A Mystery: What Happened to the Ark?
2 Kings 24:12 In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord
Some mysteries of the Bible intrigue believers and non-believers alike’! The mysterious Nephilim of Genesis 6, the Tower of Babel or the séance of Saul… but none has had more staying power than the quest for The Ark of the Covenant. (Ask Indiana Jones!!) The Ark was the centerpiece of the Tabernacle. Designed by God and built according to the blueprint given to Moses.
Meaning: This Holy piece of furniture included a box that originally contained the Ten Commandment tablets (written by the finger of God), a jar of manna and Aaron’s staff that budded. Nothing more ‘holy’ existed in Jewish life. On top of the box was a lid of gold. Atop this lid were two cherubim (angels). Between these two angels is the place where the Glory of God dwelt. It was called the Mercy Seat. One time a year, on the holiday known as the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would stand before the Ark and sprinkle the blood of the Scapegoat on the Mercy Seat, ’covering’ the sins of Israel.
As you look at the photo (a replica of Ark), understand how ‘holy’ and powerful this relic was. It represented the Presence of God with His people. Anyone who touched the Ark could die. Even Israel’s enemies were aware of the power and meaning of the Ark.
Journey: The ‘journey’ of the Ark of the Covenant began in the Wilderness with Moses and into the Promised Land with Joshua. David brought the Ark in Jerusalem, dancing before it all the way. Solomon ultimately moved it from the Tent of Meeting to it’s place it in the Temple. It resided in the Temple, behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies, for over 300 years. And here, the mystery deepens!
What Happened to the Ark: The last mention of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament is during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was a Godly king– and the last King of Judah to lead the people to worship Jehovah God. Josiah reestablished the importance of the Temple and worship. In 2 Chronicles 35:3, King Josiah commands the priest to follow the correct ways in taking care of the Ark. This is the last time we hear about the Ark in the chronology of the Old Testament. Twelve years later, Babylonian armies would destroy this Temple and either cart off or repurpose it’s furnishings.
So, what happened to the Ark? In truth, we don’t know! There is no mention of it ‘going’ to Babylon or ‘coming back’ during the return!
It is highly unlikely that the priests of the Temple just sat around and allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured or destroyed by a pagan army of the despised Nebuchadnezzer. So where is it??
One theory (mentioned in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees), is that the Prophet Jeremiah, in order to save the Ark, took it south to the desert and hid and sealed it in a cave on Mt. Nebo. (Moses was buried on Mt. Nebo).
A second possibility is the claim of the St. Mary of Zion Church in Axum, Ethiopia. For centuries the people of Axum have claimed that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia, kept safe and is now housed in the edifice you see to the right. Before you laugh… remember Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? Tradition suggests that they had a son, who returned to what is now Ethiopia. When the destruction of the Temple seemed eminent, the Ark was secreted out of Jerusalem and to Solomon’s people in Africa — where it resides unseen to this day!
A third possibility… one strongly believed in Israel today… Is that the Ark is in a tunnel dug under the current Temple Mount. When the ‘next’ Temple is built someday in Jerusalem, they will bring out the Ark and restore the worship and sacrifices of Solomon’s Temple.
Does it really matter. Well, from a New Testament standpoint, no! (As a Christian, YOU are the Temple and God’s Glory now resides IN us.) On the other hand, who knows what God is going to do in these Last Days. Certainly, at some point in the days ahead, the Jews will build a Temple in Jerusalem. Nothing would raise Jewish fervor more than for the Ark to be ‘discovered’ and a place needed to house it. Whatever God’s plan is… keep your eyes on events in Israel. It is God’s timepiece, last day focus… and the key to the return of Jesus!