Today, May 11, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPC7e4EI0I8 I found an times amusing, but very misinformed rebuttal to my article.It was useful in catching a spelling mistake for a word that my spell check missed (ETHIOPIAN) because it does not check words that are all in capital letters.However, after you have read my article below, and had a chance to hear what these people have posted on youtube in two parts (21 minutes 18 seconds), then please read my rebuttal to them.This should be posted in full by about 10 PM Eastern time tonight.
THE SERIOUS ANALYSIS OF PREVIOUS ETHIOPIAN CLAIMS
One of the most publicized ideas about the Ark being removed from Israel relates the belief that it is now intact and well in Ethiopia. This belief was given some credence by Graham Hancock in his book entitled, THE SIGN AND THE SEAL. In it, Hancock claims to have traveled to Lalibela - a town in the region of Axum, Ethiopia - where he interviewed the priest who claimed to be the guardian of the Ark.
Hancock wanted to know if the Ark was stolen by Prince Menelik, a son of King Solomon that was supposedly born to the Queen of Sheba when she returned to Ethiopia. The monk then allegedly provided the following story:
When he had reached the age of twenty, Menelik himself traveled from Ethiopia to Israel and arrived at his father’s court… After a year had passed, however, the elders of the land…complained that Solomon showed him too much favour and they insisted that he must go back to Ethiopia. This the king accepted on the condition that the first-born sons of all the elders should also be sent to accompany him. Amongst these latter was Azarius, son of Zadok the High Priest of Israel, and it was Azarius, not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Indeed the group of young men did not reveal the theft to Menelik until they were far away from Jerusalem…. he understood that they could not have succeeded in so bold a venture unless God had willed it. Therefore, he agreed that the Ark should remain with them. And it was thus that it was brought to Ethiopia…
Hancock wanted to know if the Ark was ever shown in public. He states that the priest responded as follows:
In the very distant past the relic had been brought out during all the most important church festivals. More recently its use in religious processions had been limited to just one occasion a year. That occasion was the ceremony known as Timkat that took place every January.
During the Timkat ceremony, Ark replicas (Tabots) are paraded. Even the miniature boxes are draped in colorful embroidered silks with silver and gold brocades, shielded from the prying eyes of the pilgrims and tourists. When, in 1986, Hancock pressed the issue by offering to come back the following January to see the Ark itself paraded, he says he was told:
There is turmoil and civil war in the land...In such circumstances it is unlikely that the true Ark will be used again in the ceremonies...Besides, even in time of peace you would not be able to see it. It is my responsibility to wrap it entirely in thick cloths before it is carried in the processions...
The monk explained wrapping in terms of protecting the laity from it. Thus what we have is one (half blind) man from the chapel besides Saint Mary of ZionChurch claiming to possess the Ark. When he brings out the relic to parade it before the people, it’s hidden under thick cloths, so that what is seen is of little or no scientific value in terms of establishing his credence.
What happened since Hancock’s 1986 trip? From January 12-29, 2003 there was an Ethiopian Expedition conducted by Chuck Missler. In evaluating what Mr. Missler learned, it’s important to focus on inconsistencies between his account and Hancock’s version of how the Ark got to Ethiopia. We saw above that the monk at St. Mary of ZionChurch claimed that the Ark was stolen during the reign of King Solomon, who ruled from about 965 BCE to 931 BCE. But after Missler came back from the Church site, he published the following report:
Based on 2Chronicles 35, it appears that the Levites had removed the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to protect it from the ravages of Manasseh and sought protection under Pharaoh Necho. (Pharaoh Necho, incidentally, was an Ethiopian, descended from XXV Dynasty, known as the Ethiopian Dynasty). This relic, along with its Levitical retinue, apparently remained ensconced at Elephantine Island in Egypt for two centuries before it was moved south to Tana Qirqos Island on Lake Tana in Ethiopia, where it remained for eight centuries before moving to Axum, where it has been secured in a highly protected bunker-like building to this day.
Manasseh ruled Israel from 687-643 BCE. The difference between the end of Solomon’s rule and the beginning of Manasseh’s is a not so trivial 244 years. As for 2 Chronicles Chapter 35 (Verse 3), that is where Josiah instructed the Levites to put the Ark back in the house which Solomon built! If the Levites still had the Ark during Josiah’s reign, it follows that neither Azarius, nor Menelik had the Ark in their possession.
What they might have had is a replica (i.e., a souvenir) of the Temple in Jerusalem and its Ark. Souvenirs are still a big business in Jerusalem to this day. I myself bought such a model there of the Ark being paraded.Is there any evidence supporting a tradition of such souvenirs being in use in Axum, Ethiopia today? There certainly is.Missler describes the January ceremony in Ethiopia as follows:
The actual Ark does not leave its secluded vaults, nor does the Guardian leave its side. Ceremonial replicas and other elements are used in the celebration.
Even the Ark replicas are guarded; apparently Graham Hancock was shown samples in the BritishMuseum. They were not in the shape of an oblong chest, like the Ark of the Covenant. Rather, the samples there were simply wooden slabs with writing on them. At first this caused him to doubt the whole story, but later he took the view that they were replicas of the Tablets of the Law which were put in the Ark.
There is evidence that copies of the Ark were made. One of these may have found its way first to ElephantineIsland, which lies in the middle of the Nile, near Aswan, Egypt. A Jewish colony there built a copy of the FirstTemple during Manasseh’s reign. It was destroyed around 410 BCE, but an Ark copy might have found its way to Ethiopia. Why wouldn’t Jeremiah want the real Ark taken to Elephantine? No legitimate Jewish prophet could sanction what would appear to be the permanent moving of the Temple from Israel back to Egypt. God clearly opposed any movement of Jews there. And what is the evidence that copies of the Ark were made? As was shown before, Jeremiah 3:16 states, The Ark of the Covenant ...neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more.It is the final part of the verse in question that strongly implies copies had been made. If a copy were made during the reign of Solomon and then given to the Queen of Sheba as a souvenir, it would certainly have been made with real gold. It would be a priceless ancient artifact, easy to confuse with the real Ark. The difference would be that it would not contain the Tablets written with the finger of God. This, at best, may be what is to be found in the church at Axum, Ethiopia today. The real Ark remains to be found.
ABOVE: PHOTOS OF THE CHURCH IN ETHIOPIA THAT CLAIMS TO POSSESS THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. Pictures taken from http://www.sacredsites.com/africa/ethiopia/sacred_sites_ethiopia.html.
First of all, the youtube video repeatedly refers to me as "they." I am not backed by any organization. This web site is mine. The articles are mine. I am a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer, an Orthodox Jew, and a Levite - but I do not have a problem with calling myself a Jew. The youtube video is apparently focused on racism, but it fails to see that its approach is entirely racist. At one point on the video a slide appears that states, "They use 'Jewish" to say white folks and not Hebrews to say black." I have often heard such racist remarks from this group before. So let me be clear, Israel is proud of its Jewish/Hebrew blacks. as are all religious Jews. It worked hard to try to airlift them out of Ethiopia the moment that it was permitted to do so. My wife is not white. She is fully accepted by all the vast majority of all Jews that I have met (with only one single exception).
The issue of color is totally irrelevant to the issue of what happened to the Ark. Ethiopia is added in my book (Ark Code, Searching for the Ark of the Covenant using ELS Maps from the Bible Code) only because, in conjunction with Torah/Bible Code maps, I thought it useful to the readers to survey all major competing ideas about the Ark's fate. Chapter 3 of my book also discusses possibilities that the Ark was destroyed, captured by the Romans, might be found by Vendyl Jones, is still under Jerusalem, in Ireland, in Jordan on Mount Nebo, under Calvary, taken by the Knights Templar, and in the Vatican.
The video focuses on the following section taken from page 57 in my book:
Why wouldn’t Jeremiah want the real Ark taken to Elephantine? No legitimate Jewish prophet could sanction what would appear to be the permanent moving of the Temple from Israel back to Egypt. God clearly opposed any movement of Jews there. And what is the evidence that copies of the Ark were made? As was shown before, Jeremiah 3:16 states, The Ark of the Covenant ...neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more. In particular, the narrator of the video is surprised and upset by the words neither shall it be made any more. For all Tenach (Old Testament) Scripture, I use the translation found in the Soncino Books of the Bible. However the video translates Jeremiah 3:16 as The Ark of the Covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit [it]; neither shall [that] be done anymore. It appears that the narrator is not familiar with Hebrew. As can be seen on the top right side of the figure below, the Hebrew is not provided. I have provided it on the top left side. So who is correct? Does the Hebrew verb here (pronounced ya aseh) mean will make or will be done? The honest answer, not hinted at on the opposing web site, is that both translations are common and acceptable! So, rather than this being a "false version" as labeled by the Ethiopians, it is fully accepted by numerous common translations. However, for those who are curious about parallel translations, I found the following Jeremiah 3:16 endings online:
Who should we believe? Certainly not racists who do not know Hebrew, or who mislead their readers into thinking that they have only correct translation when a simple Hebrew dictionary (and common sense) show that they wrong.
One the most ludicrous aspects of the Ethiopian site is its focus on European Jews, totally ignoring the Sephardi (largely non-European) Jewish population in Israel. There are plenty of 100% legitimate Ethiopian Jews in Israel. They are very black, and just as Israeli. Their young sport the same machine guns as those carried by "white" Israelis in the Israeli Army. This is not to say that all Israelis are non racist. Racism exists everywhere. But the true picture of Israel is much closer to a society reaching out to its black component to help whenever possible, and with gratitude for serving in its military forces like all other ethnic Jewish groups do in Israel.
Finally, the Ethiopian web site takes exception to my remarks about legitimate Jewish prophets. They obviously include Jesus among them. Jewish theology deems the Nazarene to have been a false prophet. I make no apology about it.