Will the Ark of the Covenant Ever Be Found?

I have to confess to being a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And when the movie came out, many articles were published about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant?

The most popular theory was that some priests or Jeremiah the prophet had hidden the Ark in caves in Edom, across the Jordan River from Jerusalem. There are countless caves in the area, most are unexplored, and many are accessible only by rock climbers.

There are various Christian cults in that part of the world that claim to have the Ark — too holy to actually let anyone see, of course. And then I read this article at the Logos website.

The author concludes,

Other theories grew out of specific passages in ancient texts. Second Maccabees 2:5 records Jeremiah hiding the ark in a cave before Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion. Second Baruch 6:1–9 describes the ark being supernaturally swallowed up by the earth before the invasion, tucked away until the time of Israel’s restoration.

Jeremiah 3:16–17 makes all these hypotheses difficult to believe:

And when you have multiplied and been fruitful 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. 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 . . .

The passage plainly shows that the ark would be absent because of the exile. Jeremiah 3:16 also insists that “it shall not be made again”—wording that strongly suggests the ark would be destroyed in the impending disaster; if the ark weren’t destined for destruction, talk of rebuilding it would make no sense at all. Jeremiah 3:17 reinforces this point—the ark was God’s throne. He sat “between the cherubim” of the lid known as the “mercy seat” (Exod 25:18–22; Num 7:89).

But the passage speaks of a day when Jerusalem itself will be called God’s throne. We read about this in Revelation 21:2–3: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ ” A recovered ark of the covenant doesn’t fit this picture—it would be a disappointment.

Therefore, it would seem that those devout Christians who long for the reconstruction of the Temple as a sign of the return of Jesus must have misunderstood something — because the Temple needs God to be in it above the mercy seat above the Ark to be the real Temple. And Jeremiah says that’s not how it’s going to happen.

But I still think it would be just so cool for the Ark to be stored in a government warehouse somewhere, to one day be discovered. Oh, well ….

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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20 Responses to Will the Ark of the Covenant Ever Be Found?

  1. Andrew says:

    Jay,

    I love this topic, thanks for your post. I’ve been reading about Mary lately and I’ve come across several instances where Catholic and Orthodox view Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant. Before the last month, I would have never noticed Mary and Ark parallels. I’m not so sure this means anything, but here is a decent outline of the analogy.

    http://www.theorthodoxfaith.com/mary-as-the-new-ark-of-the-covenant/

    Thanks Jay

  2. jon says:

    I think I remember studying somewhere that when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70, the general (someone famous I think) looked in the Ark and found it empty (no Moses’ tablets, no Aaron’s rod that budded, no manna–I think those were the contents?). If that’s true, the Romans probably would have destroyed it, or left it among the ruins. But my memory may be faulty–maybe there’s something about the Romans and the Ark in Josephus?

  3. Monty says:

    Andrew,

    Interesting article. Not sure how the Catholics got to the point of Mary interceding(high priestess) for them, and they praying through her or to her. Of course they do many things contradictory to scripture IMO. Whether Mary was a type of temple or ark, maybe. She was certainly blessed among women.

  4. Dwight says:

    A lot of mythologies regarding Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, which means very little fact and reality. Dan Brown helped stir the Mary as the vessel of the Holy concept and thus Holy herself in the past years as something new and made it into a mystery and a conspiracy. This has always been a Catholic concept though.
    I had a friend who was convinced the Ark was locked away in a warehouse somewhere and it was a fact. It almost sounds like a movie…hmmmm.
    Now where did I set that chalice?

  5. Andrew says:

    Monty,
    Lately, I’ve been really trying to see the teaching about Mary with a sympathetic yet critical eye. I don’t understand completely how it got this far although I have my theory. I wrote about it yesterday actually…
    https://twoprongoutlet.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/the-virgin-mary-heresy-orthodoxy-and-me/

    I’m not done studying Mary for good, but I have to move on for now. I’ll come back to it some day.

  6. Alabama John says:

    The Jews have it now in Jerusalem. They are still watching over and protecting it from us Gentiles.

  7. Monty says:

    Andrew’

    Enjoyed your article.

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    All,

    The Jeremiah passage plainly contradicts the story in 2 Maccabees. Protestants don’t consider 2 Maccabees inspired, but it’s part of the Apocrypha accepted by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as canonical. The flat contradiction would seem to be a problem for the canonicity of 2 Maccabees. And so I feel better about the Protestant position.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Andrew,

    I was not aware of that teaching. Odd. After all, God is not said to exist inside the Ark. He is enthroned above the ark. The cover of the ark is the “mercy seat” — the “throne” of God. And so the comparison to pregnancy doesn’t really work all that well. (I know you know this.) The closest biblical analogy I can think of would be those cases where God’s presence existed above a holy location — on top of Mt. Sinai or as tongues of fire above the disciples at Pentecost. There we have God’s Presence situated above holy ground — Mt. Sinai and the Temple, but God’s people in the Temple and not the Ark, which surely says a lot about the new covenant.

    Now, the Israelites often took the ark to the battlefield to secure God’s blessings on the battle, but it was not unusual in those days for the king over an army to sit enthroned on a hill overlooking the battlefield. If the Israelites thought of God as their King (and several verses say this), then to them, this was not superstitious but what Kings do for their armies. Even then, it wasn’t that God lived in the Ark but that the Ark was God’s throne.

  10. Charlie M. says:

    Arch of Titus in Rome. It shows what the spoils of the temple were.

    Here: http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/rome/1-arch-of-titus-bb.html

  11. Roy M says:

    Jay,

    I’m sorry, but your conclusions on this matter appear to involve speculation and possible proof-texting. I cannot agree wholeheartedly with your position because there are things which you and I both clearly do not yet know. The Jews were amazed by the things they did not know about God’s plans. I think I am going to be amazed by the things I do not know about God’s plans. Do you think you will be amazed by the things you do not yet know? It is clear from your answers that some things you yourself do not fully understand.

    But, regarding your conclusions, who revealed these things to you? Did you base them upon your studies and the studies of others wholly or did the Spirit guide you in these matters? How can you be so certain a temple will not be re-built in the Name of God? How can you be certain that the ark will not be recovered and then destroyed? You may be well-studied, well-taught, and well-respected as a teacher, but until I see evidence that the Holy Spirit has shown you these things–they will remain only speculation to me. Yet you speak with a certainty about them as if they are not to be debated. I’m testing the spirits here, so please answer the questions I have posed.

    When you say you never heard of a given teaching and that’s odd, are you suggesting that you’re just that knowledgeable, or are you suggesting that someone is creating fiction?

  12. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay may not have time to address this but I believe it to be a matter of importance, because some false assumption are based upon that concept. Therefore, I encourage any or all to address this concept. Jay had said, “He is enthroned above the ark. The cover of the ark is the “mercy seat” — the “throne” of God.” I cannot find any reference in scriptures which support him being enthroned above the Ark or Mercy Seat. He expresses that he will speak to Moses from above the mercy seat (Exo 25:22 ESV), (Num 7:89 ESV), but I see nothing about God referencing this as his throne. It appears he would only be present there when he had a message to deliver to Moses. The Mercy Seat nor the Ark were ever mentioned as a throne. An occasional appearance is not a place of enthronement.

    (Exo 25:17 ESV) “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth.

    (Exo 25:18 ESV) And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.

    (Exo 25:19 ESV) Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends.

    (Exo 25:20 ESV) The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.

    (Exo 25:21 ESV) And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

    (Exo 25:22 ESV) There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

    (Exo 26:34 ESV) You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.

    (Exo 30:6 ESV) And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you.

    (Exo 31:7 ESV) the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent,

    (Exo 35:12 ESV) the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen;

    (Exo 37:6 ESV) And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth.

    (Exo 37:7 ESV) And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat,

    (Exo 37:8 ESV) one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends.

    (Exo 37:9 ESV) The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.

    (Exo 39:35 ESV) the ark of the testimony with its poles and the mercy seat;

    (Exo 40:20 ESV) He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark.

    (Lev 16:2 ESV) and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

    (Lev 16:13 ESV) and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die.

    (Lev 16:14 ESV) And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

    (Lev 16:15 ESV) “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.

    (Num 7:89 ESV) And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.

    (1Ch 28:11 ESV) Then David gave Solomon his son the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat;

    (Heb 9:5 ESV) Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

    The Ark is identified by these expressions.
    Ark of gopher wood
    Ark of acacia wood
    Ark of the testimony
    Ark of the covenant
    Ark of wood
    Ark of the LORD
    Ark of God
    Ark of the God

    But there is not a reference to God ever being in it or on it, he only spoke from above it.

  13. Larry Cheek says:

    Roy M,
    I would be very sure this is the location of the Ark of the covenant presently, and that it will never be found on earth.

    (Rev 11:19 ESV) 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.

  14. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    There are passages that plainly refer to the mercy seat as God’s throne. After all, it’s a “seat” for God. The Jews saw God as their king. Of course, it’s a throne.

    (1 Sam. 4:4-5 ESV) 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.

    (2 Ki. 19:14-16 ESV) 14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

    (Jer. 14:20-15:1 ESV) 20 We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you. 21 Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. 22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O LORD our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.

    (Ps. 80:1-3 ESV) Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

    (Isa. 37:16-17 ESV) 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

    Now, after the Babylonian Captivity, Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed. The rabbis record that God’s Presence or Shekinah did not return to the Holy of Holies, and Jeremiah says that the Ark was destroyed. Hence, the ark was no longer in the Temple and God was no longer enthroned there. Ezekiel deals extensively with God’s departure from the Temple — not to return until Jesus himself appears on earth. In the NT, God’s throne is spoken of as being in heaven, in the New Jerusalem. God’s throne is returned to earth in Rev 21-22 when the New Jerusalem comes down to earth.

    But from the construction of the tabernacle until the Captivity, God was enthroned above the cherubim in the Holy of Holies. The rabbis interpreted this to mean that heaven and earth converged at this spot, so that God was enthroned both in heaven and on earth — but in the same place.

  15. Alabama John says:

    Charlie
    that arch of Titus is history and put there for all to see that enters then and in the future. Thanks for posting it. It was a great lesson for my grandchildren.
    The Jews have the ark. Exactly where, they won’t say. Its theirs.

  16. Dwight says:

    The Ark was above all meant to represent God’s presence and direct involvement with the Israelites, whether he actually sat on the mercy seat or not. The mercy seat was about God’s mercy towards Israel. When they went to war and carried the Ark, they won. It contained the Rod of Aaron, the 10 commandments (law) and Manna (food), all examples of God’s leadership and mercy and presence with Israel and covenant as well.

  17. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Notice, those verses that you supplied and they all represent the concept within the minds of the people, but God or his representatives never identify that he resides there. Mankind has never fully understood God or his ways.

    The only times that he identifies a presence there is as Moses or Aaron communicate there and he is a voice speaking from there. The terminology about his presence there testifies to the fact he is not there at any other time, in fact if he was any of the Levite’s attempting to move it would be killed.

    There is no occurrences of the words “seat” or “mercy” in the Book of Revelation in ESV. The only occurrence mentioning the “ark of the covenant” in the NT is here.

    Heb 9:4-5 ESV 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. (5) Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
    Rev 11:19 ESV 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.

    When we begin to teach what the rabbis interpret, we have strayed from God’s Word.
    “The rabbis interpreted this to mean that heaven and earth converged at this spot, so that God was enthroned both in heaven and on earth — but in the same place.”

    “Ezekiel deals extensively with God’s departure from the Temple — not to return until Jesus himself appears on earth. In the NT, God’s throne is spoken of as being in heaven, in the New Jerusalem. God’s throne is returned to earth in Rev 21-22 when the New Jerusalem comes down to earth.”
    You do believe that the New Jerusalem coming down will be to the New Earth not earth don’t you? These to items are not the same.

    As I stated there have been many assumptions attached to this concept about the “mercy seat” and the “Ark of the Covenant”.

    Sometimes the concepts of men have to assume or change some direct messages in scripture to validate their theories.

  18. Dwight says:

    Four words: Warehouse X, Area 51

  19. JP says:

    I say if the Ethiopians have it, they can keep it!

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