Is the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem?

The Ark of the Covenant series (post #9)

The majority of Orthodox Jewish rabbis who currently live in Jerusalem do not stress themselves over the possible whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. They don’t run around all over the globe chasing down every last theory for where the Ark might be. They don’t promote and fund archaeological digs here, there, and everywhere. They simply rest in their conviction that the Ark remains hidden in a cave underneath the Temple Mount, right where it has been for at least 2,000 years. More specifically, they say the cave is located directly under the spot where the Holy of Holies for Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, and Herod’s Temple stood. And by applying a concept of “vertical air space” they contend that the former site of the Holy of Holies sanctifies the ground beneath it.

Consider the following quote from Rabbi Chaim Richman:

Jews have an unbroken chain of recorded information, passed down from generation to generation, which indicates its (the Ark’s) exact location. There is a big fascination with finding the lost Ark, but nobody asked a Jew. We have known where it is for thousands of years. It could be reached if we excavated Temple Mount, but that area is controlled by Muslims.

Another Rabbi, Yehuda Getz, believes that in 1982 he came within forty feet of finding the cave where the Ark sits. He was leading a team in conducting a search in an old tunnel that ran perpendicular to the Western Wall, the last standing section of the retaining wall that once served as the perimeter for the entire Temple Mount site of Herod’s Temple. According to Rabbi Getz, he was systematically working his way through that tunnel, carefully clearing away centuries of debris as he progressed, making headway further and further back underneath the Temple Mount. He knew he had to be getting close to the spot directly underneath where the Temple’s Holy of Holies had once stood. But that’s when the Muslims discovered that diggings were taking place underneath The Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine built in 691 A.D. on the site of the former Jewish Temple. The Muslims quickly threatened a riot that would have torn the city of Jerusalem apart, and Rabbi Getz and his team stopped their digging and sealed up the entrance to the cave until this day.

As for when the Ark of the Covenant was placed in this cave, the majority opinion is that Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, knew his Temple would be destroyed even as he was having it built, and so he had special caves dug underneath it to hide the Ark and the other Temple artifacts from foreign invaders. Then, centuries later, it was King Josiah who actually had the Ark moved to the cave where it remains today.

The primary Jewish source for these traditions involving Solomon and Josiah is a revered 12th century Rabbi named Moses ben Maimon (commonly known as Maimonides), who died in 1204 A.D. Rabbi Maimonides was the head of the Jewish community in Egypt. In The Book of Temple Service 17, he states that Solomon originally prepared the hiding place and Josiah ended up being the one who used it as he had the Jewish priests take the Ark to it in the years leading up to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple.

To further bolster this tradition among Jews, there is a certain passage in the Jewish Mishnah. The Mishnah is the written collection of what is known as Jewish “oral law.” This “oral law” presumably goes all the way back to God giving Moses oral instructions that were not written down concerning how to carry out the particulars of the Torah (the written books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). This “oral law” was then passed down from Moses to Joshua and continued on down to the Jewish Rabbis until it was all finally committed to writing in approximately 200 A.D. In one passage of the Mishnah, it states:

“Once when a priest in the second Temple (Zerubbabel’s Temple) saw a block of pavement different from the other floor, he understood that in this place there was an entrance to an underground tunnel and he shared this with a friend. Before he could finish his sharing his life departed. Then they knew assuredly, this was the place where the Ark lay hidden.

Now, as for the validity of this whole theory, we can see that the theory, like so many others, has its strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the strengths:

  • We are talking about Jewish history here, and Jews know their own history better than anybody. They’ve been studying this stuff and debating it for centuries, and so it makes sense to give them some benefit of the doubt.
  • It is beyond question that there are many caves underneath the Temple Mount. This fact is well known. Even more than that, many of these caves have remained sealed for centuries.
  • It was God who gave Solomon his great wisdom, and so the idea that God would have forewarned him to build secret tunnels underneath the Temple to keep the Ark from being captured isn’t so crazy.
  • The Biblical record does seem to indicate that the Babylonians didn’t take the Ark as part of their plundering of Solomon’s Temple. This must mean, then, that the Jews hid the Ark somewhere, and a cave underneath the Temple would make for a perfect place to hide it.
  • The Bible does tell us that Josiah was a godly king. It also pointedly mentions the Ark being in the Temple during his reign (2 Chronicles 35:3). Perhaps, then, it isn’t a coincidence that the Ark is never mentioned again as being inside Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, or Herod’s Temple after Josiah’s death. In my opinion, this is the single strongest piece of evidence for the theory that Josiah hid the Ark in a cave underneath the Temple and it still sits there today.

Okay, now for the weaknesses of the theory:

  • Jewish tradition, like any other man-scented tradition, can be wrong. There is an intellectual arrogance and aloofness to many Jewish rabbis, and it’s the same arrogance and aloofness that kept their forefathers (the Pharisees, Saduccees, and scribes) from embracing Jesus as their Messiah. We should never forget that Jewish rabbis are spiritually lost and, thus, have limited spiritual discernment no matter how much they claim to have.
  • Jewish oral law can be wrong as well. Jesus Himself combated the oral law’s erroneous teachings in reference to Sabbath keeping, ceremonial hand washing, and various other subjects. Therefore, any teaching that comes out of the Mishnah should never be accepted without reservation.
  • King Josiah died in 609 B.C. after a reign of 31 years. But the Babylonians didn’t destroy Solomon’s Temple until 587/586 B.C. That’s a difference of over 20 years. Are we to believe that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple stood empty of the Ark of the Covenant for over 20 years as the Ark sat in a cave underneath the Temple? Certainly the Babylonian threat was looming against Judah even during Josiah’s reign, but was there any real need to panic and hide the Ark more than 20 years before the Babylonians would actually come to destroy the Temple? That doesn’t make much sense.
  • Even if Josiah (or any of the kings of Judah who followed him) did hide the Ark anywhere to keep it from the Babylonians, why did it have to remain hidden? Why wasn’t it brought back out and placed in the freshly built Zerubbabel’s Temple when a remnant of the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile and rebooted everything about Jerusalem? Even today’s Jewish rabbis believe that the Ark never stood inside either Zerubbabel’s Temple or Herod’s Temple. If it was just sitting there in a cave waiting to be used again, why didn’t they retrieve it at some point? In my opinion, this is the single strongest piece of evidence against the validity of the whole theory.

So, in closing, where do I come down on all of this? Well, if you are just asking me, the theory that the Ark is still in Jerusalem sitting in a sealed cave underneath the Temple Mount is our best guess as to its current location (assuming it still exists at all). With that said, though, I wouldn’t bet a piece of bubble gum that it’s there. The reason I rate this theory ahead of the others has more to do with the inadequacies of the competing theories than the infallibility of this one. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see the Jews somehow get permission to thoroughly excavate underneath the Temple Mount. However, even if they do locate the Ark under there, would they bring it out if they didn’t have a Temple – complete with a Holy of Holies — in which to house it? The answer to that is probably no, which means that I don’t hold out a lot of hope for ever seeing the Ark of the Covenant revealed in my lifetime.

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7 Responses to Is the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem?

  1. Janice Hamilton says:

    I too wondered about the Ark. it was after I had been Born Again that I was reading in the Bible about the Antichrist. This person uses the Ark as part of his validation to rule.
    That evening I dreamt that the Ark is on the wall of the Temple Mount. It has never come to my mind again since. When the time comes full it will be revealed. That I am assured of

  2. James Hyde says:

    Dear Brother Russell,

    Scripture is explicit at least on this point: in the Revelation, John says he saw the Ark in Heaven. Now, maybe that’s a false witness, but there it is for us to judge. Nobody seems to remember the passage, but there it is. Personally, I have little respect for any of it, not for the Law, nor the box they used to carry it around in. I have little respect for the Old Testament religion, generally, especially as it tends to corrupt the Gospel. But you and I have this much in common, that we don’t get too excited about the Ark of the Covenant.

    However, questions surrounding the Temple Mount (so called) are very important, if only because so many people seem ready to kill for it. But the actual, true, real Temple Mount may be seen a mile north at Ammunition Hill, just west and down the hill from the real Old City, which once stood atop Mt Scopus. The Haram, the mighty platform where today stands the Dome of the Rock, is the work of Constantine the Great, who sought to establish the cave beneath the Dome (the Well of Souls) as the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think old Constantine got it right.

    But the Jews swear that their old slaughter house is up there as well. And I think they are right, too, because fine cut stone is expensive. That is, I expect that a lot of the stone we see on the Haram today was carted down from the ruins at Ammunition Hill, to be used in Constantine’s original Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the surrounding apron. With the demise of the church, it would have been used yet again for the Dome. So, yeah, it’s all there, built over a warren of subterranean graves (because it is a graveyard). But the Ark was never there, and certainly isn’t now.

    Here endeth the lesson.

    • russellmckinney says:

      James, the passage you’re talking about is Revelation 11:19. However, according to the interpretation that I and many others bring to that verse, the reference is to God’s heavenly Ark of the Covenant that literally sits inside the heaven’s temple. Remember that Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the items associated with the earthly tabernacle (Israel’s original tent-like complex that was ultimately replaced by Solomon’s temple) were meant to serve as copies of the heavenly things. Therefore, since John says in Revelation 11:19, “Then the temple of God was opened in HEAVEN, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple” that has to be a reference to heaven’s original version of the Ark. Obviously, that version of the Ark has never been lost.

  3. Scott Hansen says:

    In your section regarding the weaknesses of the theory, I think you are overlooking something. King Josiah was the last godly king. Would the ungodly kings have obeyed God to remove the ark to a place of safety?

    You also posed the question “Why did it have to remain hidden?”, and why wasn’t it put back in the second temple.

    I believe I have an answer for that as well.

    Ron Wyatt claimed to have found the ark in January of 1982. Which happens to be the same year that Rabbi’s Shlomo Goren and Yehuda Getz claimed to have personally seen the Ark at Warren’s Gate.

    According to Ron’s story, he found the Ark located directly under the the place where Christ was crucifed. At the crucifixion site, Ron found a crack at the base of the middle cross hole (Matthew tells us that the rocks were rent at the death of Christ). This crack proceeded down into the earth where the Ark was located.

    When the soldier pierced Christ’s side, blood and water flowed down the cross, down the crack in the earth, and onto the Mercy Seat of the Ark. Thus fulfilling the duty of the High Priest (Christ) by placing the Blood of the Lamb (Christ) onto the mercy seat on the day of Passover.

    For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit [life is in the blood], the water, and the blood [both blood and water came out of Christ’s side when He was pierced]; and these three agree as one.

    • russellmckinney says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Scott, Yes, I’m aware of the story about Ron Wyatt. I heard it several years ago and still don’t know quite what to make of it. As you point out, it can be tied into the Bible’s storyline. However, as you also point out, it is all based upon the fact that Ron Wyatt “claimed” to have found the Ark of the Covenant. He also “claimed” to have located Noah’s Ark, but the Answers in Genesis organization, which I respect, has come out in opposition to that claim. So, whatever the truth of Wyatt’s claims were, I guess they went to the grave with him when he died. But his tale about finding the Ark of the Covenant certainly makes for interesting reading.

      • Scott Hansen says:

        Russell, thank you for your response.

        What are your thoughts on the two rabbis who say they saw the ark the same year that Ron claimed to have found it? I find it interesting that they saw it in 1982, and not earlier. My thinking is, if you are a prominent rabbi, and you get word that the Ark of the Covenant was found, the first thing you are going to want to do is see if for yourself.

        I also noticed that on the Temple Institutes website under frequently asked questions, they say they know where the Ark is located – In an underground chamber in Jerusalem. While this doesn’t verify Ron’s time frame, it does seem to verify the location.


  4. russellmckinney says:

    My thoughts are pretty simple. If Ron Wyatt or any rabbi actually saw the Ark in 1982, I’m fine with that. Personally, I do happen to believe the Ark still exists somewhere, and if it’s underneath the Temple Mount that’s okay by me. Similar to the Temple Institute’s claim that it is, I heard John Hagee preach a sermon years ago in which he stated that he had interviewed a prominent Jewish rabbi who said the Jews currently know exactly where the Ark is located underneath the Temple Mount. So, whether they actually know or not, certain Jewish rabbis clearly think they know. Going back to my blog post, I just wonder why all indications are that they didn’t bring the Ark out of its hiding place and place it in Zerubbabel’s Temple, which was eventually enlarged and expanded to become Herod’s Temple. That seems like a strange oversight to me if Israel’s rabbis have known all along, ever since the days of King Josiah, where the Ark is hidden.

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