I am sure most of you will remember the Ark of the Covenant and, like me, you might have wondered what happened to it. Amongst a few other items, it contained the first written text of the 10 Commandments, on stone tablets. If you are not sure exactly what it is, you can watch this short video where Joseph Prince shows us what the Ark must have looked like and what it contained.
When exactly did the Ark of the Covenant disappear from the Temple of Solomon?
During the holiday period I read the book from Graham Hancock about the Ark. I was amazed to find that you can indeed get good clues from the Scriptures about exactly when it must have disappeared from the Temple of Solomon. The classical viewpoint is of course that the Ark of the Covenant was lost during the invasion of the Babylonians in 598 BC (2Ch 36:18). However, in the detailed description of items that were taken as bounty by Nebuchadnezzar, the Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned whereas other items taken from the Holy of Holies are specifically mentioned. Also, later, when items from the temple were returned, the Ark is not mentioned at all (see: Ezra 1:7-11).
The logical conclusion from all of this is of course that the Ark was already gone by 598 BC.
The incident with King Uzziah in the Temple (see 2Ch. 26-19-21) points to the fact that the Ark was still in the Temple by 740 BC, when Uzziah’s reign ended. Indeed, other scriptures, e.g., Isiah 37:14-16 & 2 Kings 19:14-15 show that it was also still there during King Hezekiah’s reign, when, on his prayer to God before the Ark, the Assyrians had fled after beleaguering Jerusalem (701 BC). So, we can narrow the time of the loss of the Ark down to between ca. 700BC and 600 BC.
Now see here: (extract from speech made by King Josiah in the 18th year of his rule, i.e. 622 BC).
2Ch 35:2 And he (i.e King Josiah) set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LORD,
2Ch 35:3 And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the LORD, Put the holy Ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel,
From this passage we note for the first time that in 622 BC the Ark is not anymore where it should be. However, King Josiah thought that the Levites still had the Ark, somewhere, carrying it around on their shoulders (to places of safety). This therefore strongly suggests the Ark must have been taken away from the Temple of Solomon at some stage before the rule of King Josiah, i.e., during the reign of either one of his two predecessors, namely Amon or Manasseh (687 BC – 642 BC). A quick bible study reveals that in that case, it most probably must have happened during the reign of Manasseh. It appears he seemed set on desecrating the Temple of Solomon, no matter what, in favor of his own Gods. See 2 Kings Chapter 21. The conclusion about the time of the Ark’s disappearance is sustained by a text written by the prophet Jeremiah in ca. 626 BC, namely Jer. 3:16, where the question on the whereabouts of the Ark is raised. Apparently in the Jerusalem Bible translation it says: ’no one will ever say again: where is the Ark of the Covenant?’ [in the subsequent verses it looks like the question is sort of dismissed here as not being that relevant, anymore. Our obedience to the Law does not depend on the presence of the Ark]
As you can see, we have established from various biblical scriptures that the Ark of the Covenant disappeared around ca. 650 BC from the Temple of Solomon. Of course, as we all realize now, the Scriptures do not explicitly say how it happened. It also does not prove that the Ark still exists today. However, it does seem reasonable now to think that some of the Levites around the time of King Josiah’s rule knew or understood the Ark was not ‘lost’ but had simply been moved to a secret place to keep it safe and out of the hands of Manasseh. They probably had informed King Josiah accordingly, hence his order that it must be brought back to the Temple of Solomon. However, there is no confirmation later that they were able to adhere to this decree.
What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
In his book “The Sign and the Seal’, Graham Hancock builds a strong case that the Ark might indeed have been taken from the Temple of Solomon around 650 BC and that it ended up somewhere in what is now called Ethiopia, after first being taken by some faithful Jewish migrants to Egypt.
He approaches the problem from many different angles and adds layer upon layer of archaeological evidence and historic proof to each of these angles. It convinced me. Maybe the Ark even still does exist to this day. Who knows? However, I am reasonably sure that if it still does exist and if you wanted to move it, it will probably fall into 1000 pieces because of old age. It is truly remarkable to see that during the festival of the Timcat, in Ethiopia, many representatives of the various churches bring their own ‘Ark’ in the form of copies of the tablets with the 10 Commandments. This is carried on their heads and covered with expensive looking cloths. See video below.
Must say, the voyage to Ethiopia to do the pilgrimage looks extremely attractive and interesting to me now; if only I could afford it… Note the message at the end of the video.