When and where did we lose track of the Ark of the Covenant?

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When and where did we lose track of the Ark of the Covenant?

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:15 am

The Ark of the Covenant was the portable sacred chest which held the holiest relics of Israel’s history and faith in its history, and it also served as the place for the direct manifestation of the presence of God. Its construction is detailed in Exodus 25. Physically, the ark measured 3¾ feet long by 2¼ feet wide and 2¼ feet high. In the life of Israel, the ark had three main functions: (1) It served as a container for three specific items: (a) the two stone tablets of the Law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai: At that time the Lord said to me, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones and come up to me on the mountain. Also make a wooden chest. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Then you are to put them in the chest.” So I made the ark out of acacia wood and chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord wrote on these tablets what he had written before, the Ten Commandments he had proclaimed to you on the mountain, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I came back down the mountain and put the tablets in the ark I had made, as the Lord commanded me, and they are there now—Deuteronomy 10:1-5; (b) a jar of the manna that God provided during the wilderness wanderings: The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.’” So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.” As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept—Exodus 16:31-34; and (c) the rod which budded to confirm Aaron’s exclusive call from God to be Israel’s high priest: The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the Tent of the Testimony. The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the Lord commanded him—Numbers 17:1-11. (2) The ark’s cover was where the sacrificial blood was spilled once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to make atonement for the sins of the entire nation: The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites”—God speaking, Leviticus 16:32-34a. (3) The ark was viewed as the place where God made His presence with His people. God had in fact promised this to Moses; as He said, 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—God speaking, Exodus 25:22. Those purposes together made the ark the most holy object in Israel’s worship. Whenever it was carried, it was to be covered so that no one could see it, the idea being that the people would be constantly reminded to revere their holy God.
The actual history of the ark appears to extend for about 1,000 years—from its construction to the time that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. The Israelites had carried it with them throughout their wilderness wanderings, and when they entered the Promised Land: Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them—Joshua 3:1-6. It was at the head of their processions as they marched around the city of Jericho: So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.” When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding—Joshua 6:6-9. After the Promised Land was conquered, the ark was placed in the rebuilt tabernacle, which was first set up at Shiloh and then moved to Bethel before returning for a time to Shiloh. It was King David, ruling a unified Israel, who brought the ark to Jerusalem when he designated that city to be his capitol. When David’s son Solomon constructed the Temple, he installed the ark in its innermost chamber. There is no record of the ark surviving Nebuchadnezzar’s final attack, in which Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 586 BC. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah had foreseen the ark’s destruction when he looked to a future time where the ceremony that involved the ark would no longer be necessary: “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the Lord, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts—God speaking, Jeremiah 3:14-17.
In some respects, the ark was already “destroyed” by the time Jerusalem’s Babylonian conquest occurred because of the way the nation misunderstood the ark. While the ark was intended to symbolize God’s presence, over time it became understood to almost mean a god itself. A great example of this is found in I Samuel, when Israel was at war with the Philistines. As they considered what to do, the leadership of Israel came to this conclusion: And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hands of our enemies”—I Samuel 4:3. They were treating the ark like a god itself. The same thing would wind up happening when Jerusalem was under attack. Because the Temple (along with the ark) was considered to be where God dwelt, it was assumed that the safety of Jerusalem was guaranteed; in other words, God somehow owed them, regardless of how they were living their lives. God, through the prophet Ezekiel, replied like this: “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually provoke me to anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose! Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them”—God speaking, Ezekiel 8:17-18. The people were not trusting in the living God but in a mere symbol as if it was God. And Ezekiel later tells us what happened: Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim—Ezekiel 10:18.
Incidentally, regarding the video clip we watched from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” there were a couple of things they got wrong: (1) Indiana Jones mentioned that the ark contained the “broken” pieces of the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, referring to the first set of tablets that Moses broke upon seeing the unfaithfulness of Israel during his absence. WRONG—God clearly directed Moses to place the second set of tablets, upon which God had rewritten the commandments, into the ark (we already read about that: Deuteronomy 10:1-5). (2) Indiana Jones also mentioned that an Egyptian pharaoh named Shishak invaded Jerusalem around about 980 BC and captured the ark. WRONG—980 BC was primetime during David’s rule, a reign incidentally that consolidated Israel into a unified nation (David ruled from 1010-970 BC). There was no conquest of Israel or battle in Jerusalem at that time. (3) They mentioned that Shishak took the ark from the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem at that time. WRONG—the temple of Solomon didn’t even exist until Solomon’s rule, which followed the reign of his father David (Solomon ruled from 970-931 BC). The original temple, built by Solomon (using many materials faithfully collected by his father David), was begun around 967 BC and completed some seven years later (960 BC). However, there actually was an Egyptian pharaoh named Shishak. He first appears in I Kings 11:40 when he provides refuge for a man named Jeroboam, an official of Solomon’s who attempted a rebellion against him; he fled for his life to Egypt when he failed. Eventually Shishak did invade Israel; as the book of I Kings tells us, In the fifth year of King Rehoboam (son and successor of King Solomon), 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 all the gold shields Solomon had made—I Kings 14:25-26. The book of II Chronicles provides a little more information: After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, “This is what the Lord says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’” The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.” 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—II Chronicles 12:1-9.

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