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Tracing the Covenant Ark I – The Mystery of the Ark

This is Part one of a talk I gave at Beit Yeshua in January 2017, or at least I got through what I could in the time limits available, and what I did get through was well received.

The Ark of the Covenant  is an object that evokes mystery, controversy and sometimes, mystification, almost from as soon as it was made.   Could it be, as the famous Indiana Jones movie depicted, packed up in some secret government depository?  According to the bible, on several occasions people who got too close or who touched it died instantly, so was it really an ancient weapon – as several authors have suggested, including one who went so far as to build a replica to show that it would have built up static electricity in the desert winds.  Does it still exist, or has it been destroyed?  Will it reappear ready for the Tribulation Temple?  Can we expect to see it suddenly found – or has it been found?  Did the early church have anything to say about it?  What can we learn, if anything, from Jewish tradition, or from scholars?

There are all sorts of myths and beliefs about the ark of covenant, ranging from being buried in Tara in Ireland, or being taken by an English nobleman to his estates, to being buried in a mountain in Jordan by Jeremiah, under the Temple mount or Calvary, or else it is in a church in Ethiopia, or it self destructed at the close of what scholars call the Great Zimbabwe civilization.  Other accounts have it being carried to Rome and destroyed in a fire in a church there centuries later, or even being carried physically into heaven.  Maybe you have your own preferred theory on it; I certainly do, which I will talk about later.

I want to start by just reading out the two mentions of the ark of the covenant in the New Testament.  The first, Hebrews 9.1-5, gives a useful introduction as to what was important about the ark of the covenant:

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.  A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.

The second is in the book of Revelation 11.19, immediately after the 24 heavenly elders declare that the time for judgement has come and God has taken up his rule:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

It is from this verse that, in some Christian circles at least, the notion has arisen that the ark has been removed by God to heaven.  We will come back and look at that issue later.

Click for Part 2