The Sign and the Seal

Ark of the Covenant THE SIGN AND THE SEAL by Graham Hancock

It was growing dark and the air of the Ethiopian highlands was chill when the monk appeared. Stooped and leaning on a prayer stick he shuffled towards me from the doorway of the sanctuary chapel and listened attentively as I was introduced to him. Speaking in Tigrigna, the local language, he then sought clarification through my interpreter about my character and my motives: from which country had I come, what work did I do there, was I a Christian, what was it that I wanted from him? Initiation: 1986 I answered each of these questions fully, squinting through the gloom as I talked, trying to make out the details of my inquisitor's face. Milky cataracts veiled his small sunken eyes and deep lines furrowed his black skin. He was bearded and probably toothless - for although his voice was resonant it was also oddly slurred. All I could be sure of, however, was that he was an old man, as old as the century perhaps, that he had his wits about him, and that he did not seem to be seeking information about me out of idle curiosity. Only when he was satisfied with everything that I had said did he condescend to shake hands with me. His grip was dry and delicate as papyrus and from the thick robes that he wore, faint but unmistakable, arose the holy odour of frankincense. Now that the formalities were over I got straight to the point. Gesturing in the direction of the building that loomed in shadowy outline behind us, I said: 'I have heard of an Ethiopian tradition that the Ark of the Covenant is Page 1 of 52

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kept here... in this chapel. I have also heard that you are the guardian of the Ark. Are these things true?' 'They are true.' 'But in other countries nobody believes these stories. Few know about your traditions anyway, but those who do say that they are false.' 'People may believe what they wish. People may say what they wish. Nevertheless we do possess the sacred Tabot, that is to say the Ark of the Covenant, and I am its guardian...' 'Let me be clear about this,' I interjected. 'Are you referring to the original Ark of the Covenant - the box made of wood and gold in which the Ten Commandments were placed by the prophet Moses?' 'Yes. God Himself inscribed the ten words of the law upon two tablets of stone. Moses then placed these tablets inside the Ark of the Covenant which afterwards accompanied the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness and their conquest of the Promised Land. It brought them victory wherever they went and made them a great people. At last, when its work was done, King Solomon placed it in the Holy of Holies of the Temple that he had built in Jerusalem. And from there, not long afterwards, it was removed and brought to Ethiopia...' 'Tell me how this happened,' I asked. 'What I know of your traditions is only that the Queen of Sheba is supposed to have been an Ethiopian monarch. The legends I have read say that when she made her famous journey to Jerusalem she was impregnated by King Solomon and bore him a son - a royal prince - who in later years stole the Ark...' The monk sighed. 'The name of the prince you are speaking of was Menelik - which in our language means "the son of the wise man". Although he was conceived in Jerusalem he was born in Ethiopia where the Queen of Sheba had returned after discovering that she was carrying Solomon's child. When he had reached the age of twenty, Menelik himself travelled from Ethiopia to Israel and arrived at his father's court. There he was instantly recognized and accorded great honour. After a year had passed, however, the elders of the land became jealous of him. They complained that Solomon showed him too much favour and they insisted that he must go back Page 2 of 52

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to Ethiopia. This the king accepted on the condition that the first-born sons of all the elders should also be sent to accompany him. Amongst these latter was Azarius, son of Zadok the High Priest of Israel, and it was Azarius, not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Indeed the group of young men did not reveal the theft to Menelik until they were far away from Jerusalem. When at last they told him what they had done he understood that they could not have succeeded in so bold a venture unless God had willed it. Therefore he agreed that the Ark should remain with them. And it was thus that it was brought to Ethiopia, to this sacred city... and here it has remained ever since.' 'And are you telling me that this legend is literally true?' 'It is not a legend. It is history.' 'How can you be so sure of that?' 'Because I am the guardian. I know the nature of the object that has been placed in my care.' We sat in silence for a few moments while I adjusted my mind to the calm and rational way in which the monk had told me these bizarre and impossible things. Then I asked him how and why he had been appointed to his position. He replied that it was a great honour that he should have been chosen, that he had been nominated with the last words of his predecessor, and that when he himself lay on his death-bed his turn would come to nominate his own successor. 'What qualities will you look for in that man?' 'Love of God, purity of heart, cleanliness of mind and body.' 'Other than you,' I asked next, 'is anyone else allowed to see the Ark?' 'No. I alone may see it.' 'So does that mean that it is never brought out of the sanctuary chapel?' The guardian paused for a long while before answering this question. Then, finally, he told me that in the very distant past the relic had been brought out during all the most important church festivals. More recently its use in religious processions had been limited to just one occasion a year. That occasion was the ceremony known as Timkat which took place every January. 'So if I come back next January will I have a chance of seeing the Ark?'

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The monk looked at me in a way that I found strangely disconcerting and then said: 'You must know that there is turmoil and civil war in the land... Our government is evil, the people oppose it, and the fighting comes closer every day. In such circumstances it is unlikely that the true Ark will be used again in the ceremonies. We cannot risk the possibility that any harm might come to something so precious ... Besides, even in time of peace you would not be able to see it. It is my responsibility to wrap it entirely in thick cloths before it is carried in the processions...' 'Why do you wrap it?' 'To protect the laity from it.' I remember asking my interpreter to clarify the translation of this last puzzling remark: had the monk really meant 'to protect the laity from it'? Or had he meant 'to protect it from the laity'? It was some time before I got my answer. 'To protect the laity from it. The Ark is powerful.'

A great mystery of the Bible

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In early Old Testament times the Ark of the Covenant was worshipped by the Israelites as the embodiment of God Himself, as the sign and the seal of His presence on earth, as the stronghold of His power, and as the instrument of His ineffable will. Built to contain the tablets of stone upon which the Ten Commandments had been written, it was a wooden chest measuring three feet nine inches long by two feet three inches high and wide. It was lined inside and out with pure gold and was surmounted by two winged figures of cherubim that faced each other across its heavy golden lid. Biblical and other archaic sources speak of the Ark blazing with fire and light, inflicting cancerous tumours and severe burns, levelling mountains, stopping rivers, blasting whole armies and laying waste cities. The same sources also leave no doubt that it was, for a very long time, the cornerstone of the evolving Jewish faith: indeed when King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem his sole motive was to create 'an house of rest for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord'. At some unknown date between the tenth and the sixth century BC, however, this uniquely precious and puissant object vanished from its place in the Holy of Holies of that Temple, vanished without song or lamentation in the Scriptures almost as though it had never existed at all. The evidence suggests that it was already long gone when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem in 587 BC. Certainly it was not in the Second Temple which was built over the ruins of the First after the Jews had returned from their exile in Babylon in 538 BC. Neither does it seem to have been taken as booty by the Babylonians. Writing in 1987, Richard Elliott Friedman, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Religion at the University of California, expressed a view shared by many scholars when he described the disappearance of the sacred relic as 'one of the great mysteries of the Bible': There is no report that the Ark was carried away or destroyed or hidden. There is not even any comment such as 'And then the Ark disappeared and we do not know what happened to it' or 'And no one knows where it is to this day'. The most important object in the world, in the biblical view, simply ceases to be in the story.' Indeed so. A close reading of the Old Testament reveals more than two hundred separate references to the Ark of the Covenant up until the time Page 5 of 52

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of Solomon (970-931 BC); after the reign of that wise and splendid king it is almost never mentioned again. And this, surely, is the central problem, the real historical enigma: not, human nature being what it is, that an immensely valuable golden chest should go missing, but - given its supreme religious significance - that it should go missing amidst such a deafening, improbable silence. Like a black hole in space, or a negative photographic image, it is identifiable in the later books of the Old Testament only by what it is not - it is, in short, conspicuous only by its absence. From this it seems reasonable to suggest that some sort of cover-up may have taken place - a cover-up devised by priests and scribes to ensure that the whereabouts of the sacred relic would remain forever a secret. If so then it is a secret that many have tried to penetrate - a secret that has inspired several treasure-hunting expeditions (all of which have failed) and also one enormously successful Hollywood fantasy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was first released in the USA and Europe in 1981 with Harrison Ford in the starring role as Indiana Jones. I was living in Kenya at the time and had no opportunity to see the film until it finally arrived in Nairobi's cinemas early in 1983. I enjoyed the combination of action, adventure and archaeology and I remember thinking what a sensation it would be if someone were really to find the Ark. Then, only a few months later, I made an extended visit to Ethiopia during which I travelled to the north-west of the war-torn province of Tigray. It was there, in Axum - the so-called 'sacred city of the Ethiopians' - that I had my encounter with the guardian monk reported earlier in this chapter.

Palaces, catacombs and obelisks Our work began the moment that we arrived. Waiting to greet us as we stepped down from the plane was an elderly Abyssinian gentleman Page 6 of 52

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wearing a slightly threadbare three-piece suit and a most splendid patriarchal beard. In quaint but excellent English, he introduced himself as Berhane Meskel Zelelew and explained that he had been contacted by radio from Addis Ababa and ordered to guide us and act as our interpreter. He was employed, he said, by the Ministry of Culture 'to keep an eye on the antiquities of Axum'. In this capacity he had helped the archaeologists from the British Institute in Eastern Africa whose excavations of some of the city's most interesting ruins had been interrupted by the revolution of 1974. 'It's so nice to see other British people here after such a long time,' he exclaimed as we introduced ourselves. We climbed into a vintage Land Rover with a lime-green paint job and two neat bullet holes in the front windscreen. 'Fortunately no one was killed,' Zelelew reassured us when we asked him about these. Laughing nervously as we drove away from the airfield, I then explained what we had come to do, listed the historic sites that we wanted to visit, and told him that I was particularly intrigued by Axum's claim to be the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Do you believe that the Ark is here?' I asked. 'Yes. Certainly.' 'And where is it exactly?' 'It is deposited in a chapel near the centre of the city.' 'Is this chapel very old?'

"Makeda travelling by land to see the wisdom of Solomon" 'No. Its construction was ordered by our late Emperor... in 1965 I think. Before that the relic had rested for many hundreds of years within the Holy

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of Holies of the nearby church of Saint Mary of Zion...' Zelelew paused, then added: 'Haile Sellassie had a special interest in this matter, by the way... He was the two hundred and twenty-fifth direct-line descendant of Menelik, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. It was Menelik who brought the Ark of the Covenant to our country...' I was all for visiting the chapel at once, but Zelelew persuaded me that there was little point in hurrying: 'you will not be allowed anywhere near the Ark. Where it rests is holy ground. The monks and the citizens of Axum protect it and they would not hesitate to kill anyone who tried to break in. Just one man is allowed to enter and he is the monk responsible for guarding the Ark. We will try to meet him later today, but first let us go and see the Queen of Sheba's palace.' After we had assented to this attractive proposition we turned on to a bumpy, potholed road that - had we been able to follow it all the way would eventually have led us hundreds of miles south-west, through the gigantic peaks and valleys of the Simien mountains, to the city of Gondar near Lake Tana. In open country barely a mile from the centre of Axum, however, we stopped within sight of an extensively fortified military post which, Zelelew explained, marked the limit of the government controlled sector. He waved expressively at the nearby hills: 'Everything else TPLF, so we cannot go. It's a pity. There are so many interesting things to see . . . There, just around that corner in the road, are the granite quarries where all the stelae were cut. One still remains partially unexcavated from the rock. And there is a beautiful carving of a lioness. It is very ancient. It was put there before the coming of Christianity. But unfortunately we cannot reach it.' '

"Makeda meets Solomon and presents him... How far is it exactly?' I asked, tantalized.

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'Very close, less than three kilometres. But the military will not let us past the checkpoint and if they did we would certainly be taken by the guerillas. Even here we should not stand around for too long. Your foreign faces will be noticed by the TPLF snipers. They might think you are Russians and decide to shoot at you...' He laughed: 'That would be highly undesirable, would it not? Come, follow me.' He led the way into fields to the north of the road and we quickly began to stumble across the remains of what must, once, have been an imposing building. 'This was the Queen of Sheba's palace,' Zelelew announced proudly. 'According to our traditions her name was Makeda and Axum was her capital. I know that foreigners do not accept that she was an Ethiopian at all. Nevertheless no other country has a stronger claim than ours.' I asked whether any archaeology had ever been done on the site to test the legends. 'Yes, in the late 1960s the Ethiopian Institute of Archaeology conducted some excavations here... I helped on the dig.' 'And what was discovered?' Zelelew made a mournful face. 'The opinion was that the palace was not sufficiently old to have been the residence of the Queen of Sheba.' What the archaeologists had unearthed, and what we now spent some time exploring, were the ruins of a great and well built edifice with finely mortared stone walls, deep foundations and an impressive drainage system. We saw a still-intact flagstone floor - which Zelelew claimed was a large throne room - and a number of stair-wells which hinted at the existence of at least one upper storey. There were also private bathing areas of sophisticated design and a well-preserved kitchen dominated by two brick ovens. Across the road, in a field facing the palace, we then inspected a number of rough-hewn granite stelae, some standing more than fifteen feet high, some fallen and broken. Most were undecorated but one, the largest, was carved with four horizontal bands, each band topped by a row of circles in relief - like protruding beam ends in a building made of wood and stone. This crude obelisk Zelelew told us, was thought by the townspeople to mark the grave of the Queen of Sheba. No excavation work had been carried out beneath it, however, and the field was now entirely given over to farmers who grew crops for the Axum garrison. Even as we talked we saw two peasant boys approach with an ox, which they harnessed to a wooden plough. Oblivious to the history that lay all around them, and apparently indifferent to our presence as well, they began to till the soil. Page 9 of 52

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After we had finished taking pictures and notes we drove back into the centre of the city and then out again to the north-east to another palace complex, this one on a hill-top with commanding views of the whole area. Square in plan, the structure measured about two hundred feet on each side. The walls, which had long since crumbled, showed signs of having originally been projected at the corners to form four towers - possibly the very towers which, in the sixth century, the monk Cosmas had described as being adorned with brass unicorns.

"Menelik travelling by sea with the Holy Ark of the Covenant" Beneath the fortress Zelelew then led us down steep stone stairways into a number of underground galleries and chambers which were roofed and walled with massive dressed granite blocks that fitted precisely against one another without any mortar in the joints. Local tradition, he said, identified this cool dark warren as the treasury used by Emperor Kaleb (AD 514-542) and also by his son Gebre-Maskal. With the aid of a flashlight we saw the empty stone coffers which lay within coffers believed to have once contained great riches in gold and pearls. Further rooms, as yet unexcavated, extended into the hillside from there, blocked off behind thick granite walls. Eventually we left the hill-top fortress and made our way down into the centre of Axum on a gravel road. Near the bottom of the gradient, to our left, we paused to photograph a large, open deep-water reservoir dug down into the red granite of the hillside and approached by means of rough-hewn stairways. Known as the Mai Shum, it seemed to us very old an impression that Zelelew confirmed when he remarked that it was originally the Queen of Sheba's pleasure bath: 'At least so our people believe. Since the beginning of Christian times it has been used for baptismal ceremonies to celebrate the Holy Epiphany, which we call Timkat. And of course the peasants still come here every day to draw their

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water.' As though to confirm this last observation he pointed to a group of women carefully descending the time-worn steps bearing gourds on their heads. By now, without any of us really noticing how the time had passed, it was already well past the middle of the afternoon. Zelelew urged us to hurry, pointing out that we were scheduled to fly back to Asmara at first light the next day and that we still had much to see. Our next destination was close by, the so-called 'Park of the Stelae' certainly the focal point of Axum's archaeological interest. Here we examined and photographed a remarkable series of giant obelisks carved from slabs of solid granite. The most massive of these, a tumbled fractured ruin, was believed to have fallen to the ground more than a thousand years previously. In its heyday, though, it had stood one hundred and ten feet tall and must have dominated the entire area. I remembered from the reading I had done on the flight that its weight was estimated to exceed five hundred tons. It was thought to be the largest single piece of stone ever successfully quarried and erected in the ancient world.

"Menelik arrives at Axum with the Holy Ark of the Convenant" This fallen stele was painstakingly hewn to mimic a high, slender building of thirteen storeys - each storey complete with elaborate representations of windows and other details, and demarcated from the next by a row of symbolic beam-ends. At the base could be discerned a false door complete with a knocker and lock, all perfectly carved in stone. Another fallen - but much smaller and unbroken - obelisk, Zelelew told us, had been stolen during the Italian occupation of 1935-41, transported with enormous difficulty to Rome by Mussolini, and re-erected near the Arch of Constantine. Since it, too, was elaborately carved - and therefore of great artistic value - the Ethiopian government was campaigning for its return. In the meantime, however, it was fortunate that a third decorated monolith still remained in situ in the stelae park. Page 11 of 52

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With a flourish our guide now pointed to this towering stone needle, more than seventy feet high and topped with a curved headpiece shaped like a half- moon. We strolled over to examine it properly and found that, like its huge neighbour, it had been carved to resemble a conventional built-up structure - in this case a nine-storey building in the fashion of a towerhouse. Once again, the main decoration on the front elevation was provided by the semblance of windows and of beams of timber supposedly inserted horizontally into the walls. The intervals between each of the floors were defined by rows of symbolic log-ends, and the house-like appearance was further enhanced by the presence of a false door. Several other stelae of varying sizes were ranged around this refined monument - all of them clearly the products of an advanced, well organized and prosperous culture. Nowhere else in sub-Saharan Africa had anything even remotely similar been built and, for this reason, Axum was a mystery - its antecedents unknown, the sources of its inspiration unremembered.

The sanctuary chapel Across the road, directly opposite the park of the stelae, stood a spacious walled compound containing two churches - one old and the other obviously much more recent. These, Zelelew told us, were both dedicated to Saint Mary of Zion. The new one, which had a domed roof and a lofty bell- tower in the shape of an obelisk, had been built by Haile Selassie in the 1960s. The other dated back to the mid-seventeenth century and was Page 12 of 52

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the work of Emperor Fasilidas - who, like so many Ethiopian monarchs before and since, had been crowned in Axum and had venerated the sacred city despite making his capital elsewhere. We found Haile Selassie's pretentious modern 'cathedral' as unpleasant as it was uninteresting. We were attracted, however, to the Fasilidas construction which, with its turrets and crenellated battlements, seemed to us 'half church of God, half castle' - and thus to belong to a truly ancient Ethiopian tradition in which the distinctions between the military and the clergy were often blurred. In the dimly lit interior I was able to study several striking murals including one depicting the story of the life of Mary, another that of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and a third the legend of Saint Yared - the supposed inventor of Ethiopia's eerie church music. Faded with age, this latter work showed Yared performing before King Gebre-Maskal. The saint's foot had been pierced by a spear dropped from the monarch's hand but both men were so entranced by the music of sistrum and drum that they had not noticed. Not far from the old church were the ruins of a building that must once have been very extensive but was now reduced to little more than its deeply entrenched foundations. These, Zelelew explained, were the remains of the original Saint Mary of Zion which had been built in the fourth century AD at the time of the conversion of the Axumite kingdom to Christianity. Some twelve hundred years later, in 1535, it had been razed to the ground by a fanatical Muslim invader, Ahmed Gragn ('the lefthanded'), whose forces swept across the Horn of Africa from Harar in the east and, at one time, threatened the complete extinction of Ethiopian Christendom.

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Shortly before its destruction, this 'first Saint Mary's' - as Zelelew called it was visited by an itinerant Portuguese friar named Francisco Alvarez. I later looked up his description of it - the only one that survives: It is very large and has five naves of a good width and of a great length, vaulted above, and all the vaults are covered up, and the ceiling and sides are all painted; it also has a choir after our fashion ... This noble church has a very large circuit, paved with flagstones, like gravestones, and it has a large enclosure, and is surrounded by another large enclosure like the wall of a large town or city. Zelelew rightly dated the start of construction works on the first Saint Mary's at AD 372 - which meant that this was quite possibly the earliest Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa. A great five-aisled basilica, it was regarded from its inauguration as the most sacred place in all Ethiopia. This was so because it was built to house the Ark of the Covenant - which, if there was any truth to the legends, must have arrived in the country long before the birth of Jesus and must then have been co-opted by the Christian hierarchy at some point after the new religion had been officially adopted by the Axumite state. When Alvarez visited Saint Mary's in the 1520s - becoming, in the process, the first European to document the Ethiopian version of the legend of the Queen of Sheba and the birth of her only son Menelik - the Page 14 of 52

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Ark was still in the Holy of Holies of the ancient church. It did not stay there for very much longer, however. In the early 1530s, with the invading armies of Ahmed Gragn drawing ever closer, the sacred relic was removed 'to some other place of safekeeping' (Zelelew did not know where). It thus escaped the destruction and looting that the Muslims unleashed upon Axum in 1535. A hundred years later, with peace restored throughout the empire, the Ark was brought back in triumph and installed in the second Saint Mary's built by Fasilidas beside the razed remains of the first. And there apparently it stayed until 1965 when Haile Selassie had it moved to the new and more secure chapel put up at the same time as his own grandiose cathedral but annexed to the seventeenth-century church. It was in the grounds of Haile Sellassie's chapel that the guardian monk told me his astonishing story about the Ark and warned me that it was 'powerful'. 'How powerful?' I asked. 'What do you mean?' The guardian's posture stiffened and he seemed suddenly to grow more alert. There was a pause. Then he chuckled and put a question to me: 'Have you seen the stelae?' 'Yes', I replied, 'I have seen them.' 'How do you think they were raised up?' I confessed that I did not know. 'The Ark was used,' whispered the monk darkly, 'the Ark and the celestial fire. Men alone could never have done such a thing.' On my return to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, I took the opportunity to conduct some research into the historical merits of the legend that the guardian had related to me. I wanted to find out whether there was any possibility at all that the Queen of Sheba could have been an Ethiopian monarch. And if there was, then could she really have journeyed to Israel in the time of Solomon - around three thousand years ago? Could she have been impregnated by the Jewish kin? Could she have borne him a son named Menelik? Most importantly, could that son have made his way to Jerusalem as a young man, spent a year there at his father's court, and then returned to Axum with the Ark of the Covenant? *** Graham Hancock was the East Africa correspondent for The Economist and is the author of several previous books on Africa and the Third World. He lives in Page 15 of 52

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Devonshire, England. Part fascinating scholarship and part entertaining adventure yarn, tying together some of the most intriguing tales of all time -- from the Knights Templar and Prester John to Parsival and the Holy Grail -- Hancock's book, The Sign and the Seal will appeal to anyone fascinated by the revelation of hidden truths, the discovery of secret mysteries. "The Sign and The Seal" © Graham Hancock, All Rights Reserved - Photo Credits, © L.Jauregui - Web Production and Design, OneWorld Magazine. OneWorld Magazine is hosted by The EnviroLink Network - OneWorld WWW Site © OneWorld Magazine - All Rights Reserved.

Where is the Ark of the Covenant?
Does Sheshonq I take the Ark to Tanis?
Some think that the Ark of the Covenant was taken to Egypt by Shishak when he attacked Jerusalem. I Kings 14:25-26 says, "In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made" (NIV). II Chronicles 12:2-4,9 says, "Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam.

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With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troop of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem...When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made" (NIV). The Hebrew name Shishak matches the Egyptian name of Sheshonq I in Egyptian history. Sheshonq is the founder of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt. Sheshonq I ruled from 945-924 BC. He was from a Libyan tribe who became commander-in-chief, then King. He was a strong leader who reunited Egypt. 2 Chronicles 12:3-4 says, "With 1200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites (mercenary Libyan soldiers) and Cushites (Upper Egypt) that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem" (NIV). Note the many troops from Libya. Thutmose III nor Rameses II would not have had an army composed of mainly outsiders, but Egyptians. There are inscriptions of Sheshonq's campaign into Palestine on the wall of the temple of Amon in Karnak. ANET, 263; ANEP, 349; ANE 1, fig.94. It says that Sheshonq I went as far as Megiddo where a victory stele was erected. ANET 242-3 has a list the the cities he captured. For more information on the list see Handbook for the Study of Egyptian Topographical Lists Relating to Western Asia by J. Simons, Leiden 1937 (pp.90-101,178-186: see also Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. 4, paragraph 709). For more information on Sheshonq see What evidence has been found of the Egyptian king, Shishak? Sheshonq I established Tanis as the capitol of Egypt. If indeed all the treasures of the Temple were taken by Sheshonq I, then the Ark was taken back to Tanis. Part of the loot was usually given to the temples in Egypt especially the god the pharaoh worshipped in thanks for their great military victory. There is a fragmentary inscription of Sheshonq delivering tribute from Palestine to the god Amon (See Breasted, Vol.4, paragraph 723). Sometimes they would melt down the metals and remake what they wanted. So the Ark of the Covenant may be somewhere in Egypt. In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark Indiana Jones looks for the Ark in Tanis. However, other legends say that the Jews hid the Ark, and did not give it to Sheshonq I. One legend says that Solomon had a son named Menelik by the Queen of Sheba who took the Ark back to Ethiopia. Supposedly, King Solomon had this son by the Queen of Sheba when she came to visit Solomon (I Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12). When he grew up Menelik returned to Jerusalem for a copy of the Ark of the Covenant which Solomon gave to him. But Menelik secretly switched the real Ark with the replica. Menelik took the real Ark back to Ethiopia. Traditionally, Sheba is located in Saudi Arabia not Ethiopia (more details about this below). The Ark is mentioned later in the days of Josiah. 2 Chronicles 35:3 states, "He (Josiah) said to the Levites, who instructed all Israel and who had been consecrated to the Lord: 'Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon son of David king of Israel built. It is not to be carried about on your shoulders" (NIV). The Book of the Law was found by Hilkiah the priest in the Temple. Josiah sets up reforms. Page 17 of 52

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Does Nebuchadnezzar take the Ark to Babylon?
Some think that the Ark of the Covenant was taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon when he captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. 2 Kings 25:13-15 says, "The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling blows-all that were made of pure gold or silver " (NIV; see also Jeremiah 52:17-22). However, notice that there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant. The parallel account given in 2 Chronicles 36:17-19 probably written by Ezra says, "God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the places and destroyed everything of value there" (NIV). The Fourth Book of Ezra 10:19-22 states, "So I spoke again to her, and said, 'Do not say that, but let yourself be persuaded because of the troubles of Zion, and be consoled because of the sorrow of Jerusalem. For you see that our sanctuary had been laid waste, our altar thrown down, our temple destroyed; our harp had been laid low, our song has been silenced, and our rejoicing had been ended; the light of our lampstand had been put out, the ark of our covenant has been plundered, our holy things have been polluted, and the name by which we are called has been profaned; our free men have suffered abuse, our priests have been burned to death, our Levites have gone into captivity" (Charlesworth 1983, 546-7). According to the Fourth Book of Ezra the Ark of the Covenant was taken to Babylon.

Did Jeremiah Hide the Ark in a Cave?
In 2 Maccabees 2:4-6 Jeremiah is told to hide the Ark in a cave in Mt. Nebo. 2 Maccabees 2:4-6 says, "It was also contained in the same writing, how the prophet (Jeremiah), being warned by God, commanded that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him, till he came forth to the mountain where Moses went up and saw the inheritance of God (Mt. Nebo). And when Jeremias came thither he found a hollow cave: and he carried in thither the tabernacle and the ark and the altar of incense and so stopped the door. Then some of them that followed him came up to mark the: but they could not find it. And when Jeremias perceived it he blamed them saying: The place shall be unknown till God gather together to congregation of the people and receive them to mercy" (Douay). According to 2 Baruch 6:5-9 an angel came down from heaven into the Holy of Holies and took "the veil, the holy ephod, the mercy seat, the two tables, the holy raiment of the priest, the altar of incense, the forty-eight precious stones with which the priests were clothed, and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle" (Charlesworth 1983, 623). These are stories that the Ark was hidden.

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After Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, he issued a decree for the temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt in 538 BC. The Jews could now return to Jerusalem. Ezra 1:7 says, "Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god" (NIV note: "It was the custom for conquerors to carry off the images of the gods of conquered cities.). The inventory in Ezra 1:9-11 lists gold and silver dishes, silver pans, gold and silver bowls, and other articles for a total of 5,400 items. The Ark of the Covenant is not specifically listed.

Did Antiochus Epiphanes take the Ark to Syria?
I Maccabees 1:21-24, 57 states, "And after Antiochus had ravaged Egypt in the hundred and forty-third year, he returned and went up against Isreal. And he went up to Jerusalem with a great multitude. And he proudly entered into the sanctuary and took away the golden altar and the candlestick of light and all the vessels thereof and the table of proposition and the pouring vessels and the vials and the little mortars of gold and the veil and the crowns and the golden ornament that was before the temple: and he broke them all in pieces. And he took the silver and gold, and the precious vessels: and he took the hidden treasures which he found. And when he had taken all away he departed into his own country...On the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred and forty-fifth year, king Antiochus set up the abominable idol of desolation upon the altar of God" (Douay). It seems that the furniture of the Temple was broken into pieces, and then carried back to Syria. There is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant.

Did Titus take the Ark to Rome?
The Romans captured the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Titus took the vessels from the Temple and brought them to Rome. There is a carving of the lampstand or Menorah, the Table of Shewbread, and ritual trumpets on the Triumphant Arch of Titus in Rome. There is no carving of the Ark of the Covenant. Josephus in the Jewish War writes, "Most of the spoils that were carried were heaped up indiscriminately, but more prominent than all the rest were those captured in the Temple at Jerusalem-a golden table weighing several hundredweight, and a lampstand, similarly made of gold but differently constructed from those we normally use...After these was carried the Jewish Law, the last of the spoils...Vespasian made up his mind to build a temple of Peace...There too he laid up the golden vessels from the Temple of the Jews, for he prided himself on them; but their Law and the crimson curtains of the Inner Sanctuary he ordered to be deposited in the Palace for safe keeping" (Book VII, Chp.V, 5-6; Translation by G.A. Williamson, New York: Dorset, 1959, 385-6). About these temple vessels in Rome G. A. Williamson comments, "They were seized by the Vandals and taken to North Africa in 455, recovered and removed to Constantinople, the capital of the eastern empire in 534, and then, reputedly, sent to a church in Jerusalem, where they remained till the seventh century. They disappeared at an unknown later date" (Ibid, 456). With the conquest of Islam the vessels could have been taken any where under their control. Page 19 of 52

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In Josephus' description of the Temple, there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies was empty. Josephus states, "The innermost chamber measured 30 feet and was similarly separated by a curtain from the outer part. Nothing at all was kept in it; it was unapproachable, inviolable, and invisible to all, and was called the Holy of Holies" (Book V, Chp. V, 5; Williamson, 304). It seems that there was no Ark of the Covenant in the Second Temple.

Other Claims about the Ark!
Certain Rabbis claim to have seen the Ark in a tunnel under the Temple ground in Jerusalem. The Israeli government sealed the entrance with cement because of protests from the Arabs, because it was near the Dome of the Rock. There is no proof that the Ark is there. Ron Wyatt claims to have found the Ark in a tunnel in a quarry in Mt. Moriah where Christ was crucified, but there is no proof. He claims to have scraped the blood of Jesus off the mercy seat which had dripped down through a crack in the rocks right under where Christ was crucified. He claims the blood has only 24 chromosomes instead of the normal 46, but where are the laboratory tests on the blood? He has no proof. His web site is at Some claim the ark is in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. This view has been popularized by Graham Hancock's book The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. There was also a special TV program about this, but there is no proof. If there is, it might be a replica from Elephantine. There is suppose to be a replica of the ark in every Ethiopia church. The real Ark is supposedly in the Sanctuary Chapel in Saint Mary of Zion's Church in Axum, Ethiopia. Supposedly, King Solomon had a son by the Queen of Sheba named Menelik. When he grew up Menelik returned to Jerusalem for a copy of the Ark of the Covenant which Solomon gave to him. But Menelik secretly switched the real Ark with the replica. Menelik took the real Ark back to Ethiopia. Traditionally, Sheba is located in Saudi Arabia not Ethiopia. There was a Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt that built a replica of the temple of the Lord (Yaho). They requested help from Jerusalem to rebuild the temple because it was destroyed in the 14th year of Darius (410 BC). The Petition For Authorization To Rebuild the Temple of Yaho states, "Nefayan thereupon led the Egyptians with other troops. Coming with their weapons to the fortress of Elephantine, they entered the temple and razed it to the ground...As for the basins of gold and silver and other articles that were in that temple, they carried all of them off and made them their own.-Now, our forefathers built this temple in the fortress of Elephantine back in the days of the kingdom of Egypt, and when Cambyses came to Egypt he found it built. They knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt, but no one did any damage to this temple...Let a letter be sent from you to them concerning the temple of the god Yaho to build it in the fortress of Elephantine as it was built before; and the meal-offering, incense, and burnt Page 20 of 52

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offering will be offered in your name" (ANET, 492; ANE vol.1, 279-281). The governors of Judah send a reply with permission to rebuild the temple (ANET, 492; ANE vol.1, 281). There is a temple of the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizum that may be a close replica of the temple in Jerusalem. They may have had a replica of the Ark. According to Josephus during the Greek period Manasseh, the brother of Jaddua the high priest had married Nicaso, a foreign woman. The priests demanded that Manasseh divorce his wife or not approach the altar. Sanballat II (different from the one mentioned in Nehemiah) his father-in-law told Manasseh that he would build him a temple on Mount Gerizum just like the one at Jerusalem if he would not divorce his wife. Alexander the Great gave Sanballat, a general in his army, permission to build the temple (Antiquities of the Jews Book XI, 8:2-4). Some Two hundred years later Hyrcanus destroyed the temple on Mount Gerizum (Antiquities of the Jews Book XIII, 9:1). Vendyl Jones thinks he has found the resting place of the Ark in a cave by the Dead Sea near Qumran. He claims the Copper Scroll tells the location of the Ark, but his translation of the Copper Scroll is very questionable. Scholars translate it differently. When He dung in the cave, no Ark was found. Tom Croster claims he has found the Ark in a cave on Mt. Nebo where Jeremiah hid it. He was guided by the work of Antonia Frederick Futterer who searched for the Ark in the 1920's. With Futterer's sketch Tom Croster left for Jordan in October 1981. On Mt. Pisgah Tom found an opening that led to a passageway that led to what he thinks was the Ark of the Covenant. He took pictures which he refused to release. Siegfried H. Horn was invited to see the photos. Horn concluded, "I do not know what the object is, but the pictures convinced me that it is not an ancient artifact but of modern fabrication with machine-produced decorative strips and an underlying metal sheet" (Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 1983, 66-69). Michael Sanders believes that the Ark is in the village of Djaharya in Israel. There is suppose to be a TV special on NBC soon about this. I think that his chronology and interpretation of Egyptian texts are off. The location at Djaharya sounds similar to Egyptian words, but similar sounds do not mean they are the same. I think Rohl in his books also assumes that similar sounding words must be the same. Djahi is a general area for part of Palestine and Phoenicia (See A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian by Raymond O. Faulkner 1991, 319). I looked up all the occurrences of Djahi in ANET, and they do not seem to fit the location of Djaharya. Pekanan is literally "the Canaan" according to Breasted. The "Pe" is the article "the" plus "Canaan." (This is what I remember from taking Egyptian Hieroglyphics) Djahi and Pekanan are two different Egyptian words, that are general geographic terms, and should not be put together to form a new word Djahi Pakaanan. These two words seem to be used in parallel. There were a number of Egyptian Temples in Canaan not just in Djaharya. For more information see his Website at Ark of the Covenant - Part I, II & III.

What does the Ark of the Covenant look like?
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There are pictures of Egyptian Camp sites that look very similar to the Tabernacle picturing an ark with winged creatures on top. (See The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands by Yigael Yadin, 1963, 237, also 107-9).

There is a stone carving of a wagon on a lintel at a late second to early third century synagogue at Capernaum that may be a picture of the Ark of the Covenant (See Harper's Bible Dictionary, 64).

Dr. Ralph Wilson thinks the Ark of the Covenant is actually a throne chair for God (I Samuel 4:4). He has pictures of what cherubim probably look like at Near Eastern Thrones and the Ark of the Covenant. There are several carvings of what seems to be cherubim that have been found (BAR 21:4, pp.36-41). See Below:

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Cherub throne

Cherub ivory

Cherub? Metro

Ivory Cherub? U of Penn.

Ritmeyer believes the Ark of the Covenant sat on the large rock under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. There is a rectangle carved into the rock that supposedly matches the measurements of the Ark, but this is questionable. See Where has the lost Ark of the Covenant been? The exact description on how to build the Ark is in Exodus 25:10-22: Have them make a chest of acacia wood-two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. (Note m: 3 ¾ feet long by 2 ¼ feet wide and high.) Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. The poles are to remain in the

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rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Make an atonement cover of pure gold-two and half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other. Looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites" (NIV).

There may have been several replicas of the Ark of the Covenant made. We do not know for sure where the real Ark of the Covenant is.

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Ark of the Covenant found? where? how?

With Christ's Most Precious Blood atop the Mercy Seat?
Some think the Ark of the Covenant was the doorway to Heaven

Imagined Replica

Jewish Tradition - whereabouts of the Ark
After all, we are living in the Last Days. The coming of the Messiah is not far off. And many Jews and Christians alike believe that before the Savior comes, the Temple must be rebuilt (Zechariah 1:16; 2Thess 2:4; Revelations 11:1). If this happens, the Temple’s sacred vessels — hidden Page 25 of 52

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since the destruction of the First and Second Temples — could also be restored. But where are these vessels? And where is the most sacred prize of all — the Ark of the Covenant? There were, in fact, two sets of sacred vessels used in the Biblical worship of God. The first were used in the Tabernacle, after God showed Moses how to make the Ark of the Covenant and other holy vessels. In about 1446 B.C. Moses instructed Bezalel (Bezaleel ben Uri) to build everything exactly as God commanded. Bezalel's name appropriately means, "In the Shadow of El (God), the Son of my Light". The original vessels disappeared when King Solomon made new, more ornate ones for the First Temple. These vessels were carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar after he destroyed the First Temple in 586 BC, but were later restored to the Second Temple. But in 70 AD, the vessels were stolen by the Romans when Titus destroyed the Second Temple. This was documented on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which showed Roman soldiers carrying away the seven-branched candelabra and other Temple vessels. Some scholars believe that the Temple objects taken by the Romans lie in the catacombs of the Vatican. The Vatican denies they are holding any of these. As for the Ark of the Covenant, it disappeared before the destruction of the First Temple. It was hidden by priests who foresaw the coming desolation, and its mysterious whereabouts have been the source of myth and legend ever since. We know from 2 Chronicles 35:3 that King Josiah had the Ark put into Solomon's Temple in about 623 B.C. Previous to this the Ark was hidden because of turbulent times Israel had gone through; probably from around 950-623 B.C.
3 And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the LORD, Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel,

Is the Ark in Ethiopia, beneath Mt Moriah, in Ireland, melted by Ramses III, or in a Cave at/near Mt Nebo/Pisgah (Jordan)?

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Picture of Mt Nebo (aka: Mt Pisgah) in Jordan

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2nd Picture from Mt Nebo (aka: Mt Pisgah) in Jordan Wouldn't it be amazing if the tomb of Moses is where the Ark really is; and both get found? Jeremiah just may have known where Moses was buried! For the Biblical answer to the whereabouts of the Ark we look at II Maccabees 2:4-8. Here we find that Jeremiah "being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him." He did not take it to Egypt. On the contrary, "went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God" (Mount Pisgah/Nebo). When Jeremiah reached the mountain, "he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door" (II Maccabees 2:4-6). Here is solid documentary evidence of where the Ark was placed, possibly in about 605 B.C. Several of Jeremiah's followers returned to mark the site but could not find it, but 'when Jeremiah learned of this he reprimanded them. "it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy. Then shall the Lord shew them these things, and the glory of the Lord shall appear, and the cloud also, as it was shewed under Moses". Mount Nebo is a prominent peak of the Abarim Range that parallels the eastern shore of the Dead Sea (Deut 32:49; 34:1). This line of mountains is also referred to as Pisgah (Deut 3:17, 27; 4:49; Josh 12:3; 13:20).

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Mount Nebo rises 2700 feet above sea level. The drop down to the Dead Sea at 1300 feet below sea level measures some 4,000 feet. Pisgah also refers to a particular peak associated with Mount Nebo (Deut 34:1). Here God's word says that the whereabouts of the Ark would be hidden until the Last Days. Through the word of God, through Jeremiah, we know that the Ark was not taken by him to Egypt...but was buried in a cave on the top of Mount Pisgah. This was the point from which the Lord showed Moses the Promised Land, saying to him, 'I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over into it' (Deuteronomy 34:4 NEB). Was the Ark moved from Mt Nebo back to the Temple Mount? Is it underneath the Temple Mount? According to ancient writings dating back to the First Temple period, King Solomon built a secret subterranean tunnel under a small wooden room in the Temple where the wood for the sacrificial fire was stored. The priests were instructed to hide the Ark of the Covenant there should Jerusalem come under siege. That may be why the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Temple when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. According to a theory circulating among scholars and archaeologists, the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred vessels of the Tabernacle may be hidden in a secret tunnel between the Temple Mount and Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Military aircraft with state-of-the-art sensors flew over this 12 square mile area and examined it with radiographic equipment. The examination revealed an anomaly — something is there that is not indigenous to the topography. Could it be the Ark and sacred vessels? God's special Shekinah glory dwelt on the Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant. According to the prophet Jeremiah (3:15-17) the Ark of the Covenant will play an important future role. The ark is said to have been built shortly after the Exodus occurred, therefore the craftsmen who were commissioned to build the Ark would have learned their craft in Egypt; with this in mind it is highly likely the conventions and imagery used to build the Ark would have been totally consistent with conventions used in Egyptian art on or before 1220 B.C. The Ark of the Covenant was made of acacia wood and covered outside and inside in pure gold. It was 45 inches 27 inches by 27 inches. Three sacred things were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. Inside were Page 29 of 52

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Aaron's sacred rod, which was used to perform miracles in front of Pharoah; manna, which God gave the Israelites to eat in the wilderness; and, the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. A golden box with the power to strike men dead; to the ancient Hebrews, the Ark was both a divine manifestation and a talisman so powerful that they carried it with them into battle — a weapon of God. It came to occupy the most revered spot in Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies at the Temple of Solomon. The true whereabouts of the ark of the Covenant remains a mystery! Six centuries before the birth of Christ — it mysteriously disappeared. Some suggest the Ark is hidden somewhere near the Dead Sea, on the Jordan's west bank. According to one tradition, Jeremiah was the last to see the Ark and hid it in Mount Nebo on the Jordan River's east bank (now Jordan). According to another tradition it was taken to Egypt for safekeeping during the reign of Josiah. But a great many Jewish scholars think it is in a secret vault below the Temple Mount. There are about 18 miles of tunnels leading from under the Temple Mount into the Judean hills. Those just may be where the ark actually was deposited for safe keeping. Or, alternatively - in Jordan - on Mount Pisgah/Nebo???... The Israeli Temple Institute, an Ultra-Orthodox organization dedicated to rebuilding the Jewish Temple, is reported to have said; "the Ark is under the temple mount and will be revealed at the proper time - when the temple is rebuilt". According to Scripture, the Messiah (Jesus) cannot come (2nd time) until the Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Temple would be unfinished without both the real Ark of the Covenant and ashes of the Red Heifer. And, the Lord will not come until Israel has a "spiritual awakening". Or, have the pagan Mason's captured the Ark of the Covenant? The earliest written copies of Masonic ritual state unequivocally that the ancient masons found the Ark of the Covenant hidden in a cave under the site of King Solomon's temple. The Knights Templar's quartered in the Al Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount. There are many stories told that the Templar's spent the first 10 years or so of their existence digging under Temple Mount.

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Reports it is in a Cave in northern Ethiopia

The Ethiopian monarch is the oldest continuous monarchy in history. It began with the Queen of Sheba. She and King Solomon of Israel had a son who was Menelik the First of Ethiopia. The ancient Church of St. Mary of Zion is located in northern Ethiopia in Aksum. Aksum is the same city the Queen of Sheba is from. Deep below this church is a maze of underground passages. These tunnels have been protected by priestly guards of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish monarchy. Only the highest priests and the Emperor can enter deep within these tunnels. The secret Holy of Holies Room is located within the innermost rings. Ethiopians claim that the Ark of the Covenant has lain within this tunnel for thousands of years. Only one person--the Guardian of the Ark can enter into the actual Holy of Holies Room. Chosen at the age of seven, this Guardian guards over the Ark for the rest of his life--never seeing the light of day. Ethiopian history says that before it was moved to the tunnels beneath St. Mary's of Zion that it was housed in a tent for 800 years (4th century BC to 4th century AD) on the island of Tana Kirkos on Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia. This above Ethiopian whereabouts story was partly spread by Black Ethiopian Jews. Remember, these black Africans who practice an ancient form of Judaism, were airlifted by an Israeli military action team to freedom

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from political persecution in 1976. In the September, 1935 issue of the National Geographic magazine, an article appeared regarding interviews with different priests in various parts of Ethiopia. These priests consistently stated that when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem, she had a child by him called Menelik I. According to the priests author L. Roberts interviewed, Solomon educated the young boy in Jerusalem until he was nineteen years of age. The young man then returned to Ethiopia with a large group of Jews, taking with him the TRUE ARK OF THE COVENANT. As the story goes, King Solomon wanted to give Menelik a REPLICA of the Ark to take with him since the distance between Jerusalem and Ethiopia was such that Menelik would be prevented from ever again worshipping at the Temple. "However, Prince Menelik was concerned with the growing APOSTASY of Israel and the fact that his father, Solomon, was now allowing idols to be placed in the Temple to please his pagan wives. King Solomon gave the prince a going-away banquet and after the priests were filled with wine, Menelik and his loyal associates SWITCHED ARKS AND LEFT THE REPLICA in its place in the Holy of Holies." Some who have gained access to this Ethiopian vault report that the Ethiopians are guarding only an "altar stone". Then reports that the Israeli's had taken the Ark from Ethiopia to Israel began surfacing. Recently, reports from Jerusalem that Muslims are doing "digs" in the Temple Mount (for what?)(see Temple Mount Furor). When will the Israeli's stop them from digging up Mt Moriah?

Stop....... Was the Ark carried to heaven?
A Jewish tradition is that the Ark was miraculously transported to heaven when Nebuchadnezzar captured the temple. And that the ark will be restored when the Messiah comes. If you think this is odd, what does one make of Revelation 11:19? In 11:19 John is declaring the ark is in heaven. "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." Is this the ark that Moses had built? Or, is this another heavenly Ark?

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When Jesus returns will the Ark have any significance at all?
The Ark of the covenant which had been the special manifestation of Jehovah will be forgotten, because Yeshua (Jesus) (Jehovah) the Messiah will fill the whole city of Jerusalem with His presence...

Jeremiah 3:16-17 16 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. 17 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.

Was all the above about the Ark in Ethiopian a ruse? Did Israeli Jews plant a copy of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia--and place a guard over it all these centuries? Or, was a copy planted under Golgotha? Was this all carried out to confuse & protect the real ARK by Solomon? Why couldn't the Crusaders find the "Holy Grail" right under their eyes and in a most prominent place? Has the real Ark been buried beneath Golgotha all these centuries? MORE AMAZING --did the Mercy Seat capture the blood of Christ as it spilled from the cross and seeped down through the rocks? The Jewish sage Maimonides, in an account called The Laws of God's Chosen House, gives this remarkable story: "When Solomon built the Temple, he was aware that it would ultimately be destroyed. He constructed a chamber in which the Ark could be entombed below the Temple in deep, maze-like vaults. King Josiah commanded that the Ark be entombed in the chamber built by Solomon, as it is said (2 Chronicles 35:3), 'And he said to the Levites who were enlightened above all of Israel, Place the Holy Ark in the chamber built by Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel. You will no longer carry it on your shoulders. Now, serve the Lord, your God.' When it was entombed, Aaron's staff, the vital manna, and the oil used for anointing were entombed with it. All these sacred articles DID NOT return to the Second Temple." (Hilchos Bais HaBechinah).

Also Note: Ancient Irish tradition says that the prophet

Jeremiah arrived in Ireland (583-585 B.C.) with the Hebrew Princess Tea-Tephi (daughter of Zedekiah) and some remarkable things, including a harp, AN ARK, and a

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wonderful stone called "Lia-Fail," or the "Stone of Destiny." STOP-WHOOOO! Was Ramses III "Shishak"?? Bible Scholar Mike Sanders thinks so......
Bible Probe thinks Mike's answer is the most plausible!

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1 Kings 14 Read This Chapter 14:25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam's reign, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. 14:26 He ransacked the Temple of the LORD and the royal palace and stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. 2 Chronicles 12 Read This Chapter 12:2 Because they were unfaithful to the LORD, King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam's reign. 12:3 He came with twelve hundred chariots, sixty thousand horsemen, and a countless army of foot soldiers, including Libyans, Sukkites, and Ethiopians. 12:4 Shishak conquered Judah's fortified cities and then advanced to attack Jerusalem. 12:5 The prophet Shemaiah then met with Rehoboam and Judah's leaders, who had all fled to Jerusalem because of Shishak. Shemaiah told them, "This is what the LORD says: You have abandoned me, so I am abandoning you to Shishak." 12:6 The king and the leaders of Israel humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is right in doing this to us!" 12:7 When the LORD saw their change of heart, he gave this message to Shemaiah: "Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief. I will not use Shishak to pour out my anger on Jerusalem. 12:8 But they will become his subjects, so that they can learn how much better it is to serve me than to serve earthly rulers." 12:9 So King Shishak of Egypt came to Jerusalem and took away all the treasures of the Temple of the LORD and of the royal palace, including all of Solomon's gold shields.

Mike Sanders, who runs "" is a biblical scholar, researcher, and investigator of the first order. Mike looks to the Bible for the tough questions and he jusy may be onto something here. Just perhaps the Ancient Jews knew Ramses III, the Pharoah of Egypt as "Shishak" who was mentioned above as the king who attacked Judah and went off with all its treasures. Mike has traced "Shishak" down all over the middle east and has created an exciting VHS video where you can watch him stand in front of a stone relief depicting Ramses III carrying off treasures from Judah (showing a golden "box" on two golden poles). Mike went even further and found an ancient building which Shikshak (Ramses III) could have built as a Temple to honor his god(s) for his defeat of the Jews. This building is in the West Page 35 of 52

The Sign and the Seal

The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was crucial to the success of the Exodus of Moses. It was not just a ceremonial figurehead, it was used as a weapon and possibly a source of food (It is thought by some to have been involved in the production of the manna.). At the moment it is located at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in the town of Axum -- 623 km. north of Addis Ababa. (Bible code here) (See the pictures of Axum - Pics 1 - Pics 2 - Pics 3 - Pics 4 - Pics 5 - view from space. There are some other theories about the current location so I have provided some links to other online sources on my Ark links page.

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The Ark should look something like this according to the Bible.

The Seraphim on the lid of the Ark are probably similar to these ones from Tutankhamun's tomb.

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The building where the Ark of the Covenant is kept.

St Mary of Zion Church, Axum, Ethiopia. Axum is deep within a large area of mountains, I believe these are the mountains that we should flee to, and the Ark is our beacon. The Book of Enoch says we shall be given a sword at the time of the second end - I suspect this means the Ark. There is also: Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God.' Essene version of Revelation

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The Tabernacle where the Ark was kept before the Temple was built.

The story of the Ark, how it was used by Moses, how it got to Ethiopia, and many other details are covered in a very readable and inexpensive book by Graham Hancock - "The Sign and the Seal" The following was copied from another website (which seems to have disappeared): The Ark of the Covenant -- considered the most holy of Christian artifacts -- has been located in Ethiopia, after having disappeared in the reign of Biblical King Solomon more than 3,000 years ago. According to the Kebre Negast, the Ethiopian "bible", it was taken to Ethiopia by Menelik I, the son of Solomon's union with the legendary Queen Makeda of Ethiopia (better known as the Queen of Sheba) and has been in Ethiopia ever since. However, this location has been disputed in modern times, and many individuals and countries have tried to find the Ark. According to an article in Canada's "Sunday Sun" newspaper by journalist Kaye Corbett, a threeyear search has positively located "the most important archaeological, historical and religious

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object in man's history" buried in the bowels of the Ethiopian Orthodox St. Mary of Zion Church in Aksum -- a holy city 623 km. north of Addis Ababa. Corbett promises to reveal his findings in a soon-to-be-published book co-authored with H.R.H. Stephen Mengesha, a great grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie. He writes that the Jewish State of Israel will soon make a claim on this most valued relic, prior to building a new Temple to house the Ark on Temple Mount in Jerusalem -- the controversial site presently occupied by the Muslim's Dome of the Rock shrine. Corbett states that such a claim would have a dramatic effect on the Jewish state and the world. That is putting it mildly. The effect of any attempt to relocate the Ark of the Covenant may well be the Third World War. It is believed that the Jews will base their claim on the fact that thousands of Ethiopian Jews, called Falashas, have been resettled in Israel in recent years and therefore would bolster a claim for the Ark to be held by descendants of the original Jews, despite the problem of religious controversy, language and racism which the Falashas have encountered. On the other hand, Ethiopians, Christians and Africans in the Disapora point to the fact that Ethiopia is the only nation which can produce living descendants of Solomon as heirs to his throne and dynasty. Indeed, Emperor Haile Selassie was the 225th descendant of King Solomon, as well as being a member of Solomon's Tribe of Judah. Therefore, they claim, the Ark has rightfully rested in Ethiopia all these centuries, and should continue to do so. Corbett's article continues: "In Aksum today there seems little doubt it rests in a secret compartment beneath a small chapel next to the new St. Mary of Zion Church, and it is supposedly still guarded by a specially-picked priest who maintains his vigil from the age of seven until he dies.

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The Ark in some early pictures (see below)

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Ark in Temple

Ark in Battle of Ebenezer

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Ark in the Land of the Philistine s

The images above are from Dura Europus, the site of an early synagogue. The images of the Ark are consistant with each other but may not be accurate. There is a lot of Greek influence in these pictures and the artist may have been guessing about the actual appearance of the Ark. Another guess based on the description in the Bible is below:

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On the trail of the ark
By Raymond Matthew Wray "He says you must go now," my translator told me. I looked from him to the official standing across from the old church ruins. "I thought I could stay until six o'clock?" I protested. He shrugged and got up to lead me out. While we were leaving!, three more visitors entered the compound. I pointed this out to him, waving my entrance ticket in the air. Finally, he opened up: "In the past, they have had some trouble with people here." In other words, I'd overstayed my welcome. I was being thrown out. My departure had less to do with how much time I'd spent there than with my taking pictures. After all, this was my second visit of the day-my third if you count the time I came while it was closed. The official who insisted I leave was the same man who asked that I come back when the church compound was open. And he was the same man who watched me take six rolls of film of the Saint Mary of Zion Chapel. This is only one of three churches of interest within the compound, and I could tell he grew suspicious when I ignored the others. It wasn't that the chapel of Saint Mary of Zion was that impressive, or even that beautiful. No, it wasn't the chapel itself that had brought me to Ethiopia. I was much more interested in what was concealed within. I had come to see the Ark of the Covenant.

The Bible tells us that the Ark is a "chest of acacia wood" overlaid with pure gold "both inside and out." Wooden poles pierce rings on each side and are used to carry the heavy box. On top, a pair of golden cherubim face one another, their wings outstretched. In the Old Testament, God Himself appeared as a swirling mist between the golden figures; it was called the shekinah, or "presence." The Ark was constructed as a carrying case for the tablets of the !Ten Commandments-the same tablets that Moses carried down from the mountain. There's no record that they were ever removed from the chest. Indeed, it seems likely that wherever the Ark is, the Ten Commandments are still inside. If you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know the chest of the Old Covenant has a dark side. No one but the high priest could approach it, and those foolish enough to touch it died instantly. The Ark was carried into battle, leaving bloodshed and devastation in its path. In his book, The Sign and the Seal, British journalist Graham Hancock elaborates: Biblical and other archaic sources speak of the Ark blazing with fire and light, inflicting cancerous tumors and severe burns, leveling mountains, stopping rivers, blasting whole armies and laying wa!ste cities. This is the Ark of the Covenant. And according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it now sits in the chapel of Saint Mary of Zion in Aksum, Ethiopia. There are two different explanations of how the Ark arrived in Ethiopia. The first is based on the legend of the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). The Kebra Nagast is a 13th-century manuscript

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drawing on the Old and New Testaments, as well as the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the Book of Pearl. Edward Ullendorf in The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People points out that the Kebra Nagast also borrows generously from the "christological and patristic writings in ! Coptic, Syriac Arabic, and Greek, from the Testamentum Adami, from Rabbinical literature as well as the Koran." But the Kebra Nagast isn't a doctrinal work. It's a love story. And it's the Ethiopians' version of how they came to possess the Ark of the Covenant. Drawing on 1 Kings 10:1-13, the legend describes how the queen of Sheba first learned of King Solomon when her servant Tâmrîn returned from Jerusalem. Hearing Tâmrîn's report about Solomon, the queen was smitten: "I love him merely on hearing." Sheba journeyed to Jerusalem to see him and remained there for six months. As she prepared to return to her own country, Solomon ordered a royal meal for them where they both made an oath not to take anything from each other by force. Solomon's interests in the queen were apparently more than just diplomatic. The King intentionally left his bowl of! water next to the queen's bed, so that when she awoke she would take a drink, thereby "taking" what was rightfully the king's and breaking the oath. While a small thing in itself, the result had a profound effect. When Sheba realized the gravity of what occurred, she said to Solomon: "I have sinned against myself, and thou art free from [thy] oath." The Kebra Nagast continues: "He permitted her to drink water, and after she had drunk water he worked his will with her and they slept together." Nine months and five days after returning to Ethiopia, the queen gave birth to a son and named him Menelik. At the age of 22, Menelik traveled to Jerusalem to meet his father for the first time. There in Judaism's holy city, at the hands of his father, Menelik became the king of Ethiopia and founder of the Solomonic dynasty. When the young man departed from Jerusalem, Solomon command!ed the nobility of Israel to "give [to Menelik] their children who were called 'firstborn.'" The clever ruler saw an opportunity to establish a second kingdom. With this, Menelik and his new subjects departed for Ethiopia. But what Menelik's companions failed to mention was that they had made off with the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple of Solomon. Indeed, they only told Menelik when they had reached "the water of the Ethiopia." The news-while surprising-didn't turn the young man back to Israel; he continued his trip with the relic under his protection. The journey of the Ark recounted in the Kebra Nagast ends in Ethiopia after a brief stop in Egypt. There is, however, an alternate story, developed recently by Hancock. In his research for The Sign and the Seal, he discovered a number of discrepancies in the time line of Menelik and his companions, especially !in regard to Aksum, the alleged final resting place of the Ark in Ethiopia. Aksum, Hancock tells us, didn't exist in the time of King Solomon. So if the Ethiopian claims are true, where did the Ark come to rest? Hancock's explanation is decidedly different from that of the Ethiopians. After studying the Kebra Nagast, he was forced to conclude that it was more legend than fact: "I always find it slightly depressing when a beautiful myth is discredited." Hancock argues that sometime during King Manasseh's reign in Jerusalem from 687 to 642 B.C., Jewish priests removed the Ark from Solomon's temple. Manasseh had converted the Temple of Solomon to pagan worship and installed a pagan idol-a blasphemy for those devout Jews who considered the Ark the touchstone of Yahweh on earth. Hancock speculates that the horrified priests removed the Ark from Jerusalem entirely.

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Unlike some of the events described in! the Kebra Nagast, there's a good deal of evidence to support Hancock's theory. He claims the priests took the Ark and settled in Elephantine, a small island just off of Aswan, Egypt. There, the Jews built a temple to house the Ark-the ruins of the temple are visible to this day. According to Hancock, the Ark remained on the island for some 200 years. The time the Ark was on Elephantine accounts for the period between when the Kebra Nagast claims the Ark was stolen and the appearance of Aksum. While Hancock's theory holds up on paper, there was only one way to verify it. So I set out for Ethiopia.

When the sun began to break over Lake Tana, the horizon came alive in orange-red hues. From the water rose a gray haze that faded !into the brilliant glow of the sunrise. Across Lake Tana, I could see my first destination: Tana Cherkos. According to Hancock's theory, the Ark was brought down the Nile from Elephantine Island in Egypt to the island of Tana Cherkos. There it remained for 800 years. But was there evidence for this beyond the legend? On this morning, I had two guides. The first was a former deacon in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who decided to pursue his studies elsewhere. (Deacons are young men who study to become monks and later enter the priesthood.) My second guide was responsible for piloting the boat and taking care of other logistics during the day. I hadn't planned on having a deacon as a guide. In fact, I wasn't sure I would have a guide at all. I just showed up. No contacts. No leads. But when you meet one person in Ethiopia, you!e ve met everyone you need to know anywhere in Ethiopia. And as it turned out, he was a tremendous blessing. As we approached Tana Cherkos, my guide insisted that we review what I was going to ask the abba-the head monk of the island. He explained that there were certain questions that the abba would consider insulting. I understood: For too long, journalists and doubters have ridiculed the Ethiopians' claim to have the Ark. The approach to the island monastery is extraordinary. The current church, which dates back to the 19th century, looks like it could fall to pieces with the mildest gust of wind. Green brush and trees cover the entire island. Across from the church and hidden behind a trellis are the living quarters of the deacons, monks, and priests. Their lives there are what they were intended to beisolated. Once we arrived, the pilot ran off with my questions in hand to search out the senior priest. It's obligatory to m!ake first contact with the senior religious. This worked out well, since the senior priest was the man I'd just traveled two hours by boat to see. When Abba Baya approached, I was surprised at his youth and his rakish smile. He was wrapped in a white robe and wore dusty sandals. As I asked him questions, I had the sense he was surprised; he seemed to have expected the usual skepticism. The Ark's protective powers are well-known-at least, if the biblical record is to be believed. But I wondered if that power extended to the nation itself. Aside from Eritrea and Kenya, Ethiopia is surrounded by the Muslim countries of Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti. Ethiopia itself has a Muslim population of about 45 percent. I asked Baya if the Ark of the Covenant provided protection to the

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Christians within Ethiopia. Had it helped shelter his country from the conflicts that have plagued neighboring countries with similarly mixed populations? I expected a re!asoned response that spoke to the history, theology, and politics of the delicate Ethiopian balance, perhaps sprinkled with a Scripture verse or two. Baya turned to me with a smile: "Yes, all of Ethiopia is protected." I waited for a moment, certain that he would say more. He didn't. Caught off guard by his brevity, I moved on to my next question. "Why bring the Ark to Tana Cherkos?" I asked. After all, there were other islands. The answer was simple. Baya explained that the Ark was brought to Tana Cherkos because, at the time, it was the only island monastery in existence. When I explained to him what I had learned of how the Ark arrived in Ethiopia, he confirmed what Graham Hancock had theorized: The Ark of the Covenant arrived on Tana Cherkos after spending 200 years on Elephantine Island. While this was hardly conclusive proof, it's significant that the tradition of the island matc!hed Hancock's time line so closely. His answers were short, to the point, and certain. When I asked if Tana Cherkos as an island had been blessed in any particular way, he said, "Yes, Mary, the Mother of God, spent three months and ten days on Tana Cherkos." Wide-eyed, I turned to my guide. "Did he just say Mary-as in the Virgin Mary-spent three months and ten days here...on this island?" Baya smiled. "Would you like to look at her footprints?" We walked along a path leading up to a craggy overlook. Along the way, we passed several large stone altars the Ark-bearing Jews had used to sacrifice sheep. If I wanted concrete proof of an ancient Jewish presence on the island, those heavy stone altars certainly qualified. As I walked by, I noticed holes ground into the center of the altars-repositories for the blood of the sacrificial animals. Finally, we stopped, and Baya guided my hand to the ground. At first, I wasn't completely sure what I was looking at. And then I saw it: a worn footprint, pressed into the bedrock. A small footprint, like that of a woman. With this unexpected discovery, I had all the clues I needed to move on. While there was strong evidence of a long-term ancient Jewish presence on Tana Cherkos, along with the interesting tradition of Mary's short-term residence, the Ark wasn't here. To find it, I'd have to continue following the trail. According to the Ethiopian claim, the Ark was brought from Tana Cherkos to Aksum by King Ezana-who wanted a safer long-term home for the holy relic. It's said to remain there to this day. There are no routine overland routes in Ethiopia. What may look like a four-hour journey on a map is actually a two-day nightmare by bus. Having little time to work with, I chose to fly to Aksum. Domestic flights in Ethiopia offer the most breathtaking landscapes. From the highlands, across flatlands, valleys, and canyons, various shades of brown dominate everything. If you have nerves of steel, a window seat on those old prop planes will give you a spectacular view. My flight arrived at noon. A few minutes later, I had secured a translator. Actually, he was the receptionist at the hotel I checked into, and he promised he could arr!ange for me to meet the

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guardian of the Ark. When I explained what I wanted to accomplish, he smiled. "My friend, I will take good care of you." As a rule, when I'm traveling, the phrase "my friend" raises a number of red flags in my mind. But in this instance, I took a chance and cautiously agreed to let him help me. Early the next morning, we set off for the church compound a short distance away. It was clear very quickly that my new guide was well-known there I was relieved. Surrounded by a red wrought-iron gate, Saint Mary of Zion Chapel was stark against the blue morning sky. With the sun still low in the east, the chapel's color was hard to make out. I was surprised by how small the structure was-maybe 40 feet square. It seemed a bit modest to be the resting place of the most mysterious-and potentially dangerous-object on earth. Just outside the gate, there were a few deaco!ns and monks pacing. All around the compound, worshipers mulled about, absorbed in some form of prayer. They came to visit the newly built church to the left of Saint Mary of Zion Chapel, pressing their foreheads against the door of the church and kissing it as they prayed. But no one dared to pray in front of the chapel of the Ark. We approached the gate, and my translator began to clang his ring against the bars. "What are you doing?" I whispered. "I'm just trying to get the guardian to come out," he said. "But I thought you said you were going to make arrangements for me to meet him." "Of course, no problem," he replied. "He will speak to you." After a few tense moments of waiting, a man emerged from the back of the chapel. He was Abba Welde Giorgis-the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant. Middle-aged and thin, Abba Giorgis wa!s hidden behind faux aviator glasses, a gunmetal blue robe, and a drab yellow blanket slung lengthwise over his shoulder. Though short, he had an air of power and authority. After giving me his blessing, the guardian took a seat at the edge of the gate, while I lowered myself onto a stone bench. The guardian of the Ark is chosen by his predecessor, Giorgis told me. The decision is supposed to be based on the "purity of heart" and virtue of the candidate. Once chosen, he serves for life, never leaving the gated compound. The Ark becomes his life. While it's a great honor to be chosen, many of the monks would gladly decline the opportunity. In fact, the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is scattered with occasional stories of guardians who flee the compound on being chosen. Some prefer not to live a life of spiritual incarceration. Others are afraid of being so close to the Ark. The Ark, they say, is powerful. "W!hy was the Ark brought to Aksum?" I asked. "It's like Adam," he replied simply. "Adam?" "Yes," he said. "Divine providence."

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I wondered if he, like Abba Baya, believed the relic protected the nation of Ethiopia, just as it had protected Israel before. "Of course, the Ark is having an impact on everyone." "By 'everyone' you mean both Christians and Muslims?" I asked. "Yes. Everyone. Everybody in Ethiopia is living peacefully under one government." What he said was true. Ethiopia, unlike many of its neighbors, has a population almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians. And yet the two communities live together in peace. There's none of the religious strife common to so many other African nations. What about the ravages of AIDS in Ethiopia? How! can we say God is protecting the people from that? His answer was simple. "Sin." That was it. To him, the behavior that led to the transmission of AIDS was a sin. And the Bible is clear about the wages of sin. People cannot be given help if they're unwilling to accept it. Perhaps the most extraordinary sign of a hidden protection is that unlike every other African nation, Ethiopia was never colonized. When the Italians attempted it with their modern army, they were ably repelled by the poorly equipped Ethiopian troops. "Ethiopians are from the King Solomon dynasty," the Abba explained. "They will never be colonized as long as they have the Ark." My translator interjected: "What he is saying is that we are a tough people, and no one will take our freedom. The guardian never even gives [the threat of colonization] consideration." With that, the guardian stood !to leave. While he attended to his other responsibilities, I thought about what he had told me. For the people of Ethiopia, the Ark of the Covenant was more than just a historical curiosity: It was the hand of divine protection. This fact is reflected in their faith. Unlike Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy-the other inheritors of ancient Christianity-the Ethiopian Church was cut off from the outside world; it developed in isolation from its brothers in the West and East. The form it took is revealing, for Ethiopian Christianity is centered not on the Eucharist but on the Ark. Religious ceremonies involve replicas of the sacred chest called tabots. The tabots are not themselves boxes; they're flat, richly decorated boards. It's surely no coincidence that they resemble the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Indeed, some have theorized that they're model!ed after the originals, still contained inside the holy chest. In the past, the Ark itself was brought forth from its chapel once a year, to be used in a sacred procession. Today, out of fear of an attack on the relic, tabots are used instead. I returned to the compound that afternoon, hoping to photograph the chapel in the setting sun. The lighting was perfect, and I had plenty of film. No one else was around, apart from the compound official, who had begun to eye me suspiciously. After shooting several rolls of film, I noticed a guide from the hotel sitting in the shade nearby. I sat down beside him on the park bench where I had earlier spoken to Abba Giorgis. As we

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discussed my reasons for coming to Ethiopia, the guardian reemerged from the chapel and returned to his seat across from me. With a smile, he turned to my acquaintance. "I remember your friend from this morning. He asked me many question!s about the Ark." I smiled back as my impromptu translator repeated what the guardian had said. Abba Giorgis then turned to me. "So, do you remember all the things you learned today?" I nodded. "Do you have any more questions?" he asked. I did-the question that had brought me all the way to Ethiopia. In the past, when the Ark was used in the processions, it was covered with a cloth-not to protect the Ark from the people but to protect the people from the Ark. What could it possibly be like to be in its presence? Abba Giorgis smiled and studied me for a moment. "Have you ever experienced the Trinity?" he asked. Before I could answer, the official who had been watching me all afternoon began shouting from across the courtyard. "He says you must go now," my translator told me. Filthy, exhausted, sick, and with two days to spare, I retreated to the capital of Addis Ababa, 310 miles south of Aksum. Here, I was finally able to reflect on everything I had seen. Had I actually been within 30 feet of the real Ark of the Covenant? On the street, Ethiopians speak of the Ark matter-of-factly, the way we refer to our founding fathers when we talk of liberty and freedom. For them, it's a simple reality. As I reflected on this, I couldn't help but think of the horrible images of poverty that CNN used to broadcast regularly during the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. Poverty still exists in Ethiopia, but it's nothing like it was! then. CNN doesn't come calling anymore. As with so many of the countries I've visited-such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Morocco-there's a great wealth of spirit in the people. But nowhere else-nowhere-have I experienced such generosity and charity. The faith of the Ethiopians is historical. But more than that, it's a living faith exercised in everything they do. This entire country is alive with it. On the shores of Lake Tana with its numerous island monasteries, in Lalibela with its churches carved from stone, in Aksum with Saint Mary of Zion Chapel-God dwells in Ethiopia in a way I have never seen before. It was hard not to think that the presence of the Ark had something to do with it. There's an interesting side note to the Ark story. During the Crusades, the Knights Templar-an order of warrior monks-was formed and sent t!o the ruins of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. Day and night, clanging and digging could be heard in the interior. When they finally disappeared from the area, it was clear that they'd been excavating the site. Legend has it that the Knights had been sent not to protect the roads from pilgrims-the official explanation-but to find and secure the Ark of the Covenant from the advancing Muslims. If this is indeed true, the Knights didn't find it in Jerusalem.

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But they might have discovered it in Ethiopia. In one of the archways of an Aksum church, a red Crusader cross is clearly visible (see the photo on the table of contents). If indeed the Knights traveled to Ethiopia, they found the Ark safe and protected by fellow Christians.

One of my l!ast stops before heading home was at the walled city of Harar-a predominately Muslim enclave 90 miles west of Somalia-where I visited the home of a Christian man. We talked about history, religion, and the way the Ark is intertwined with both. As our time together drew to a close, he smiled at me. "You may choose to disbelieve that we have the Ark here," he said. "That is your choice. But we know better. For us, it is a fact." I believe.

The Rival Theories By B!rian Saint-Paul There are many theories about where the Ark of the Covenant is. The following are some of the more popular conjectures. Warehouse Theory: Some believe that the Ark currently resides in a U.S. government warehouse (depicted at the end of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark). The problem with this view is that there's simply no evidence to back it up. In fact, the one document that purports to be an inventory of the warehouse shows the Ark stored next to "Martian War Machines," "the Blob," and "stasis booths" containing-in suspe!nded animation-the bodies of Hitler and Elvis. Great Temple Theory: Proponents of this theory say the Ark was hidden in a tunnel under the Great Temple to protect it from the conquering Babylonians. There are several problems with this view. First, when the Temple was rebuilt on top of the ruins of the original, the Ark surely would have been returned to its place. It was not. Nor was it found during the building of the second Temple or when the Knights Templar excavated the site at the time of the Crusades. Additionally, references to the Ark disappear after the Babylonian invasion. If the Ark remained in the vicinity (albeit hidden), one would expect there to be some record of its presence, if not its location. This would have been an important comfort to the Jews. That there is no such mention strongly suggests that the Ark was no longer in the city. Babylonian Destruction Theory: A!ccording to this theory, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and looted the Temple, they destroyed the Ark and pilfered its gold. While this explanation accounts for the abrupt silence surrounding the Ark in the Old Testament, it's hard to imagine that the Israelites-knowing the Babylonians were coming-would have left the relic exposed in the Great Temple. Additionally, there's no real evidence that the Ark was ever destroyed. The entire theory rests on the notion of what the Babylonians would have done had they captured the chest.

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Calvary Escarpment Theory: The late amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt claimed to have found the Ark in a tunnel under Calvary hill-the site of Christ's crucifixion. Unfortunately, according to Wyatt, the Israeli government has since sealed up the tunnels and the Ark, leaving no evidence of his find. Wyatt also claimed to have found Noah!te s Ark, a blood sample from Christ (complete with DNA), and the wheels of one of the chariots that crossed the Red Sea. Though his work sells, it has been largely discredited by both Christian and non-Christian archaeologists, who say that much of his "evidence" is falsified. F

The Church Carved in Stone Isolated, with one paved road and few vehicles to spe!ak of, Lalibela is bare in all but spirit. Walking through this wind-blown town, one can easily imagine why this place attracts Christian pilgrims. It's a combination: legend, architecture, and faith. Once thought of as the "New Jerusalem," Lalibela was named after its founder, Saint and King Lalibela. King Lalibela was deeply influenced by what he saw in Jerusalem while he was exiled. Upon his return to what was then Roha, he began spotting the landscape with new churches. These churches-believed to date back to the twelfth and 13th centuries-were not built from the bottom up; they were carved out of the bedrock. Some of them look like secret caves connected by a slight network of tunnels. Today, they are both museums and living churches. Bu!t Lalibela is not just legend and architecture. It is the faith of its people that makes this place worthy of a visit. A resident told me that what we call poverty they consider a blessing from God. He told me that for the people of Lalibela, "Good times and bad, it's all the same. There is no difference." No one in Lalibela goes without food. Everyone understands that they must treat their neighbors-each other-as if God dwelled in them. And so they do.

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