And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it. And you shall make two cherubim of gold. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim, which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything, which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. - Exodus 25:10-22
May the hit motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark is all a complete fiction, but the search for the vessel that supposedly contains the shattered remains of the tablets on which was written the original Ten Commandments (by the finger of God, according to Genesis) is a real one. Its true location has been the subject of speculation, tireless research, and digging by archaeologists and treasure hunters alike for centuries. Certainly, if it were ever found and confirmed as being genuine, it would be considered the greatest archaeological discovery of all time - especially because of the extraordinary paranormal powers it is said to possess.
God instructed Moses to build the gold-covered wooden box not only as a vessel for the Ten Commandments, but also as a device though which He could, according to the Bible, literally converse with Moses when He wanted to. It was also a source of great and deadly power. Considered by the Israelites to be the embodiment of God himself on Earth, they carried the Ark before them as they travelled in search of a homeland and to lead their army into battle.
Biblical accounts and Jewish legends describe the Ark as sometimes “blazing with fire and light, inflicting cancerous tumours and severe burns, levelling mountains, stopping rivers, blasting whole armies, and laying waste cities.” There are also some “deadly facts” about the Ark, including: an incident in which priests attempting to carry the Ark were thrown into the air and then to the ground; that two of Moses? nephews were killed by the Ark when they entered the Holy of Holies where the Ark was kept; and that the cherubim figures on top of the Ark often sparked and caused damage to nearby objects.
But if the Biblical accounts are to be taken as fact, then we have to ask why an almighty and omnipotent God needed such a vessel through which to speak and wield his power in the first place? This question has led some paranormal investigators to speculate that the Ark was, in fact, some kind of communication device that an “extraterrestrial god” designed to speak to the Earthlings he favoured and befriended, the Israelites.
But just as mysterious as the Ark’s powers is its fate, somewhere in the time period between the tenth and sixth centuries BC, the references to it end. It simply is not mentioned again. There is no indication of where it was kept, where it went, how it was hidden… nothing. About 2,500 years ago, the revered and mystical Ark of the Covenant disappeared. Today, some archaeologists and researchers believe they know where it is!
Based on ancient Jewish writings, some have suggested the Ark is hidden on Mount Nebo on the Jordan River’s east bank. This site is presently in the modern nation of Jordan with no hint of the Ark’s presence.
Others suggest the Ark is hidden somewhere near the Dead Sea, on the Jordan’s west bank. This location is usually considered in association with the ancient site of Qumran and the people of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here, the Ark and other artefacts are believed buried in one of the region’s caves, like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Another view suggests the Ark is located beneath Jerusalem, in a stone-carved tunnel. Some say it is beneath the suggested site of the Crucifixion, Gordon’s Calvary. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem’s Old City, an Ultra-Orthodox organization dedicated to rebuilding the Jewish Temple, says the Ark is under the temple mount and will be revealed at the proper time - when the temple is rebuilt.
Many believe the Ark exists right in the center of Israel. A view that has predominated in rabbinic circles is that the Ark was hidden in a cave beneath the Temple Mount in the very heart of Israel. The theory goes that the priests hid the Ark beneath the Temple Mount, perhaps as early as during the time of King Josiah.
In fact, a secret excavation by some of Israel’s leading rabbis in 1981, supposedly cleared some rock-carved tunnels and chambers beneath the Temple Mount. Working in secret for some 18 months, they were convinced another 18 months would take them to the chamber with the Ark. However, when their efforts became known, the Israeli government discontinued their activities due to religious and political pressure from the Moslem/Arab world.
One of the most prominent theories today suggests the Ark is within a church in Axum, Ethiopia. While there are different theories of how and when it got there, the Ark was supposedly spirited out of the Jerusalem Temple by godly priests. Their motive was protecting it from the apostasy of Jewish leaders.
The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, by British journalist Graham Hancock, has captured the imagination of the general public. According to this view, the Ark of the Covenant was taken from ancient Jerusalem in the days of King Solomon. While there are numerous variations of the story, the common thread centers on a son fathered by Israelite King Solomon and born to the Queen of Sheba. While this union is not mentioned in the Biblical account of the meeting between these two monarchs, it has a long tradition in Ethiopia, a suggested location of ancient Sheba.
This son, named Menelik, is said to have brought the Ark to his country for safe keeping, according to an account preserved in the Ethiopian royal chronicles. This story has also been boosted by the now famous Black Jews of Ethiopia, the Falashas. These black Africans, practicing a very ancient form of Judaism, received international attention when an Israeli military action airlifted them to freedom from political persecution in 1976.
There are numerous theories and, occasionally, even claims. Unfortunately, nothing substantial has ever been produced demonstrating the Ark’s present whereabouts. Yet, while we still do not know where it is today, a scholar has now pinpointed the exact spot where it once stood. Most scholars agree the Ark was never placed in the Second Temple (the Temple of Zerubabel and Herod). It disappeared from the Biblical story during the First Temple period and cannot be clearly traced afterward.
Has the lost Ark of the Covenant been found? If so, what will its revelation mean to the modern world? What would it mean to the world if the Ark of the Covenant were actually found and revealed? Would it be paraded around the globe like the treasures of King Tutankhamun? Or, as many fundamentalist Christians believe, will it be revealed soon as advent of the Second Coming and, with its supernatural powers, be used in the apocalyptic Battle of Armageddon to help usher in a new age? Or are the Ark and its legendary paranormal powers merely the stuff of religious myth?
Is the Ark really there? No one knows. Is it even intact and recoverable? No one can really say. Yet, recovery of the lost Ark would be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. Its discovery would also lead to significant pressure to rebuild the Third Temple.
The Sign and the Seal by Graham Hancock
Where Has the Lost Ark of the Covenant Been? by Leen Ritmeyer
The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, by British journalist Graham Hancock
Bible and Spade by Milton Fisher