The idea that Jeremiah took the Ark and went to Mount Nebo in Jordan is attributed to the Apocryphal book of 2nd Maccabees (2nd Maccabees is not canonized Scripture to either Jews or Protestants):
And it was contained in the writing, that the prophet, being warned of God, commanded that the tabernacle and the ark should follow with him, when he went forth into the mountain where Moses went up and beheld the heritage of God. And Jeremiah came and found a chamber in the rock, and there he brought in the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense; and he made fast the door. And some of those that followed with him came there that they might mark the way, and could not find it. But when Jeremiah perceived it, he blamed them, saying, Yea and the place shall be unknown until God gather the people again together, and mercy come: and then shall the LORD disclose these things, and the glory of the LORD shall be seen, and the cloud. (2 Maccabees 2:4-7).
The above text was written in Greek sometime between 161 BCE and 125 BCE. It again indicates that Jeremiah, our prime suspect, took the Ark. He took it with the Tabernacle (that includes the Tent of Meeting). But that’s as far as the text goes at first in backing my theory (based in part on Torah Code matches of the Ark with the Tent of Meeting), and it’s where I have to go to work in addressing the Nebo site.
The main problem is that the text states that Jeremiah went forth into the mountain where Moses went up and beheld the heritage of God. This statement is correlated with Deuteronomy 32:49-50, which is where God tells Moses the following:
Ascend to this mount of Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, which is before Jericho, and see the Land of Canaan that I give to the Children of Israel as an inheritance, and die on the mountain…
The above would seem to argue strongly for a Mount Nebo site. But look again at 2nd Maccabees. It does not state that the Ark was in fact buried there. Indeed, it does state some of those that followed with him came there that they might mark the way, and could not find it. This appears to be deliberate on the part of Jeremiah. He was so certain that they would not find it there that he declared, The place shall be unknown until God gather the people again together, and mercy come: and then shall the LORD disclose these things, and the glory of the LORD shall be seen, and the cloud. The Ark was thus absent from the Second Temple, and remains missing to this very day.
There is a general consensus that the apocryphal book was referring to Mount Nebo. Setting aside the question of how its Greek writer knew about the details of this incident that occurred at least 425 years earlier, the fact is that the text does not specifically name Mount Nebo. Rather, it simply states that Jeremiah went forth into the mountain where Moses went up and beheld the heritage of God.
While it is true that Israel is the heritage of the Jews, Deuteronomy 33:4 states The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob. And this heritage was received on another mountain - in Egypt, Mount Sinai. In 1979, and again in 1987, I enjoyed climbing the Jebel Musa 7,497-foot peak at 28° 31' North, 33° 57' East generally believed to be Mount Sinai. But the actual peak is still a matter of great controversy. According to a chart in Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, unobstructed views from the top of Jebel Musa can extend up to 113 statute miles on a clear day (common in that part of the desert). For the adjoining Jebel Katherina peak at 8,651 feet, the unobstructed view is about 122 statute miles. By air, Eilat in Israel is about 104 statute miles from these two peaks. Thus Moses might have actually received the Torah as an inheritance and spotted his people’s other inheritance, Israel, for the first time at Sinai.
Mount Nebo rises nearly 4,000 feet above the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea below, but is 2,643 feet above sea level. At that altitude, an unobstructed horizon would be about 68 statute miles away. Deuteronomy 34:1-3 describes how much of Israel may be seen from there.
Did Jeremiah leave the Ark on Mount Nebo? If he did, his contemporaries who followed him there couldn’t find it at that location according to 2nd Maccabees. However his visit to this area before leaving for Egypt may suggest that he was deliberately reversing the pathway of the Exodus. If this were the case, it would be easy to see why this plan places him back in Egypt at Migdol, an area passed on the early stages of leaving Pharaoh’s rule some seven centuries earlier.
Mount Nebo has been searched for the Ark in modern times. An American named Tom Crotser announced the discovery of the Ark under Mount Pisgah, the highest peak in the Mount Nebo range in Jordan on October 31, 1981. What Crotser and his associates allege to have found on Nebo was a 600-foot tunnel with a room at the end measuring 10 feet by 12 feet. There he said he saw an object covered with a blue cloth with another wrapped object to its side. He goes on to say he removed the cover and took pictures of a golden-hued metal box that measured 62 inches long, 37 inches wide and 37 inches deep. Although there is dispute about the size of a cubit, these proportions at least match the Ark’s description as being two and a half cubits long by one and a half wide by one and a half deep.
Pictures were taken by Crotser. The Biblical Archeological Society asked renowned archeologist Seigfried Horn to investigate. His conclusions were published on page 69 in the May/June 1983 issue of Biblical Archeology Review. There he revealed that the object was a modern fabrication that “appeared to bear the markings of a machine-tooled design.” He also is mentioned on page 20 of Ark of the Covenant by Jonathan Gray. In that text the description given by Horn is of a “nail with a modem style of head protruding from the upper right hand comer of the box, with decorative strips obviously machine produced, i.e. not the genuine article.” Further, the initial description of the object by Crotser’s associate, Tim Bollinger, as given to the Dallas Morning News, was that its size was five feet long (60 inches), four feet high (48 inches) and four feet wide (48 inches again). Those measurements do not match the proportions outlined in Exodus 25:10 and 37:1.
Crotser had also described a cave entrance that was covered by a tin sheet, with the last 300 feet of tunnel lined on its sides with ancient tombs that resembled catacombs. Randall Price (In Search of Temple Treasures, p. 128) identified this site with the burial cave for the monks of the Church of the Franciscan Fathers of Terra Santa. Crotser claimed the monks are deliberately hiding the Ark. When pressed on the issue, Crotser told Dr. Shorrosh in an interview for The Wichita Eagle-Beacon that, “the mercy seat had probably been taken by Jeremiah to Ireland along with King Zedekiah's daughter when Jerusalem was destroyed.”
The bizarre Irish claim is plainly refuted by the Bible’s account of Jeremiah journeying to Egypt. Indeed, Ireland was nowhere on Jeremiah’s radar screen, as it isn’t even mentioned once in the entire Bible (even if we include the New Testament). Nor does Ireland even appear to be on anyone else’s radar screen then, as it wasn’t even cited in any literature until around 500 BCE when the Celts came on scene. Funks and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia indicates that Ireland was mentioned under the name of Ierne in a Greek poem in the 5th Century BCE, but that little was known of its inhabitants until the 4th century CE. So why would Jeremiah - with his great desire to serve God and the Jewish people - run to such a place where there was a Jewish population of zero?
The mercy seat is generally rendered as the cover of the Ark in Jewish translations. The last thing that I can imagine Jeremiah doing would be to remove the Ark’s cover and abscond with it while leaving the Ark behind. Such behavior might be expected of a thief who could not lift the entire heavy golden Ark himself. Nowhere, however, does Jeremiah appear to be a man of such character. In short, this idea is truly way out of line.
Crotser promised to release photographs to a London banker, David Rothschild, who he thinks is the direct descendant of Jesus (Price, 129). Rothschild declined to take delivery of the pictures. Price quotes Adnan Hadidi, director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities as saying, “The whole story, as far as we are concerned, is nonsense. This is an irresponsible group.” What was the motive here? As the group’s stories of the Ark’s size are not consistent, it seems likely the true motive was to gain access to funds they thought might be derived from David Rothschild (i.e., a scam that Rothschild didn’t fall for).