Search For The Ark

by George F Spall

Search for which ark? The very big one that took Noah years to build that carried elephants over the top of the world in the great flood, or the little one, fashioned by loving fingers to carry a baby, hopefully into another woman's arms? No! Not that one and not the other one either, though both are called by the same Hebrew word tebah. Once the baby was lifted out of the little one, we surmise that it was left to float away. It would arouse little curiosity. But the huge ship, three storeys high and well over four hundred and fifty feet long, that is different. Many have looked for it, and claims made that it has been found high on the mountains of Armenia -- found and lost again in the deep snows, and found and lost more than once or twice -- and still sought.

But no! We are talking about neither of those arks, but another one. It has been lost too. Mystery surrounds it as well it might, for it was always mysterious and awesome. Even now, all these centuries afterwards, one feels diffident to write about it. Known as the 'Ark of the Covenant' or the 'Ark of God', to touch or even to look upon it with sacrilegious eyes was to court death.

This remarkable piece of furniture was the dwelling-place of the Eternal. It is written of it: "There will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel" (Exodus 25:22).

Made of wood, overlaid with gold, with a lid on which stood a cherub on each end beaten out of pure gold -- two men especially endowed with Divine skills to make it -- it was ornate but not ornamental; glorious without being grandiose. The cherubim faced each other but looked down at sacrificial blood which was dripped on it once a year on the Day of Atonement, the Day of the Covering -- Yom Kippur.

Now it is lost. Was it taken to Babylon six centuries before this Common Era began and destroyed by the Persians when they invaded the city a hundred years or so later? Or did faithful Jeremiah succeed in hiding it as the Book of Maccabees says? Rumours are beginning to circulate.

There have been those who claim it was hidden in Ethiopia and has been sighted. A more startling claim, supported by a few devout Jews and some earnest Christians, is that it has been sighted and is now behind a wall under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is claimed that when excavations were proceeding, a cavity was disclosed, and for fear it might house the Ark, rabbis walled it up, never to be revealed until the Messiah comes. The conjectures and speculations are exciting, and questions are being asked and answers eagerly awaited.

We might ask: if the Ark had been carried to Babylon, why did not Nehemiah, who was in a position to know if it existed still, take it back with him to Jerusalem? Neither he nor Ezra mention it. The Roman general who devastated Jerusalem in A.D. 70 looked for it and was contemptuous of the Jewish priests who worshipped a God who was not there behind the veil in the Holy of Holies. "The invisible God" he laughed. But what is the origin of the sculptured design in Rome that shows the Ark being carried in as a treasure? Was it really only a treasure-trove of some Roman tribune?

And there are other questions too. If the Ark is ever found, who would be bold enough to touch it, let alone carry it? And where would it be housed unless the Jewish people could build for it a Temple? And would the Moslems permit that? And who would officiate in worship rituals performed before it?

We are told that Jewish priests are being trained to perform the ancient sacred offices. Are there then plans for a Temple? The questions are endless. The answers might well make strong men tremble. The greatest question of all is: would the Eternal, blessed be His Holy Name, permit it? That holy Ark was His earthly throne for a time. His visible Presence was seen there.

King David wrote: "O God, thou art my God: early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee . . . to see thy power and thy glory as I have seen thee in the sanctuary" (Psalm 63:1-2).

It is of some consequence that Jeremiah, who was said to have taken and hidden the Ark, wrote in his prophecy: "And it shall come to pass, when you shall 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 . . . " (3:16,17).

So we have to conclude that should the Ark be found, it will be lost again. Lost and forgotten. Perhaps, though, we ought to search for it in spite of Jeremiah's negative verses. Perhaps it should be found so as to furnish the Temple for the Messiah.

Ezekiel gives us a minute description of that magnificent edifice that is to be His Temple during the thousand years when Jerusalem will be the place of His throne.

No! The Ark of the Covenant does not rate a mention in the nine chapters of Ezekiel 40-48. Neither does the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur . Passover (Pesach) does, and Tabernacles does (Succot) , but not Yom Kippur . There is no mention either of the High Priest who alone could enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon.

Is God saying, "The Ark will be unnecessary because atonement has been completed"? Does it have anything to do with that sprinkled blood on the mercy seat, the lid of the aron , the Ark, on top of the Ark? The Ark could not now be hidden behind the Temple curtain that divided the place wherein the priests performed their offices and the inner sanctuary where the High Priest performed his annual ministry, because of what happened to the curtain. There was a spectacular rending of the curtain when the Messiah cried aloud: "It is finished!" and bowed His head and dismissed His spirit.

There are a number of prophecies that Ezekiel wrote that have already been fulfilled literally. We can read chapters 34-37 while we eat breakfast. Wonderful! Exciting! It makes us think that Ezekiel will be right in everything else. Moses wrote: "It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul " and it was he who wrote about the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat.

But are they not preparing to offer sacrifices now and looking for the Ashes of the Red Heifer to purify the place? And is there not room for a Jewish Temple to stand right where the other three stood? And will they not need to find the Ark to stand in it? Yes! Surely. And Daniel agrees that there will be such a Temple that will be profaned as Antiochus profaned Zerubbabel's.

So, just perhaps, the Ark might be found. But if it is, it is doomed to be lost again. We can trust Jeremiah as well as Ezekiel!