History of The Ark of the Covenant
--Some facts, reasoning, overviews, references and links.

This page is part 1 of 2.

Click here for part 2 of 2.

References on this topic are located on the page of Ark links.

1. Did The Ark exist?

In the Tanach, also called "The Old Tesatment", The Ark is mentioned there about 203 times. A number of name variations are used, including The Ark, Ark of Witness, Ark of the Covenant, Ark of the Covenant of the God, Ark of the Lord, Ark of the God of Israel.

For the linguist, we note that 178 of the times Ark is spelled in hebrew with a "vov" and in 25 times without a "vov".

My point is that with that quantity of references, The Ark is unlikely to be only a literary device, and that some form of Ark did exist!
The real mystery is that after so many references, The Ark is lost and not mentioned again.

2. Significant of The Ark in context .

A very good exposition of the function of The Ark is found in the book,"Exploring Exodus -- The Origins of the Biblical Israel", by Nahum M. Sarna,Schocken Books,1986&1996, pages 209-211.

After some background, Nahum say," In the Israelite Tabenacle there was no actual throne, only the boxlike Ark with its tables of stone inside it and its cherubim on top of it -- an abiding reminder both of the invisible presence of the soverign God and of His inescapable demands upon his people."

The concept of an Ark in the form described in Exodus 37 may have antecedents in Egyptian designs (see pictures from the Treasure of the Tomb of Tut-ankh-amun as found by Howard Carter)

A new book by Grierson & Munroe-Hay, The Ark of the Covenant, explores the notion of multiple arks and/or ark copies in later religions of the middle-east and Ethiopia.

3. Hiding of The Ark

In the second book of Macabbees chapter 2, there is the story of Jeremiah hiding The Ark and other temple stuff.".....as he went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremy came there, he found an hollow cave, in which he placed the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so closed up the opening."

This appears to be the source of the interest in Mt Nebo as a hiding place, because of the tradition of Mt Nebo being where Abraham, Moses, and later Jesus viewed the land of Israel.

The more interesting passage follows immediately in lines 6 & 7:
"And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it. When Jeremiah realized this, he criticised them, saying, As for that place, it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together.."

This episode can be viewed in many ways. As a literary device, it explains why all those items are still lost. As a cautionary tale, it says that the people who looked in those days when the trail was still warm could not find it, so do not bother looking today. As a clue, it says that the area around the hiding place looked different between leaving it and later going back-- such as a winding twisting wadi might to a city dweller.

4. A Talmudic reference to The Hidden Ark

In the Talmud there is a curious tale about The Ark after it was hidden away.
A simple translation of the hebrew is:

An incident with a priest who was working (in the temple).
Who saw that the floor (tile) was different from its neighbors.
Came and told his friend.
Did not finish speaking the word when his spirit left him( e.g. he died)
And that is how they especially knew that there the Ark was hidden.

The tale is curious because of what was not said. Telling the tale alone did not cause death, because that friend told someone, etc., until the tale was recorded in the Talmud. If one floor tile was visibly different than another, then other should have been able to see it once they knew to look. Was the priest psychic / prophetic and that is why he saw a difference that other could not see? The rabbis added a comentary that the priests death was really because he was physically defective and thus should not have been working in the temple -- a justification, rather than an explanation.

My view is that this incident is really a cautionary tale -- warning that searching and telling can be a very unhealthy career move.

5. My Timeline For The Lost Ark Mystery

There is no agreement among the various self-proclaimed experts on the key events in the time history of the Ark of the Covenant. However a timeline is useful to understand when the different theories diverge.

6. Arrange ideas by geographic distance from Jerusalem

7. Arrange ideas by who was the searcher

A very intersting listing ordered by searcher is presented by Oren Purcell.

8. Why Look for the Ark of the Covenant?

Here are three different viewpoints

This page is part 1 of 2.

Click here for part 2 of 2.

References on this topic are located on the page of Ark links.

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This page was last modified on December 20, 2007
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