HISTORY OF THE ARK OF THE COVENANT

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FROM ARK CONSTRUCTION TO ITS LOSS DURING JEREMIAH'S TIME

This updated chapter of my Ark Code book focuses on the Ark's construction, known travels, and disappearance from Jerusalem at the time of the prophet Jeremiah.

In Exodus 25: 10-16 God gave Moses instructions to build the Ark as follows:

They shall make an Ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits its length; a cubit and a half its width; and a cubit and a half its height. You shall cover it with pure gold, from within and from without shall you cover it, and you shall make on it a crown all around. You shall cast for it four rings of gold and place them on its four corners, two rings on its side and two rings on its second side. You shall make staves of acacia wood and cover them with gold; and insert the staves in the rings on the sides of the Ark, with which to carry the Ark, with which to carry the Ark. The staves shall remain in the rings of the Ark; they may not be removed from it. You shall place in the Ark the Testimonial-tablets that I shall give you.

The Ark was to have a cover of pure gold, with two gold cherubim facing each other (Exodus 25:17-21). The Torah then assigns radio-like qualities to the Ark when God declares to Moses:

It, is there that I will meet with you, and I shall speak with you from atop the Cover, from between the two cherubim that are on the Ark of the Testimonial tablets, everything that I shall command you to the Children of Israel.

Bezalel built the Ark to God's specifications (Exodus 37:1-9). How old is the Ark? The answer given depends on when one dates the Exodus.  Times range from 1201 to 1460 BCE.  When the Jerusalem Post covered my presentation in 1999, they gave a date of 1312 BCE for the Torah's delivery to Moses and subsequent Ark construction. Some tie the 9th plague of darkness with a total eclipse of the sun in parts of Egypt that occurred on March 27, 1335 BCE. Others link that plague with an eruption on Thira. The Bible speaks of a thick darkness that could be felt (Exodus 10:21-22). This may well have been volcanic ash blown to Egypt by the winds, but most scientists place the eruption centuries earlier (between 1650 and 1625 BCE).

With respect to an earlier date for the Exodus, 1st Kings 6:1 indicates that the exodus preceded the time when Solomon began to build the Temple by 480 years. If it took thirteen years to build the Temple and the Temple was finished in 950 BCE, then construction began in 963 BCE and the 480 years added to this figure yields a date of 1443 BCE. Dr. Randall Price in his book, In Search of Temple Treasures, placed the Ark’s construction at about 1446 BCE, a date that would be correct if the First Temple was completed in 953 BCE. Based on Scripture, the time frame of the 1440s BCE would seem to make the most sense, but there is no unanimous opinion with respect to the Exodus or Ark construction date.

After the death of Moses we read in Joshua 3:12-17 that when the Ark crossed the Jordan River, the river divided in miraculous fashion. Joshua 6:4-20 states that the Ark was also paraded before the walls of Jericho before they fell.

Delving Into Ark History   

The Tent of Meeting, which contained the Ark, was set up at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) where it remained for 369 to 389 years after having been at Gilgal except for a brief period at Shechem. According to the Soncino Commentary for Judges 20:26-27, when the Bible states that the Ark was in Beth-el, this does not mean the city by that name, but literally the house of God which was in fact in Shiloh (Soncino for Joshua and Judges, 309).

Samuel, as a boy, slept in the "temple" (buildings around the Tabernacle according to Kimchi, or as an attendant to the Ark) where the Ark was kept. There the Lord told him of a curse for Eli, a priest who had sinned.

The Ark was captured by the Philistines (1st Samuel 4:11) when Israel lost 30,000 men in battle. Eli had judged Israel for 40 years as a priest. As soon as Eli heard of the loss of the Ark, he fell off his seat backward, broke his neck, and died (1st Samue1 4:18). The Philistines took the Ark from Eben-ezer to Ashdod (what is today a modem port city of Israel). There they set it before an idol of Dagon, their god. The next morning Dagon had fallen on his face. They set Dagon back up, but the following morning he had fallen again breaking off his head and hands. With that the Philistines gave up belief in Dagon (1st Samue15:1-5).

The Philistines carted the Ark around for seven months, but it brought plagues wherever they went - giving them boils (1st Samuel 5:6) that might have been caused by bubonic plague (Soncino - 1st Samuel, p. 28). They carried it to Gath where this happened again, then to Ekron with the same results. On advice of their priests, they made golden images of boils and mice (which spread bubonic plague) as an offering to the God of Israel. They put the Ark and the jewels on a cart with two calves to pull it. Then the Philistines waited to see if the animals would take the Ark back to its home in Beth Shemish, a priestly city on the borders of the territory of Judah (probably the nearest Israelite town to Ekron). Sure enough, the animals took it straight there convincing the Philistines that they had sinned, and bringing great joy to the inhabitants of Beth Shemish. However, when the men of Beth Shemish looked inside the Ark, 50,070 of them were slain (1st Samuel 6:19). The inhabitants then requested people from Kirath-jearim to take it away (1st Samuel 6:21). These people brought it to the house of Abinadab where they sanctified his son Eleazar to keep the Ark (1st Samuel 7:1). It stayed in his home for 20 years.

King Saul did nothing with the Ark during his reign. Later, King David moved it without following the Biblical procedures of carrying it by Levites set forth in Exodus 25:14-15, etc.  Oxen had been pulling it on a cart, they stumbled, and Uzziah was killed when he touched the Ark while trying to steady it (2nd Samuel 6:6-7; 1st Chronicles 13:5-10). David then took the Ark to the home of Obed-edom the Gittite, a Levite from the family of Korah (later one of the doorkeepers of the Ark). The Ark stayed there for three months and Obed-edom was blessed (2nd Samuel 6:10-12; 1st Chronicles 3:13-14). This was around 1,000 BCE.

David next transferred the Ark to Jerusalem, leading the procession while wearing a priestly ephod (2 Sam. 6: 14). The Ark was then kept in the city of David in Jerusalem according to 2nd Samue16:12, but moved to the Tabernacle in Gibeon, the modern el-Jib six miles northwest of Jerusalem (1st Kings 3:4).

David wasn't permitted to build the first Temple to house the Ark, but he was allowed to make preparations for it. When he fled Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, he took the Ark with him, but then commanded the high priest, Zadok, to return it to the Holy City.

Solomon brought an end to the high places in Gibeon; and he offered sacrifices before the Ark in Jerusalem (1st Kings 3:15). About ten years later, around 950 BCE, he placed the Ark in the Temple that he had built.

Around 926 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.

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 (79-80) argues that Shishak’s own record indicates that he captured 156 cities, but does not list Jerusalem among them. He then concludes that the text in question only means that he extracted tribute from the city, but he never entered the Holy of Holies where the Ark was kept. The section in question does mention shields of gold, and it is likely that what were taken were treasures of that nature or spoils of wars taken from defeated foes.

The main problem with Shishak taking the Ark is that the Ark’s location is given again in 2nd Chronicles 35:1-3 where 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 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, along with vessels of the house of the Lord, was 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 idols. The result is set forth in 2nd Chronicles 36:18-19:

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…

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 rebuilt in splendid fashion by King Herod the Great; and finally 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 it 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 available for capture when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Second Temple.

Neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Titus were likely to have remained silent about the capture of the Ark had it come into their possession. Nor would the Bible be likely to remain silent about its capture, if such an event were known. Therefore, the only fates that would seem to make sense would be based around 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 you fear, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, where you were afraid, shall follow hard after you there in Egypt and there you 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,…  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 abandon 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 opponents 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, says 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…

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, a Migdol is also associated with the Exodus route in Numbers 33:7:

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

A map taken from the MacMillan Bible Atlas shows an area linked to Migdol, and to another site that is the secondary focus of my research – the fortress of Baal Zephon (see http://arkcode.com/images/mcmillan_bible_atlas.jpg).  British Admiralty Chart 56100 shows several ruins and one fort in the Migdol area today. All these range from about 21 to 29 nautical miles (24 to 33 statute miles) from my primary suspect Ark site in this book. An Arabian camel can 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.  If Jeremiah wanted to stay in touch with the Lord, even without the Codes, with Jeremiah 44:1 seen above, we now have reason to suspect that the Ark was taken to the Northern Sinai.

Jeremiah’s Fate

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. What is hinted at in the Codes? Jeremiah’s death in the land of Egypt seems to be 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 suggested by the Codes for the Ark (see figure below).   

 

JEREMIAH'S FATE IN TORAH CODES

The matrix below is based on an axis term of Jeremiah will die at skip 401.  All of the text is found between Exodus 13:15 (letter 35) and Exodus 15:14 (letter 2).