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History of the Ark of the Covenant - Shishak to Jeremiah

    Around 926 or 925 BCE the fate of the Ark begins to come into question. In 1st Kings 14:25-26 we read:




    And it came to pass in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; and he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all; and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.




    Another Ark hunter, Michael Sanders, speculates that Shishak took the Ark and placed it in an Egyptian ruin that has been under Palestinian Authority control in the town of Dhahiriya. He points to pictures on the walls there that look like the Ark, but the forms displayed seem more like river craft, and the motif of the Ark is somewhat Egyptian anyway. Sanders has explored the site and found nothing other than questionable pictures to back his assertion, though he hopes to have more luck there when the political situation calms down.

    Does 1st Kings 14:25-26 really point to when the Ark was taken into Egypt? The Ark is not specifically mentioned, but the text does state that he even took away all. The first problem here with the word all is that it directly follows the treasures of the house of the king, but it does not directly follow the treasures of the house of the Lord (i.e., the Temple). Dr. Randall Price (In Search of Temple Treasures, 79-80, 1984) argues that Shishak's own record indicates that he captured 156 cities, but does not list Jerusalem where the Ark was kept. The section in question does mention shields of gold, and it is likely that what was taken were treasures of that nature or spoils of wars taken from defeated foes.

   If we only had 1st Kings 14:25-26 to go on, we might argue that Shishak took the Ark and placed it in Dhahiriya, in the Valley of Kings, or at the site indicated by my own research. The problem with this line of logic is that it not only runs into the problems cited in the previous paragraph above, but that the location of the Ark is given again in the Bible. In 2nd Chronicles 35: 1-3 we read:




And Josiah kept a passover unto the LoRD in Jerusalem; and they killed the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month. And he set the priest in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LoRD. And he said unto the Levite that taught all Israel, that were unto the LoRD: Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; there shall no more be a burden upon your shoulders.




    The (Jewish) Soncino Commentary here (p. 334-335) states of Put the holy ark, etc., that, "It must have been removed from its place in the Holy of Holies during the period of apostasy in one of the preceding reigns, and King Josiah now ordered it to be restored. A Rabbinical explanation is that he commanded it to be hidden in a secret place so that it would escape capture by an invading army."


    The Soncino also provides a date for Josiah: 31 years of reigning in Judah (starting at age eight under guidance of priests and elders -see 2nd Kings 22:1), commencing in 637 BCE, nearly 300 years after Shishak's invasion. Price places these events at about 622 BCE. Therefore it would appear that: if the Ark went to Egypt, it must have been in the time of the prophet Jeremiah and the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar .


    After Josiah had repaired the Temple, King Neco of Egypt went up to fight against King Carchemish of Assyria whose power was weakened by a war with Babylon. The Egyptian king wanted to recapture Syria. Josiah opposed the Egyptian, despite an Egyptian plea to avoid hostilities. They fought at Megiddo. In the battle Josiah suffered a fatal wound. He was buried in Jerusalem with Jeremiah there to mourn his death (2nd Chronicles 35:24).

Josiah's son, Joahaz, assumed rule at age 23, but only ruled three months before being deposed by the king of Egypt. Neco set another of Josiah's sons, Eliakim, as king of Judah and Jerusalem -changing the new king's name to Jehoiakim. The Egyptian then took Joahaz to Egypt. Jehoiakim did evil in the eyes of the Lord. The death of Josiah, the assault on Jerusalem by an Egyptian king, and the rise of an evil king in Judah would all have served as reasons for Jeremiah or others to hide the Ark again.

   The Lord repaid Jehoiakim's evil conduct with an invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Of Jehoiakim's fate in 2nd Chronicles 36:6-7 we read:




Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried off the vessels of the house of the LoRD to Babylon, and put them in his Temple at Babylon.




    Nebuchadnezzar set up the son of Jehoiakim to rule Judah and Jerusalem. This king ruled only three months ten days. After doing evil he was, along with goodly vessels of the house of the Lord, brought by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar next set up Zedekiah, brother of Jehoiachin, as king over Judah and Jerusalem. Zedekiah ruled for eleven years, and again is judged as evil by the Bible. "He humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord." (2nd Chronicles 36:12). Zedekiah brought the ultimate disaster to his country by failing to heed Jeremiah, refusing to honor God, and even choosing to pollute the Temple with abominations (idols). The result is set forth in 2nd Chronicles 36:18-21:




   And all the vessels of the house of God; great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah...




   Thus, after several attacks on Jerusalem with treasures of the Temple being taken by or offered to foreign kings, the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. There is no mention of the Ark being put into or seen in the Second Temple.


    The Second Temple was constructed with permission of King Cyrus of Persia. It was completed in 516 BCE; later it was rebuilt in splendid fashion by King Herod the Great; and finally it was destroyed by Titus and the Roman legion in 70 CE. The Arch of Titus in Rome recalls the destruction of that Temple and portrays treasure taken from it, but does not display the Ark as one of those treasures. This fact would seem to cast doubt on any theories that the Ark is in the Vatican treasuries. There simply is no evidence that the Ark was in Jerusalem and its Second Temple to be available for capture when the Romans destroyed the Temple.

   Neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Titus were likely to have remained silent about the capture of the Ark being hidden or removed by priests or Jeremiah. This must have occurred sometime between its last mention in conjunction with Josiah in about 622 BCE and the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE, a period of about 36 years.

   When did Jeremiah preach? The Soncino places his prophetic career as occurring between the 13th year of Josiah's reign (625 BCE) and the fall of the First Temple in 586 BCE. We must assume that the man who cared the most about the Ark would also be the one to oversee its fate. Jeremiah was that man. Knowing that the Temple would be destroyed, his only options would be to (1) hide it beneath the Temple (as rabbinical tradition holds) or (2) remove the Ark from the Temple so that it would not suffer the same fate as all other Temple treasure. Whereas the Babylonians would have free reign of the Temple ruins, the later option would seem to make the most sense.

Now that we have a clearer picture of when the Ark disappeared, and who was responsible for its safeguard, let's turn to what is written in the Book of Jeremiah itself. Exactly what happened to Jeremiah when Jerusalem fell in 586 BCE?

   Nebuchadnezzar slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and then put out Zedekiah's eyes before taking him in fetters to Babylon (Jeremiah 39:6-7). The remnant of Judea not taken into captivity came to Jeremiah and asked him to pray to the Lord to tell them where they should go (Jeremiah 42:1-3). Jeremiah did not give them an answer for ten days (Jeremiah 42:7). This may be because the Lord was not inclined to deliver a speedy answer. But it may also be because the communication device, (i.e. the Ark) that Jeremiah needed to pray before, had already been whisked away to a safe distance. The location could have been one that would take up to five days each way to reach and return from. This is not likely to fit the description of any place near or under Jerusalem that might be accessible by tunnel.

    Jeremiah's answer to his countrymen about where to go was not what they wanted to hear:




...Thus saith the LoRD of hosts, the God of Israel: If you wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there,. then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye fear, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, where ye were afraid, shall follow hard after you there in Egypt,. and there ye shall die. (Jeremiah 42: 15-16)




Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men accused Jeremiah of speaking falsely about the Egyptian prohibition (Jeremiah 42:2).




But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnants of Judah, that were returned from the all the nations whither they had been driven to sojourn in the land of Judah; the men, and the women, and the king's daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Barach the son of Neriah; and they came into the land of Egypt; for they hearkened not to the voice of the LORD; and they came even unto Tahpanhes. (Jeremiah 43:5-7)




    Despite his warnings to kings and countrymen, Jeremiah could not turn his back on his wayward people. He hoped to reach them, even in Egypt, and convince them to turn back. But if he were to succeed, he would need a miracle. It would make sense to have the tool required for that miracle (the Ark) to be kept relatively close (but not close enough for wayward Jews to get a hold of). That way if his countrymen repented, they could return with the full protection of God as God had promised:




Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LoRD; for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will grant you compassion, that he may have compassion on you, and cause you to return to your own land. (Jeremiah 42: 11-12)




   Where did Jeremiah go to in Egypt? We saw mention above of Tahpanhes in Jeremiah 43:7, but in Jeremiah 44:1 we read the following:




The word of that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews that dwelt in the land of Egypt, that dwelt at Migdol, and at Tahpanes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros

MacMillan Bible Atlas Map Showing Migdol and Baal Zephon


    So there was a Jewish community at Migdol. Now with respect to this name, we must be cautious. Migdol in Hebrew means tower. The meaning is similar in Arabic, though it could also mean fort. There were many of these forts/towers in Egypt, usually distinguished by the name of the pharaoh who constructed it or by some local circumstance. However, the area shown in my Ark Code  book to be the primary suspect Ark site, when the Torah Codes are applied to the search, is in the area of Baal Zephon. Baal Zephon is covered elsewhere on this web site, however, in Numbers 33:7 we read the following of the Exodus route:



They journeyed from Etham and turned back before Pi-hahiroth, which is before Baal- Zephon, and they encamped before Migdol.



    Therefore, Jeremiah traveled to Egypt and spoke to the Jewish community of Migdol, which may have been close to the suspect Ark site in this book. If he wanted to stay in touch with the Lord, even without the Codes, we now have reason to suspect that the Ark was taken to this area in Northern Sinai.

The above extract from the MacMillan Bible Atlas shows a popular suspect site for Migdol. British Admiralty Chart 56100 shows several ruins and one fort in the area today. All these lie between 31 degrees 1 minute and 31 degrees 4 minutes North; 32 degrees 30.5 minutes and 30 degrees 40 minutes East, ranging from about 21 to 29 nautical miles (24 to 33 statute miles) from the primary Ark site in this book. An Arabian camel go travel up to 100 miles in a day, so these distances would certainly be within easy reach of Jeremiah if he preached in such a Migdol and wanted to pray before the Ark. It lends plausibility to the idea that the Ark was taken to the site indicated by my Codes research.

    How did the life of Jeremiah end? There seems to be unanimous belief that he died in Egypt, with some speculation in Funk and Wagnall's New Encyclopedia (unproven) that he may have been murdered by Jewish zealots. On August 3, 2008, the Israeli newspaper HaAretz published an article entitled Archeologists unearth proof of plot to kill Prophet Jeremiah. What is revealed in the Codes? The site of Jeremiah's death is quite clearly given there as the site in Egypt where the pillar of cloud and fire blocked the Egyptian army, and where Moses split the sea. This is precisely the area that the Codes reveals the Ark to be (see the figure below).