Skip to comments.Does 'lost' Ark exist in Ethiopia?
Posted on 08/18/2002 4:37:37 PM PDT by vannrox
August 17, 2002
Last modified August 17, 2002 - 12:37 am
Thanks to Hollywood's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the Ark of the Covenant is one of the most famous objects in the Bible. It's also one of the most mysterious, since the Bible doesn't say what happened to it. Ethiopian Christians, however, believe the ark still exists in their country. The biblical ark signified God's presence among his people. It was a wooden box containing the two tablets of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. In accord with God-given specifications (Exodus 25:10-22), the ark measured about 4 by 2.5 by 2.5 feet. There were two cherubs with outstretched wings on the lid, or "mercy seat." The ark was covered with gold and carried on poles inserted into rings as the Israelites migrated through the wilderness and Holy Land.
Divine powers rested with the ark. It dried up the Jordan River so the Israelites could cross (Joshua 3:14- 17) and brought plagues upon the Philistines when they seized it in battle (1 Samuel 4:11-5:12). King David installed the ark in a tent amid great rejoicing after he established Jerusalem as his capital (1 Samuel 6:1-19) and King Solomon ceremonially placed it in the Holy of Holies when the Temple was built (1 Kings 8:1-9). The ark still existed under King Josiah in the seventh century B.C.
Then it vanished.
The sacred box was somehow lost or destroyed when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 587 B.C., or before that since it wasn't listed with the spoils the conquerors took from the Temple (2 Kings 25:13-17). Israel never built a replacement ark, in accord with God's command in Jeremiah 3:16.
So runs the standard Jewish and Christian story.
But Ethiopian Orthodox Christians disagree. Raymond Matthew Wray of the American Catholic magazine Crisis, who wrote about his own search for the lost ark, said there are five ark scenarios: The Hollywood version had the ark sitting in a U.S. government warehouse.
Some think ancient Israelites hid it under the Temple when the Babylonians invaded. Others say the Babylonians stole or destroyed it. The amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt, who has since died, claimed he rediscovered the ark under the hill where Christ was crucified. There's no evidence for any of this. Then there's No. 5, the Ethiopian scenario.
The Bible reports that the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. Most scholars say she came from present-day Yemen.
But Ethiopian legend maintains she was from that country and gave birth to Solomon's son Menelik, who founded a monarchy that lasted until 1974. This tradition says when Menelik visited Solomon, his aides stole the ark and brought it home. It was kept for centuries in other locations but is now said to be held under strictest secrecy in the town of Axum (or Aksum).
Wray trekked to Axum to see what he could find. The ark site is St. Mary of Zion Chapel, a modest stone Orthodox sanctuary, roughly 40 feet square, on the grounds of the town's main church. In the past the ark was brought forth from the chapel annually but was never seen and was covered with a cloth, supposedly to protect the people from the ark's power.
Today, a replica known as a tabot is paraded instead, to protect the ark. Tabots are important in Ethiopian churches, filling a place similar to icons in Greek and Russian Orthodoxy. Wray met with Abba Welde Giorgis, described to him as the guardian of the ark. The guardian's lifetime appointment is a great honor but also a burden, since it prohibits him from leaving the chapel compound. Unfortunately, Wray's article tells us nothing about the Ethiopian ark itself, either because he did not probe or because Giorgis was reticent. Nor did an Associated Press reporter find out anything on a previous visit.
The ancient mystery lingers.
We do learn from Wray that Ethiopians believe the ark has helped protect their country, as it did ancient Israel. For instance, Ethiopia is almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims, who are in conflict in neighboring Sudan and elsewhere. But "everybody in Ethiopia is living peacefully," Giorgis said. "The ark is having an impact on everyone."
My own thought is that the Ark was removed from Jerusalem. There are bias relief sculptures in Rome indicating the Ark was brought to Rome by hadrian with orther treasures but no knoelwdge of what happened to it in Rome.
So, I guess the ark is kind of a metaphor for all of us when we accept His teachings and direction. There may be an actual Ark out there somewhere, but to me the idea behind the story is that with God in your heart (the Ten Commandments contained in the Ark), obstacles are few. I hope that made sense.
The professors debunk the Ethopia legend on the grounds that Aksum (the city where the Ark is located) did not exist at the time of Solomons reign in Israel--a valid objection.
However Hancock's thesis is that the Ark was removed from Israel during the reign of Manassa (about 650 BC--long after the time of the Menaleik legend which would have been in the middle of the tenth century BC) and taken to a newly constructed Temple on Elephantine Island in the Nile in Egypt where it was located for about two hundred years. There is significant historical support for the existence of the Temple; there is a large body of correspondence which survives between the priests of that temple who were Levites and the priests in Jerusalem and later with the excile community in Babylon.
Hancock trances the Ethiopian history on the ground from Elephantine to an island in Lake Tana where the Ark reposed for several hundred years when it was then moved to Aksum.
Supporting evidence is found in the history of the Knights Templer who were organized during the Crusades in Jerusalem for the purposes of finding the Ark. After substantial investigation there, they moved their focus to Ethopia and there is a body of evidence placing red haired Europeans in Ethopia in custody of the Ark just before King Philip destroyed the Templers.
Hancock's analysis hangs together very well--he is not part of the professional education community so they reject his work however I see the book as an excellant analysis of the evidence and it makes a good case that the object in the church of Christ Mary in Aksum is in fact the Ark.
I don't think there is any evidence in support of the "buried under the Temple Mount" argument--I think if it were buried under the Temple Mount or for that matter anywhere in proximity to Jerusalem, it would have appeared when Ezra reconstructed the Temple.
It should be noted in our time that Issah Chapter 18 is a prophecy that in a time of famine and tribulation in Ethopia, the Ethopians will send a gift to the mount of Zion which is an ensign (which the Ark was)--return of the Ark to Jerusalem would be likely to initiate a resumption of the sacrificial worship system, with or without reconstruction of the Temple; thus making possible fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 that the sacrifices would be interrupted at the commencement of the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24:15.
You mean Henry Jones didn't find it?
Could not have been, of course, for it was never even in the Second Temple, built c517 BC...
It had already been put down in the tunnel by Jeremiah and Baruch c610 BC.
No, you're thinking of someone else. There was never an
archaeologist person by that name. Really! (Grin)
If that is the case, then the ultimate question must be posed, "Why is it still sitting there and not brought out to unleash the almighty power that it contains to slay the Arabs who want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?"
The truth is they did try to go get it. They started digging under the dome of the rock and the arabs complained the israelis were trying to blow up the dome of the rock. They ended up stopping and according to jewish tradition it is still somewhere under the temple mount and will stay there until the messiah comes.