Ark of the Covenant
By Kenneth Frank Doig
Photo - Raiders of the Lost Ark
I was in Ethiopia for several years in the early 1960s, and a group of us spent time visiting archaeological sites. Is the Ark of the Covenant secreted there? What follows are a few thoughts on where it might be located... and, perhaps, to be revealed. Except the above image, all photos were taken by me with a 35mm film camera about 1962.
The Ark in Ethiopia
According to legend, Ethiopian King Menelik I was the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Menelik later visited his father in Jerusalem. There, he is said to have stolen the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple, replacing it with a copy. He brought the original Ark back to Ethiopia. This would have been around 950 BC.
Would the switch have been noticed? When carried about the Ark was shrouded with a covering of goatskin and a blue cloth spread on top (Numbers 4:6). Seeing the Ark had caused death to many (2 Samuel 6:19), and there was a warning against viewing it (Numbers 4:20). When the Ark was in the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple it may have always been covered. An appropriately shaped and weighted container under goatskins and a blue cloth would avoid detection when infrequently visited by a priest.
The last mention of the Ark was in the 18th year of King Josiah, c. 624 BC. He said, “Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon son of David king of Israel built. It is not to be carried about on your shoulders." (2 Chronicles 35:3) Was it covered and unseen? Or if uncovered, recognized by anyone to be a fake?
Menelik may have removed the Ark to Ethiopia.
Another theory about how the Ark might have arrived in Ethiopia begins with Nebuchadnezzar attacking Jerusalem in 597 BC. Priests are said to have removed it and taken it to safety in Egypt, along with Jeremiah (see below). There was a Jewish Temple on the island of Elephantine, first settled by mercenary Jewish soldier c. 650 BC. The Jewish Elephantine Papyri cover the period c. 495-399 BC. With the changing political situation the Jews abandoned Elephantine, perhaps taking the Ark up the Nile, and veering left up the Blue Nile into Ethiopia. This may have been the source of Beta Israel, Ethiopian Jews who later refused to convert to Christianity in the 4th Century AD.
OK, so maybe the Ark is in Ethiopia. The "official" story is that it was held in the Church or St. Mary of Zion in Axum. When a divine heat from the Tablets in the Ark cracked the stones of the sanctuary, the Chapel of the Tablet was built to guard it.
Click photos to enlarge
We visited Axum, where the Queen of Sheba is supposed to have resided (from southern Arabia). We went inside the Church of St. Mary and looked around with no interference, but no Ark. At the Chapel of the Tablet priests brought out golden crowns, but no Ark. We were allowed inside the protective fence to photograph. There was no indication in their demeanor or response that they had the Ark to protect.
Our translator spotted the Head Abuna (chief priest) about to enter his living quarters. He asked the priest about the location of the Ark. He replied that it was not here but secreted elsewhere in Ethiopia, but where he would not say. His response confirmed our earlier suspicion that the Ark was not in the Chapel of the Tablet. So where was it?
Where would the Ethiopians hide the Ark if their country was being overrun by invading Muslims who destroyed everything Christian (or Jewish) in their path? The Somali Ahmad Gragn invaded Ethiopia in 1529 and conquered most of Ethiopia, being killed in battle there in 1543. He destroyed the original church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum. There was only one place he did not capture: Debre Damo.
Debre Damo is a monastery built about the 6th Century. It is on a flat-topped volcanic plug with sheer sides, only accessible by climbing a rope. It is noted for its collection of crowns and ancient manuscripts, still extant because the priests didn't lower a rope for Ahmad Gragn. The monastery was only accessible to us by an bumpy dirt road, an uphill hike, and a welcome rope. There we were shown a number of paintings, manuscripts, and crowns.
Click photos to enlarge
They did not bring out the Ark. They would not let us enter the main monastery or the extensive catacombs inside the mountain. There were several armed guards at the entrance to the catacombs. They told us these areas have been sanctified for a coming funeral, and, indeed, as we went down the rope there was a group approaching with a shrouded body. I like to think that the Ark is in the catacombs, and I stood over it (did my feet vibrate at bit?).
Before you consider the monastic life, think about the plumbing. I drank from this moss-covered cistern.
Click photo to enlarge
Water Supply at Debre Damo
The Ark in Mount Nebo
There is one semi-official account of the Ark being removed by the Prophet Jeremiah. It reads:
This occurred shortly before Nebuchadnezzar's army conquered Jerusalem on March 15, 597 BC. Jeremiah removed the Ark of the Covenant, Tent of the Tabernacle, and Altar of Incense and put them in a cave on Mount Nebo, now in Jordan. (Deuteronomy 34:1-5) Nebuchadnezzar had a very detailed account recorded when the Temple treasures were later removed to Babylon, and these three holy items were not among the loot.
So here is a prophesy that the Ark will be revealed after the Jews are re-gathered as a nation. Didn't that happen a little over 70 years ago? So, at the appropriate moment, God may time an earthquake to open the mouth of that cave. The Jews will want that Ark to grace their Temple III.
Or, was the Ark soon retrieved from the cave, and the remaining Jewish leaders and military, "took Jeremiah the prophet ... along with them. So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord and went as far as Tahpanhes." (Jeremiah 43:6-7) Was the Ark then taken up the Nile to the Temple at Elephantine Island, and then on to Ethiopia?
Or, somehow, did it end up near Lake Tiberius or thereabouts.
PS: This date in 597 BC and the hidden Alter of Incense may be key to understanding Daniel's prophesy of the 1290 + 1335 days. (Daniel 12:11-12) The Altar of Incense, possibly the original, will be used at the dedication of Temple III at the end of 1335 days. See the exact solution of Daniel's last prophesy with an actual photo of the Abomination of Desolation.
The Ark at Lake Tiberius or Thereabouts
Muhammad had a word on the Ark and the Mahdi, our future world ruler whose mission will be to bring Islam to the entire planet. This was echoed in later hadith.
Perhaps the Mahdi will be able to contribute to the dedication of Temple III. Who are the pesky Two Witnesses out there making a fuss?
The Ark Hidden in the Temple Mount
Maybe. It is not listed in the Copper Scroll. It has been suggested by some hiding in a deep cistern in the City of David, but no digging allowed. Ron Wyatt found it near the Garden Tomb with Jesus' DNA, but where is it now? The labyrinth of tunnels inside the Temple Mount and adjoining have been scoured. Some of the wilder locations are in South Africa, France, Rome, and Ireland, or, perhaps, the Anubis Shrine found in King Tut's tomb. Where will the goat skin and blue cloth be peeled back to reveal the golden-winged cherubim guarding that Ark?
The Ark in Heaven
Where will the Ark end it's journey?