The Lost Ark of the Covenant

Posted: January 29, 2011 in Bible Related, Did you know?
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In the movie Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones discovers an ancient artifact known as the Lost Ark of the Covenant. As a kid watching the movie, I had no idea what it was, and just assumed it was some made up or legendary artifact that never really existed. It wasn’t until I actually read the Bible that I realized the Lost Ark was actually a treasured alter of God from the Old Testament in the Bible. Not only that, but the Ark itself was well documented in the Bible as well.

 

So what was the Lost Ark of the Covenant you ask? Well a covenant is like a contract with conditions, and after God helped the Isrealites flee from Egypt He made a covenant with them. The covenant was basically; obey God and all of God’s Laws and you and your children will prosper. Disobey God and God’s Laws and you and your children will suffer from pain and despair. As a symbol of the covenant God instructed Moses to build an Ark,[1] of which its specifications can be found in Exodus 25:10-22. The Ark was to contain the Ten Commandments engraved in stone, and be kept in the inner sanctum of the tabernacle until an actually temple was built, at which point it was kept there.

What the Ark symbolized was God’s presence among the Israelite people and their covenant. They did not worship the Ark directly though, as you might find in other religions, because one of the Ten Commandments was to not worship anything other than God, such as idols and other objects. None the less it was still considered incredibly sacred and only handful of high priests were allowed to see it. Even more specifically, the only place you could touch it was on its holding poles. If you physically touched the Ark in any other place you would die!

There have been many different renderings of what the Ark is believed to have looked like, but since it has never been discovered no one knows for sure. Here are some creative recreations of what some people believed the Ark looked like:

 

 

Jordan River Runs Dry for Joshua

In my studies of the Bible and history itself I’ve learned quite some interesting things about the Ark and its history. For example, as Joshua led the Israelites to attack Jericho they came across the Jordan River in the spring time, which proved to be un-crossable. As Joshua 3:13-17 states, the Lord promised them safe crossing and that He would dam up the waters to make this possible. As the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the river, the bible says the water began to immediately dam upstream in a town called Adam. This allowed the Israelites to cross the muddy but now dry riverbed of the Jordan to lay siege to the city of Jericho as the Lord promised.

                                                           

What proof do we have this happened? There are many accounts outside the bible both ancient and modern of the Jordan River damming up near the town of Adam, which is 8-9 miles north of where Joshua crossed. Near the town of Adam, the Jordan River cuts through narrow canyons of loose sedimentary rock. In the spring time (which is when Joshua crossed) the flooding river often causes the sides of the canyon to erode and collapse. Sometimes these small avalanches of dirt and rock are so large they actually dam up the river. In one recorded event in modern times, the dirt and rock dammed up the entire Jordan River for 21 hours! [2]

The high banks of the Jordan River in Adam

The Walls of Jericho

The Ark was also present when the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho after which God brought the walls of Jericho crumbling to the ground so that the Israelites may invade. Archeologists have discovered the ruins of Jericho, and further more have also discovered that the walls were destroyed in the same time period that the Bible alludes to in Joshua, the end of the Late Bronze Period in 1400 B.C. [3] The walls lay in heaps of ruble to this day. Additionally, the Bible says the Israelites then burned the city to the ground in Joshua 6:24. Archeologist  Kathleen Kenyon found evidence of fire at Jericho in the massive amounts of ash throughout the ruins. In her own words, “‘The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.”[4] Another incredible find at the Jericho ruins, was that a large amount of grain was burned in the fire. Any other army would have definitely taken such an important commodity as grain, which back then was just as valuable as money. Yet it was left behind which was commanded by God in Joshua 6:17. The destruction of Jericho when examined archaeologically, testifies greatly to the accuracy of the recorded events in the book of Joshua.

The Philistines Become Plauged

In 1 Samuel 5 and 6, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and began to parade it around their country. Immediately the people in the cities where the Ark was paraded began to break out in tumors. In fact, everywhere the Ark went, the people broke out in tumors. Eventually the Philistines recognized the curse and sent the Ark back to the Israelites along with 5 golden tumor statues and 5 golden rodent statues.

                                                              

Why would the Philistines send back the Ark with golden rodents? The bible says it is because rats had been ravaging the land at the time of the tumors. And that is a key point. In ancient times, rodents carried with them nasty diseases which in turn made the people sick. If the rats were carrying the Bubonic Plague, then the people would experience tumors, just as the bible describes.[5] Clearly the Lord punished the Philistines for their capturing of His Ark.

These examples of miracles surrounding the Ark are great examples in that we can almost prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the stories are as verifiably true as can be possible with such ancient text. Where as most other legends are more spiritual or take place in unknown legendary places, the stories around the Ark take place in real locations with real people in our history, which further supports it’s authenticity.

What Happened to the Ark?

Well, as “lost” suggests, the Ark of the Covenant remains to this day lost. Its last known whereabouts are mentioned in 2 Kings 23:21-23 where King Josiah of Judah orders the Ark to be returned to the temple. 40 years later in 586 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captured Jerusalem and raided the temple. You could technically say Nebuchadnezzar was the actual “raider of the lost ark.” No one knows what happened to the Ark afterwards. The Ark could have been destroyed, or stolen by the Babylonians and hidden, or perhaps prior to the attack on Jerusalem the Ark was safely hidden away. Who knows? There is an account from 2 Maccabees (an uninspired manuscript not included in the Bible) which describes the prophet Jeremiah being instructed by God to remove the Ark and hide it safely away in a cave prior to the Babylonian attack. But the validity of 2 Maccabees is very questionable, so no one really knows what happened to the Ark, and so we refer to it today as “lost.”

 

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t many theories as to its location!

-Some believe it is buried under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But since this is considered an Islamic Holy Site no archeologist has been allowed to excavate there.

-Others believe that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, called the Copper Scroll contains a map documenting where many treasured artifacts including the Ark are buried. However, many landmarks on the map cannot be located geographically, and so the map’s accuracy remains unsubstantiated.

-Some believe it is hidden away in a small church in Ethiopia, but it has yet to be found there.

-Two pseudo-archeologists Ron Wyatt and Tom Croster actually claimed to have found the Ark. Wyatt claims to have found it buried under Mt. Calvary, and Croster claims he saw it on Mt. Pisgah. Both have wild stories as to why they can’t substantiate these claims.

-The Irish even have their own legend as to where it is. They believe it is buried under the Hill of Tara in Ireland, and many believe this legend is where the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” concept originated.[6]

Where do I think it is? Well I personally believe the Ark was destroyed and no longer exists. Its purpose is no longer needed anyways since Jesus came to this earth to be the final and living sacrifice for all of man’s sins. As Jeremiah 3:16 says, “…you will no longer wish for ‘the good old days’ when you possessed the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. You will not miss those days or even remember them, and there will be no need to rebuild the Ark.” Why would there be a need to rebuild the Ark, if it still existed someplace intact? I personally believe this alludes to the Ark being destroyed. Not to mention the purpose of the Ark would soon be void since the messiah would come to replace the old law within a few hundred years. But who knows, the Ark may still be hidden away somewhere. Its discovery, if genuine, would however further prove the historical accuracy of the Bible. But I’m not holding my breath.


[1] Ark simply means, “large box” or “chest.”

[2] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981) pg. 76.

[3] Bryant G. Wood, Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?, Biblical Archaeology Review 16(2):44–58, March–April 1990.

[4] Kathleen M. Kenyon, Excavations at Jericho, London, British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1981. Pg 370.

[5] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981) pg. 88.

[6] www.gotquestions.org, “What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?”

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Comments
  1. Christ Crucifixion site and the Ark of the Covenant found burred under a trash pile in Jerusalem.
    http://arkofthecovenant2.blogspot.com/

    • matthew2262 says:

      Thank you for your comment Kevin. But unfortunately I cannot believe the testimony of Ron Wyatt, as much as I’d like to, simply because his claims cannot be substantiated. There are many Bible-believing experts and archaeologists that have attempted to visit the sights and study Wyatt’s evidence. Yet they have never been able to for a wide variety of reasons that do not lead one to think Wyatt is credible. Archaeologists are able and have been able for some time to tear apart Jerusalem for archaeological study. There is no reason why Wyatt’s find (if genuine) would not have been fully excavated and objectively studied by archaeologists around the world. So what we’re left with is the word of an “amateur archaeologist” as you put it, and no evidence. As much as his story may “fit” (and I use that term loosely) with Biblical testimony, and as much as we as Christians want to believe it to be true to solidify our faith and ability to reach believers, it would be irrational and arguably un-Christian to do so. Our faith should rest in God, not in the unsubstantiated claims of a fallible man. In other words, if the Ark has been found, it will need to be proven with material evidence (since it should be as a physical object), not with unsubstantiated testimony. I wouldn’t expect my friends to believe that I own a Ferrari, if I can’t show it to them and every time they ask to see it I come up with an excuse as to why they cannot.

      Thank you for your comment Kevin, take care.

  2. Hi I was in Panama recently and the ark of the covenant was discovered. The lost city of El Dorado is discovered in Chiriqui Panama. It is quiet interesting to see who is now taking responsibility for the exciting news. check out their link at http://thearkofthecovenantdiscovered.com/ Chiriqui archaeological sites. Exciting new news, revealed and exposed.

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