Read part 1.
A Jewish tradition exists that the Ark had been buried under the “Chamber of Wood” in the Temple prior to the Babylonian destruction in 586 BC. We should note, however, that this tradition appeared hundreds of years later than the destruction of the Temple. Furthermore, the rabbi that mentioned this tradition was opposed by other rabbis in the Talmudic discussion on this subject in Yoma 53b. The fact that this discussion took place in approximately 160 A.D. and that such an act of burying was not recorded either in the Bible or in previous apocryphal books makes this tradition questionable. This does not prevent, however, some orthodox rabbis in Jerusalem today from believing that the Ark is still underneath the Temple Mount and will be recovered someday by archaeologists or Jewish religious leaders. It is often overlooked, however, that the subterranean sections of the Temple Mount have been dug up or explored a number of times since 586 B.C. People like Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.), the Moslem conquerors (640 A.D. ff.), the Crusaders (1199 AD ff.), the Turks (1540 AD ff.), and the British explorer Charles Warren (1850-70) dug up or explored all the subterranean regions of the Temple Mount and no one claimed to have found the ark. It is often forgotten that Warren was a dedicated Free Mason who was actually searching for the ark! Rabbinic “reports” about a so-called ark-sighting after the ‘67 War are purely apocryphal and have no independent confirmation or photographs. While the remote possibility still exists that it is in a hidden chamber under the mount, only time will tell and skepticism about its presence there is highly advisable.
Modern ark-hunters often defend their efforts by saying that the discovery of the Ark is necessary for the rebuilding of the Temple. They forget, however, an important established fact of history. It was not necessary for the Ark to be present in either Zerubbabel’s Temple or in the later, greatly enlarged Temple of Herod. Josephus records that when Pompey entered the Temple in 63 B.C., he did not find the Ark in the Holy of Holies (Antiquities XIV, IV, 4). Furthermore, it was acknowledged by later rabbis that after the Ark had been taken away by the Babylonians, the only thing that remained in the Holy of Holies was a “foundation stone.” On this stone the high priest sprinkled the blood on the Day of Atonement that he formerly sprinkled on the Ark during the days of the first Temple (Mishna Yoma 5:2-3). The point to be noticed is that although the ark was not present in the Second Temple, its absence did not prevent the Temple from being very active during that time.
Although the discovery of the Ark would be an astounding event, its discovery is not necessary for the rebuilding of the Temple prophesied in Daniel 9:26-27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; and Revelation 11:1-2.
An amazing prophetic statement by Jeremiah should be carefully noted: “And when you have multiplied and increased 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” (Jer. 3:16). Jeremiah is prophesying of the future millennial restoration of Israel. He clearly states the lack of necessity for an Ark during this time of future blessing. Moreover, it is highly significant to note that Ezekiel 40-44 describes the millennial Temple and makes no mention of the Ark, although many other details of its gates, chambers, furniture, and ritual are given.
All of the above information should cause each of us to be very careful in evaluating any stories about the supposed discovery of the Ark of the Covenant. Let us labor to study what God has clearly revealed, and not get caught up with extra-biblical ideas and teachings. We have enough in God’s Word to keep us busy—let’s not get sidetracked by sensational “arkaeology”!
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).