Does the Biblical Ark of The Covenant still Exist Today?
I stood in reverence and tear-filled eyes as I slowly moved my fingers and touched the ancient stone wall that millions of fingers have touched and polished in prayers through centuries. The accounts of the Bible flashed through my mind as I stood before the Wailing or Western Wall, the remnant of the ancient western wall that supported the wall of the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is a sacred site because of its proximity to the western wall of The Most Holy Place, the inner sanctuary which had The Ark of The Covenant that housed the original Ten Commandments, from which the Divine Presence never departed.
It was the time of The Feast of the Tabernacles and Jerusalem was buzzing with Bible-believers from all over the world, the roots of whose faith is buried in this holy ancient city that still stands today, and the affairs of which is like a clock that turns the heads of all the nations of the world. Hot tears streamed down my face as I think of the wars and atrocities that had befallen Israel and the Jewish people. I pray.
I imaged what it would be like if there were no wars and the Temple still stood today. It would be an awesome sight. But just like any other Bible-believer, one of the intriguing questions my mind had to deal with was “Where is The Ark of The Covenant or The Ark of The Testimony?”, “Does The Ark of The Covenant still exist today, and if so, where is it?”, “Does the tablets of stone upon which the original 10 Commandments written by God Himself still exist?”. Even the tour guide who told me the history did not have an answer. I Google-searched the questions and found many theories. I went through the sacred pages of The Bible to find my own answer. This hub is a documentation of what I could make out of those theories, The Bible and my own analysis.
What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
What Happened & Theories
Taken to Askum, Ethiopia, by Menelik son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba
1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12; the Ethiopian royal chronicles
Taken to Egypt by Pharaoh Shishak when he invaded Jerusalem
1 Kings 14:25-28 & 2 Chronicles 12
Taken in battle by King Jehoash of Israel
2 Kings 14:13-14
Given by King Hezekiah as tribute payment to Sennacherib king of Assyria
2 Kings 18:14-18
Destroyed by King Manasseh when he desecrated the Temple
2 Kings 21 & 2 Chronicles 33
When King Manasseh desecrated the Temple, some Israelite priests wanted to save the Ark of the Covenant so took it out to Elephantine Island on the Nile River (Egypt) and eventually to Askum, Ethiopia
2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33
Taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon during reign of King Jehoiakim or when he besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiachin king of Judah
2 Chronicles 36:6-7; 2 Kings 24:10-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; Isaiah 39; Jeremiah 52
Destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon when he plundered and burnt the House of the LORD and all that was in it during Zedekiah’s reign
2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 52; Lamentations 1
Hidden by Jeremiah on Mt Nebo, on the east bank of Jordan River opposite Jericho. Mt Nebo is where Moses went up before his death and God showed him the heritage of Israel
Hidden by the Temple priests beneath the Temple Mount before the Babylonia invasion and captivity.
2 Chronicles 35: 1-5
Taken by God to the Heavenly Temple, probably before the Babylonian invasion and destruction of the Temple.
Revelation 11:19; 1 Chronicles 18
Taken by Jeremiah to Ireland
Hidden by Israelite priests beneath Golgotha before Babylonian destruction
Returned to Kiryat Jearim from Jerusalem by Israelite priest before the Babylonian invasion and captivity
Hidden by priests in a cave near the Dead Sea before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
Taken to Rome and hidden in the Vetican and the Pope is now the custodian of it.
Transported to Yemen and incorporated into the Lemba tribe’s sacred ngoma
Swallowed by the earth
Don't know where it is but will reappear with or for the Third Temple described by Ezekiel
Stored is a US Government warehouse in Washington DC
Raiders of the Lost Ark movie
First Temple Era
When King Solomon finished building the Temple, the priests brought the Ark of the Covenant up from the City of David (Zion) to the Temple and into the inner sanctuary, to the Most Holy Place, where it is supposed to be. So we know the Ark of the Covenant was there during the First Temple era. After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam succeeded him as king, but the nation was divided and he only reigned over Judah in Jerusalem while Jeroboam reigned as king over Israel from Samaria. Through the reign of successive kings, the nation was divided, constant wars between Judah and Israel and the surrounding nations while some kings led the people astray to serve other gods, which kindled God's anger. King Josiah, a God-seeking and righteous king, was the second-last king before Babylon invasions and the captivity. During King Josiah’s great reform, the Temple was repaired and the Ark of the Covenant “put” in the Temple, that “it shall no longer be a burden on the shoulders” of the holy priests (2 Chronicles 35).
The Bible says that the Ark of the Covenant was "put in the Temple" during King Josiah’s reformation. Before the Babylon invasion and the destruction of the Temple, 2 Chronicles 35:3 is the last record of the Ark of the Covenant.
So this means the Ark of the Covenant was not taken to Askum, Ethiopia by Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. There is no Biblical reference to this. The Ark of the Covenant is only to be carried by the Levites priests who were consecrated and holy to the LORD.
This also means it was not taken to Egypt by Pharaoh Shishak when he invaded Jerusalem after the death of King Solomon nor it was given by King Hezekiah as tribute payment to Sennacherib king of Assyria. Hezekiah would never give away the Ark of the Covenant, nor priests who guarded the Temple would have allowed Hezekiah to give the Ark of the Covenant away like that. There is no record of King Jehoash of Israel taking the Ark of the Covenant in the battle with Judah.
There may be a possibility that the Levite priests took the Ark of the Covenant out to prevent it from being desecrated by Manasseh king of Judah who desecrated the Temple. For this, the LORD punished Manasseh and his descendants heavily. If so, where it was kept or taken to, we do not know. But the fact we know is that it was put in the Temple during Josiah's reign and spiritual reformation.
Hidden by Israelite Priests beneath the Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is the most significant place in the history of the Bible. That is where the First Temple stood, the place and the city where God Himself says His eyes shall forever be upon. A place where there is so much God says about and one thing I believe, God is not a man that He should lie. The First Temple was built according to prophecy and it did have underground passageways. The Israelites were not a bunch of stupid people who would build the holy Temple with the Ark of the Covenant and sacred things and not take security precautions during an era when war is common. So it is highly likely that at the command of King Joshia, or just before the destruction, the Temple priests who knew about all the underground chambers and passageways of the Temple may have taken the Ark of the Covenant further down underground directly below the inner sanctuary and hidden it. It was a holy thing and unlikely that they could have taken the Ark of the Covenant out and carried it somewhere. The First Temple stood for 400 plus years so the invading Babylonians or any other persons did not know about the layout, design and the underground passageways of the Temple, except the Levite priests. I’m sure they would have done anything and everything they could to protect the holy sacred things from being desecrated and trampled upon by the uncircumcised.
First during the reign of King Jehoiakim, then during the reign of King Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded Jerusalem and took articles from the Temple, treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and his leaders to Babylon, and took the people captive. There is no mention of the most important treasure – the Golden Ark of the Covenant – being taken to Babylon. They also cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon King of Israel had made in the Temple of the LORD. There is no mention of the very important article – the Ark of the Covenant. During Zedekiah’s reign, the Babylonians again plundered Jerusalem and this time they broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned the Temple and its palaces with fire and destroyed it, but there is no record of important Ark of the Covenant, being destroyed nor taken away as the most prized war booty to Babylon.
Did you know that there was actually a stock-take done of all the things taken to Babylon? Yes. We find in the Book of Ezra that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had put these articles in his temple and after his death and during the reign of Cyrus of king of Persia, he did a stock-take of the articles of gold and silver, which were five thousand four hundred. These were brought from Babylon back to Jerusalem with the first return of the exiles for rebuilding of the Temple. There was no Ark of the Covenant mentioned.
Second Temple Era
The Ark of the Covenant is conspicuous in the Second Temple era. It is one of the “missing” very important, holy, sacred and precious possessions. Despite no Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy place (inner sanctuary), the people still worshiped in the Temple for 500 years.
There is possibility that when they built the Second Temple, the inner sanctuary could have been built directly above where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden. The Ark of the Covenant is referred to as “the beauty of Israel”, “strength and glory of God” and “the ark of God’s strength”. It was so dear to Israel that so long as they were subject to foreign domination by Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, it was "not the right time" to take the Ark of the Covenant out. They saw their First Temple plundered, trampled upon and burnt and priests in the service of God may not want anything like that to happen to their most sacred and holy things, now that they are dominated by another power.
Jeremiah lived during the religious reforms started by King Joshia, and 100 years after the Prophet Isaiah who prophesied about the destruction by Babylon (Isaiah 39). Jeremiah also prophesied about the invasion and captivity. He knew what was going to befall Jerusalem and he was zealous about God and God’s things. Do you think we will just sit there and watch God's strength and glory desecrated? No. I believe he may have played a role in ensuring that the sacred Ark of the Covenant, the strength and beauty of Israel, and its other sacred things like the jar of manna, oil and the menora were not desecrated and trampled upon by the gentile armies. I do not think Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant to a foreign land (Ireland) because He knows what God says about Israel and how He would bring the people back one day. Jeremiah may have hidden it within Israel, whether Mt Nebo or Jerusalem. But would Jeremiah the prophet be allowed to go into the Holy of Hollies, to carry, touch or deal with the Ark of the Covenant? He may have arranged with the temple priests to do this. Possible.
Priests hiding the Ark in Israel
The theory that the priests who knew the prophecies, that destruction of the First Temple was imminent, took the Ark of the Covenant out of the Temple and kept it somewhere within Israel that won’t be suspected may be true. Possible.
The Ark of the Covenant in the Heavenly Temple
The reference to The Ark of the Covenant’s whereabouts in the last book of the Bible is found in Revelation 11:19. John in his vision saw the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of God in heaven. God took Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, Jesus was taken up into heaven, His power parted the Red Sea, brought forth water from the rock, raised the dead, and so many miracles that can not be explained in human logical terms. So if the Ark of the Covenant’s time and purpose was up and God took it back, before man trampled upon something holy and the Tablets of Stone upon which His own fingers engraved the Words of the Ten Commandments, all I can say is Praise God! God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours ways and thoughts.
Ezekiel’s Prophecy of the Third and Final Temple
Ezekiel 40-48 describes in great detail the future temple. When this will be built and by whom I don’t know. If The Ark of the Covenant is currently buried under the Temple Mount and is found, what will happen? I like Ezekiel 47 where he prophesied about the water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east. Wherever this water flowed, it healed, created new life and caused vegetation to grow that produced food and medicine. I believe this prophecy is about the Healing Waters of the Spirit of God. Zechariah also prophesized the same thing about the coming day of the LORD (Zechariah 14). The living waters shall flow from Jerusalem. The LORD shall be King over all the earth.
John, who saw the Ark of the Covenant in the heavenly Temple also saw in Revelation 21 the New Jerusalem. There was new heaven and new earth, the old ones passed away and there was no more sea. John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and a loud voice from heaven saying “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God”. Revelation 21:22 “But I saw no temple in it, for the LORD Almighty and the Lamb are its temple”.
Thus says the LORD,“Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What is the house that you would build for Me? And what is the place of My rest? For all these things My hand has made, and so all these things are mine”, Says the LORD. “But this is the man to whom I will look: he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my word”.
1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are".
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?"
God's Laws / Commandments
The Tablet of Testimony or the Tablet of Stone contained the Original Ten Commandments. God said this about His Laws through another Israel's prophet?
"Behold, the days are coming, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers......... But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel.., says the LORD: I will put My law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and his brother saying 'know the LORD', for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest', says the LORD. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more".
2 Corinthians 3:2-6
"You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on Tablets of Stone, but on Tablets of Human Hearts"...."Our sufficiency is from God, who has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life".
To conclude, may you draw your own conclusion. Have a Spirit-inspired life.
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" - The Bible.