The Ark of the Covenant – on the trail again!

My Google Alert to Jerusalem Archaeology brought it all back: “The lost Ark: are the Germans on its trail?” Of course, the content of the article which reported that a researcher from the University of Hamburg claimed to have found the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum, Ethiopia and an altar that may have held the Ark, made me file it away in my file called “Weird.” Here, I tuck away some of the more outrageous snippets on Biblical Archaeology that come my way, together with some of the wackier emails I receive. The Ark of the Covenant is overwhelmingly the subject of most of these enquiries. Since my first involvement in the Temple Mount Excavations in 1973, not a week has gone by without some enquiry into its location. Invariably the writer has an idea of his/her own – one of the wackiest suggestions was that the Ark was hidden inside the Black Stone of Mecca!

As readers of this blog will know, my research into the Temple Mount over the years has led to the finding of the location of where the Ark stood in Solomon’s Temple. I believe that this is as close as we may ever come to the finding of the lost Ark. Now, with the latest Indiana Jones movie due out next week, after a gap of 19 years, people’s minds go back to the original Raiders of the Lost Ark movie made in 1981. This, together with the latest claim in a long line of claims of finding the Ark, reminds me of the links (many inadvertently!) we have had to this search.

Thought that readers might find some of these links interesting or at at least a bit of light relief!

My wife, Kathleen was brought up from age 1 to 8 near the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, Ireland where certain believe the Ark to have been buried by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem. Here is a picture of her, taken on a visit in 1997, on the hill of Tara next to the illegal excavations carried out by a group searching for the Ark of the Covenant:


• We lived for 4 years in the Ethiopian Quarter in Jerusalem where the devout Ethiopian Orthodox residents took it for a fact that the artefact so carefully guarded by the monks at Axum was indeed the Ark of the Covenant. “Did we not know that a group of Israeli soldiers had twice tried to wrest it from the Ethiopians and recover it to Israel?”

• During the eighties, we worked on a design project with Vendyl Jones, the Texan self-styled archaeologist who claimed to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones. His claim has been debunked, with the honour going to the dog of George Lucas (co-producer of the film), who was with him when he wrote the story.

• The original opportunity for me to measure and draw up Warren’s Gate in 1981, came from a group of rabbis’ illegal excavation of this gate for the purpose of finding the Ark deep beneath the Temple Mount.

(Now they get a bit more ridiculous!)

• When we were recently leaving Australia for the UK, I tried to leave behind my battered fedora, veteran of many Israeli digs and Aussie bush expeditions, but my son Joel would not let me, even though I had a new Akubra!

• Finally, I can’t stop some wags from playing the theme tune from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when I walk in to give a lecture!

BTW, for an overview of the story of the journeyings of the Ark see our book: “From Sinai to Jerusalem”.

29 thoughts on “The Ark of the Covenant – on the trail again!”

  1. To Hugh McHugh:

    Just keep praying and I agree with you that the Ark will be found in God’s own time.

    To Bobbi:
    It depends what we understand with “heaven” in this context. In Ch. 12 it speaks of a pregnant woman in heaven (vs. 1), there is also a red dragon (vs. 3) and then there is war in heaven (vs. 7). What’s going on? Can there really be pregnant women, red dragons and war in the heavens where God dwells? Sounds improbable to me. The Book of Revelation is a book of signs and therefore “heaven” signifies something on earth, which I suggest is the ruling powers. An example of this kind of figurative language can be found in Lev. 26:19 “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass”. The vision in Revelation of the Ark in the Temple, means to me that the Ark will be found and put inside a new Temple in Jerusalem, hopefully in the near future.

  2. I have been investigating a site east of Jerusalem for several years. It appears to be a place where the Ark was setup in the time of Joshua. The features at the site have an arrangement that fits the Tempoe Mount in Jerusalem very well at a scale of 7.2 (temple Mount) to 1 (site dimentions). When it is complete I wish to send you a copy of the manuscript for comments. Curiously, the tabernacle must have been oriented north to south instead of east to west at this place. My arguments take this orientation problem into account. I think you will be interrested also in how a certain map of some of the stars fits the site as well as the Jerusalem area.
    Thanks. The oreintation of the site is toward a specific part of a certain constellation known as Cygnus at a certain time when Cygnus was at the zenith.

  3. Did the disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant catch God completely off guard? His Ten Commandments were inside the Ark. Does he know what happened to it? If so, would he put a map in a bottle to float up onto a beach someplace? Or, would He have had his prophets write about it in the scriptures? He would have chosen the latter, I think.

    When the scriptures are read as though they were written by a genius, choosing words with more than one meaning, then deeper truths begin to emerge. The scripures tell us the Ark was seized by Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak, likely delivered to Tyre, where it was shipped to an Island in the Aegean Sea called Tyrus. The prophet Ezekiel describes Tyrus (Ch. 26, 27, 28) and Homer’s Illiad calls this destroyed island Chryse Island. It is currently secreted in an underground treasure crypt on Lemnos Island. I have digital photos of this location and would like to work with an archeology team to restore the Ark to Jerusalem. The details about Tyrus and the Ark is a long story which I will explain to an archeology team interested in recovering the Ark. I can be reached at luvtu77 at

    Thank you for your interest in the Ark.

  4. I do have some thoughts on the ark. Hopefully this will be a help to the serious reader. The ark of the covenant is first mentioned in Exod. 25:10–22; it was constructed in the desert (Exodus 19-24 gives the progression leading up to God’s instructions for construction). The workmanship of the ark is articulated in (Exod. 37:1–9). The Ark appears to be a copy of what is in heaven. The thought that the ark is a copy is based on several passages. Acts 7:44 says: “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen, ESV. Heb 8:5 says: They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” And Heb. 9:23, 24 says: Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; NASB. Another very important passage to look at is in the book of Revelation. After the two witness are killed and they arrive in heaven here is what they see: Rev. 11:19 says: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” This passage makes it clear that there appears to be an original ark. I believe the earthly, handmade ark was patterned after it.
    Several passages affirm that there is a temple in heaven (Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:19; 15:5) and apparently an ark is literally in heaven as was mentioned above. But back on earth we have several other things to think about. Initially the ark had three things in it. Hebrews 9:4 says: “having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” However, when the ark finally got to its resting place in Solomon’s temple, two of the three items that were in it were already lost. The bowl of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded are clearly indicated as gone. 1 Kings 8:9 says: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt” ESV.
    Now some additional notes about the ark on earth. It is important to recognize that there were multiple problems for people in general if the ark was not handled or moved correctly. And, simply possessing the ark did not always mean blessing or victory. Most often after the wilderness wanderings there was sickness or death. One should take the time to review each of these passages carefully. The ark was captured in battle by the Philistines (1 Sam 4:10–11) but returned by them to Beth Shemesh (1 Sam 6:13–16). It was later removed to Kiriath Jearim (1 Sam 7:1) and taken by David to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1–15). Finally, it was moved correctly and it was placed in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs 8:5–6). The ark is last mentioned in 2 Chr 35:3. So what happened to the ark after all of this? I believe it was either destroyed or taken to Babylon as a trophy of war in 587 B.C. But the trophy theory is not likely. Now why do I think that? The ark is not specifically listed in any of the inventories either of items taken by the Babylonians; Daniel 1:2, 5:1-3; 2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chronicles 36:7, 10, 18, 19; 2 Kings 25:9-16; Jeremiah 27:16, 52:17-23; or in any inventories of items returned to Israel: Ezra 1:1-11, 5:14, 6:5. Was it stolen or hidden? Will it be discovered in the future?
    I have come to the conclusion that the ark is in fact that it is lost—gone forever. The basis for that conclusion is Jeremiah 3:16-18 which says: “And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.”
    What is the time frame that is being spoken of. I think it is coming up soon. So here is the scenario; Israel will be back in the land, the temple is rebuilt and fully established, but there is no ark. The fact that Jeremiah 3:16 says; “it shall not be made again” seems final for the earthly ark.
    So is the ark important for the future? We need to note that when the 2nd temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel (536-515 BCE) there was no ark in it. When Herod rebuilt the temple 19 BCE – 65ACE (which was even being worked on when Jesus was on earth and was working in Jerusalem) there was no ark in it. Jesus, John the Baptist, none of the disciples made any statements about or have an issue with the lack of the ark during their ministries. When Ezekiel speaks of a future 3rd temple with all of the detail that he gives, Ezekiel’s temple has no ark, no golden altar of incense, no lampstand, no table of bread, no veil, or a high priest. He includes only three of the five levitical sacrifices, and two of the seven annual Jewish feasts. I believe Ezekiel’s temple is established in the time frame that Jeremiah is referring to.
    So let’s look at Jeremiah 3:16 again. “And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.”
    There it is. The ark is GONE!
    Now let’s look at a problem! Second Maccabees 2:4–7 says that Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave where it will remain undiscovered until God regathers his people. 2 Mac 2:4 says: “It was also in the same document that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. 5 Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. 6 Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way, but could not find it. 7 When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy.” Here is the problem. This passage would seem to be a direct contradiction of Jeremiah 3:16 stated above. But, no serious scholars put Maccabees on the same level of authority as Jeremiah, so I am forced to go with Jeremiah’s rendering.
    But for all ark lovers, once again, it would seem that the original ark in heaven is not lost. Yet! Revelation 11:19 mentions the “ark of his covenant” in God’s temple in heaven, an archetype or heavenly counterpart of the earthly ark in Jerusalem.
    But, is it important? During the millennial reign of Christ on earth with Ezekiel’s temple fully functional a sacrificial system is in place, but as was clearly pointed out in Ezekiel 40-49 there is no ark.
    Several passages affirm that there is now a temple in heaven (Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:19; 15:5). But, in Revelation 21:22 it is clear there is none in eternity. Many things are different. Revelation 21:22 plainly states that there is no temple. “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”
    That is what matters, our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. We will be with Him for eternity! May the name of Jesus receive all of the glory that it is due!

  5. Dr. Ritmeyer:
    I know you probably receive emails quite often with people who believe they know where the ark is. I have to tell you I feel really weird in saying this out loud. But I’ve have had some crazy dreams that God may be trying to tell me where the ark of the covenant is. I know it sounds crazy… I was never religious my whole life, however I have believed in God my whole life. I began going to church religiously in Sept of 09. I was saved this January of 2010. I am 48 years old. I am not crazy. But I really have no idea what God is trying to tell me except for the fact that He has been very specific in my dreams, with numbers, names, items, and places… All things I have never heard of because I am new in my walk. However everytime I have googled the very specific things in my dreams, they are all related to the bible and the ark of the covenant. Prior to these dreams I didn’t even know what the ark of the covenant was. I have only begun to read the bible, presently in Leviticus. Most of my dreams of the ark came before I read Exodus. I’m looking for someone who seems trustworthly to tell this too…I will not post the things in my dream at this site but would like to tell you through email if you want to listen. Again I’m not professing to say that I know where the ark is, however my dreams are so specific that maybe you can shed some light on what God is trying to tell me and who knows, maybe help you with your quest.

  6. I am from Malaita, Solomon Islands. I agree with Shane and Hugh, that according to God’s own time, the mystery of the Ark of the covenant will be revealed.

    Just for interest sake, some interesting discoveries/findings on the island of Malaita – holy shrines, sceptre, priest’s garment, old hebrew scripts and a crown, just to name a few.
    I do beleive that where there is sceptre, there must be the ark of the covenant.
    God bless Solomon Islands.

  7. Personally, I think that the Ark was nothing more to its captors whoever it might have been, Shishonq,Nebucadnezzar, etc then just another hugh gold nugget. Actually there were 2 Arks, one that went to battle with the Israelites. That one was made by Moses, but only once during Elis reign as priest at Shiloh did the ark with the broken tablets, jar of manna and Arons staff go instead and was capture with al the reprecusions to follow. The Temple was ransacked again and again thru history. Their is no reason to believe that just as the Menorahs and tables of shewbread were remade, so was a model of the ark witha set of tablets, perhaps carved by the high priest to be placed in their. But gone was thejar o f manna and Arons staff. The Ark became part of the same mystique such as the Fountain of Youth, El Dorado. Unless the conquerors legal and ethical codes possibly forbade him to tamper with the holy objects of other faiths, the Ark of the covenant was melted down for the gold and the jar of manna and Arons staff tossed away with incredulity that they were kept there in the first place

    “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto ME into the mount; and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were on the first tables which thou didst break and thou shalt put them in the ark…….And I turned and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the LORD commanded me.” – Deuteronomy 10: 1-5.


    The Ark of the covenant being consigned to the sands of time and history would have its replacement in the residing glory of the Shechinah. Perhaps we will be given a new type of Ark, worthy of the Messianic redemption and most representative of it rather then ancient history which is what all that came before will become in the Messianic days. May they dawn upon us swiftly

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