of this much significance, given by God for the Israelite’s protection and containing their sacred laws and covenant, that a scheme of intentional concealment had the Ark interred by temple priests under the Temple Mount where it may still be today.
Excavating the ancient Temple Mount is in practical terms impossible due to the fact it is located under one of today’s most important Islamic shrines, the Dome of the Rock. According to the Bible, King Solomon, when building the temple, had the Ark of the Covenant put on a platform, which could be lowered down into a tunnel system if the Temple were ever overrun. This would make somewhere underneath today’s Dome of the Rock a more plausible possible location for the Ark.
Archeologists have found many tunnels under the Temple Mount so this “buried” Ark theory is always somewhere in the mix of theories about the Ark. Whether Solomon, in his great planning, also managed to find a way to get the Ark to another destination is as much unknown as is whether his intention was simply to bury it underground to keep the Ark out of danger.
Photo Source: By The Jewish Theological Seminary
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