Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Great Treasure Hunt

What Happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
by Robert A. Waters

The Ark of the Covenant is the most sought-after lost “treasure” in history. Treasure seekers as diverse as the Nazis and the fictional character of Indiana Jones have tried to hunt down this priceless artifact. A church in Ethiopia claims to own the Ark but won't let anyone see it. What really happened to it is unknown—however, some intriguing clues about the Ark's whereabouts dot the Biblical landscape.

In Exodus, God commanded Moses to build a physical manifestation of Himself (God) to be carried by the Israelites as they searched for a permanent homeland. The Ark held the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Constructed of acacia wood, and overlaid on the outside and inside with gold, it had two gold-plated cherubim on the top. There were also four rings of gold to hold wooden staves (also covered in gold) so the Ark could be safely transported from place to place.

As related in Joshua 6, the Ark was sometimes taken into battle. When attempting to capture the heavily walled city of Jericho, the Israelites carried the Ark as they marched around its walls. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, holding the Ark and blowing trumpets. The walls collapsed, allowing Hebrew fighters to enter and capture the city.

In 1st Samuel 5-6, the Ark was captured by the Philistines. This turned out to be a disaster for these enemies of God. As soon as they brought the Ark back to their territory, the Philistines suffered a series of calamities similar to the plagues of Egypt. Finally, they had enough and placed the Ark on two mules and sent it back to the Israelites.

Lea Speyer, in Israel News, writes: “Eventually, the Ark came to rest in the First Temple, which was built by King Solomon. The Ark was placed in a special inner room known as the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest would enter once a year on Yom Kippur. The Ark was last seen in 586 BCE when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple. What happened to the Ark remains unknown until today.”

The Babylonian Empire may have captured the Ark after the death of Solomon. 2nd Kings 24: 13 states that “As the Lord declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal place, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord.”

Did Nebuchadnezzar take the Ark? Was it among the “gold articles” he captured and cut up? (Solomon did not make the Ark, and the scripture is clear that the articles taken by Nebuchadnezzar were “made” by Solomon.)

Could the Ark have been spirited away to keep the Babylonians from capturing it? It wouldn't be the first time the Israelites hid sacred objects from approaching armies. (The Dead Sea scrolls are just one example.) A book of Jewish history, the 2nd Maccabees, claims the Ark was moved to Mount Nebo by the prophet Jeremiah. There he placed it in a cave and walled up the entrance. When a group of Israelites attempted to find it, he informed them it would stay sealed up until the end of time.

Another theory asserts that the Ark was buried beneath the temple where it lies to this day. A writer in National Geographic magazine wrote: “[One] claim is that the Ark was hidden in a warren of passages beneath the First Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. But that theory can't be tested...because the site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, sacred in Islam. Digging beneath it simply isn't an option.”

If the Babylonians took the Ark, why didn't it work its supernatural powers on them like it did on the Philistines? Did God, fed up with the continual transgressions of His people, allow the Ark to be destroyed?

Endless theories abound. One thing is certain: if the Ark of the Covenant is ever discovered, it will surpass even the tomb of Tutankhamen as the greatest archaeological find ever.

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