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Search for the Ark of the Covenant

by Robert Cornuke

Since the temple’s primary purpose had been as a resting place for the ark, and since there can be little doubt that the ark mysteriously disappeared from the temple, it follows that any search for the ark must begin in the temple. There, cloaked in the thick darkness of the Holy of Holies, sprinkled with blood, it lay hidden until some unknown date between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C.

When precisely did the ark disappear? And where did it go? A belief popular among rabbis and Jewish scholars holds that it was likely taken by force during one of several military catastrophes Israel suffered after the death of Solomon. King Solomon had earned God’s wrath by following the foreign gods of his thousand wives and concubines. Though Solomon escaped the consequences of his apostasy, not long after his death disaster struck Israel. The first hit came in 926 B.C., when Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, saw his kingdom overrun by the armies of Shishak, king of Egypt, who looted the temple and stole priceless treasures of gold and silver (1 Kings 14:25–26). The last saw Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invade Israel in 598 B.C. and in two separate attacks penetrate deeply into the temple court (2 Kings 24:10–13), carting off all the temple treasures and destroying the bronze furnishings of the sanctuary. In between came frequent invasions, when barbarian hordes helped themselves to minor temple treasures; still, in none of the biblical accounts does the ark turn up among the spoils of war.

It is possible, of course, that the ark might have been stolen or destroyed during one of these incursions, without its disappearance ever being noted in the public record. Rank-and-file Jews never saw it anyway, and no one but the high priest ever entered the Holy of Holies to minister before the ark, and then only once a year. More likely, full disclosure of the ark’s loss came much later, when Jews returning to Israel from the Babylonian exile attended the dedication of the second temple.

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