The Christ in Prophecy Journal

Biblical Archaeology: Ark of the Covenant

Archaeology Panel

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Where now is the Ark of the Covenant?

This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming has lived and taught in Israel for the past 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training. He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Christ.

Dr. Fleming: This is a very curious question that so many people have. It is interesting. We do know from the Bible in 2 Kings 25 that Nebuchadnezzar burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and every great man’s house he burned with fire. That is our last specific mention of the Ark. As you might have guessed, some people wondered if the Babylonians then destroy it.

What is clear is that Ezra returned and rebuilt the Temple in the early 500’s BC. Later, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls and things in the 400’s, and then later Herod the Great rebuilt it.

No Jewish source speaks of the Ark, and in fact the opposite. When the Temple in the time of Jesus was described in Jewish memory, it reported the Holy of Holies was an empty room. There was a stone that stood three fingers high above the rest of the floor where the ancient Ark of the Covenant used to be, but behind the veil or the curtain there was an empty room.

Jews were wise enough as they probably learned from the prophets to know that God does not dwell in a box. The Lord could still be in their worship and their hearts. I’d rather have mercy then sacrifice as the Lord said.

Ark of the Covenant

So, no, there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant. When the Roman’s destroyed the Temple in 70 AD, what did they show back in Rome on the victory march? It is the Temple lamp stand, the trumpets, the menorah, and things like that, but no Ark.

Arch of Titus

Dr. Reagan: I have read a lot of Jewish sources who truly believe that the Ark is somewhere beneath the Temple Mount. Their argument is this, that it would have been unthinkable to have the precious Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant in there without some sort of chamber that you could take it to and hide it in the event of a siege of Jerusalem. And so, they argue that surely somewhere underground there is a special chamber where the Ark was put. They argue that the reason it was always empty during the time of the Second Temple was because they were under Roman occupation and they did not think it was appropriate to bring it out and put it in the Holy of Holies as long as they were under occupation. What do you have to say about that?

Dr. Fleming: That’s an interesting theory, and none of them are mentioned at the time of the Roman period. These were made later looking back.

There certainly was time for the priests to hide the Ark. It was several weeks from when the Roman’s broke in through the northern wall of Jerusalem until when they set the Temple platform on fire that they could have secreted it away. On the other hand, we are told that they thought because it was a Holy Temple that God would protect them. They even brought the women and children up to the Temple Mount just before it was all set on fire. They may have felt that maybe it would not fall and that God would somehow send a miracle and the city would survive.

Dr. Reagan: There are some who think the Ark was raptured and taken to Heaven and that John saw it in Revelation when he saw an Ark in Heaven. What about that?

Dr. Fleming: Again, it is one of those things. Is that a theological statement, or is it man shooting, or is it a historical event?

Nathan Jones: What about Ethiopia? Last year they was a big announcement. A church there was finally going to show the Ark sitting in their church in Ethiopia. Have you been to that church?

Dr. Fleming: Yes, I have. It is at a city named Axum. Every year at the Feast of the Ark of the Covenant it is brought out on a procession from the Miriam Church out to a water source. They tell you that you can look at the reflection of the Ark in the water, but you can’t look directly at the Ark. There is a government control over this. Now, every Ethiopian Orthodox church has a replica of the Ark in their own sanctuary of their church. The replica looks nothing like the biblical drawings of it, and so I would be very skeptical.

Saint Mary of Zion Church

The other reason I’m skeptical has to do with the Queen of Sheba and Solomon.

Dr. Reagan: To me that is just absolutely absurd that there was this son born between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who went back and got the Ark and took it down to Ethiopia.

Dr. Fleming: It goes that Solomon gave it to him as a gift!

Dr. Reagan: I think that it just crazy.

In Jeremiah 3:16 it says, “In those days when you are multiplied increase in the land declares the Lord, they shall say no more the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and it shall not come to mind nor shall they remember it, nor shall they miss it, nor shall it be made again.” Does that have to do with the Millennial reign of Christ, or does it have to do with the Temple during the Tribulation?

Dr. Fleming: It seems like for the prophets they were worried about people putting too much emphasis on a particular structure or cultic thing. For them, of course, it was supposed to be about the Lord really wanting mercy. Maybe this passage was about getting some people away from putting too much emphasis on a tangible object of worship.

Dr. Reagan: What about the book of Maccabees which says that Jeremiah took the Ark to what is now modern day Jordan and hid it in Mount Nebo?

Dr. Fleming: It doesn’t specifically say that in the Maccabees, but this is a view that is often mentioned. This has made some people look at Mount Nebo. In all, there are 16 places people have guessed where it could be.

Dr. Reagan: So, the bottom line is we just don’t know what happened to the Ark of the Covenant.

Dr. Fleming: I hate to say it again, but we cannot be sure.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

15 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • The Ark of the Covenant was about the ‘Mosaic’ Covenant that was conditional. I think it was in Jeremiah’s time that that Covenant was considered broken? So as it was no longer signified, perhaps the priests were told to melt it down after the Glory had departed the Temple and they didn’t talk about it because they felt such shame?

    Boring film though.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark boring?!? Indiana Jones was one of THE action heroes for a whole generation of boys.

    Agreed, E.I., the earthly Ark was most probably melted down, but the original heavenly one remains.

  • No Nathan,I meant MY theory would make a boring film (after seeing 'Raiders of the Lost Ark')

    As for Indie, a whole generation of girls quite fancied the hero – even a few old girls 😉 I even have a leather hat like his IF it gets hot.

    God bless him for lighting up me life with a bit of 'daring do'.


  • Actually I think if you do a search the ark isn't mentioned in 2 Kings 25 as Dr. Fleming seemed to suggest. There is mention of it at all. The last mention appears to be in 2 Chronicles 35:3.

    And contrary to the good doctor Maccabees does say Jeremiah went to the mountain of God (Nebo) where Moses had gone up to view the promised land. And found a cave there and hid the Ark etc. in there and covered it over until God gathers His people again.

    I am an Indy fan too.Tried the hat but I looked like a very poor wannabe…It's hanging in the hall now gathering dust!

  • Hello Bob
    Nice to ‘see’ you!

    The ark isn’t mentioned in 2 Kings, but as it is a continuation of 1 Kings it has been named there several times. I think Dr.F is assuming it may have been among all the items noted in 2Kings25:13-17 that were taken away before they burned the Temple.

    God bless

  • Hello Bob

    Found the ref.

    2Macc2: 4 'The same document also describes how the prophet, warned by an oracle, gave orders for the tent and THE ARK to go with him, when he set out for the mountain which Moses had climbed to survey God's heritage.

    5 On his arrival, Jeremiah found a cave-dwelling, into which he put the tent, THE ARK and the altar of incense, afterwards blocking up the entrance.

    We mustn’t forget it isn’t ‘Canon’ and while the Macc revolt was real enough, it doesn’t mean this literature is valid Jewish history; its more like our ‘history’ of Robin Hood and King Arthur, bits of truth woven into a good story.

    Interestingly it is treated as ‘kosher’ by Rome AND ‘Latter Rain’! :-

  • EI,

    Are you actually intimating that "Robin Hood – Men In Tights", and "King Arthur" are NOT actually Canon, even tho they are accepted and "…treated as ‘kosher’ by Rome AND ‘Latter Rain’"?!?

    How could you???

  • DrNofog

    Uhhuh!It made Marianne mad n'all.
    She thot Friar Tuck were a Canon, instead he wuz a one man mobile chip merchant. Wen he got t
    Rome it was late an raining 'ard so he tucked into a cold Pizza as the frying fire fizzled from the wet JUST as the Popemobile were passing and told em straight that as chips were off,cold Pizza (as long as it was sectioned with Escaliber) was considered kosher.

    SEE? I had no choice but to tell the world.:(

    • Share this with everyone you can. I do.
      I even make a wood wall hanging with the cross and crack and chamber and all the pertinent bible verses including Dan 9:24. 1st John 5:7. AND Psalm 85:10
      Indeed…”every jot and tittle” the letter. Quite amazing..praise God for this proof in the latter days. Time must truly be short….


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