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.
(Dr. Varner’s posts regarding the ark of the covenant are part of an ongoing series exploring Isreal’s beliefs about the Messiah, beginning in OT times. You can follow that series at DrIBEX Ideas.)
The end of the Old Testament period brought a different world to the Jewish people than what they had been used to experiencing. Not the least of these changes involved the loss of their independence and the destruction of their Temple. As we begin our consideration of the Messianic promise during the time between the testaments, it is good to pause and attempt to answer a question that I am often asked—the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. The problem is that the Bible is silent about what happened to it before or after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. While the issue is not directly related to the subject of the Messiah, it will serve to introduce the next period that will concern us—the Intertestamental age and how the Messianic idea underwent change and even caused some of that change!
The Ark of the Covenant was the central furnishing both in the Tabernacle and also later in the Temple of Solomon. It was a chest made of acacia wood covered by gold, 3 3/4 feet in length and 2 1/4 feet wide and high. Within were the two tables of the Law. It was from above this Ark, between the cherubim attached to the mercy seat resting upon the Ark, that Yahweh communed with Israel (cf. Ex. 25:22).