The Missing Ark?

Q. A friend of mine told me that he did not believe that the Jews had the Ark of the Covenant in any temple since Solomon’s. I find this hard to believe because of the decree that went out to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-2)—that the temple would be rebuilt without its furnishings. I remember that when Solomon was building his temple they made a new brazen altar even though one already existed in the Tabernacle. Yes, the Ark was brought over from the tabernacle, but it already had been in Jerusalem at David’s house. Any thoughts?

A. The subject of the ark is rife with speculation, ala “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” One pseudo-archeologist name Wyatt professed to have found it in a cave directly under a crack that came down from where the cross had stood, and some of Jesus’ blood had trickled through the crack and landed right on the Mercy Seat! The kicker? He had made a promise to some Orthodox rabbis, so couldn’t show anyone else.

Most arguments re the ark are based either on the silence of Scripture or on extra-biblical references. What do we actually know? First, that the last time we hear about the physical ark (I’m not talking about NT typical applications) it’s in 2 Chron 35:3, in the days of good king Josiah when he restored the worship of Jehovah. It had obviously been taken out and hidden when Shishak pillaged Jerusalem (2 Chron 12:9) where it says “he took everything” but the ark was still in Israel in order for Josiah to install it later on.

The next time the temple was robbed of its contents would be by the Babylonians. But in the detailed record of the things taken (Jer 52:17-23), it isn’t there! Surely the most valuable piece of furniture in the temple would have been listed if it WAS there. But nothing.

Next we come to the restoration of the temple in the days of Ezra. Ezra 1:7-11 again gives an inventory of items returned (where is that missing knife?) but the ark is not mentioned. Of course, neither is the bronze altar or sea, the showbread table, the menorah, etc. So it seems only the small items are here mentioned and an argument from silence is weak at best. But we ARE told that Darius fulfilled Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 7:19): “And let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God” (Ezra 6:5).

Now, to my mind, the theory of the missing ark breaks down. We’re familiar with the Bible study that Ezra had with the people at the Water Gate (Neh 8:1ff). They went through “the book of the Law” and learned how to begin again using the temple. How could temple service be continued without the holy vessels? Impossible! It would make every feast a sham. The Great Day of Atonement would be a farce.

So we read in Neh 10:39, that they were to bring all the supplies necessary for Divine service to be stored in rooms in close proximity to “where the articles of the sanctuary are.” What are the articles of the sanctuary? According to Heb 9:3-4, the golden censer and the ark.

But mystery remains. In the Arch of Titus, we see the Roman spoils of Jerusalem’s destruction. There is the menorah, the silver trumpets, the fire pans for removing the ashes from the altar, and the table of showbread. But no ark.

There are all kinds of theories. The queen of Sheba (who supposedly had a baby by Solomon) brought it back to Ethiopia. Thus the last king of Ethiopia, Haile Selasse, called himself “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”

Then there’s the one that Jeremiah hid it at Mount Nebo. Or that he brought it to Egypt with him. Or that the Copper Scroll of Qumran tells where it’s hidden in a cave near the Dead Sea. Etc., etc., etc.

Some years ago, I wrote a brief editorial on the subject. It give a spiritual, not historical, answer to the question: I Know Where The Ark Is

I’m glad we have access to the real Ark in the True Sanctuary by a “new and living way” consecrated for us by precious blood!

Ironically, here’s the Uplook daily devotional today (at time of writing): CHRIST the MERCY SEAT

Jabe Nicholson