28 Mar 2022

The Ark of the…uh…I uh…

I don’t normally write about what I call more speculative aspects of Bible prophecy, but this week an item caught my eye in the Jerusalem Post: yet another article on the hunt for the fabled Ark of the Covenant.

The question of the location of the Ark today is one of the most-discussed topics in Bible prophecy, although it is not wholly a prophecy question per se. However, the historical impact is much on peoples’ minds. Many books and lectures have centered on this subject.

More than 100 years ago, an expedition, British-funded, journeyed to Jerusalem to look for the Ark of the Covenant. Bribing local officials, the three-year hunt yielded nothing of substance, although it did serve as somewhat of a model for future expeditions.

To date of course, the Ark has not been found. A key plot point in this drama is the Babylonian invasion in the sixth century B.C. Generations of wickedness had brought the Israelites to the point of God’s wrath. When the invaders captured Jerusalem, they brought back not only a slave population, but also treasures from the First Temple.

No mention is made of the fate of the Ark of the Covenant. Many have speculated that the Ark was taken to Babylon, or hidden just ahead of the invasion. The truth is, no one knows and the main reason we don’t know is that Scripture does not mention its fate.

I think this is key.

Over the years, there has been too much wild speculation and just plain guessing (with a veneer of authority!) that the Ark is waiting discovery.

I believe strongly we should not infer things not explicitly answered in Scripture. In other words, an entire book devoted to the Ark being hidden in secret passageways under the Temple Mount is not very credible.

A fascinating passage is found in the book of Jeremiah.

In Jeremiah 3:16-18 we read:

And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.

 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

That, to me, is explosive. It specifically tells us that in the future, at the time of the end of history, the Ark will have faded from view. It won’t even come to mind!

Arnold Fruchtenbaum, writing in Israelology:

“Prophetically speaking, Jews will control the Old City of Jerusalem. Prophecies concerning the Third Jewish Temple (the Tribulation Temple) establish this. Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4; and Revelation 11:1–2 relate a specific event in the middle of the Tribulation.

“The Jewish Temple will be rebuilt and begin functioning again, for these verses view the Temple in operation. They also presuppose Jewish control of the Temple Compound, so Jews must possess the Old City of Jerusalem. While no passage tells when it would occur, the 1967 Six-Day War clearly fulfilled it. While Scripture never predicts that war itself, it certainly predicts its result, Jewish control of the Old City of Jerusalem.”

So we obviously know that Israel today controls the Temple Mount (and Fruchtenbaum establishes something that many in the Church today despise: the presence of a third Temple). Is it then established that the Ark is used again?

From his Ariel Ministries page, Fruchtenbaum addresses this:

“What happened to the Ark of the Covenant? Is the ark mentioned in Revelation 11:19 the Ark of the Covenant that Moses made?

“It is not likely that the original Ark of the Covenant ever survived the Babylonian destruction. The Ark is not mentioned as having gone into captivity. If we keep in mind that the Ark of the Covenant was basically a piece of wood overlaid with gold, Nebuchadnezzar would have only been interested in the gold. When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity 70 years later, there was no Ark to put in the Temple they rebuilt. However, the Temple functioned just fine for six centuries without it. If the Jewish people could not find the Ark after 70 years, they are not likely to find it after 2,500 years.

“The Ark of the Covenant in Revelation 11:19 is not the one that Moses made. We should keep in mind that what Moses made was a copy of the Ark that is already in Heaven. Besides, anything manmade cannot be translated to Heaven. The Ark in Revelation 11:19 is the heavenly one, the original from which Moses made a copy.”

It seems to me we can solve much of this mystery now. We do not have any direct evidence that the Ark of the Covenant, the one made in the time of Moses, is hidden anywhere on Earth. I know about the Ethiopian version, etc., and several expeditions have claimed to have found it (one fellow in the past said he actually saw the Ark in a passageway, but couldn’t get to it. This to me is akin to saying one saw Bigfoot but didn’t have a camera handy).

As an aside, in the mid-90s I heavily investigated another ark story: Noah’s Ark. The story was circulating that American fliers spotted the Ark on the snowy slopes of Mount Ararat as they flew over during World War 2.

I visited the archives of the Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper at the time; allegedly, servicemen claimed to have read the story of the discovery. I never found anything referencing such, though I looked through almost every copy from World War 2.

Further, I interviewed several editors and reporters from that time that served in the European Theatre. (Objectively, I even wrote to Andy Rooney, who did write back saying that he “might” have heard that story somewhere.) Not a single Stars and Stripes guy remembered seeing that story. One bureau chief based in Rome even told me, “Jim, if a story of that magnitude had surfaced, even with the war on, it would have been front page New York Times. It wasn’t.”

I believe these men. In fact, I found that much of the current hub-ub over Noah’s Ark came from books written in the 1970s, supporting films about expeditions to find it. One story suggested that these fliers had seen the Ark while flying a “supply route” from Tunisia to Yerevan, a town located just on the other side of Mount Ararat—in Soviet territory.

So, I contacted many pilots and crewman from the 8th Air Force, that flew in Europe during World War 2. Not one remembered seeing the Ark. In fact—and this is a big deal—one pilot told me, “There was no supply route to Yerevan; the Russians would never have allowed it, and anyway, for what purpose?”

This also extended to reports that an article appeared in Yank magazine. I never located anyone that actually remembered it. My conclusion is, many of these stories (even detailed reports of the discovery of Noah’s Ark—including the Russian discovery during World War 1) are simply made up. They sell books.

My point is, while I believe some accounts are sincere (perhaps they thought they saw something?), I believe a good number are also bogus. That’s right; I believe people lie. I believe they lie about seeing the Loch Ness Monster, or the Jersey Bogeyman, or Bigfoot. Or whatever the Stunning Story of the Month is. The searches themselves are big business: TV shows, weekend campouts in the woods for a fee, etc.

The search for the Ark of the Covenant has been big business, too. The topic is very interesting, I enjoy it myself. I just think we should be as objective as possible. The overall topic of Bible prophecy is so compelling, so vital to the faith, that we don’t need to speculate. We just need to focus on what we do know: The Creator is sovereign and He is preparing to intervene in history in a big way.

He doesn’t need an ancient relic to do that.